Before we delve further into its meaning and use in the cyber world, perhaps some background context is required.
The use of online or mobile applications software or “Apps” has boosted the way you consume products and services online. Companies jumped onto the bandwagon when they discovered that we mostly use Smartphones for the Internet – a lot more than on desktops.
App developers were then subsequently sought after to create mobile Apps for practically anything. What started as something mainly for gamers moved quickly onto Apps for any commercial activity.
We now use Apps (the Internet) for shopping; fitness; travelling; online bookings and banking. Developers now create customised software to help with anything.
There is now an App store for every significant tech provider – Microsoft, Google and Apple to mention a few. This has naturally fattened their pockets and created an additional stream of income from an eager market.
The ‘catch’ for using mobile apps is that though it costs you nothing to download, using them still require some form of ‘registration’. You can do this by providing personal data or linking to an existing account such as your Facebook or Google account.
The benefit to App providers
The Apps, which are also embedded in social media, create a data goldmine for marketers to study and track your browsing habits. Through them marketers can gain valuable insights into your interests and then customise their products/services to sell to you.
Data mining has become more lucrative and more accessible with the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning. Ever notice how after browsing online or having a conversation or a chat application like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, you go online afterwards, and you see Ads displaying the items you discussed?
Creepy isn’t it? Well, that is the future of Web 4.0 for you!
Luckily for us, there is a school of knowledgeable and security conscious programmers who are not ‘giving in’ to the way the Internet has become a centralised cesspool for marketers to harvest data from.
Social media platforms, search engine providers and mobile application providers facilitate them immensely with this.
The impetus behind a distributed application system is that it serves to distribute plough some of wealth garnered from your data via application providers back to you – the end user.
Imagine getting paid to surf the web for hours. The way you get paid for taking on a survey, partaking in a social experiment, donating an organ or sperm?
This is the way distributed apps are touted to work: by rewarding you for the use of specific applications (in a peer-to-peer review like setting) with cashable tokens. Seems only fair right?
Now you can imagine how companies like Cambridge Analytica would react to having to pay you for their use of your data. There will be reluctance and resistance but if they could pay companies like Facebook for the use of data, why not pay us directly?
Joining the DApps revolution is a no-brainer. Companies at the forefront of building and supporting DApps will end up getting a more substantial chunk of the market.
DApps will primarily provide you with the use of payment (remuneration) systems. These are specifically known as Smart Contracts and Proof or Work systems.
The latest abbreviation in finance and crypto-world is ‘ICO’. A word that gives both local and global financial authorities like the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) nightmares for several reasons.
Not to be confused with Initial Public Offering (IPO) which is used by firms to raise cash through the issuing of shares to the public. An ICO (Initial Coin Offering) serves the same function and works like crowdfunding , but for digital currency and tokens only.
We recently covered a feature on raising funds and capital for a business but missed out on one relatively new method. More and more companies are using ICOs to raise capital for their businesses.
The concept of an ICO works similarly to how a company raises capital through shares in that it is all based on contrived value.
Funding raising in effect boils down to sales! If your actual product or service has nothing substantial or intrinsic to offer a client base, then it is nothing more than a scam.
Launching an ICO is quite easy, and to an extent, many tech companies are now catching onto it.
An ICO is the cryptocurrency space’s rough equivalent to an IPO in the investment world. ICOs act as fundraisers of sorts; a company looking to create a new coin, app, or service launches an ICO — Investopedia.
The alarming spurt rate of ICOs often brings with it a scourge of potential scammers. The SEC and other institutions have to step in to monitor and regulate them.
Social media Platforms like Facebook and Google – which house a bounty of users (potential investors) have banned ICOs ads due to possible prey on unsuspecting investors; exposing them to con artists.
Basically, the scammers use fancy websites, laden with impressive figures and terminology to con users into buying into their coins or tokens.
Though the tokens barely even cost a cent, it adds up if they have millions of people buying in. Once they have reached a certain amount in funding – they close shop and disappear!
Hypothetically speaking if one wanted to create a new coin called ‘DebunqedCoin’, these are the steps:
Create a product concept or Business Plan for the coin or what is called a Whitepaper. This describes in great detail what the coin or token aims to do; the core technologies behind it; the team and their qualifications; the product’s lifecycle/growth path etc.
Once completed and water-tight, the whitepaper would be submitted along with an application to one of the best Cryptocurrency Exchanges for review.
Naturally, the business would need some initial working capital for liquidity. Some of this is raised by the owners and other institutions (through loans) etc. These will serve as collateral/insurance that there is indeed genuineness in the venture for all stakeholders.
You must then assure your investors of a solid return on investment (ROI) and deliver – which goes back to sales and growth. Unless your offering is a scam you actually need to do some work! This comes with regular updates (marketing campaigns can have a tremendous or adverse impact on the uptake and price) on milestones reached.
