Browsed by
Category: Business Trends

Skype Translator: A New Rosetta Stone

Skype Translator: A New Rosetta Stone

Thanks to deep neural networks, global, seamless communication isn’t far off.

In 196 BC, the Decree of Memphis was issued by Ptolemy V in Egypt. It was written on a granodiorite stele (a big, flat, upright stone) in three scripts. The first in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, then in a Demotic script and finally in Ancient Greek. It proved to be the key to understanding the hieroglyphs thanks to its three identical texts; we know it as the Rosetta Stone.

Thanks to Microsoft, we’re on our way to a universal translator that will make communicating in several (and, presumably, eventually all) languages seamless. Effectively, Skype Translator is the Rosetta Stone of the technological era.

The Story

I’ve written quite a bit about my amazement at the world of machine and deep learning. This is an example of deep learning in action. Conceptually, a universal translator has been around for decades (long before modern computers came into existence).

The first patents filed for this kind of technology date to the 1930s. And while so many have tried, most have resulted in failure, while the best saw minor successes (if any).

Now, Microsoft (Skype) is aiming to be the first to perfect the concept that had once been a thing of science fiction.

How It Works

I won’t pretend to be a brilliant engineer behind the technology. But I can explain how, in the most simplistic of terms, this works.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of machine learning, it is more or less exactly what it sounds like. The complex systems and algorithms that make up an application are somewhat intuitive, adapting to nuances, frequencies and, in the case of natural language processing, things like colloquialisms, to become more accurate. Essentially, the machine evolves as it is exposed to more and more data, helping it become sharper in its results.

In an interview with Time magazine, Lane Schwartz, a linguistic professor at the University of Illinois explained, “The more data you have, the better you’re going to do.” It’s that simple.

What Microsoft has done (according to its engineers and product teams) is perfected the first form of the universal translator that will use what it learns in beta testing to become smarter, more intuitive and faster.

Ultimately, when one person speaks in their preferred language to another person with a different language setting, the system will (almost instantaneously) register what was said and (with grammatical accuracy) regurgitate the phrase in the other user’s language.

Pretty impressive stuff.

The Applications

If this works as well as demonstrations have shown and Microsoft has promised, it will (quite literally) unite the world one front.

We often hear the jokes about fairly trivial apps ‘changing the world’. Well, this actually would. On the business front, this would be a first step in the convergence of several currently detached economies. I say first step because, while communication and those items lost in translation matter, there are still major social hurdles to overcome (in the way different societies do business).

The ability to provide aid and assistance from a distance or during an emergency is also greatly facilitated with this kind of an application. Imagine someone calls you frantic in a language you don’t understand, but your universal translator is capable of translating it so that you can understand it instantaneously.

And those are just a few of the amazing things that can be done.

It’s exciting to think about how this will make the world smaller (yet again).

 

Twitter TV Targeting and the Second Screen Experience

Twitter TV Targeting and the Second Screen Experience

The second screen experience has become an increasingly important means of reaching key demos.

Roughly two years ago, Twitter rolled out an incredible new feature that allowed advertisers to communicate with users that were watching a specific TV program, or even a branded commercial. The idea, as Twitter puts it, is to give “networks and brands the opportunity to participate in [Twitter] conversations, and to continue the conversations [advertisers] start on TV with Twitter users discussing relevant programs.” This video does a pretty good job of explaining the goal:

Pretty cool!

Well, while this is a great tool for advertisers, it speaks to a much larger societal trend that is making the lives of marketers (like myself) significantly more difficult every day.

The Second Screen Experience Trend

The second screen experience is nothing new. Ever since smartphones, laptops and tablets became commonplace, the second screen experience has been very much alive, wherever we are watching television.

The problem is that not enough advertisers are taking advantage of it.

On Facebook, there are over 54 million registered Pages, but just the other day I got a ‘Thank You’ message from Mark and Sheryl (Zuckerberg and Sandberg, but you probably guessed that) because I am one of two million advertisers. That’s less than 4% of Pages registered on the network.

On Twitter, the numbers are even lower. In 2014, 92% of social marketers said that they advertised on Facebook, while only 23% said that they leveraged Twitter’s ad platform.

My question relates to the why. Why have advertisers not embraced these platforms for one of their most powerful capabilities: engaging through the second screen experience?

