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The word data is not known for generating a great deal of excitement unless you are among a very particular group of people. Social media experts are not generally who you would think of as members of that group; but what if I told you that there were over 300 social media experts gathered in Boulder, CO to spend two days talking about nothing besides social data? Two days of some of the biggest names in and around social media, from top platforms, to the music industry, to academia all talking about the power of social data and its many applications. That is worthy of a little of a little buzz and a lot of industry excitement.

The scenario described is the reality of the Big Boulder Conference hosted by the Big Boulder Initiative. BBI is made up a group of professionals who not only see the value of social data for industry advancement, but also understand that with that great amount of personal data comes the responsibility of protecting and maintaining it (enter Spiderman reference here). One of the greatest aspects of this group is the variety of expertise and experience that it brings together. Unlike many conferences where most of the name badges feature the same or similar job titles, Big Boulder had professionals from all different industries and backgrounds. With that variety came two days of insightful and provoking conversations about how social media and social data have and will impact businesses and consumers, from programmatic advertising to social research to privacy concerns.

IMG_4656While I had my favorite speakers from the conference (my 8 year old self was pretty excited to meet Taylor Hanson) all of the speakers and panelists gave me a lot to think about. Social data is no longer just about users, retweets, and impressions or even creating the most effective content for platforms. One of the greatest insights highlighted is the fact that brands or parties do not have to be on any given platform to benefit from their data. Retailers can use Foursquare traffic heat maps to identify areas of growth and opportunity in a community, financial planners have utilized Pinterest data to develop a content strategy around building better spending and saving habits, all without ever creating a profile. Away from industry benefits, social data holds benefits for academics and community and organizational leaders working for the social good. Using Twitter data to help distribute help after a natural disaster, a very real application already being developed.

As we become more connected to platforms, devices, and each other we are constantly creating an immense amount of data. How that data is used, and insuring that it is used in the correct way, will fall to the people who understand it best. BCN looks forward to being a part of that group.