The amount of information now available to crunch and parse in the service of analyzing absolutely anything is massive—and growing every second. In the face of this sheer overwhelm of data, an individual business owner or social media marketer can feel powerless to make any sense of it, let alone productive use of it. But as with any shift in the tide or evolutionary leap, a smart adjusting of strategy can help even the smallest of small fries to compete with the big guns and harness this unwieldy data deluge to work for them.
Social Media Is Big Data
The most important fundamental concept to grasp, perhaps, in understanding Big Data's impact on social media marketing strategies is that social media is part of big data. That is, social media is one of Big Data's most significant sources. CMS Wire reports that, according to industry experts, 90 percent of the available data in the world was collected over just the previous two years, and what's more, that 80% of that data comes from “unstructured” sources, like social media.
If Big Data is the water pouring out of your faucet, then social media is the reservoir that stream comes from. It could be argued, therefore, that the unending influx of content from social media is indeed what has allowed the data analytics of the past to balloon into “Big Data.”
Content is information, remember. But so are views, likes, shares, follows, retweets, comments, and downloads. Social media allows marketers to view the life of a story in a way heretofore unimaginable. So when we think of Big Data in relation to social media, we must first realize that they are not separate from one and the same (or at the least, intrinsically mutually codependent.) As one article said in its title: “There's No Such Thing as Social Media ROI — It's Called Business ROI.”
Social media is no longer merely an option for businesses but a requisite component of success. Hence any analysis of social media marketing data, to be effective, must be viewed in the larger context of all of a business's market penetration, brand engagement, and other return on investment metrics.
New Predictive Strategies
Fortunately, this inseparability of social media and Big Data empowers new marketing strategies. For one, the sheer breadth and scope of Big Data allows for the creation of more predictive approaches to analysis. This means marketers can now see with increasing clarity into the future to gauge the likely effectiveness of a strategy, rather than relying exclusively on past performance. This will foster the development of new approaches geared at predicting customer behavior, and can help limit the amount of costly and timely A/B testing a marketer would have to perform. A report by McKinsey & Company, for example, revealed that by using Big Data a retail business can potentially increase operating margins by over 60 percent.
Most excitingly, perhaps, this shift toward Big Data will also usher in an era of customized algorithms, allowing individual companies to analyze their marketing efforts in hyper-refined terms entirely distinct, and in all likelihood not even relevant, to their competitors. The benefits of this to any business are twofold:
- You no longer have to pay such fierce attention to what your competition is doing and can focus more internally on making best use of the data you have at hand;
- You and your competitors are not all playing by the exact same playbook, vying for the exact same stats across the exact same platforms.
The proliferation of this new customized form of data analytics will empower small businesses with limited resources to compete on a more even playing field with even their bigger, wealthier competitors. More and more marketing success will be measured not by the quantity of interactions with your data but the targeted relevance of it in relation to your own specific goals and objectives.
Big Data Supplants Social Media Marketing
As alluded to earlier in this article, Big Data almost negates social media marketing as distinct from the rest of your marketing efforts. It allows you to compare apples to apples instead of apples to oranges, as it were. It acknowledges that, in a manner of thinking, all content nowadays is social content.
The best marketing approach for any business today, therefore, is to make allies with Big Data—which is to say: learn to understand and make productive use of it. As the McKinsey & Company report showed, the power of information can help you increase your productivity, improve your decision-making, and lower your costs. Perhaps most importantly, however, getting savvy with your own data helps you to stay competitive with those in your industry who are already using it to optimize their own efforts. Because the biggest impact of big data on social media marketing strategies may just be the threat it poses to anyone who ignores it.