Ten Principles of Big Data

Data wars
10 Principles of Big Data
originally published in MediaPost's Social Media Insider 

Once upon a time, there was a little data. People thought it was important but not all that sexy. Then it grew up, and everyone started calling it Big Data. Now it’s on all the Sexiest Trend Alive covers, and there are rumors that it is having affairs with all of the Kardashians, including Bruce Jenner.

Big Data arguably grew up, at least in popular parlance, thanks to all the information it has been gleaning from social and mobile media. Gotham Media Ventures focused on it during an Internet Week event, “Data Wars: The Future of Personal Information and Advertising.” I had the pleasure of joining an especially insightful bunch on the panel: Clickable Director of Social Strategy Jordan Franklin, MicroStrategy Senior Director Marc Hayem, LocalResponse President Kathy Leake, and Sonar CEO Brett Martin, along with moderator Terri Seligman of Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz PC.

Over the course of the discussion, all of the panelists inspired a series of principles governing this era of Big Data. Here are the top ten:

1) We are all data. There’s very little about us that can’t be expressed as a data point. Our data includes who we talk to, where we go, our physical activity, what we consume, and what we don’t consume. We are the data.

2) We value data differently depending on whether we share it implicitly or explicitly. We don’t mind being asked to give consent to share data, and we usually don’t mind being ignorant. We only become alarmed when we become aware of data that we previously shared implicitly.

3) There must be a value exchange for sharing data. Brands, publishers, technology companies, and others determine what someone receives in return for providing the data. Sometimes this is through an overt agreement, while more often it’s a tacit barter.

4) What matters is how people perceive the value. A marketer may not think a $1 coupon is very valuable, but consumers may covet it. Similarly, a marketer may give away a new car that seems highly valuable, but the chance to win it may not move consumers to act.

5) Virtual value is just as real as tangible value. Consider a $1 coupon compared to a leaderboard where someone earns 100 points for checking into a location. The latter has no monetary value, but if the program is deployed properly, then those 100 points – and the bragging rights and self-esteem that go with them – may be more valuable than the tangible goods.

6)There’s a value chain beyond the exchange. If a user shares data with a publisher, that leads to more relevant advertising, which makes users more likely to return and earns more revenue per user, which leads to more profits, which leads the publisher to invest in hiring better talent and creating better content, which makes users more likely to share that content with others, which makes new users more likely to visit and become regular users.

7) Norms are changing. Jordan brought up the example of Facebook Beacon, which launched in 2007 and was promptly killed due to user backlash, compared to Facebook’s “frictionless sharing,” which may well deserve the same fate as Beacon but hasn’t attracted as much ire. The latest privacy controversy comes from SceneTap, which uses facial detection to show the demographic composition of bar patrons. It inspired Violet Blue to write in ZDNet, “San Francisco Hates Your Startup.” Many people commenting on such posts defend SceneTap, and in a few years, such technology may not raise a single eyebrow.

8) Standards are different online. Accept it. When you move into a new home, that Pottery Barn catalog will always find you within days, and yet none of the tens of millions of people who change residences each year protest about the surreptitious data usage. The standards are higher for social and mobile media because that data feels more personal.

9) Government regulation isn’t as challenging for brands as changes in terms of service. The government of any country may enact regulation that affects the use of data, yet governments don’t move nearly as fast as Facebook, Google, Pinterest, and other technology companies.

10) Change is happening at an exponential pace. The data that’s available and the options for harnessing it keep multiplying. Keep pace however you can. Think creatively about how you can use all this data. Most importantly, remember that you’re not a brand or a publisher or an agency or a corporation; you’re a person. Respect people. The Golden Rule lives on.