There are two dominant trends in the world of big data: improved automation and high demand for analysis. Fortunately, these are both good. Unfortunately, we’re still learning to crawl when we could be running.
And so, in the second installation of the “Anatomy Theory of Social Business,” I’m here to share some lessons learned and insight into this critical piece of social businesses: big data (you can read the first bit on Social DNA another time).
Big data didn’t start with web 2.0, although it took off with the advent of the social web. If you look at your key chain you’ll get one of the first sightings – those little cards that you take with you to the pharmacy and supermarket. While it’s hard to believe it, folks like Kroger and Walgreens were some of the first real innovators in the use of customer data to drive business decisions.
While they’re typically referred to as “loyalty programs”, they’re really just ways for the stores to make better decisions about what to stock where and when. What they learned from you saving 5% gave them much higher returns. And the customer wins too.
Take that same framework into the web where each click produces tons of data, and all of a sudden you’re looking at a wholly different world of business data. Here’s a concrete example: by the end of the year most website forms will only ask you for your email. Why? They’ll be able to grab the rest from the data that you make available on other sites. Take it a step further, and you’ll have a one click opportunity to “sign in” to the website via OpenID and the like, entering into a tacit agreement to share your data and personal information in exchange for convenience.
And so, put simply, the story of big data is the story of your life online (and offline, because you talk about that online) and the story of the aggregate you, collected, churned, and analyzed to help businesses do their thing.
Why is it different?
Data.com is a perfect example of how the world of data is changing.
The story used to go that one of a company’s most valuable assets was the data that it had on itself and its customers. That’s not really the case anymore: most of that data is now out in the open in some form or another. With literally a single click in SalesForce, I can bring up a wealth of information on a contact or a business that would have traditionally taken ages to develop. That’s just the beginning, and that’s big.
This will only expand as HTML5 and the mobile web replace the data silos of mobile apps. Dion Hinchcliffe wrote eloquently about this recently.
How to win
If Facebook were on the market, the reason I would invest in them isn’t because I think “social” is this great trend and might as well ride the wave, but rather because I’m intrigued by how well Facebook not only uses data but coherences others to give it up so easily (myself included).
The companies that come out the biggest winners this year will be those that are able to use Facebook, Google+, and Twitter not as a marketing platform (e.g. brand building) but as a means to improve product, delivery, salesforce, retail, and more by making sense of the data. That’s where the two trends – automation and analysis – come in. In fact, investing in Google now is probably a good idea, because they’re about to take their +1 just about everywhere they can stick it.
Data.com is one example, but there are many more opportunities to automate some of the collection and analysis of data. Social media monitoring is helpful, but doesn’t need to happen in real time unless you’re huge and can engage with customers in real time too. Instead, you want a way to track the trends surrounding your brand, match them back up with the work you’ve been doing, and plan your marketing around the analysis. Most of that can happen automatically, thanks to tools like Radian6, better social media listening in Google Analytics. This is still an area where I’d like to see enhancements, but it will get there soon enough.
More data means more analysis. Right? Wrong. More data means smarter analysis with better tools for most outfits. Most importantly, those who will win will be able to master social media analytics. By this I’m not really talking about real-time data or counting your likes, RTs, etc. I’m talking about real business intelligence derived from connecting the dots between social media, your website, your mobile apps, etc.
The latter also has me convinced that we’ll see less apps and more HTML5 in 2012. Why? HTML5 can connect other sources of web data much better than mobile Apps. Dion has articulated this very well and has a nice diagram to go with it (surprise surprise!).
Watch out for Google Analytics and Enterprise tools like SalesForce.com to lead the drive, and for there to be many more acquisitions in the social media listening space throughout 2012.