As noted above, Twitter TV targeting – a mechanism that I, as an advertiser, think Twitter has not sufficiently promoted – immerses brands directly into the conversation while it is taking place. One rule I tend to live by and preach to all of our clients at t2 is this: Don’t try and start a new conversation and hope users will come to you; rather, identify the conversations that your audience is already having and join in.

This is a concept lost on so many marketers and advertisers. When and where are prospects most actively using their smartphone? Well, a study conducted by Telefónica’s O2 UK and Sony Mobile found that 75% of smartphone owners use their phone while in the bathroom. The day Facebook and Twitter offer a means of targeting users with ads while they are in the lavatory is the day everyone will pay to advertise. But another one of the most popular uses for smartphones and social media is during TV programs.

Globally, 61% of smartphone owners claim to engage in some sort of second screen viewing activity. 61%!

Taking Advantage of the Second Screen

I’ve written quite a bit about the Golden Age of social media advertising. We’re slowly moving away from that on Facebook as prices begin to mount, but we are still very much there on Twitter. Advertisers are just not taking advantage of it.

Small investments in social advertising at the right time and with the right bidding strategy (see the video below) can generate HUGE returns! If you can identify when you audience is most active based on a series of interests that you are trying to target as well as an analysis of your free analytics on Facebook and Twitter, you can launch campaigns timed specifically to get your message in front of users when they are openly willing to absorb and engage with them.

Now, what do I mean by appropriate bidding strategies? I’m talking about the incremental bidding systems that I developed with my team that have proven to decrease cost-per-action significantly in any given campaign. Here is how it works:

Limiting your targeting to the times when you know your audience is most active will lead to results. It’s about time smart marketers realized this and started taking advantage of the opportunity.

Digital vs. Analog: Looking Towards the Future

Digital vs. Analog: Looking Towards the Future

The future of tech is here, and it is very exciting.

On the heels of Microsoft’s big set of sweeping announcements and updates, I thought it would be appropriate to take a look at what the future of tech has in store, and discuss one common trend that the entire industry is witnessing.

That shift has to do with going from the world of digital computing to analog.

What is the difference?

Normally, when we refer to the terms ‘analog’ and ‘digital’, the first thing that comes to mind is a clock.

Digital vs. Analog Future of TechIn this case, we tend to lean towards the digital clock. After all, that’s the one that appears to be more technically advanced. But when it comes to things like sound, or, in this case, computing, analog is far more advanced. It is uninterrupted and does not rely on relaying lines of code in the way that digital does.

The difference between these two concepts when we move away from the traditional image of the clock looks something like this:

Digital vs. Analog Future of Tech 1Perhaps the easiest way to understand how these two concepts differ is to compare them side by side.

Analog

Digital

Signal Analog signal is a continuous signal which represents physical measurements. Digital signals are discrete time signals generated by digital modulation.
Waves Denoted by sine waves Denoted by square waves
Representation Uses continuous range of values to represent information Uses discrete or discontinuous values to represent information
Example Human voice in air, analog electronic devices. Computers, CDs, DVDs, and other digital electronic devices.
Technology Analog technology records waveforms as they are. Samples analog waveforms into a limited set of numbers and records them.
Data transmissions Subjected to deterioration by noise during transmission and write/read cycle. Can be noise-immune without deterioration during transmission and write/read cycle.
Response to Noise More likely to get affected reducing accuracy Less affected since noise response are analog in nature
Flexibility Analog hardware is not flexible. Digital hardware is flexible in implementation.
Uses Can be used in analog devices only. Best suited for audio and video transmission. Best suited for Computing and digital electronics.
Applications Thermometer PCs, PDAs
Bandwidth Analog signal processing can be done in real time and consumes less bandwidth. There is no guarantee that digital signal processing can be done in real time and consumes more bandwidth to carry out the same information.
Memory Stored in the form of wave signal Stored in the form of binary bit
Power Analog instrument draws large power Digital instrument drawS only negligible power
Cost Low cost and portable Cost is high and not easily portable
Impedance Low High order of 100 megaohm
Errors Analog instruments usually have a scale which is cramped at lower end and give considerable observational errors. Digital instruments are free from observational errors like parallax and approximation errors.

