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.
Cisco gives pre-owned tech a Refresh
In a market of constant upgrades, Cisco Refresh aims to keep quality product away from landfills, writes BRYAN TURNER.
When one gets a new smartphone upgrade, the old device may be used as a backup or can be used by someone else. In business environments, equipment upgrades may not be conducive to keeping old equipment around, which may send older, working equipment to landfills.
This is where Cisco’s Refresh initiative comes in. At Cisco Connect in Sun City this week, Ehrika Gladden, VP and general manager of Cisco Refresh, lifted the lid on a little-known aspect of the company’s strategy.
“Refresh is Cisco’s global pre-owned equipment business unit,” said Gladden. “It is certified to meet the quality and engineering standards of Cisco. It is licensed for software and it’s also inclusive of a services warranty.
“Our responsibility in 80 countries around the world is tied to both the recovery of assets and the ability to leverage those assets at a lower price point. This ensures our sustainability and proper usage of the Earth’s resources while providing access to small and medium businesses. The products are typically in the range of 20-40% cheaper. The products represent the entire portfolio for Cisco in some part, the majority of that product set is 2+ years in terms of generation.”
Cisco’s Circular Economy initiative ensures a sustainable loop through businesses willing to pay a premium for the latest, cutting-edge solutions, while Cisco markets older, working equipment for resale to those who don’t require the latest solutions. This ensures far less new components need to be used in a product range.
“We are leveraging the model of remanufacturing, refurbishing, recycling, and reusing,” said Gladden. “Depending on the product set, there is a certain set of product yield that we expect. They vary from product to product, but we do have a percentage that doesn’t make it through.
“Those are always reused, meaning we will look at those products and decide to use them completely differently, leveraging the components, remanufacturing back into the overall build process. If that can’t be done, we will go into a recycle process where we melt those products down to reuse them.”
Repairing and refurbishing older products isn’t just that. Cisco is creating repair centres that are owned by third-parties to uplift local ownership.
“The repair centres, as a global manufacturer, is Cisco’s entree into local ownership,” said Gladden. “I want to be precise about what I mean by local ownership. It’s critical for us to have a localised presence, but doing that through ownership. When you look at inclusive economies, those that are participative, to be sustainable – not in the product set, but generationally.
“The ability as a global manufacturer through a local ownership model isto create a repair centre where a product can be returned, screened, tested, and repaired, leveraging the talent that the Networking Academy is creating.”
Cisco is working closely with local governments to understand where it operates and how to leverage the skills in the market.
Gladden said: “We are also super excited about the National Development Plan and African Union statements which with we align: eradication of poverty, job creation, ownership, healthcare, education, it all fits in the model. So we were very excited to have the opportunity to come to Africa first to announce this. Over the next twelve months, we want to establish our first repair centres, and in the next 3 to 5 years, build that vision into a reality.”
Why Data Privacy has become a Pipe Dream
If you’re active on WhatsApp, Facebook or any other social platform, you’re not as safe as you thought, writes
AARON THORNTON, MD of Dial a Nerd
As you begin to read this, let’s perform a quick experiment! How many active conversations are you engaged in – right now – on WhatsApp? When was the last time you shared a picture or video on Instagram? Is Facebook currently open and active on one of your devices? And how many internet- connected devices are you using at this moment? Chances are, you have multiple devices running multiple applications most of the time. So what’s the problem, you ask? Since when did checking in with a high school buddy in Australia via Facebook become a dangerous act?
In reply, we say, read on if you can stomach it!
Nation-State Hacking & You
It might seem like a laughably long shot to say that you are a key player in the increasingly sinister and sophisticated world of nation-state hacking. Well, you are. Given that individuals, businesses and governments are now constantly connected, round the clock, consumers and businesses have become fair game in cyber espionage. And as we create and share more and more data, both the value and accessibility of that data increases. According to a report by McAfee, IP theft now accounts for more than 25% of the estimated $600 billion cost of cybercrime to the world economy.
With data having become the ‘new gold’, nation states are naturally pouring investment and key resources into building advanced cyber warfare tools. Indeed, entire divisions of armed forces as well as the upper echelons of corporate leadership are devising ways to harness data to gain economic, political and social power. At the highest level, tools and platforms are being developed with the specific aim of perpetrating cyber espionage and data theft. No surprise then, that the consumer and business environments are rife with increasingly advanced malware, ransomware and many other malicious hacking tools and methods.
Still not convinced? Yes, we can smell the scepticism from here! So let’s take a moment to see how this has already played out, beneath our noses.
Remember the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal of early 2018? For many, this was a watershed moment in the emerging war for consumer data – and the ensuing tensions between privacy, power and profit. Need a refresh? Well, in 2018, Facebook exposed data on up to 87 million Facebook users to a researcher who worked at Cambridge Analytica, which worked for the Trump campaign. In essence, the data was harvested without user consent and used for political purposes.
Another chilling but less direct example can be found in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. According to Politico, Russia launched a massive social media campaign to ‘sow discord’ leading up to the elections. The website reported that as early as 2014, an infamous Russian “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency – a company linked to Russian president Putin – developed a strategy using fraudulent bank accounts and other fake identity documents to “spread distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.”
When referring to the Russian hacks and their impact on election results, one U.S. Representative sagely noted: “They didn’t just steal data; they weaponized it.”
Ignorance is not bliss
Okay, so data is being ‘weaponized’, and ordinary people and businesses are being caught in the crosshairs of cyber warfare. A little bit frightening, but the good news is that savvy individuals like you can take steps to protect personal data and actively combat the creeping influence of juggernauts such as Facebook and Google.
Now that we’ve left you sufficiently spooked, you can get back to those demanding WhatsApp/Facebook/Instagram notifications (same company, by the way)…albeit, we hope, with a slightly altered [cyber] worldview!