Got you to click on this blog with that “sexy” stat, right? It’s fabricated. And that’s the point I am trying to make. Are we so starved for context and benchmarks for digital marketing, and so pushed to publish often and publish provocatively, that we are unknowingly sharing false data?
There are just too many statistics floating around the internet that don’t pass the stink test. Here is what provoked my rant: we are about to launch a series about what B2B marketers need to know about video as a content marketing tactic. During the research phase, I started pulling together interesting statistics to frame the topic. One of them popped out several times.
We process visual information 60,000 times faster than text.
Wow! That sure drives home the value of video marketing. But as I continued to gather more information I couldn’t shake the thought that the data seemed “fishy”. I mean, if the stat were true, why would anyone ever need written or spoken language? We could just communicate with word pictures for everything. And even if it were true, it is said that our brain can’t use all of its capacity. So processing visual content that much faster might not even make a difference.
There are three types of lies. Lies, damn lies, and statistics.
After more searching, I found even more instances of this stat being quoted on highly-read reputable blogs. I found myself hoping that I haven’t also used it in a previous blog. I noticed there didn’t seem to be any consistent attribution for the stat, except a few vague references to 3M. So I changed my search terms to search for origin of the stat and found a blogger who doggedly and inventively researched the origin to find out it was…not a credible stat at all.
The reality is that all stats and studies we consume to benchmark and support our marketing decisions need to be taken with an analytical mindset and a healthy dose of skepticism. There is a subjective element in most of them that needs to be taken into consideration.
I think we keep searching for statistics because relatively speaking these are still very early days in digital marketing. Companies want to know where the best ROI for digital marketing dollars is found. They want to know what other businesses are doing. They want to avoid the bleeding edge of adoption that could find them making very expensive decisions with little impact.
It’s smart thinking to arm ourselves with information. But who vets the information? The sharing of content today moves quickly and with volume across Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media. Little nuggets of untruths can float endlessly through the content universe like the feather in Forest Gump.
So, perhaps, even if we feel we are already using due diligence, we should sharpen our focus on the best practices for using statistics to drive digital marketing decisions. And we should make sure we are applying them consistently:
- Determine the true origin of the stats
- Consider the source of the study and the stats
- Examine how the stat fits with previous information
- Understand how the stats line-up with other resources on the same topic
What is also key is that statistics should be put in context of our own analytics about customers and prospects. The data about them that we now have the ability to track and analyze is a big advantage that we as marketers should continually try to leverage.
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