I’m a marketing guy. But in my consulting days and in various other roles I have both sold and trained people to sell. My most recent in-house role, director of product marketing, had a strong sales enablement component, including attending the daily sales stand up and delivering training, content, competitive intel, tools, and strategy to my sales team.
I was a little surprised to see a post in a respected tech publication just the other day about how unfathomable machine learning is, and how unknown its impact is going to be. Agreed, machine learning is still unfamiliar to many people, and its potential is enormous. But maybe I can help demystify it a little by sharing some of my own experience applying machine learning in a real life situation.
I really dug into machine learning a few years back working on a marketing campaign concerning the use of analytics during the discovery phase of lawsuits. I got hands-on by downloading the somewhat-famous Enron emails, which I popped into a MySQL database server, and did a little poking around in them using Tableau. But what really helped me understand the power of machine learning was studying emerging e-discovery technology, culminating in a conversation with data scientist and entrepreneur Nicolas Croce (see the interview here).
Before I share what I learned, first some background for those who aren’t already familiar with what the legal profession calls “discovery”. Discovery is the process by which lawyers are permitted to obtain evidence, including documents and electronic records, from their opponents. This is permitted under civil and criminal law so that the lawyers for both sides can assemble evidence that courts need to make good decisions. In a major legal action discovery can involve literally millions of documents and equivalent types of records (images, emails, database entries, etc.). Both sides must review these documents to identify which are important and why.
Over the years I’ve discussed social media strategy with quite a few executives from large organizations. It’s no wonder so many approach social media with caution. They’re well aware of worst case scenarios, and as a byproduct, the majority of executives today still hesitate to play a highly visible personal role in social media, despite the best efforts of evangelists such as myself to drag them kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
Nonetheless, every major brand now recognizes the opportunity and necessity of engaging in social media conversations. And none that I know of are still relying exclusively on interns or just-out-of-school new hires to manage their programs. Projecting a brand presence into social media is a serious undertaking that requires communication skills, a certain amount of finesse, and common sense. This is where training and coaching come in, which is a topic for a future blog post, along with crisis preparation, which is the topic of a post I wrote that was published today in the Trapit blog.
As of the publication of this post, Pinterest has just caught up to Twitter in popularity. And as marketers find out about the amazing viral power of Pinterest and other image-centered social networks they are jumping on that train.
Pinterest can be regarded as an alternative to Facebook as a brand marketing vehicle. Many of the millions of people who use Pinterest may prefer it, and put more effort into it, than Facebook because it offers a vastly superior photo browsing and sharing experience than Facebook. And Pinterest boards require a fraction of the overhead needed to create and manage an in-house or Facebook photo gallery. Moreover, since Pinterest can display photos from their original locations around the web, it is the perfect place to collect “fan photos” and other visual content related to the brand in some way, even if it’s not owned by the brand. But instead of looking at Facebook and Pinterest as either/or, it’s better to acknowledge that far fewer people are using Pinterest, some people use both, influencers can be found on both, and each has brand marketing potential.
There have been days where several different people have asked me for help coming up with a Pinterest strategy. The businesses looking for help range from super-corporations I cross paths with professionally to entrepreneurs I meet in coffee shops. Most (not all) of these people admit they don’t really want to invest in yet another social media platform, they just feel they’re supposed to.
Due to a misunderstanding, at the last minute before takeoff an airline refused to allow a pair of special-needs passengers to fly. This upset the passengers deeply and stranded them at an unfamiliar airport.
No one should have been surprised that intense criticism of the airline spread rapidly via social media, portraying them as bad-guys even though the incident was (arguably) a one-time mistake by an isolated group of employees.
This wound up being a good thing, because:
The airline discovered this issue, apologized to the would-be passengers and their families, refunded their money, offered them additional free flights, and came up with a new process to keep the problem from recurring. All-in-all, the airline—our hometown favorite here in Seattle, Alaska Airlines—took a regrettable mistake, and did everything possible (considering it was after the fact) to make it right with those affected. In this way Alaska Airlines also earned positive PR by showing they’re the kind of company that owns up to their mistakes and jumps on an opportunity to do the right thing when they can.
This post isn’t about Alaska Airlines—it’s about the other guys
I’m pleased to see more and more stories about companies turning customer complaints into positive publicity. But this post is for the other guys, anyone who isn’t sure they have the right attitude, either individually or organizationally, to handle all customer criticism in a positive way.
Junction is designed to help small and medium sized businesses plan, execute, and manage their social media initiatives effectively. Unlike many social media management solutions which offer publishing to social media accounts, monitoring conversations, and analytics as independent solutions, or as siloed components, Junction tightly integrates and dashboards all three.
I’ve noticed that a major stumbling block of many social media management solutions is that the feedback they offer about the success (or lack thereof) of social media efforts can be difficult to act on. Even when publishing, monitoring, and analytics are available under the same login, the gap between action and feedback can be wide enough to leave a major hurdle in the path of social media marketers. Meanwhile, the level of complexity conveyed by analytics tools can leave marketers, and the people they are accountable to, bewildered.
All three contain countless nuggets of recent scientific insight into behavioral economics, or why people and markets behave as we do, as explained by three very cogent thinkers. All three focused on defining the abilities, strengths and weaknesses of different brain areas; how human impulses mesh and are sorted and acted on; predictable biases of both “rational” and “emotional” sorts; and, what we can do to avoid—and manipulate—biases and errors. Interestingly, all three authors acknowledged the increasing difficulty academics are having in drawing sharp lines between “rational” and “emotional” behavior when confronted with contemporary knowledge about brain function, but all three attempted to draw distinctions between “rational” and “emotional” decisions nonetheless—with varying degrees of success.
The book I enjoyed the most was Jonah Lehrer’s, which I could oversimplify by describing as “neuroscience discovers B.F. Skinner” because of his focus on learned behavior. But perhaps that’s because Lehrer’s approach best fit my personal preconceptions about behavior—and the fact that B.F. Skinner was still working at the psych department where I received my undergraduate degree in psychology way back when I was in school.