How to Avoid the Flu… with Data

With a big chunk of the country getting hammered by snow, it’s definitely sinking in that the holidays have arrived. And along with all the joy and happiness the next few weeks entail, there’s the inevitable sneezing, sniffling, and general misery that more than a few of us will experience with the flu. †Luckily, last month researchers at Google, after some testing with the Center for Disease Control, have provided an online tool called Google FluTrends that can quickly and accurately detect flu outbreaks in different geographies.
Traditionally, flu outbreaks have been identified by polling doctors at local clinics and hospitals. This data is then aggregated across the country and analyzed. If there is an unusually high number of people with flu-like symptoms in any one area, then there was probably a flu outbreak … one or two weeks ago. That might be nice to know, but it provides little solace for those of us who wind up suffering.
Google’s novel approach is to monitor real-time search engine queries for people seeking cures for flu-like symptoms. When certain areas have a higher than usual number of queries, it’s likely the first sign of an outbreak. That means we can all wash our hands a little longer, take extra care when sneezing, and even avoid busy areas in hopes of dodging the flu this year.
At Crimson Hexagon, we take a similar approach to brand monitoring. †If a product or PR campaign has gone wrong, there’s no sense in waiting until it shows up in your bottom line.† Instead, by monitoring the opinion of your brand online, you can act at the earliest signs of a problem. With this type of real-time, actionable information maybe both we and our brands can stay healthy this holiday season. And that’s something we can all celebrate.

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