Artificial Intelligence in Marketing: Beyond the Bot

Don’t worry, marketers. A machine is not going to take your job – any time soon. But Artificial Intelligence (AI) could very likely make your job a lot easier today buy giving you tool and insights that empower you to make decisions.


Artificial Intelligence is a very broad term that describes many aspects of the field of cognitive technology. Steve Ardire is an adviser to startups involved in developing Artificial Intelligence applications, and his definition of the term Machine Intelligence seems best for the purpose of this discussion:

“I define it as Machine Intelligence= AI + Machine Learning.– Steve Ardire

Mr. Ardire’s Huffington Post interview gives excellent insight into how AI is changing traditional backward-looking, static data analysis into forward-reaching, real-time dynamic data insights that give marketers what they need to make decisions.

We’ve done a previous #SMXChat about the value of data science. Data scientists “don’t scale” though, as pointed out by Huffington Post. The vast majority of businesses can’t employ data scientists, much less the development expertise required to collect the data necessary for them to anaylze.

Enter “cognitive technology.” What’s that? Well, think of Siri, or Amazon Echo, or Spotify, Pandora, and IBM Watson.

‘Cognitive technology is there to extend and amplify human expertise, not replace it’:, says Rob High CTO of IBM Watson.

AI is already a part of our everyday lives. And on 18th September, Salesforce released Einstein for Marketing and Analytics Clouds.

Now I’m as skeptical of AI as the next person. You won’t be seeing me in an Uber autonomous vehicle anytime soon. But the reality of deep learning in machines is exciting to me in the context of marketing. It’s not machines learning to make decisions for us, it’s machines dealing with the completely unmanageable volume of data and giving humans tools to test theories, develop hypotheses, and gain predictive insights in order to be better at what we do.


Actually the distopian image of AI seems unlikely. As Rob High puts it:

Cognitive systems have already proven to have a remarkable ability to read and analyse data in a way that conclusions become immediately obvious. Nonetheless, doing so employs relatively narrow forms of cognitive reasoning as compared to the general reasoning abilities of humans…

The wide and deep cognitive ability of the human brain will never exist in machines, including our traits of empathy, reason and soul. Those attributes make us, well, human.

Q1: How crucial is data to marketing?

Q2: Do marketers have enough or too much data?

Q3: The golden ticket to customer engagement and loyalty is data. Agree or disagree?

Q4: Focusing on data distracts us from humanising our marketing efforts. What do you think?

Q5: As a marketer, I’m interested in AI:


In six months or less

In more than six months



For more research and reading, there are embedded links to the articles sourced for this post, but here’s the list for greater ease:

Cognitive technology is there to extend and amplify human expertise, not replace it’  The Drum News,20th June 2016.

Cognitive Business: Inside the Mind of an AI Startup Advisor Huffington Post interview: Steve Ardire, 19th September 2016

Welcome to the World of Intelligent Marketing and Analytics with Salesforce Einstein Salesforce Blog, 18th September 2016

Thought Leadership And Your Social Persona

We say Thought Leadership is an important aspect of our social personas, but the label of Thought Leader is earned, not assumed. Expertise, and especially authority, in an academic or professional area is the result of a demonstrated path of research, writing, and, in the context of social networking, vigorous public discussion of your ideas.

One’s complete digital footprint, which includes both content and conversation, defines a commitment to investigation and expansion of knowledge in one’s chosen area of expertise. As this week’s guest Ken Gordon reminds us: “if you want people to accept your intellectual authority, you’d better have some kind of long-form writing to support your tweets.”

Traditionally, Thought Leadership meant publication in respected sources like professional journals. Today, it includes self-published content in personal and professional blogs. Our Ehsan Khodarahmi calls this the rise in importance of the Citizen Journalist. This is all well and good as long as our Citizen Journalists adhere to the journalistic guidelines that keep them honest. Or, make sure that the publication of their own opinions are labeled up front as commentary.

Social networking is an optimal forum for establishing and promoting your expertise and authority as it affords opportunities in both creating original content and curating content from others’ research. Critical thought and critique of others’ publications is a crucial aspect of Thought Leadership.

Innovative ideas are considered a cornerstone of thought leadership. The status quo is not the path to the cutting edge. Do thought leaders have an obligation to push boundaries? To question everything? To stir up debate? We think so. Let’s discuss.

Q1) How do you define Thought Leadership? How is thought leadership demonstrated, esp. in the social forum?

Q2) We build our reputations through our expertise. Is it appropriate to point out your own Thought Leadership? When/how?

Q3) What are the risks/benefits in citing your own authority?