Table credit: Diffen

What does this have to do with tech?

In the world of tech, the safest method of computing has long been digital. The reason for that is the repercussions of causing errors in analog computing. An interrupted signal interrupts communication, whereas digital computing allows for a virtually error-free communication. But that comes with limitations, like the necessity for both the sending and receiving devices to be speaking the same languages.

Analog, if working optimally, allows us to communicate seamlessly with devices in natural language. This opens new doors, like holographic imaging, shown recently by Microsoft at their event.

In a recent interview with Alex Kipman, Microsoft’s chief inventor, he was quoted as saying, “[The next era of computing […] won’t be about that original digital universe.] It’s about the analog universe.”

Wired senior writer Jessi Hempel goes on to explain, “You used to compute on a screen, entering commands on a keyboard. Cyberspace was somewhere else. Computers responded to programs that detailed explicit commands. In the very near future, you’ll compute in the physical world, using voice and gesture to summon data and layer it atop physical objects. Computer programs will be able to digest so much data that they’ll be able to handle far more complex and nuanced situations. Cyberspace will be all around you.”

Now, if that isn’t a concept to get very, very excited about, I don’t know what it. Welcome to the future!

5 Industries Set to Explode in 2015

5 Industries Set to Explode in 2015

2014 set a stage for several industries that are poised for massive growth in the coming year.

Welcome back and a very happy New Year to all my readers!

Every year, there are certain trends in the world of marketing and tech that indicate to us that there are certain industries set to explode in the following year. 2014 was no different.

5 Industries Set to Explode in 2015

Last year, we saw certain aspects come to the forefront with regards to marketers’ desires in the world of tech, and as we head into 2015 there are five industries in particular that we can expect to see burst in terms of their growth rate and mainstream familiarity.

Wearables

The first one is pretty obvious. Wearables have been on the rise for a couple of years now, and with the advent of smart watches and the fact that some of the biggest players in the tech game  – namely Apple and Samsung – have made their way into the market means that there is no stopping it.

But we are still in the infancy of the wearables life.

Imagine a world where you take a shirt out of your drawer, put it on, then open an app on your skin-projected phone screen and choose its color. We’re not there yet, but this is the exciting direction in which we are headed. We only have two wrists, so the world of wearables will surely be expanding elsewhere in the coming year.

Internet of Things (for Everyone)

I have often written about my amazement at the prospect of the Internet of Things (IoT). As more companies embrace its possibilities, we can expect to see this phenomenon skyrocket in the coming year.

Towards the end of 2014, we began seeing certain companies releasing do-it-yourself-type kits that help transform every day items in your home – like a lamp – into smart items. This is a trend that started steamrolling towards the end of the year and there are no signs of this momentum slowing down.

This coming year, we can surely expect to see the rise in popularity and availability of the IoT continue.

3D Print Manufacturing

Try not to confuse this your Average Joe printing out a 3D model at home – this is more about 3D printing at the industrial level.

When the phenomenon was featured on the cover of the Economist, it was touted as being far more cost-effective for the manufacturing sector and incurs far fewer risks. That is music to the ears of operations managers in the manufacturing sector.

3d print manufacturing industries set to explode

In the first decade of the 21st century, annual growth in the 3D printing sector averaged roughly 8.8%. From today through 2017, that number is expected to double. Expect to hear a lot more from the world of 3D printing in the coming year.

Natural Language Processing

If we’ve learned one thing from the popularity of new media it is that we love our colloquialisms. If we’ve learned something else, it is that spelling, grammar and clarity are generally considered to be secondary concerns for the average user on social media.

Natural language processing (NLP) has long been an exciting field, but the complexity of the phenomenon has made it difficult to become a mainstream application. We can expect to see that start to change in 2015.

NLP is a major focus for a lot of tech companies, and more importantly, it has the power to be a major value for virtually every business that operated directly or indirectly online.

And as for the larger picture…

Deep Learning

In what is perhaps the most exciting field in the big data space, deep learning is as cool as the name suggests.

deep learning industries set to explode

Natural language processing falls into the category of deep learning. Essentially, deep learning is a form of machine learning whereby a series of complex algorithms are used in order to develop models out of non-linear actions. Things like speech recognition, neural processing and even your future smart house will be the product of deep learning advancements.

