How IBM and AusOpen Tennis are rethinking the “sportacular”

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The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.
— Guy DeBord, Society of the Spectacle

One of the most transformative trends of the last decade has been the shift from inside-out to outside-in thinking. It can be applied to almost any industry or area of expertise. Think, for example, about technology innovation. Up until recently, new ideas and inventions were the province of internal business and technology teams. Research and development funds and resources would be sunk into various teams and programs – some official and others operating in the shadows. Eventually these ideas would emerge as new products. As innovation made flesh (or wires or software). But over the last decade this has shifted. With more open platforms like Salesforce1, the growth of developer communities for software platforms from SAP to Marketo, Jive to Atlassian, innovation has breached the firewall and has taken on a life of its own.

The combination of open-ish platforms and abundant data is creating new opportunities for businesses and their customers alike. But the benefits are not limited to an in-your-face direct-to-your-phone coupon or BOGOF offer. By combining technology and matching it to human behaviour, we are beginning to explore a whole new world of experiences. And the testing ground for this innovation is not a lab in the middle of the Nevada Desert, but right here, at one of Australia’s largest sporting events – the Australian Open Tennis.

IBM and the Australian Open Tennis have been partners for decades. Many years ago, my extended team worked on IBM’s large scale sports events like the Olympics, NBA, Super Bowl and the Australian Open – so I had the opportunity to see – from the inside – how the technology and services were brought together. There has been a lot of water under the bridge in that time, so when I was invited to go “behind the scenes” and learn how things had changed, I jumped at the chance.

As has always been the case, the technology and services that IBM provides are deeply embedded in the running of the event.  But it’s not just the outward facing systems and technology. These days, the technology and business process integration taps into the way that the grand slam tournament is run and reported – it’s “hard wired” or should I say “wirelessly” into the fabric of the business, event management and fan experience. This partnership stretches from the electronic impulses of the web to the real time provisioning of servers, to the deployment of onsite security personnel, management of player timetables and grand slam rules and the amplification of fan experiences via social media.

Big Data on the Centre Court

Ian Wong from IBM’s interactive experiences team stepped the technology through its paces, revealing court data for each of the games. There were enough high level statistics to excite the armchair observer – from fastest serve to win ratios and more. All of this data was being captured by a combination of on-court technology and human observation. The umpire’s scoring PDA  fed directly into the system, managing scoring, counting strokes and helping to keep the games moving to time. High up in the stands were also other observers who were cross-checking and monitoring the on-court action.

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The data capture sounds impressive – to a point – but the big data activity underlying is where it becomes fascinating. Each game, each point, each stroke is captured and stored. This information is then processed and analysed – and builds upon the same data going back over eight years. This massive data store allows the IBM team and Australian Open to profile players and particular matches and to use a matching algorithm to unlock the “keys to the match”.

For example, say Martina Hingis was playing Serena Williams. The system could pull all previous match data and reveal aspects of match play that each had to achieve in order to win. The “keys to the match” could be “successful first serve 76% of the time” or “serving to the opponent’s backhand 65% of the time for second serves” and so on. Interestingly, this information and analytics power is made available to coaches and players through interactive panels – though not to the general public.

From off-court big data to real world big data

While the spectacle of on-court action is the drawcard, in true “Society of the Spectacle” form, a just as important aspect of the Australian Open Tennis is the fan experience. Tennis Australia CIO, Samir Mahir, has put together a massive sense and respond network that not only connects fans – it responds to their needs – matching expectation and demand with services and resources just-in-time. As Samir explained, “it’s about getting more people to come to the Tennis”.

Ingeniously, providing free wifi for all attendees means that fans are always connected – with a fat pipe of data ready and available at all times. AusOpen have established “Selfie Zones” around the stadium where people are encouraged to take photos and share via Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. And when tagged, can be displayed on the big screens on the centre court for all to see.

