Archive for the ‘surveys’ Category

Not-for-profits, social media, and accountability

One of the things that social media offers EVERYONE is the chance to present important work to the world in engaging ways. Proof? Just look at a map from the James McGregor Stewart society in Nova Scotia. I think if you read this post, you’ll see that even the most underresourced organization can use online tools to do good work and spread it.

First, the inspiration. Parker Donham, an old acquaintance from my days as a freelancer for CBC Radio in Sydney, wrote in a June 5 Contrarian post:

The James McGregor Stewart Society, a small voluntary group with a single summer intern, has managed to pull off in a month what the Disabled Persons Commission of NS (annual budget: $600,000) and the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission ($2.1 million) have not achieved in the decades of their existence.

It has surveyed the accessibility of MLAs offices throughout the province. The results will not be a source of pride for Nova Scotia or its legislators.

So, the back story:

The James McGregor Stewart Society’s prime mover, a guy named Gus Reed, got a question from his intern. She wanted to find out  how easy is it for people with disabilities to meet with their elected representatives? So, simplicity itself. She phoned each of the 52 MLAs’ constitutency offices and asked them some very simple questions about accessibility. Here’s what they asked:

  1. Does your office have parking? If so, is it paved? Does it have designated accessible spots?
  2. Is there a power door button?
  3. Is your entrance accessible (level, ramped, and / or elevator?)? Does it have a portable or other questionable ramp? Does it have a step or stairs?
  4. Is the washroom large enough for a wheelchair? Are there grab bars and/or a wheel-under sink?
  5. Is your office on an accessible transit route?

With this, they assigned points so that MLAs could score between -1 and 6.

Here are the results:

MLA Accessibility map

The mean score was 3. Keep in mind, you could get a 3 by having a disabled parking space at your office and having a door at street level. If you had an accessible washroom you’d get a 5.  So a mean score of 3 is not exactly inspiring.

I spent a little time trying to get a handle on the Nova Scotia government’s accessibility policy. As best as I can understand it, buildings constructed since the 1990s, or buildings that have changed their purpose (from a house to a retail store, for example) are required to conform to the provincial building code, which mandates a number of measures to ensure disabled people can get access. (The building code regulations are here, and the province’s 1986 Building Access act is here.)  Unfortunately, calls and emails to the province’s Human Rights Commission and Disabled Persons Commission resulted in little useful information. However, a cheerful fellow at the  provincial department of Labour and Advanced Education (which is responsible for the building code) walked me through the regulations so that I got a cursory understanding of them.

The shameful level of accessibility is one thing. But I’m not an accessibility blogger – I’m a PR and social media blogger. So I’m gonna take on that aspect of this.

What really caught my eye in Parker Donham’s post was that nobody else had done this sort of survey before. Certainly, it’s not a technical challenge; simply pick up the phone 52 times and you’re done.

But what social media now offers is the opportunity to disseminate these findings in a graphically-rich way quickly, easily, and widely. No wire service needed, no fancy-dan graphic designers. Just Google Maps, Blogger, and email.

I spoke with Gus Reed on Skype on June 6, and he told me they weren’t sure what would happen with this survey. With no staff, the James McGregor Stewart Society has no “machine” to churn out a mass of followup documents. And this story may not make a dent in the media or in Nova Scotia government policy.

I want to draw out some public relations and social media lessons for both activist groups and for those who are their likely targets — large corporations, organizations, or government.

For activists:  

  1. Do solid work — like calling all 52 constituency offices, and tell your story well. Don’t focus only on media attention. A well-told story, like “people in wheelchairs can’t participate in basic democracy” is going to make people stop and read. If your work is shoddy or bloggers or media get burned, though, good luck getting someone to listen a second time.
  2. Use the resources you have at your disposal. In this case, the society has a blog on Blogger. Sure, they could get more fancy. But they haven’t. They used Google Maps to visualize and annotate their data. Gus Reed used Skype to give me more information.
  3. Have a plan. Even if you’re not going to push hard on the media front, doing the work requires followup. What will your next steps be? Once you do them, what’s next? Even for voluntary organizations with no staff, this stuff isn’t a closed circle, it’s lather, rinse, repeat. (Hint: there are lots of municipalities in Nova Scotia to look at, Mr Reed. Hint 2: There are 12 other legislatures that groups could survey in exactly the same way.)