With the progress that has been made in the field and the mainstream availability that we are starting to see, we can expect 2015 to be a very big year for the field of deep learning.

Keep your eyes open.

Uber: Perfect Examples of What Not to Do

Uber: Perfect Examples of What Not to Do

They say that those that can’t do teach. Well, those that execute marketing and, more specifically PR for Uber teach us what not to do.

Uber is facing new, serious backlash after a horrendous assault by an accused New Delhi Uber driver on a female passenger caused the Indian capital to ban the car service (and extending that ban to other taxi service apps shortly thereafter). This is a heavy blow to the company following a new $1.2 billion round of financing to help lead a massive expansion into South and Southeast Asia, as well as a whole host of developing countries.

Uber Marketing Mistakes

There are a lot of factors that led to this incident taking place. Some of those issues rest on the safety of taxi passengers offered by the Indian government, while others, some bigger ones, rest on the shoulders of Uber. There are certain measures that passengers assume have been taken by Uber in order to protect them from these kinds of instances. Some of those measures include thorough background and criminal checks, as well as verified phone numbers and addresses for the drivers. Sadly, this was not the case in this instance in New Delhi.

Before we go any further, I would like to just make it clear that this article is not focused on the New Delhi attack itself, but rather on the response from the Uber team as well as their history of poor crisis management. Really, the questions I have relate more to the handling of marketing and PR for the brand than the specific instance itself. I would also like to note that I am a fan of Uber as a product, and I have been using it since it was first launched. I just think there are some major issues at the top of the company that need fixing in order to ensure the longevity and survival of the brand.

Uber’s Response

Shortly following the attack, the official statement from Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, was posted on the Uber blog. In an example of some of the most poorly selected rhetoric for a brand crisis in recent memory, Uber embarrassed itself further. While much of the verbiage sympathizes with the victim and promises to work with authorities to ‘make New Delhi a safer city for women’, there is one bit in particular that sounds a little off:

We will work with the government to establish clear background checks currently absent in their commercial transportation licensing programs.

Now, I don’t know what your thoughts are on this, but it sounds an awful lot like blame deflection to me. Though it is clearly stated on Uber’s safety page that they conduct ‘background checks you can trust’, the driver in this instance in New Delhi has had plenty of trouble just like this in the past.

So, with all this information readily available, why does Uber decide to phrase their response in this way?

This Isn’t the First Time

As recently as a few weeks before this incident, Uber came under severe scrutiny for their proposed million-dollar journalist smear campaign. Emil Michael, SVP Business for Uber and the supposed ‘face’ of the company, decided to share his plan at a luncheon that was supposed to be off-the-record. Though they forgot to tell one of the attendees.

Again, the rhetoric of the apology was sympathetic and superficially genuine. But the real message was the fact that Emil Michael remained in his position, continuing his day-to-day operations while the world questioned the security of their data with Uber.

Uber had invested quite a bit in Michael, so one can understand why they wouldn’t simply want to sack him an move on. But to refer to his comments as reprehensible and do simply nothing about says quite a bit more. Any half decent PR executive will tell you that in order to save face, quite a bit more than a brief blog post will be needed. That never happened.

When issues with drivers arose in San Francisco and Los Angeles, the former of the two being an accident resulting in the death of a young girl, was there anything more than a blog post and a differing of responsibility? Again, no. Granted, after the severe backlash of the San Francisco ordeal and the accompanying lawsuit, Uber revised their insurance policy. But that shouldn’t have been prompted from severe repercussions, it should have been a first instinct. And again, I ask, who was responsible for calling the shots? Certainly not a PR executive with half a mind to understand the consumer.

Change and Adapt

As I mentioned above, I think Uber is a fantastic product. I think the transportation industry is being radically changed (or, disrupted, if you prefer) as a result. In fact, when I was speaking at a conference in Kuwait I mentioned my affinity for the app. But in order for the brand to survive, it needs to make some serious changes at the top.

Much like Blackberry (at the time, RIM) fell to the competition thinking that its market share could never be overtaken, Uber is seemingly blinded by its own vanity at the moment. Though it might think otherwise, alternatives (like Lyft) exist and others will enter the market.

