Designing the World of Customer Experience

Observer Effect: Have we gone Quantum?

A fundamental piece of quantum theory says the act of observation changes the object you’re observing.  

Every good marketer and business intelligence professional understands the importance of listening, monitoring and analyzing social media conversations.

So how, then, does observing digital communications (social, mobile, web) affect the way people exchange information through those networks?

Some examples:

  1. When people post items about their life (through comments, photos, videos) they are essentially curating their life’s story. Realizing that what they upload will be viewable,  they take their (known and unknown) audience into consideration.  They may hold back important items or overlook small details, but in the end, the truth is not accurately reflected.
  2. If someone has praise or a complaint about a product and they know that the company is actively listening to their social media community, the person will write something intended to catch the attention of that brand to generate a response.  This may be an amplified version of their true feelings and not an accurate predictor of their future behavior.

When the audience perceives that they’re being watched, it makes sense that their behavior changes in relation.  So by observing obvious and non-obvious patterns and predicting behaviors, a certain margin of error must be taken into consideration when evaluating self-posted content.  I haven’t heard about any monitoring product that factors this into their social algorithm.   Seriously, please get in touch if you know otherwise.

Follow Up Questions:

  1. To what degree should social monitoring systems be adjusted to take into account that they (the observer & technology) are changing the outcome of what they are observing?
  2. How would the impact of a big data analysis factor in with the system being observed?
  3. Do you know of any examples where the act of running a social measurement program changed the outcome?


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