Since social media became an integral part of our personal and professional lives, we have witnessed a gradual shift from a more or less spontaneous and intuitive use towards a decidedly more clinical and rational approach. This process had been anticipated by analysts and experts and was after all to be expected given the upsurge in social media use by profit-making businesses and individuals. No one had a manual of how to make the most of Facebook when this network was created and there was little or no empirical evidence to create statistical models with any serious predictive value. When first confronted with the tasks of maximizing their ROI (return on investment) in Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, people and organizations had to undergo an at times painfully slow and haphazard trial and learning period: and this undoubtedly acted as a deterrent for their more rapid implementation by businesses and brands of all kinds.
Ever since – and with the benefit of hindsight – significant progress has been made. In fact, 2011 saw the consolidation of a new science: the science of social media. The drive behind this most glamorous and geeky of disciplines is no other than Dan Zarrella from Hubspot, a brilliant personal brander who has masterfully amassed enough relevance and credibility to rightfully earn the title of social media scientist. Zarrella used the term ‘The Science of Social Media‘ in a presentation published toward the end of 2010 which became a hit first within the US and later on all around the world. The gist of Zarella’s argument was that it was possible to use Twitter and the other social networks with quasi-scientific accuracy in order to maximize results.
This counter-intuitive and (at the time) altogether stunning claim was backed up by objective and replicable data and alerted us of the following:
- Regardless of the quality/nature of the message, there are certain moments of the day when we are more likely to be retweeted (RT) than others
- Using words such as ‘expert’, ‘founder’ or ‘guru’ in our Twitter profile generates more interest and RTs
- A direct relationship can be established between the frequency of our messages and their viralization. This relationship can be depicted mathematically.
These are just three of the growing number of claims made by the new science of social media which will in all likelihood gain in accuracy and reliability in the coming years. And their implications for online marketing or personal branding cannot be underestimated – let alone ignored! Will this mean, however, that intuition and spontaneity will lose ground or altogether retreat in social media management? Will the social media succumb to the same scientism, coldness and lack of holism that has so damaged the human spirit since the Industrial Revolution?
Luckily for all, the answer to these troubling questions seems to be a resounding ‘no’. Intuition and creativity are crucial to the enjoyment of the social networks and so deeply ingrained for users that they will most likely continue to flourish in spite of the raging debate about ROI and the appearance on the stage of the new science. There are several powerful reasons for this to be the case: content comes in many different formats and engagement and viral marketing are the result of multifarious factors; on top of that, personal use continues to be highly idiosyncratic and the growth of personal branding will ensure that this tendency is strengthened (let’s not forget that differentiation is crucial to branding); last but not least, the new science concerns itself mostly with timing and not with style or content.
Witnessing the rise of the new science of social media is nothing short of exhilarating. Together with technology, it is destined to play a major role in the maximization of ROI and a greater degree of professionalism in social media management that should be welcome by businesses and organizations everywhere. We very much hope that, unlike in our imperfect Western culture, intuition and reason will this time walk hand in hand together for the benefit of us all.
Oscar Del Santo is a lecturer, consultant, key speaker, blogger and populariser of online reputation and inbound marketing in Spain. He has been extensively featured in the Spanish and Latin American media and is a regular contributor to several TV programs. Included in the ‘Top 70 Spanish Tweeters’ and ‘Best Marketing Tweeters in Spanish’ lists (@OscarDS), he is the author of ‘Reputacion Online para Tod@s’.