The difference between big data and small data:

Big data is an ever-growing ocean of data sets that show large-scale trends and correlations – and this is kind of a problem. It’s such a huge amount of information that standard data processing software can’t handle it all. It represents hundreds of millions or billions of data points. It can be used to forecast trends, optimize supply chains, or just figure out the best time to post on Instagram.

It can tell you all kinds of quantified information, so if you want to know what, when, where, or how much, this is the type of data you look at.  The big problem with big data is, it can only be used this way.

Plus, in many cases, it’s based on information from bigger businesses. This means it doesn’t necessarily represent your customers or your market.

If you want to understand why or how, you have to shift to small data. Small data shows qualified information about people and their behavior. It gives you insights, helps you understand the reasons for the trends, and shows you how changes might affect things. Organizational psychology was practically built on small data!

Best of all, small data works on any scale. It can be as small as your own business and still be incredibly useful!

4 types of small data you should be tracking right now:

User experience (UX). This will tell you whether you’re providing what customers actually want and expect from you. This category covers a lot of ground, from your social media and online store to your products and service. This is a measure of the perception customers get from interacting with your business, whether it’s in-person, by phone, or online. If this perception is positive, they’ll be back. If not, you might lose them. So tracking this is one way to find out why you’re gaining or losing customers.

Maximize it: ask every customer what they expected that they didn’t see or get from you. You could create a single-item survey for this and send the survey link along with seasonal (pre-holiday) greetings to every customer you’ve had in the past year.

Customer relationships. Customer data isn’t about fine-tuning your customer personas, it’s a measure of the quality of your relationship with real people. I mean, definitely use actual customer information to guide your marketing! But this is your in-house indicator of how accessible and engaging you are. By extension, it tells you how friendly and helpful your customers perceive you to be.

Maximize it: engage with your social media followers. Ask questions and invite interaction, whether you get any audience response or not. Always be receptive and always acknowledge comments and messages.

Complaints. Know the areas and intensity of complaints. This will pinpoint your trouble spots if you pay attention to what people tell you…and what they don’t. Complaints can help you develop top-notch customer service and retention policies!

Maximize it: research from Arizona State University finds customers are 11 times more likely to complain by phone than online. If you don’t have a person available to take complaint calls, set up a “complaint line” to record everything. Ask customers to explain the issue and also rate the seriousness of the matter.

Reach. This is an analytic that shows how many people are likely to see any particular social media post. Sounds more like a vanity metric than small data, doesn’t it? But wait! Interpret it this way: organic reach divided by the number of followers is how likely a customer is to recommend you. The closer you get to 1, the better. (Unfortunately, to get closer to 1 usually requires you to pay for reach, in the form of ads. Now, paid reach is a useful metric too, since it helps you figure out the ROI on a particular ad. But it doesn’t tell you what your followers think about you!)

Maximize it: focus most of your resources on your owned channels – your website or blog. Then, make sure you’re posting quality content to other social channels. In this case, “quality” means whatever your followers consider valuable from you.

If you aren’t already tracking these types of small data, it’s a good time to start. The information you gather can help you adjust year-end strategy or plan goals for the next quarter. So what are you waiting for?

If you have any questions about how to start, just ask me – you can leave a comment below or message me on Facebook.

In the meantime, please take a moment to like and share this post with your network. Thanks!

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