Affiliate Marketing Tools

What is Dark Data and What Does It Mean for Marketers?

By John Rampton

Maximize Your Marketing: Eight Questions to Ask as You Introduce a Data Management Strategy

Although dark data sounds ominous or potentially illegal, it’s neither. However, dark data is something you need to be aware of and be prepared to address it.

Data is being created at an exponential rate due, in large measure to what is being labeled as dark data, which is defined as unstructured and untagged data that has not been processed or analyzed. Basically, it’s available data that no one has done anything with to reap value from it. This data can come from any connected device, social media, or the Internet, in general.

There may be many reasons why a company hasn’t touched this data. The data is either too complex or is located somewhere that analysis would be too difficult to conduct. Either way, the resources required are too much for a company to make it feel worth their while.

At the same time, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the data that is available and that could be used. The challenge is how to get to it, how to know which data is worth the investment, and what it all means for preparing a business for future opportunities.

Focus on What You Can Control

While you could try to lasso all the data that is possibly available, I’d suggest focusing on the data you already have and making sense of that first. Anyone can grab data from anywhere, collecting leads and contact information as well as competitor insights.

What can make the difference between your company and everyone else, is your ability to disseminate and identify behaviors and buying patterns within your accessible data that can change how you target and interact with your audience. While everyone else is taking the Pac-Man approach to data, you will be winning over more prospects and deepening your relationship with customers.

To start with the data you already have accumulated, you will need to forego thinking about what you could be missing within all that dark data and create a strategy to find more meaning:

  • Set a limit on the volume of data you will measure. Think about your current resources and how much you can accomplish with that.
  • Create parameters around the channels and a timeframe of data that you will analyze.
  • Determine what type of data you need to leverage that to help your business in strategic ways related to the customer experience, marketing, and sales efforts.

A good example of this would be with our invoice product. Over the past years we’ve had over 27 million invoices sent. We originally were trying to analyze everything. We soon changed to just the number of invoices, proximity and how fast they were paid. This gave us a much clearer objective and achievable metrics to discuss. We weren’t trying to make theories on things we couldn’t control.

A Plan for Dark Social

However, there is some dark data that you may want to pursue with the help of artificial intelligence, and that dark data comes from dark social. This data involves anything that has been shared on a social basis but that cannot be tracked because it was done via a private messaging channel. The links included in this channel do not have a referral tag associated with them so when the recipient gets that link and clicks on it, your analytics will show it as direct traffic when, in actual fact, it is anything but.

You don’t necessarily want to forego this dark data because it appears as though it will grow and become a preferred way for people to share information with each other. If you don’t track it somehow you will be missing out on shifting trends and behaviors that could impact your business. The solution here is to turn to a chatbot that you can use on certain platforms, including Facebook Messenger. While the chatbots cannot solve false data, it can provide more data that can be analyzed on its own for certain insights. You may also want to consider adding social sharing links to email and Whatsapp on your website as well to get more of an idea on how it is being shared and with who.

Tap Into the Data Treasure Troves

There’s so much untapped data out there that offers the treasure of more customer insights. However, you can’t disregard the treasures you already have just to collect more. Start with the gold you have amongst existing data, mine it and put it to work, and then, once that has been used appropriately, go back to the treasure trove amongst the dark data for more.

If your data management strategy is still a little shaky, we have your back. Download the Maximizing Your Marketing guide so you can iron out the kinks and start delivering quality engagements.

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