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“The next generation is present in the new media and companies that only focus on the old media will not be engaged with the new generation.” — Kellogg Professor Alok Choudhary

Kellogg Professor Alok Choudhary

A limitless focus group

Big data in social media has transformed marketing. Kellogg Professor Alok Choudhary challenges companies to take advantage of this goldmine

By Daniel P. Smith

10/4/2012 - According to Kellogg Professor Alok Choudhary, traditional marketing tactics fall short in today’s fast-paced, social media-fueled world.

In a Social Media Week-Chicago event hosted by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism on Sept. 28, Choudhary detailed how massive amounts of social media data could help companies understand, engage and learn from their customers and even competitors to drive marketing success.

“Now, we have the ability to understand millions of users,” said Choudhary, who doubles as a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Northwestern University and is also the founder and CEO of Voxsup, a Chicago-based social media analytics and advertising platform.

Utilizing big data
In his hour-long presentation — “Action-Based Connections: Big Data Analytics in Social Media” — Choudhary described how social media has transformed marketing and communication into a multi-way conversation with a complex flow of information through massive networks and multiple languages in real-time.

For companies, this has created what Choudhary termed a “limitless focus group.”

The current challenge, Choudhary said, is to leverage this information of significant volume and variety, extract actionable insights and move beyond traditional ways of marketing, product design and engaging with customers. He added that big data secured from social media can help companies find ambassadors and influencers to market, plan and compete in the evolving world.

Creating action-based connections
To best utilize big data in social media, Choudhary championed “action-based connections,” which he said analyze social networks with billions of edges and comments to find patterns of connections and interests.

It is, after all, a customer’s actions that will define his or her propensity to engage with a particular brand or specific offer, Choudhary said.

Using examples from the political world — Barack Obama and Mitt Romney — as well as the retail world, such as Target — Choudhary detailed how action-centric big data culled from social media can drive an organization’s marketing message right down to semantics.

“The big-data goal is high-end analytics and actionable insights,” Choudhary said, adding that social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn allow organizations to forge cost-effective connections with customers.

Following his program, Choudhary said organizations that recognized the value of big data analytics and executed a strategy around its insights would be better positioned for success.

“The next generation is present in the new media and companies that only focus on the old media will not be engaged with the new generation,” he said.

Further reading
Evolution to revolution: Marketing’s next leap forward

Marketing’s brave new world