Altimeter: Big data is a huge opportunity for marcomms teams

Fluency in big data will help communicators collaborate more effectively, according to a report released Wednesday by analyst Susan Etlinger.

NEW YORK: Altimeter Group industry analyst Susan Etlinger, who recently did a TED talk on big data, said in a report released on Wednesday that PR and marketing execs should learn more about social data and statistical analysis to better collaborate with other departments.

Etlinger’s report, described as a deeper dive into her research on understanding big data, was released Wednesday, five months after filming her TED Talk called "What do we do with all this big data?" The video has been viewed more than 726,000 times.

While the report offers insights on big data on various subjects for communicators, such as legal and ethical issues and data ubiquity, Etlinger said PR pros should focus on what businesses can learn from specific sets of social data and analytics.

"There’s an increase in understanding that social data is one of the biggest categories of big data for many businesses, so while a lot of PR and corp comms folks aren’t deeply involved in big-data projects, they are in fact working with big data every single day," she explained.

For professional growth, Etlinger said PR and marketing professionals should examine tweets or social analytics reports from brands to see what business aspects make consumers happy or unhappy, such as pricing, services, or features.

"You want to understand those drivers and then be able to communicate that to people in the business," she said.

Etlinger also warned that the term "big data" does not necessarily reflect a large amount of social messages because the size of social data can vary greatly. For example, a tweet has some structured data, such as the time it was posted or the number of a user’s followers, but it also has the unstructured data of text, images, and meanings that all vary in size. This means that "a much smaller number of tweets can be far more complex to analyze from a data standpoint," according to the report.

Companies will soon have to look at data "as an asset across the business that has meaning to everything," giving PR the chance to collaborate more with other departments to help it use social data in different ways, said Etlinger.

She added that communicators should learn the basics about statistical analytics and data science because the more they understand, the better they can use the information for various aspects of their business.

Etlinger said she worked on the report for about three months, and she plans to continue her research on understanding and simplifying big data for businesses and individuals.

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