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Customer engagement strategies that heed power of social media

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The power of social media to alter customer engagement strategies — for a product rollout, an executive hire, a policy change — is impressive.

Case in point: Legendary Entertainment did not anticipate the kind of response it would get when it released its trailer for The Great Wall. The decision to cast Matt Damon as the hero in a film centered around the iconic Chinese landmark drew immediate criticism on Twitter and Facebook as another example of a white savior narrative and of whitewashing.

“The whole storyline was meant to be about someone coming into a new culture and learning and growing in that culture,” Matt Marolda, chief analytics officer at Legendary, said at the recent HUBweek, an arts, science and innovation festival in Boston. “But the perception was not that.”

Social media platforms and the swift judgment of the internet are forcing companies to engage in ways they’ve never had to before. And executives from Legendary and Microsoft are sharing their experiences with the new tools for — and rules for — customer engagement.

New tools of engagement

On paper, The Great Wall made sense, according to Marolda. It was 2016, and the U.S. and China were the two biggest movie markets in the world; the East-meets-West film reflected Legendary’s sale to Wanda Group, a massive entertainment company in China. And, based on an analysis Marolda and his applied analytics team did, Damon had an active following and a reputation for taking on high-quality projects.

But what looked good on paper did not translate well to audiences — especially those in the U.S. Marolda said the company reacted to the criticism quickly. For example, the company released a statement from Zhang Yimou, the film’s director whom Marolda characterized as “the Steven Spielberg of China,” defending the casting decision.

After that, the team stood still and observed. “We had time on our side,” said Marolda, adding that the film wasn’t scheduled to be released for nine months. “We could see analytically that the best thing to do was nothing.”

The public ire did cool, but the film couldn’t completely escape the negative press it had received, according to Marolda. The company ultimately decided to shift its marketing strategy. “We then realized that emphasizing the movie’s possibilities outside of the U.S. was as important as emphasizing the movie’s possibilities inside the U.S.,” he said.

The decision appears to have been a good one. While the film bombed in the U.S., it was moderately successful worldwide, and has helped spark a larger conversation about how to make blockbuster films for a global market.

Executives onstage at HUBweek.
Matt Marolda, chief analytics officer at Legendary Entertainment, and Kathleen Kennedy, director of special projects at the MIT Sloan School of Management, onstage at HUBweek.

Customer engagement strategies: Ask three questions

How do companies develop customer engagement strategies that acknowledge the power of social media? A reactive approach — no matter how swift the response or how successful in the short term — doesn’t cut it.   

Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer at Microsoft, talked about the role companies should play in the public discourse and stressed that companies need a moral compass today.

“You have to know the issues for which you’re going to take a stand. And you have to be grounded in a certain set of principles,” he said during a fireside chat at HUBweek with Adi Ignatius, the editor in chief of the Harvard Business Review.

Before weighing in on a controversial issue, Smith suggested that companies ask three questions. First, is the issue important to the business? Smith described this question as “an easy space,” and can include tax law or intellectual property law — topics companies have always weighed in on.

Second, is the issue important to its customers? As data has moved to the cloud, companies have entered into a new kind of relationship with their customers, according to Smith. He said it’s vital that they think about the security and protection and actively take a stand on issues like surveillance and privacy.

Third, is the issue important to employees? The company believes a safe work environment doesn’t automatically equate to employee success. Employees could be hindered by issues outside of the office such as an inability to buy the home they want to buy, get the kind of healthcare coverage they need, or marry the person they want to marry, according to Smith.

So when a bill in North Carolina looked like it would restrict LGBT rights, Smith said it “was not a difficult decision” for Microsoft to voice its opposition. The company has a pretty significant presence in Charlotte, employing about 1,000 people there, and Smith said the issue was “important for our employees outside of the workplace.”

In an effort to be as effective as possible and preserve its relationship with the community, Microsoft will often seek out a local business community — a trusted organization that uses its voice to speak up on issues such as these — to partner with. “I prefer a course that’s going to maximize our chances of being effective and not just maximize our chances of being seen,” he said.

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Source: https://searchcio.techtarget.com/news/252451024/Customer-engagement-strategies-that-heed-power-of-social-media

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Amazon to hire 75,000 workers, offers $100 extra for vaccination proof

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(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc will give $100 more to new hires with proof of COVID-19 vaccination, the world’s largest e-commerce retailer said on Thursday, as part of its plan to employ 75,000 workers for fulfillment and logistics operations.

As vaccines become crucial to reopening of the economy, several U.S. retailers, including Dollar General, Kroger and Target, are offering bonuses or other perks to staff getting their shots.

Demand for hourly staff at restaurants, factories, retail stores and fulfillment centers is rising as e-commerce demand remains robust, while more consumers are expected to step out of their homes after a year of lockdown living.

The vaccine-related incentives are also aimed at attracting workers flush with relief checks and wary of the pandemic as well as the lack of childcare facilities back to work.

Amazon will pay the new hires an average starting pay of more than $17 per hour, reflecting recent hikes of between 50 cents and $3 an hour for about half a million fulfillment-center workers in the United States.

It will also pay a sign-on bonus of up to $1,000.

The e-retailer has benefited from a surge in e-commerce sales as more consumers moved online last year, forcing it to hire thousands and offer attractive perks and bonuses.

(Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

Image Credit: Reuters

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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/amazon-hire-75000-workers-offers-100-extra-vaccination-proof/14650

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Google wins cloud deal from SpaceX for Starlink internet service

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(Reuters) – Google has won a deal to provide cloud services to Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which has launched a slew of Starlink satellites to provide high-speed internet, it said on Thursday.

SpaceX will set up ground stations within Google’s data centers that connect to the Starlink satellites, enabling fast and secure internet services via Google Cloud, the search giant said.

This service is expected to be available in the second half of 2021 for enterprise customers, the company said.

The deal comes at a time when demand for cloud-computing services has soared, with players like Microsoft Corp and Amazon.com Inc dominating the market. Cloud companies have also tapped into the telecoms sector, thanks to a jump in demand for 5G connectivity.

Google’s cloud business accounts for about 7% of its total revenue, as of the latest earnings report.

Last October, Microsoft won a similar deal from SpaceX to connect its Azure cloud computing platform to Starlink.

Privately held SpaceX, known for its reusable rockets and astronaut capsules, is ramping up satellite production for Starlink, a growing constellation of hundreds of internet-beaming satellites that Musk hopes will generate enough revenue to help fund SpaceX’s interplanetary goals.

(Reporting by Eva Mathews in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

Image Credit: Reuters

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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/google-wins-cloud-deal-spacex-starlink-internet-service/14649

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Chat app Discord to test ticketing, make audio events easier to find

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By Elizabeth Culliford

(Reuters) – Chat platform Discord said on Thursday it will start to test paid tickets for audio events, the first feature where creators can make money from the site, and will launch a tool next month to help users more easily find live audio channels.

Discord, which grew quickly during the pandemic and says it has 150 million monthly active users, will roll out ticketed events this month in a pilot with fewer than 50 creators, all based in the United States, a Discord spokeswoman said.

The announcements follow Discord’s launch in March of “Stage Channels” where users can tune in to an audio channel operated by a host, a feature popularized by the year-old, invite-only Clubhouse app.

Discord was first used by videogamers but has increasingly expanded to different communities and is used for events ranging from comedy clubs to karaoke parties.

The platform said in a blog post that it plans to launch a “Stage Discovery” feature on June 1 to help users find different new voice events.

A slew of online platforms like Facebook and Twitter are working on their own audio chat services. Social media companies are also racing to build features to attract content creators who have built large fan followings and want to make money directly from their platform audiences.

Discord said it would also launch a feature this summer called “Threads” to make text chats more streamlined and easier to follow.

Reuters reported last month that Discord had ended sale talks with Microsoft Corp to focus on expanding its business as a standalone company.

This month, Sony Corp announced that one of its units had made a minority investment in Discord as part of a deal to tie in the platform with Sony’s PlayStation gaming division.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford; editing by Richard Pullin)

Image Credit: Reuters

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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/chat-app-discord-test-ticketing-make-audio-events-easier-find/14648

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Exclusive: Crypto crime down in 2021 through April, but ‘DeFi’ fraud at record -CipherTrace

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By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Losses from cryptocurrency theft, hacks and fraud fell sharply in the first four months of the year, but crime in the booming “decentralized finance” space hit an all-time high, a report from crypto intelligence company CipherTrace showed on Thursday.

DeFi applications are platforms that facilitate crypto-denominated lending outside traditional banking, using an open-source code with algorithms that set rates in real time based on supply and demand. Many DeFi applications are embedded in the ethereum blockchain.

Globally, crypto criminals ran away with $432 million as of end-April, according to the CipherTrace report. About 56% of that, or $240 million were DeFi-related, a record peak.

For the whole of 2020, losses in the crypto sector through fraud and crime were $1.9 billion. In 2019, crypto crime losses hit a record $4.5 billion.

Cryptocurrencies are once again in the spotlight with the surge in prices for the second-largest token, ethereum, and social media darling, dogecoin.

The drop in crypto crime reflects some maturation in the industry, as infrastructure improved and companies and exchanges boosted security systems.

DeFi, however, is another story. The value locked – the total number of loans on DeFi platforms – was $86 billion as of Wednesday, DeFi Pulse data showed, up roughly 650% from $11 billion in October.

The surge in the industry’s growth has attracted the bad actors and market participants said the rise in crime is likely to accelerate as DeFi expands further.

“As more money pours into the space from retail and institutional players, bad actors will seek to take advantage of the hype to draw people into scams and hackers will seek out projects that have launched without performing adequate security audits, exploiting loopholes encoded in the smart contracts,” Dave Jevans, CipherTrace’s chief executive officer, said in an emailed response to Reuters.

Losses from DeFi-related hacks already exceeded the $129 million taken for the whole of 2020. In 2019, there were no DeFi losses reported.

One of the major losses in the DeFi space was the $80 million worth of funds stolen on April 19 from EasyFi Network, a DeFi project on the Polygon Network, the CipherTrace report said. EasyFi reported that a hacker stole roughly $80 million worth of funds from its wallet.

(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss in New York; Editing by Alden Bentley and Matthew Lewis)

Image Credit: Reuters

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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/exclusive-crypto-crime-2021-april-defi-fraud-record-ciphertrace/14647

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