The above is necessary to keep the investors abreast with progress and in the process, getting them to possibly increase funding. Growing interest and addition of more funds creates demand for the coin/ token which, in turn, drives up the price and market capitalization.
Voila! you would then be in business!
Here are some of the most successful ICOs of all time
Known as “China’s Ethereum”, and backed by Microsoft, Alibaba and the Chinese government, NEO uses smart contract applications. It does so, however, with the addition of decentralized commerce, digitized assets and identification.
It enjoyed a considerable hike in token value from $0.03 to $88.20, NEO has big things coming with a 294,000% ROI.
Unlike Bitcoin, the second-most valuable cryptocurrency in the world has more functionality than just being a coin. Its ledger technology is used to build and deploy decentralized applications a.k.a. “smart contract” technology.
Ethereum’s ROI has been nothing short of jaw-dropping at 230,000%. Having sold its tokens at $0.31, an Ether token now sits at a whopping $713, second in value only to Bitcoin.
The “premier privacy-focused cryptocurrency” enables users to send and receive currency worldwide with total anonymity. It is currencies like SpectreCoin that have most government tax offices quaking in their boots.
If you had repurchased a token in November 2016, that puny $0.001 would be worth $0.64 today, or an ROI of 64,000%.
The prospect can be daunting for a cryptocurrency investor looking to make money off new investment opportunities, while remaining cushioned from fraudulent ICOs and dodgy coins and tokens.
As there is no guarantee that any cryptocurrency or blockchain-related start-up will be genuine or successful. One simply needs to be vigilant and take steps such as getting to know the core team, poring over the whitepaper with a big magnifying glass. Naturally you should be monitoring progress of the token sales.
Most importantly, one must just using common sense to gauge just how feasible the project is to ensure that you’re not falling for a scam.
Remember, if it’s too good to be true, then it isn’t true!
We are living in exciting and innovative times with futuristic technology literally at our fingertips. But for the longest time, small to medium-sized businesses were not serviced by the latest tech trends enterprises have been able to benefit from.
That is, until now. This piece explores these technology trends and how they will impact business in 2018 and beyond.
So, what kind of things can this ‘smart’ tech do? Just 4 months ago, an AI machine managed to complete a University level math exam 12 times faster than it normally takes the average human.
How? Through the art of machine learning; where computers learn and adapt through the experience without explicitly being programmed.
Furthermore, Facebook made headlines earlier this year when their chatbots created their own language. Some ‘fake news’ stories claim that the engineer’s pulled the plugin a panic as they were getting too smart.
However, the truth is that for Facebook’s purposes the chatbots needed to stick to English rather than developing their own shorthand. Their machine learning chatbots did nevertheless, create their own language outside their explicit programming.
This evolving area of computer science is the future for service businesses, and it’s already affecting the way we live and work today. In fact, research firm Markets and Markets estimates that the machine learning market will grow from $1.41 billion in 2017 to $8.81 billion by 2022!
So buckle up because these technology trends will affect every part of your business, from marketing to operations all the way through to payroll and here’s how.
Marketing Gets Smarter with AI and Machine Learning
AI and Social Media Marketing
In April 2017, CRM software provider, Salesforce conducted a study of marketing leaders worldwide, and the results were mind-blowing. Respondents said they expect to see improvements in efficiency and advancements in personalization over the next five years.
More than 60 percent of marketers envision leveraging AI to create dynamic landing pages, websites, programmatic advertising and media buying.
With behavioural targeting methods, AI will be able to locate and start the nurture process. For example, a marketing stack that employs AI algorithms might learn that a specific buyer who checks into LinkedIn on Monday mornings has recently started looking for a new CRM tool.
The software can then suggest (or even create) targeted posts to be published on the days and times that they’ll see them.
Currently, savvy marketers that are using social listening as way to nurture leads don’t have the necessary enhancement of AI. This is, however, time-consuming, manual and not in real-time.
So how do you start to get ready for this type of future content marketing distribution?
Firstly, you will need to have your buyer personas (using the consumer black box theory ) well defined. Taking a solid look at your CRM will give you tons of hints for content that will get qualified leads to respond.
By taking a step back and analyzing your channel’s content (like emails, phone calls and social media messages) you will start to get the right kind of insights. The ones that will prompt a lead to take the next step into the second phase of your sales funnel.
For instance, a C-Suite executive might respond best to data-driven whitepapers and infographics to peak their interests, whereas a fellow marketer might be more suited for an interactive case-study or video.
The only way to get these kinds of insights is to do a deep dive into your CRM platform and conduct a thorough review of customer details – using semantic analysis to understand the level of buying intent behind the words your qualified prospects use.
Hot tip: Starting to run your analysis now and developing strong personas will be key to implementing AI algorithms to your social media in 2018 and beyond.