Q4) Is it appropriate to challenge others’ claims of authority? When/how?

Q5) Social networks are noisy. How do authoritative figures know they’re being heard?


This week’s #SMXChat guest is Ken Gordon, who always seems to be jamming at the corner of innovation and humanism. Always at the keyboard. Ken’s work at Continuum, a global design consultancy, is described thus:

“Ken makes Continuum’s work visible to the necessary audiences. He creates superlative content, works with colleagues to do the same, and employs social networks to share it widely,” says his bio for Continuum. “A card-carrying humanist, Ken co-founded QuickMuse, the improvisational writing website, and JEDLAB, the Jewish education community. He has written for, Fast Company, the New York Times, and many other pubs.”

Are Twitter Chats Alive and Well?

blabWhen I read the news that Blab was dead (you haven’t heard? here’s the announcement) it got me thinking about communities and communication. It got me wondering about the personal connection between us as we converse. I wondered about this because, honestly, I was never very impressed with the notion of live-streaming video as an effective way to ‘tell stories,’ which was the great buzz of the potential for such technology.

Does it seem counter-intuitive to you that technology that brings us together face-to-face should not survive? (And yes, I am aware that Periscope is still around. But I hardly see notifications in my Twitter timeline at all anymore.) So while I was not a fan of live-streaming video, I harboured a secret fear that it would replace one of my favourite aspects of social media – the Twitter chat. I mean, who will want to labor over a keyboard when we can all live-stream together, right? I half-heartedly watched some live-streaming events that coincided with Twitter chats. That really got me! How can people do this? Keep up with a Twitter chat while maintaining a conversation on video? I thought my days attending the traditional chat were numbered.

A photo by Roman Arkhipov. alas, it was Blab whose days were numbered. It’s notable that the Blab team is working on a new thing, one that may be closer to what I feared about sounding the death knell of the Twitter chat. It’s planned to be a community- (i.e., friends) oriented live-streaming hangout.  We’ll keep an eye out for that.

Meanwhile, let’s take a pulse on what is right (and wrong?) with Twitter chats. We want to do this for a couple of reasons:

  • To learn about what makes people ‘tick’ in Twitter chats
  • To maybe pick up some tips about making our #SMXChat work best for our community

Q1: What do you find valuable and rewarding about Twitter chats?

Q2: Considering the last, say, 3 yrs, have Twitter chats:

  • Increased in value
  • Decreased in value
  • Or stayed the same in value for their attendees?


Q3: Are branded Twitter chats of interest to you? Are they worthwhile for brands? Why/not?

Q4: Do you see branded accounts much in Twitter chats? In your opinion do they add value to the conversations?

Q5: Is a friend/community-oriented livestreaming  app a threat to the Twitter chat? Why/not?

Q6: What is the primary reason you attend Twitter chats? Be honest.

A Global Community With No Agenda

Back in November 2012 Mark Salke and I decided to create a global community free of any agenda whatsoever. We worked on the concept for good three months, before publically shared our vision in February 2013.

Mark is a proud American and I am a British-Iranian citizen. Mark and I got to know each other through Twitter. We were talking about the stuff that many people disagreed with, but a handful number of people agreed with us. We were puzzled with the way most people did marketing.

We decided that we didn’t want to be a part of the “talk a good talk” community, but we wanted to create value and legacy. We created SMXChat, something that many people ignored, but soon after started running Twitter advertising campaigns during the chat.

It took us about a year to get here though and we started getting recognitions like what the founder of SocialbakersJan Rezab tweeted for example:

Also businesses came after us to train them about how they should be doing Twitter Chats or publications like The Drum asked us to help them with planning and positioning of their weekly Twitter Chat.

We owe all of these to our amazing SMXChat community. I bow to every single one of you for creating a global community free of agenda. Here are the countries where our fellow community members join us every Tuesday:


This is how we’ve been announcing our topics:

Thanks ever so much everyone! Your tweets mean a lot to us! Here are just a couple of tweets we get everyday:

SMXChat.SMXChat..We’re in favour of transparency and privacy, hence we decided to create a global community free of agenda. And by that, we truly mean a global community free of agenda! Maybe our only agenda is the betterment for our community!

How Well Are Social Networks Respecting Our Data & Our Privacy?

journalist-press-newspaper-journalism-magazine-2Social networks are a remarkable cultural phenomenon that has blossomed in the era of Web 2.0, enabling us to connect with others and share information on a global scale. Much of that information we share willingly – it’s a human trait of gregariousness. Additionally, though, we reveal lots of personal information over social networking services, sometimes without realising the privacy and security risks arising from such actions. The European Commission data protection legislation is a means for protecting social network users against the unlawful processing of their personal information, although a number of problems arise regarding its applicability.

