I notice that in public relations it is very common to survey people about what they did, or are doing. If we really want to know what they did or are doing, isn’t it better to measure their actual behavior?
Take, for instance, yesterday’s report for SAI Chart of the Day: Netflix is Beating YouTube to Win the War for Consumer Mindshare. According to a Goldman Sachs survey of 2000 persons, more people prefer Netflix than YouTube for watching online video.
Which is interesting. But what would be really interesting to know is why Goldman Sachs did a survey instead of just getting the traffic data for Netflix and YouTube. By doing a survey they found out what people say they watched. But by getting the traffic data they could have found out what people actually watched. ( We’ve got to assume that if there was an easy way to get some traffic numbers, they would have done that instead of the survey. So maybe there is a good reason why they couldn't compare actual hours watched, or number of videos downloaded, or number of unique visitors, or some such.)
The point here is that what people say they do and what they actually do are often two different things. There is plenty of research that demonstrates that people are often not very good at measuring or judging their own behavior. Take illusory superiority, for instance, or confirmation bias. Or just watch some American Idol tryouts. It’s clear that there can be a huge gap between how people are and how people think they are.
As data gets easier to come by there is less reason to survey people because we can measure their actual behavior. And that’s especially true for online activity.
--Bill Paarlberg, editor of Measure What Matters and The Measurement Standard. The Measurement Standard is a publication of KDPaine & Partners, a company that delivers custom research to measure brand image, public relationships, and engagement.