Big Data, Big Responsibility

Pico Pixel Managing Director Selene Chin explains how to effectively — and ethically — gather information at events.

Selene Chin

What a sensational thing it would be if event planners and marketing professionals could know everything about a target audience. If only there was some kind of tool that could synthesise countless pieces of data on behaviour, needs, and preferences, and build an accurate picture of what people may do, want, feel, and like next.

Well, big data can potentially do all of that for us, and while it won’t tell you absolutely everything about your audience, it can give you more of the deep insight you need in more of the areas that matter than was conceivable even five years ago. If you are an event planner or marketing professional, it can give you the closest thing to a guaranteed slam-dunk on every project.

That is, if you manage the data properly. In many cases, this is where the use of big data has fallen short. So here are some simple insights you can use to help big data live up to its glowing potential as the ultimate predictive tool:

First, understand and plan what information you need to gather while you are planning your event — not afterward. Knowing what you need from the start will make it more likely that you’ll collect data that is actually useful and will be acted on. It will also allow you to plan the most effective means of gathering the data, and allow you to adjust the event or campaign to facilitate that. The idea is to make data collection integral to the audience’s experience — seamless and natural rather than jarring and bothersome.

On that note, it is important to keep in mind that no matter how seamless you make it, data collection is still transactional. Your audience is more likely to cooperate if they feel they’re getting something in return. It could be a free gift or privilege, or just the promise of an even better experience next time.

This also brings us to the crucial matter of transparency. In the area of personal data in particular, it is always best (and often mandatory) to be upfront with the audience about what you want to know and why — and provide assurances that the data will be used solely for this purpose and will not be shared, sold, or otherwise fall into the wrong hands. Generally speaking, honesty will earn you plenty of cooperation.

Other kinds of useful data — behavioural, sales, interactional, etc. — can be equally or more useful to you, depending on your goals, and doesn’t necessarily require the explicit consent and cooperation of the audience to gather. But again, planning yields the best results. Know what you’re looking for, find the best way to get it, and make it integral to your campaign or event.

However, no matter how lavish your success in harvesting data, all your work will have been for naught if you end up overwhelmed by the crop. This is why your forward planning should include not only strategy and tactics of data collection, but also preparation for managing and analysing the resulting volume of information. Needless to say, this should be done in compliance with the promises you made about data integrity and security.

Poor planning is your enemy. Leaving things to chance or expediency opens the door to sloppy security, patchy collection, and ultimately, big data that may lead your event or campaign into a major catastrophe.

Based in Singapore, Selene Chin is the managing director of Pico Pixel. This article was compiled by staff at Untangled, a Singapore-based content, marketing, and business strategy consultancy

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