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Big Data’s Most Influential Rock Stars: 10 Must-Follow Leaders

7 min

There’s been a lot of talk about big data in the past few years. And while there’s no denying its growing impact on nearly every area of both life and business … there’s also no getting around its complexity.

One of the best ways to expose yourself to the rapidly developing world of big data is simply to start paying attention to a handful or more of its leading influencers on social media.

Whether you want to dip your toes in or fully immerse yourself, picking the right people to follow not only helps you determine what to give your attention and time to, it also lets you avoid the riff-raff and half-science that often crowds the big-data space. Best of all, it give you a first-person, in-the-trenches view of big data directly from the perspective of its most trusted practitioners.

That’s why, to help you get connected, we’ve put together this list of the top 10 big data rockstars you should be following.

1. Nathan Yau @flowingdata

Nathan Yau has a PhD in statistics from UCLA. But don’t let that scare you off. He also has “a background in eating and beer.” Even better, Nathan specializes in sharing thoroughly relatable data visualizations on topics like feeling old, working parents, and Billboard top songs.

His website, Flowing Data, is all about breaking down demographic data in easy-to-use interactive visualizations, which he shares on Twitter, along with related tweets from the other data experts in his network.

Follow Nathan if you want a daily dose of consumer data that’s highly relevant to businesses and individuals alike, plus a few chuckles along the way.

2. NPR Visuals Team @nprviz

You may already be familiar with NPR — one of America’s largest news radio networks. However, what you might not know is that NPR has a Twitter account that’s dedicated solely to visual news.

While it shares photos, videos, design and code, much of NPR Visual Team’s tweets are data visualizations of top news stories from around the world.

They make a great addition to your following list if you want an easy-to-digest but insightful fare of data-meets-real-life.

3. Tableau @tableau

Tableau’s software is used by some of the world’s top experts to interpret and visualize complex big data projects. And through it’s Twitter feed, Tableau shares those project’s greatest hits.

The company — founded by (1) an Academy Award-winning professor, (2) a brilliant computer scientist at the world’s most prestigious university, and (3) a savvy business leader with a passion for data — helps to solve challenging problems with big data. They also do a fantastic job making complex datasets understandable to ordinary people.

Be sure to follow Tableau if you’re not just interested in seeing big data in action, but learn how to analyze and visualize it yourself.

4. Rob Thomas @robdthomas

Rob Thomas is the Vice President of Product Development at IBM Analytics, but you’d never know just by looking at his tweets. Well, unless you read his bio.

His timeline is a well-balanced mix of stats about tech-based companies globally, his own activities and speaking engagements along with gems right out of his own business experience and wisdom.

If you want to know more about what’s going on in the world of big data, without being overwhelmed with data and stats in your feed, Rob’s definitely worth a follow.

5. Enrico Bertini @FILWD

Just in case you’re wondering, @FILWD stands for Fell In Love With Data, which happens to be the name of Enrico Bertini’s blog.

While the Assistant Professor at NYU doesn’t talk much on Twitter himself, he uses the platform very effectively to share news and insights about data visualizations and adds his highly-valued opinions.

Like Rob Thomas, Enrico’s a great follow if you want a well-balanced stream of data-speak and general life observations.

6. Jaime Fitzgerald @jaimefitzgerald

Jaime Fitzgerald made out list for two reasons. First, he is the Founder and President of the data analytics and consulting firm, Fitzgerald Analytics, with offices in New York and San Francisco. In other words, he’s not just an academic, he’s living and working smack dab in the middle of the big data revolution.

Second, while he may not tweet as much as Kanye (or even most of the other names on this list), he uses the popular customized newspaper app to tweet a daily roundup of the top articles about data, which he’s aptly titled Data to Dollars, a trademarked slogan of his company.

7. Carla Gentry @data_nerd

With a username like @data-nerd, Carla Gentry can’t exactly hide her passion. And it’s a lucky thing she doesn’t want to.

Carla moved from Marketing Research and Analytics to become a private data-mining contractor. Now she’s a Data Scientist at Deloitte using her two decades of experience in analyzing data to provide insights and recommendations to their clients.

While Cole Nussbaumer (also on this list) writes stories using data, Carla is all about sharing them. At first glance, the articles she shares from around the web may not look data-related. But digging in you’ll notice original, big data insight seeded throughout current affairs and hot topics.

8. Avinash Kaushik @avinash

Avinash Kaushik is an obvious addition to this list.

Not only is he the author of the two most prominent books in the web-analytics field — Web Analytics 2.0 and Web Analytics: An Hour A Day — he is also a Digital Marketing Evangelist for Google. That means helping people figure out this whole big data thing … yeah, that’s kinda his job.

Overall, Avinash is one of the best, most reliable rock stars to follow on Twitter, especially if you run an online business or want some general analytics insight.

9. Justin Cutroni @justincutroni

Like Avinash, Justin Cutroni is also a Google evangelist. He’s the author of a handful of top-notch books including Performance Marketing with Google Analytics and O’Reilly’s definitively titled Google Analytics.

No matter what stage on the web analytics game you’re at, Justin’s tweets will definitely give you something to learn from and explore further. On top of that, he also mixes in a healthy dose of motivation and good old fashioned human warmth by including tweets on everything from management, productivity, and even the Dalai Lama.

10. Vincent Granville @analyticbridge

His timeline may lack the visual aesthetics that other big data experts are known for on social media, yet Vincent Granville still captures a lot of attention by sharing highly valuable links about relevant developments in the industry.

Vincent is a data scientist and co-founder of three companies including Data Shaping Solutions, a consulting and digital-media agency with monstrous clients such as Visa and eBay. He has also published over 40 papers in statistical journals … so he knows a thing or two about data analytics, to put it lightly.

Through the links he posts on Twitter, Vincent manages to give a sometimes thoughtful, sometimes funny, but always big data-related view of the world.

Got any more rockstars?

So that’s our list of some of the best big data rock stars and influencers on Twitter.

Did we leave anyone off that you think definitely deserves a top spot? Share your own recommendations in the comments … or even better, let us know on Twitter.