For organizations:

  1. Do not look at this as a threat. Look at it as an opportunity. Even if it’s critical. And especially if, deep down, you know the criticism is well-founded.
  2. Do not ignore small organizations as powerless. The “amplification effect” may leave you chasing down a forest fire.
  3. Respond. Promptly and substantively.

Gobbling up social media research? Caveat lector.

Not so long ago, my friend Dennis posted an infographic about the misuse (accidential or wilful) of data in infographics. In a handy infographic format. I’m going to take the opportunity to embed it below. It’s worth keeping.

But Dennis’s nifty graphic only tells us about one place where we can be led into temptation — the infographic.

I happened upon a newsletter today that made me think of how easy it is to make marketing and communication decisions or take action based on information that should be questioned.

Mobile Commerce Daily reported on May 29 that “44pc of shoppers will never return to sites that are not mobile friendly: report.” The story is based entirely on a survey carried out by US software company Kentico, which makes content management systems. Kentico issued a news release about the survey on May 28, but it could be that the newsletter had an embargoed copy of the release.

The information is interesting. For example, it says that nearly 9 in 10 people with smartphones use them to compare products to competitors. And 45% do it right in the store, underlining the practice of “showrooming.”

But… in the newsletter story, there’s no information at all about the survey data. Even more frustrating is the lack of a link to the source data. I tracked down Kentico, then hit their press centre, where the news release about the survey sits. If you go to the Kentico site, you discover that the data-gathering part of this survey consisted of “More than 300 US residents 18 years old and over participated in the Kentico Mobile Experience Survey, conducted online during the month of April, 2013.”

Now, a survey sample is neither good nor bad. The point is to understand that sample. Was it a random sample? Did the participants selfselect? I couldn’t tell anything more than what I just said, because Kentico didn’t link to the survey itself or a more detailed report of its findings.

I contacted Kentico’s PR company, and Chris Blake of MSR Communications was prompt, open and detailed in his responses to my questions. He gave me demographic information that SurveyMonkey, the tool they used to do the research, provided, and a copy of the questionnaire. After a brief perusal of some USA census data, I learned that their sample of 300 people skewed only slightly more male, somewhat older, and way more educated than the US general population, for one thing. And the data provided on their sample gives me a sense of the potential sampling error rate (while Chris Blake suggests a ±5% margin of error, I’m thinking more like ±10%).

I don’t think there’s ANYTHING bogus about the survey results here. But I needed to take a fair amount of time to convince myself of that. And there are many occasions on which I find the data or survey results so problematic that I forget about using them.

There’s a flood of survey results and other materials that get published by the originators of the information, by newsletters, and by people like me every minute of every day. It’s easy to take everything at face value. But think twice. As a teacher of social media, I’m constantly looking for good data to share with students. As a consultant, I’m looking for information that I can use to help clients make sound decisions. But it is dangerous to see a newsletter article and use it to tell students or clients to base their actions on the data it contains.

Back in the days when ink and paper cost money, I understand the need for brevity and concision. But these newsletters are electronic. Pixels don’t cost anything but the time to write. And if you’re not going to disclose proprietary or competitive information, why not make as much information as you can readily available?

The more easily people like me can peruse your research, the more likely we’ll be to accept its conclusions. The more difficulty we have understanding the process behind the numbers, the more skeptical we become (or at least the more skeptical we SHOULD become).

And if you’re in business and trying to grapple with the challenges of communicating using social media, either desktop-style or mobile, make sure to ask questions EVERY time you see statistics and survey results. You don’t want to have to explain to your boss why you made a bad marketing or sales decision based on data you found in a press release and didn’t vet.

It’s too generous to assume that just because someone writes a newsletter, they’re doing your due diligence for you.

