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Brands must take a stand

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Consumers are increasingly looking for businesses to make social and political stands a part of their public presence on social media and beyond, according to Sprout Social’s Championing Change in the Age of Social Media report.

In today’s politically divisive culture, social media has given rise to the expectation that brands will weigh in on current events and share their values as a way to better engage their audiences. And while many brands have been hesitant to get involved in fear of backlash, those that have strategically seized the opportunity are being rewarded. Consumers are increasingly looking for businesses to make social and political stands a part of their public presence on social media and beyond, according to Sprout Social’s Championing Change in the Age of Social Media report.

Sprout Social, a leading provider of social media management, analytics and advocacy solutions for business, found that two thirds of consumers feel it’s important for brands to take a public stance on leading social and political issues like immigration, civil rights and race relations and more than half (58 percent) are most receptive to this happening on social media.

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Sprout Social surveyed more than 1,000 people in the U.S. about how they want brands to communicate their positions and engage in conversations on political and social issues. Findings from the study create a blueprint for how brands can responsibly and effectively take part in these conversations to build lasting relationships with customers. Key findings include:

  • Brands face more reward than risk: Consumers’ most common emotional reactions to brands taking a stand on social were positive, with “intrigued”, “impressed” and “engaged” emerging as the top three consumer reactions. Likewise, people will spread the word when they agree, but won’t take action when they disagree. When consumers’ personal beliefs align with what brands are saying, 28 percent will publicly praise a company. When individuals disagree with a brand’s stance, only 20 percent will publicly criticize the company.
  • Liberals are galvanized by brands that take stands, while conservatives are indifferent: 78 percent of respondents who self-identify as liberal want brands to take a stand, while just about half (52 percent) of respondents who self-identify as conservative feel the same. Likewise, 82 percent of liberals feel brands are credible when taking stands, compared to just 46 percent of conservatives.
  • Brands can’t change minds, but they can effect change: 66 percent of respondents say posts from brands rarely or never influence their opinions on social issues. Rather, respondents believe brands are more effective on social media when they announce donations to specific causes (39 percent) and encourage followers to take specific steps to support causes (37 percent), such as participating in events or making their own donations.
  • Consumers want to hear from company leadership: Although respondents are almost twice as likely to say they’d rather hear about social and political issues from a company than a CEO on social media (22 percent versus 13 percent, respectively), people still feel C-suite members have a duty to speak up. And they especially want CEOs to use their voices – 59 percent of respondents say it’s important for CEOs to engage with consumers and followers on social and political issues on social media.

“Brands that effectively navigate strategic decisions around when to take a stand on social have more opportunity than ever to turn potential risks into business opportunities,” said Andrew Caravella, VP of Strategy and Brand Engagement at Sprout Social. “People not only want brands to speak out on social, but they want authenticity and values communicated cohesively by company leadership as well. People want to feel socially and politically connected to the brands they support—and while vocalizing opinions may drive away some customers, it will ultimately engender greater loyalty and enthusiasm from people who agree.”

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How to rob a bank in the 21st century

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In the early 1980s, South Africans were gripped by tales of the most infamous bank robbery gangs the country had ever known: The Stander Gang. The gang would boldly walk into banks, brandishing weapons, demand cash and simply disappear. These days, a criminal doesn’t even have to be in the same country as the bank he or she intends to rob. Cyber criminals are quite capable of emptying bank accounts without even stepping out of their own homes.

As we become more and more aware of cybersecurity and the breaches that can occur, we’ve become more vigilant. Criminals, however, are still going to follow the money and even though security may be beefed up in many organisations, hackers are going to go for the weakest links. This makes it quintessential for consumers and enterprises to stay one step ahead of the game.

“Not only do these cyber bank criminals get away with the cash, they also end up damaging an organisation’s reputation and the integrity of its infrastructure,” says Indi Siriniwasa, Vice President of Trend Micro, Sub-Saharan Africa. “And sometimes, these breaches mean they get away with more than just cash – they can make off with data and personal information as well.”

Because the cyber criminals operate outside bricks and mortar, going for the cash register or robbing the customers is not where their misdeeds end. Bank employees – from the tellers to the CEO – are all fair game.

But how do they do it? Taking money out of an account is not the only way to steal money. Cyber criminals can zero in on the bank’s infrastructure, or hack into payment systems and even payment documents. Part of a successful operation for them may also include hacking into telecommunications to gain access to one-time pins or mobile networks.

