Asking questions is something I’ve done since I was a little kid. If something didn’t make sense to me, I’d seek answers – no matter how daunting the task. Whether looking up a word I didn’t know or studying my surroundings to make sense of a complex situation, following the journey to a conclusion serves as an exhilarating experience for me. Simply because, when it’s over you know more than you did prior. You own it and it helps define the process by which you continue to navigate life. There is truly nothing greater. The desire to question – yourself, the things around you and how it all fits within a particular context – is a matter of curiosity. Whatever professional you find yourself in, the question is an indispensable tool; it is free and it is yours. Seems obvious, yes? Well, it’s not. This I know because of the many humans I encounter regularly who settle for status quo and operate within the confines they’ve been trained to obey. So, if you’re in the former – right on, and if you’re in the latter – start asking questions about the things you’re curious about and about the constructs in which you live.
As it pertains to business, it’s no secret or overlooked fact that we are in a new era. It is the dawn of the connected consumer who has substantially more power than ever before. Power to publish and share with a network [who has a network] in real-time no matter their geography or time zone. With this, comes the necessity and opportunity to examine what we’ve always known with a new lens and make sense of the new by inquisitively walking through it.
Asking better questions was a thread that ran through the content I took in at Blogworld LA over the weekend. In his session, “Drowning in Numbers: Turning Social Media Insight into Data,” Tom Webster did a great job of illustrating how we can seek to make sense of our often information overloaded surroundings as digital communicators. He offered four recommendations to aid in the era of big data:
Know what you don’t know
10% of people create content for people they don’t know. Social media doesn’t give you answers, but it will always give you ammo to ask better questions and draw conclusions. I talk regularly about how many awesome free tools we can use to draw conclusions from data. Some of my favorites are: Google Analytics (understand who comes to your website, what keywords are getting them there, how many of your visitors are mobile v. web based and so on. There is so much there), Facebook (search), Foursquare, Google Places, Yelp (claim your place and get data of who is checking in, how often, what they are saying, etc.), Twitter (real-time data of any search term you can think of – pretty powerful).
Ask better questions
Frosted Flakes was curious enough to turn to the Web to understand user insights about their product. They learned, from tools like Twitter (which offer free real-time data – use search.twitter.com), that people eating cereal for dinner were either drunk, broke or trying to lose weight. Out of these insights, they marketed counter-part Special K as a weight loss cereal, which has been a very successful move.
Prove yourself wrong
Science is about proving yourself wrong until you can’t. We should seek to disconfirm. For example, instead of asking what the best time of day to tweet is, seek to understand what effect tweeting at certain times/days of the week has on your community. Do the work to figure out what’s best based on your own research, not that of what others publish. Data for “content creation” is inherently incurious. Therefore, create content and measure its performance in order to create better content.
Do your own work
A naysayer of Klout from day one, I loved how Tom used it as an example of a tool that is popular because it’s an easy answer for people. Many people, those that don’t question, think it’s legitimate data because we like easy answers. They don’t think to use it with a number of other tools or fact-check if a Klout score is actually representative of influence around a particular subject. Further, Klout’s algorithm for influence is pretty sketchy. Take five minutes to dissect a few people’s Klout scores and you’ll find some interesting things [Klout bashing over]. Tom provided a few factors of influence 1) Relevance of the message, 2) Content of the message, and 3) Credibility of author. It’s good define the end point so you have a framework on how to get there.
What questions have you asked today?