Here’s Dennis’s great graphic:

Social Merlot? Where wineries sit with social media.

I got pointed to an interesting slide deck yesterday from a company called ABLE. ABLE is a NYC based company doing social media marketing for food and wine clients. They did a survey of French and US wineries about how they used social media.

The short version of this? More wineries are active on social media platforms in the US than in France. And the US wineries are reporting that Facebook is a particularly powerful tool to generate sales.

Part of this is boosterism. ABLE quite naturally wants its potential clients to believe that social media is a must for them, and that they need to devote more time, money, and resources to it.

But there are some surprising numbers in here. What do you think of these?

  • 4 in 5 French wineries don’t have a dedicated marketing manager creating content on social networks.
  • Fewer than 1 in 13 use FB advertising.

Now, the report does suggest that France’s wineries are jumping into the social media vat of grapes with both feet. But there will be challenges ahead for French wine. How will they prioritize markets? What will they do to ensure they’re creating content that matches the culture and languages of their markets? And how will they ensure that they’re doing their social media work strategically, rather than just hopping onto Twitter or Facebook?

I wonder if Vaynermedia has been watching this happen. Would seem a natural place for them to excel.

And I wonder if there were any indications of how wineries are measuring what they do against goals they set for themselves.

UPDATED: In search of Canadian analysis of Internet use

A different kind of digital divide

A different kind of digital divide

UPDATED, December 21: after some chasing, I heard from Daryl Korell, who was at the Canadian Media Research Centre. While the Canadian Internet Project site is still down, he offered to pass on my coordinates to the project staff. I’ve asked for an interview with them, and if and when I get one you’ll hear about it.

If you’re going to advise people on communications, PR or social media, chances are you’ll spend a lot of time thinking and writing and talking about online life. I know I do. It helps if you’re passionate for understanding how people use media to communicate  Doing that means that I love to read stuff about what people are doing online. But I realized this morning, when I saw a CBC story about internet use among older people, that there’s a big gap here in Canada.

The story quoted something that I consult all the time: The Pew Internet and American Life Project. This project, one of seven that make up the Pew Research Centre, regularly publishes data about … well, the Internet and American Life. Of the Centre’s 117 staff, eight are working on the Pew Internet and American Life.

So far in 2010, the Pew Internet project has issued 19 reports on everything from government online to social media reputation management to “the future of the Internet.” Their reports are really great. I frequently download them, and I use them to write, make presentations, and the like.

But where’s the Canadian equivalent? For the Canadian who’s interested in these issues, there’s really no way to dive deep into this data that I can find.

Am I missing out on sources here? Why is it that we don’t have something like the Pew projects? Tell me where I haven’t looked.

IDC / ITAC poll sounds interesting, but …

Saw this CBC story yesterday on the RSS feed: Online media second to traditional news outlets, poll finds.

The poll in question was carried out by IDC and apparently paid for by ITAC, the Information Technology Association of Canada.

Among the results:

  • 95 per cent of respondents continue to turn to traditional media (newspapers, radio and television) for general news and 82 per cent for breaking news.
  • 42 per cent of respondents access some form of online media for general news
  • 21 per cent of respondents turn to online sources for breaking news
  • Larger families access and trust online more than smaller families
  • French respondents trust online media more than their English counterparts
  • Almost 50 per cent of Younger Canadians (18 – 24) are likely to get their information online

Sounds pretty interesting, doesn’t it? I wanted to learn more than what CBC had online.

I was able to find their news release, issued via Canada Newswire. It had contacts to their PR firm, which in the interest of sportsmanship I will not yet name, as well as a contact at ITAC. Oddly enough, neither IDC nor ITAC have anything about this on their media rooms.

So I got in touch with the PR firm yesterday. To this point, I’ve got nothing other than an explanation that they “don’t release raw survey data”.

I don’t WANT raw data. I would like to know more about the questions asked, the sample size, the sample method, and the issues of media choice and trust.

I’ve now pinged IDC and ITAC to see if I can learn more. I’ll let you know what I come to know.

Ciao,
Bob.