2014 Social Media Journey: Finding Precise Answers from Big Data

By Richard Pasewark, CEO of Visible Technologies

Marketers and business leaders are on a long and exciting journey. The prize is finding precise answers and meaning in big data. The journey presents unique and possibly overwhelming challenges based on big data's exponential growth. With 90 percent of the world's data created in the last two years and over 2.5 billion GB of data created every day (and doubling), it may come across as a surprise that 40 percent of this data offers no value to marketers because of inadequate access and applications for big data.

While IT departments try to process and manage the data, marketers continue to wrestle with extracting value from the information. In reality, while pundits continue to talk about big data as the next challenge and opportunity, marketers are under pressure to extract insights and make a business impact now. 

Social media is compounding the situation. Consider the fact that there are more than 400 million tweets alone per day available to brands. How can any marketer digest that volume information to find the relevant pieces of data to support research efforts, product development and 1:1 customer and influencer communications?

The Answer: Think Small. Think Specific.

Instead of social media intelligence acting as a big data technology challenge, marketers can take the opportunity to create a solution that focuses on clear measurable outcomes, with the richness of big data supporting their solution.

The mindset when addressing the big data journey is to avoid a 'boil the ocean approach'. Instead, over time, take small and creative steps when using big data to build a marketing plan with a robust impact. After all, most successful journeys involve thoughtfulness, organization and teamwork. 

Below are my recommendations for how to use social media as a big data opportunity - finding precise answers - rather than a challenge.

STEP ONE: Find a Social Media Sherpa

Whether or not there are social media experts within the organization, there are a growing number of experts that understand how to extract marketing value and make business decisions from social analytics. The goal now is to find and engage them, and have them assess the current social media streams to determine what the organization is (and is not) capturing. This becomes the baseline measurement and identifies the gaps to cover. The key to any journey is gathering the right experts and using them to create a deliberate attack plan.

STEP TWO: Assemble Social Analytics Tools

Experts + Equipment are the necessary start. In addition to expert staff members and consultants, all serious treks need to have the right equipment. The good news in the social intelligence world is there are a variety of analytics tools and platforms available today - and most are easy to immediately implement. Find the option that best meets the organizational needs and make sure to match these capabilities with the social sherpas. Most enterprise companies already have at least one tool; if the organization is large enough it may even have many tools in place. From there it's about creating a scope of how to capture and harness all of the data in one day, so it's known where additional capabilities are needed the following day. 

STEP THREE: Embrace Precision

This is the hard part. When starting a journey, each initial step is very important. With business moving quickly, there is a tendency to want to start running right away. However, finding true insights from social media intelligence requires a little patience. This isn't necessarily a long time; social data is real-time and can help to make quick and confident business decisions. In order to arrive at those decisions though, marketers need to whittle away the data that does not provide meaning and focus on those findings that help identify the next product innovation or the next customer need. 

The analytics tools will provide direction and the experts (in the form of social analysts) will help apply research methodologies to find true meaning. It is like finding individual needles in a haystack - but doing so in an advanced and rapid manner. These first few steps are key, so make sure the experts and equipment are in alignment and lead to immediate intelligence and success.

The crux here is that interpreting the data and finding context will far outweigh the volume of data itself. Thinking small and precise is not only possible but necessary to making data usable. 

STEP FOUR: Share the Findings Fully and Frequently

It is critical to make sure to broadcast the findings across the organization. For example, one might be tempted, after discovering insight about a product development trend, to send a simple email with the results to a product team or individual product team member. The miss here is not knowing if a brand manager could use that information, if another researcher might learn from context from unstructured social data or how other marketing team members might think of content/messaging that would stem from the social media intelligence. From a pure big data perspective, the IT leaders might find some inspiration from the precise marketing practices implemented - giving them ideas on how to apply this approach to other data sources.

2014 will bring more big data, more angst and more challenges for marketers. On the other hand, the new year will prove that marketers don't have to sit and become overwhelmed by exponentially increasing consumer data. Social media intelligence can be a catalyst for context, and showcase across the organization, demonstrating that thinking precisely and specifically, a few small steps for capturing and uncovering big data can expose the next $100 million product offering.

About the author

Richard Pasewark is the CEO of Visible Technologies®, the industry leader in social media monitoring, analytics, and engagement for marketing professionals working in enterprise businesses and agencies. As CEO of Visible, Rich provides strategic leadership to bring value to clients and partners. Prior to this role, Rich was President of Cymfony, where he scaled the organization to meet the growing demand for insights delivered from Cymfony's technology and analyst services. Rich brings over two decades of experience as a business leader, strategist, and software visionary for industry leaders such as Quark, Adobe, and EDS. Rich values the diversity of the Visible client base and the opportunity to create new solutions in the emerging and continually evolving social media analytics market.