SmartPulse — our weekly reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social-media practices and issues.

Last week’s poll question: Do you see social-media marketing as an art or a science?

  • Both — 67.13%
  • Art — 13.49%
  • Neither — 12.80%
  • Science — 6.57%

When I’m writing these questions, I often struggle with whether I should include some sort of compromise answer — “both,” “none of the above,” “not sure,” etc. Sure, it makes sense to allow people to answer the question in whatever way most accurately reflects their feelings. But then sometimes these options can make the results less interesting, because they allow people to avoid staking out a clear position.

Saying that social media is both an art and a science is probably the most reasonable answer. The best social-media campaigns require the skill and finesse we associate with fine art — and the willingness to experiment and the reliance on data that are the hallmarks of great science. That’s why more than two-thirds of the 323 SmartBrief on Social Media readers who took this poll chose the “both” option — myself included.

But let’s be honest, that’s a little boring. So let me rephrase the question: Is social media more of an art? Or is it more of a science? I’d actually lean toward science on this one — even though it was the least popular answer. People tend to associate creativity and originality with the art world, but those things are just as essential to cutting-edge science. And I think that the willingness to experiment — and to comb through the data your experiments produce — is ultimate what makes a great social campaign possible.

But what about the people who said, “neither”? I’ll be honest: That was a little joke on my part. I didn’t expect anyone to pick that, yet almost 13% of you did. I’m curious to know how the people who picked “neither” would describe social-media marketing. What kind of definition would exclude two major fields of human endeavor? If you said “neither,” please elaborate in the comments — I’m quite curious to hear more about how you see social media.

What’s your social-media strategy? Can you explain, in a sentence or two, what you’re trying to accomplish with the social tools you’re using?

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2 Responses to “Is social media an art or a science?”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jason Murphy, Michael Garvin, Skip Howard, MarketingV3, Arnold Melm and others. Arnold Melm said: Is social media an #art or a #science? http://bit.ly/cKlBDH #socialmedia #PR #Journalismus [...]

  2. jstanchak says:

    Jordy, yeah that's pretty close to how I'd break it down. Writing these polls is tricky because I'm always caught between letting people be reasonable and starting a good argument.

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