Every second of every day, Big Data gets bigger. Social media alone generates endless streams of data, flowing in from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social sites like never before.
Fortunately, sophisticated analytics platforms have arrived on the scene to help social media marketers manage, analyze and leverage large social data sets to gain actionable insights and a clear competitive advantage. Here’s a look at how Big Data is changing social media marketing in some pretty big ways.
Leveraging structured and unstructured data
According to industry experts, 90 percent of the world’s data was created within the past two years. Of this data, only 20 percent is structured — meaning that it can be readily stored in rows and columns and analyzed via the same tools that have been used for over four decades. The remaining 80 percent of this newly created data is “unstructured” content stemming from sources such as Instagram photos, YouTube videos and social media posts.
Being that this unstructured social media data is all about what people are doing, what they’re saying and what they’re interested in, the ability to store, manage and analyze chaotic social data to gain new insights is a huge plus for marketers. Big Data platforms allow enterprises to make more informed marketing decisions through analysis and use of 100 percent of their data — both structured and unstructured — and can do so in real time.
Creating more targeted and personalized campaigns
Social media marketers are always looking to communicate with customers in ways that are more relevant, personalized and targeted. And analysis of large social data sets can reveal important trends, which marketers can utilize to customize communications and content to better reflect what people are actually sharing, liking and talking about.
A classic example of using Big Data to craft targeted and personalized offers is Amazon, which reaches out to customers by name — with specific product suggestions — to turn an otherwise anonymous transaction into an intimate long-term relationship.
Predicting future behaviors
Not all that long ago, marketers tried to predict future behaviors based solely on backward glances at the data generated from past behaviors such as web visits, clicks, open rates and downloads. However, their predictive efforts were hampered due an insufficient amount of marketing data on which to base their projections.
Today, that’s all changed. Along with data from internal systems such as CRM and purchase histories, massive amounts of data from external systems — primarily social media — are now available. Analysis of social data can reveal hidden patterns and provide powerful insights on current and future buying behaviors. More importantly, these new insights can inform new products and services to better meet the future needs and expectations of consumers.
Breaking “cookie-cutter” molds
In the past, marketers have defined their audience and customer base within the confines of rigid cookie-cutter demographics such as age, marital status and geography — the theory being that people who have these characteristics in common are more likely to exhibit similar behaviors.
Now, through analysis of social data, marketers can identify the actual preferences and behaviors of consumers, allowing them to break the restrictive cookie-cutter molds and focus on a new paradigm — one-to-one marketing. In addition, when people are grouped according to shared behaviors and preferences, as opposed to traditional demographics, entirely new niche audiences can emerge that would have otherwise remained undetected.
Testing campaigns virtually
Big Data will never take the place of human creativity in marketing campaigns. But what big data can do is provide a unique opportunity for creative marketers to test their biggest and boldest ideas through simulated campaigns in a virtual marketplace.
Using real-world data analyzed in real-time, virtual campaigns offer huge benefits to marketers, as they can be tested, refined and re-tested without any of the risks or costs associated with actual in-market testing. Once a campaign is actually launched, marketing analytics can be utilized to measure the campaign’s overall success.
Democratizing social media data
There was a time when Big Data was thought to be a luxury only the Fortune 500 companies could afford. Now, thanks to low-cost platforms like Apache Hadoop, along with inexpensive data storage in the cloud, enterprises of all sizes can store, manage and analyze social media marketing data effectively and affordably to gain a competitive advantage on a much more level playing field.
Title image courtesy of dubassy (Shutterstock)
Editor's Note: Read another take on how marketers are tapping big data in: Are Marketers Using Data to its Full Potential? No Way
About the Author
Michele Nemschoff is vice president of Corporate Marketing with MapR Technologies.
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