Social networking websites used at global level represent the place where people interact online, discuss, exchange photos or music or share their experiences. The fast development of this type of communication gave rise to certain concerns towards the safety of using the Internet for the disclosure of personal data.

Due to the fact that the information posted on the social networking websites becomes accessible to the public, we have to pay extra care to the information that we disclose about us. Simply by becoming known to a large number of people is a risk to our privacy or even physical safety.

online-privacy.jpgGeorgeta Basarabescu (president of the national supervisory authority) stresses that social networks should collect and process sensitive data (concerning the racial or ethnic origin, political, religious, philosophical beliefs, trade-union allegiance, or personal data regarding state of health or sex life). This is the area in which Ehsan Khodarahmi has an extensive experience, and never talks without hard fact. Here’s the proof for the above statement.

Data protection is mostly a legal (liability) issue to internet and social media providers. However it is important to describe applicable law. Most of the popular social media networks are US-based, and adhere to their own domestic legal requirements. So the question arises: which legal standards should European companies follow when using social media networks? For example, Facebook uses the State of California’s laws as their applicable law in their general terms and conditions and aggregates huge amounts of data about it’s users from both inside the Facebook network (which we assume is shared willingly) and from external sources (which we probably have agreed to by accepting the Terms of Service.) Check out this Gizmodo article by Michael Nunez, it’s maybe a little shocking?

While we enjoy the aspects that allow us to share (often personal) content on social networks, we must be diligent about how (and with whom) our data is shared without our knowledge. For example, after you’ve read an article online, you often have the option to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, etc., etc. Websites that embed social plug-ins have a 3rd party connection to the social network offering the plug-ins. Facebook “Like” buttons integrated as a graphic on these sites download data from the website’s server every time that site is visited. Facebook then has the ability to collect IP addresses (and our personal data) from websites with Facebook plug-ins.

European Data Protection Commissioners are asking for better information about how users’ data is used in third party apps, improved transparency concerning data for advertising purposes, and increased control for users over their personal data. Information is considered to be personal data if it can be connected and linked to a certain and specifically identifiable person.

citizen Journalist.gifSo what of the ‘protections’ that we hear about regarding our personal data? It seems that the providers’ Terms of Service is mainly concerned with their rights to have access to and share our data for the purposes of enhancing their value. While businesses are required to provide us with privacy statements, do they actually protect our privacy? Do we pay enough attention to such statements to make and keep businesses accountable? What is the role of Citizen Journalists as Ehsan Khodarahmi would argue, as he has been since 2008? Here’s an article from 2014 about the social newsrooms and the role of Citizen Journalist, and another one about how traditional journalists source their stories. Aren’t these connected to changes to our attitude and the way our data and privacy perceived by the legislators as well as businesses?

Q1: Is current legislative/regulatory policy sufficient to protect personal data?

Q2: Does current technology to keep our data secure enough?

Q3: What kind of tech might improve our online security/privacy?

Q4: ‘Terms of Service’ is how tech keeps authority over data. Is that fair to users?

Q5: Do you think social networks should be able to collect and aggregate external data about us? Why/not?

Q6: Why are Europeans more concerned with personal data protection and privacy than, say, Americans?

Is Your Business a Media House?

We make a lot of the potential for technology, especially digital marketing (primarily search marketing) and social media marketing, to change how we do business. But you know what? It seems that all technology has done so far is give us new channels for the same old thing.

Perhaps we need to think a little more outside traditional marketing paradigms to make the best of the potential that all this digital age mumbo jumbo represents.

And it’s really quite simple: It comes down to people. As Ehsan puts it:

Don’t try to inspire; create [a] meaningful experience!

Ehsan recently wrote about the concept of the business as a Media House. And it is really interesting how a few simple, (not revolutionary) basic aspects of marketing, sociology and human behaviour might turn the idea of ‘marketing’ businesses in a new direction.

A key aspect of the tension between Marketing and Leadership is this: Many CEOs don’t trust marketers. Why? Because marketers revel in the mystique of marketing existing in some kind of black box reality that only ‘they’ can de-code. This is rubbish! Yet marketers haven’t created the black box on their own. Leaders can take some account: as many C-level executives dismiss things like socialization and human behaviour as ‘soft disciplines’ they push marketers to fabricate ‘science’ that legitimizes the numbers and measures aspect of results. Not everything that is good can be measured. And not everything that is measured is good!

Far too many marketers think they need to invest in tools and technology to monitor who says what online.

