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Big Data: Sink or Survive?

To keep their heads above water, communication professionals have to move along with the digital developments that are changing the communications branch at break-neck speed. One of those developments is the big data trend. Data is the fuel for communication, but how, as an organisation, do you build the right engine?

Google CEO Eric Schmidt put it aptly in 2010 when he said: ‘Every 2 days we create as much information as we did up to 2003.’ And that was two years ago. In the meantime, the data mountain has only got bigger. Every day, some 290 million tweets (February 2012) are sent, alone, and millions of updates are placed on Facebook. A real data explosion with which not only consumers but also organisations are struggling. According to Gartner volume, variety & velocity are the aspects of big data organisations need to pay attention to.

The impact of big data is being seriously underestimated, as a recent Oracle study showed. John Caulfield, solutions director, explains: “The characteristic big data is typically high volume and high velocity but of low individual value. Simply put, Big Data means a lot of data. It could be something of obvious value, like a sales order in an enterprise management system or a weblog of a search for a music book that on its own is of little value. But bring all this data together from web logs to social media, blogs and tweets, and there is opportunity there to derive significant value and be able to predict, analyse and forecast what people will be buying any given weekend, for example.”

Brand conversations

The variety of data is wide and includes brand conversations. After all, over the past few years, consumers have been presented with mountains of online and mobile opportunities for producing and sharing content. Conversations are being carried out between consumers and organisations and amongst consumers themselves in public. What’s more, brand conversations are real time and continually accessible, making reputation management more important than ever.

The great thing about digital communication – and the problem with it – is that we can measure everything. Adding measurement to the communication strategy and linking the various dataflows to the right operational processes is a huge challenge for many organisations. Especially in an era where big data is the norm and the amount of metrics endless.

From data to insight: the need for filters

The good news, though, is that you don’t have to measure everything. What you have to know is which data you need and how to filter it. That way you can take the first step from data to insight what will provide added value for both organisation and consumer. So how do you translate data into a better strategy and possibly an improved product or even better service?

The right filter is the key to insight. Different operational processes and their associated challenges require different data filters, though. PR, for example, can measure reputation by filtering brand conversations on the basis of the content of the top 200 influencers and applying the right metrics. A content analysis, for instance, enables you to determine the degree to which your key message is being picked up. Content specialists and marketeers will be looking for consumer and topic insight as input for good content strategy and a brilliant marketing plan.


Data is the new oil

‘Data is the new oil’, says Andreas Weigend, former Chief Scientist for Amazon. In my view, he is right. Data is the new commodity and a data-driven organisation is the future. Most organisations and agencies still have a long way to go in that respect. How many companies are still thinking and acting inside out rather than outside in?

New roles and functions are being created, too. IT has to be better geared to the organisation and research functions need to be allotted a more prominent role. There will be a greater need for people able to translate that insight into practice, too. The dawn of the Data Scientist!

One thing is sure; if your organisation fails to respond to the data chances and opportunities in time, it stands a good chance of drowning. There’s a lot to be done. And I’m for surviving!