Flying Over The Forest

We were talking about using data on a call this morning and someone was trying to make a point that I thought you all might find of interest.  It’s the same sort of issue that arises when I talk to my clients about Twitter and web analytics – that of dealing with an overwhelming amount of information.  I’m sure you’ve had to deal with that if you work in digital or marketing or both.  What might be a little different is my advice about all that data:  ignore it.

When you’re walking through the woods, you see each tree.  If you’re driving through the woods, the trees blur as your speed increases.  If you fly over the woods, you generally can’t identify a particular tree but you can see what all those trees combine to create as a forest.  It’s a view that is impossible to take in if you’re too close to any particular group of trees – you need the broader perspective.

That’s my advice on data – don’t get too focused on a point or two and focus instead on the trends those hundreds or thousands of points create.  Many of our businesses get paralyzed by something we found out in the moment – a drop in sales, a jump in expenses – but we don’t wait until the trend is clear.  I know that sometimes its too late to take corrective action by the time the trend is clear, but taking note of what might be a problem and preparing to act is very different from knee-jerk responses to incomplete information.

The value of Twitter is the trends we can extract from it as well as its ability to communicate.  Frankly, that’s a primary business value  behind Facebook and other social media in my opinion as well – aggregated data which can be packaged, resold, and acted upon.

Seen any good forests lately?

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