The latest news on big data,
analytics, and social media

  • Better customer engagement leads to loyalty

    Social media is a fact of modern life. Through social media we can now enact every interaction online, from making friends and sharing birthday wishes to connecting with our professional networks. Both socially and professionally, our communication is migrating online.

    In this globally connected environment, traditional ideas about customer engagement are being turned on their head. For example, it turns out that what people feel and say about a brand is more important than how the brand portrays itself. This insight has led to a shift in marketing and customer service strategy, away from traditional corporate identity building and towards real, human relationships which deepen customer engagements and turn consumers into brand advocates who spread positive sentiment across both online and offline social networks.

    Australia’s four major banks (NAB, CBA, Westpac and ANZ) have spent the last few years developing their social media strategies, with some spectacular results. NAB in particular have managed to become an integral part of the online landscape, and in the last year their total online following has grown over 350%. NAB is an instructive example, as their unified approach to social media engagement, built around a dedicated social media command centre, is a model of how to both build relationships and deliver value to the company.

    These two goals must both be balanced and kept in mind in order to develop a sustainable social media strategy. As Commonwealth Bank’s CIO Michael Harte recently told The Australian Financial Review, the end goal is to have ‘no friction’ between the bank and its customers. In Harte’s view ‘Banks lost intimacy and our goal (at CBA) is to bring it back through experience.’

    By reducing friction, financial services companies can both deepen the intimacy of customer relations, and also capitalise on the opportunities for consumer advocacy, turning customer service into a resource rather than a burden.

  • Does your business need small or big data, or both?

    Whether you’re running an international corporation or a small start-up, choosing the right data to drive your business is crucial to connecting with your customers. Part of this decision may be made for you by the very nature of your company – big data is a competitive and costly commodity, involving big investment. Apart from financial cost, other drawbacks often associated with big data include its impersonal nature – in effect reducing people to predictable machines, not to mention the suggestion that it is invasive. Nonetheless, thanks to the competitiveness of today’s markets, big data’s popularity is ever increasing.


    Big Data – Big Opportunities


    Big data offers companies opportunities that small data simply cannot, such as the creation of unique emails targeted to sections of a customer base and auto-generation of shopping lists. The strengths of small data, however, lie in the weaknesses of big data. Small data offers a detailed insight into the thoughts and emotions of customers. Via social media monitoring and interaction, companies can begin conversations with their customers and can tackle any potential problems quickly and effectively. In this sense, big data can be thought of as a back-office procedure, providing a large overview of trends in order to automate processes and generate profit.


    Small data on the other hand, particularly in the realm of social media, can be a vital tool for building loyalty, trust and respect with your customer base. The real question any company should seek to answer then is not whether to use big or small data, but how they go about achieving the ultimate balance between the two. Rather than assuming that big is always better, the size and automation potential of big data should be combined with the human touch of small data, leading to both customer satisfaction and a profitable business.


    Here’s an example of how a bank could use small and big data to retain customers:

    Aoife visits her bank in Dublin at 11 am to withdraw money from her account, but her debit card is not working. Aoife is angry at the bank that their system failed to process her transaction. Aoife decides to get in line to speak with someone about her card issues, however there is a long line in the bank and she gives up after 10 minutes. Aoife writes their twitter account as she’s leaving the bank at 11:15 to complain about the failed transaction.

    The bank doesn’t know that Aoife complained on twitter about her service because they don’t monitor online conversations. They may just have lost a long-term customer because they didn’t address the customers’ complaints. How can the bank solve this issue?

    Bluenote Fusion Suite tracks mentions of the bank across Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and the web. They see real-time data on whether mentions are positive or negative. So when Aoife tweets about her unfortunate experience, Bluenote Fusion suite catches the negative mention, reads it, prioritises it based on influence/importance, and distributes the message to customer service, or an automated queue for response. Aoife is sent a personal message apologising and promising that the bank will look into the issue.

    Bluenote Fusion Suite notices more complaints than usual. By reviewing their timing and location, the platform discovers that people are tweeting and posting complaints about the same branch with similar issues. Bluenote picks up the trend and alerts the appropriate department promptly so they can address the issue on a larger scale  These customers are prioritised based on importance and responded to in a timely manner.


