My working life began in earnest when I joined a consultancy who specialised in benchmarking for manufacturing.

Benchmarking is a comparative tool which uses quantitative and qualitative metrics to compare a firm’s performance against the industry average, as well as best practice. Benchmarking isn’t limited to manufacturing though – it’s used worldwide in a variety of industries. So what does that have to do with social media and your online activities?

It’s the recommendations that make the report

As a Junior Industrial Development Facilitator (boy was that a mouthful in introductions), I worked with clothing and textile manufacturers, and the occasional automotive firm, helping to educate them in the theory of world class manufacturing.

Social media benchmarking
We also feel this way about measuring mountains of data for no reason.

We encouraged manufacturers to adopt World Class Manufacturing practices in order to raise their competitiveness, performing annual benchmarks to measure where firms stood in relation to the industry average and manufacturing best practice, where they stood in comparison to where they were the year before, and what they needed to do to improve.

And obviously these firms took these benchmark reports – and our recommendations – to heart and turned their factories inside out in their effort to become industry leaders in the manufacturing world, right? Uh, no … a lot of the time, they didn’t. But why?

Insight into the data isn’t always enough

It’s a problem that’s not limited to manufacturing firms. You’ll find it in any business that monitors and measures nearly everything that can have a number attached to it. As Kris Hammond says though, “data is meaningless unless it can be converted to insight”.

Not many people glean insight from the oceans of data flooding their inbox and the mountain of reports that felled a rainforest to print. People have all this data thrown at them, with no clue what to make of it.

So you’ve got 3,000 people visiting your site, and it’s gone up from last month, that’s great! But your competitor has 6,000 people visiting their site because they’re doing X, Y and Z, and they’re also improving.

Insight is knowing what you’re doing wrong, what your competitors are doing better than you, and how you can improve. So now you’ve got the information, where’s the transformation? Insight should lead to action, and that my friend, is the problem.

Insight is as insight does

It used to frustrate me no end hearing, “Yes we recognise what you’re saying and how it works for other people, but we’re unique – we do it our way because of this reason and that excuse.

social media data
If you’re not going to act on insightful reports, you may as well get a cat to collect the data.

You’re unique … just like everybody else.

At the end of the day, as soon as you know what you need to be doing, you should be doing it, or at the very least, putting processes in place to help you get there in the long run, finding a champion to drive the changes …

Which brings me to social media and digital life. Why I love my job now is that we act. We’re doers. If something doesn’t work, why not? Let’s try something else … darn, that didn’t work. Look at what they’re doing – could that work? Yes, but it would work better if we did this … success!

But even success is an ongoing process. We analyse the data to draw conclusions and make recommendations. We work in partnership with our clients to take those recommendations and action them … and then we analyse the results, draw conclusions, and – you guessed it, make more recommendations.

It’s the circle of improvement.

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