Big Data and Market Research

Monday, June 18, 2012

About a month ago I was invited to speak at a meeting of the Bundesverband der Markt- und Sozialvorscher (German association of market and social researchers) on Big Data and Social Media. It was a one-day meeting held in Munich with the aim to given an overview of the Big Data phenomeon for market research people and discuss the potential.

Social-media wise, there were quite few prolific German Twitterers at the meeting, starting with Stephan Noller, the CEO of, Jörg Blumtritt of MediaCom, or Benedikt Köhler. Actually, there was such a buzz that by midday, the meeting’s hashtag was trending on German Twitter. This was also one of those meetings where my phone was alight with notifications after my talk of people life-tweeting pictures from my talk.

For me as a data science guy, it was quite interesting to get some insights into what big data and social media means for marketing people. For example, while it is pretty clear that there’s a plethora of data on Facebook and Twitter, market research people don’t quite know how to make best use of the data because there is such a strong unknown bias in the sampling.

Normally market research people use all kinds of techniques to make sure that their sample is representative. This allows them to make quite accurate predictions for the whole population based on a relatively small set of data. On the other hand, data is abundant on social networks, but it is completely unclear how these numbers relate to the whole population.

Also, and this is probably a German phenomenon, people are still somewhat sceptic and consider social media a waste of time at best. If people don’t ask me directly why the heck I’m on Twitter, they almost always admit that they wouldn’t know what to do there. (Luckily, years of talking to people who admit that they’ve always been bad at math have prepared me for these awkward moments. In a way. At least I know the feeling).

Anyway, the meeting closed with an interesting panel discussion where one of the conclusions were that big data will be a big topic, but probably not in connection with social media. Instead, they predicted that market research will move back into the companies, where there had been a trend to outsource in recent years. There, market research can be integrated much better with the whole company to drive decisions based on data in a closely-knit fashion. Just as companies like Amazon are already doing, big data will play in important role in optimizing businesses.

Posted by Mikio L. Braun at 2012-06-18 12:03:00 +0000

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