Big Data Downsized for Small Businesses

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Small Businesses can use Big Data — if it’s Downsized

Every day, billions of sources — transaction records, mobile phone signals, weather sensors, traffic cameras, electricity meters, digital photos and videos, social media posts, website click-streams — create quintillions of bytes of data (2.5 quintillions, according to IBM. A quintillion is 10 X 18 trillion). Integrating this tsunami of data, in thousands of disparate formats form millions of diverse sources, and then parsing out only what’s relevant, requires huge computing power. Which is why Big Data Apps (BDAs) are expensive.

What is a typical Big Data use? According to FCW, the Business of Federal Technology, within 24 hours of the two explosions at the April 15 Boston Marathon, the FBI had compiled 10 terabytes of data in hopes of finding clues leading to the suspects. That’s very Big Data use. So is the Twitter global “happiness index”: Every day since September 2008, Hedonometer has analyzed 50 million tweets from around the world for ‘happy’, ‘sad’ and ‘neutral’ sentiment. Monday 15th April, 2013 — the day of the Boston Marathon bombings — was the saddest day in the entire world for five years. A global “happiness index” is interesting as far as it goes. But what can a small business do with responses gleaned from entire populations? Not much.

The difference between a Customer and a Population

You don’t target populations, you target customers. Knowing the sum total of every user action or trend globally online is redundant. On the other hand, knowing the collective actions and trends in your own market or category could be competitively invaluable. Google’s researchers have found that searches can track the spread of influenza. The Bank of England determined in 2011 that searches for relevant terms could even predict house prices and other market moves. This starts to get interesting (if you’re in the healthcare or mortgage business). But it’s still too big for small and mid-sized companies to handle.

Smart Data is Better than Big Data

For an SME, instead of knowing how many people somewhere in the world are discussing a runny nose or thinking of moving, it’s probably more useful to know practical, actionable things, like How much content is there about my business category and topics and is it increasing or declining? What’s the trend in mentions of my — or my competitors’ — business names and keywords? How many people have declared social relationships to my competitors, and what’s the momentum behind it? Actionable customer insights exist, spread across Web platforms, databases and social networks. And getting them doesn’t require multi-million £ apps or thousand £ subscriptions. They can be mined from the Internet. Many of the largest online companies — Google, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Salesforce — already use BDAs to mine huge amounts of  insight data. The key for SME’s is to leverage what the big players have got, rather than try to replicate it. Which is where our content discovery and analytics expertise can help you. We think smart data is better than big data.

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