But this is just the start of the big data story. As people move around the stadium, routers count the number of connections to wifi points of presence. This data is then fed in real time to the logistics engines which can determine whether there are sufficient security personnel, adequate ticketing booths open and available or enough food and drink vendors in the right location. If necessary, food and drink or security personnel are notified and redeployed to ensure levels of service and safety are maintained across the massive complex.

Similarly, social media is monitored for volume and velocity. This information is then crunched by IBM’s Watson natural language processor. Realising that an increase in social media activity creates increased demand on the AusOpen website, IBM is then able to use social media velocity to predict and trigger on-demand webserver provisioning.

From sport to sportacular

By placing the fan – the consumer of sport – at the centre of the tennis experience, IBM and the Australian Open are transforming what was once a spectator event to a “sportacular”. They are combining and showcasing the gladiatorial contest on court, the preparations on the practise courts and an experience for fans that connects the location and their own experience in an event that is part of a global grand slam series.

In an instant these messages, are captured, multiplied, beamed around the world and brought back to the individual one selfie at a time.

The basically tautological character of the spectacle flows from the simple fact that its means are simultaneously its ends. It is the sun which never sets over the empire of modern passivity. It covers the entire surface of the world and bathes endlessly in its own glory.
— De Bord, Society of the Spectacle.

Note: travel and accommodation were courtesy of IBM.

 

Data is Eating Marketing: Digital, Social and Mobile in 2015

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Data. It’s out there. And there is plenty of it. We create data with every status update, photo shared or website viewed. Each search we make is being monitored, sorted, indexed and analysed. Every purchase we make is being correlated, cross-matched and fed into supply chain systems. And every phone call we make is being logged, kept, passed on for “security purposes”.

There are so many kinds of data that it is hard to keep up with it all. There is the data that we know about – the digital items we intentionally create. There are digital items that are published – like books, websites and so on. There is email which creates its own little fiefdom of data.

There is also the data about data – metadata – which describes the data that we create. Take, for example, a simple Tweet. It is restricted to 140 characters. That is the “data” part. But the metadata attached to EACH and EVERY tweet includes information like:

  • Your location at the time of tweeting (ie latitude and longitude)
  • The device you used to send the tweet (eg phone, PC etc)
  • The time of your tweet
  • The unique ID of the tweet.

But wait, there’s more. From the Twitter API, you can also find out a whole lot more, including:

  • Link details contained within the tweet
  • Hashtags used
  • Mini-profiles of anyone that you mention in your tweet
  • Direct link information to any photos shared in your tweet

There will also be information related to:

  • You
  • Your bio / profile
  • Your avatar, banner and Twitter home page
  • Your location
  • Your last tweet.

There is more. But the point really is not about Twitter. It is the fact that a seemingly innocuous act is generating far more data than you might assume. The same metadata rules apply to other social networks. It could be Facebook. Or LinkedIn. It applies to every website you visit, each transaction you make. Every cake you bake. Every night you stay (you see where I am going, right?)

For marketers, this data abundance is brilliant, but also a distraction. We could, quite possibly, spend all our time looking at data and not talking to customers. Would this be a bad thing? I’d like to think so.

The question we must ask ourselves is “who is eating whom?”.

In the meantime, for those who must have the latest stats – We Are Social, Singapore’s massive compendium is just what you need. Binge away.

Tell the Story of Your #BigData with QuillEngage

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Big data, small data, analytics. Blah blah blah.

It all sounds like a load of waffle, right? At least until we find a thread of narrative running through the information.

For many of us, the closest we are likely to get to a large amount of usable data is on our own websites. And believe it or not, even small amounts of web traffic, visits, comments on a blog etc can generate a substantial amount of information. If you get a chance, log in to your server and download the “log files”. You’ll soon see just how much information is generated by visitors to your website.

The thing is, raw log files are relatively useless. Sure they might help your webmaster pinpoint a problem or recurring error, but thousands of lines of information only make sense in aggregation. Or when they are decoded. Translated.

And that’s where Quill Engage comes in. You simply sign up, provide access to your Google Analytics information and then each week, QuillEngage will email a report explaining what’s going on with your website.

