On a rainy Saturday I was watching some older episodes of the BBC automotive program, Top Gear, from 2004. When it came time to flash their Web address onscreen, the hosts fawned and stumbled over the program’s then-new URL as though they were unveiling something that was—to use the descriptor they typically apply to the latest pavement-warping exotic car—truly epic. Accelerate to the present and there seems to be the same dash of magic around social media. These forums have already captured our imagination and woven themselves into our culture – changing it subtly but measurably. It would have been hard not to have social media emerge as a theme in this issue of Deloitte Review. But equally important is the rising importance of social data – the digital exhaust created in ever increasing volumes as our lives move online.
I was introduced to the digital exhaust metaphor by the authors of Making Sense of Social Data, featured in this issue. As we produce and capture increasing quantities of situational data—a trail of transactions, travels and interactions—we open the door to a revolution in deriving value from data. While we have already seen strategies founded upon the innovative use of online data, even more “truly epic” possibilities have to do with understanding and acting on behavioral, attitudinal and psychographic data. It is time once again for business leaders to rethink how they can know and influence their customers.
More controversially, social data are our property – or may be, depending on whom you ask. In Gold Rush, we have a look at the issues that have already begun to emerge in headlines and boardrooms. My favorite passage: “With the press of a key, touch of a screen or swipe of a credit card, personal information moves from the physical to the digital world, where expectations of ownership and the use of these data—particularly data (or a combination of data elements) that previously did not exist or that have not historically been recognized as having value—are not always well defined.” In a kind of reverse supply chain, the producers are all of us. We generate the raw materials that analytically astute businesses transform into products and services of unprecedented sophistication – by digitally crawling inside our minds and our psyches.
The balance of privacy, ownership of data and innovation has yet to play out. There is even the potential for a “so what” factor in some or all of this. The opportunities, however, are – well, truly epic.