Editor's Notes: Perception Vs. Data
I had an interesting month while working on this issue. First came the disappointing Facebook IPO following the announcement that GM was pulling its Facebook ads due to ineffectiveness. That led to a hellacious backlash against social media marketing. All of a sudden, every marketing news outlet was either piling on stories about how social media is a waste or trying desperately to justify the dozens of social media marketing articles they'd already run.
I also had a conversation with a marketing solutions provider about what he hears from customers. Until a few months ago, his customers had been wildly interested in social media and had lost interest in email. Now that had reversed—they lost interest in social media, but were suddenly obsessed with email. Social was out, email was in.
Finally, I had the opportunity to speak on a great Direct Marketing Club of New York panel with other members of the press where we discussed how changing technology is affecting marketers. What became clear as we spoke was that audience members who rely on email marketing felt like email was under attack and there was a need to defend it.
If there's any data that says email is significantly declining as a marketing channel, I've never seen it. Our annual media usage surveys have found only increasing email usage, and the various studies from DMA, Forrester, Lyris, ReturnPath, etc., have essentially said the same thing.
Despite current perceptions, I expect social media will survive the current backlash, even Facebook. Just as the reports of email's demise didn't faze that channel, I don't think the current turbulence will drag much on social media, either.
The real worry is the gap between perception and reality in the marketing world, and how that can lead to bad decisions. Perception cracks up and down like the end of a whip whenever a news topic gets hot. Data is the insulation that helps marketers survive those extreme shifts. Regardless of what analysts, agencies, bloggers or the media are saying this month, it's your data that holds real insight into what works for your company with your customers and insulates your strategy from the fickle winds of perception.
And as you'll see in our cover story, "Are You Ready for Big Data?", data has more to say than ever.