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Tweet Study reveals Ford atwitter, bad math
The Internet and Twitterverse are absolutely abuzz with a new Ford Tweet study from some formerly-no-name marketing firm called Salorix. All it really reveals is bad math.
Posted December 21, 2012
By SARAH BUTZEN, EVERGEEK MEDIA
 
We came across an interesting study recently, here at Evergeek Media. We like to keep on top of studies so we don't miss any new and groundbreaking insights into the nature of the human condition. (For instance, a group of scientists recently proved that humans like both sex and fatty foods. You might think we already knew that, but you'd be wrong, because there hadn't been a study.) Anyway, this one was by Salorix; yes, it does sounds like a company that makes dog biscuits or ED treatments, but they actually do studies about all kinds of highly important and compelling topics.

This one was about tweeting and cars. No, not whether people tweet while they're driving, silly, we already know that you do. Sorry, I meant to say that we already know that they do tweet while they're driving. Obviously you would never do such a thing. But what we didn't know until now was what they're tweeting about. Specifically, what cars they're tweeting about, what segments they focus on, what brands are particularly compelling, and so forth.

Full infographic is posted below.

The results of the study are mildly interesting, and I was going to say a little something about them and call it a day, when I noticed that the study results come in two forms. One's a report called "The US Automotive Market: Twitter Trends and Insights 2012." The other is an infographic called "Auto Industry Smart Social Report: Snapshot of Every Social Conversations (sic) in Real-time About the Auto Industry."

It doesn't say in the title that this version was prepared for any particular automaker. But right at the top of this version there's a bubble holding the words "Who's Talking?" and right next to it, the blue and swirly-white Ford logo. It kind of seems that they're meaning to suggest that the top answer to the question "who's talking?" is Ford. Or it could totally be that they just kind of liked how the logo looked sitting there, with absolutely no intention of seeming to convey information from the survey.

The two reports continue to diverse in interesting ways as you go through. The general report shows that Monday generates the highest volume of auto-related tweets, and Thursday and Friday the lowest. On Tuesdays, even though the volume is lower, the engagement rate (i.e., replies, retweets, or mentions) of auto-related tweets is the highest of any day in the week.

What does Ford's report say? "Most Ford-related tweets happen on Mondays. Tuesdays have the best engagement." Does anyone out there remember the Monty Python sketch "News for Parrots"? "No parrots were involved today in an accident on the M1. A spokesman for parrots said he was glad no parrots were involved."

Moving on, we find the following information in the general report: "Asian and European cars garner over 40 percent of all conversation volumes….Honda is the most popular brand with the highest share of voice, 9 percent."

And in the special report just for Ford? "Over 1/3 of conversations are about American cars. Ford is compared against Asian and European cars." Well, yeah… that'll happen when all three categories are being studied, even though from this report you wouldn't know they were. Also, "1 in 9 tweeters talk about Ford."

Okay, now wait a second. I'm starting to think someone is just having some basic math problems. According to the general report, Ford is second to Honda in popularity among car-related tweets, with Honda getting 9 percent of the share and Ford getting 8 percent. But if 1 in 9 tweeters are talking about Ford, that's 11 percent. So just what the heck is….Oh, I see. The general report refers vaguely to "popularity" and "share of voice"; Honda leads in that with 9 percent. That must mean number of tweets. But in Ford's report they use a different metric - number of tweeters. So while Honda's getting more tweets, Ford's still being talked about by 11 percent of tweeters.

How does that compare to Honda - how many tweeters are talking about them? We don't know. That's not referenced anywhere in either report, and actually the fact that "share of voice" refers to number of tweets isn't either. We can just figure it out by process of elimination.

I realize this is getting highly picayune, but it's going somewhere, I promise, and we're almost done. Next the general report has the stupidest bar chart you've ever seen, with none of the groups of bars adding up to 100 percent, making the general point that when you look at tweets by type of car (sporty, small, mid-range, etc.), Honda has the most tweets about mid-range cars and Ford has the most about small cars (due to the Focus) and about sporty cars (due to the Mustang, which gets lots of Twitter love).

In the Ford-specific version, it's basically the same except that it's just "Ford" and "rest of segment." This actually makes Ford look worse by combining everyone else's tweets; in the sporty segment Ford has a greater share than any of the either companies studied, but when you add up all the others into the "rest of segment" category, they have more than half, which actually diminishes Ford's lead.

The general report goes on to discuss all the other segments and state conclusions. The Ford report is done.

Now. Here's the thing, the reason I made you slog through all those minute comparisons. Ford appears to have paid good money - most likely highly excellent money - to be misinformed and duped.

Not that Salorix did this intentionally. They probably just did what they were asked. What were they asked? I don't know - I like to imagine that some Ford executive picked up a phone and, without dialing or announcing himself, roared "Johnson! Get me something that tells me what I want to hear, STAT!" Johnson, being no fool - he'll go far, that one - got on the phone with Salorix and before you could say "bust a union," he'd ordered up a whole package of Ford-friendly facts, suitable for framing, PowerPointing or a handsome commemorative infographic.

The only problem with these facts is that they're not factual. They're worse than no facts at all. If you read just the Ford-based infographic, you actually know less about this than you did before, because now your head's all full of muddled-up half-formed notions.

Obviously it should come as no surprise to anyone that corporations might sometimes like to spin facts on their own behalf, only choose the ones that make themselves look good. But this doesn't appear to be a piece of marketing - it appears to be a commissioned think piece, reporting to Ford themselves on what's happening with their brand in the Twitterverse.

It makes me think of the way the North Korean media reported on the North Korean soccer team's loss to Brazil in the 2010 World Cup: "The two teams fought a seesaw battle … Jong Tae Se headed the ball before passing it to Ji Yun Nam who powerfully kicked it into the rival's goalmouth, scoring a goal. The DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) team will meet its Portuguese rival on June 21." Vague like that, not really mentioning the underachievement or, uh, total failure.

But Ford, unlike Kim Jong Il, can probably handle the truth. It might want to save its money for information and analysis that reflect what's actually happening.

Ford Salorix Infographic 2012
 
 
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Newsroom Notes
Tweet Study reveals Ford atwitter, bad math

File Under:
Research / Study, Social Media, Automotive, Salorix, Twitter
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