“It’s not just about hacking,” says Siriniwasa.. “It’s also about the hackers trying to get an ‘inside man’ in the bank who could help them or even using a person’s personal details to get a new SIM so that they can have access to OTPs. Of course, they also use the tried and tested method of phishing which continues to be exceptionally effective – despite the education in the market to thwart it.”

The amounts of malware and available attacks to gain access to bank funds is strikingly vast and varies from using web injection script, social engineering and even targeting internal networks as well as points of sale systems. If there is an internet connection and a system you can be assured that there is a cybercriminal trying to crack it. The impact on the bank itself is also massive, with reputations left in tatters and customers moving their business elsewhere.

“We see that cyber criminals use multi-faceted attacks,” says Siriniwasa. “This means that we need to come at security from multiple angles as well. Every single layer of an organisation’s online perimeter need to be secured. Threat isolation is exceptionally important and having security with intrusion protection is vital. Again, vigilance on the part of staff and customers also goes a long way to preventing attacks. These criminals might not carry guns like Andre Stander and his gang, but they are just as dangerous – in fact – probably more so.”

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Beaten by big data? AI is the answer

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by ZAKES SOCIKWA, cloud big data and analytics lead at Oracle

In 2019, it’sestimated we’ll generate more data than we did in the previous 5,000 years. Data is fast becoming the most valuable asset of any modern organisation, and while most have access to their internal data, they continue to experience challenges in deriving maximum value through being able to effectively monetise the information that they hold.

The foundation of any analytics or Business Intelligence (BI) reporting capability is an efficient data collection system that ensures events/transactions are properly recorded, captured, processed and stored. Some of this information on its own might not provide any valuable insights, but if it is analysed together with other sources might yield interesting patterns.

Big data opens up possibilities of enhancing internal sources with unstructured data and information from Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Furthermore, as we move to a digital age, more businesses are implementing customer experience solutions and there is a growing need for them to improve their service and personalise customer engagements.

The digital behaviour of customers, such as social media postings and the networks or platforms they engage with, further provides valuable information for data collection. Information gathering methods are being expanded to accommodate all types and formats of data, including images, videos, and more.

In the past, BI and Data Mining were left to highly technical and analytical individuals, but the introduction of data visualisation tools is democratising the analytics world. However, business users and report consumers often do not have a clear understanding of what they need or what is possible.

AI now embedded into day to day applications

To this end, artificial intelligence (AI) is finishing what business intelligence started. By gathering, contextualising, understanding, and acting on huge quantities of data, AI has given rise to a new breed of applications – one that’s continuously improving and adapting to the conditions around it. The more data that is available for the analysis, the better is the quality of the outcomes or predictions.

In addition, AI changes the productivity equation for many jobs by automating activities and adapting current jobs to solve more complex and time-consuming problems, from recruiters being able to source better candidates faster to financial analysts eliminating manual error-prone reporting.

This type of automation will not replace all jobs but will invent new ones. This enables businesses to reduce the time to complete tasks and the costs of maintenance, and will lead to the creation of higher-value jobs and new engagement models. Oracle predicts that by 2025, the productivity gains delivered by AI, emerging technologies, and augmented experiences could double compared to today’s operations.

According to the IDC, worldwide revenues for big data and business analytics (BDA) solutions was expected to total $166 billion in 2018, and forecast to reach $260 billion in 2022, with a compound annual growth rate of 11.9% over the 2017-2022 forecast period. It adds that two of the fastest growing BDA technology categories will be Cognitive/AI Software Platforms (36.5% CAGR) and Non-relational Analytic Data Stores (30.3% CAGR)¹.

Informed decisions, now and in the future

As new layers of technology are introduced and more complex data sources are added to the ecosystem, the need for a tightly integrated technology stack becomes a challenge. It is advisable to choose your technology components very carefully and always have the end state in mind.

More development on emerging technologies such as blockchain, AI, IoT, virtual reality and others will probably be available on cloud first before coming on premise. For those organisations that are adopting public cloud, there are opportunities to consume the benefits of public cloud and drive down costs of doing business.

While the introduction of public cloud is posing a challenge on data sovereignty and other regulations, technology providers such as Oracle have developed a ‘Cloud at Customer’ model that provides the full benefits of public cloud – but located on premise, within an organisation’s own data centre.

The best organisations will innovate and optimise faster than the rest. Best decisions must be made around choice of technology, business processes, integration and architectures that are fit for business. In the information marketplace, speed and informed decision making will be key differentiators amongst competitors.

¹ IDC Press Release, Revenues for Big Data and Business Analytics Solutions Forecast to Reach $260 Billion in 2022, Led by the Banking and Manufacturing Industries, According to IDC, 15 August 2018

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