For Uber to survive, it will take more than offering a holiday promotion to encourage office parties to use the service for employees. And one of those crucial keys to survival is going to be a PR team that can not only position the brand in a friendlier light, but one that understand what a crisis is, and how it should be dealt with. The fact that one clearly is not there yet is pretty shocking, to say the least.

6 Tech Trends for Which to be Thankful

6 Tech Trends for Which to be Thankful

As we approach Thanksgiving, here are a few tech trends for which all members of the digital space should be thankful this year.

In the world of tech, things move at the speed of ideas. (I think I’ll start using that more often.) So, every year, there are a lot of new developments that shake up and excited the market. Here are a few tech trends that we can all be thankful for this year.

Internet of Things

If you visit my blog often enough, then you’ll know that I am completely enamoured by the Internet of Things. In fact, I recently wrote an article about why the Internet of Things is the greatest concept ever. Well, it seems as though I am not alone in this thinking.

LittleBits Internet of Things Tech Trends

Recently, there has been a wave of companies introducing IoT starter kits. This comes after the wave of companies (perhaps the most well-known of which was Nest) introducing IoT products. The starter kit allows for your average household item to become a smart item. Companies like IBM, TinkerForge and LittleBits are all breaking into the space, and it shouldn’t be long before we see the dream of a smart house made readily available to people from all walks of life.

Wearables

So, Google Glass might not be the cyborg-esque wearable we all hoped it would be (yet) but that hasn’t stopped the world of wearables from really taking off and essentially creating a brand new, high-demand marketplace.

The market for wearables is on the rise and there doesn’t seem to be a ceiling with regards to where it can go. Theoretically, everything can eventually be smart. Now we have watches, glasses, bracelets, accessories and there is certainly a trend indicating that this is just the beginning. I don’t think I’m alone in waiting hopeful that one day there is a thermometer in my clothes that automatically warms them up for me in the morning on a cold winter’s day. #BillionDollarIdea

Improved AR

While I didn’t mention this trend in my recently published article about trend I noticed at ad:tech in New York, it is definitely something worth getting excited about.

AR (augmented reality) has long been something that fascinated us. When it was first introduced on camera phones (providing us with detailed information about location towards which we point our phone’s camera) it seemed like something out of the future. Now that future is here and AR is not only becoming more commonplace, but more malleable, particularly as technologies like graphene become more widely used.

Smart Accessories (Not Wearables)

We have wearables, so why would we need to include smart accessories? Doesn’t that fall into the category of wearables? Not exactly. These accessories are a little larger.

Trunkster Smart Luggage Tech Trends

The one example that comes to mind is luggage. It might not sound like a field ripe for disruption, but there are groups out there trying to do just that. One such example is Trunkster. This awesome Kickstarter campaign touts a piece of smart luggage that not only goes zipperless, but also features a USB charger for your electronics and, perhaps most impressive, a GPS tracker that links to your phone so you always know where your luggage is (even if the airline doesn’t).

Beacons

Beacons were first introduced before their time (if that makes sense). People were not ready for personalized and proximity-based marketing initiatives, but today they are.

The concept of beacons is a fairly simple bit of technology: essentially, beacons are designed to identify devices and, for example, push notifications to these devices based on their proximity. So, when I walk into a store and I have never registered my device with the store, a beacon might register my new device and send me a notification of a discount for a first purchase. Slowly but surely, beacons are making their way into the market as the tech world and physical market collide in grand, new ways.

Natural Language Processing

Anyone who knows me knows that I generally base my critiques of social listening and analysis softwares based on their natural language processing capabilities. Well, it seems to be an important criteria for the market, because it is something that is getting a lot of attention.

For marketers, natural language processing is something that can be particularly difficult to deal with, especially when it comes to things like social listening. People tend to adopt a very colloquial speech when sharing content on social media (of course). For marketers, this can pose a bit of a problem when trying to determine industry or target audience pain points or preferences. Luckily, plenty of software providers are starting to make big strides in the way of natural language processing, and I can’t wait to see where that takes the industry.

Conclusion

At this time of year, we give thanks for a lot of different things, and for marketers (and plenty of consumers) these are just a few of the exciting tech trends we can be thankful for.

Now, I would like to wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving, and lots of luck with Black Friday!

