Duck Dynasty, Amazon Show The Pitfalls Of Big Data

It takes more than just numbers to understand what's really happening online.

big dataAndrew Ross Sorkin revisits the Duck Dynasty controversy in the latest T Magazine (the New York Times supplement that comes periodically with the Sunday edition) to find out how things went so wrong. Not for Phil Robertson, but for A&E.

Social media chatter and Big Data indicated that everyone backed A&E in its decision to suspend Robertson for his offensive comments. However, even when you’re reading the data correctly, the conclusion may be incorrect.

“Many of the negative tweets weren’t coming from the show’s core audience in the middle of the country. Instead, they were coming from the tweet-happy East and West Coasts — not exactly regular watchers of the camo-wearing Louisiana clan whose members openly celebrate being ‘rednecks,'” Sorkin writes.

So all that backlash came from people who weren’t fans of the show to begin with. As a result, A&E backed down in the face of support from the show’s actual non-tweeting but loyal viewers.

The article also uses Amazon as an example, which gathered feedback from customers to choose a show “Alpha House” as its first piece of original programming. Never heard of it?  That’s because it’s definitely no “House of Cards.”

Pew Research data shows that people on Twitter are younger and more Democratic than the population at large. And they’re more likely to post negative comments than positive ones. All of that skews any analysis.

But more than that, this just proves once again that you can be armed with all the data in the world. If you don’t know how to read it and use it properly, it’s not really all that insightful. In the case of Duck Dynasty, you didn’t just need data about what was happening on Twitter, but also who’s using Twitter and then that needed to be compared to who’s watching the show. Then there’s also the brand to consider; what’s in keeping with what the company stands for and what it has always done.

And then there’s doing what’s right simply because it’s the right thing to do, which requires just as much conscience as anything else.

[image via Shutterstock]

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