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The skills smart marketers need to survive the AI takeover

(MARKETING) Quality marketers are constantly evolving, but getting your head around artificial intelligence can be a challenge – let’s boil it down to the most relevant skills you’ll need.

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ai artificial intelligence

When Facebook and Twitter were born, a new era of social media was ushered in, opening the gates for new areas of expertise that hadn’t existed before. At first, we all grappled to establish the culture together, but fast forward a decade and it is literally a science with thousands of supporting technology companies.

So as Artificial Intelligence (AI) takes over marketing, doesn’t that mean it will replace marketers? If you can ask your smart speaker in your office what your engagement growth increase was for your Facebook Page, and ask for recommendations of growth, how do marketing professionals survive?

Marketers will survive the same way they did as social media was introduced – the practice will evolve and new niches will be born.

There are 7 skills marketers (like you) will need to adapt in order to evolve. None of these are done overnight, but quality professionals are constantly grooming their skills, so this won’t be stressful to the successful among us. And the truth is that it won’t be in our lifetime that AI can quite process the exact same way a human brain does, even with the advent of quantum computing, so let’s focus on AI’s weaknesses and where marketers can perform where artificial intelligence cannot.

1. Use the data your new AI buddies generate.

In the 70s, the infamous Ted Bundy murders yielded the first case that utilized computing. The lead investigator had heard about computers and asked a specialist to dig through all of their data points to find similarities – a task that was taking months for the investigative team. After inputting the data, within minutes, they had narrowed their list of suspects from several hundred to only 10.

We’re not dealing with murderers here in the marketing world (…right, guys?), but the theory that algorithms can speed up our existing jobs is a golden lesson. As more AI tools are added to the marketplace to enhance your job, experiment with them! Get to know them! And continue to seek them out to empower you.

Atomic Reach studies your content and finds ways to enhance what you’re delivering. CaliberMind augments B2B sales, Stackla hunts down user-generated content that matches your brand efforts, Nudge analyzes deal risk and measures user account health, and Market Brew digs up tons of data for your SEO strategy.

See? Independently, these all sound like amazing tools, but call them “AI tools” and people lose their minds. Please.

Your job as a marketer is to do what AI cannot. Together, you can automate, do segmentation and automation, beef up your analytics, but no machine can replicate your innate interest in your customers, your compassion, and your ability to understand human emotions and predict outcomes effectively (because you have a lot more practice at being a human than the lil’ robots do).

2. Take advantage of AI’s primary weakness.

As noted, you have emotions and processes that are extremely complex and cannot be understood by artificial intelligence yet. Use those.

How? Compile all of the data that AI offers and then strategize. Duh. AI can offer recommendations, but it cannot (yet) suggest an entire brand strategy. That’s where you come in.

And more importantly, it cannot explain or defend any such strategy. One of the core problems with AI is that if you ask Alexa a question, you cannot ask how it came up with that information or why. This trust problem is the primary reason marketers are in no danger of being replaced by technology.

3. Obsess over data.

AI tools are young and evolving, so right now is the time to start obsessing over data. What I mean by that is not to use every single AI tool to compile mountains of useless data, but to start studying the data you already have.

The problem with new tools is that marketers are naturally inquisitive, so we try them out and then forget they exist if they didn’t immediately prove to be a golden egg.

Knowing your current marketing data inside and out will help you to learn alongside AI. If you aren’t intimately familiar, you won’t know if the recommendations made through AI are useful, and you could end up going down the wrong path because something shiny told you to.

Obsess over data not by knowing every single customers’ names, but be ready to identify which data sets are relevant for the results you’re seeking. A data scientist friend of mine recently pointed out that if you flip a coin five times and it happens to land on tails every time, AI would analyze that data and predict with 100% certainty that the sixth flip will be tails, but you and I have life experience and know better.

