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In the ever-changing landscape of the Digital Age, it doesn’t take long for digital marketing tools and strategies to become outdated. It’s important for digital marketers to keep on top of technological advancements and changes or suffer the consequences—missing out on opportunities with new clients and potential customers, and falling behind as an agency or organization.

Staying abreast of industry trends and learning how to incorporate them into our day to day is important to the team at Calder Bateman. That’s why I, along with CB Digital Strategist Linda Hoang, attended this year’s SocialWest—the largest social media and digital marketing conference on the Prairies.

SocialWest 2018

Photo credit: Neil Zeller Photography / SocialWest

Here are a few key, future-focused learnings from SocialWest 2018 (which upon reading, may already be old news):

Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Marketing Automation

Currently, there are 12 distinct threats to civilization as we know it. These threats include global catastrophes such as nuclear war, extreme climate change, and poor global governance. However, Crystal DeCnodder, VP and CMO at Full Blast Creative, shared with attendees at SocialWest, that the single largest threat to humanity is artificial intelligence. The idea that technology will advance to form a new superintelligence or singularity that’s so far beyond human comprehension it ultimately results in job obsoletion and potential human extinction.

SocialWest Blog 2018
12 current threats to civilization 

However, there’s no need to panic (yet).

Artificial intelligence has the potential to change society for the better, especially if we harness it today.

Machine learning can help marketers better serve clients and customers by automating tasks that humans don’t typically perform well—such as repetitive tasks. This type of work can often be overwhelming and cumbersome for humans to deal with—sifting through large amounts of data manually. Instead, a potential use of AI for marketers could be to deploy machine learning software (which is surprisingly accessible these days) on repetitive tasks, that allows humans to focus on tasks we do excel at—such as strategizing, storytelling, and creating personal connections with clients and customers.

Artificial Intelligence has the potential to save us both time and money by automating simple tasks that consume your day. Want to schedule a meeting with a potential client based on a cold lead? Deploy a chat bot on your website that’s integrated into your company’s calendar and can communicate with website visitors in real-time and schedule meetings on your behalf.

It may sound frightening and complicated, but familiarizing ourselves with this technology now—embracing it—will ultimately allow us as digital marketers to serve our clients better. You can compare it to the rise of social media in the early 00s, and how early social media adopters were able to set themselves apart from other digital marketers by simply embracing change early on. The same thing could be said for adopting artificial intelligence practices now.

And if you’re wondering about whether or not artificial intelligence will overtake your job as a marketer, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that a career in marketing is actually more sustainable long-term than that of an accountant or lawyer, due to the creative aspects that machines may never be able to replicate.

You can now breathe again.

Personalization and the Power of People

It’s no secret that social networks have begun favouring people and personal content over brands when it comes to organic social media. How can you combat this significant shift in organic reach and engagement without fully investing in the pay-to-play model? In Alicia Taggio of Hootsuite’s presentation The Power of People: How Employees And Customers Can Help Grow Your Brand In A World Of Algorithmic Hell, we were inspired to build an army of advocates and utilize peer-driven media as a way to combat pay-to-play.

You may think you’re using your company’s social media accounts effectively by sharing about your own products and services, but social media advocacy—from employees and customers—is a far better way to spread the word.

But what’s the difference between brand advocates and influencers?

Social media advocacy leverages the social networks of people who are invested in your brand and its success. Mainly, your customers and your employees. Some of these people may be considered ‘influencers,’ with large and engaged followers, but they don’t necessarily need those components. For many companies, customers and employees are your biggest untapped resources when it comes to building brand awareness, loyalty, and ultimately leads or sales.

By strategically converting these people into brand advocates – individuals who proactively spread your company’s message to their own social networks – you can extend your brand’s reach and generate greater brand affinity. You can do this by using brand advocacy platforms, sharing links or content to selected ambassadors via email, or inviting these groups to special events where they can be the first to share company or product news.

A recent study found that just 18% of people trust brand influencers, while a whopping 92% trust brand advocates. And it’s no surprise that 9 out of 10 online consumers say recommendations from family and friends are the most trusted form of advertising worldwide. We’ve even begun to see social media start to surpass search engine marketing as the main source for product search in certain areas around the world.

By leveraging existing fans and employees, you can increase brand awareness and facilitate insightful customer feedback loops. Hootsuite sees the impact of brand advocates each day.

SocialWest Blog 2018
Hootsuite got us thinking about employee advocacy

It might be time to rethink your brand’s strategy and start building out a social media advocacy program.

Ethics of Digital Marketing

With the recent Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal and implementation of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in the European Union, concerns over digital data protection and privacy is at an all-time high.

But what role does digital marketing have to play in all of this? And to what ethical standard should marketers be held to? This was the discussion during the SocialWest Panel on Ethics of Digital Marketing featuring Dan Evans (Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Evans Hunt), Mark Vella, (Founder at Advertiise), and Jessica Fralick (Senior Account Manager at Edelman).

The reality is that marketers have always simply reacted to market conditions and offered up what their customers demand. Today, consumers crave personalization more than ever. From products and services right down to social media content, customers only want what is most relevant to them.

However, this type of personalization comes at a price. In order to develop personal and relevant content, marketers must utilize user data to understand audiences better and serve up the most relevant forms of content.

SocialWestBlog 2018
SocialWest Panel on Ethics of Digital Marketing

Can we as consumers justify demanding more and more personalized options without offering up an all-access pass to our personal data? Are we not hypocrites if we only want the most relevant content served to us but at the same time express outrage if companies collect and use our personal data?

If consumers were truly outraged with the current state of data privacy controls, they could opt out of using certain sites or social networks, and opt out of sharing certain data. The reality is a vast majority of consumers simply will not do so. We cannot expect continued personalization and consumer convenience in the future without giving up some form of freedom when it comes to collecting and using our personal data.

Ultimately, this boils down to whether or not digital marketing, social media, and influencer marketing needs to be regulated? Does the government need to step in to exert greater control over the protection of our personal data? What happens when we allow artificial intelligence and machine learning to access data for business practices? Are humans actually more ethical than machines?

Each time a company like Facebook receives a slap on the wrist, as was the case with Cambridge Analytica, it makes all of us smarter as consumers because it opens our eyes to issues we might not have realized in the first place.

The big question the panel had then is, what’s going to be the next problem that makes enough people stop and care? Something more shocking than Cambridge Analytica? What will we do then? We don’t have the answers to those questions just yet, but it’s important to consider how marketers should approach ethics in our work nonetheless.

Special thanks to Mike Morrison and the rest of SocialWest for organizing such a fantastic conference. We can’t wait for SocialWest 2019!

Did you attend SocialWest 2018? What were your key takeaways from this year’s conference? Are you interested in applying any of the learnings mentioned above to your own business? Get in touch! Reach out to Digital Coordinator James Lo at jlo@calderbateman.com to get started.

About the author

James Lo
It was no surprise to us that James was Canada’s Karate Champion in 2003 and 2005. His discipline, focus and patience make for great attributes as he helps the CB team manage projects and navigate the social media space for our clients and their audiences.

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