In this digital age, data is currency. From social media to banking, our businesses and private lives revolve around collecting, consuming, and disseminating information. However, for data to be meaningful and useful, it needs to make sense.
Currently, between 80 and 90% of all data floating around the digital stratosphere is unstructured. Most of this unstructured data is in blocks of text, video, and images that are passed from device to device, person to person, and company to company.
We may each grab a little bit of what we need, but the bulk of it goes unsorted and unused. It isn’t that we don’t wantthe information. It’s just that there’s so much of it, and we don’t know what to do with it once it’s collected.
In a time when information holds value, how do we harness the power of unstructured data and leverage its worth?
Structured vs. unstructured data
Structured data is typically numerical and arranged in such a way that it makes sense such as lists, facts, statistics, graphs, and charts. Unstructured data, sometimes called qualitative data, are usually blocks of text containing pertinent information that you can collect and store in databases.
It may be used to identify trends that can help boost your social media engagement, but for it to have true meaning and usefulness, you need something more granular than raw data collected through an algorithm.
You could learn that your last social media post had a 3% higher engagement than the previous post. But, what can you do with that information unless you learn more about the type of engagement and what made that post more interesting, useful, or entertaining?
One part of the problem is the sheer volume of information coming in and the lack of time and resources available to help make sense of it all. Having systems and tools that help you organize and sort through mass amounts of information can make your life tremendously easier.
How unstructured data is destroying your business
In between structured and unstructured data is semi-structured data. The best example of this is your email inbox. Each email sent contains structured data about who sent it, when, and the general subject. If you have filters properly configured, you can even sort them by the sender or email type.
However, the information that is contained within each individual email remains unstructured until you read it and either dismiss it or decide that it’s worth keeping and using. That’s how you convert unstructured data to useful, actionable, and structured information.
Here are four ways that unstructured data could overwhelm and sink your business and how to turn it around.
1 – Generic customer feedback
From newspaper reviews to customer surveys, consumer opinions have always provided valuable feedback. However, this information is usually based on one person’s opinion of a collection of answers to generic, multiple-choice questions.
Companies that sell products, whether physical or digital, will know how difficult it is to keep track of all the customer inquiries, complaints, and requests. They will also know that there are always common questions and complaints coming through that eat up time and energy.
That’s why it’s important to use software that offers advanced features for service reps to respond to customer inquiries and pull data from those inquiries easily and quickly. This will not only save an incredible amount of time, but it can also be useful for building data analysis reports that are useful for projecting future performance and customer service demands.
Furthermore, conducting customer feedback inquiries with more open-ended questions can provide deeper insight into your audiences’ pain points and needs. One way you can do this is through brief interviews, and then by using voice-to-text analysis to break the information down and sort it into meaningful information.
By digging deeper and allowing the public to provide more personal answers, you could come up with innovative ideas or recommendations for improvements in your service delivery based on their answers.
2 – Too many business reports
How many reports are generated, received, and passed around in your company in a day? We receive .pdf files, spreadsheets, and other forms of information on our desks and through our digital networks all day long.
But how much data from these reports do we strategically read, understand, and turn into actionable information? By deploying technologies like tech analysis, natural language processing, and natural pattern recognition algorithms, we can extract more granular information that can be used to learn more about our customers, make business decisions, and stay ahead of our competition.
3 – Lack of tracking software
Nearly every website, online platform, and digital media resource comes equipped with a built-in means of trackingand solutions for categorizing consumer behavior and their online activity. However, most of us don’t use it for anything more than gathering generic information, statistics, and trends.
We need a mechanism for turning this raw data into specific, actionable information that can be used for brand building, marketing, and customer acquisition/retention. Again, this is where configurable machine learning applications can be strategically deployed to perform insightful analysis and provide detailed information, which you can use for everything from split testing various layouts to improving conversion rates.
4 – Social media metrics
Ever since businesses started to use social media to interact with consumers, these platforms have become indispensable for obtaining information about consumer trends and spreading information about products and services.
Using social media management (SMM) tools can provide us with the specific data and metrics we need to build, grow and scale our social media efforts. Using these tools can simplify your workload.
Online marketing expert Dan Fries of Blue Tree makes the argument that “the key to avoiding burnout, in the race for better engagement, is to minimize energy out and maximize ROI. The best SMM tools can handle your entire social media presence. They reduce complexities and keep your activities in line with your strategic vision, which is to schedule posts, gain engagement metrics, and keep tabs on the competition.”
While we focus on creating viral posts and building awareness, the true power of social media information remains largely untapped by the majority of business leaders and marketers. Sure, we continue to post and interact, but think about it: how many social media posts go unnoticed by our audiences?
Final thoughts about unstructured data
As much as data is money, knowledge is power. Now that you know about the valuable resources buried deep within your databases, you can employ a range of ways to extract that knowledge and put it to good use.