big data

Big data: What do all those numbers mean for business?

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Have you started to notice that what you see on Facebook is getting fairly…predictable? I don’t mean the topics – we’ve all seen some unpredictable stories recently. (Can we put a hold on the number of iconic musicians passing, please?!) I mean the type of post, the people / page’s posting, the frequency of posting, etc. How do we end up seeing so much of the same type of thing all the time? Facebook now has over 1 billion users, and the social media giant is really good at knowing its users intimately. That knowledge comes in the form of the all-too-common term, “big data.” So the question is – how can you use this big data knowledge effectively in your own marketing in 2017?

Hey – what’s this “Big Data?” thing all about?

Are you a little behind the curve on the big data train? Let’s catch you up to speed.

According to SAS, the term “big data” includes a number of categories of ways to help manage the massive amount of digital information in the world today. SAS points out these 5 aspects of data (the first 3 originally defined by Doug Laney in 2001):

  • Volume – How much data is there? Where does that data live?
  • Velocity – How fast will that much data come in? How will the data be best routed?
  • Variety – How many different kinds of data are coming in? What makes the different kinds distinct?
  • Variability – When and why does data come at a different rate?
  • Complexity – Where does the data come from?

The answers to the questions above lead to more comprehensive uses of data. When you answer “what makes the different kinds of data distinct,” you begin to know how to act on the data beyond the mere numbers. As stated by SAS, “Big data can be analyzed for insights that lead to better decisions and strategic business moves.You can make course-altering decisions based on the numbers. You can encourage growth in the notoriety of your company, your church group, and your wedding band. The growth can be industry-wide or strictly for an individual.

Big data can be analyzed for insights that lead to better decisions and strategic business moves.

In addition, Cloudera co-founder and chief strategy officer Michael Olson shares his experience of data-based conclusions. “…the more real data that can be brought to bear, the more guidance there is for judgment and intuition, and the more rational basis there is for choosing a course of action.”

Background of big data

The historical uses of data are far-reaching. From ancient Babylonian libraries to modern Netflix server racks, data has been kept on hand human beings for several millennia. The usage has certainly adjusted to the times, but the desire to track data and observe its relationships has remained unchanged. Human beings can use data to improve disease management (also popular with the malware-prevention crowd).  Our country alone has jumped from Dewey’s decimal system to extensive software versions We’ve gone from Tesla’s prediction of smartphone technology to being able to read about Tesla’s prediction on a smartphone. From fingerprints to the Final Four, there’s virtually nothing big data can’t touch and shine light on.

Big data began to take hold on a large scale during the “Information Age” growth spurt of the 1990s. In the span of 20 years, human beings went from a data dependency on encyclopedias to social medias. The growth has jumped at an incredible rate since the age of computers began its reign. Amidst the array of data is a

What makes big data important is not necessarily the amount of it. As we pointed out, volume is only one category of data itself. The importance lies in the ability to qualify any point and any amount of data. As Jonathan Shaw of Harvard Magazine points out (also quoting Weatherhead University Professor Gary King): “..it’s not the quantity of data that is revolutionary…’[it] is that we now we can do something with the data.’”

[W]e now we can do something with the data.

What’s happening now?

Data is being used to drive decision-making across all industries, all resources, all equipment manufactured, all photos being posted – and all marketing channels. Speaking in strictly digital marketing terms, big data allows brands to accommodate their individual customers more quickly and more thoroughly. Prediction of customer behavior is the name of the game.

Business is able to use data thoughtfully because of the work of data scientists. The discipline of science has certainly had its detractors over the years. However, the popularity of data science in recent years shows a resurgence of the relevance of the scientific process in business decisions.

No matter the origin or the use of the data, data analysts methodically follow a sequence like the seven steps outlined by Cloudera and Oracle ACE Director Gwen Shapira. These steps move from defining objectives of the data gathered, determining metrics, collecting and refining the data itself, having a stellar team, and repeatability. A company deserves to have a robust and thoughtful data management and usage process in place before attempting to make decisions based on potentially incomplete information.

Where does all this data come from?

Computing monolith IBM has been in the data & analytics game for decades. According to their research, the top source of big data comes from transactions (88% as of 2012). 43% of this data comes from social media. 

The common denominator of all big data collection? Behavior. There must be a demonstration of activity or choice to even make a “tick mark” on the walls of big data capture. Big data serves predictability. It serves companies trying to make better decisions about their futures and the futures of their customers and clients.

Big data is best thought of as a massive set of tools. Like a hammer, big data can’t do much on its own. The tool requires the craftsman to create. Unlike the hammer, big data has no exclusive direction to be used in. According to Lifehacker, “‘Big data'” means so many things to so many different people that it runs the risk of meaning nothing at all.” 

“Big data” means so many things to so many different people that it runs the risk of meaning nothing at all.

big data

That’s great so far, but what about digital marketing in business?

Social Media

Again, those 1 billion + users on Facebook offer an enormous amount of information to anyone looking. In fact, any application providing “social” interactions (Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, even Tinder) can provide an enormous amount of data to use. Every click, view, like, comment, share, post and direct message narrows the focus of what each user sees and responds to. The tighter the focus on user actions, the more specific offerings a brand can provide to that user.

Facebook offers an advertising service (or “sponsored posts”) based on very specific criteria: interests or features of user profiles. Read more

SEO / SEM

Big data is at the heart of Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing. Internet user behavior is easily tracked through websites and application usage. Through analyzing typical online behaviors, businesses can make adjustments as subtle as the color of a button or as overt as providing different landing pages depending on viewer statistics. That is – a member of a website won’t be marketed to the same way as a non-member.

58% of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) say search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing, email marketing, and mobile is where big data is having the largest impact on their marketing programs today.  Read more

Web Design

Users can demonstrate the way they access and use websites, what they frequently seek out and desire, and how site flow and logic impacts their experience. The world of User Experience and User Interaction (UX/UI) relies heavily on big data. The best in these businesses are poised to excel on their own and bolster the bottom line of their partners and clients.

Wrapping it Up

Knowing the tendencies and traits of your typical user can give real power to your brand management team. Big data is at the heart of understanding both the biggest influencers and the average consumer. Analyzing data may sound like quite the chore, but the payout is simply enormous. 2016 might have been full of surprises, but it is not the year where math will lose popularity.

How has big data shaped your industry or your social media style? Share with us in the comments below!

 

Lynx | Digital Media Producers creates results-driven content and strategies to enhance your customer’s experience of your brand. Contact us today to see how we can use data analytics to enhance your web presence for your customers!

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