Staying on top of your data, even when you’re utilizing artificial intelligence tools will keep you the most valuable asset, not the robots. #winning

4. Don’t run away from math (no wait, come back!)

One of the appeals of marketing is that math is hard and you don’t need it in a creative field. But if you want to stay ahead of the robots, you’ll have to focus on your math skills.

You don’t have to go back to school for data science, but if you can’t read the basic reports that these endless AI tools can create, you’re already behind. At least spend a few hours this month on some “Intro to Data Science” courses on Udemy or Coursera.

5. Content is God.

We’ve all said for years that content is king and that feeding the search engines was a top way to reach consumers. You’ve already refined your skills in creating appealing content, and you already know that it costs less than many traditional lead generating efforts and spending on content is way up.

Content can be blogging, video, audio, or social media posts. Artificial intelligence will step in to skyrocket those efforts, if only you accept that content was once king, but is now God. What is changing is how customized content can be. For example, some companies are using AI tools to create dozens of different Facebook ads for different demographics, which would have taken weeks of human effort to do in the past.

Because content is what feeds all of these new smart devices, feeding your brand content effectively and utilizing AI tools to augment your efforts will keep you more relevant than ever.

6. Get ahead of privacy problems

Consumers now understand what website cookies are, and know when they’ve opted in (or opted out) of an email newsletter, but to this point, humans have made the decisions of how these data choices are made. Our teams have continually edited Terms of Service (ToS), all done not just with liability in mind, but to offer consumers the protections that they want and have come to expect.

But AI today doesn’t have morals, and consumer comfort is not a factor unless humans program that into said AI devices. But it still isn’t a creature of ethics like humans are. Ethical challenges going forward will be something to stay ahead of as you tap into the AI world. Making sure that you know the ToS of any tool you’re using to mine data is critical so that you don’t put the company in a bad position by violating basic human trust.

The takeaway

You’re smart, so you already knew that the robots aren’t taking your job, rather augmenting it, but adding AI into your marketing mix to stay ahead comes with risk and a learning curve. But seeing artificial intelligence for what it really is – a tool – will keep your focus on the big picture and save your job.

Real Estate Marketing

DOJ prepares antitrust charges against Google, possibly this month

(MARKETING) The Department of Justice indicates that it may soon be bringing forth its antitrust charges against Google and alleged monopoly.

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Dino holding Google logo on campus.

After a year of investigations, the Department of Justice is preparing antitrust charges against Google. Signs indicate the case may be brought to the company as soon as the end of this month. The most indicative of which is Attorney General William Barr’s dismissal of the career lawyers. They had previously requested more time to build their case.

The DOJ has told lawyers conducting the antitrust inquiry into Alphabet Inc. to complete their work by the end of September. Alphabet is Google and YouTube’s parent company, which exercises a wide control over online search engines, video, and advertising markets.

A subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary panel has raised major concerns regarding the company’s ability to exploit and monopolize the market to fuel their own business ventures. Subsequently, the DOJ is asking Google about how it utilizes a mixture of strategies to entice advertisers and online publishers, such as bundling offers, giving discounts, or creating restrictions.

Other critics have pointed out how Google deploys software to manage each step of online advertising, playing both sides of the market. “In no other market does the party represent the seller, the buyer, makes the rules, and conduct the auction,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, in this week’s hearing. He also called Google’s monopolizing position “indefensible”.

Google’s president of global partnerships and corporate development, Don Harrison, responded to these allegations by pointing out that while the company leads in general online searches, consumers are more likely to turn to Amazon for product and commercial queries.

Google currently controls roughly 90% of online searches globally, aided by the fact that it’s become the default browser on phones through its Android operating system. About one-third of every dollar spent on online advertising also finds its way into Google’s hands. It’s likely we’ll see more movement in this massive case heading into the end of the year.

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Real Estate Marketing

Knowledge Panels are equivalent to Google gold: Here’s how to get them

(MARKETING) This major, but underutilized, Google product can boost your business’ visibility in search. Here are secrets to getting and utilizing them.

