Online Media Key to Decision-making

Every industry-watcher and trend-follower stresses that the era of big data is here.

Social media has quickly become a regular communication platform for both individuals and businesses. The popularity of the communication base has exploded, due to huge advances in mobile technology, while further development has accelerated the ease of data gathering and data communications anywhere and anytime.

Expanded cloud computing is making it easier for businesses to make bold moves in offering new data-based and information services, by lowering the bar for investment in data-processing centres.

The combined effect of these global mega-trends has led to the so-called “era of big data”. Utilisation of insights earned from vast amounts of information has created a huge impact on both social and business environments.

However, one global IT/software industry CEO argues that the term “big data” will soon disappear, saying it is too broad, too vague and leaves a lot of marketers and executives failing to grasp the real meaning.

He argues that, in the future, using data will be commonplace—to the extent that we will simply have different types of data that can be used to further inform decision-making.

The big data era may be signified by three Vs—data volume, velocity and variety. Concerning volume, here are some mind-boggling numbers from IT journalist Katsuyuki Okawara.

The volume of data generated globally every day is 2.5 exabytes (EB), which is equal to 1bn gigabytes or the equivalent of 1bn Blu-ray discs. It is believed that between 2009 and 2020, total global data will grow 44-fold.

The positive impact of big data gathering and analytics can be seen in many aspects of our society and individual lives. Huge advances in scientific research, especially in health-related data analytics, easily come to mind. The emergence of various wearable devices makes it possible to collect and utilise data for advancing personal physical performance.

Worldwide, government bodies—especially law enforcement authorities—are known to use the insights extracted from social conversations to identify potential movements that may lead to rioting or social unrest.

Big data insights also help the realisation of smart cities by optimising traffic flows and the demand–consumption balance, based on real-time information.

The city of Barcelona, for example, teamed up with Microsoft to create an open data platform. Citizens have access to the city’s huge database that contains a wide array of information related to the city’s economy, population and public services. It is not only citizens, but firms too, that benefit.

On the manufacturing front, sensors attached to machine tools monitor the conditions of core parts, warning when parts need to be replaced or have the potential to fail.

Komatsu Ltd., the global leader in industrial-use vehicles, makes optimum use of GPS data to obtain information regarding the location, operating conditions and well-being of their trucks, bulldozers, forklifts and other products being operated globally.

In business, one of the most important positive impacts the big data era brings is more in-depth knowledge about brands, products and services, as well as customers and clients.

Marketing guru Philip Kotler discusses his observations on changes in the relationship between firms and consumers, during the social media era, in his book Marketing 3.0: From Products to Customers to the Human Spirit.

In essence, Kotler argues:

  • In Marketing 1.0, the era of product-oriented marketing, a firm only cared about spreading its products and services to the mass in a uniform manner. At this stage, the relationship between firms and consumers was as one against the masses.
  • In Marketing 2.0, the era of consumer-facing marketing, firms put more emphasis on one-to-one delivery to—and communication with—consumers.
  • In Marketing 3.0, the era of value-oriented marketing, firms try very hard to communicate what real value they can offer society, based on their mission and vision regarding consumers. In this era, consumers are very well informed about the world situation.

Nowadays, consumers are concerned about social issues and problems, and tend to look to firms as resources offering solutions to some of these issues.

Empowered by technology and social media, people are communicating and exchanging views freely on the social stance of firms and the real value of the particular products and services that organisations offer.

Thus, in order to meet the expectations and needs of consumers in Marketing 3.0, Kotler emphasises that, for marketing success, firms need to know more about consumers and work more closely with them.

The PR and marketing sections within a corporation need to work more closely to communicate with the newly empowered consumers. But, how can corporations handle those new sets of challenges under Marketing 3.0?

The key is to utilise big data strategically, or to identify the most relevant and critical business and consumer insights in the sea of big data.

Firms need to consider who their real customers are; how consumers view their brand; what their real consumers say about their products and services; what new products and services consumers want; where the new and potential markets are; how their competitors are doing; and how their industry is changing.

The most important element here is where and how you can find the relevant data. Corporations have a huge accumulation of data, which help provide business solutions in customer-relationship and supply-chain management. However, the data that is most relevant and meaningful to firms is buried in data outside the firewall.

It comprises online news media, activity on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, the blogs of influencers, and visual information on such sites as YouTube. Data in those media is online (easy to monitor, gather and analyse digitally), social (presumably unbiased) and viral (the same effect as word of mouth).

Although more than 80% of such data is said to be unstructured, its impact is enormous. The monthly average of active Facebook users is over 1.3bn globally; there are over 500mn tweets per day globally, and people spend 6bn hours on YouTube every month (according to SMM Lab in Japan).

Utilisation of online media by corporations is progressing, but tends to be structured data, such as corporate websites that represent only the tip of the iceberg. Firms would benefit from more integrated and strategic use of online media monitoring and active social listening.

Many corporations are still relying on manual processes that cannot keep pace with the amount of data created each day. But, over the past decade, an entire industry has been spawned to fill this niche, including the firms Vocus; Cision, Inc.; the Gorkana Group; iSentia; salesforce.com, Inc.; and the Meltwater Group.

With the need to stay competitive, the use of new types of software solutions will certainly bring firms’ media intelligence to the next level, by relieving PR/marketing team staff of their daily routine and allowing them to use more time on overall strategy planning.

The present global trend is for departments other than PR and marketing to seek online media solutions. In order to meet consumers’ and customers’ ever-higher expectations of corporations, the latter should listen to the views, expressed online, by consumers/customers concerning their brands, products and services.

From these views, firms can get clues for new products and services, as well as opportunities for better, deeper engagement with the real consumer/customer communities. Moreover, firms can take advantage of online media intelligence software solutions that offer insights which can lead to well-informed business decisions.

Businesses should consider creating online media intelligence cycles through the strategic use of software solutions, allowing them to gather, analyse, share, communicate and engage. This is imperative for success in the big data Marketing 3.0 era.