Big Data, Smart Ideas

By Pascal Beucler, SVP & Chief Strategy Officer, MSLGROUP

Whether People-Generated, Social-Generated or Objects-Generated, a phenomenal amount of data is produced every single minute.

The more it goes, the more our attitudes and behaviors, our opinions and centers of interest, our consumer journey and purchase decisions, are data-driven.

This is good for businesses: those which tap into Big Data are known to have better productivity rates and a higher profitability, since it helps them leverage better and deeper insights, behavioral patterns and emerging trends.

As it’s been asserted by many experts, data is the currency of our Information Age, what we need to extract value from – this is called Social Data Equity.

A booming reality, a very appealing cornucopia, but a complex equation, a necessary conversion and, at the end of the journey, a great story to be told, but also a growing public concern: that’s all – or most – of what Big Data is about.


1. The Big Data Boom, and what it’s made of

Businesses, social media giants, tech companies and start ups and people, are driving us toward a world of more data.90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. We’ve just scratched the surface – there’s a lot more data on its way.

big data boom

  • Big businesses are investing to organize their own data.

– 60% of executives believe Big Data will disrupt their industry within the next three years.
– Investments are projected to grow from 35% to 75% by 2017 for investments greater than $10million, and 6% to 28% for  investments greater than $50 million at Fortune 1000 companies.

  • Social giants are actively leveraging their pools of social data.

In 2015, we have already seen:

– Twitter enable Google to access its firehose of data and to integrate tweets into search results
– Facebook announce that it will provide marketers with access to its own private firehouse of data, the social footprint of its 1.4  billion users

  • Tech companies and startups are creating more and more connected devices, which are quantifying our everyday activities.

– Cisco estimates that there are 25 billion connected devices today, and there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020[1]
– Nike+ users have tracked over 85 billion steps using Nike’s range of smart devices
– Smart Watches are the next big step, bringing together tracking apps and easy-to-use communication functionalities (phone calls, SMS, alerts, GPS, Bluetooth..) right around our wrists

  • People are generating data every day with their social conversations, social content and so on.

– People create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day.
– Instagram users post 216,000 new photos every minute.

For us, this represents a large stream of data which we can analyze to deliver on our client’s demands for data-driven insights and insight-backed ideas. It validates our own investments in social listening and monitoring, real-time analysis, visualization, insights generation, crisis and reputation management, and says it clearly – we must continue to do more.

The broader the types of data and better the analysis, the deeper the insights and foresights.

2. The Big Data Cornucopia, and how to make capital out of It

Data In, Data Out: It’s equally important to have the right data (input), as it is to have the right approach to analyzing it and synthesizing the right insights (output).

big data cornucopia

  • Acquiring the Right Data: Be it big data or small data, it’s imperative to acquire the right data. People are creating large amounts of data across different platforms and devices, both online and offline. Individually, the data points tell a very niche story. But when combined with data from other people, and from other sources, it has the potential to paint a more colorful, nuanced picture of people’s attitudes and behaviors. More importantly, patterns emerge and make it possible for us to predict people’s future perceptions and transactions.

As John Friedman, economist at Brown University, puts it, more data can lead to better quality because:

it unlocks either better research designs or more interesting questions … that you simply could not have feasibly attempted with the existing survey data.”

Smart businesses and organizations are building data banks, and enabling varying degrees of access:

    • silos of proprietary data, guarded by the business, bartered and sold when appropriate
    • shared databases, as businesses partner to build a more comprehensive view
    • open databases, open to crowds to access and build upon
  • Analyzing to find the right insight: Careful analysis filters the type of data consulted, and the quality of insights generated from it. The insights should be actionable: they should shed light on a perception or a behavior that the client has not addressed before and should fuel the creation of smart ideas.You don’t want to be drowned in the noisy crowd, but to focus on what really matters to your client, or to your research. The Linkfluence team says it well: If you listen to everything, you won’t hear anything.

As the complexity of data increases, it’s crucial to have not only the right talent to lead the analysis, but also the right tools to do so in a quick and accurate manner. It’s no longer a question of human vs. machine – both are essential elements of the process, both are necessary to get to the insights.

Big Data is the source, Real-Time Engagement is the delta – and that’s where the big fish is.


3. The Big Data Equation, and how to bridge people’s needs & clients’ priorities

To make our clients’ voice matter, it is essential for us to play the dual role of People Advocates and Client Advisors. This means first understanding people, by listening to what they are consciously saying, and pre-empting their needs in a respectful manner.

big data equation

  1. People are telling us what they want – It’s out there on social networks, it’s within feedback forms collected in real life, on surveys filled out on the web and in conversations with customer support teams. People are sharing their feedback and suggestions over many touch points and they expect brands and organizations to listen, acknowledge it and change in response to this feedback – regardless of where it’s been shared.  What’s more, they expect responses immediately and across multiple formats, for all screens where people can read it.
  2. People’s data footprints are pointing to their next steps – There’s a great opportunity to pre-empt people’s needs through data intelligence, by analyzing the data to identify patterns and predict future patterns. The idea that a smart fridge can communicate directly with a supermarket to order missing items may still be a few years away in practice. But a smart fridge that communicates with a mobile shopping list app – this is closer around the corner and a good example of where permission-based data analysis and connected devices can lead us.

