Dude, You Must Think I’m Stupid

Posted on June 6, 2008
Filed Under Marketing 2.0 |

In my opinion, the technology blogosphere has become little more than a circle jerk. Apparently it’s turning “research” into a circle jerk as well.

I’ve been engaging in an interesting “conversation” with Dell’s Richard Binhammer that was sparked by on the problems with “conversational marketing.”

Dell and Binhammer by social media proponent Shel Israel for their use of social media. I questioned just how great an impact social media has made for Dell, noting that for all the good work Dell has done in the blogosphere, the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index didn’t rank Dell very highly and observed a drop in Dell’s satisfaction rating last year.

Both Israel and Binhammer joined the “conversation” and as part of the dialog, I requested that Binhammer “provide a link to an independent survey demonstrating” that Dell is improving customer satisfaction.

Binhammer was kind enough to respond:

We have seen negative commentary about our company decline by over 30% in 8 months and positive commentary increase.

Here is a third party, recent and relevant study you might find of interest:

The “study” offered up by Binhammer was conducted by Nuance Communications, “a leading provider of speech and imaging solutions for businesses and consumers around the world,” and the Society for New Communications Research, “a global nonprofit 501(c)(3) think tank dedicated to the advanced study of new communications tools, technologies and emerging modes of communication, and their effect on traditional media, professional communications, business, culture and society.”

Their “study” found that “Dell and Amazon were cited more often than any other company when asked which types of companies have done the best job in using social media to respond to customer care issues.”

Being the skeptic that I am and smelling something funny given the descriptions for Nuance Communications and the Society for New Communications Research, I decided to quickly research who they are.

It didn’t take long to dispel the notion that this was the “study” of an independent, “third party.”

Dell is listed as one of the companies Nuance Communications “maintains strategic relationships” with as part of its “channels and partner programs.” In other words, Dell and Nuance Communications have a business relationship.

And what of the Society for New Communications Research? Based on this blog post by John Cass, a “marketer [who] writes about corporate blogging, PR, marketing, social media, and the Internet,” Binhammer was actually involved with the Nuance Communications “study”:

Last year I started work on the Nuance Communications study with the Society for New Communications Research. I decided to work on a case study with Dell. The case study is nearly finished, and next week I am talking with Richard Binhammer in a keynote presentation at the New Comm Forum. The idea for the conversation actually goes back to the interview I conducted for the Jaffe book. We should talk about online customer engagement, using sentiment for metrics, and how to build an effective social media team.

Call me anal or a hairsplitter, but I can’t help but point out that there is a huge conflict of interest when a “study” finding that Dell has done one of the “best job[s] in using social media to respond to customer care issues” was conducted by a corporation that counts Dell as a partner and an organization founded by social media proponents that relied upon the direct involvement of Dell’s social media evangelist to perform the “study.”

Clearly, Binhammer either has a different idea of what “independent survey” means than I, or he thinks I’m completely stupid. Having been directly involved with a person who was part of the “study,” I suspect it’s the latter.

When it came time to demonstrate the tangible impact social media was having on Dell, Binhammer chose to explain how “conversations and online connections are helping us become the most green tech company” through a “” by none other than Forrester Research’s Jeremiah Owyang.

Forrester Research, of course, stands out as of the staunchest supporters of social media despite the fact that some of its claims make no sense and are other research firms.

Having the problems that arise when individuals and entities who are supposed to provide objective “research” become too attached to the “industries” they’re supposed to be “researching,” creating conflicts of interest, I’ll go even further after my experience with Binhammer.

It seems quite obvious to me that the small world of social media has formed a circle jerk that serves a very well-defined purpose: perpetuate the myth that social media is important and of significant business value.

The reason is obvious: all of these people have a financial interest in making sure that the social media hypetrain continues to roll down the tracks.

You don’t have to be incredibly perceptive to observe that the same names are mentioned over and over again and more often than not, “evidence” of social media’s importance to business can be traced back to people who have a vested interest in social media, whether through books, current and past employers, personal relationships or the like.

Of course, because all the social media proponents blog, social network and tweet, it doesn’t take a private investigator to connect the dots. The conflicts are in plain sight. As they should be. After all, when you’re openly-biased, you’re “transparent.”

Apparently, however, social media hypesters think everybody is stupid enough not to recognize the problems these conflicts create.

Not me, Mr. Binhammer. That’s why I own a Lenovo.

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6 Responses to “Dude, You Must Think I’m Stupid”

  1. Mr. Crash on June 6th, 2008 3:25 am

    Which lenovo?…

  2. Phil on June 6th, 2008 8:18 am

    I really admire your skepticism. It’s needed.

    And although I believe that social media can be an effective mechanism for improvement if used appropriately, I think there’s probably too much sloppy thinking and speaking about its promotion.

    As far as conflict-of-interests, you are pointing out a very serious problem that every business leader aught to monitor. It would be a shame if someone adopted the wrong tool based on a scam. What’s worse, this sort of behavior could preclude a business from adopting other tools that could actually be a benefit. It contributes to the noise and confusion already abounding the web.

    Your skepticism is necessary if there’s even going to be a successful *social media* (whatever that means these days).

    (And: I don’t thing you’re stupid.)

  3. Zoe on June 6th, 2008 11:08 am

    But Scoble and Chris Brogan said social media was important….


  4. jro on June 6th, 2008 3:07 pm

    The problem with “social media” is that it isn’t really social.

    A blog with some people making comments and responding isn’t having a real conversation. It’s mostly discussion forums with new interfaces. Big fucking deal.

    The people who are *claiming* this is new have some really short-term memories. If they find these things hold value for them, super. But acting as though this is a new-fangled way of doing business is a joke.

    But let’s not kid ourselves. The proponents are more interested in the hype around the “how” then they are around the outcome. Cheering for the hammer & nail, instead of the thing that’s being built, is a red-flag.

  5. Drama 2.0 on June 9th, 2008 8:29 pm

    jro: I love this:

    “Cheering for the hammer & nail, instead of the thing that’s being built, is a red-flag.”

    You are absolutely correct and this is perhaps the most succinct way of describing all that is wrong with the philosophy of social media proponents.

  6. Social Media in the Inc. 500 - Promotional Bullshit Masquerading as Research : The Drama 2.0 Show on August 21st, 2008 8:55 am

    […] firms whose involvement with other questionable “studies” I have already pointed out (here and here). It appears that when companies in need of social media validation want […]

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