What is Big Data?
Here are a few things we do know: Big Data is all the rage right now; it’s been made possible by recent advancements in online data-gathering; it’s driven by an industry dedicated to collecting, storing, and selling access to data, and; it’s capable of re-invigorating online commerce and the Internet economy.
The big companies that rely on Big Data becoming a ‘thing’ include Oracle, IBM, and EMC, which all have specialized business lines focused on supporting massive data collection and analysis tools. In a nutshell, Big Data involves data sets so huge that they require specialized systems for storage, search, analysis, and refinement of strategy based on the collected information. The software includes functions like visualization, which turns complex algorithms into a graphic display of the most relevant feedback so managers can make micro decisions that improve business performance at macro levels.
Sites like InfoWorld have published extensive articles on the subject, including the use of Big Data for driving customer relations and call center effectiveness. McKinsey calls Big Data the next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity. The implications are obvious for every department, including finance, IT, product development, and marketing. Big Data is truly 2012’s ‘Cloud Computing’.
But one question remains: How does Big Data affect you?
The answers range from: “I’m small so it doesn’t affect me,” to “We realized that Big Data could replace our army of consultants, so we hired another army of consultants to help us implement Big Data as soon as possible.” I went to LinkedIn to take the temperature of fellow users on the topic of Big Data, and the answers fell into three categories: Users who like the idea and see the potential for their business; people who, regardless of their answer, clearly don’t know what the term means, and; those who are openly hostile to the notion of Big Data at all.
Perhaps these last folks see it as just another fad term for something that’s always been a business reality: Decisions require input, intuition, and inspiration in some combination, and a blind emphasis on any one of these is a recipe for failure. In its proper context, Big Data can help drive a decision in those places where experience is limited, and management truly is considering options that look equal without any background information.
I have another question: How can you use Big Data for online video?
Now we come to the primary point: Can the effectiveness of online video be greatly improved by access to massive amounts of data? The answer, I’m inclined to offer, is Yes, so I’ve got to answer the next part: How?
- Big Data can help you know what kind of videos to make. Let’s say you made a factory tour video, with minimal effort, that was posted to a social site and then shared extensively. Another video, that was a bigger, more expensive production aimed at looking more like an ad, was posted to YouTube and largely ignored. You don’t need Big Data to tell you which type of video to make more of, but it will help if you can collect more detailed information such as: when were the videos posted, what day of the week, what part of the business quarter, what else was in the news on those days, which social sites were used to share updates about the videos, what kind of influence did the early sharers bring? Big Data lets you test for these other factors as well, and truly show you what kind of videos will be more effective for certain channels.
- Big Data can help you decide what topics to cover. The topic of your video can be something red hot or stone cold when you publish it. Some topics revolve around your business but don’t happen to meet a critical need, while others are more oblique to your solution, but directly address a pain people have. For instance, let’s say you make gas grills, and you create a video about barbecue sauces and post it to a social group that talks about outdoor cooking. Win! Data and feedback can help you know what kind of topic people are searching for and reading about. Obviously you can follow trending data on social networks, but what about the Internet in general? Access to the latest data can help you know, beyond a gut feeling, what is going on online, then you can address it in your videos.
- Big Data can help you post your videos in the right place. Now you’re still that company making gas grills, and you post a video about grilling steak to a forum for vegetarians. Oops! The example may be extreme, but the truth is that you never really know which sites are best for attracting people to your business without a lot of testing and prior experience. Big Data collected about numerous websites can tell you what kind of person visits them, what kind of behavior patterns they follow, what kind of influence they have, whether they are decision-makers, what size companies they are from, and so on. Thousands of video shares on the wrong websites can’t compare to hundreds of shares on the right ones.
- Big Data can help you deploy your videos at the right stages. Video is not just for marketing. It is also for driving the sales process and training new employees and customers. Even within the marketing realm, videos make a different impression at different stages. The short ‘ad-style’ videos introduce your brand message to people who are not yet aware of it. Longer videos that expose the best ways to use your products are better for people who are further along in the shopping process, and have prior knowledge of your brand. Big Data can show you where people in different information-gathering and buying stages are found online, and where the right kind of video should be posted.
- Big Data can help you report on the effectiveness of your videos. This is an excellent reason to have access to Big Data to drive your video strategy. Because you can collect so much data about the videos and feedback, and the buying behavior of the people who view your videos, you can also turn this data into justification for continuing or making changes to your video strategy. If your website visits jumped by a certain percentage after you posted your videos, or the time people spent on your site went up by an appreciable margin when you changed videos or added them, you can report on this to your management team and it will help them decide whether to make changes in strategy, and what kind of changes to make.
Big Data may be a Big Buzzword, but there is no mistaking its effect on the web, and everything that goes with it. Online video for entertainment and business is a major driver of clicks and buying activity, and is only becoming more influential as a marketing channel. This means Big Data and online video are going to go hand-in-hand for the long term. There’s no denying that highly effective online media will continue to improve, and we should do everything in our power to improve with it.