Some Trends I Noticed at ad:tech New York 2014

Some Trends I Noticed at ad:tech New York 2014

After this year’s much anticipated ad:tech New York, there are a few social business trends that are clearly becoming more popular.

ad:tech is always a great conference. One of my favorite things about it is seeing what social business trends are making their way to the forefront of the industry. There were quite a few things that I picked up on while I attended the conference in New York last week, and these social business trends say quite a bit about the future of this industry.

social business trends at ad:tech new york

Survival of the Fittest

There was a time when ad networks ruled the web with an iron fist. In fact, it wasn’t all that long ago.

Two years ago, when I was wandering the seemingly endless rows at ad:tech in New York, it seemed like every other booth was an ad network touting itself as the end of Google. There is no doubt that a lot of these platforms had certain edges over Google, but we need to keep one thing in mind: Google is Google.

This year, there were far fewer ad servers on display, and only the biggest and best from two years ago were still presenting. Why is this? I have (somewhat Darwinian) a theory.

social business trends survival of the fittest

In the last two years, social advertising has made a significant splash. And by significant, I mean that it is hard to remember what life as a marketer was like without boosting a post or tweet. What’s more, it is still incredibly affordable and highly effective to run social ads, particularly when you compare that to traditional CPC campaigns. This reality is clearly manifesting itself when it comes to the survival of ad networks.

People are starting to accept that pay-to-play system, but they want to do it as affordably as possible. Unfortunately for smaller networks, that means social is the preferred route.

Mobile, Mobile and More Mobile

Instead of every other booth being an ad network this year, it seemed like every (single) booth offered a mobile solution.

We constantly hear of the importance of mobile. After all, everybody uses their mobile device for everything. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg recently explained why he (and by he, I mean Facebook) created a standalone Messenger app, and that’s because people want a simple, unique app for all of their mobile activities that can easily be accessed on the go. Check out the full article here.

Well that was made abundantly clear at ad:tech. In place of traditional ad serving networks, there were mobile ad networks. Nearly every booth (with the exception of certain SaaS and social booths) featured demos on a mobile device, and highlighted why their mobile platform is their best feature.

The rise of mobile has been unstoppable, and we are seeing companies adjust to that reality very quickly. After all, after ad:tech 2012, I walked away with only a few mobile-specific service providers. Now I have a bag full of them.

Getting Niche with Email

Much like ad networks, ad:tech used to be a veritable buffet of email providers. Now, there are only a few left showcasing their products, and those that decided to show up are there because they have something unique that the competitors do not.

By this point, email and email service providers have become so commonplace and the market so saturated, that price discrimination has increased significantly. Essentially, most people want to find the most user-friendly and affordable service that exists. Providers don’t need to buy a booth at a show to tell people about that.

The ones that can benefit from a show like this are the ones that have that little extra something that can add a huge amount of value to a brand’s email initiatives. These are providers who also function like ad networks, providers that offer certain partnerships or bits of tech (mobile tech, especially) that buyers find irresistible.

Conclusion

A lot has changed at ad:tech in the last two years and that reflects the speed with which this industry is evolving. It should come as no surprise that brands have a tough time keeping up when such a major industry pivot has occurred in just a few short years.

It’s exciting to think of where this industry is headed when, this year, there was a lot more AR, mobile and a big, big focus on structuring and leveraging data.

Until the next one!

Takeaways from a Week in San Francisco

Takeaways from a Week in San Francisco

After a week in the hub of tech and the starting point of a lot of digital trends, there are a few things worth noting.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in San Francisco for the Social Media Strategies Summit. There, I had the treat of meeting up with a few peers from around the industry and listening to some great presentations. There were a couple of interesting digital trends that I noted while I was there, and I thought the very least I could do is share those here.

Marketing Tech is on the Rise

The world of marketing technology is as exciting as it is complex. There is so much happening in the world of marketing (specific) tech, that it can often be hard to keep up.

One of the most interesting presentations I sat in on during the conference was my friend Travis Wright‘s presentation on the future of marketing technology. He covered some of the most advanced topics I’ve heard covered on the subject (at least at a social media event like this one) and it was refreshing to see this kind of content being shared with a more general public.

Digital trends marketing technology

What exactly is marketing technology, anyway?

