By adaptive - August 12th, 2014

Every corporation is gathering masses of data from its social media activities, but how should your organisation leverage this information?

All corporations are now awash with data, thanks mostly to their activities across social media networks. Big Data has in the past been seen as little more than a buzzword, but corporations shouldn’t ignore the massive commercial opportunities that Big Data can deliver.

In 2010, Google’s Eric Schmidt famously said that: “every two days we now create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003.”

What makes this so important to corporations is that Big Data from social platforms is being used to create improved business processes and customer experiences. And this has enormous potential to boost the bottom line.

“The term Big Data usually refers to the huge amount of unstructured data that is generated by our increasingly digital lives,” says Marc Blinder, Director, Social and Strategic Marketing at Adobe. “Social media has proven to be an endless fountain of such data. Each day over 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook and over 500 million tweets are published. That’s an amount of data being created every day that would have been unfathomable a century ago.”

A recent feature in the Financial Times talks about how ASDA used Big Data to influence the price of bread. The project showed the bakeries how they were not as energy and cost-efficient as they had previously thought, and what was needed to streamline these processes even further. The result? Cheaper bread for the customer and other brands like Tesco and GlaxoSmithKline are using the same network for similar projects.

The world’s social networks are holding onto massive quantities of data that reveal endless details about customers. What they do, how they do it and why they are doing it in the first place. The goal of all corporations is to find a way of tapping into Big Data in such a way that it harnesses the informationy and, within privacy parameters, of course, translates it effectively.

“Millions of posts are created each day across all social networks,” says Karine Del Moro, VP Marketing at Confirmit. “These include blog posts, tweets and forum comments to name just a few. Some of these may contain references to your company, products and services and the challenge is to know what you are looking for and how to analyse it.”

Harnessing the beast

Bhavesh Vaghela, CMO of ResponseTap, points out that businesses like Netflix and TripAdvisor have absolutely nailed the gathering of data on their customers. “They are experts at mining this data and using the information to make fast business decisions,” he adds. “Drawing insight at speed is something a number of businesses are currently struggling with. Although one business is currently seizing the opportunity to tap into the vast amount of data they hold on 1.32bn people around the globe: Facebook.”

Big Data on social media

“Corporations are now waking up to the tremendous value of mining the sentiment expressed in social media,” says Stuart Wilson, UK Regional Vice President at Alteryx. “Until recently, companies have been able to ingest social media one data point at a time, but haven’t been able to aggregate all of this information over time into anything actionable.”

There is enormous value in harnessing this beast of data for your business as it can be used to deliver meaningful insight. It can show what motivates a customer’s behaviour and how best to engage with a target audience to achieve real impact.

“A good example is when we were profiling Philips’ electric shaver customer database versus the blade market and it showed us that they sold well to older men aged 40+ but was struggling to reach the younger men aged 20-35,” says Ashley Patterson, Planning Director at WDMP. “The insight didn’t help us think about how the client could overcome the level of rejection.”

The company leveraged free analytics tools to analyse the digital data captured by online conversations and discovered that electric razors were seen as old fashioned and that blade razors were, in fact, seen as the epitome of technology and innovation.

“We also identified within the digital data that young males were not particularly interested in shaving, but they are incredibly interested in self-expression and experimenting with image and persona,” adds Patterson. “The data insight allowed us to create ideas that resonated with our target group and drive engagement that could never have been achieved through a static analysis of Philips’ huge, but limited, database.”

Gathering insights

So how does the business get its hands on it? How can your organisation throw the hook into the stream of Big Data to catch those pesky customers?

“There are two ways businesses need to assess this flood of data: think big and think specific,” says Blinder. “On the macro level, the data shows major trends they should respond to, as well as perception versus competitors and overall sentiment for their brand. Companies should also listen for the specifics and individuals they can reach out to. Social data is incredibly valuable on both levels and social strategies need to incorporate both.”

There are some fantastic tools on the market that can be used by organisations to interpret Big Data for their specific requirements. There are social media management systems and listening tools as well as analytics tools that can be used to listen in on certain conversations.

Wilson is an advocate of analytics tools as he believes that, “they continue to play a critical role in the blending of all available customer data and provide the structure to easily blend social media data with other customer information to give a much more complete view.”

There are a number of methodologies that the business can adopt in order to drill down into the data and filter out the vital content.

We will be examining them in the second part of this series, along with how to determine the value of content to your corporation.

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