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Reading UP: Big Data

Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think by Mayer-Schonberger & Cukier has generated a lot of buzz. Is this something you should care about, or even be worried about? Let’s start with some background.

Here are some of the more interesting Big Data findings presented in this book:

– Google can now do a better job of predicting a flu epidemic than the CDC.

– A traffic analyzer program was able to predict a sharp spike in unemployment prior to the government reporting it based on lower volumes of traffic.

– Happiness is correlated with income up to a certain point, and then additional income does not create additional happiness.

– Apple received a patent in 2009 for their earbuds specifically for collecting data on heart rate & body temperature.

Perhaps these are interesting, but how can this help your business? Consider these:

– UPS was able to reduce its vehicle maintenance cost by millions by being able to delay certain preventative maintenance based on analyzing extensive amounts of vehicle failure data.

– Target knows when its female customers are pregnant; and they are pretty good at pinpointing the due date. They generate business by targeting the right coupons throughout the phases of the pregnancy.

– Walmart knows that before hurricanes strike, customers purchase lots of flashlights – and pop tarts. So they stock lots of pop tarts before a big storm.
Big Data Imagined
Big Data has been made possible based on the plethora of data available through the information age & also the cheap availability of processing power & storage to analyze and store all that information. Here are some key things to know about Big Data vs. Small Data (the data/analysis available in the past):

– Big Data is based on analyzing (virtually) all the data. Small Data was based on sampling much smaller data sets.

– Big Data is concerned with answering the what (correlation) but not the why (causality). This is a very significant point. The authors argue that knowing the what is for the most part all that you really need to know. Sometimes knowing the why is critically important – therefore Big Data is not always the right approach.

– Small Data involves having a theory before you started to analyze the data. Big Data lets “the data speak”. This is among the most important points. Algorithms will run on the data and reveal answers to questions that you didn’t think to ask. As Duncan Watts wrote, everything is obvious once you know the answer.

So should you care about this? Absolutely! Consider Google vs. Microsoft. Microsoft has the best spell checker in the world, right? In fact, Google does. With the most popular word processor on the planet for many years, you would expect that Microsoft was able to develop the best spell check algorithms. But they did not base it on Big Data. Google did. They collected every misspelled word that users entered. They applied Big Data processing on this data. Now, Google has the best spell checker on the planet.

What can you do? Think about what data you have – good and bad. Assemble your key staff and brainstorm on business innovations that you might be able to make based on your data. You might be able to dramatically improve your service levels. You might find an opportunity to launch a new product or service that will solve a recurring need for your clients. Or, you may be sitting on a gold mine of data and can use it to enter a new industry altogether. It’s not easy. The analysis requires specialized expertise. But, this revolution is here to stay. You should start to think of your data as a strategic part of your business.

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Social Media Matters: Who’s Listening?

Knowing Your Audience(s) on Social Media

Imagine me clapping my palms together and rubbing them together gleefully, and you’ll get a strong idea of my vehemence with regards to audience in social media.

News Flash: You are going to screw up on social media. With the best of intentions and the most thorough social media strategy, you will still be human and forget which channel you’re updating or which list you’re posting to, and panic will ensue. However, the good news is: You can conquer social media, and it’s all about Pauseand Control. Granted, there is far more to effective messaging on your social media channels, but for now let’s focus on keeping your reputation intact and out of the danger zone.

PAUSE.

You’ve just crafted a witty, timely, and even epic update on your social media channel. As much as you might want need to get the jump on a story, announcement, or insight, you need to do one vital thing before clicking on that Send button. Lift your hands off the mouse/keyboard and take a pregnant pause. Do two things quickly:

  • assess what you’ve just typed, linked, or attached, and ask yourself if this update has any negative consequences tied to it.
  • recall which channel you’re on, who can potentially receive your update, and how they might react.

If you’ve taken that pause and have no misgivings about how your audience will take this update, proceed to send it on its merry way with a clear conscience. (Disclaimer: This is no guarantee reactions won’t go completely awry from your prediction, but at least your odds are now better.)

CONTROL.

Technology is simply awesome, and the tools at our fingertips are getting progressively better. That said, it’s important to remember that YOU, the user, are what drives the tool to its performance (not the other way around, in spite of trending addictions to connectivity). Thus before you wade recklessly into your daily social media forays, it’s important to do two more things:
  • ask if your social media channel(s) of choice have announced any recent updates, and
  • do the legwork to familiarize yourself with those updates and how they impact your social media messaging.

Media theory has posited that technology can rule the person, or vice versa, or a balance flow of the two. I tend to agree with the last with the caveat that person trumps tech, at least in the case of social media tools. Just as you choose your words in real-life interactions, you too must determine when, where, and how to project messages into the online conversation.


Just to give you a treat for reading this far down another blog article about social media, here are some links to our favorite channels and their settings – review them now. Any of these need some cobwebs dusted off?

 

Facebook Lists for Friends

Facebook Privacy Settings

Twitter: How to Delete a Tweet <– Be aware, it’s still out there in the internet’s eternal cache!

Google+ Tips on Sharing

LinkedIn: Managing Account Settings

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