Recently, a client told me that Big Data is an overused term. Unfortunately, it is also a relatively new area for marketers. A few years ago, bloggers started emphasizing the importance for CMOs to hire marketer who know technology, and now, there is a lot of commentary on the web about hiring data experts. In fact, one of the hot new job titles is data scientist.
One good thing about the Internet is that it has forced even traditional brand marketers to take a more rigorous approach towards analytics. Marketers have to get more data conscious focusing on customer data, prospect data, competitive data, online data, etc. They need to take a more holistic approach to data – and get Big Data thinking in their own DNA and into their team’s DNA.
Slowly but surely this is happening. A recent eMarketer survey showed, however, there are still some inconsistencies in how it is defined. 48% of US Data practitioners defined big data as the ‘aggregate of external and internal web base data.’ 21% were unsure to how to even go about defining Big Data.
The findings are a bit troubling, since Big Data is one of the top priorities of C-level leaders. For example, it is the number one concern of CIOs and is quickly becoming a big issue for marketers.
eMarketer highlighted the fact that more than half the companies they surveyed consider big data as a way to monitor competitors or their own brand. I would not call this Big Data analysis, however. Certainly using a Radian6 or a Scoutlabs monitoring tool is not the same as doing Big Data analysis. Monitoring ‘what people are saying on the web’ rarely requires a lot of data crunching.
Besides coming up with a consistent definition of Big Data, we also need to find individuals to hire who now how to leverage the tools to crunch big data numbers, have the time to dedicate to a Big Data project, and have the experience to learn from their findings.
Putting definitions aside, it is clear that marketing departments need to get serious about Big Data (large data sets that can’t be handled by traditional tools) and focus on integrating the tools and resources for this area in their organization. I recommend that they hire someone who has experience in handling big data sets. Some of the idea characteristics include:
- Intellectual curiosity and a strong desire to solve problems
- Experience in data research
- Open-mindedness and the ability to look at problems from different perspectives
- A touch of skepticism to challenge traditional beliefs and practices
- Ability to frame and communicate ideas based on data findings
After all, ‘if you can’t measure it, how are you going to improve on it?’