The term, “Big Data” is difficult to define. Analyst Doug Laney called it “The 3 Vs” in 2001, meaning volume, velocity and variety. In simple terms, this means Big Data is “a large amount of stuff, being generated very quickly, and incorporating a wide variety of content.” Doug’s definition is popular, but not everyone agrees with him. Some said it’s oversimplification, and others said it has ignored some other metrics that count for Big Data. In simple terms, I would say Big Data is any data sets too large to process using conventional methods like an Excel spreadsheet, Powerpoint or text processors. Sometimes, it takes parallel software running on thousands of servers just to handle Big Data. Things like keyword research, social media marketing and trend searches all use Big Data applications, and if you use the Internet – of course you do – you’re already interacting with Big Data. By now you’re probably wondering how Big Data can help your business. Well, I would say many ways. First, I should add that while big Data is great, it’s not something you can wrestle without the help of powerful tools and software – and neither should you try. What you really need from all this data are insights to help you make smart business decisions. 1. Explore trends on Google One of the many free products offered by Google is Google Trends which helps translate data into insights. If I sell leads to car companies, I can load up Google Trend and search for “cars” so I can see the top related search terms. I can discover that the search volume for “luxury cars” is on the rise. This is a great business opportunity for me. With this insight, I could create content on luxury cars, optimize it for search engines and promote it with smart SEO strategies to attract new visitors to my website. 2. Track and streamline your business Thanks to big data, there are already services and systems that allow startups to register their companies online. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re a serious business owner, you already know you should track and organize your income, taxes, and expenses like workers’ salaries, mortgage repayments, utility bills, insurance premium, legal fees, etc. And now, with a Big Data processor like Amazon’s EMR, you can track all these and many more. This not only allows you to make faster, fact-based decisions, it also helps you create better customer experiences based on previous interactions with them. For instance, tracking your business data can help you accelerate time-to-answer by using Big Data technologies to create a powerful database of common problems so you can answer customers’ questions in seconds or minutes, not hours or days. 3. Retarget your ads Marketers used to buy ads on sites they anticipated their target was likely hanging out on based on their demographic or psychographic profile. Today, thanks to Big Data, the guesswork is out of it. Ad serving platforms now use Big Data technologies to gather information about a site’s visitors, their interests and their purchases. So use retargeting in your ad campaigns and you can recapture visitors who left your website without converting. 4. Intelligently monitor social media It’s called social listening, and it’s a game winner. As a smart online business owner, you want to keep tabs on what customers, detractors and everyone else are saying about your brand, your competitor and relevant issues in your industry. This will give you an opportunity to respond, engage and correct. You can easily know about disaffections with your blog, products and services and respond to right the wrong before it goes viral. You can also see why people love your service and do more of what they love. Everyone sees you listen and you care. Social listening is easy with premium tools like Adobe Marketing Cloud or Radian6. And if you want to go with free tools, SocialMention.com does a decent job of giving you a bird’s eye view of mentions of you on blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, forums, comments, videos and images.