The Scientific Method for Social Media (Webinar with Tamsen McMahon)

The following is a recap from a webinar with Tamsen McMahon (@tamadear) from Sametz Blackstone Associates and Brass Tack Thinking, monitored by Mike Lewis (@bostonmike) from Awareness Inc.. Be sure to follow the conversation on Twitter about the webinar.

The Scientific Method for Social Media

One-way communication used to masquerade as two-way communication; but it’s really multi-way communication – with amplification.

Social media is a madhouse. You might feel like you’ve lost control…of your brand, of your message. In other words, the inmates are running the asylum.

Some say it’s an art (and navigating it is an art.) Tamsen says it’s a science. There’s a way to make social media approachable, doable, documentable, measurable, and repeatable. How, you ask? By separating truth from belief using…

The scientific method

1. Define the Question

How can we best use social media in our business? Is podcasting an effective way to generate prospects?

Answer the question: What am I trying to figure out about social media?

Be specific about what you’re trying to figure out. That’ll be the right place to start.

2. Observe

In order to understand the question, you need to observe the environment you want to work in.

  • Listen: if, what
  • Watch: where, how

What people say and what they do isn’t always the same.


  • Run searches for relevant keywords
  • Establish accounts on major social networks (if you’re new)
  • What’s the nature of the conversation?

3. Investigation

How can you start to meet the needs of your audience from your listening? Defining and documenting the parameters of

  • Scope – providing clarity about where it makes sense to get started. Answer the question:
    • What’s the scope?
  • Audience – what audiences make the most sense? what tools are they using? what are they saying about you? Answer the questions:
    • For your scope, which audiences make the most sense?
    • What do they care about?
    • How do they perceive you?
  • Content – all the social media tools in the world mean nothing without content. Answer the questions:
    • For your scope and audience, what’s the best content?
    • What already exists?
    • What doesn’t?
  • Resources – resources make or break what you’re trying to do, but rarely do we take them into account in the beginning. Answer these questions:
    • For your scope, audience, and defined content, which tools are most appropriate?
    • What resources do you need?
    • How will you get them?
  • Outcomes – Answer these questions (choose one):
    • Are you trying to achieve awareness?
    • comprehension?
    • participation?
    • loyalty?
    • support?
  • Measurement – Answer the questions:
    • What does success look like?
    • How will you measure it?
    • How will you tie  it to concrete business goals?

4. Hypothesize

Social media AdLibs: For [scope], [content] from [sources], used across [tools] will produce [measured] [results] with [audiences].

5. Experiment

This is fact finding, not an end all be all. It’s going to be about continuously improving. Focus on:

  • Design
  • Execution

Observation is not participation. Planning is not execution.

Document the steps as you take them. If you take a step before or after it happens, document it. If something that isn’t supposed to happen or isn’t planned, make sure you document it.


  • Outline the steps of your experiemnt with sstart and end dates
  • Execute your plan, while documenting specific events, and what is working as well as what isn’t

6. Analyze

  • Numbers
  • Sentiment
  • Actions


  • Collect metrics
  • Overlay results onto experiment steps and significant events
  • Note alignments
  • Draw a conclusion

7. Retest

It takes practice. If you confirm a hypothesis, then go back to the beginning and start with a new question.

Hypothesis confirmed?

  • Define a new question and start over

Hypothesis disproved?

  • Start with a new question
  • Define a new experiment
  • Retest


Everything changes, so you need to be on top of things so that you can flex and change with it.


Take a look at the content you have out there. Sometimes we forget about what you’re already doing. (e.g. record a conference you’re putting on. Take advantage of the content you’re creating and share!)

Best way to measure for your biz? Measurement is entirely dependent on what you’re trying to achieve. Asking “what’s the best way to measure social media?” is like asking “what’s the best book?”

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