MBPT Spotlight: The Human Side of Data: Think People, Not Profiles

Information is growing; it’s getting bigger and moving faster. Modern businesses know there is an opportunity to seize, but how do we think smart when it comes to Big Data?

The answer: Thinking smart is about thinking “people first.”

Gathering data on people—what they do, when, where, how often—can seem intrusive. My Jawbone app monitors my vitals and my mobile apps show my location. Data is making it easier for marketers to be nosy. It blurs private and public boundaries.

But it also means having the ability to know people better and get closer to them. Businesses should see an individual’s data as an invitation to get personal and an opportunity to move away from the idea that everyone is an average. LinkedIn and Netflix know this, allowing their users to personalize their own experience. They have created an exchange where individuals value sharing their personal information.

Data shouldn’t be a zero-sum game. People like to share with friends and family because it enriches their lives to do so. Yet, they live by the adage, “Don’t talk to strangers”—and most brands are strangers. That’s why they should offer something in exchange. They need to ask themselves: “What can I do for people by using their data?”

Also remember, data in itself is useless. What matters is interpretation and storytelling.

Today, people’s lives move so quickly that it’s critical that brands be able to stop, connect and accelerate with them. Data and analytics can help with this by giving insights on how to better entertain and inform. People should feel that data is being used in their interest, removing the friction between them and what they want. Amazon did this with “one-click.” The same is true of services that allow users to login with their Facebook profile.

It takes effort to derive value from data. But if you treat data (read: people) as valuable, you have more chance of creating value.

Data only gives you the power to tell better stories. Coca-Cola has been telling the same story for more than 100 years. And now, thanks to a new treasure trove of data, it can tell that story in a richer, more meaningful way.