Now, I have been a fan of web analytics before there were web analytics. I have created my own reports, created simple tracking systems to collate conversion data and so on, but in a world where there is ever increasing pressure on our decision making capabilities, handing off the data processing tasks to an artificial intelligence engine may be the smartest thing you can do. Especially when it produces not just a report, but insight.

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My latest report highlighted a few important things to think about:

  • My mobile traffic was up 3% over last month and now accounts for 19% of total traffic
  • The most visits to Servantofchaos.com come from Sydney and NSW (which is big change over previous years)
  • Facebook replaced Twitter as my top social network referrer, up a massive 250% on the previous month

Why is this important?

Well, these days I hardly have time to write let alone check the performance of the site. But if I do check, I am unlikely to connect all the dots in this one email report in under 10 minutes. In fact, the email report from QuillEngage is so quick to read and easy to consume that you’ll be using those 10 minutes to think about what you might do differently next month.

And that’s really the point.

From what I can see, QuillEngage is a no-brainer for any business owner or marketer. Sure, you’re not going to get the detail that comes straight from Google Analytics, but the report should give you some quick thoughts on what to interrogate and act upon. And it’s free, at least for the time being. Get started here.

When Big and Data got together, it was love at first Like

Love´s in the air!! Muuuitos corações!!!!

Breathless. Heart beating. We all know the feeling. It’s all heart, feeling, emotion. We’re waiting for the brain to kick in – but there is no relief. It’s really a sign of madness.

Love is merely a madness: and, I tell you, deserves as
as well a dark house and a whip, as madmen do: and the
reason why they are not so punished and cured, is, that
the lunacy is so ordinary, that the whippers are in love too.
— Shakespeare, As You Like It, 3.2

But these days, meeting and falling in love is not just a physical thing. It’s virtual … and played out on social networks.

Facebook-Love

The Facebook data science team has been digging through the mountains of interactions that take place between people before, during and after they fall in love. They looked in detail at the number of posts exchanged going back to 100 days before the “couple” changed their relationship status from “single”. What they found was that social media interaction plays an important role in the formation of the relationship:

When the relationship starts (“day 0″), posts begin to decrease. We observe a peak of 1.67 posts per day 12 days before the relationship begins, and a lowest point of 1.53 posts per day 85 days into the relationship. Presumably, couples decide to spend more time together, courtship is off, and online interactions give way to more interactions in the physical world.

And this is where big data gets interesting. We are now starting to see digital traces of behaviours that have real world impacts. The things that we do and say online can be correlated across thousands of data points to reveal actions that take place in our so-called “real lives”. But where does it go from here?

  • Social lifestyle mapping: Facebook (and other collectors of big data) can map and improve personas, track shifts and changes in community trends and lifestyles over time
  • Predictive targeting: With social lifestyle mapping in place, algorithms can be used to predictively target individuals and groups with relevant information. This could take the form of advertising, public health messaging/recommendations, career suggestions and so on. In fact, the possibilities are endless
  • Location awareness: As a large number of Facebook interactions take place on mobile devices, location awareness can add a greater degree of relevance to any of these predictive or realtime offers.

High level barriers:

There are some immediate barriers to usefulness that spring to mind:

  • Brands are slow to catch and embrace technology innovation: Facebook (and indeed Google) have a great deal of work ahead to prepare brands and governments for the power and opportunity that this presents. Thus far we’ve seen precious little in the way of focused education and leadership in this area and without it, organisations simply won’t be prepared (or interested) in this
  • Organisations lag in digital transformation: For these opportunities to be embraced, most organisations have to undertake digital transformation activities. Ranging from change management and education to strategy, business system overhauls and process improvement, digital transformation is the only way to unlock organisation-wide value – but few are seriously committed to such a program
  • Privacy is shaping up as a contested business battleground: Many governments, corporations and individuals fervently hang on to notions of pre-internet era privacy. Laws and regulations have struggled to keep pace with the changes taking place in our online behaviours. Meanwhile public and private organisations are conflicted in their use of, protection and interest in privacy. We’ll need to work through this to understand whether privacy really is dead.

