So unless you’ve been buried under a rock, you’ve probably heard of ‘big data’ as it’s one of the really hyped buzzwords in this industry. And if you haven’t, I’ll give you an example of my first encounter with big data.

A while ago I wanted to go visit my cousin in Norway – Tromsø to be exact – so I searched online for plane tickets. The following days, all the banner advertisements on random websites were about flight tickets to Tromsø. A coincidence? Well, unless Tromsø has suddenly become a trendy place for Danes to visit, I don’t think so. Rather it was an example of how big data works.
Big data is the outcome of all the movements and actions we do online. Big data is out there for companies to analyze and use to target marketing messages especially suited to your preferences. If you want a more detailed explanation, take look at this blog post.

So everywhere you go online, you leave a digital footprint for analysts to follow. And with the rise of social media, the amount of data available is larger than ever, because we:

  • Upload 100 hours of video to Youtube
  • Share 3,600 pictures on Instagram
  • Send over 100.000 tweets
  • Share 684,478 pieces of content on Facebook

.. every minute of every day!

This is an enormous, unimaginable amount of data. And the best thing? On social media we, as consumers, provide all the information ourselves. We indicate our relationship status on Facebook, our preferences within movies and music, where we work on LinkedIn etc.

This huge amount of information is probably going to change the way companies do marketing. Now, companies can target specific customers down to every little detail. For instance you may want to target “young men in Tromsø, who listen to Bon Iver and watch Mad Men on their Netflix-account” instead of just “young, Norwegian men interested in culture”. The example is a bit extreme, but true nonetheless. So big data gives businesses a better chance of creating more relevant and ultimately, hopefully, more effective advertising.

So.. how to use it?  

Should we then, as marketers, just high-five each other with dollar signs in our eyes? Maybe not. First of all, we have to realize that customers are actually human beings, who may behave in unpredictable ways and not always give out true information online. Or they might be using an ad-blocker, so the adds targeted to them are not visible.

Consumers also have an opinion; some of them might be tired of being bombarded with advertisements all day. Or think that this new technique is creepy – suddenly we can stalk their every move online and almost know who they’re in a relationship with even though it isn’t official.

This said, it is also with confidence that I claim that the combination of social media and big data is going to show us an entirely new era within advertising. With the option to target advertising directly to a single consumer, who knows what lies ahead. But it is important to keep in mind that the aim is to create value for the consumer and therefore use big data in a responsible way.