What Are You Doing with Your Data?
by Linda Goin

Do you have a list of prior customers or vendors? How do you compile that information, and do you use it to benefit your business? In this article, Linda begins to look at how data mining can help increase your sales and services.

Mining for Marketing

I never was an organized person, and my ability to keep tabs on various resources is minimal. I've always relied on searches to find what I needed, but things have changed lately. My contacts now may not be on the Internet, and some resources aren't in the phone book. My need for a database that can help me find what I need quickly and use it to my advantage is now a priority.

So I'm delving into data mining, a branch of computer science that extracts patterns from data. This practice already is in wide use for marketing, surveillance, fraud detection, scientific discovery and profiling. You and I both have been "mined" by social media tools and search engines and other algorithms that extract data from our Internet use. You can see this evidence when you visit a page that offers deals only in your area...or with your interests in mind.

While many individuals consider data mining a violation of privacy, that objection already is a moot issue. Unless you use an anonymous browser (like Anonymouse), any company that utilizes data mining can say, "Ur data is ourz." While collecting data itself may seem neutral, it is how that data is used that may raise questions and eyebrows.

For all intents and purposes, you can conduct your own data mining and be fairly innocuous about it. When you use Google Analytics or Facebook's Fan Page Insights, you're using data extraction. It's HOW you use it that is the key...do you just look at it and frown when figures are down and smile when numbers are up? Or, do you utilize that information to change content, refocus on sales or add more services?

Data Mining Explained

You may think that data mining is insignificant if you are a graphic designer...maybe less so if you are a developer. But, if you do your own marketing, then data retrieval, storage and analysis is vital. Once you begin to realize how data farming can alter your sales, you may wonder how people get along without it.

But, first to understand data mining at a level where you can use it without it taking over your time, let alone your life? The first way to get a grip on data mining is to understand what it is, and how it might affect your business. The following 25 articles cover a wide range of data mining issues, listed in no particular order. These articles can explain the depth and breadth of data mining and what it means for today's – and tomorrow's – society:

1.Data Mining: An Introduction. About.com provides a overview of data mining techniques for the general public.

2.Software Ethics: Data Mining & Privacy Issues. This link provides a brief overview of uses for data mining techniques, including its use by businesses, government agencies, and medical practitioners. It examines the ethical questions surrounding the use of data mining.

3.Information Week: The Ethics of Data. Discusses some of the issues surrounding data mining, including an increasing concern over invasion of privacy and the role of IT professionals.

4.Where Data Mining, Privacy Policies, and Identity Theft Intersect. A researcher discusses the use data mining applications by research institutions, such as universities.

5.Data Mining vs Privacy. A site that weighs the pros and cons of data mining for insurance companies.

6.Toward Standardization in Privacy-Preserving Data Mining. An article [pdf] discussing the standardization of privacy-preserving techniques in data mining.

7.Customer Acquisition and Data Mining. An article that explains how data mining is used to attract new customers.

8.An Introduction to Data Mining. Aimed primarily at businesses that might use data mining, this article provides an in-depth look at what data mining is and how it works.

9.Data Mining. Also aimed at businesses, this article gives a brief overview of data mining, touches on the social issues raised, including privacy issues, and provides links to more information

10.Data Mining and Customer Relationships. This site explains the basic ideas behind data mining in fairly simple terms and examines the reasons businesses now use data mining techniques.

11.Understanding Data Mining. Another look at how data mining works, focusing on understanding how to read the data.

12.Visualising Data Mining Models. A further, in-depth look at reading and understanding data mining models.

13.An Overview of Data Mining Techniques. A discussion of different techniques used in data mining and how these different from certain other concepts, such as statistics.

14.WiseGeek: Different Data Mining Techniques. A brief article outlining the different methods used in data mining. It also provides links to further information.

15.Data Mining: The Benefits. A site that examines the up-side of data mining for businesses.

16.If Only I Knew. A somewhat simpler guide to using data mining techniques in your own business.

17.Investor Home: Data Mining. An article discussing some of the technical pitfalls of data mining, including the possibility that a company can misinterpret data or form business plans around false assumptions.

18.Some Thoughts on the Current State of Data Mining Softward Applications. A former developer discusses changes need in data mining software to adapt what was basically an academic endeavour to business use.

19.Data Mining Poses Security Risks. A brief article on the need for caution in sharing private information on social networks, focussed on data mining of online health communities.

20.Controversy Over Data Mining. An article which examines concerns raised over data mining due to the U.S. Government's increased use of this technique in counter-terrorism measures.

21.How to Protect Yourself Against Data Mining. An article outlining the little things we do on-line that expose us to risk of privacy violations by data mining. Aimed at owners of small businesses.

22.Increasing Customer Value by Integrating Data Mining and Campaign Management Software. An article discussing how to find the customers with the highest potential value amid the piles of information data mining produces, and how to use that information once you've found it.

23.Data Mining Can Bring Pinpoin Accuracy to Sales. Another article outlining how best to use the information that data mining can gather.

24.Scoring Your Customers. An article discussing how to actually use a data mining model once it has been created.

25.From Data Mining to Database Marketing. An article that envisions the future of data mining.

At this point, you might ask where you go from here to tap into a marketing tool that could benefit your small business. How can you gather data, and how do you "read" it? What tools might you use and how can you be sure that you are reading the data correctly?

Linda Goin

Linda GoinLinda Goin carries an A.A. in graphic design, a B.F.A. in visual communications with a minor in business and marketing and an M.A. in American History with a minor in the Reformation. While the latter degree doesn't seem to fit with the first two educational experiences, Linda used her 25-year design expertise on archaeological digs and in the study of material culture. Now she uses her education and experiences in social media experiments.

Accolades for her work include fifteen first-place Colorado Press Association awards, numerous fine art and graphic design awards, and interviews about content development with The Wall St. Journal, Chicago Tribune, Psychology Today, and L.A. Times.

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