It’s easy to get sucked into soft-focus, touchy-feely social media advice. Stuff like “engage in the conversation,” “hug your followers,” and “have a personality.” And it’s often not easy to disagree with myths like these, since they “seem right” and nobody wants to be the guy that says “punch your customers in the face.”
The same thing was happening with medical advice centuries ago. “Common sense” approaches to health care led to things like magical tonics and bleeding. Not only did these things often not work, but much of the time they actually did more harm than good.
But then medicine came out of the dark ages through the scientific method and practitioners and researchers began to use real data to understand what worked and what didn’t. Beyond “common sense.”
Social media needs to come out of the dark ages now too. We need to start using the mountains of real data and the scientific method to conduct real experiments to learn what actually works.
Science isn’t perfect. Neither are statistics. Correlation and causation, tortured data and faulty experiment design are all real dangers. But even questionable science is better than just guessing.
Relying on “years of experience” is just as dangerous as sheer guesswork. Years of experience is basically using a very small data set, with serious selection bias issues to generate anecdotal evidence and then running with it. It’s better than nothing, but it’s nowhere near as good as objective research that uses sample sizes north of tens or hundreds of thousands or even millions of data points.
And fuzzy, nebulous advice like “personality is important” or “be interesting” is totally worthless. It’s like saying “be cool.” It’s far too broad, subjective and weakly defined to actually mean anything. This kind of advice doesn’t give anyone real direction. It just “sounds” right, and so it’s easy for the masses to cheer for.
But we’re in business to make money, not friends, right? I’m not interested in what’s popular, I’m interested in what works. Are you?