The world of MarTec, as it’s commonly referred, relates to the technologies that we use in order to execute our marketing efforts in a more efficient manner. It is the collection of technologies that we, as marketers, use on a daily basis. It is a fairly avant garde topic that is a heavy focus of some of the most cutting edge brands, and it is great to see that it is making its way into the mainstream.

Employee Activation

One thing that became abundantly clear while I was in San Francisco is that brand (even larger ones) are starting to embrace the idea of employee activation. This is one of those digital trends that has been making waves in SMBs, but it hasn’t yet made its way up to the top. That’s all starting to change.

Several large brands spoke about their own employee activation programs. What is employee activation? Essentially, it is the idea of empowering your internal army of brand advocates to represent the brand on social media with their own accounts. There are clear drawbacks: what is the brand is poorly represented? This is an obvious deterrent from brands adopting the practice.

What companies have done is implement best practice guides. They have chosen the right employees based on evaluation process and provided them with the training they need in order to implement the program effectively. The results have been pretty impressive so far, and once these programs are scaled, major brands will be even more prevalent on social media than they already are.

Predictive Analytics is Defining Strategy

More and more, I talk about the rise of data. As many of you know, I am a huge supporter of the use of data for the purposes of developing strategy. Well, it seems less and less like I am a part of a minority. Another major focus at the event in San Francisco was the use of predictive analytics for the purposes of developing more successful strategies.

Predictive analytics are exciting, but can be somewhat complex. The reason is not that there is a lack of data – far from it. But we are seeing a move in a direction that embraces these data and analyzes them more effectively than ever before. There are plenty of tools that exist on the market offering these kinds of services, and they are now becoming more detailed and valuable.

Though predictive analytics still has a bit of a ways to go, it is clear that this is a trend that is on the rise. It shouldn’t be long before we see everyone – from Fortune 500s to mom n’ pop shops – adopting the use of these insights.

Conclusion

Spending time in the origin spot for so many digital trends provides a ton of insight into the direction this industry is taking. It is exciting to see that, for the most part, everyone is moving in the same direction.

Digital trends noted in San Francisco

One clear indicator of this is the rapid expansion of so many fields. Whereas it took years to hit a few dozen marketing tech providers, there are now nearly a thousand (the number having tripled in just three years). It is exciting to think where we might be at this time next year if this rate of innovation is maintained.

Some Things I Learned in Dubai

Some Things I Learned in Dubai

After a week at the Government Social Media Summit in Dubai, these are a few marketing trends I noted in the GCC.

The realms of digital and social are making waves in a major way in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) region. That is particularly true in the public sector. Last week I had the opportunity to speak at the Government Social Media Summit in Dubai where I noted a few key marketing trends as they relate to digital and social both in the GCC and in the market in general.

Marketing trends I noted while speaking in Dubai

Difficulty to Train Incumbents

For a lot of organizations, particularly public organizations, there has always been a certain way of doing business. This means that as the market changes, it can sometimes be difficult for these groups and organizations to pick up on these new marketing trends. Incumbents in the institutions tend to prefer their traditional way of doing things, which means new media is slow to be adopted.

I spoke with several members of the public sector that have tried to implement changes and bring their respective departments into a new age, but have been met with resistance. Sometimes it is due to the fact that people simply do not want to change, other times it can be a question of logistics.

Those that have found success have done so by implementing changes in a controlled environment in order to first show proof of concept. Once that is done, they begin to show peers their processes and successes, and help them implement the same changes. In the public sector, this is a slow process. But training and a step-by-step approach are crucial to making this shift.

Creative Meets Data

More so than ever before, I have started to see a general shift in favor of the world of data. Now it’s no longer simply about observing data and recognizing its importance, but actually leveraging it to capitalize on that importance. And that has extended rather significantly into the world of creative as well.

On several occasions, I had the chance to speak with some industry peers who shared with me their experiences in using hard data to create viable campaigns. This was a refreshing change of pace from what I have become accustomed to hearing. Often times, I’ll talk to people who understand that data is crucial, but have yet to use it for all it is worth. In this case, I started to see that marketing trend shift, and I’m excited to see where that takes us.