    Big data is all about picking up huge patterns and insights that can’t be gleaned from everyday conversation and interaction with customers. The end goal is an automated solution that increases monetization.


    Small data, particularly in social media, is for picking up on immediate, actionable insights. It’s about finding ways to build loyalty, appreciation and brand trust. Spontaneity is one of its strengths. It catches social cues so marketers can respond like humans and personify their brand.

    Using Bluenote Fusion Suite, the bank can track the frequency of customers like Aoife using various bank services, so they can target her with new promotions, and existing products, aimed at increasing the customers’ lifetime value. Based on the segment that Aoife fits into, Bluenote Fusion Suite automatically sends Aoife a suitable offer that will retain her as a client, and potentially encourage her to purchase more products through AIB.



  • SecureKey Awarded Federal Digital Credentials Contract

    SecureKey Awarded Federal Digital Credentials Contract

    Toronto’s SecureKey recently announced that it has entered into a contract with USPS to provide a new authentication service based in cloud. This is just one of a number of US government-based programmes that have been in development for a number of years, but talk of it has been thin on the ground in the run-up to the announcement, being conspicuous by its absence in tech publications and on websites. Nonetheless, vast teams have been working on it in the background.

    The project, branded the Federal Cloud Credential Exchange (FCCX) aims to help individuals to access online service based at various federal or government agencies without having to use multiple different passwords. These services can include facilities for things like health benefits, student loans and retirement information. The first federal agency to offer it up to the public is the Veterans Administration.

    Access to 120 Federal Programmes

    SecureKey has previously been in charge of running a trusted identity service in Canada. Canadians can use identification keys that have been provided by banks to connect with as many as 120 different government programmes online, with no need to remember additional user names or passwords. These single passwords can be used to find out information on anything from benefits to fishing licences.

    The project forms part of Barack Obama’s National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace – or NSTIC for short, as well as the federal governments Identity, Credential and Access Management (ICAM) program. The experts behind the technology have a website which can be found at where users will find a note saying “The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC), signed by the President in April 2011, states, ‘A secure cyberspace is critical to our prosperity.’ This powerful declaration makes clear that securing cyberspace is absolutely essential to increasing the security and privacy of transactions conducted over the Internet. The Identity Ecosystem envisioned in the NSTIC is an online environment that will enable people to validate their identities securely, but with minimized disclosure of personal information when they are conducting transactions.”

    Support for Tens of Millions of Users

    SecureKey is also said to be working on development similar facilities UK government agencies and organisations. It says that the USPS chose it over others largely because of its federated authentication platform, the SecureKey Exchange. This is a cloud-based authentication service which will play a pivotal role in the Federal credential program, allowing it to easily broker user credential management capabilities rather than having to create and maintain an authentication service sophisticated to support tens of millions of users on its own.

    The service follows federal guidelines in order to protect privacy. The credential exchange is designed to transmit information securely without identities being revealed, whilst restricting the ability of third-party credential providers to track transaction across various agencies. The SecureKey programme is committed to connect identity providers including banks and healthcare services with the most-used online services of consumers through a cloud-based broker service. SecureKey aims to reduce the complexity involved in establishing many-to-many relationships. It claims to cut down

    credential management costs for online service providers, whilst making the sign-up process easy for users whilst respecting their privacy.

    Benefits for the IRS?

    One agency that is likely to benefit from SecureKey’s technology is the IRS. As most people are only likely to log in the IRS service once or a couple of times a year, remembering passwords and usernames can be difficult. The IRS is also prone to fraud and estimates that it loses around $5 billion per year due to it, with SecureKey services likely to reduce the amount notably. It’s estimated that the IRS would save at least $40 million by using SecureKey’s authentication service instead of creating its own equivalent, and would save up to a further $19 million on yearly maintenance costs. Identity fraud affected over 8 million American in 2011 according to studies, but it is hoped that SecureKey’s innovations would lead to this figure tumbling.

