In this fourth and final installment of our series on top social media trends in PR, I’m going to talk about Big Data.  Big data is a big deal, and it’s affecting all of marketing.

 What Is Big Data?

The exact definition of Big Data is: “any voluminous amount of structured, semi-structured and unstructured data that has the potential to be mined for information. Although Big Data doesn’t refer to any specific quantity, the term is often used when speaking about petabytes and exabytes of data.”          (- Margaret Rouse) (For those of us who don’t know what a petabyte is we can probably use the word “gozillions of sources” or some such.)

How Is Big Data Affecting PR and Social Media?

Big data is a problem: it’s hard to mine, because it’s really, really big.  For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on data that exists outside the firewall: social media chatter, news mentions, blog comments, and other data online that PR and Social Media folks (not to mention other pieces of the business organization) can access using social listening.

People are making themselves heard online, and your brand story is being told whether or not you want it to be.   Unfortunately, finding all those conversations and getting a signal from the noise isn’t humanly possible.  That, of course, is why folks like us make a social media monitoring tool, and a media monitoring tool: so that PR and marketing pros can understand, from a holistic standpoint, what people are saying about them.  Those people can include analysts, customers or the competition.

How Are PR and Marketing Professionals Using Big Data?

Customer Relations

There has been a lot of talk from the beginning of… well, Twitter… as to whether social media channels should be used as customer service channels.  At the end of the day, the reality is that customers will use these channels to talk about and get ahold of us – and that’s a good thing.  This sort of customer feedback used to be only accessible via call centers and focus groups, so harnessing the sort of feedback that we get on these channels can give us great insights into our own marketing efforts.  Also, anyone who takes the time to mention us on Twitter is a potential brand advocate: even if that person is angry at the beginning, the value of solving that problem immediately can turn a detractor into an advocate – and that’s great PR.


PR professionals are using Big Data as a means of getting their message across to the right customers, finding them where they are at the moment.  This is done via hypertargeting and location-specific real-time marketing: you can find your specific audience, wherever they are and on whichever platform of social media they are engaging on at a given time.


“Introduce data visualization into your content wherever and whenever possible,” says Ryan Farrell in an article from Content Marketing Institute.  What better way to do this than with infographics?  Infographics are hugely shareable, and great for press pickup – and the good ones are based on good data.  (For a quick article on what makes a great infographic, check out this article: 3 Steps to Infographic Marketing greatness.)


If you’re uncertain as to what’s going to resonate with an audience, you can use Twitter to try the same message a few different ways, and see what sticks.  This includes basic testing like email subject lines, as well as more complicated scenarios like crisis communication and brand messaging.

Competitive Analysis

Speaking of data outside the firewall: the beauty of social listening is that you can do the same sort of analysis about your competitors that you can do for yourself.  For example, you can use competitive analysis in the form of reports by the Meltwater online media analysis tool, (Meltwater News), to uncover competitors’ activity and detect industry trends. Thus, you can improve your competitive presence in your industry and stay on top so that customers come to you rather than them.


Using Big Data to your advantage might be easier to implement than you think.  When considering using Big Data in your marketing strategy, always think about customer relations, how you can use hypertargeting  and infographics, and competitive analysis.  So, don’t let the term Big Data scare you…there are tools available so tap into them!

Let us know of any trends that you see that are not on this ongoing list of Social Media PR trends that are helping you shape your current PR campaigns today. There are ways that brands are innovating every day; it doesn’t stop with those topics we’ve discussed in this series. So please let us know about any others you know, relating to the ones we’ve discussed, in the comments so we can share them as well.