WHEN it comes to the web, what people say they do online, and what they actually do, can be two very different things.
We know this because the web gives us an electronic record of what people do online. Sometimes the reality is dramatically different from the survey results.
Take the contradictory results of two studies reported in the last two days of how teens use social networking sites.
In the first, a phone survey by the Pew Internet & American Life project of 935 youths ages 12 to 17, finds that almost 60% said that their profile pages on social network sites are visible only to their friends.
In the second study, which actually randomly viewed 1,475 teenage profiles that are open to the public, only about 40% of youngsters on MySpace actually limit access to their profiles.
The second study was done by Justin Patchin, assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and Sameer Hinduja, a criminology professor at Florida Atlantic University.
So what teens said they did and what they actually do are poles apart. Not surprising, is it? They’re teens.
Investors and company IROs do it
Now you will find the same inconsistencies in surveys with investors and journalists. If you ask retail investors if they read company annual reports, most will say they do. And if you ask how long they spend reading, they’ll give you some number they think is reasonable, say 30 minutes.
However, we know from traffic log studies ($) that investors spend much less time on online annual reports than that — about three to five minutes.
Investor relations professionals also say one thing and do another.
In the National Investor Relations Institute’s August 2006 annual report survey, 64% of large-cap respondents said they produce a non-PDF version of their annual reports. However, our survey of actual IR website practices of 216 large-cap US companies finds that only 10% actually do this.
In all of these examples, people being interviewed in surveys are saying what they think they are expected to say to not be judged negatively.
Teens don’t want to appear irresponsible, so they overstate how they protect their online privacy.
Investors don’t want to appear lackadaisical, so they overstate how much due diligence they do.
And investor relations professionals know what they should be doing to help their investors, but they don’t actually do it.
I leave it to you to decide which is worst.