The Marriage of Small and Big Data: What you Need to Know

Big Data for Higher Education

What does Domino’s Pizza know that you don’t about how to attract future students?  It’s not just that the company has scored a knock-out victory at getting those college kiddos to place a lot of late night orders. It’s the how behind the what.


Domino’s has embraced technology and data with gusto unlike any other organization of its kind.  In fact, it’s now being hailed as a tech company that happens to make pizza. Evidence supporting the claim is the multi-billion dollar chain’s continued emphasis and investment in technology. But it isn’t just about the cool app that helps deliver the perfect pizza in record time. It’s how they hone in on that individual pizza buyer with a mix of big data and small data. They know when and how those on-campus students order pizza, but also what’s happening in your city, state, and beyond.

And it’s that marriage of small and big data that can help you find your future students.

Small Data

Small data are the components that tell you all about your current and former students. Where did they come from? In what kinds of programs did they enroll? Did they find success? Why did they choose your institution? Small data are easily accessible. You can gain timely insight and act upon what you learn with agility and speed. They can help you personalize what you do for the individual student, while also giving you an understanding into whom your best applicants might be. When you understand who your most successful students and graduates are, you also have a good idea from where you could find your next success stories.


Big Data

Big data are those huge amounts of information that inundate your school on a daily basis. They may include data about your own institution, but also data about higher education and its significant players. About economics. About industry analyses. Global and regional news. Political movement. Social trends. They’re amazing, actually. But worthless without a bit of data mining. Predictive analytics allow you to use big data to inform even your tiniest decisions. But you need to understand how to use them and what kernels of knowledge you can extract from the marriage of big and small data.


At ESM Digital, we use a wide range of analytical tools to merge macro and micro data that paint a unique picture of which students might be the best fit for your institution. Then, we target them—over time—with customized content that speaks to their interests, concerns, hopes and dreams. That’s why we don’t just find prospects. We find your future students.


Interested in learning how? Contact us today and we’ll introduce you to a few ESM Digital strategies and share a few of our success stories.


~Linda Emma