Big Data, Big Insights for Social Media with IBM

Big data was the buzzword of the day today during our second day of IBM training on analytics and, for my social media marketers, today had a BIG payoff.

Google Big Data and you’ll see it’s a really HOT topic, not only in social media and marketing, in general, but in business intelligence.

What is BIG data?

When we talk about big data, we’re talking about datasets so large and varied they become awkward to work with using existing information management techniques.

Social media data certainly qualifies at BIG. I mean think about all those Tweets and Facebook Status Updates about your brand. Think about all those consumers talking about unmet needs, dissatisfaction with their current products, and new features they’d love to see in the products they own.

Or think about all the consumer complains across any number of social media platforms. And images uploaded to Instagram or Pinned on Pinterest.

Increasing the complexity, big data is high velocity (meaning massive amounts are constantly generated), huge variety (in terms of both sources and formats, including image and streaming), with questionable veracity (meaning you don’t know which utterances are believable), in addition to its high volume.

What does all this data mean for your brand? Do you even “hear” half of what consumers say?

Data grows about 20% / year and businesses increasingly analyze less data every year. So, businesses become more naïve overtime, not more informed about their customers, markets, and opportunities.

These are the kinds of questions answered for brands by big data.

Problems analyzing BIG data

First, there’s SO much of it – in 2012 1.6 zettabytes of data was created around the world – that’s 1.6X 1021. That’s equivalent to more than 47 YEARS of HD TV streaming video! Think about that! At $70K/ terabyte for a relational database, we’re talking about massive fees just to HOUSE your data, let alone make any sense of it.

The common solution to this plethora of data has been to simply sample the data and analyze your sample. But what are you missing from your sample? Who knows?

And, estimates suggest that 80% of that data (and most of social media data) is unstructured. That means it consists of words that are difficult to analyze with existing tools. So, you hire a bunch of low-skilled workers to process your unstructured data manually. That takes TIME and is really expensive.

Enter big data. Now you can analyze ALL the data.

Analyzing big data

Two basic solutions to handle big were discussed today.

Hadoop – which is an open source solution, although it’s not that easy to use. Hadoop takes data from multiple sources and build databases to aid analysis.

Stream computing – which analyzes data as it flows, meaning you don’t incur the costs of storing huge volumes of data.

Both are powerful and have different uses.

For social media applications, probably Hadoop is most valuable. Hadoop is good for mapping, reducing, and reporting on massive amounts of data.

Here’s an example of the things you can do with big data and Hadoop

You can conduct an online predictive focus group using social media utterances from Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Google+ …. Then, you analyze the data to assess public sentiment, understand the potential customer profile, and alter market launch plans.

Hadoop not only assesses sentiment, it builds a predictive model to assess the likelihood of buying.

To make things easier and increase the power of Hadoop, IBM created BigInsights to manage big data like that coming from social media platforms. They even provide a social media platform as part of the BigInsights software that comes with some of the rules and other tools necessary for social media analysis.

Now, understand, none of these tools will run “out-of-the-box”. Each requires a significant learning curve and time to both build the analysis tools and refine them.

Need Help?

Wanna learn more. I’m attending IBM analytic training all week and I’ll blog about each successive day. Tomorrow is on data mining, which I think you’ll find applies more generally to social media marketing. So, be sure to bookmark this site so you can come back tomorrow. Or, better, sign up for my email newsletter to learn more about social media analytics and marketing strategy. If I’ve whetted your appetite to use more analytics to optimize your marketing, let me show you how Hausman and Associates can help with our unique virtual agency model that provides cutting-edge social media at a reasonable cost.

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