Wikipedia will tell you that Big Data “is a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing applications”.
Online Marketers have jumped all over this (not-so-new) Big Data concept, buzzword and hype. Why? Well it’s fairly obvious. Data = Information and Information = Power. But beyond that, it’s what we use in Marketing; email lists, social media profiles, analytics, CRM (Customer / Client Relationship Management), and many other things are opportunities to fine-tune our message, our audience, our websites, our understanding…
There are blatant advantages in having access to deep data in marketing. However, there is also the innate potential that is not so good; and it is happening right now.
Just look at the recent hot trend of Infographics. During 2011 – 2013, I have seen so many of them, but now we are seeing fewer and fewer as it’s become saturated (Marketers and saturation in the same sentence? Say it ain’t so… 😛), over-hyped, over-used, mis-used and just plain tired.
But think for a moment why they popped up in the first place. Unless you’re an Accountant or someone who just gets overly-excited by seeing a gazillion numbers in a spreadsheet, which I doubt, then you need a way to visualize the information being thrown your way.
Big Data versus...
Qualitative Factors over Quantitative
For example, let’s say I am searching for employment. So I’m looking at Job Boards, LinkedIn, classifieds, blogs – you name it – but basically I am reading a whole lot of Job Descriptions. And I learn a lot from this activity, besides merely collecting Big Data:
- What the hiring trends are
- The mistaken understanding, on the part of recruiters, hiring managers and HR Pros, in what certain technologies, buzzwords and more mean
- What these people believe are best practices
- The experience or knowledge they feel is good enough to fulfill these roles
- What the best KPI (Key Performance Indicators) are
- The latest trends, tools, methodologies, etc. and how important it is to them
- And much more
For the most part, what I learn is both disappointing (as someone fairly knowledgeable in the field) and frustrating (as someone looking to fill these roles). For example, I see many companies with e-commerce websites who want Online Marketers or SEO Pros to specifically have X years in Retail. This tells me that they really do not understand what is involved in these areas; yes – understanding the retail holiday shopping calendar is important – but this is common “marketing” knowledge; yes we need to understand taxes, shipping, etc. and again – this is “marketing” knowledge. Or how about the ads that say they want a Front-End Developer (and this always kills me), yet the Job Requirements list a host of Server-Side Languages. And a bit more relevant…Social Media Marketer needs to be expert in analytics, CRM, CMS, (Content Management System) jQuery and other completely irrelevant things…
Hot Topics & Latest Crazes
Another area of example is the last item in that list up there – the “Latest & Greatest” craze. People listen to podcasts, read blogs and other media, attend conferences, etc. and hear about the hottest new thing. And they gobble it up. This piece of “Big Data” would be called Early Adopters.
Those rare good Marketing Managers source and read a whole lot of Case Studies. And this is a good thing. I, for one, love Case Studies. They help you learn, help you sell, help you win. Often. However…These two things go hand-in-hand more often than not: Latest & Greatest + Case Studies. Take a look at it and think for a minute – Twitter comes out – everybody loves it – it’s the coolest ever! All sorts of studies, all sorts of best practices, all sorts of new tools and methodologies. And then there is our earlier example of Infographics. But look at it today – yes all that stuff is still out there. But now we realize it may not be for everybody. We realize that it takes some sort of magic to have decent ROI (Return On Investment) in its use. Or does it?
Big Bad Data?
So am I saying Big Data, Data Visualization, Case Studies, Social Media, Actionable Data and all the other goodies are bad? Definitely not. However I am saying something similar to a recently popular Facebook meme. You’ve seen them – funny photos with a specific quote – for example the picture of a bus in NYC, where the front LED sign says something like “Moon” and the quote says something like “Go Home bus, You’re Drunk” or “You’re Doing it Wrong”. Yep – that’s what I want to say to a whole lot of folks out there – you’re doing it wrong.
Yeah, yeah, I know – Who am I to say such a thing? How Dare I? And so on. But hear me out.
Although I have been feeling this way for quite a while now, it wasn’t until recently when I began re-reading (for like the 10th time) a certain collaborative work that hoped to give a clue to these very people. Reading it for the tenth time should tell you something:
- It’s an older work, and more importantly
- It’s valuable and still relevant
That last piece is the most bothersome. It’s a very popular work – many people have read it, thought they understood it and implemented it in the way they understood it. And that’s where I have to say yet again You Totally Missed the Boat, Missed the Point; in short – You’re Doing It Wrong.
So get on your thinking caps and take off your PR Magical Buzzwords from the Big Data Boss Hats and let’s get cracking!