Big Data Is Useless
Big Data Is Useless
Big Data Is Useless

Big data is useless.

I know what you’re thinking, “Blasphemy.”

The idea that big data is useless goes against everything we as marketers and business people have come to believe over the last couple of years. Data, whether big or small, is only useful when it’s being put to work. There is no inherent value to data. The value comes from the application of what the data says.

For many companies, the focus is on the collection of data. After all, as human beings we are prone to be hoarders. Wired by our survival extinct to collect and hoard for the leaner winter months that may come. So companies hoard data, as much as they can, for the illusive “What if?” scenario.  “Maybe this will be useful someday,” they say.

And it’s this hoarding without without a data analyst, without application, that makes big data useless.

As an agency, we have conversations all the time with our clients around the collection of data. When we ask them how much data they want collected, the answer is almost unanimous, ‘Collect as much data as you can! We want to know everything about anyone! Even if it’s not related to our product or the service we provide.” I’m looking at you here mobile games that ask for access to my phone records. Like knowing that I’m talking to my Dad is going to have any bearing on whether I purchase another level of “Mad Monkey Mayhem.”

Companies think they need to collect all the data they can get their hands on. Not surprising, a rare few companies should be gathering mountains of data. Most though, do not, simply because most companies do not have a plan for what to do with the data they are gathering. They don’t have an idea of how to apply any insights gleaned from the data towards improving their business. Heck, a lot of companies go out and collect mountains of data, only to end up not doing anything because they claim they have too much data to shift through!

At SMED (the agency arm of Social Media Explorer), we recommend identifying the type of data that you actually need to improve your business, and then only collect that information.

Some common data focuses include:

  • Improving your customer service experience
  • Improving your marketing to make it less interruptive
  • Altering your product mix to better serve your customers
  • Improving your logistics to deliver products to customers faster

The Negative Side of Collecting Data

Sure there are some big positives to collecting data (as long as you can analyze it), see above. But there are also risks involved with collecting big data. First and foremost is security. Where and how are you keeping this data? Is it in secured space, or just on a company server in someone’s abandoned cubicle? Another major consideration is privacy concerns. People have a limit to how much data they feel you as a company should gather. If you push this limit, you can turn away potential customers and foster distrust in your space. I’m not the only one that has decided not to download a mobile application simply because it was asking for more data than I deemed necessary.

So How Do I Know I Can Collect Data?

This is a pretty easy question. Take a look at the data you want to collect. Do you have a plan for how to apply this data? If not, do you think you’ll have a plan in the next couple months?

If the answer to the question above is yes, then start collecting that data (provided you store it in a safe space).

If the answer to the above is no, then reevaluate whether you really need the data or if you could be suffering from a data hoard attack.

Remember any data is useless without analysis and application. Big data included.

How does your company use, or plan to use Big data? Leave a comment and join the discussion. 

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About the Author

Jason Spooner
During his career as a digital strategist, Jason has worked with a variety of large and small companies including: NAPA AUTO PARTS, NASCAR, Kraft, Wal-Mart and Wrangler. His passion: creating powerful digital marketing strategies that drive results. Oh, and he does improv comedy. Follow his antics @jaspooner.

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