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Facebook offers untapped big data potential

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With its incredible reach, marketers have gravitated to Facebook. BRADLEY ELLIOTT, director of Platinum Seed, digs into the untapped potential of the social network’s “big data.”

Since the first friend request was made on the Harvard campus in 2004, Facebook has become the biggest social media platform in the world by far, with 1.94 billion active users, which is more than Twitter, Whatsapp and Instagram combined.

Five new profiles are created every second, and half a million comments are posted on the network every minute. It’s a huge ecosystem of data, with a wide range of content – from funny, inspiring, cute and heart-warming content, to the more tragic and disturbing. Unfortunately, brands struggle to harness the potential of Facebook “big data” – the massive reserve of data generated from this environment – to its maximum potential.

Businesses simply don’t realise how much data they collect every day and over the years. While most organisations use some of this data to make basic business decisions, like dealing with complaints, few use it to create and nurture relationships with existing and potential customers. Instead, marketers have become masters of their own demise, sending an endless stream of spam and then trying to figure out ways to increase open rates for this often unsolicited, irrelevant communication. However, marketers could very easily use available demographic data to segment their data sets to serve communication in a more targeted manner. Directing male products to males and female products to females are two prominent examples, but most businesses neglect even this basic function.

While some brands can create segments, they rarely use them at a significant scale due to the complexities involved. Being able to segment consumers based on both demographic and behavioural data is extremely powerful, but marketers are intimidated. Tapping into real-time behavioural data allows brands to keep their fingers on the pulse of where consumers are in their lifetime journey, how their preferences and habits are changing, and which products would be most relevant to them. By driving personalised communications, offers and rewards to consumers on a one-to-one level, brands can build advocacy, as well as increase purchase frequency and customer lifetime value.

Facebook has increasingly become a pay to play space, as organic reach for brand pages is now set at only 2%. Brands buy reach and engagement by promoting the content they serve to their audiences. While this can be highly targeted, reach and engagement tend to be a function of budget. The Facebook environment offers a powerful way to reach and engage customers in a much more meaningful way, but this needs to be done strategically, using the correct approach and tools. Brands that produce truly emotive content achieve higher levels of what is referred to as “share of emotion”, or content that drives people to willingly want to share content, resulting in organic reach and engagement.

Too many brands use social media to push their products on consumers, when they should be adding value through rich story-telling, helpful advice, or unbelievable facts. Most users are exposed to up to 1500 stories a day on Facebook, but an average user only gets to see about 100, which is why Facebook tries to make a user’s newsfeed as “personalised” as possible. The algorithm uses several key metrics, including the “relevancy score”, which uses hundreds of variables to control the news feed to predict what content users are most likely to engage with, based on past engagement, and the same applies to Facebook ads.

In July 2015, Facebook introduced the “see first” feature, which lets users hand-pick the accounts, whether friends or followed pages, they prefer to see first at the top of the news feed. If a user spends more time on a particular post, Facebook is more likely to show that post on friends’ news feeds and this need not be engagement in the traditional sense. For instance, people who are interested in a video might not necessarily have liked, commented on or shared it with their friends. Facebook has started monitoring other forms of video engagement, like turning on the audio, switching to full-screen mode, enabling high definition or saving a post for later viewing.

Facebooks’ algorithm is the most complex out of any social media platform and the company claims to continually change it to give users the best experience possible. Brands that produce engaging content, which is relevant to users, will have their content prioritised, but the key is to understand what content is working for the brand. In addition to great content, brands can also use brand influencers in their Facebook communities. These may not necessarily be users with the most followers, but those who drive the velocity of conversation around brand content.

Influencer software, Contunion, allows brands to identify and engage with these users and determine the overall influence of their social media communities. Continuon provides brands with key insight into the content that is getting the most engagement both on a community and individual level, allowing the brand to tailor its content plans for the biggest impact.  The Continuon system considers historic and fresh data as equally important, blending it to yield more targeted insights.

With the increasing capability of machine learning and artificial intelligence, combined with large data sets, this is becoming more and more precise. Computers can now analyse millions of variables in real-time, far beyond what humans are capable of, to determine probable outcomes. Not only does prescriptive analytics predict future activity, it also recommends the best course of action for any given situation.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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By 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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How load-shedding is killing our cellphone signals

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Extensive load-shedding, combined with the theft of cell tower backup batteries and copper wire, is placing a massive strain on mobile network providers.

MTN says the majority of MTN’S sites have been equipped with battery backup systems to ensure there is enough power on site to run the system for several hours when local power goes out and the mains go down. 

“With power outages on the rise, these back-up systems become imperative to keeping South Africa connected and MTN has invested heavily in generators and backup batteries to maintain communication for customers, despite the lack of electrical power,” the operator said in a statement today.

However, according to Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive: Corporate Affairs, at MTN SA, “The high frequency of the cycles of load shedding have meant batteries were unable to fully recharge. They generally have a capacity of six to 12 hours, depending on the site category, and require 12 to 18 hours to recharge.”

An additional challenge is that criminals and criminal syndicates are placing networks across the country at risk. Batteries, which can cost R28 000 per battery and upwards, are sought after on black markets – especially in neighbouring countries. 

“Although MTN has improved security and is making strides in limiting instances of theft and vandalism with the assistance of the police, the increase in power outages has made this issue even more pressing,” says O’Sullivan.

Ernest Paul, General Manager: Network Operations at SA’s leading network provider MTN, says the brazen theft of batteries is an industry-wide problem and will require a broader initiative driven by communities, the private sector, police and prosecutors to bring it to a halt.

“Apart from the cost of replacing the stolen batteries and upgrading the broken infrastructure, communities suffer as the network degrades without the back-up power. This is due to the fact that any coverage gaps need to be filled. The situation is even more dire with the rolling power cuts expected due to Eskom load shedding.”

Loss of services and network quality can range from a 2-5km radius to 15km on some sites and affect 5,000 to 20,000 people. On hub sites, network coverage to entire suburbs and regions can be lost.

Click here to read more about efforts to combat copper theft.

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