By Alan Anderson, David Semmelroth

Social media wouldn’t be possible without big data. Social media websites let people share photos, videos, personal data, commentary, and so forth. Some of the best examples of social media websites include these:

  • Facebook

  • Twitter

  • LinkedIn

  • Instagram

Facebook was created in 2004 by Harvard students. It has since grown into the largest social media site in the world. As of 2014, Facebook has an estimated 900 million unique visitors each month, followed by Twitter with 310 million and LinkedIn with 225 million. Instagram has an estimated 100 million unique visitors per month.

Facebook allows users to stay informed about their friends, family members, acquaintances, and so on. Users can post photos, personal information, and news items, and use Facebook to locate friends. Twitter enables short messages called tweets to be posted. LinkedIn is a networking site intended to enable working professionals to stay in contact with each other, whereas the Instagram website lets users post photos for other users to see.

It’s estimated that Facebook processes more than 500 terabytes of data every day, requiring an extensive investment in big data technology. Like Google, Facebook earns the bulk of its revenues from advertising, much of it from the largest corporations in the United States.

Regardless of what industry you’re in, the techniques discussed in the remainder of this book will be helpful in your attempts to make smarter decisions. Hopefully, the examples given here have whetted your appetite for big data applications. And we hope you’ll be able to sustain that appetite through the technical details that you’ll come across. The chapters that follow start getting into the nuts and bolts of analyzing data.