Underscoring the complete uselessness of social media rankingsPosted: May 19, 2010 | |
Apparently, everyone loves lists and rankings. From where I sit at IBM looking out over the world of social media, I’ve come across a million of these rankings. What companies are the best at social media? What brands are the most active on Twitter? What company has the prettiest avatars on Twitter? And so on.
And every single one I’ve seen – even when IBM scores very high – seems superfluous and shallow. Even rankings from respectable analysts, like Charlene Li, are usually far off the mark (that’s for a future post if anyone is interested). It’s impossible to effectively look behind the scenes and evaluate how a company is performing in social media without understanding their unique approach and what they are trying to accomplish.
So, if you are going to rank anything, you better be damn well sure that your methodology is rock solid and you are absolutely thorough in your research. Otherwise, you end up looking far more foolish than when you began.
So what got in my craw today?
A company called NetProspex claims to have created the “first comprehensive look at social media activity among employees of the nation’s largest corporations.” (I originally stated this was Flowtown’s report, thus making the correction). Yet another ranking. It only caught my eye when colleagues on Twitter pointed out the Mashable post on it. So, after enduring far too many of these rankings, I’m finally speaking out: Rankings are worthless and do everyone (except the report publisher) a complete disservice. I’ll talk more about the disservice later. But first a bit on Flowtown’s “rankings.” (Click on the image above for an enlarged view).
See IBM there? Way down at the bottom. Tied for 48th. With GE. A company that doesn’t yet allow all employees access to Facebook in the first place (no disrespect meant for my GE friends, of which I have many, but the perspective is valid). Such venerable brands like NCR, Pactiv and BMC Software apparently have more employees active in social media than IBM. Really? Or even take Dell, who by all accounts (including my own) has done a fabulous and innovative job in managing social media. But it’s been a top-down effort, with controlled access and clearly defined accounts. But this is measuring the usage by employees. Dell still doesn’t have a policy for all employees to blog (Richard/Lionel, correct me if this has changed).
Again, I want to point out that NetProspex isn’t measuring effectiveness. Many of these on the brands on this list very well may be more effective that we at IBM are (though I think we have a compelling argument). But this list measured volume. So, on that point, consider the following:
- 200,000: current IBMers on LinkedIn, according to their own data… (By the way, it’s the LARGEST single community of corporate employees on any social network platform anywhere)
- >1,000: current IBMers actively blogging externally. (some on ibm.com, but most off domain).
- >3,000: current IBMers active on Twitter (my own estimate… but consider that Eric Andersen almost immediately quickly reached the 500 limit when he put together this list of IBMers. If no limit, it would be 6x larger).
- 75,000: current IBMers on Facebook.
- 100,000: current and former IBMers on IBM’s Alumni Social Network on ibm.com and LinkedIn.
I can’t see any possible way to justify the facts above with NetProspex’ rankings. Silly.
OK, enough with this report. I’ve given it enough press.
Finally, I want to get back to my point earlier about how these endless rankings are, ultimately, doing us all a massive disservice. Why do I think that? Well, primarily because it turns all of this into a race. And as companies try and keep up with each other, they start to apply the tactics that helped company “A” get to the top of the list without realizing they have a completely different business model and culture. It always ends awkwardly. I talked a lot about the impact of corporate culture on social media previously here on this blog. It’s worth revising that in the context of these lists to ask whether we should put a final nail in the coffin of endless rankings. If only.
I made some updates above to clarify that this report was apparently conducted/published by NetProspex, not Flowtown.