Big Social Data: The Second Era Starts

by · September 11, 201316 comments

In case you missed the memo and the pre-recorded fanfare: we’ve just entered the second era of social media marketing. The first era was all about figuring out just what kind of beast had been released into the world and how it would ravage (and inseminate) marketing as we knew it. Marketing archaeologists of the future will have a ball reconstructing the period we’ve just been through – The Dawn of Social – and watching as homo-marketus erectus (well that’s how it affected me) groped around in the maelstrom. They’ll also love the way such a dramatic change revealed the character of the modern marketer (it ain’t flattering). In short, we’ve all been falling over ourselves to monetize the shit out of this sucker.

But now, the dust isn’t so much settling as thinning out enough to reveal some vague shapes. And the biggest, baddest shape of them all is Social Data. Big Social Data. Big, Hairy, Messy, Non-Stop Social Data.

Because, while we front-of-house marketers have been stripping down and diving into the social Mississippi – ‘engaging’ our little hearts out; peppering our blather with hashtags; ‘reaching out’ to ‘influencers’; and gleefully ‘joining’ the ‘social conversation’ (thereby spoiling it) – the geeks out back have been quietly building the real revolution.

Listening goes Nuclear in the Second Era of Social Media

The geeks knew all along that the really important thing to do in the face of a billion tweets a second (or whatever) is to SHUT UP AND LISTEN. So they got to work building software that could do that.

The first generation of these social monitoring tools have been pretty clunky. They count mentions and track hashtags; maybe apply some rudimentary sentiment analysis (‘sucks’ is -6); and stick it all in a shiny dashboard. Take a tour of any self-respecting consumer marketing department and you’ll be shown the endearingly named Social Media Command Center. (I like to linger a bit to try to figure out what it’s really doing and seeing how quickly I’m ushered away. There’s no there there.) While we easily-impressed types were watching the wicked animated bar charts make like meerkats, the real geeks have been building the Little Boy and Fat Man of social media.

Make no mistake: the new Big Social Data tools will make the current ones look like so many Etch-A-Sketches.

Social Data is a Big Data problem, writ huge.

There’s no structure. Context is buried or lost. The torrent never stops. And the sheer volumes are staggering. This kind of data challenge demands a new kind of analytics stack that doesn’t rely on neat little databases and tidy indexes. The next generation of Social Data platforms and apps designed to handle this is emerging. In my job as a high-paid pimp for tech companies, I’ve seen some of these. And I’ve been blown away.

When Big Data techniques are applied to the social media firehose, some amazing things start to happen. Like being able to ask some unbelievably specific questions and getting instant answers. Or being able to predict the things that, today, we can only react to. Today, Social Data is only just emerging as a discipline. When it does fully emerge, the Second Era of social kicks in.

Hang on to your hats.


(BTW – If you’re into this kind of thing, you might want to check out Social Data Week – two upcoming events in San Francisco and New York – that have attracted people like Robert Scoble, Guy Kawasaki, Gary Vaynerchuk and Susan Etlinger to speak. This stuff really is hot.)

[Disclaimer: I know the folks behind this event but my excitement about all this is 100% genuine and not simply pimping in disguise.]

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About Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler is co-founder and creative director of Velocity Partners, the London-based B2B content marketing agency. Doug has written a lot about content marketing including the B2B Marketing Manifesto, the B2B Content Strategy Checklist and Crap: Why the Biggest Threat to Content Marketing is Content Marketing.

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