Why analysts need to be more measured in their use of social media

icon-social-media-blue.jpgSageCircle recently posted about the how the lack of any review cycle by either vendors or the firms themselves allows for very timely social media postings on blogs or on twitter, but can represent a real challenge to AR teams, especially those that are not actively watching social media.  We thought it was obvious that the need for analysts validating content was a given.  However, in the past weeks we have encountered several instances where analysts appear to have made opinion statements based on rumor without checking facts.  In the rush to publish they have not been doing their due diligence or the vendor AR teams have not been responsive to the analyst request for information.  Please note this is not a common problem and we hope it does not grow.

This speculative type of behavior can be damaging to both large and small vendors – and it certainly kicks-off multiple unnecessary “recovery” or “damage control” cycles when the analyst could/should have just picked up the phone and asked them a question before posting or rushing to be the first to tweet.  The stories you are about to hear are real…. we have changed the names to protect the guilty.

In one situation some tweets expressed concern about the financial viability of a small company.  An influential analyst posted “I’ve been hearing there’s a lot of changes going on at <company>, if you’re a customer and this has impacted you, I want to know, email me”.  The flurry of activity resulted in a blog post suggesting that people hold off purchases.  After understanding all this was unfounded there was a “retraction”, but the company is still in damage control model.

In another situation, the Twitter post was “Hearing from <company> customers that there are new clauses that will force customers to commit to no Third Party Maintenance.”  This Twitter post was a specific callout implicating the company (in Twitter he even tied them specifically to anti-trust implications as a result of this speculation – which obviously was/is a VERY big deal and was incredibly incendiary).  The problem was the analyst never checked with them before posting and he was wrong.  At the time, he had spoken to one existing customer and he never saw the actual wording in their contract.

The clear problem this poses is that the vendors find themselves in the situation of unduly having to prove themselves innocent after they’ve been accused as guilty in a public forum.  They end up spending multiple unnecessary cycles and people-hours disproving false claims and attempting to mitigate the damage those false claims have caused.     

Certainly this is not a new phenomena and mistakes have been made in analyst research that goes through editorial review.  Likewise analysts have always complained when vendors do not provide timely responses to reviews of draft research or requests for information.

From the perspective of an IT vendor, the success of the AR program requires objectivity of the influencer – otherwise there is no integrity or value in the relationship or in their opinions.  For the IT buyer client the business model of the analyst is based on producing quality research, education, and advice to support their decisions.  End user clients expect analysts to work hard to ensure their opinions and research are fact-based, balanced, unbiased, and helpful to the decision process. 

Of course AR teams need to be diligent and to monitor analyst opinions.  But it behooves the analysts to also recognize the challenge these new forums are posing.  Analyst firms must ensure their brand doesn’t get tarnished in situations where the analyst is actually wrong or inaccurate.  Even in those cases where the analyst ends up apologizing the damage is already done – and if the damage is irreparable, no level of apology can fix it.

SageCircle Technique:

  • Analysts MUST take the time to validate their facts before expressing them via social media
  • Both analysts and AR teams must be responsive to requests for information in a timely manner
  • AR teams need to establish RSS feeds that alert them to social media commentary in their markets
  • AR teams need to place an appropriate amount of effort into learning and using social media and tracking its use by their most influential analysts.

Question: Analysts:  How would you like AR teams to inform you if they see inaccurate statements that have influenced your opinions?

Do you need to create an AR strategic and tactical plan that incorporates social media? Are you thinking about experimenting with social media? SageCircle can Help – Social media represents new opportunities and challenges to AR teams. SageCircle can help AR teams by:

  • Saving time – while you can learn about Twitter through trial-and-error and reading articles, SageCircle’s AR Briefing: Twitter for AR can get you up-to-speed in a fraction of the time
  • Providing on-site or distance learning sessions to get AR teams up to speed on social media and how it might be adopted
  • Acting as a sounding board as you brainstorm how to add social media to your AR tool box
  • Advising on how to develop a pilot program to experiment with social media
  • Playing the role of analyst in social media experiments and providing critiques of how the experiment went
  • Through our AR Plan Builder workshop, strategists can help create AR plans that incorporate social media

Call 503-636-1500 or e-mail info (at) sagecircle dot com for more information. Also follow Carter’s commentary www.twitter.com/carterlusher and Dave’s at www.twitter.com/daveeckert to get a feel for how information is now being transmitted using micro-blogging.

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3 Responses

  1. Hi, Carter. Great post. As noted on my blog entry at http://snipr.com/ekjdc – some analyst forms (notably IDC) actually do review blog entries.
    It’s evident to me from the discussions I’ve been having since I started looking at this topic that everything you said in your last two points above about AR applies to analysts too: they need to know how to use social media correctly. That implies the large firms need policies and training. To date, I’ve seen no evidence that they have any such thing. And for independents, it’s a “do it yourself” problem. The discussion needs to continue; we need a code of conduct and some “how to” as well.

  2. >> To date, I’ve seen no evidence that they have any such thing.

    Hi Merv, here’s your evidence:
    http://blogs.gartner.com/gartner-public-web-participation-guidelines/
    We have had this guideline from the beginning for exactly the reason you describe.

  3. [...] Social-networking tools allow for more free-for-all communication than traditional publishing methods because users can quickly and creatively collaborate. But — interesting conundrums can arise. For example, what would you think if you are using something like Twitter, and a competitor of the organization you work for starts “following” you?SageCircle recently posted guidelines for analysts who use social media that could apply equally well to individuals or businesses: Why analysts need to be more measured in their use of social media. [...]

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