No Industry is Immune to the Importance of Social

Marketing Myopia is a concept originally theorized by reputed Harvard Professor Theodore Levitt. You can read up on my expansion of the concept with regards to Social Media Marketing Myopia here. Essentially, Marketing Myopia has to do with brands or industries refusing to adapt to new ways of doing business, maintaining archaic forms of operations and, eventually, falling so far behind that they nearly (or, sometimes do) collapse.

He looks to industries that are notoriously slow to adapt to indicate that a new form of communications or operations has become the norm. Those industries generally involve government. Considering the participants at this summit – primarily government representative in fields like defense, education, and foreign affairs – it is hard to argue that there are any industries safe from the overwhelming importance adaptation to social communications has.

At this point in time, any brand or industry that insists that social is not a crucial component to success is missing a very important aspect to the security of its longevity.

The GCC is Making a Big Push in Social

As noted above, this conference was made up primarily of government officials from across the GCC. That says a lot about the plans and future of the region. As we have seen with countless cases, social has made a bigger push in this region than in many others. As a result, governments are taking initiative to understand it and, from a lot of the conversations that I had, make a greater effort to understand their communities and better communicate with them.

It’s definitely an exciting new frontier and based on the hugely successful production that was staged in Dubai, it looks like everyone is embracing it.

60 Celsius/140 Fahrenheit is an Acceptable Temperature

For most people, venturing outside when it’s anywhere above 30C/86F, takes some courage. Well, at least that’s the case for me. In Dubai, however, try doubling that. That’s roughly what the temperature was at the midpoint of the day when you factor in humidity.

I was having a conversation with a fellow Canadian at the summit and we both remarked how when one returned from the blistering heat into an even semi-air conditioned space, it felt as though you were walking into an ice chest. At 70F, my room was a freezer. It was a one-of-a-kind experience, unless of course you have the option to go to the sun, in which case it would make Dubai a two-of-a-kind experience.

Seriously. Hot.

But an amazing place nonetheless.

IMG_1046

Why Clickbait Was on Its Way Out Anyways

Why Clickbait Was on Its Way Out Anyways

Facebook has announced some new rules (and penalties) surrounding ‘clickbait’. Although it might have been a little late.

A couple of weeks ago, Facebook announced that they would begin penalizing users (mostly Upworthy) for sharing clickbait posts. It’s a nice idea and certainly adds to the user experience on Facebook, but it seems a little like the network is late to the party and they’re solving a ‘problem’ we’ve already moved past.

What Exactly is Clickbait?

Have you ever been using Facebook and seen an article pop up in your news feed that looks a little something like this:

Clickbait example from Upworthy

Or this:

Facebook Clickbait Example

You almost certainly have. Our news feeds have been flooded with posts from pages like Upworthy, The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and plenty more that are enticing users to click based on the structure of their post (it looks like an image, but it’s not!) and their rhetoric. You would swear that clicking on the link would change your life forever, but when you land on the page, you see that it is kind of a waste of your time. (That’s not always the case, but more often than not, it is.)

Well, Facebook put their foot down and said, “Enough!”

Facebook’s New Rule

After a survey conducted by Facebook indicated that 80% of users wanted fewer clickbait-type headlines, the company decided to step in. They announced that they would begin suppressing content that contained the qualities of a clickbait link.

Facebook plans on growing. In order to do that, people need to be happy with the platform. When there is a nearly unanimous negative sentiment around a particular issue, it is your job as a company to take action to eliminate it. This is what Facebook took note of, and what they are trying to eradicate.

The only issue is that they might be a little too late to the party.

We’re Over It

Though Facebook’s announcement and these improvements are done with the best of intentions, the reality is that Facebook is late to the game. A lot of us have already moved past the issues we have had with clickbait. I, personally, indicate with the small arrow above posts that I do not wish to view a particular piece of content. After a few of these, it more or less does away with content from these kinds of pages.

Based on some conversations I’ve had, I’m not alone in doing this. A lot of people have simply started ignoring posts from certain pages, un-liking them on the network, and simply doing what Facebook is going to do on their own.

The benefits here is that now these pages will be forced to comply. While most of us (those that this new change would have had the greatest impact on) will not notice much of a difference, those that have been baited by these pages can take solace in the fact that they won’t have to deal with those kinds of posts anymore. That said, it shouldn’t be long before we see an alternative to clickbait that is equally unnerving.