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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.

Africa News

Smart grids needed for Africa’s utilities

Power utilities across Africa should rethink their business models and how they manage and monetise their assets to keep pace with the changing energy ecosystem, says COLIN BEANEY, Global Industry Director for Asset-intensive and Energy and Utilities at IFS.

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Africa’s abundant natural resources and urgent need for power mean that it is one of the most exciting and innovative energy markets in a world that is moving rapidly towards clean, renewable energy sources. The continent’s energy industry is taking new approaches to providing unserved and underserved communities with access to power, with an emphasis on smart technologies and greener energy sources.

Power systems are evolving from centralised, top-down systems as interest in off-grid technology grows among African businesses and consumers. And according to PwC, we will see installed power capacity rise from 2012’s 90GW to 380GW in 2040 in sub-Saharan Africa. Power utilities are needing to rethink their business models and how they manage and monetise their assets to keep pace with the changing energy ecosystem.

Energy and utilities providers are transforming from centralised supply companies to more distributed, bi-directional service providers. They can only achieve this through the evolution of “smart grids” where sensors and smart meters will be able to provide the consumer with a more granular level of detail of power usage. This shift from an energy supplier to “lifestyle provider” will require a much more dynamic and optimised approach to maintenance and field service.

African companies must thus embrace digital transformation as an imperative. This transformation begins by embracing enterprise asset management to improve asset utilisation. The subsequent steps are enhancing upstream and downstream supply chain management; resource optimisation; introducing enterprise operational intelligence; embracing new technologies such as the Internet of Things, machine learning, and predictive maintenance; and becoming a smart utility.

Embracing mobility to drive ROI

Getting it right is about putting in place an enterprise backbone that accommodates asset and project management, multinational languages and currencies, new energies and markets, visualisation of the entire value chain, and mobility apps. Mobile technologies that support the field workforce have a vital role to play in driving better ROI from utilities’ investments in enterprise asset management and enterprise resource planning solutions.

Today’s leading enterprise asset management solutions feature powerful functionality for mobile management of the complete workflow of work orders – from logging status changes and updates, from receiving and creating new orders to concluding the job and reporting time, material and expenses. Such solutions are easy to deploy and intuitive for end users to learn and use.

Importantly for organisations operating in parts of the continent with poor telecoms infrastructure, connectivity is not an issue. The solutions work offline and synchronises when network connectivity is available. Users can work on any device—laptops, tablets, and smartphones—commercial or ruggedised.

By ensuring that field technicians have easy access to information and processes, the mobile solution enables technicians and maintenance engineers to easily do the following tasks:

·         Create a new work order on the fly and log new opportunities

·         Access both historical and planned work information when requested

·         Permit customers to sign when the job is completed

·         Capture measurements and inspection notes on route work orders

·         Create new fault reports on routing

·         Facilitate documentation through photo capturing

·         Provide easy access to technical data and preventive actions.

The power of mobility allows the engineer to be the origin of all data capture on a service event. They can easily inquire on asset history, record parts used or parts needed for repair, record labour hours, and expenses as they occur, and any notes of repairs performed. When coupled with workforce management tools, such solutions unlock significant productivity gains for utilities who are trying to get the most from their workforce and assets.

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Brands fall for app vanity

The experience of a mobile screen full of icons, representing independent apps that your need to open to experience them, is making less sense. Instead, businesses should serve customers with an ‘app-like’ experience inside the digital platform they already use, says PIETER DE VILLIERS, Group CEO at Clickatell.

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Many brands remain obsessed with creating mobile apps. This not only defies trends that point to increasing consumer app apathy, but can exclude a sizeable portion  of your customers in emerging economies. Companies need to engage with their users where they are rather than forcing them onto an app, in what can only be described as brand vanity. 

In 2017 there were around 2.2 million apps available in the iOS app store and over 3 million on Google Play. And, while the number of apps being downloaded continues to rise, analysis shows that consumers are only using 30 apps per month and accessing just 9 on a day-to-day basis. 

