What is Big Data and How to Use It for Your Business?
When it comes to running your business, you want to make smart, analytical decisions. Your business relies on your ability to always improve, especially in the competitive world today. If you can learn to make the most of the data you do have while finding new data, you're better equipped to serve your customers.
However, not all data is created equal. Plus, with the recent rise of buzzwords like "big data," the world of information is harder to understand than ever before. How does data actually help you run your business, and what's the best way to put it to use in a way that works? This guide will examine all of the above and more.
What is big data?
Despite its name, big data isn't as intimidating as it seems. In fact, big data has been around for decades, and it's something marketers and business owners have been using for a long time. Simply put, what is big data? You'll likely run into a lot of different definitions across the web, especially since this term has been used to refer to a variety of different things.
Let's break it down simply: big data is a collection of data taken from both digital and traditional sources. It can be collected from inside and outside your company, and it's a way to discover new ideas and analyze past methods.
When we're referring to big data, we're talking about any of the following:
- Unstructured data - Data that's from information that isn't easily interpreted by data models or databases. These can be text-heavy like social media posts.
- Structured data - A variety of data formats that can be derived from interactions between both people and machines. These can include social networks, web log data, and Windows logging. These are easy to understand and can be analyzed by computers.
- Semi-structured data - Finally, the line between structured and unstructured isn't always clear. If the information is not in a traditional format but still has some organizational features, it's semi-structured.
As you can see, data comes in a lot of different shapes and sizes. You've likely been using some form of big data for your business without even realizing it.
Finding and managing data
Now that you understand what big data actually is, let's discuss the best way to utilize it for your organization. Harnessing this data is like having a fully-stocked toolbelt. You'll be prepared for today, prepared for the future, and ready to tackle new challenges.
The first step is to manage the data. This means knowing how to find data that's worthwhile and how to store it effectively. This can range from logging your database or website information to creating social media marketing reports. Depending on your business type, you'll want to consider different types of data.
Not all of your data has to come from inside your business. There are many ways to outsource data about your market, your competitors, and your prospective users. Big data isn't something that's limited to large businesses either. Even small businesses can harness this power with solutions like SAS and ClearStory Data. Learning more about your customers and audience is key.
Using data for your business
The next step beyond managing your data is knowing how to use it. While finding and managing valuable data is indeed important, it's even more important to actually know how to put this information into use productively. Don't waste valuable time and money navigating these complex data systems. Learn how to use them to make smarter decisions for your company.
One common mistake is using your information divisively. There is no reason to protect your data and keep it from members of your team. Data is collaborative, and it should help bring everyone together over large problems. You want your problem-solvers to have access to real-time insights that encourage growth.
Finally, you'll need an end goal in mind. If you don't know what you're working towards, your business will never get there. What trends are you looking for in your data? How can you make sure your information is working for you? Think about your goals. Maybe you want to bring in more customers in a specific zip code. In that case, you'll target your media coverage for a specific zip code and use geospatial data to help nearby shoppers find your location.
Having a clear system for analyzing this data means you'll be able to put it in action faster. In this rapidly changing world, you need to be quick to make powerful decisions. Using easy-to-understand visualizations can help turn your data into a recommendation for action. This might take trial and error to find the best method for your organization, but it's a valuable use of your time. Together, your team will learn how to understand this data in a way that furthers your success.
Big data is everywhere. It's on the rise in ways we never saw coming, and now it's helping us make better decisions. From artificial intelligence to outsourcing your data collection, software today helps us understand our users in new ways so we can cater directly to them.
As a business owner, you need to optimize your decision-making process. That all relies on your ability to recognize the important information your company needs and then put this data to good use. Are you ready to harvest big data today?
This is a guest post by Ashley Lipman. Ashley is an award-winning writer who discovered her passion in providing creative solutions for building brands online. Since her first high school award in Creative Writing, she continues to deliver awesome content through various niches.