Big data was the buzz word for marketers in 2014. But the idea behind it and the industry pushing to derive marketing insights from big data are far from gone. As a small business you are positioned uniquely to play in a world with larger companies who are spending millions of dollars on big data. Lets look at what big data for small business looks like, and how you can make use of it to derive actionable marketing insights.
What is big data?
Big data is the term associated with the vast amount of information that we have in today’s world. Through the internet and the integration of high tech systems in all types of business, the data we have has never been so great in volume and detail.
Big data as an industry, has become quiet competitive as technology companies work to develop systems to develop insights for many applications.
I won’t get into to much depth about big data, but there are several phases to big data that you should be aware of, they are:
- Data Storage
- Data Cleaning
- Data Mining
- Data Analysis
- and Data Visualizing.
In this article I’ll refer to the mining, analysis, and visualization steps.
How to work with big data for small business
As opposed to big business’ that spends millions on enterprise level tools, small businesses need to be more concerned of budget and the time it takes to process big data.
To follow are some systems that deliver powerful insights based on data that is not strictly enterprise level data. The idea of processing lots of data to derive insights is what we’re trying to do here today, and these tools will get you started doing just that.
Social listening tools
Social listening focuses on mining data from social media channels and internet content (blogs, forums, etc) to gather content related to a specific search criteria.
Mining and analyzing content through a social listening platform, allows for the visualization statistics, demographics, and the development of sentiment (although sentiment is not 100% perfect).
These tools also allow you to identify what your potential customers think about a certain topic.
The tools I mentioned here are not cheap, not to any size business. So getting into social listening requires a certain level of commitment. Hootsuite is a great place to start for small business but isn’t as powerful as the other tools.
Search engine optimization tools
Although search engine optimization relates to the setup of your website to rank higher on search engines, the tools used to help with this can provide valuable insights into what your competitors are doing and popularity of keywords/terms in your industry.
Some SEO tools allow you to identify your competitors keywords and content so that you can develop your own.
How Search engine data relates to big data for small business is due to the scraping and crawling of sites to provide you with the data to develop insights that will be beneficial to your website. Anyone that argues that search data is not big data can refer to googles statement “Our index is well over 100,000,000 gigabytes, and we’ve spent over one million computing hours to build it” now that’s big data!
Tools such as Ahrefs.com, MOZ.com, Raventools.com and others, will allow you to process tons of search data to help you rank your website higher.
There are other categories to big data…
For small business these two categories of big data will get you started. I won’t dig into database mining and analysis tools as the scale of cost and data is greater than 99% of small business will have the ability to invest in.
If you’re interested in looking further into big data, visit this IBM article.
Making use of big data for small business
Once you’ve decided on one of the tools above, be it social listening or search data, determining how to get value out of your findings starts with the questions that you ask.
For small business, the questions should be very specific to the products/services that you provide and the customers you serve. So ask questions of the data that you can be actionable towards.
You can also use big data for small business to answer questions and/or gather perception of new products/services that you are looking to develop.
Agility is your advantage as a small business
As a small business you will never compete successfully with large companies spending millions of dollars on big data processing.
But you can compete by being agile and moving faster than large companies can in regards to new products/services derived from big data findings.
So being smart about the level of big data you analyse will help you identify opportunities and act before the big guys can.
Depending on your industry and style of business you may not even see competition from big business, but if you do – act quickly!
Small business shouldn’t live and die by big data
In conclusion, until the scale of economy of big data for small business becomes more affordable for small business, you shouldn’t live and die by it.
I’d recommend using big data to confirm ideas you have before executing them. Social listening and search analysis will go along way towards this.
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