Beyond Big Data: Why Human Interpretation Still Counts

Many companies boast that they are "data driven," and rely heavily on customer information gathered from a variety of sources. But if you blindly follow that data, you'll miss the motivations behind it — the human emotions and factors that drive customers to make the decisions they do. This is where intuition and interpretation come into play, a concept that online marketing firm Wpromote calls "intuitive search intelligence."

"Data can tell you that this ad is better than that one, but human intuition asks why," said Mike Mothner, CEO of Wpromote. "You need to ask what to improve and why. A machine can't inherently answer this."

The key to a successful, data-driven marketing strategy is finding the perfect intersection between technology and human expertise, Mothner said. Powerful tech tools should support and guide, not carry your operations. [5 Big Data Solutions for Small Businesses]

"Humans will always need to play a role in analyzing data," added John Huehn, founder and CEO of social media solutions provider In the Chat. "But using solutions like text-mining algorithms and Natural Language Processing minimizes the need for humans to categorize data, enabling them to spend time on the more important component, which is analyzing the data and identifying trends. Technology does the tedious work of pulling the data apart and categorizing it, so humans can spend time truly deriving insights and taking action."

Because there's so much potential customer information to process, businesses need to focus on the most important pieces of data. Many marketing experts recommend honing in on social media, and monitoring real-time conversations among target consumers.

"With social media monitoring, you're getting real-time, verbatim, unbiased insight into what consumers are saying about your brand and your competitors," Huehn said. "You can use this to drive decisions in your business. By monitoring conversations, you can understand what's top of mind for your customers and use this quantified, qualified data to take actions within your organization."

Following hashtags and keywords that mark a definitive life event (i.e., #justengaged, #movingday or "new car") can be a great way to understand your audience and personalize your marketing efforts, said Jeff Revoy, CEO of social management platformViralheat. It's also a good idea to focus on key mentions from industry influencers and customers on social media so you can determine where people are most engaged.

"Filtering out the qualified leads from the large amounts of noise is a huge challenge," Revoy said. "Social analytics [helps to] overcome this challenge."

The fact that SEO algorithms favor high-quality, informative pieces of content over link-heavy promotional material proves that taking human intent into account is a marketer's best bet.

"Create websites and content for humans," Mothner said. "Don't do it for Google. Google is the machine part, and wants to find the right answer for people. If we create good content for humans, we trust that Google will be good at matching that up. [Marketers] get lost in the shortcuts while looking for a silver bullet. In 2014, a silver bullet doesn't exist. You just have to use your brain and intuition to build unique, relevant content that people want to share."

Originally published on Business News Daily.