Everyone’s talking about data nowadays. Not just any data, but big data. As with many buzzwords or trending topics, we tend to loosely throw around “big data,” without necessarily thinking about what this term really means.

In a general sense, big data refers to datasets that are too large for traditional methods to process. The world is swimming in data. Every which way we go in the digital ocean, some data point is being captured. Payment information, web history, user profiles, geographic coordinates — all data. When we talk about big data, we’re usually referring to data capture, analysis, curation, search, sharing, storage, transfer, visualization, and privacy. Interestingly, we don’t tend to think about the increasing physical infrastructure and use of electricity in server farms, but this also an element of our current data revolution.

Big data can mean more than just larger numbers or more impressive computing power. Big data is about understanding the complexity or patterns woven between data points. It’s not enough to collect data, the real question that drives markets and new trends is, “What does the data mean now? And what will it mean in the future?”

Understanding the current stream of data is about real-time analysis, and so does benefitting from improved infrastructure. This is the “number crunching” aspect of big data. To accurately predict what data-sets might look like in different future scenarios, it’s also necessary to have a current and historical picture of your data. Developing predictive models, involves statistical algorithms as well as keen market insights. For marketing professionals, big data is about gaining unprecedented insights into customer behavior, and better understanding the complex relationship between a brand and consumers.

The idea is to use data in such a way that it can create a unique and engaging experience for each customer or prospect. Here’s where a marketing automation platform (MAP) comes into play:

  • Data Collection / Lead Capture: MAPs can turn all of your digital assets, in particular your website, into data capture machines. Web forms and CTAs capture data, which is automatically logged into the system.

  • Brand Messaging: By allowing you to schedule and post content across multiple channels (email, social, blog, etc.) you can keep your messaging from becoming diluted.

  • Predictive and Behavioral Analytics: With more data points collected for each consumer everyday, the trick for marketers is to find effective ways to leverage that data. Using a MAP, you can run lead-specific automation rules to best engage with that individual.

  • Data Visualization: Most of us think best in pictures. Data visualization allows you to get a quick overview of your marketing activity and ROI, and make sense of the data in no time.

Perhaps a more accurate term than big data might be “messy data.” It can often be difficult to spot meaningful trends in datasets, and even harder to translate these trends into actionable items for marketing and sales teams. With marketing automation, predictive analytics, and data visualization you not only can filter relevant data for different tasks, but by understanding interconnections between datapoints, you can apply that information to take action and effectively grow your business.