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Cloud, function and flexibility: The big data strategy powering social media campaigns

31 Jul, 2015

Semin Nurkic, CTO of Stackla, for IT ProPortal, waxes on social media phenoms. According to Nurkic:

Social media fascinates and confuses many corporations. You can’t blame them. On one hand it’s an opportunity to listen to their customers and drive deeper engagement. On the other hand, the wrong social media campaign could see an organisation fall flat on its face. In expensive or embarrassing ways.

This is partly a philosophical problem about how a brand wants to be perceived on social media. It’s also, in large part, a technology problem. Understanding and acting on social data is one of the defining challenges of the first big data era.

Unstructured data is pouring out of social media platforms. It’s messy and it’s unpredictable. Traditional databases are unsuitable for processing this kind of data. But when all you have is a relational database, everything can look like a row or a column. This is the wrong approach for social media. It is well documented that many organisations are not prepared for this influx of social data.

I’m CTO of a company called Stackla, a social platform that aggregates, analyses and curates social media content. In this article I want to look at how the technology decisions our company made are enabling us help some of the biggest organisations in the world harness the power of social data.

From making The Commonwealth Games the “Social Games” to providing TopShop with an 11:1 ROI on its Fashion Week social media campaign.

The data revolution will not be structured

Social media is the quintessential big data problem. The raw volume of data is massive and the variety of data types is mindblowing. Commentators have speculated that there are more types of social media data than there are 30 Rock GIFs on the internet.

Videos, Vines, images, location data, GIFs, individual metrics and personal information – just a few of the multitude of data genres generated on the social web. And every piece of it is unstructured data that doesn’t fit into the traditional IT view of information. Imagine a fast moving river flowing with every piece of Lego ever created. With one small net you need to pick out all the grey bricks. Then cross reference that with all the bricks that are required to make the Lego Millennium Falcon.

It’s not difficult. It’s impossible. You need to fundamentally change the way you view and understand the river.

Function and flexibility

To create a platform that was flexible and scalable enough for the entire social web we had to look away from traditional solutions like relational databases. In 2010, after testing a number of options, we started building Stackla on MongoDB, the fastest growing database in the world.

...Social media can be a frightening game to be in. We’ve had some success with Stackla but a new holographic social platform could come out tomorrow (it’s only a matter of time). We need to be able quickly help our customers understand and capitalise on this new platform.

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