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Hands on Mac laptop looking at Google results.

You know how sometimes you google something and an info box on the right immediately catches your eye with a large image and a big, bold title? And how sometimes that box has the information you want, so you don’t even need to click through the list of top results?

Those are Google’s nifty Knowledge Panels. For clued-in digital marketers, they are coveted real estate, but they’re not one of Google’s well-known products.

How do they get there? That, my friend, is not entirely clear. The ways of Google are often inscrutable, but those clued-in marketers have been figuring it out. And if you figure it out for your business, your brand, or even your band, you can give your visibility a big booster shot.

Got questions? We’ve got answers.

What is a Knowledge Panel?

In short, Knowledge Panels are a big shortcut into your online information.

A Knowledge Panel is a box of information that sometimes appears on a search engine results page (SERP). They’re on the right side on desktop or at the top on mobile. (FYI: Paid ads always get the top spot because money.)

Google automatically generates panels by crawling through the web to grab information from multiple sources and producing a concise list of information it thinks is the most relevant.

What you see depends on what type of information you seek. Typically, you’ll see an image or several photos, a title, and a short description, which is often pulled from the first few lines of a Wikipedia page. You’ll also get website and social links. Then may come a few relevant facts, contact information for businesses, or products for sale.

Thomas Jefferson’s panel gives you his birth and death dates, term as president, spouse, and vice presidents. Adele’s panel links to music services such as Spotify, songs on YouTube, and her social profiles.

For REI, the panel leads with handy links to the website, customer service chat, and a phone number. Also handy: The cost of a membership is followed by a link to an article on whether the membership fee is worth the money. (Fortunately for REI, the answer is yes.) There’s also a question and answer section, reviews, and specific product listings.

Local businesses can display photos, directions, hours, and inventory. (Google explains how they source information for local listings, which can also include user-generated content like reviews.)

If you want more of the nuts and bolts, check out Google’s blog post, “A reintroduction to our Knowledge Graph and knowledge panels.”

Who can get one?

Knowledge panels aren’t just for the big players. Startups and small local businesses can get them just like Starbucks or IBM. Even local bands can get the same treatment as Adele. The key is to show Google you’re worthy by demonstrating relevance and authority through your digital presence.

If you’re a thought leader or entrepreneur who’s wondering if you can make the grade, having a Wikipedia page is a good indicator that shows you’ve already been deemed worthy by the internet.

Do I really need one?

No, but the benefits to businesses are big enough that it makes sense to shoot for that brass ring. Knowledge panels can:

  • Boost SEO and bring in more of those sweet organic search results.
  • Get potential customers into your sales funnel quickly and efficiently.
  • Make it easier for customers to find you with one click to directions or your phone number.
  • Support your brand identity.

Note that, while you can’t shape the initial information, you can request edits to add information.

Sounds awesome! How do I create one?

You can’t. Only Google can bestow this gift upon you. Its algorithms are judging you, your relevance, and your authority. If you pass muster, one day a Knowledge Panel could magically appear. Or not. (Try to have a healthy ego when you start this quest.)

But I want one. Is Google being unfair?

Is anything in life really fair? Does it matter? You can’t blame Google for wanting to make sure you’re legit. But you can do some things that may increase your chances.

OK, whatever. What can I do to increase my chances?

Be everywhere. Take inventory and assess your online assets. Good places to start: Your website is findable, clean, and explains what you do. You’re on as many social platforms as make sense for your business. Maybe you have some videos up on YouTube. You have a Wikipedia page if you’re eligible. (Creating one is a process, but Hubspot lays it all out for you.)

Make sure you’ve linked all your platforms to one another – your website to your Facebook to your YouTube channel and so on.

Google looks at both the quantity and quality of your online presence, so make sure your content is strong.

