Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Opinion is not Information - Why Social is Not the Answer You're Looking For

Lee Odden in his excellent presentation War of Words: Myth-Busting Social Media, SEO & Content Marketing has a slide that shows Pete Cashmore stating "Social is on the verge of solving all search problems". 

As a Information Professional with a quarter of a century of experience, I think my reaction to those words looked something like this:

And it came to me in one fell swoop WHY social is not the answer to search at all.

Opinion is not information - Social is not search. Information is nor knowledge - Search is not research.

Let's look at a common scenario to explore the difference.

You want to take a short vacation. You ask your friends for ideas. One suggests Las Vegas. Now, if you like spectacle, elaborate shows, gambling, theme hotels, this is a terrific idea. What if you hate those things? Not so good an idea. 

You asked for an opinion - you received an opinion. It may be relevant to you. It may be as irrelevant as possible, if your friends ideas are about their desires, as indeed, I have found with the above question. People tend to suggest the kinds of vacations that would appeal to them, whether or not they know your tastes.

Now you need to book that room, one friend went to one site, got a one price, another friend got a different price, one bought a package and has no idea about the cost of the hotel. You asked for information - you received data.

Social search can answer some, but not all the questions you have. When you need information, opinion and data points will only confuse the issue. 

Your friends are great when you need an opinion. Social Search will be great when you need an opinion. But when you're running a business, you don't need opinion, you need information. Information professionals take information and turn it into knowledge you need to make critical business decisions. 

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