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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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Aeva announces customer deal; shares soar even after results disappoint

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By Stephen Nellis

(Reuters) – Aeva Technologies Inc said on Thursday it signed a deal to develop a sensor for a self-driving car to be made by an “undisclosed large company,” and its shares rose 13% even as it reported that its loss ballooned and sales came in far below forecasts.

Aeva reported first-quarter revenue of $300,000, down from $500,000 a year earlier and far below analysts’ estimate of $1.38 million, according to Refinitiv estimates. Its adjusted operating loss more than doubled to $15.6 million from $6.1 million a year ago.

Founded by two ex-Apple Inc engineers, Aeva makes a sensor that helps self-driving cars navigate through the use lidar technology that uses lasers, much like radar uses radio waves. The company became publicly traded through a reverse merger earlier this year and was one of several lidar firms to do so.

Aeva said on Thursday it had signed a “foundational agreement with an undisclosed large company to develop best-in-class lidar” for the customer’s autonomous driving program.

Aeva’s shares were up 13% at $8 in after-hours trading after the results and customer announcement.

In an interview, Aeva Chief Executive Soroush Salehian said the company could not disclose when it would go into mass production with the undisclosed customer but that “there’s going to be increased activity as we work toward production.

“This has a huge potential,” he said, “and based on what we know, it could be one of the largest programs in the industry.”

Aeva has deals with automotive suppliers Denso Corp and ZF Friedrichshafen AG to mass-manufacture its sensors.

Earlier this week, the company said it added to its advisory board Apple senior executive Steve Zadesky and Volkswagen AG Senior Vice President Alex Hitzinger, who was also once part of Apple’s self-driving car Project Titan. Porsche Automobil Holding SE, Volkswagen’s majority voting shareholder, is also an investor in Aeva.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by David Gregorio and Richard Chang)

Image Credit: Reuters

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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/aeva-announces-customer-deal-shares-soar-even-results-disappoint/14656

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Elon Musk on crypto: to the mooooonnn! And back again

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By John McCrank

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Bitcoin’s price tumbled after Elon Musk said on Wednesday his electric car maker Tesla Inc would no longer accept the cryptocurrency for purchases, citing environmental concerns for the reversal.

Here are some of Musk’s comments on bitcoin and other cryptocurrenies like Ether and Dogecoin, some of which moved the digital assets’ prices:

Nov. 27, 2017: Musk denies a theory he is Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of bitcoin, tweeting https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/935329447594541056, “Not true. A friend sent me part of a BTC a few years, but I don’t know where it is.”

Feb. 22, 2018: Musk tweeted https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/966602470431473664?lang=en: “I literally own zero cryptocurrency, apart from .25 BTC that a friend sent me many years ago.”

Oct. 22, 2018: Musk temporarily lost Twitter access after tweeting https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1054520588734058496, “Wanna buy some bitcoin?”

Feb. 19, 2019, Musk called bitcoin’s structure “quite brilliant” on a podcast https://ark-invest.com/podcast/on-the-road-to-full-autonomy-with-elon-musk with ARK Invest’s Cathie Wood. “But, I’m not sure it’s the best use of Tesla’s resources to get involved in crypto. We’re really just trying to accelerate the advent of sustainable energy, and it’s like, quite energy intensive.”

April 2, 2019, Musk tweeted https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1113009339743100929?lang=en: “Dogecoin might be my fav cryptocurrency. It’s pretty cool.”

April 29, 2019, Musk tweeted https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1123034747460972545?lang=en: “Ethereum,” and, “jk.”

May 15, 2019, Musk tweeted https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1261416824459030529, in response to “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling, “… massive currency issuance by govt central banks is making Bitcoin Internet money look solid by comparison,” and, “I still only own 0.25 Bitcoins btw.”

July 2, 2020, Musk responded to “Star Trek” actor William Shatner with, “I’m not building anything on ethereum. Not for or against it, just don’t use it or own any.”

July 17, 2020, Musk tweeted https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1284291528328790016?lang=en a meme implying Dogecoin would become the standard of the global financial system, “It’s inevitable.”

Dec. 20, 2020, Dogecoin soared after Musk tweeted https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1340590280848908288?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw, “One word: Doge.”

Dec. 20, 2020, in a Twitter https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1340678358456274948?lang=en exchange with MicroStrategy Inc Chief Executive Michael Saylor, Musk asks about converting “large transactions” of Tesla’s balance sheet into bitcoin.

Jan. 29, Bitcoin spikes after Musk adds #bitcoin to his Twitter bio, tweeting https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1355068728128516101?lang=en, “In retrospect, it was inevitable.”

Feb. 1, Musk says on social media app Clubhouse he supports bitcoin, which was “on the verge of getting broad acceptance” and that he was “a little slow on the uptake.”

Feb. 4, Dogecoin surged more than 60% after Musk tweeted https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1357241340313141249 “Dogecoin is the people’s crypto.”

March 2, Musk tweeted https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1366808202701012995?lang=en, “Scammers & crypto should get a room.”

March 12, Musk tweeted https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1370449101402353669, in reference to his tunneling company, “BTC (Bitcoin) is an anagram of TBC(The Boring Company) What a coincidence!”

March 24, Musk tweeted https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1374617643446063105: “You can now buy a Tesla with Bitcoin,” and “… Bitcoin paid to Tesla will be retained as Bitcoin, not converted to fiat currency.”

April 1, Musk tweeted https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1377567762919292938: “SpaceX is going to put a literal Dogecoin on the literal moon.”

April 15, Musk tweeted https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1382552587099062272?lang=en: “Doge Barking at the Moon.”

