Social Media, Big Data and a Very Big Snake.

Published: 11 October 2012

While I truly get the B2B and B2C play that social media, big data offers, sometimes as a sole consumer I find it hard to really see how it might impact ‘me’.

Events of Monday morning brought this a little more to life. Every morning I toddle down to grab keys, coat, briefcase and crackberry. Most mornings my inbox has a familiar form; a couple of client/candidate emails, a few automated reminders from HR and alerts about new followers on Twitter.  Monday was no different.

My Twitter presence is far from prolific. I tweet about things that interest me professionally, and personally, and that others may find interesting too.  During a family outing to the West Midlands Safari Park on the previous afternoon, somewhere amidst ice creams, face painting and the Reptile House, I snapped a picture of the renowned herpetologist Mark O’Shea, accompanied by a large reticulated python. He was giving a simple ‘snakes 101’ type speech to Jo Public. Mark that is, not the snake. A fascinating but unremarkable event.

Now I don’t make a habit of tweeting about reptiles… in fact this was my first. It was pretty much anonymous and deliberately didn’t feature any hash tags or ‘@’ identities to give it any chance of trending.  I don’t believe it was retweeted and certainly raised no direct response. So, imagine my surprise to find a specialist exotic pet & reptile supplies provider following me in fewer than 24 hours.

While this is hardly the complex case study that any big data advocate might espouse, the principal is there. Some form of consumer preference was expressed, it was identified and a marketing response followed. Given the relatively mundane nature of my tweet, I am convinced that a fair amount of analytical power was flexed to find it. Sadly for my new follower no matter how big or small the data, it failed them…. I’m not allowed a pet snake.

Matt Cockbill is a Partner and Head of Technology Practice for Berwick Partners, and is only allowed four legged pets.

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