And further, too many businesses and brands pursue social media marketing as a broadcast activity. How many ways can we say this – nobody likes to be talked at, or sold to, or treated like a ‘market.’ A possible prescription for treatment of this malady is to “…to put [your] house in order and create meaningful and purposeful communities.”

No ‘influencer’ is going to create credibility for your business. To paraphrase Ehsan, ‘brand personality’ is the collective attitude and cultural values of a business’ people. Building meaningful communities is putting trust and empowerment in people – like  associates, colleagues,  and customers.

When you create purposeful communities, you make everyone feel included and valued…

Then, you’ll start creating value for your business, because you’re serving your customers effectively and efficiently. This is exactly what CEOs want to see.

How do these purposeful communities emerge and thrive? Your marketing team encourages Citizen Journalists to participate by creating and sharing their own content. And your Brand Journalists (associates, leaders, even executives) do likewise, creating communities aligned by values and the philosophy that when we each do well we all do well. Ehsan calls this your business DNA. It is challenging obsolete assumptions about how and what businesses communicate. And opening doors to transparent communication with, among and about all stakeholders in the brand, so you gain understanding about how language, attitude, personality and technology form behaviour in the era of multichannel, citizen-led communication.

Forget about the numbers; just try to produce meaningful and relevant content, then you’ll see your number of audience goes through the roof.


Build a brand ecosystem in which stakeholders:

  • Share insights
  • Learn from each other
  • Recommend your business
  • Connect with you on every touch point, and
  • Engage with you on and offline

Now question time!🙂

Q1: Why do you think CEOs distrust their marketing teams?

Q2: How can marketing teams gain trust with executive leaders?

Q3: There are significant differences between marketing and sales. What are the nuances of these differences?

Q4: How does ‘customer experience’ relate to marketing your business?

Q5: We think ‘community’ is an over-used term in social media and a misunderstood term. What do you think?

Q6: Can businesses be successful entrusting content creation to stakeholders like customer and employee advocates? How?

The Social Media Olympics

Olympic Rings

Image credit.:

The 31st Olympiad taking pace in Rio de Janiero, Brazil has just begun, and the Olympic ideal of cooperation through competition is happening right before our eyes. It reminds us of the @eksays ideal of the future of business in social media – that collaboration eventually surpasses competition. Not necessarily in a purely literal sense, as businesses will continue to compete to differentiate themselves, but in the sense that when we look at the big picture we are all better off when we all benefit.

It’s not a new concept. Yeah, the Olympic ideal comes from ancient Greece! and the modern Olympics date to the 19th century. Remember corporate ‘strategic partnerships’ from the 80s? Maybe you don’t.🙂 Suffice to say that the spirit of collaboration and cooperation is not foreign to humans. In fact, at times it’s been essential to our survival. Now the Olympics are not life-and-death, and neither is survival of business. It sure makes sense, though, to take an easier, cooperative, collaborative approach as opposed to hyper-competitively going it alone. As I write this, I am watching three woman cyclists in the Olympic Women’s Roadrace collaborating to catch the race leader. Their collaboration has an edge, because one of the four women in the final sprint ends up in fourth place. No medal, no reward.

There are certain parallels between Olympic ideals and social media ideation. Although Olympians are the best of the best, elite athletes far above mortal humans, at the Olympic Games they are back to an even playing field, because they are meeting the finest competitors from around the world. The best of human spirit is demonstrated in acceptance of all in Olympic competition, even athletes with no nation-home to call their own. Anything can happen – this is the truth of sports and competition. It’s similar to the mass of humanity we find on social media, in a way. It’s a fairly level field of play and we jockey for position in visibility and influence. It’s true for our personal brands and for businesses too. Is social media the Olympic Village of the world? That place where we all meet, as friends and competitors. As foils and collaborators.

Now it’s time for the #SMXChat Parade of Nations! Carry your flag tall and proud.

P.S. The three cyclists together caught up with and passed the leader with about 100 meters to go. Their collaboration paid off for each of them, medalists all!

Q1) Do you think Olympic ideals are paralleled in social media? Why/Why not? #SMXChat

Q2) Olympic athletes demonstrate uncanny humility. Do you think their example applicable in social media? #SMXChat

Follow up: Does Olympic athletes’ humility seem genuine and sincere? How do they do that?

Q3) Has social media around Olympic events caught your attention? To what effect?  #SMXChat

Q4) Is a sporting attitude of value in a social media context? In what way? #SMXChat

Follow up: What Olympic event/athlete matches you/your social style?

Q5) Imagine being broadcast around the globe. Do you behave differently than usual? Do you think Olympic athletes do? #SMXChat