big data project cartoon

Anyone in the tech/PR/digital space has heard the term “big data” in meetings, in casual office conversations and probably online in articles and blogs. I am not fond of the term “big data.” What exactly do people mean by “big data”? According to IBM, every day we create 2.5 quintilen bytes of data – so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. (source: IBM)

When you do a Google search, the results you get are different than every other person, right? That’s because Google collects data on you and what you search on and what you do on the Internet to custom tailor the results just for you. We like that, right? Would we stop using Google if we knew how much data they had on us? No.

How do companies make sense of all the data they collect? Knowing people are talking about their brand isn’t enough. Knowing people who like their brand also like x isn’t the most helpful either. It takes a pretty creative strategy to slice the data in a way that actually means something.

So what do we do with all this data? That is where people are having problems. We share more information about our lives and brands are hiring analytics firms to collect all of this information about us. Anyone shocked by this? I hope not. We know whatever we share on the internet is fair game. As a millennial, I have an internet profile going back to elementary school when I first joined America Online (now AOL)… I’m sure if you dig enough you can find some embarrassing stuff about me. But I am fine with putting information online because I want services to be customized for me so I get a better experience. I want me to be the focus. Hear that: individualize your service or product to me!

We accept the fact that people are collecting the data we share. We accept the fact that what we put on the internet is fair game. But we are not giving all these insights about us for nothing. Instead, we expect companies to collect this data on us, share with us, in plain english, what they now know about us and we expect them to better their service with the insights they have collected.

So who cares? Besides privacy concerns why should a PR or communication person care? Because this is going to be a big part of the future of our industry. The demand for analytics folks is going to skyrocket, people who can sift through the data and slice it in a way that asks the right questions and makes it relevant to a company. There are some brilliant folks at Crimson Hexagon, NMIncite,  (and I’m sure plenty of other companies) who are geniuses at doing just that.

This is where I’m leaning. I feel like the analytics game is so fascinating and so important. I love being on the consumer side of this but I want to be on the other side. Thoughts?