Our abhorrence for calculation enables us to agree on statistically dubious metrics with nary a shrug or arched eyebrow. Consider Nielsen ratings, which determine the popularity of all TV shows and, consequently, how billions of dollars in TV advertising is apportioned.
Nielsen ratings directly impact hundreds of thousands of people in the United States. In 2009, there were 1,147,910 households with a TV in metropolitan Charlotte, N.C. Of those more than 1 million households, Nielsen tracked the behavior of just 619 to determine ratings. A total of 619 families became the unelected representative tastemakers for 1,147,291 other families. That’s not math; that’s folly.
Yet, we welcome numerical vagary and imprecision into our businesses like a box of free Krispy Kremes. We accept as truth Arbitron (and Nielsen) radio rankings, the number of cars that drive by a billboard, and the notion that somehow people read every page of a newspaper or magazine and pass it along to 2.5 friends.
Do you really know the financial impact of your TV, radio, outdoor print, public relations, and customer services initiatives? You probably don’t.
Social media is inherently measurable