Time Normalization In Social Media Is A Fallacy

Beware those obsessed with time normalization and comparing efforts to others.  There is no blanket right or wrong answer to how much time you should spend for your digital PR and marketing.  Those attempting to normalize numbers or seek blanket answers really don’t get it and are looking at the wrong things.

Communications firm CloudSpark decided to put together an altogether unscientific survey about how much time it takes to use social media weekly in an attempt to answer the normalization question.

If you are at all versed in social media, web strategy and/or statistical analysis you’ll find their post completely meaningless.  The fact that the commenters on the post blindly sing the praises of the survey data says a lot about our industry and the fact that almost no one digs into details.  That’s why I’m here.

They started with the following statement:

Here’s what we know: It takes at least 65 hours a week to maintain 4 social media channels for 1 brand.

Okay – take a moment to consider the absurdity of that statement they proclaim to “know.”  From surveying nearly 40 people.  Without providing any context.  Aside from the inherent flaw of conducting such a survey: their data, results and conclusions are all questionable.  Let’s go through the rest of their post and their methodology:

While social media channels are considered “free,” the time you need to create, develop, and maintain those channels is anything but free.

Well, of course not.  Did anyone actually think that was the case?  In what reality is time ever free?

How’d we get the numbers? This spring we surveyed nearly 40 SM practitioners and asked about their hours invested in social media for their brands or the brands of their clients.

That was about the extent of their methodology?  “Nearly 40?”  Nice – lots of context there.  Also they don’t bother to break down who these people are.  Despite the statistically irrelevant sample size, we have no context if they are working client side or agency, small business or large corporation, etc.  It’s just poor presentation of methodology and can’t possibly be taken seriously.  In fact this agency only succeeds in me taking their corporate blog as a whole less seriously.

The rest of their methodology:

In our survey, we defined the following:

  • Creation means setting up the page with initial content (does not include creative design team hours)
  • Development means attracting followers, initial promotion/launch
  • Maintenance means listening, responding, posting, messaging, inviting

First, I cleaned up their paragraph to be readable.  They could have made a list instead of writing that impossible to read sentence (you would think a social media consultancy would know how to make content, well, social).

Second, CloudSpark calls the use of social media channels “development” and “maintenance.”  My problems with these terms aside, you have to love that they think these items are in different silos and attempts to segment them.  Just re-read what they define each term as and you’ll see what I mean.  They think, for example, that attracting followings and creating content are in different buckets.  Social media spammers much?  This is why many in social media hate marketing and PR folk.  Just FYI.

The average ranges depended on the potential for the community size, initial promotional pool, campaign goals, etc.

That’s helpful, except they don’t bother to give us any range to provide context for the survey data making this sentence meaningless.

It’s not even worth listing their results, because:

  • Their sample set lacks context and is statistically insignificant.
  • There is no normalization for good social media marketing because use, application, strategy and approaches all differ and are unique to each brand.
  • Look at those who are defining the next generation of PR and what they are doing.  It’s closer to being fluid and improvisational than as part of a rigid hours spent weekly.  They are doing it because of passion, not payment.  The “goal time spent” totally misses the point.
  • Their corporate blog barely has 10 posts over the last year (and in total).  Do we really think they have enough experience to to package survey questions about this space?

The framing of the question/results misses the point

For the math challenged, that’s a full time job for 1.5 people.

Yeah, social media takes time, that’s obvious.  But if you get all team members on board and work together you can, as a brand, get social.  The fact that this consultancy sees it as the responsibility of one single person in the company or a single consultant shows almost a total misunderstanding of this.