April 28, Musk tweeted https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1387290679794089986: “The Dogefather SNL May 8,” ahead of hosting Saturday Night Live.

May 7, Musk tweeted https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1390522866979033092: “Cryptocurrency is promising, but please invest with caution!”

May 9, Dogecoin tanked after Musk called the cryptocurrency “a hustle” on SNL. Musk tweeted https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1391523807148527620: “SpaceX launching satellite Doge-1 to the moon next year – Mission paid for in Doge – 1st crypto in space – 1st meme in space To the mooooonnn!!”

May 11, Musk tweeted https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1392030108274159619: “Do you want Tesla to accept Doge?”

May 12, Musk tweeted https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1392602041025843203 Tesla would no longer accept bitcoin as a payment, and “Energy usage trend over past few months is insane.”

(Reporting by John McCrank; Editing by Richard Chang)

Image Credit: Reuters

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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/elon-musk-crypto-mooooonnn-and-back/14655

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Airbnb bookings jump 52% as vaccinations spur vacation rental demand

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By Sanjana Shivdas

(Reuters) – Airbnb Inc beat Wall Street expectations for first-quarter gross bookings and revenue on Thursday, as speedy COVID-19 vaccinations and easing restrictions encouraged more people to check into its vacation rentals.

Gross bookings jumped 52% to $10.29 billion in the quarter, easily beating analysts’ estimates of $6.93 billion.

“For guests aged 60 and above in the U.S., who were amongst the first groups to benefit from vaccine rollouts, searches on our platform for summer travel increased by more than 60% between February and March 2021,” Airbnb said.

The San Francisco-based company expects second-quarter revenue to be similar to 2019 levels, adding that the return of urban and cross-border travel is likely to underpin growth over the coming quarters.

Airbnb is also set to benefit from demand for longer stays and a shift to traveling in groups by business travelers, Chief Executive Officer Brian Chesky said on a post-earnings call.

The company has weathered the pandemic better than rivals as people turned to its offering of larger spaces and locations away from major cities in the era of social distancing.

It recorded a surge in bookings in Britain after the government laid down plans in February to exit lockdown, while the easing of travel restrictions in France earlier this month also lifted demand.

Airbnb, however, said it was too early to predict if the recovery momentum would continue at the same pace in the second half of 2021.

Its revenue rose 5.4% to $886.9 million in the first quarter ended March 31, exceeding estimates of $714.4 million, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Adjusted loss before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization narrowed to $59 million, from $334 million a year earlier, largely due to cost cuts.

(Reporting by Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni)

Image Credit: Reuters

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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/airbnb-bookings-jump-52-vaccinations-spur-vacation-rental-demand/14654

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Disney’s streaming growth slows as pandemic lift fades, shares fall

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By Lisa Richwine and Tiyashi Datta

(Reuters) -Disappointing growth of Walt Disney Co’s namesake streaming service on Thursday overshadowed better-than-expected overall profits, driving down shares of the entertainment company.

Shares of Disney fell 3.7% in after-hours trading.

CEO Robert Chapek said that movie and television shows were resuming normal production and new offerings would help bring in new customers to Disney+, ESPN+, Hulu and Hotstar.

Adjusted earnings-per-share for the fiscal second quarter came in at 79 cents for January through April 3, Disney said. Analysts had expected 27 cents, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Disney is focusing on quickly building its streaming service to challenge Netflix Inc as audiences move away from cable TV. The company’s popular theme parks remain in recovery mode with attendance limits due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“(Disney+) growth is significantly decelerating as the initial pandemic boost has waned,” eMarketer analyst Eric Haggstrom said. “Given Disney’s content investments, subscriber growth should return strongly once this short-term turbulence ends.”

Upcoming Disney+ series include “Loki” about the Marvel villain and Star Wars series “The Book of Boba Fett.”

A total of 103.6 million customers subscribed to Disney+ as of early April, the company said. Two Marvel superhero series, “WandaVision” and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” debuted during the quarter. Analysts had projected 109.3 million, according to FactSet.

The average monthly revenue per paid subscriber for Disney+ decreased from $5.63 to $3.99, the company said, due to the launch of the lower-priced Disney+ Hotstar in overseas markets. Factset estimates showed Wall Street was expecting average revenue of $4.10 per user.

Disney plans to launch Disney+ in Malaysia on June 1 and in Thailand on June 30, executives said on a call with analysts.

Overall revenue fell 13% to $15.61 billion in the second quarter ended April 3, a touch below what analysts estimated, according Refinitiv.

Net income from continuing operations rose to $912 million in the second quarter from $468 million a year earlier.

Operating income at Disney’s media division rose 74% from a year earlier to $2.9 billion as profit rose at domestic and international TV networks. The streaming media unit lost $290 million, less than half of what Wall Street expected, thanks in part to higher advertising revenue at Hulu and ESPN+ income from Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-view events.

The theme parks division posted an operating loss of $406 million. The Disneylands in California and Paris were closed for the full quarter. Disneyland in California reopened April 30.

Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy said reservations at Disney’s U.S. parks were strong, “demonstrating the strength of our brands as well as growing travel optimism.”

Chapek said Disney will continue to experiment with movie distribution while theaters try to lure audiences back. The company will offer late summer releases “Free Guy” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings” exclusively in theaters for 45 days, a shortened period that has been embraced by other studios to allow for home viewing sooner.

Disney renewed a deal with Major League Baseball with 30 exclusive regular season games through 2028. The deal includes an option to simulcast all live MLB coverage for ESPN networks on ESPN+.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Eva Mathews and Tiyashi Datta in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Lisa Shumaker)

Image Credit: Reuters

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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/disneys-streaming-growth-slows-pandemic-lift-fades-shares-fall/14653

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