Friday, December 14, 2012

the facebook texas sharpshooter fallacy

Our current favourite cognitive bias is the 'Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy'.

Here's the often cited example of the fallacy in action.

If you were to shuffle a deck of cards and draw out 10 cards, the probability of that exact sequence you drew coming up are a squillion to one, no matter what the cards were.

If you drew out an fully ordered suit, it would be pretty remarkable - and 'clearly' contain some mystical properties - but statistically, of course, the chances of that sequence coming out are just the same as any other set of 10 cards.

So the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy describes the cowboy who fires his gun into the barn door and then paints a target around the holes, thus proving his accuracy.

It struck me that the announcement last week by Carolyn Everson – the VP of Global Marketing Solutions at Facebook - that Samsung made a 1200% ROI on a $10 million Facebook ad campaign which directly resulted $129 million worth of Galaxy S III smartphone sales was a tad on the Sharpshooter Fallacy side.

There was plenty of other marketing going on outside of Facebook, not least the sterling work of 72 and Sunny which will be appearing in many 'best-of' 2012 lists, not to mention some pretty serious demand from existing users upgrading whether Samsung had spent a dollar in Facebook or not.

I've no doubt there was some effect but the 1200% ROI statement is clearly a message to calm anxious Facebook investors - by painting the target around the bulletholes - and 'demonstrating' the supposed validity of Facebook as a game-changing advertising platform, along with it's likelihood to deliver a future big bucks return or other.

But the enthusiasm in which this statement 'proving' the effectiveness of Facebook has been received in the social media 'expert' fraternity and the social media tabloid-esque news sites is comical.

So before any of your hapless marketers, bamboozled by their social media expert advisors start spunking next years marketing budget in one Facebook basket, please remind them about Sturgeon's Revelation, as applied to the social media commentary echo chamber.

90% is total bollocks.

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