Jive Talkin' (About Social Media)

It’s just your jive talkin’, You’re telling me lies, yeah.
Jive talkin’, you wear a disguise.

Jive talkin’, so misunderstood, yeah.
Jive talkin’, you’re really no good.
— The Bee Gees

It’s really not nice of me to poke fun at the name of a company, but I couldn’t resist. Jive Software, a social business software provider, released the results of a survey of its customers (many of whom have more than 10,000 employees according to the press release). Among other findings, the study concluded that “social business drives breakthrough business results” and offered the following statistics are proof points:

Employee engagement benefits:
39% increase in employee connectedness;
32% more ideas generated and captured;
30% increase in employee satisfaction;
27% less email;
32% reduction in time to find answers; and
37% increase in project collaboration and productivity.

Customer engagement benefits:
42% more communication with customers;
31% increase in customer retention;
34% higher brand awareness;
28% decrease in support call volume;
34% more feedback and ideas from customers; and
27% increase in new customer sales.

Based on these statistics, the software vendor claims that their customers “generate material breakthroughs in revenue, cost-savings and innovation” and that “social business is a mission-critical initiative.”

My take: I simply can’t buy-in to these findings. It’s not because I think social business can’t have this kind of impact (maybe it can, maybe it can’t — not going to argue that here).

It’s because I think — based on working with, and talking to, literally hundreds of firms over the past 30 years — that there’s  not one firm out there who does an even halfway good job of measuring things like “employee connectedness”, “ideas generated”, or “time to find answers”. There’s no way you’ll convince me that people know those statistics for their firm, let alone be able to estimate the impact of social business on those metrics.

The customer engagement benefits are even harder to swallow. You really going to tell me that large firms are seeing a 28% decrease in support call volume from social business?

The other issue here — and it’s a common one with how a lot of market research studies are reported — is the reliance on the “increase/decrease” construct. When you say something like “34% higher brand awareness” it — by definition — requires a starting point. If your firm’s current brand awareness is 10%, and an initiative takes that level of awareness to 13.4%, then you’ve achieved “34% higher brand awareness.”

But this study isn’t reporting a single firm’s results. It represents input from more than 300 firms. So what was the starting point for “brand awareness” (or any other metric, for that matter) that enables Jive to conclude that social business produced a 34% increase?

It simply makes no sense. The findings are not supportable in any universe that relies on, or requires, logic. In the socialmediasphere, however, maybe this kind of stuff flies, I don’t know.


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