Treat data analysis with a pinch of common sense salt

It’s unwise to make sweeping assumptions about overall customer behaviour based on the way networkers behave.

It might be tempting to analyse the preferences, reactions and buying behaviour of a large social network database, extrapolating your findings to make assumptions about the population in general. It might sound sensible to analyse a member database and use your findings to make assumptions about non members. But if you do, you’ll be missing a trick.

Joiners-in versus lone wolves

People who naturally enjoy joining in have a unique profile. They’re very different from those who prefer not to join in. Yes, billions of people belong to at least one social or business network. They’re the joiners in. But there are also billions of others who have no interest in networking, online or offline, socially or for business. They’re different animals.

Here’s an example. Take the UK’s Federation of Small Businesses. There are millions of small businesses and sole traders in the UK, a proportion of whom join the FSB. A small percentage of those who join are active members, attending conferences and getting directly involved in shaping the business landscape.

You could extrapolate findings about the buying behaviour of this small group of highly active FSB members and apply them to ordinary members. You could even apply your findings to the small business arena as a whole. But your assumptions would be worth very little. They could even be commercial suicide. As usual, common sense is your best bet. Always treat data analysis with a healthy pinch of salt.