Case Studies? Anyone?

For all the talk of openness, transparency and community in social media, there’s one thing missing.

Either be a good example or a horrible warningCase studies.

Social media is still an emerging area, and it’s moving at light speed in many areas – video and mobile, to name two.

However, the lack of fleshed-out examples of success has bothered me a lot recently.

For social media to progress beyond teenagers and a few niche agencies, we need widespread adoption. That means buy-in from senior executives.

For that, we need examples of successful social media initiatives that we can hold up and show to our bosses, our clients and our colleagues.

We need case studies of social media successes.

I recently asked my Twitter contacts why they thought there aren’t more case studies, and was met with an unusual wall of silence. The exception was Collin Douma, who pointed out that agencies need permission from clients to release data about their work. Without that, case studies aren’t going anywhere.

That’s fair enough, except I can’t believe that no organizations are willing to blow their own horn and show off their successes.

I’ve also noticed that case studies are one of the biggest gaps in contributions to the Social Media Training Wiki.

I’m beginning to wonder:

Do the evangelists really believe the market is big enough for all of us or are they keeping their cards close to their chest out of choice? Is all the talk of community really just hot air?

(That would be fine – I wouldn’t expect organizations in most sectors to reveal their secrets – were it not for all the talk to the contrary. I’m beginning to wonder if there’s a lot of talk without people practicing what they preach)

Is the lack of accepted standard measurement tools making people loath to publish their figures? I could understand that. Still, surely you’re using something to determine success or failure.

I have found a few case studies. Metrics are few and far between, but at least they’re putting this stuff out there:

Attending CaseCamp Toronto 6 in November 2007 threw up a few good examples too, including Vortex Mobile’s campaign for Levis and the Globe & Mail’s enabling of comments on its website.

Unfortunately, too many of these "case studies" are anecdotal, with little hard data to back them up. That’s what we need.

Have you found a similar lack of case studies? If so, why do you think this is?

What good case studies have you found?

(photo credit: Major Clanger)

  • Colin Fast

    I couldn’t agree more. The lack of case studies sometimes has me wondering if we’re all spending more time talking about social media than actually doing social media.

  • I think it’s a combination of reasons. One is that there aren’t many people doing much meaningful work in the social media realm. There are drips and drabs here and there, but even the “big social media agencies” aren’t doing much beyond a few social media press releases.

    Second, Colin is right – it’s really hard to get clients to share information. It’s easy to get caught up in the whole “transparency” mantra, but business is business, and they don’t typically want to share information about their campaigns and how successful they were.

    Third, I think is an inherent property of social media – and that is that it’s really hard to show how it directly moved the needle. It depends on the type of campaign, of course, but for the most part blogging, social networking and community management don’t do much to move traditional metrics, and that’s not so much an indictment of social media as the metrics that we’re addicted to using.

    I expect we’ll get more case studies out there are more people start doing projects that go beyond sticking something in second life or setting up a blog, but it’s going to be a slow evolution.

  • As we say here in New Hampshire.. if you don’t like the environment, wait a minute. We have half a dozen great case studies that I’ll be talking about at New Comms Forum and other conferences in the next few months. Just takes time to collect enough data to be meaningful, analyze it and draw conclusions..

  • While this matter can be very difficult for most people, my view is that there has to be a middle or common ground that we all can find. I do appreciate that you’ve added relevant and intelligent commentary here though. Thank you!

  • Hello, perhaps this post might be off topic but anyways, I have been browsing around your blog and it appears extremely professional. It is obvious you know your subject and you are fervent about it. I