Social Media: The Unmined Frontier
IBM estimates that 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data are created every day. To put this into perspective, social media alone generates more information in a short period of time than existed in the entire world just several generations ago. Popular sites like Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare, Twitter, and Pinterest create massive quantities of data that—if translated properly by large-scale applications—would be any brand’s golden ticket into the minds of its consumers.
Unfortunately, the data produced by social media is not only enormous—it’s unstructured. The task of capturing, processing, and managing this data is unquestionably beyond human scale. In fact, it’s beyond the scale of most common software. Because of this, a glass wall exists between marketers and the data—they can see it, but they can’t harness it.
It’s easy to see how Big Data fits into the picture. The Big Data industry deals in sets of data that range from a few dozen terrabytes to many hundreds of petabytes. A slew of Big Data applications have been created specifically to make sense of social media data. Savvy marketers use these tools to determine the impact of every tweet, tag, pin, check-in, and like on their brand. Read on to learn more about utilizing Big Data to listen on the social media conversation.
Making Sense of the Conversation
Companies used to be able to hire humans to separate the chaff from the wheat. For instance, Nielsen ratings were a straightforward way for businesses to analyze the effectiveness of their advertising on television. It was highly actionable data—a glance at the numbers gave executives a ballpark to work with when making costly advertising decisions.
Social media, on the other hand, is a lot like word of mouth—except that everything your consumers say is filed away in massive databases, and only a microscopic fraction of the conversation is even remotely relevant to your company’s brand. The trick to navigating these massive tracts of information is to know how to look for the “right” data. The “right” data is that which drives consumer actions. It’s one thing to have ten million impressions on a YouTube value—it’s another to understand why your brand is stimulating so much chatter. In order to harness the chatter and turn it into actionable information, companies need to start turning to Big Data for translation.
Even today, companies hire college interns and clueless marketers to babysit their Twitter feeds and guide their brands. They fail to recognize that social media is a different beast; they also fail to recognize that is an untapped source of vital information about their brand. Big Data utilizes large-scale applications to instantly translate massive swaths of data into human readable information. This information can then be acted upon to increase your bottom-line. In other words, there is a way to prove that your YouTube video is driving sales—you just have to know how to look.
Harnessing Data to Drive Your Brand
Today’s consumer interacts with your brand in countless ways. They like your page on Facebook, watch your advertisements on YouTube, download your free apps, read your news on their tablets, chat online with your customer service representatives—the list goes on. Data is there for the mining, but there’s simply too much of it, and most of it is contradictory. Luckily, there are endless ways for you to utilize Big Data applications to make this information work for your brand:
• Hire the right people. The first step is getting the right team on board. Making use of all the data requires skills that your marketers may never have needed before. You can hire your own database engineers, computer scientists, and statisticians, or you can make use of myriad Big Data solutions offered by budding startups and major corporations.
• Follow the keywords. Tuning in for specific words, and analyzing when and where they are used, can yield surprisingly clear results. Imagine being able to pick apart customer service calls and pinpoint the motivating factor behind a recent slew of terminated accounts. Armed with this information, you could identify at-risk customers and start meeting their needs before they jump ship.
• Measure brand engagement. Fostering emotional rapport between product and consumer has always been the end goal of marketing. Social media creates brand engagement on a level far beyond what anyone could have imagined, so learning how to have a dialogue with your customers is more important than ever.
• Correlate the facts. By comparing factors such as website traffic, product purchases, advertisement spending, and customer inquiries, it’s possible to track the effectiveness of your media investments—and make informed adjustments when you’re spending too much or too little.
• Anticipate the future. Perhaps the most profitable application of Big Data is in anticipating the future. Companies can analyze customers’ behavioral data in order arrive at informed conclusions regarding how new products will fare in the marketplace. It’s also possible to head off looming PR crises, and react in real time to customer’s evolving perceptions and needs.
The buzz around Big Data is considerable. Start-ups and corporations alike are touting solutions for data-mining your way to increased profits. Fortunately, this is one case where the solution lives up to the hype. Employing Big Data applications to measure brand engagement is essential for businesses wanting to connect with modern consumers. The conversation is happening—it’s up to you to start listening.
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