Opening Your Mind (and Campaigns) to Open Data

Marketers, too often, are dealing with some derivative of a data dilemma: an overwhelming amount of data, not enough data, inhibiting dirty data—you name it. Adding fuel to the flames, marketers are constantly trying to determine what they should be doing with that information; for instance, when and how does Big Data become small data or even fast data? (For more insight on these ever-changing terms, read Five Ways to Get Data Moving Faster.)

I feel there’s one type of data, however, that in recent years has been picking up momentum among marketers: open data. Open data—free information such as government stats, health studies, or weather information—can help improve the effectiveness of a business, solve departmental problems, and enable marketers to predict and then respond to the needs of potential customers. (Direct Marketing News recently featured Red Roof Inn as a paradigm and highlighted the brand’s marketers, who used open data to drive sales—in this case flight cancellation and weather data to present hotel rates and locations to stranded passengers.)

Truthfully, I’m fascinated by the recent push to educate not just brand marketers, but also the sharpest minds in government, environmental organizations, health services, educational institutions, and a slew of other entities on solving society’s toughest challenges through technology, data, and collaboration. With the application of the right data—open data—marketers can drive business, health professionals can see breakthroughs in their research, and governments can serve the people more effectively.

One of the most interesting and recent developments in this latest data movement is the hiring of several head data wranglers for major cities across the nation—one of the most notable being San Francisco’s recent addition in March, Joy Bonaguro—the city’s first chief data officer. Bonaguro’s goal, and ultimately the City of San Francisco’s aim, is to standardize the city’s data policies across departments and make the data more user-friendly and accessible to its citizens and businesses. The result, hopefully, will be innovation and discovery.

This isn’t a trend that marketers can afford to ignore. They should not only track this nationwide open data initiative, but should also participate and innovate. The U.S. City Open Data Census currently scores 69 cities on their open data initiatives. The list is constantly expanding to include and rank more cities. This project is a collaboration between Open Knowledge, the Sunlight Foundation, and Code for America.

Here, I’ve highlighted the top 20 cities. (You can find all of the rankings at the end of this list.) I think this is great inspiration and motivation to find out where your city ranks in the open data revolution. Some of us may simply need to take advantage of the opportunities that already exist around us. Others may be inspired to rev up the open data efforts in your towns, businesses, or hometown projects. Either way, now’s the time for marketers to lead the way in open data innovation.

U.S. City Open Data Census Rankings

1. San Francisco
2. New York
3. Boston
4. Asheville, NC
5. Sacramento, CA
6. Los Angeles
7. Atlanta
8. Salt Lake City
9. Austin, TX
10. Washington, DC
11. Seattle
12. Birmingham, AL
13. Louisville, KY
14. Chicago
15. Anchorage
16. Miami
17. Charlotte, NC
18. Las Vegas
19. Mesa, AZ
20. Tulsa, OK

(Complete list)

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