    Reports have consistently suggested that internet users all over the world are growing tired of remembering various usernames and passwords as well as dealing with multiple, long-winded registration processes. As the registration process can be off-putting and frustrating, organisations can find themselves losing business as a result of it. The contract given to SecureKey is worth $15 million and will last for three years. The FCCX is designed to enable individuals to securely access online services–such as health benefits, student loan information, and retirement benefit information–at multiple federal agencies, without the need of a different password or other digital identification for each service,” according to SecureKey officials.


  • Implementing and Maintaining the Right Analytics Mindset


    More and more businesses are starting to realise the value of marketing analytics, but inevitably some campaigns are starting to outshine others. It’s been said that as tough as building the right tools can be, encouraging people to adopt them and to do successfully is another battle in itself. One of the main reasons for this seems to be that some people are adopting the analytics state of mind quicker than other team members are. Whilst whole teams need to be on the same page if analytics campaigns are to achieve results, another factor influencing lacklustre analytics infrastructures is that teams are failing to recognise certain important aspects at the outset.

    Marketing organisations have to spread their activities across several departments and channels to create successful strategies, and this can create obvious obstacles. Centralising information from numerous sources can be tough, and unifying different organisational groups and departments can be very difficult. However, when companies endeavour to make an organisation integrated, efficiency can be improved and better assessments and analysis can take place. This allows organisation to see how different parts of marketing strategies are interacting with each other to drive sales or achieve other related results.

    Nurturing Unified Integration

    A concept called “adoption management” has enabled organisations that are split into various departments to nurture integration, even when departments are used to working independently of each other. The term is used to label a series of techniques that have encouraged various team members and groups to adopt and embrace new ways of thinking and doing things. It’s said that there are seven different principles to adoption management.

    The first principle of adoption management is goal setting. Goal setting allows a company to clearly communicate the objectives of a new project or idea in a way that is linked to both shared goals and individual targets. Visibility, in this context, is all about showing leadership in an involved and committed way. Meanwhile, transparency, the third part of adoption management is focussed upon giving team member the right to make themselves heard and be listened to, no matter how legit they think that their questions might be.

    More Key Principles of Adoption Management

    Honesty is the fourth principle and it involves acknowledging imperfections and flaws in an idea from the outset rather than simply ignoring them. Bluntness involves addressing concerns head on in a candid fashion, whilst training is deemed an all-important sixth principle as it enables the programme to be implemented and worked upon confidently by all team members. Finally, communication is the inevitable concluding principle, and in this instance it means that regular communications should be made at all stages, outlining the relationship between objectives and the level of progress that has been made.

    An additional key part of analytics management best practice involves relating your current business processes and ideologies to your proposed new project or initiative. If your new initiative is mapped or compared with the way you currently do things and vice versa, your team are more likely to be unified and confident in their efforts and what needs to be done on their part. This gives some much-needed context to your new idea.

    Looking At a Phased Adoption Plan

    You should also find it beneficial to come up with what is often called a ‘phased adoption plan’. This means introducing the new changes subtly and relatively slowly rather than scrapping everything and making all the changes at once. Creating and promoting a new mindset around analytics is usually an evolutionary process where results aren’t achieved overnight. You should also involve those who are responsible for allocating tasks and suchlike from the outset. The more credible the new approach seems, the more convinced of its quality staff are likely to be.

    Analytics allows and encourages those in charge of making decisions to quickly come up with new ways to solve problems. They can experiment with whole new methods of examining and making sense of data to see what is working and what needs to be changed before alterations and adjustments are implemented. Marketers across the world are shifting their approaches after being given access to ever-more sophisticated tools which supply them with increasing amounts of detailed information about customer habits, enabling them to tailor their efforts more closely in line with the expectations, behaviour and interests of customers. Collaboration can play a unique role in analytics as it enables ideas to be shared and new angles to be discovered. The work of data scientists is becoming more and more indispensable for organisations who are looking to improve business, identify new opportunities and see their operations run more smoothly.


  • How to Use Social Media in Sales

    The Value in Social Media for Sales

    Believe it or not, some businesses are still failing to embrace social media, perhaps seeing it as a fad or something that is not essential to their performance. However, worldwide audiences are seeing things a little bit differently, and for younger audiences in particular, a business not having a presence on Facebook, Twitter and the like seems unthinkable. It’s understandable that some sales teams and managers may be keen to stick with tried-and-tested practices, but in a rapidly-shifting world where old conventions are becoming increasingly obsolete, businesses can afford to ignore social media at their peril.