Open a free Google My Business account if you don’t have one. GMB is a directory that lets smaller local businesses connect with customers and increase their visibility based on geolocation. If you have an account, make sure it’s complete and up to date. (Hootsuite has a beautiful, comprehensive step-by-step guide to setting up and optimizing GMB.)

You’ll need to verify that you’re the owner via postcard, phone, or email. Once you’re verified, you can add and edit information such as your address and opening hours, which should appear in your Knowledge Panel.

The Knowledge Panel fairy visited me! What happens next?

At the bottom of the panel you should see this button:

Claim this knowledge panel button on Google, when ready to activate.

Click it and claim it! This will allow you to request edits. Make sure all info is accurate. (Take a look at ReviewTrackers.com for more info.)

This part of the process seems to be something that isn’t well known. As of this writing, business leaders like Simon Sinek and Warren Buffet, the Spanx brand, and even Starbucks do not appear to have claimed their Knowledge Panels. You can do better!

Anything else?

Be consistent with your wording. Take your mission statement, branding guidelines, value proposition, elevator pitch – all of it, and distill it into one clear and simple sentence that you use across platforms in bios or descriptions of your business. Google likes it when you do that.

Finally, ignore companies that promise they can get you a knowledge panel. They can’t.

The Knowledge Panel quest is something you can DIY with research and persistence. But if you work with a digital marketing agency, now you’ll know to ask them how they’re questing for you.

Just remember: There are no guarantees, but you should still go for the Google gold.

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Real Estate Marketing

Why you should check Google Street View before listing a property

(MARKETING) Before you list a property, there’s one unexpected factor to check: What does it look like on Google Street View? And is it blurred out?

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Bird's eye view of neighborhood homes on Google Street View.

So, you’re ready to list a property.

You’ve got the tower of documents signed, photos and videos uploaded, and the sign with a QR code and fliers in the front yard, where the landscaping has been meticulously tidied up. Take a breath… then think about one more thing you need to do.

What does the property look like on Google Street View? More importantly, is it even visible or is it blurred out?

Homeowners have the ability to tell Google to blur out photos of their homes. They might do it for privacy reasons. Some people just don’t like the idea of anyone in the world being able to see their homes. Some might do it for personal safety, say, in a stalking situation. Or there might be information that’s too revealing, or a person whose presence could be embarrassing in the photo.

Whatever the reason, you want to know whether the seller or a previous owner asked Google to blur the property. Prospective buyers might see it and wonder what’s gone on there. Is it a crack house? Did some kind of violence occur? Were the windows at one time covered in tin foil?

You want prospects to imagine living happily in the home, not imagining something out of a bingeable TV crime drama.

But there’s a problem: Once Google agrees to blur a house, it’s permanent. They’ve deleted the photos. They’re not going to send out the car or the person wearing a backpack with the 360 cameras again to photograph that property.

But don’t give up on perfection just yet! Here are some possible workarounds:

Direct prospects to another search engine such as Bing, which has its own Street View function on its maps.

Try to upload a user-generated photo to Google Street View (Caveat: We have not done this, but it seems like it’s worth a try). Google allows user-generated photos to be uploaded into Street View according to their image policy. (To do your own 360 photos you would need a specific type of camera, which Google lists. Those are in the $4,000 range). However, we could not find any mention in their privacy policies or Maps’ terms of service that specifically say what will happen if someone uploads a photo of a property that has been blurred. Hey, no risk, no reward, right?

Ask Google for help. A search through Google’s user forums on this question offers little hope that a human will respond to an inquiry, but who knows? The Google gods just might look upon you with favor.

In any case, be ready to answer questions about why the property does not show up in Google Street View. A straightforward “A previous owner asked Google to blur the photo because of privacy concerns” should probably do the trick. Everyone understands privacy concerns in the digital era.

Your job is to offer as much transparency as possible while making sure your client’s property is presented in the best light. Checking out Google Street View is just one more detail that will ensure both of those happen.

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