Understanding What’s in Your Hand: Big Data Means Big Decisions

Information is essentially everywhere now, and the Internet remains particularly keen on capturing key data that can help companies make better decisions to hyper targeted or broad campaigns. And certain websites generate so much of their own research and information, the industry refers to them as resources for big data. For anyone unsure of what exactly “big data” means, it’s basically any set of data so large that mere mortals and their Cro-Magnon software are almost completely incapable of capturing, curating and storing it, let alone interpreting the key performance indicators. In the words of Winston Zeddemore: “That’s a big Twinkie.”

So when it comes to planning for the future, building strategies and noticing trends, two of the major resources companies can turn to are first party data and third party data.

Close at Heart

Simply stated, first party data is what a company has acquired by its own internal means. As a quick example, this may include anything obtained through users interacting on your website. Looking at a bare minimum comparison, take for instance two articles posted at the same time in one month: one about the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow and the other about the migratory practices of coconuts.

Over the course of the month, you can monitor the performance of these two articles. Let’s say the outcome of each articles performance was that visitors to your website were far more interested in the migratory practices of the palm family than the physics behind a bird. This is data that can now be incorporated into your future planning by actively anticipating the type of preferred content that users will come back for. Plus, you can develop other advertising campaigns based around this content-planning schedule.

Data Kings

Third party data, on the other hand, is generally collected and sold by other companies. This can include IP addresses and websites visited, among others, but such information is generally marketed as keeping the identity of the people it tracks anonymous. One company, TruSignal, markets itself on allowing you to ‘Discover your ideal audience,’ has different segments covering anything from finances, the census, public records, household information to literally any kind of data they can find – then offers it for a price. Ideally, the package should cover things that tend to fall outside your internal data collection reach, as it is generally used in conjunction with first party data for maximum effectiveness.

Through first party data, your company can get a good insight into what you are already doing properly. If you are looking to expand or increase relevancy, then you turning to third party data can certainly help. In retrieving segments regarding demographics, geo-locations, census data, even hobbies, you can then target ad campaigns towards areas you think will best be drawn to your products or services. You don’t even necessarily need to incorporate first party data for such an undertaking if you are simply looking to target a specific demographic.

Where first party data can be a real boon for more focused marketing approaches, third party thrives when applied to diversifying an audience base. Discovering the content that engages them best is the first step in delivering exactly what they want, when they want it and tailored to the platforms they use most.

Joker’s Wild

Yet there is a massive wild card in play now that social media has become such a major fixture in interactive marketing. When it comes to providing first party data, there is no company with more reach than Facebook. The amount of information they gather and store using their servers is astounding, which is one of many reasons why companies should expand their marketing efforts to social platforms like Facebook pages. It will provide you with a direct avenue to potential customers and users, and allows you to explore a veritable gold mine of demographic information. This places Facebook in a rare position, in that it is both a first and a third party data source.

Think Before Your Fold

The amount of data in the world is constantly growing. It’s how we inform our own decisions daily, and companies and businesses have been using variations of first and third party data for decades. The advent of the Internet has not only aided them in the process, but completely revolutionized the approach. While the effectiveness and ethics of harnessing this information will always be hotly contested, one thing is for sure…they can remember it for you wholesale.