An example of how customized service as a result of permission-based data analysis is becoming popular, even preferred: The results of a Forbes survey from 2014 show that refrigerators top the list of home appliances people want their smartphones to be connected with.

The key is to be transparent about the data collected, to keep it secure, to gain people’s opt-in and to deliver value.

For brands and organizations, the goal can be to lead engagement, increase loyalty, improve customer relations, build reputation etc. As client advisors, it’s up to us to find the matching points between people’s needs and our clients’ priorities, and to smartly apply data analysis to deliver on it.


4. The Big Data Conversion, and what we mean by smart ideas

We recently asked some of our digital savvy Millennials at MSLGROUP to identify what they see as the top priority for people today. Here’s what they told us:

big data conversion

  • It’s about Utility – People expect their voice to be heard and acted upon. They want brands to add value to each of their exchanges, and provide digital and mobile solutions that help make their lives simpler, easier and more enriched.
  • It’s about Resonance – People appreciate it when brands go the extra mile to offer personalized experiences and customized content. Brands and organizations that can do this without appearing intruding are the ones that will win.
  • It’s about Real-Time – People are used to receiving things quickly, and that’s how they like it. The more it goes, our time unit is in minutes and certainly not in days.
  • It’s about Relevance – People are spoiled for choices today. They are willing to engage, but brands and organizations need to provide a win-win for the engagement. If there’s no real motivation to be engaged, if the brand is not relevant to their needs and likes, people simply won’t get engaged.

Lastly, as our report The Future of Business Citizenship confirms it:

  • It’s about Citizenship – People, especially the younger Millennials, want businesses to get more active in solving today’s social issues. A smart idea is one that demonstrates business citizenship, encourages and enables sustainability, and drives social good. People’s eyes are especially on climate change, with the UN’s upcoming COP21 poised to be our last chance to contain global warming.


5. The Big Data Story, and why blending technology with emotion is crucial

Data by itself can be so rich, but it’s when we go beyond mechanical delivery that we become Data Storytellers. It’s our role to leverage the data and find a way to connect with people emotionally, and add a meaningful, clever or entertaining call-to-action.

big data story

  • Data at the forefront
    A Common Language based on Data: This could be as Nike did it, by introducing a new metric called Nike Fuel. With Nike Fuel, Nike enabled people of different physical builds to measure their true fitness output and compare it with one another
  • Data in the Background
    Insights fueled by Data: Or it can be as Samsung did it with its social media monitoring effort. Samsung analyzed social conversations to identify what features people were missing in the iPhone and addressed these both in its products and its messaging.
  • Data & The Art of Conversation
    Engineers, Linguists and Semioticians have a lot to bring to Automated Conversation Analysis, in order help develop sharper and faster Real-Time Engagement tactics.


6. The Big Data Concern, and why blurring lines is risky

People’s concerns around data are plenty: they’re rightly worried about the security of their personal information, misuse of their data, longevity of data on the web, their privacy and intrusion.

big data concern

The recent Tinder activation at SXSW demonstrated it best – different people have different thresholds, and the line between what’s appropriate and what’s not can be blurry.

Where’s the Line? 

A movie studio created a fake profile for their lead character on Tinder, sent bot messages to Tinder users and directed them to a website promoting the movie. The movie was about robots & AI, but people felt it crossed the line into ‘creepy’ and ‘invasive.’

Illegal surveillance of data, privacy breaches, excessive and intrusive use of personal data are worrying people.

So let’s respect people’s ethos and deliver good experiences. We have the opportunity to be the custodians of big data, it’s up to us to be appropriate, clever, engaging and respectful.


This post is part of our People’s Insights report Data In. Data Out. Transforming Big Data into Smart Ideas.

People's Lab

People's Lab

People’s Lab is MSLGROUP’s proprietary crowdsourcing platform & approach that helps organizations tap into people’s insight for innovation & change.

3 Responses to “Big Data, Smart Ideas”

  1. Pascal Beucler (@pbeucler)

    Acquisition & Analysis: two cornerstones of #BigData. @pbeucler in Data In. Data Out.

  2. Pascal Beucler (@pbeucler)

    Finding the right insight: If you listen to everything, you won’t hear anything- @linkfluence. Data In. Data Out.

  3. @delfinconnector

    Interesting article by @pbeucler; from big data to storytelling #delfindinsdag


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