Three ways to get people sailing on your data lake

The lure of the lake

If you check out Google Trends, until October 2015, a lake was a large expanse of water.

In those innocent days, lakes were for painting, swimming, fishing, sailing and hiking round. But data now pours into lakes instead of water, with different sources collected and dammed.

Gartner defines a data lake as …

“a concept that includes a collection of storage instances of various data assets.”

Now, we construct deep reservoirs with data, storing, trapping and mixing our intelligence under the ordered and calm surface, ready for the data divers, sailors, swimmers and fishers.

It’s clear that the insights industry has officially got into lakes and they will never be the same again.

Whether it’s in fact an intranet, a content platform or a search engine, the principle of a data lake is a great one. Every organization has multiple data assets, by storing them in a structured and well-organised way, and even enabling them to be searchable, and to use AI for them to learn and talk to each other, we can unlock the enormous potential of that data.

We can share, make connections, develop insights, spot trends and take informed decisions. It’s a huge step on from emailing reports.

At last, data is not sitting in dusty reports, on shelves in rooms where no one goes.

Many companies have invested a great deal of time, money and energy into building their lakes. They are, frankly, a thing of beauty (in the eyes of its creators).

So why are so few people sailing on them?

1. Acknowledge that no one cares…

I think the insights industry is in danger of falling into the same trap that we always fall into – because our work is so interesting, our lake is so beautiful, we assume our colleagues in business will be falling over themselves to dive in, to find out more, or at least splash about a bit.

As usual, we have forgotten that when it comes to research and insight:

No One Cares.

The first step is to realise this.

Our data lakes are often built by technology and research people who don’t think like ‘normal’ people, who fall in love with data, who adore charts, algorithms and methodologies. But your colleagues don’t want your lake. They’ve already booked a holiday in the Bahamas.

The fact is, just because you have a platform, repository or a lake does not mean your audience will be engaged. You have to persuade people to visit your data lake as much as you have to persuade people to read your PPT report.

2. (Really) get to know your audience

The first rule of marketing is understanding your audience.

Many insights teams in large organisations don’t know, beyond their immediate stakeholders, who their colleagues are, or what they do.

I am not talking about the leadership teams here (influencing the C-suite is a whole other article); I am talking about the broader audience of stakeholders internally who would benefit from knowledge of data and insight but who have no idea that it is there or how to use it.

In our recent study with Coca-Cola in Western Europe, we found 200 stakeholders outside the leadership team that the knowledge and insights team could be engaging with, but who until the point we reached out to them, had little to no interaction with the team and who certainly had not visited the knowledge sharing platform.

So, researchers still need to market their insights to drive users to the lake.

Don’t wait for them to come to you.

Sell the advantages and benefits of data driven decision making.

Create compelling internal communication, tie the communications into the strategy and aims of the business to make it imperative.

With so much rich content in insights teams, a content marketing strategy to pull people in to your data lake seems like a no brainer.

At Keen as Mustard, we use a creative brief as a framework to create campaigns for internal communications.

This ensures you define (and know) your audience, and how you want them to act as a result of seeing the communication. If you want them to visit your data lake, make it easy by using links and clear calls to action in your communication.

Always remember you are competing for mind space and attention not only with other business messages but with broader communications from the news media, television, and the millions of messages that land in our brains every day.

To get cut through we have to up our game.

3. Use hooks to get them engaged

One vital way to get cut through is to ensure you use relevant and appropriate email subject lines and headlines as hooks to entice people into engaging with your content.

Past psychological studies have demonstrated that the use of titles and headlines facilitates recollection

In our work with Coca-Cola we used a study from 2015, (Breaking the News: First Impressions Matter on Online News) that analysed the content of 69,907 headlines produced by four major global media corporations during eight consecutive months.

They did this in order to discover strategies that could be used to attract clicks. In sum, they found there were five effective ways to write headlines:

  1. surprise
  2. questions
  3. negatives
  4. curiosity
  5. numbers.

When we tested these on the stakeholders at Coca-Cola, we found that the ones that were most effective (got most clicks and so drove most traffic to their data lake S&I Connect) were those with numbers – “three reasons to read this email” for example.

It would be terrible if our beautiful and expensive data lakes sat as undisturbed reservoirs, with no one visiting them or learning to sail.

With help and instruction our colleagues can learn to enjoy them, and the true democratisation of data can begin.

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