    Some companies are using social media but still refusing to give it the emphasis that it deserves, potentially missing out on vast levels of exposure, conversions and ultimately, sales. For those that have embraced social media and seen results stemming from it, this level of reluctance may seem unbelievable. There are vast swathes of information being shared on social media that businesses can use to find their audiences, from location and age to interests. Once audiences are even vaguely identified, the process of targeting them can begin. The more data is produced and the more experienced marketing professionals become when putting social media campaigns take place, the more instinctive the process of targeting also becomes.

    Adopting the Right Mindset

    Twitter and Facebook are densely populated by social media and marketing experts posting informative, topical content about Facebook and Twitter marketing, enabling would-be marketers to start thinking in a relevant and appropriate way from the outset. These articles and blogs often contain information about purchasing trends, new analytical tools and the current challenges being faced by marketers. By engaging with these posts, businesses can attain the right mindset to put together a robust social media marketing strategy.

    Social media is indispensable for businesses seeking to not only build and sustain relationships with their customers but with other companies too. By forming links with some of the most reputable names in your field, you can benefit from their prestige through association and therefore establish your brand as a leading expert in its field too.

    Keeping Abreast of Activity

    There are numerous mining tools available that can inform you about search terms that are being used on Twitter and suchlike relating to your business. If someone uses your brand in a Tweet, alerts can be sent to your e-mail account, but you can also ask these tools to alert you whenever any other search terms of your choosing are used in Tweets. This way, even if you miss a relevant Tweet, you still have the chance to interact with it and the person or company that posted it. This is perfect for those scenarios where you may not be able to oversee relevant Twitter activity as it happens.

    Knowing who is connected to who can be an incredibly important part of social media marketing, and there are various tools that you can utilise to keep you informed when things change. This can make it easier for you to know who or what is worth connecting to. Tools such as enable to you to stay updated when profile changes in your network take place.

    Being At the Centre of Relevance

    Whilst there has always been a great deal of emphasis placed on sealing deals, it’s never been wise to forget about the relationships that have been made once a deal has reached completion. Today, businesses can sustain relationships and connections by continuing to offer up engaging and interesting content and sharing it. This can mean keeping abreast of various relevant industry-specific news, and there are various tools that you can use to help you to identify relevant content amongst the endless sea of content and news stories that do appear every day. Popular tools for engaging other businesses can include a Feedly reader to deliver relevant stories and Storify to create new stories curated from several different sources, creating conversations and allowing users to be at the epicentre of news as it happens.

    LinkedIn: An Essential Sales Platform?

    Services such as LinkedIn make it easier for you to see who is connected to whom and why they are connected. LinkedIn enables you to see the bigger picture in terms of who other businesses are connected to and therefore allows you to identify who may or may not be a useful connection, with new opportunities being one of the main targets. In the past, it was arguably more difficult to identify who was associated with whom, but today it’s arguably simpler than ever. It’s also potentially easier to work out who was responsible for a deal falling through by investigating the connections laid out in front of you on LinkedIn. If you’ve ever been in positive talks with a rep only to see the deal come an abrupt end, chances are a stakeholder was involved. Building stakeholder maps can be a very useful move to make, and may enable you to build up a better reputation for your business, leading to a successful deal being sealed next time due to your visibility, level of trust placed in you and the image that you put across on LinkedIn.

    LinkedIn is often seen as the B2B equivalent of Facebook and is widely seen as an indispensable tool when it comes to lead generation. It is a service for sharing business advice, liasing with other relevant businesses, looking for job opportunities where relevant and even allows you to see who has viewed your profile, making it easier to identify the kind of audiences that you are attracting. Advanced searching features allow you to locate based on specific attributes, whilst the service has also recently lowered its minimum age range to allow students and pupils to start networking with influential figures early, essentially providing them with an early start over others who are not using the service. You can connect with people who are explicitly related to your line of work or connect with those who specialise in other sectors to receive interesting and informative advice when you seek it. Many openings have come to fruition through LinkedIn.