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ClickZ Conference Coverage: 3 Examples of Big Data in Action

Lauren Harper
Sr. Manager Social Marketing

We marketers know that Big Data is a big deal. People today are more interested in documenting events than actually experiencing them, only adding to the ever-growing catalogue of online data. But what’s the use case? How do we actually take the data that we capture and put it into action? Many companies haven’t yet figured out what the next step is, or how to actually achieve a meaningful strategy.

Data was one of the two main themes at the ClickZ Live Conference in San Francisco last week. (The other main theme was…drumroll please…mobile.) Another thing that was pretty clear from the conference was that no one really has all the answers or is getting it all right (pause for sigh of relief).

However, there are some companies that have started putting their data to use, and are getting some pretty interesting results. Here are three examples of innovating organizations:

Pandora realized that they were generating an incredible amount of data from their listeners. They decided to start asking for the age, gender, and zip code for every new member who signs up, free or paid, and found that this small amount of information allowed them to take their insights to new heights. Using this information, Pandora is now able to (pretty) accurately predict the top stations each new member will listen to when they first sign up. They also are able to accurately show the general music preferences regionally across the US.

Taking their data one step further, Pandora started to compare their data to third party data. When comparing it to the US Census voting data, they were able to discern that people who listen to jazz music tend to vote Democrat. Conversely, people who listen to country music tend to vote Republican. (That last one might not be much of a surprise, but jazz…who knew?)

Pandora also found that men between the ages of 20-34 who listen to electronic music are more likely to own an X-Box. Knowing this allowed them to find the communities and groups across the web where this segment is most likely to hang out, thereby Pandora is now able to accurately target and personalize their ads and other interactions.

Another example comes from Chris Pemberton from Ghirardelli Chocolate. He described how after looking at their sales data, they determined that chocolate sales were plummeting in the summer months. Makes sense, after all;  it’s hot, so the chocolate can more easily melt, which makes  it harder to ship. But when they looked at the amount of conversations happening online around s’mores, they noticed a significant increased during the summer months. Taking that data, they were able to create an entire integrated, cross-channel campaign around s’mores (using Ghirardelli Chocolate, of course).

OkCupid decided to use their user-generated data to share tips and information on dating and turned that into their company blog. For example, one of their blog posts looks at the correlation between sex and money across different nations. Captivating stuff.

Because of the wealth of data that we are now able to access, it’s important that we as marketers tell a story with it. Run data reports that will help answer pressing questions around campaigns or customer behavior, or show results that directly relate to key business goals or initiatives. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with your data, but when you try to tell a story with it, or even compare your data to that of other third parties, you might be surprised at some of the results you get. What is your data telling you? 

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