I’ve been thinking a lot about social media and the use of the massive amounts of data that it represents. I’ve had reason to think about it lately because we’re in that business. I sometimes find the universe of what I call social data too large to comprehend. The term used in the industry is Big Data (extremely large data sets that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions.)
Here are a few anecdotal examples that rattle around in my brain. Advertisers pay $4.5 million dollars for a 30 second spot during the Super Bowl. We throw parties to watch the game, and for many, to watch the ads. We rate the ads, we discuss them and we tweet about them. We talk about what we love about the Budweiser horses (and the puppy) and what we think about GM or Ford pickup trucks. And if any of the talking is done via Twitter, or any of the other available social media platforms, it becomes data. Within seconds of an ad starting to run, the marketing firms and their clients know exactly how the public feels about the ad delivered and the products represented. It’s done through the use of analyzing social media data. After the fact, they analyze what’s written about them by bloggers, trade press, and conventional news sources. All of that becomes part of Big Data. They grade it based on approval scales and they pull out the best examples of that grading. They make business decisions based on real world feedback.
Another example I found interesting – a few months ago I was reading a blog written by someone best characterized as a news writer. This person was traveling for personal family business and had their child with them. At the airline gate, the news writer thought they should get preferred boarding privileges based on their airline rewards garnered through their employer. The gate agent explained that they couldn’t do that because of the child and it not being business travel. A ‘discussion’ resulted and the news writer lost the argument. This person returned to a seat to wait and, in the mean time, tweeted their displeasure and happened to use the first name of the gate agent in the tweet (it was on their name badge). Minutes later they proceeded through general boarding and as soon as they took their seats, security personnel showed up to escort them off the plane due to the ‘security threat’. The point is, this airline had the ability to analyze a massive amount of data in the form of tweets, determine that there was a possible threat, determine the airport, gate agent, gate and seat number of the passenger, and take what they thought was the appropriate action, all within a handful of minutes. The question could be, what else can they do with that Big Data? The question the news writer asked was, “How could they possibly do that?” The answer, analytics.
Current industry sources such as Business Insider say that 500,000,000 tweets are sent each day. One source, internetlivestats.com, showed over 510,000,000 Twitter posts by 1:30 in the afternoon on the day I checked. They were being posted at the rate of 10,399 per second. If any of the tweets have the name of a business or product, if it contains an opinion, a reference or a comment about a product or organization, someone is capturing it and analyzing it. I can tell you from personal experience, based on the work we’ve done in business analytics for some of those same Super Bowl advertisers, they are listening and they are listening in real time.
So what does this have to do with the average business on Main Street? Maybe nothing, maybe everything. If you are responsible for the creation of information resources used by an organization to engage the marketplace (use data and information within the enterprise to make money) then you should know what’s available and how to leverage it. You don’t have to be a Super Bowel advertiser to have access to the tools and data resources required to make good business decisions based on the thoughts and opinions of people that use your products or the products of your customers. As a company that helps other business to do just that, I’d love to have a conversation with you to discuss this.
Michael Miller, President, Arbor Solutions, Inc.