How important is real-time data? It’s all relative

The speed with which social media spreads ideas and information has led many marketers to place a premium on capturing data in real time. But should real-time data be such a priority?

Real time means different things to different people when the term is used as a proxy for recency. To an evolutionary biologist, real time could mean thousands of years of species development data. To a 911 dispatcher, real time is a few seconds worth of critical information from a telephone call.

What about marketing and advertising? This notion of “relative real time” extends there, too. To a marketing executive, real time may be data necessary to make annual, semi-annual and quarterly budget decisions. Real time to a media buyer may be several weeks of ratings data to understand what target consumers are viewing. To ad networks serving targeted banner ads Web visitors, real time is microseconds.

Ultimately, gathering the most data possible to inform a decision or solve a problem — in the window of time that best suits your need — is more important than having instantaneous data access. And to do that, you need to start with how you’re going to use the data. What do you want to accomplish? What business problem are you trying to solve?

While social data is exciting because it’s abundant and easily accessible, it’s still relatively new for corporations and how they’re integrating the voice of the consumer into business processes. Real-time social data is just another information source to be incorporated into your decision-making process, from problem definition, to research analysis and, ultimately, project execution. Data doesn’t need to come to you any faster than the time frame that process allows you to act on it.

At Networked Insights we help brands analyze social data for improved decision making — daily, weekly and monthly. While access to a rich data set sounds appealing, sometimes more is not better. Rather, understanding the behaviors of your target consumer is the quickest path to achieving marketing success.

Start by analyzing the decision cycles within your organization or department and how you want to engage data. The timeline of that process will determine what, relatively speaking, real time means to you.

7 comments to How important is real-time data? It’s all relative

  • “You need to start with how you’re going to use the data. What do you want to accomplish? What business problem are you trying to solve?”

    I find these are typical the toughest questions and most frequently answered incorrectly. When it comes to data, gGreat vision at the start will direct a project to success.

  • @anthony – yes great point – the secret is really the business problem you are trying to solve – everything else flows from that

  • When I think of real time data from a marketing perspective, I believe is about being able to take action on the data in real time. Right now there aren’t any great tools for measuring the ROI on social media, but the beauty of social media is the ability to solve problems via social right away. This is the true gold of social media. The ability to connect, engage, and listen to your clients in real time and solve their problems immediately within a matter of seconds. Current analytics tools doesn’t allow you to take action on that data in real time. But I think we an answer coming soon. Thanks Paul, great post!

  • Thanks Sal – quite frankly we have a solution for that at NI but would love to hear what you guys are offering!

  • Two thoughts: First there IS value in looking at the data even without a desired outcome or problem to solve. We are able to see so much more data, so much more rapidly, it can spark innovation. If we limit ourselves to only looking at data related to a specific problem, we risk missing the “A’Ha!” moment when we piece together the puzzle in ways not before imagined.

    Secondly, this thread reminds of the quote (can’t remember who said it) that went something like: ‘By the time we build what the customer wants, their demands have all changed.’ To that point, we have to be mindful of how and where data is used to make key decisions, or a company’s marketing programs and product roadmap can quickly fishtail out of control, moving back and forth to try and correct based on the latest data.

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  • […] How important is real-time data? It’s all relative The speed with which social media spreads ideas and… […]

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