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Bigger (Data) Is Not Always Better
Holmes Report
Holmes Report
News and insights from the global PR industry

Bigger (Data) Is Not Always Better

Holmes Report

By Adam Parker [caption id="attachment_1105" align="alignright" width="150"]Adam Parker Adam Parker[/caption] Close your eyes and picture who you imagine to be the most influential people in the UK today. Let me guess. Five of them? Cracking vocal chords? That's right -- according to a recent listing, the five members of One Direction top the list, beating Stephen Fry, Ed Miliband and even David Cameron. While this is a fun news story, it raises questions about whether big data social scoring platforms are serious about establishing who has the potential to be influential around a topic. After all we’re nearly three years on from the claims that Justin Bieber was more influential than Barack Obama, and yet here we are again. Even if an argument is made that such platforms are only attempting to measure who is influential within social media, how do you divorce the knowledge and awareness we have of someone’s “real” world persona, from how we interact with them online? Or how interactions on social media then result in action and behaviour in the real world? Don’t get me wrong, there are many PR and marcomms situations where a big data approach can indeed provide powerful insight – for example when you’re trying to get a helicopter view of conversation flows, reaction and views on a topic, a brand or a story of some kind. But it can't end there. Firstly, a human approach to identifying who matters starts by listening to people we recognise and trust. We then discover by interacting with these people who they listen to, and over time we develop a network of people who matter to us. Secondly, as much as there’s a vast amount of data being created within social media, it’s still a fraction of the information about peoples' relationships, desires and actions for all but the most digitally active. This may well change over time, but for now unless you’re the NSA, the accessible social media data at these platforms' disposal is more limited than many consider. These two factors are core to how Lissted is seeking to address the challenge. To try and identify the people online who matter the most around a topic, we’re taking a human approach and starting off with people and organisations we know matter in the real world. By starting with this human insight you massively reduce the scale of data you’re looking at. We then carefully select the right social signals that contribute valuable information to work out who matters to them. The machine's role here isn't to suddenly pluck the truth from thin air, but to increase the speed and scale of this second step beyond what would humanly be possible. Hence, we call it a “superhuman” approach. Big data might be one direction to take, but in this case we believe, small can be better. Adam Parker is chief executive of Realwire and can be found at @adparker
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