Big data is a loosely defined concept that many brands – even some of the biggest, most established brands – don’t truly understand or know how to apply to their business. For the largest companies with vast resources, it is easy enough to hire a consulting firm that can help the business set up a strategy. But for the many businesses that have to work within a budget, sometimes, a good first step is to research ways that other businesses have found success using big data.

Amazon: If You Like This, You May Also Like This

As discussed in the article “5 Toxic Mindsets to Avoid if You Want to Leverage Big Data,” it is a mistake to think that you already have access to enough data – and the Amazon success story is the proof. The online retailer started as a digital bookstore, but it quickly realized that it was in the data business as much as the literature business. Amazon collected as much data as possible on their customers, including who they were, how they shopped and what they bought. The result was the those-who-bought-this-also-bought-this function. Once revolutionary, the feature is now standard across the e-commerce world.

Facebook: Privacy, Analytics and Big Data

As a LinkedIn author recently wrote about in an article about big data success stories, Facebook’s big data programs is probably the most famous – and controversial – in the world. With one seventh of the world’s population counted as active users, it is likely that Facebook has access to more data than any other company in the world. They’ve stored it for their own analytics, sold it to advertisers and incorporated it into their privacy policy. Facebook is a free service, as long as you measure payment only in monetary terms. Every time you log on to the social media site, you compensate Facebook with a payment of data.

Nissan Goes Local

Big data is at its most powerful when companies find a way to individualize its results as much as possible. Nissan used big data to create a vast network of localized web sites that helped users find the right car at the right price in their area. Nissan took data from shoppers and dealerships alike, and used big data to steer customers to the right local site and help them determine which car, down to the color, was right for them.

Some of the biggest companies have found success in big data – but small- and medium-sized businesses can employ the same strategies to work for them. The best strategies are the ones that boil huge data sets down and extract only what is most important to the individual customer. Amazon did it, Nissan did it – and Facebook mastered the strategy. Smaller businesses, however, can take the same approach to their own business models.