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8/3/2012
03:39 PM
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Why Big Data Will Deliver ROI For Social Business

The public-by-default nature of social media is a boon to business--or will be, as we learn to cope with the volume of conversation.

One of the key properties of social media that has set it uniquely apart from other ways of communicating is that it has a property sometimes referred to as "network effects by default." By this, I mean that the conversations within social media are generally and automatically visible to anyone who cares to go look at them. In this way, each new conversation enriches the entire social ecosystem for everyone, creating the maximum possible value.

This means that what I post on Twitter can be seen by anyone that follows me, and even anyone that just wants go and visit my user profile. The same is true of Facebook pages, online communities, blogs, wikis, and countless others forms of social media. In an enterprise social network, my posts may only be visible to the authorized users for some organizational domain, but it will typically be available to all of them.

In short, everything we do in the social world (unless we flip the switch to make it private) is generally public. In most prior communication systems, the opposite was true. You had to identify, with perfect foreknowledge, whom you needed to interact with, and those--and only those--people would be part of the conversation, or aware of its existence. The default was for discussion and engagement to be private. With social, this entire model has been, not coincidentally, inverted to ensure everyone who needs to be involved can be involved.


This column continues the discussion from Social Business By Design (2012, John Wiley and Sons), the book I recently co-authored with Peter Kim on the methods that organizations can use to better prepare strategically for social business.

More Social Business By Design columns

This simple yet profound change in visibility has a surprisingly large number of ramifications.

First, it makes possible a number of interesting, and as it turns out rather important, possibilities. These I'll get to shortly.

Second, it means that a whole lot more information is visible to everyone. By many orders of magnitude as it turns out, proving to be a challenge in its own right.

Third, it gives everyone that uses social media--whether they're on the public Internet or 'merely' inside a large company--an amazingly powerful voice that can reach the whole network at times, all at very little cost.

Finally, and certainly not least, there are significant and at times sobering implications for openness and transparency. It gets much harder to manipulate or conceal information, for example. Much more information is available in full context and the ground truth is easier to ascertain.

However, just like the early days of the Internet, when there were only a few crude directories to help us find things, we've had a similar set of growing pains in social media, and by extension, social business. Being able to collectively find, perceive, track, and in engage at scale in the myriad conversations across the countless social silos that exist today initially proved quite difficult. Even today, dealing with the vast ocean of conversation is still quite challenging. But this situation is now improving.

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robtyrie
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robtyrie,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/8/2012 | 6:43:28 PM
re: Why Big Data Will Deliver ROI For Social Business
nailed it.
Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/7/2012 | 11:11:39 PM
re: Why Big Data Will Deliver ROI For Social Business
I agree that when companies can take all of the information coming in from social media--mentions of their names and brands, suggestions, complaints, compliments, purchasing habits, etc.--they will make money off of social. Revenue from placed advertising is a piece of it, but I believe the big bucks are in the big data.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
Dion Hinchcliffe
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Dion Hinchcliffe,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/7/2012 | 5:45:36 PM
re: Why Big Data Will Deliver ROI For Social Business
Ellis,

Big data technology generally has to be timely in order to be useful. This is why we're seeing the advent of post-relational solutions such as Hadoop that can handle vast quantities of information in a short amount of time. In the near future, enterprises will be able to process everything bit of data they posses on timescales of an hour or even less. This will allow just-in-time decision making based on the sum of what an organizations knows, which in turn will have significant competitive impact to high value business processes that operate on these time and information scales.

While this might be mind-boggling today, it will be routine soon enough!

Dion Hinchcliffe
jdormont
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jdormont,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/7/2012 | 1:54:11 PM
re: Why Big Data Will Deliver ROI For Social Business
Dion - this is so well articulated and the graphic helps to quickly perceive the concept. I still think that big data favors larger organizations that can invest in the right people (see more here: http://bit.ly/NY1btl), but that more organizations will see this as a priority and move to focus on analytics as a top level position and org priority (http://t.co/mLTrxyNC).

Ellis Booker
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Ellis Booker,
User Rank: Moderator
8/6/2012 | 4:03:36 PM
re: Why Big Data Will Deliver ROI For Social Business
Dion,
How important is speed to the analysis of social media trends? In other words, is an analysis of gigantic data sets that takes, say, weeks or months still valuable from a run-the-business standpoint?

Ellis Booker
InformationWeek Community Editor
PJS880
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PJS880,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/6/2012 | 2:03:44 PM
re: Why Big Data Will Deliver ROI For Social Business
It is nice to see that they are using the data for something that is of worth to business. The fact that companies can collect and analyze the data and possibly predict trend, fads, and other market spikes would obviously be good for business. Great point on how most of todayGÇÖs innovation and ideas are coming from the social media world. If you were a larger type business it would make sense to possibly hire a third party to collaborate the information collected, and smaller c0ompanies might find it more cost effective to establish an i9nhouse position to handle this. Like the article states though you have to have people who understand the data being collected and how to utilize all resources from that data. Has anyone or their company implemented any kind of social media policy and if so what are the key points that it focus on and why?

Paul Sprague
InformationWeek Contributor
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