Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

If the title of this post seems familiar, then perhaps you've been reading some Sherlock Holmes stories lately. The master logician and thinker Sherlock Holmes uttered this line when Dr. Watson admitted not knowing how many steps led up to the sitting room of 221B Baker Street (there were 17, in case you were wondering). Similarly, when he was looking for more evidence before he could apply his reasoning, Holmes also said, "Data! Data! Data! I can't make bricks without clay."

When it comes to brand management and social media, knowing what's been said about you is more important than what you say about yourself. With the amount of data that are thrown off by customers on various platforms, it's a robust source of information. But how can a brand make sense through the clutter? It can certainly be overwhelming, but if you have the right monitoring tools and reporting process, it can make a significant difference.

We turn to Sherlock Holmes to give us some insights on how to approach listening and generating insights that will help guide your content, customer experience and reputation management.

From Big Data to Small Insights

At this point, you're probably tired of hearing about "big data." It's been an industry buzzword for the past few years, but how much progress has been made? We can now collect more data about consumers and their behavior than we ever have before; we can monitor their tweets, their forum posts, their actions on our websites, and even the information from devices in their homes thanks to the Internet of Things. But are we better off for it?

Odds are, you're drowning in big data. The last thing you need is more data. In short, you don't need big data; you need the direction and action that come from Small Insights. You need to sharpen your skills of observation - perhaps with a little help.

When you're part of a complex organization - let's say anywhere from 500 to 300,000 employees - and you need clarity on how to effectively coordinate your monitoring, particularly during crises. Having spent some time at a Fortune 10 company, on some days the flurry of incoming activity from consumers and the media was harrowing, with touchpoints at marketing, customer service and communications in traditional, social and broadcast media.

The data that each of those groups throw off are extraordinary in volume; and the velocity makes it even more difficult to actively monitor and manage the situation, let alone perform any meaningful analysis. The goal is to move from seeing to observing, and then to action based on the insights from your observations.

While traditional tools have been more directional in nature, when you're trying to reconcile information among many business units during a crisis a workflow is necessary for consistency and clarity. A workflow that follows this formula is a good start: relegate, delegate, escalate.


"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
The first step is to determine which data matter and are actionable. Sherlock Holmes made it his business to study up on historical cases and to understand human nature. Similarly, we need to have a broader understanding and knowledge of the world around us.

I've often seen customer service reps fret about a tweet, only to discover that the writer had just opened his account that morning and had zero followers. That puts a different weight on the situation than the celebrity with hundreds of thousands of followers. Looking at the influencers and sources of information is a critical first step when assessing what to do.


"In future they can report to you, Wiggins, and you to me."

The Baker Street Irregulars were a band of homeless children that Holmes paid to "go everywhere, see everything, overhear everyone." And rather than have the entire army of street urchins invade his rooms, he asked Wiggins, one of the group, to deal with him directly. It was his way of creating some scale and minimizing the number of people in the chain.

Different business units have varying responsibility with regard to external communications and internal reporting during a crisis, as well as during normal business operation. You'll want a system that provides clarity in assignments and that ensures that the data are consistent in reporting. Having one set of data from a CMO and an separate set from a VP of communications makes the business look as if the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. With more clarity comes the ability to effectively delegate responses, business process changes and other necessary actions within the enterprise.


"The summons was a brief and urgent one."
With millions of data points in the signal-to-noise ratio, ultimately a business needs to know what to act upon and what to ignore. Being able to ferret out the nugget of online information — whether it's a single tweet, a video, a blog post, a Facebook boycott page or a forum thread — that is at the root of the issue and to be able to address it.

One of the reasons Sherlock Holmes is just as popular today as he was over 100 years ago is because he represents a common thread of human nature: our desire to create order out of chaos. Today's digital world is probably more chaotic that Holmes could have ever imagined, but with the right framework and tools, it becomes much more manageable.