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)

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.