Social Media: Man & Machine; Not Man vs. Machine

Over the weekend, the social media landscape was dominated by discussions about how social media monitoring needs to have people involved in the process to be effective and successful.

– Jason Falls had a well-read post, “Where Social Media Monitoring Services Fail”
Roger Harris suggested on “Twitter Thoughts” that social media will “shift away from technological solutions and to the human element”, and
Tatyana Kanzaveli did a post on the difference between social media analytics and analysis.

On the surface, it’s difficult to tell why this “man vs. machine” discussion emerged in multiple places but it may have to do with the fact that social media monitoring and analytics are seeing major traction as more people and companies start to embrace tools to help them make sense of all the conversations taking place.

While 2009 saw healthy adoption, the past few months have seen a major spike in interest. Companies that weren’t even thinking about social media monitoring a year ago have become enthusiastic users and customers.

Within a growing number of large companies, social media monitoring is becoming an integral part of their marketing and sales operations.

As social media monitoring services and technology mature and evolve, it is also prompting people to ask where humans fit into the equation. If technology is doing  all the monitoring, what role do humans play?

In a nutshell, social media monitoring at its best is a beautiful marriage between man and machine. The technology collects the conversations taking place, aggregates, organizes and presents them in a user-friendly way, and then gives people the ability to arrange, filter and manage it to meet their strategic and tactical objectives.

At the same time, social media professionals can use their experience and expertise to layer intelligence, perspective and insight on top of the social media data.

When you think about it, neither side can be successful or effective without the other. The technology is interesting but not useful or valuable without people to do something with it, and people are only able to do a limited amount of monitoring without the assistance of technology to sift through millions of conversations.

All the chatter about how people need to be involved in the social media process makes complete sense, although it’s certainly not a revelation or anything that hasn’t been part of the mix.

It may have to do with the fact that social media monitoring is getting more popular and, as a result, attracting more attention.