Silver Win a Wake-Up Call for Companies Not Using Big Data

by Eric Melin on November 8, 2012

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Forget politics for a second.

“The big story is that big data won.”

– tech investor and entrepreneur Mark Birch on the 2012 election.

Whether you nickname him the “king of quants” or the “patron saint of big data,” Nate Silver has every right to take a huge victory lap following his big win on election night 2012.

The FiveThirtyEight blogger predicted correctly how all 50 states would go in the presidential election, not to mention almost every U.S. Senate and House race. Check out the map comparison below:


How Did He Do It?

By aggregating and analyzing large digital data sets from many different sources (national polls, state-level polls, electoral outcomes, historical polls, economic variables, demographics, and party registration figures to name a few), Silver came up with his own prediction model. He correlated data, used statistical models, ran simulations, and focused on probabilities.

In short, Silver created his own custom method for data analysis based on the metrics that mattered.

What Does This Mean For Business?

Since the digital world has increased the availability of big data sets, companies now have access to all kinds of business data. Why not correlate the traditional sets of data that your business already uses with the wealth of publicly available data on the Internet? Your company is used to extracting value and insight from traditional methods, but if you haven’t done so already, it’s time to explore the massive unstructured data set that is the world wide web. That includes social media, but it also means looking at the Internet more comprehensively.

What does the Internet have to tell you about your brand, your products, your customers, your competition? Can the data you collect and analyze help you generate leads and close new business? Will the insight you collect inform your marketing direction going forward? How about your product development? By combining traditional business data with web monitoring, benchmarking, and constant tracking, will you be able to help your company improve and innovate rather than play catch-up?

I realize those questions were kind of loaded. The answers are: “a ton,” and “yes,””yes,” “yes,” and “yes.”

Nate Silver aggregated big data and his formulated his own algorithms to accurately predict the election. Just think what you could do with targeted strategic data about your business.

Images: CBS News,, Paras Doshi

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