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Instagram and visually rich social media exploding in SA

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The new edition of the SA Social Media Landscape report, due to be released this month, shows dramatic shifts in usage patterns, with Instagram a big winner.

The social media landscape in SA has shifted subtly but dramatically this year, especially in light of large Instagram growth.

This will be one of the key issues covered in the annual SA Social Media Landscape report, compiled by Fuseware and World Wide Worx, due to be released in the next fortnight.

Visually rich imagery dominates newsfeeds, and the new streaming content players are certainly going to see increased uptake in the next 12 months. Social media is evolving towards its pinnacle – on-demand content creation, consumption and engagement in any format, at any time and any place. There has been decreased brand content engagement across the board, indicating that newsfeeds have become too saturated and brands need to start paying up to get to the reach and engagement they desire.

Although business impact in terms of revenues is difficult to quantify, engagement and reach of branded content has substantially shifted in 2015. Twitter has become far too crowded to become consistently useful for brands, resulting in large drops in engagement on brand content. Facebook engagement has risen slightly, but this boost is also coupled with an increase in paid media spend on the platform. Instagram is the social network star of the year, with triple digit user growth in the last year as well as engagement on brand content that is an order of magnitude higher than that of the other networks. Social media has also become a large traffic source for publishers and consumer-centric brands alike, and social media optimization (SMO) has become as critical as search engine optimization (SEO).

The use of social media as a CRM tool for businesses has increased dramatically, especially with smaller businesses beginning to use Twitter and Linked In to communicate with their customers. Social media sentiment can be used to drive business strategy and product innovation, serving as a far more fundamental piece of the business puzzle than just a communications function. Social media analytics are also used to accurately gauge what makes consumers tick about a brand, with this data serving as an input instead of just an output to successful marketing campaigns.

Social media growth is still solid, but has slowed across the board with the exception of Instagram, with most networks having grown at a modest 15-25% over the last year. We’ve seen new entrants that focus on live streaming of video content, Periscope and Meerkat, but they have not seen significant uptake in the local market as yet. Content has become much richer across the board, with a large emphasis on videos and high resolution pictures being shared. This trend reflects even on Twitter, where a single picture can tell a story far more than 140 characters of text can, and brands are capitalizing on this by publishing a large amount of visual content on the network. Companies have also gotten serious about spending on media, with a significant increase in paid media spend on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube respectively – however Facebook still remains the network that delivers the highest ROI to companies, according to our corporate survey.

Instagram is the fastest growing social network in the country, with triple digit growth in the last 12 months. The growth is also leap-frogging the normal early adopter crowd and reaching mass market earlier than usual, with local television celebrities and presenters leading the charts in terms of followers. Photo filter usage on the network has dropped to record lows, and the most engaged with images tend to have no filter at all, indicating that people have grown tired of the special effects that sparked initial interest to use the platform.

Facebook has experienced solid consistent growth across all segments, with one very interesting difference. Feature phone usage is plummeting in the platform and is associated with an equivalent rise in smartphone usage. As predicted, the low cost of entry level smartphones are proliferating the market and have shifted device usage significantly in only 12 months. Although the Nokia Asha still leads the way as the top phone used to access Facebook, usage of this phone on Facebook has dropped by over 400,000 people in the last 12 months.

Twitter has increased in usage over the last year, but growth has significantly slowed. With the recent Periscope acquisition, there is an increased emphasis towards integrating the platform with real-time streaming video content. Twitter engagement on brand content has dropped significantly compared to last year. Brands are posting more content than ever before on the social network, but even paid-for campaigns are often not seen as relevant by Twitter users. For the first time ever, more than 50% of all surveyed brands post content once per day or more – but this is translating to a sea of noise that doesn’t necessarily result in business value.

Linked In usage has grown significantly in the last 12 months, with a large number of smaller businesses joining the platform in 2015. Entry level workers represent the largest increase in numbers in terms of seniority level, growing by 21% in the last year. Operations, healthcare and education personnel are joining the network the fastest across all industries.

MXit has experienced a further decline in users compared to the year before, but the platform is also restructuring its business model to focus on empowering Africans and accelerating economic and social growth in the region, by placing a stronger emphasis on social services and associated programmes. A fundamental shift away from just the typical instant messenger model employed by WeChat or Whatsapp, it will also allow businesses to help make a difference in education and healthcare through CSI initiatives in the platform.

In a surprise finding, corporate blogging has seen a strong resurgence as the importance and relevance of long form content surpasses 140 character updates. Corporate blogs are seen as more effective marketing channels than any social network, as surveyed by SA corporates.  The headline results will be presented and discussed by the top industry influencers at the Social Media Landscape Briefing, held in Johannesburg on 16 September 2015, and in Cape Town on the 17 September 2015. To book a ticket to these events, click on the links below:

Social Media Landscape Briefing, 16 Sep, Jhb

Social Media Landscape Briefing, Cpt, 17 Sep

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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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