Ninety percent of all the data in the world has been generated over the last few years. This data is constantly being produced by logging onto our computers and mobile devices or having our behavior tracked by cameras and card usage. Big data is changing the way our world operates and the way that we decipher information around us.

For instance, through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, marketers can gain access to millions of people without making a single inquiry. When launching a campaign, marketers can quickly, efficiently and accurately learn about the demographics of their audience, their personal preferences and gender. Also, data protection problems do not pertain to large groups, so researchers can compare large groups without having to look at people on an individual level.

The ability to learn about a particular audience is invaluable for both social researchers and marketers because it sheds light on what drives human behavior. Facebook, for example, has looked into how people use the social site and have found that users’ messages are getting shorter each year. We’ve seen how successful Twitter has been in their own pursuit of sharing messages that are 140 characters or less.

Another trend is that more young people are sharing information through visual content such as images and short videos. We’ve seen Instagram and Vine soar in popularity thanks to their visual-friendly platform that favors more imagery and less text. Using big data, today’s businesses have been able to craft their marketing campaigns to appeal to their audience and increase product interest and sales.

As beneficial as it can be to crunch numbers on social networking sites, social researchers must also be aware that social media is a hub for misinformation and confusion. Therefore, not everything that is gathered from these sites is factual, and this can lead to a pool of data that is largely flawed. That’s why it’s important for marketers to use big data as a guide, but continue to learn about their audience in more conventional ways while also measuring their success.

Big data is exciting because without it, we wouldn’t be able to process or make sense of information so large. We can expect to continue making strides in this area, but we must also be mindful that data coming from social media channels is not always truthful.