Love´s in the air!! Muuuitos corações!!!! erika k via Compfight

Brand Storytelling: Teradata’s Case of the Tainted Lasagna

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Brand storytelling can be hard work. Not only are there all the internal hurdles to overcome, sign-offs and legal checks and so on – there is also the challenge of subject matter. What do you do if you have a complex product or solution that you are trying to explain? Which channels do you choose – and how do you incorporate social media into the mix.

I was recently speaking with a financial services industry CEO who lamented that they have the most boring product in the world. He couldn’t see how it would resonate with a social media-savvy audience.

But social media is not broadcast – especially in B2B (business-to-business) marketing. You’re not trying to reach and engage millions of people – you are (or should be) focused on the buyer’s journey and helping to ease your customer’s decision making process. That means selecting the most appropriate channel – and delivering content that provides very specific value to your customer at their point of need. And brand storytelling can form a very powerful component of your content strategy and lead nurturing program.

Still unsure of how this might work for you and your brand?

Enterprise software vendor, Teradata, have been experimenting with brand storytelling for some time and have taken a novel approach that you may want to steal (I mean “learn from”). Tapping into pop culture’s interest in forensic analysis (a la CSI), they have created a series of videos that take a new approach to case studies and product/solution brochures. The “Business Scenario Investigations” or “BSI” team dramatize business problems and then showcase how technology can be used to “solve” the problem.

Each of their videos can be found on the BSI: Teradata Facebook page as well as the YouTube channel. They cleverly provide a powerpoint version of the scenario via Slideshare and share the storyboarding process from problem definition to casting through to resolution.  And while the case of the tainted lasagna may not be to your taste, it’s likely to be very appealing to those CIOs and CMOs wanting to understand how data can transform their businesses. And that’s tasty. Very tasty indeed.

51: CSI: Investigates! Kit via Compfight

Instagram Don’t Want Your Pictures, They Want Your Influence

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Over the last 24 hours, the changes to the Instagram social network’s terms of use have rippled across the web. Many took to Twitter to voice their displeasure, while others determined it was a non event. In many respects, it was only a matter of time before Facebook began to expect a return on their $1 billion investment in the nine person strong social network startup.

Instagram responds

As I suggested yesterday, Instagram will measure community response to the changes and are likely to return with a watered down version of their terms of use. In a blog post from co-founder, Kevin Systrom, Instagram have moved to clarify the plain English ambiguity that comes with legalese.

Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.

The post also moves to clarify ownership rights and privacy settings – though it is worth pointing out that the privacy features in Instagram are not yet as granular as those offered by Facebook.

Big data is the hidden gold

The world of advertising has shifted substantially in the last 2-3 years. Those immersed in the world of digital will have a more nuanced understanding of “innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram” than the general public. It’s not simply a case of a social network selling your photo for use in an advertising campaign. It’s about using the META DATA associated with your photo to CONTEXTUALISE digital advertising within YOUR social network.

So, imagine that you ride a Ducati motorbike (as I used to). If I took a photo of myself on a Ducati motorbike at the local dealership and tagged it accordingly, that photo may appear in a Facebook ad (or an ad served via the Facebook Exchange elsewhere on the web). But most importantly, because we know consumers trust friends more than we trust brands, we are more likely to respond to advertising with an implied (or real) endorsement. So when my Ducati ad appears with a well crafted call to action, and you click through to an offer from your local motorcycle dealer, Instagram will have done its job – delivering a highly targeted contextual advertisement to a highly targeted, socially-influenced audience.