Marketing and Machine Learning
Put simply, machine learning is about understanding data and statistics. It’s a technical process where computer algorithms find patterns in data, then predict probable outcomes. An example is when your email determines whether a particular message is spam or not depending on words in the subject line, links included in the message, or patterns identified in a list of recipients.
It’s the perfect example of how machine learning can be applied in marketing to optimize for successful campaigns.
Businesses can also use machine learning to up-sell the right product, to the right customer, at the right time. In 2018, marketers will continue to rely on machine learning to understand open rates when it comes to email. This way, you know exactly when to send your next campaign to increase click-through rates and ROI.
The next big thing? It might sound small but ticket tagging and re-routing can be a massive expense for small businesses – costs that can be saved with machine learning.
Having a sales inquiry automatically end up with the sales team, or a complaint end up instantly in the customer service department’s queue, is going to save companies a lot of time and money, and this is all being made possible with modern technology.
Here’s what else to expect in 2018:
E-Commerce Reaches New Heights
You’ve been shopping for a new pair sunglasses on Amazon, then before you know it, your Facebook feed is filled with multiple eyewear ads and related trends for summer.
This is machine learning.
In fact, this example of analyzing data based on a user’s purchase history or online shopping behaviour is the future for e-commerce.
Retail companies are also tracking what ads or images you’re most likely to stop scrolling on, in order to target you with specific content. For example, if you always click on ads that contain happy women and some text, then a machine will log this as preferred content so that you are only targeted with ads that fit this description.
Machines can also track what time of day you are most active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and/or Pinterest, in order to present these ads to you at an optimal buying time.
Then when it’s time to purchase, machine learning is applied to reduce the risk of credit fraud in small businesses.
How? Machines learn from historical datasets that contain fraudulent transactions and can identify patterns that represent a typical fraudulent transaction.
Similar to the way spam emails are detected and deterred. Machine learning will start to affect other parts of your business funnel as well, just take a look at the rise of Chatbots.
There was a time in which chatbots were only thought of as manmade pests on the Internet. Through machine learning, they are getting smarter and businesses are embracing them en mass.
In 2018 and beyond, chatbots will play a key role in the future of customer service. Why? Chatbots can help achieve a faster customer service resolution, as well as provide quick histories of each customer for impeccable customer service.
There are some key benefits that chatbots have over solely human interactions:
Giving 24/7 customer service: The great things about machines? They don’t sleep! Coupled with the fact that chatbots are getting sophisticated enough to recognize human emotions such as anger, confusion, fear and joy. So should a chatbot encounter negative sentiments from the customer, they can seamlessly transfer to a human to take over and finish assisting the customer.
The era of being ‘on hold’ is gone: A huge barrier to providing excellence in customer service is long wait times. How many times have you tried to get customer service from Comcast (or any TV/Internet provider) and you are getting progressively more frustrated with the wait times? This can all be eliminated with chatbots!
Quick access to customer data makes service more personal:One thing that humans will never be better at than chatbots is quickly digesting customer data and history to provide context to customer questions.
Chatbots excel at collecting customer data from support interactions. They can serve as virtual assistants that can feed customer data to your customer service officers so they have a full history of each account quickly.
The final trend we’ll explore is Automation and how it affects businesses today.
Automation now and beyond 2018
Though Machine Learning and AI are hot topics in the tech world, it is not to a point that small to medium size businesses can leverage it in the immediate future. But there is still hope for them with automation.
Powered by the Cloud, this type of technology has already revolutionized Marketing and Sales workflows and interactions but it is also starting to touch the various other parts of a business. For example:
Once you win an important sale, you’ve got to deliver the product or service you’ve promised to the client. What does that process look like for most businesses now? You all will have a kick-off meeting and hope to cover all the promises that marketing and sales have given to your client.
However, with the use of operations automation and a powerful CRM, you will be able to read the interactions and see all the various touch points a client had with your company before that kick off call even happens.
This will give your service businesses a head start in providing great client relations and managing expectations. This category of SaaS products is called Service Operations Automation, or ServOps for short.
If there is one data-entry heavy department it would be Accounting. The problem is that as humans, we are fallible and much slower at data entry than a machine. Innovations with bank feeds, rules-based categorization and integrated payments have dramatically reduced the workload of clerical and bookkeeping staff.
This gives business owners more timely access to accurate financial information for their businesses.
Research, done by Xero, (a popular financial software provider) suggests that by 2020, automation will be commonplace in accounting. A significant number of finance professionals will be using the next level of analytical tools to help them add value to business models across the globe.
Finally, the Cloud and Automation have come to the Payroll and Human Resources sector. These important areas of a business too often suffer because small businesses aren’t big enough to afford a full-time HR department.
What’s the alternative? Having only part-time efforts of founders and principals which can often lead to serious risk to the business.
