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Data, Big Data, Mega Data…?


It is almost certain that you have discussed data in work during the last week, you will probably do so today. But do you really know what you need, why you need it and what to do with it? Or are you just listening to the experts and trends who tell you if you ignore the data it will be business suicide? 

Data is power and intelligent use of data is the greatest insurance you can take out against failure. There is however still much concern and confusion about data, what to collect, how much to collect and what to do with it. The easy answer is collect everything, all the time – but this often only leads to expensive time wasting in finding, storing and then trying to analyse information that is actually telling you nothing.

What kind of data will we be using in five, ten and twenty years? If you imagine every piece of information about you that isn’t already in the public domain, that is your answer. The digital age has not only allowed us to share information more easily, but has made it a normal way of life which we happily continue to play along with. Social media will dictate what information we collect because it is constantly redefining what we consider to be normal and acceptable to share. It is here where people learn what to share and as soon as we are comfortable within the safety of our personal online environments, we become much more likely to share to the wider world. By keeping an eye on what information your friends are sharing and what you become more comfortable or empowered to share, you are identifying the data that you should be using for your business.

Who is really in control?

You may be thinking that you make decisions about what you share – but do you really? When we first started using social media we just told our friends what we were up to, and then Facebook told us to start sharing pictures, and we did, and then videos, then our location, and every time we happily just start sharing more and more. It has not been our choice, it is what the technology companies are conditioning us to accept as normal behaviour, but only when they want us to adopt the behaviour. The point here is not that these companies are bad, but that they are constantly evolving what data is available and we need to be much better equipped to begin collecting and using this data much sooner. They are also dictating the way we live our lives as we increasingly need to react to the global audience in real time. 9-5 is becoming as common as the compact disc. Near field technology, the Internet of things, personalisation – all typically thrown at us as hot marketing methods and tools to be using, but how can we use them and the data they generate to boost our business?

The next data challenge…

The greatest challenge we face today with regards to data is finding innovative ways to analyse the new types of content people are posting and translating it in to meaningful information. On any social media channel today you will see hundreds, if not thousands of posts. Most of these will include some kind of media, links, @s, #s, locations and what device was used. There is a wealth of valuable information held in these brief posts which is probably not being recorded and used in the most effective way. We do of course use locations to find audiences and hashtags to find people who are talking about us, but how are these recorded and used as a measure of affinity with the brand? The greatest challenge is interpreting visual data in to meaningful metrics. If someone takes a picture with your brand on show but no other reference, how do you find and then use that to identify why they took the picture, where they were and how you may follow up with them? How will social media define how we continue to communicate? We will most likely pay for items in the future using nothing more than a post starting with £ – bit what other symbols will replace our communications and transactions? How are you going to use the vast amounts of data now being shared through Instagram, Snapchat and Periscope – which don’t comply with our standard definition of data?

A picture paints a thousand words – how are you going to start collecting those words?

 

This guest blogpost comes from Daniel Porter-Jones, the Incoming Deputy Director  of Development at the Royal Northern College of Music and formerly Development & Alumni Relations Manager at the University of South Wales. 

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