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This can occur because each time you take a photo with Instagram, you upload not only the photo itself, but you connect that photo with other identities and data, like:

  • The caption of the photo and a list of hashtags in the caption
  • Location of the photo – latitude and longitude, and sometimes a location name
  • List of comments on the photo, each with the text of the comment and details about the comment’s author
  • Date and time the photo was created
  • Link to view the photo on the web in different sizes – thumbnail, low resolution and standard sizes
  • Count of likes, with details of each user who liked the photo
  • Details of the user who posted the photo – their username, website, bio, profile picture and full name

You’re not the product, your friends are

We often say that when you use a social network and the price of entry is free, that YOU are the product. But that is only half the story. You are not the only product – your friends and social connections are too.

And in a world that is inundated with messages and messaging, cut through comes via trusted sources. That’s why Instagram (or Facebook) don’t want your images, they want your influence, reputation and social connections.

What Facebook’s Year in Review Reveals About Us

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facebooktrendsAus The promise of big data is that it can reveal to us the truth in our behaviours, not just our beliefs.

Just think, for example, about your internet use over the last year. Or month. Or even week. What did you do? What sites did you visit? What did you click on? Why did you share a page or two, a link or a video? Now, imagine if we did the same thing for your friends – if we knew what they looked, liked and loved?

facebookstories2 And if we did the same with their friends, and their friends’ friends.

If we could overlay that in some way to create a visual tag cloud, we may just get a sense of what is important to our communities. We may garner some magical insight into what it is like to live in this rapidly changing world.

Well that’s what Facebook Stories is doing. Of course, it works best if you are a heavy Facebook user (I’m not), but it’s an interesting experiment that shows everything from your own personal timeline stories through to the trends that impacted us by country and by category.

But, for me, the most interesting thing that Facebook Stories reveals is where the pulse of our humanity lies. Take a look at some of the trends – you’ll see what I mean.

From Big Data Science to Big Data Action

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From the dawn of civilisation through to the year 2003, Google calculates that humans have produced 5 exabytes of data. That’s a lot of stone tablets. But with the explosion of mobile devices, 3G and 4G networks and social networks, we now produce 5 exabytes of data every two days. That means that every photo you upload to Flickr or Facebook, every video you share with friends on YouTube or Vimeo and every one of the billions of tweets broadcast on Twitter is contributing to the avalanche of data.

But add to this the fact that each of these items comes with contextual data. At the same time that you update your profile or publish a photo, you may also be sharing your geolocation, your likes and preferences, your upstream and downstream behaviours, and your attitude to topics (based on sentiment). You may also be sharing your trust network of on and offline friends.

And this is just the tip of the big data iceberg.

The rise of big data is a blessing and a curse for CMOs

While analytics have been available to businesses for decades, but it has largely been the domain of business analysts and researchers. The rise of big data now places analytics firmly in the marketers court. Earlier in the year, a CMO Council and SAS report indicated that only 26% of marketers leverage customer data and analytics to improve decisions, targeting and personalisation.

The blessing of big data is that it is readily available to most organisations in the form of structured business data and the publicly available unstructured data coming from social networks. The curse is that in-house skills and experience with big data is scarce – with a number of marketers now looking to bolster their teams with big data scientists and data analysts.

Marketers don’t need data they need action

It’s not data scientists that marketers need, however. Already we are seeing software vendors emerging who are able to tap structured and unstructured data sources to produce business-ready dashboards. Mapped to best practice business processes, these dashboards and analytic tools promise to release marketers from the fear-inducing data tsunami that looms on the horizon.

Platform players such as Anametrix, for example, transform the science of data into actionable business knowledge for key business processes. This means you can spend less time and resources understanding the data and its various relationships, and focus instead on making decisions that impact the top and bottom lines of your business.

A great example of what can be achieved is the BrandWatch US Electoral Compass. Drawing on Twitter data and press discussion generated since July 2012, the compass matches structured information (location, policies and dates) with unstructured information (tweets, sentiment etc) to reveal the topics that are important to American voters. Now, this is not data from focus groups – it’s stated intention as revealed via status updates, commentary and attitude.

And as business analytics packages get better at mapping business flows, these reporting systems will become ever more granular. They promise to revolutionise the way that businesses engage with their customers – and that will bring another set of challenges for CMOs. The question is – are you ready for this new form of customer engagement?

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