How Social Media Could Shape the Future of Big Data
We’re in the middle of the big data revolution. Companies are starting to gain access to more data than ever before, and data analysts are creating and using more sophisticated tools to make predictions about complex systems.
But the future of big data is being influenced by many variables—the hard limits of technological growth, supply and demand of data experts, business needs, and even consumer preferences. At the convergence point of these influences is one surprising sector, which could have a bigger role to play in the future of data than we previously could have imagined: social media.
Social Media’s Influence
These are just some of the ways social media platforms could dictate the future of big data:
- Consumer data access. First, social media companies have access to enormous quantities of data. Our most popular apps have hundreds of millions of users, or in Facebook’s case, more than a billion, and for each of those users, a platform has access to a history of personal posts, likes, interests, and demographic information. There are few other applications that have the potential to gather that much information about so many people, giving social media platforms far more potential for development in the future.
- Business tools. We also can’t discount the ways that social media companies have made data analytics accessible to more businesses. Facebook tools give entrepreneurs and small business owners a way to learn in-depth features of their target audiences, and an intuitive platform for crunching the numbers. Statistical analysis and data projections once limited to the realm of data scientists and analysts have now become available to even the least experienced amateurs. Social platforms are incentivized to improve accessibility for other businesses, so it makes sense they would have some of the most innovative software.
- Access to resources. The biggest social media giants around today have tremendous access to resources, and influence to put those resources to good use. Facebook, for example, is now worth nearly half a trillion dollars. With an incentive to learn more about their customers and innovate new, exciting technologies, these companies already have the money and the talent necessary to make those visions a reality.
- Competition. The sheer number of social media apps is also a factor worth consideration. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram (owned by Facebook), and Snapchat may be the frontrunners for now, but there will always be room for more major players. The competition has two major effects; first, the threat of companies operating in the same space forces each company to stay on top of its game. It encourages faster, more thorough innovation. Second, the number of progressing tech companies multiplies the amount of data and tools available to the public.
- Privacy concerns and regulations. The influence of social media over the future of data isn’t just about accessibility; social media apps are also drawing attention to issues of consumer privacy, as evidenced by the latest in a long line of scandals. As consumers and policymakers learn more about how apps like Facebook collect and manage data, they’ve become increasingly concerned about regulation and protection. The EU and other governing bodies are moving to establish firmer policies on data rights, which could have long-lasting consequences for any business involved in big data.
The New Rules
Already, social media platforms are making waves in establishing the rules and norms of mass data management. Facebook might have access to more consumer data than any other business, especially since it’s capable of tracking you offline, and more social apps are sure to follow in its footsteps. Regardless of whether you’re directly involved in social media, or whether you use socially-gathered data in your own role, it’s going to be important to monitor the development of data norms if you want a leg up on the industry.