While these numbers still seem attractively high, in reality the majority of the apps we use are for messaging (like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat) and our social networking, gaming, leisure, dating or utility activities. 

Despite the facts, the application strategy as the holy grail for digital transformation is still being pushed even within large progressive brands. What’s more, some advertising agencies and digital consultants are still pushing apps as the best means for companies to connect with their customers. This has resulted in some organisations stubbornly doubling down on app strategies which are simply not showing return on investment (ROI). 

It’s not immediately clear to us whether the fascination with apps is a roll-over from long overdue projects or whether brand owners equate a mobile-first strategy with a mobile app. Mobile-first in 2018 means customer first, and therefore embracing chat commerce in order to deliver services with convenience and simplicity in mind. 

Why apps won’t win the internet

The problem with apps goes beyond user fatigue. In the first instance, many apps are poorly designed, assuming technical sophistication which may not match reality for the average customer. Poor user interfaces and attempts to provide complex engagement can result in even the best ideas missing their targets due to lack of engagement. 

Secondly, we all know that economic realities drive consumer behaviour. In Africa, new mobile phone users typically opt for feature phones over smartphones. With a longer battery life and a much more accessible price point, feature phones still allow for a basic internet connection, chat platforms like WhatsApp, and call and message functionality. In these regions, the cost of an app – even if it’s free – goes far beyond installing it. Constant updates require reliable and cheap access to the internet. For the average phone owner in an emerging market, this can be a serious challenge. 

Thirdly, and most importantly, apps must be relevant to their intended market. Frequency of usage is a key measure of relevance. 

Apps which are used on a daily basis, like health and fitness trackers, enjoy constant engagement. New features which are added are eagerly awaited by users who are happy to update their apps. 

However, users may well question the relevance of the app if they are required to conduct updates on a monthly or even weekly basis when they are only making use of the app once or twice a year. 

On average, I download one app per quarter. Some I use more frequently than others, but all of these apps need to be regularly updated to maintain security, update features, and fix bugs. Many apps are pushing out updates much more frequently. I noticed over the past year that I could go from having all apps updated, to 32 apps requiring an update in five days.

When it comes to a customer-first digital strategy, companies should be asking themselves if an app is really the best way to reach their target audience. 

In fact, at the end of 2016, Gartner predicted that by 2019, 20 percent of brands would ditch their mobile app. What’s more, in its 2018 predictions, the company forecast that by 2021, more than 50 percent of corporations would spend more per annum on bots and chatbots than on mobile app development. 

So, we need to ask, what is the alternative for CIOs, CDOs, CMOs, and digital leaders who are looking for ways to reach, retain and grow their customer base? 

The logical app alternative 

The old battle advice goes: fight your enemy where they are not. Military strategists agreed that having your enemy come to you and fight you on your own terms was preferable. In a world where customers have access to thousands of offerings and millions of deals online, we need to flip that idea to Meet Your Customers Where They Are. 

Any marketeer will tell you just a how difficult it is to drive app downloads. Development, cross platform testing and user interface aside, the marketing campaign required to get customers to download the app can swallow entire annual budgets and still come up short. 

Looking at the facts, it makes infinitely more sense to work within the digital platforms already being used by your target audience. 

Clickatell is already enabling chat commerce for some of the leading global brands with its Touch solution. This allows organisations to serve their customers with an ‘app-like’ experience inside the chat or browser platform of their customer’s choice (Twitter, Facebook Messenger, etc.) 

Brands can now send an actionable Touch link such as ‘find the nearest ATM’ or ‘reset my password’ within a chat stream that will open an intuitive touch card without the user having to download an app to perform the action. Services can also be linked to the in-app experience for brands not looking to abandon their app efforts. 

Working with our clients, many of whom are global innovators and thought leaders, we’ve found that having the courage to design with an ‘end user first’ approach and dealing with the back-end complexity behind the scenes results in cost efficient customer delight and ROI. 

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