People often ask me what relevance big data has to their lives. For me, that’s an easy question to answer.
I simply point to Facebook, which, like most social networks, is powered by big data at all levels. I note that, for example, every ad you see displayed on the right side of your Facebook page is there because of big data. In other words, what Facebook’s systems choose to display there is the result of analytics that plow through every piece of data that you, your friends, and people like you and your friends have ever posted, linked, “liked,” viewed, and otherwise interacted with from any within Facebook and other partner sites. The same applies, in their own spheres of operation, to other advertising-supported social networks that you access.
Once I’ve driven home the unsung but fundamental role of big data in public social networks, I widen the scope of discussion (if people are still paying attention). I point out that many organizations now engage with customers, partners, employees, and other stakeholders over social channels: public, industry-specific, company-proprietary, and various blends of these community models. More and more of us are on various and sundry social networks night and day, at home, and at work—even if we don’t think of many of these communities as “social” in the same way that Facebook is.
Social business is the fabric of modern life. So what exactly is it, and does it always depend on big data?
IBM defines social business as the incorporation of social tools, media, and practices into an organization’s external and/or internal interactions. Social business enables fluid interaction among you and your customers, employees, suppliers, and other stakeholders. Within social networks of various shapes and sizes, members can connect, converse, listen, publish, and share directly with each other, eschewing centralized oversight, rigid workflows, hierarchical access controls, and other control-heavy features of traditional business collaboration tools.
Regardless of the specific online community within which it takes place, what makes any engagement “social” is that it leverages these core engagement principles, each supported by shared infrastructure within the online community:
The inevitability of big data volumes in social business comes from the core social principle: user-driven content sharing. However, we recognize that social networks don’t always depend on all of the “3 Vs” of big data to serve their core functions. The smaller social networks, for example, may not yet incorporate petabyte volumes of server-resident user data.
However, all social networks involve unstructured data of various sorts—especially user posts, page impressions, and clicks—and most are geared to real-time high-velocity interaction. And most social networks, if they’re successful and attract more members, applications, and usage, will almost certainly accumulate a colossal volume of stored data—especially the bit-intensive unstructured varieties and streaming media—before long.
Within any customer-facing social business infrastructure, businesses can leverage the power of big data to drive the following applications:
Where customer engagement is concerned, big data infrastructure can drive targeted recommendations, offers, conversations, and experiences throughout social business channels. We sometimes refer to this pattern as “next best actions.” In practice, next best actions powers social business in the following principal ways:
Regardless of whether it’s an outbound or inbound engagement scenario, it’s not truly social if it feels like there’s a robot on either end of the conversation. To the extent that you can humanize your next-best-action-powered social channels, you’re likely to boost experience, satisfaction, retention, productivity, efficiency, influence and loyalty all around.
The next best action of social-business engagement must always be to humanize the next thing you say to any stakeholder at any time, even if in reality it’s a bot pretending to be a human or a human reading a bot-scripted response.
How will you individualize, personalize and naturalize every utterance—even those driven by embedded statistical models, business rules, and other algorithmic logic? Please read this blog for tips on how to keep the human feel in your social business engagements, and let me know your thoughts on this topic in the comments.
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