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.