With new automation technology, compliance is automated by platforms. The effort of keeping time-off approvals in sync with PTO balances and payslips becomes a thing of the past.
In the near future, we will see the rise of great technology, powered by the Cloud, Automation, AI and Machine Learning.
This truly is the start of the Golden Age of Information Technology and it is time for businesses to take a hard look at their organizations and find ways to start integrating these tech trends.
This is a slightly shortened re-blog from a marketing post on Tenfold.com *
*This post was guest-authored by Tara Callinan and Jenneva Vargas from Accelo
Let’s face it, if you really were going to quit Facebook, you would have a few years ago. Fact is, you should have asked the serious questions when the ‘free’ social media platform started turning over billions of dollars.
No free service can generate that amount money out of goodwill and thin air. So much that they could list on the stock exchange. So, we are not quite sure why everyone is acting amazed or why the knee-jerk #DeleteFacebook campaign is only now coming to light.
There really is no such thing as a free lunch. If you believe that all these online social platforms would keep it that way, then you are as naive as they are hoping you to be.
Think about it, the companies behind the platforms, actively recruit in pretty much tens and hundreds of cities globally.
And the simple fact of the matter is that in order for them to pay all their (global) staff of programmers, developers, executives, lawyers and other stakeholders. They need revenue.
What your data means
Facebook, Google, Twitter, Snapchat and pretty much any social media platform that has over 100 million users, therefore, sit on a goldmine for advertisers.
The commodity, however, is not just what their users wish to own in the short term, or their purchasing power directly for that matter.
The commodity is simply you, the user. So, your preferences, habits and views along with their personal data are analysed via machine-learning systems to study behaviours and habits.
The data in turn, is used for constant revenue maximization or in some extreme cases: political, psychological and social manipulation!
“Your ‘payment’ on a social media platform is your consent to have your information used for marketing purposes – opting out of marketing would give you true free use of the service. But no profiteering company offers that privilege today – the best you can get is a month’s free trial.”
Knowing your likes, spending habits, music preferences, political views, personal information including location and working habits is enough for any company or institution to cater their goods and services.
They can position their offerings (sometimes subliminally) into spaces where you are likely to indulge in them.
Social media platforms, in this case, become the marketplace for them to ‘mine’ data to use.
Most famous social network sites worldwide as of January 2018, ranked by number of active users (in millions).
Data mining is not a new idea and completely legal if presented transparently in the terms and conditions of any service. The terms get longer by the day (and smaller in print) that we don’t bother to read them.
Microsoft envisioned this a decade ago and changed the way its operating systems work (beginning with its Windows 8 series). It’s operating systems are now more of a social, interactive and information gathering system. Allegedly designed to “help you” organize things better.
This is fostered by a voice-activated app called Cortana – all under one Microsoft account.
Amazon has its own ways of data mining via your shopping habits and Alexa – is own voice-activated search and information-providing device.
This applies especially with its partnership with Android, which makes it a requirement for you to use for all their devices (phones and tablets) to link up all your data.
This includes phone contacts, emails via Gmail, pictures via GoogleDrive, apps (music, movies and games) orders via the Google (Play)Store and social media via Google+.
You can even have your search fields stored and synced onto your devices – from your laptop to phone and tablet via Google.
You are now having to (almost mandatorily) give up your telephone number, location, and other preferences indirectly to unknown affiliated marketers and partners of the tech giants. They get first dibs on this data – and paying good money for it.
The main violation by Facebook, therefore, might not even be non-consensus selling of data to marketers. Such things could be countered with a clause.
They may have strategically stuck one in while you were busy posting selfies and liking random videos of cats.
The real issue is the potential use of the data for political or advanced manipulation of data for fraudulent purpose. This can be facilitated by the use of artificial intelligence to influence you without your knowledge.
These platforms are, therefore, here to stay and still serve their specific functions well. More importantly, they’re also the livelihood for many small-to-medium-sized businesses.
Data mining is here to stay
Though many were reluctant at first, pretty much every company now has a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram page to showcase and communicate with their clients via the newly termed phrase ‘social engagement’. This has turned out to become a strong branding and marketing tool for them.
And if you think you are out of it by leaving one platform, just remember this: Facebook owns WhatsApp & Instagram; Google owns YouTube; Microsoft owns LinkedIn and so on.
There is nowhere to hide if complete online privacy is important to you.
And let’s not forget your web-browser. Not many of us actively use ad-blockers unaware that even your browsing data is being scanned and processed always by external third-parties companies.
It will be interesting to see the outcome and verdict of the probe into the Facebook case.
Rest assured, many other heavily used platforms will be deleting and removing ties with data mining marketers. Especially ones that have had a similar agenda to what Cambridge Analytica was accused of conducting.
A change in verification of marketers, data storage and data security laws (such as the new GDPR law) were long overdue. Facebook will now be the scapegoat to enforce data security laws on social media.