It seems that a lot of todays marketing trends come from buzzwords and one the most used is “big data”. It has been promised by journalists who masquerade as analysts that “big data is the life’s blood of marketing”. That is a false promise.
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN said social media and Big Data, the term du jour for the collection of vast troves of information that can instantaneously be synthesized, are supposed to help us make smarter, faster decisions. It seems as if just about every C.E.O. of a global company these days is talking about how Big Data is going to transform their business. But with increasing frequency, it may be leading to flawed, panic-induced conclusions, often by ascribing too much value to a certain data point or by rushing to make a decision because the feedback is available so quickly. This digital river of information is turning normally level-headed decision-makers into hypersensitive, reactive neurotics.
The greatest challenge of Big Data — especially social media — is separating the signal from all the noise. A study by the Pew Research Center, for example, found that Twitter users are more often than not negative. The study, which examined reactions on Twitter to news events, including Barack Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s presidential race, discovered that “for both candidates, negative comments exceeded positive comments by a wide margin.” More disturbingly, that reaction is not representative: “The reaction on Twitter to major political events and policy decisions often differs a great deal from public opinion as measured by surveys,” Pew reported. That is due, in part, to the fact that “Twitter users are not representative of the public”: They are younger and more likely to lean toward the Democratic Party. It turns out that what’s “trending” on Twitter may not really be “trending” at all.
Big Data and massive efforts to analyze it aren’t going away. But the need for judgment — and patience — is more important than ever. A crowd may be wise, but ultimately, the crowd is no wiser than the individuals in it.
That analysis is spot on! What we really need are marketers who can better understand what big data means and, more importantly, doesn’t mean. These are marketers who have an in depth understanding of their customers and market and don’t use big data as support, but rather as a way to improve their marketing.