When Dealing with Big Data Ask the Right Questions

It’s impossible to not talk about data these days. In fact, when I speak at conferences or talk with other communicators the questions and discussions often turn to metrics, analytics, data and evaluation.

In fact, Paul Holmes of the Holmes Report has made the argument that the agency of the future will need to focus on measurement and data. And one of the biggest pieces of news

Do you see opportunities or noise?
Do you see opportunities or noise?

Do you see opportunities or noise?

in metrics this year you may not have heard about was the launch of Measurement Standards – a cross-industry effort to simplify and unify the measurement of social media

Before you decide to get a degree in quantitative analysis or fill out a job requisition to hire a data scientist…take a deep breath. Even you, as a non-expert in technical analysis, can play a key role in understanding the onslaught of data you are gathering. Here are three things that you need to consider and start doing today.

1. Understand Your Business Objectives. If you aren’t sure what the business wants or needs, how will you deliver relevant data and information to them? While you are emailing a monthly PowerPoint full of bar charts, pie charts and statistics, I’m not quite sure that’s what they need. Always keep in mind that your goal is to connect the business objectives to your marketing objectives. What good, insightful data can really help you uncover are the three I’s for your business — influence, information, insight.

2. Build Your Team. You wouldn’t create all of your company’s content alone. Why would you do data measurement alone? It’s impossible. If you are not talking with your web team, social media point person and product marketing people you will continue to drown in data and simply not use it (but don’t worry, someone else will figure it out and become a valuable resource). What I’ve found to date is that by getting the right people involved you can eliminate a number of false positives and focus on the data that matters.

3. Are you asking the right questions? I’ve written before on the importance of asking good questions. Here are a few questions that you should be asking that can lead to better discussions about your data: Where did the data come from? How does this data compare over time? What are the areas of weakness about this data? Can we overlay this with other data to show a pattern? What makes this data significant — an image, news announcement or platform used? Does the data include outliers or false information and how did they affect the results? What can you conclude from the data to help decide your next move? What may make your data invalid? Asking the right questions throughout the process of every project is imperative to your measurement success.

Once you know what the business is trying to achieve, you have a team in place and you are focused on asking the right questions, you should be better at delivering results that matter and that help you budget and allocate resources better. I suggest you start small, pick a project, choose your team and see what results you find. If you’re still looking for help you should also consider buying Digital Marketing Analytics.