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The Role of Big Data in Marketing

by BIGfish

marketing public relations social media technology

“Data-driven decisions are better than intuition-based ones.”  — Bruce Berger, PR professor

Researchers and companies are gathering massive amounts of user data from websites like Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia and discovering new ways of interpreting this information. These methods enable us to uncover trends and connections we otherwise wouldn’t have access to. Advertisers and public relations professionals are using this information to learn more about consumers so they can create highly targeted campaigns that are more relevant.

Earlier this summer Taha Yasseri, a student at the University of Oxford, analyzed user activity on Wikipedia and found the most controversial articles on the site. Yasseri based this research on “mutual reverts,” meaning one user makes changes, another reverts those changes, the original user changes it back again, and so on.

The top 10 most controversial topics on Wikipedia (in English) are listed below:

  1. George W Bush

  2. Anarchism

  3. Muhammad

  4. List of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. employees

  5. Global Warming

  6. Circumcision

  7. United States

  8. Jesus

  9. Race and intelligence

  10. Christianity

While most topics on this list may be expected, others come as a surprise. Without this kind of analysis, we may not have known certain topics are so highly disputed (so, who is employed by the WWE?). Yasseri’s research is a good example of how the internet has made it easier than ever to understand consumer insight. Marketers are always looking for content that consumers will find compelling or shareable. They could use this kind of information to tap into hot topics, or to steer clear of polarizing ones.

Yasseri isn’t the only one exploring the field of data aggregation and gaining insight from online activity. Boston-based company Bluefin Labs analyzes social media posts about TV shows. In doing this, Bluefin can see which television shows or networks generate the most buzz on social media and which audience segments are driving the conversation. Bluefin can then take it one step further and look at users’ past tweets to draw unexpected conclusions about specific audiences. For example, fans of That ’70s Show “happened to comment often about makeup. Ad time during those programs turned out to be surprisingly wise buys for cosmetics companies.”

After joining forces with Twitter in February, Bluefin is now part of a larger plan thanks to Twitter’s multi-year agreement with Nielsen to develop a project called the “Nielsen Twitter TV Rating.” The Nielsen Twitter TV Rating sets out to take the individual television programs discussed on Twitter and measure the volume of each conversation. Just like traditional TV ratings, higher Twitter ratings would make a TV show more appealing to advertisers, therefore increasing ad revenue.

Facebook is also exploring the capabilities of data aggregation with the launch of its new Graph Search. With this tool users can cross reference their searches with casual words and phrases like “my friends who like That 70’s Show.” The launch of Graph Search is great news for businesses with Pages on Facebook, enabling them to learn more about their consumers interests. This knowledge means companies can share content that’s more relevant to their audience and hopefully grow their fan base. Growing that fan base is increasingly important as Facebook plans to change its Graph Search algorithm so that Pages with more Likes will be more likely to appear.

With so many ways to collect and analyze large amounts of data on consumers, a good question to ask is, what does this mean for the future of marketing? Many marketers are taking advantage of these tools to learn more about consumers and then create highly targeted campaigns.

Marketers can now collect massive amounts of data, enabling them to create more personalized campaigns. Companies now know the best time and day of the week to post on social media or promote an ad to generate the most responses. We know which issues are affecting the public the most, how long people spend dwelling on these issues before moving on to other ones, where the variation in opinions on controversial subjects lie, and what stimulates discussion.

All of this is great news for marketers. The more we know about the demographics and psychographics of each market segment, the more targeted and effective campaigns can and will become. Consumers will also benefit from this as they’re more likely to see ads that are relevant to them. With new developments like Twitter TV Ratings, consumers can also voice their opinions loud and clear, and it’s imperative that companies listen to what they have to say.

Alex Hitchcock & Brigid Gorham

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BIGfish is an unconventional PR agency that helps its clients redefine their industries through thoughtful storytelling and strategic PR campaigns. By integrating traditional PR with social media and marketing support, BIGfish generates awareness and motivates consumer behavior.

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