The New York Times Style Magazine website published an article yesterday about the realities of using Big Data and information from social media sites as a representation of public opinion. What’s trending on social media isn’t an accurate representation of the entirety of public opinion because not everyone uses social media.
I completely agree with author Andrew Ross Sorkin in his call for judgement and patience from businesses regarding the use of Big Data in decision making. Big Data is a term used to describe the large quantities and varieties of data that companies acquire from users in market research and analysis. It is useful because it gives a lot of information to a company very quickly, but if the company jumps to conclusions on why the information says what is says, they can make a bad call.
You can’t make important decisions quickly because of what people are posting on Twitter because those people might not matter to your business. Hashtags and what’s trending on the internet tell other mediums like television and radio what’s important. Even global news corporations check what is trending each day! Big Data can help a company see what social media users are posting about but these users are not exhaustive of the public.
You would think Twitter’s demographic wouldn’t be a mystery to CEO’s and the analysts of large businesses. It is common knowledge that young people use Twitter and young people are more likely to lean left. If major businesses are relying on the 17-25 year-olds to tell them what is important or newsworthy then they are seriously mistaken.
The lesson of the story is that businesses need to pay attention to their audience and what their audience wants and needs. If your business isn’t geared toward young liberals on the east or west coast, then you shouldn’t be too concerned with what is trending on Twitter.
In class we have talked about whether market research in the media industry makes the news business better or worse. If businesses get into bad habits with Big Data then opinions via social media will definitely serve them for the worse. Just because we have the ability to make fast decisions because this instant live feed Big Data doesn’t mean we should.
The article by NY Times Columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin is below.