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Artificial Intelligence is marketing’s new frontier, here’s your crash course

(TECHNOLOGY) Marketing is rapidly evolving, and the knowledge required to dominate in the future is changing just as quickly. Time to get up to speed!

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Back in the day, the idea of interacting with robots and computers seemed out of an episode of The Jetsons. But fast-forward to today, and some of the most far-fetched ideas back then have become our reality, and you know what? It’s awesome.

In Back to The Future II, they used tablets to get Marty to sign up to save the Clock Tower, and then this massive shark pops out of a sign, which freaked 1984 Marty out. The only thing is – do you remember how pixelated the shark was? Magic Leap is augmenting reality to look like a whale can literally crash into a gymnasium, without so much as a drop of water.

Our cars have precise navigation systems (still can’t fly, though), radio stations from around the world stream into our stereos, our phones can control every aspect of our lives down to how much sleep we get a night. And while it was once thought to be nothing more than fantasy from the pages of a Spielberg script, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has embedded itself into our daily lives, too.

For marketers, there’s much to love about AI: it’s redefining the industry because we can move the chess pieces in ways that previously, we’ve only imagined. AI will change how people interact with data, but also impact how consumers get information much like television commercials and traditional advertising in the analog heyday.

If you’re unaware of what Artificial Intelligence is, it’s the study of making machines super intelligent, and giving them the capability to problem solve. Machine learning creates constantly evolving systems that teach computers to learn organically. Google Photo is a prime example of how machine learning works: photos are fed into Google’s AI and eventually after seeing so many photos of a face, it will eventually recognize the person in the picture.

Artificial Intelligence is marketing’s new frontier

Think about Netflix, how it knows what shows we want to watch, or when a site can predict a new pair of shoes that are exactly your style – that’s AI at work. All of the world’s premier brands are investing in AI. One of the strongest reasons why, is simple – targeted suggestions.

Because of AI’s data collecting capabilities, marketers can collect and analyze swaths of data to enable predictive strategies at every stage of the funnel. We can find ways to move the needle in terms of what a customer wants, and provide different strategies to ensure they’re empowered to make a choice they may have not known about.

All of tech’s biggest players are investing heavily into AI right now. Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Atlassian are all competing against one another, and then against the biggest companies in China, Japan, and Europe – all for the world’s top talent to understand how we make machines do more for us.

But, don’t forget, Target, Walmart, and Zappos are all investing in AI, too.

Everyone is.

Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai said in January that AI was “one of the most important things that humanity is working on” and also went on to double down its importance, stating, that it was “more profound than electricity or fire.”

ROI is everything

When you talk to a marketer, the term ROI (Return On Investment) comes up A LOT.

Running campaigns is somewhat of a science, but with the right data, you can take the ‘somewhat’ out of the equation.

By relying on AI, taking the guesswork on what will hit regarding a campaign becomes clearer, thanks to having a defined understanding of Customer Relationship Management (CRM), social data, and analytics. Machine Learning makes it easier for marketers to identify trends.

By combining AI and marketing fundamentals, teams can create multi-layered strategies that offer customized messages to the user.

According to Adobe, “Forty-seven percent of digitally mature organizations, or those that have advanced digital practices, said they have a defined AI strategy.”

Search like never before

Think about what we used to consider as “search” – yes, we still type a word or phrase into Google and see what pops up, but that’s changing. Search engines are smarter, thanks to AI-infused digital marketing.

AI tracks searches, remembers what you were looking for, what you’ve recently ordered, what sites you’ve visited in the past few months, and then compile all of that data into one powerhouse when it comes time to buy that next fridge or find a new pair of boots.

Because of the continual development, Google’s ability to predict keywords is getting crazy. Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) generates keywords semantically related to a main keyword, which offers a fine tuned search result.

Alexa and Siri might considered “home assistants,” but both can order toilet paper for you or tell you when you need to change the air filter in the house. We use them for everything from asking the simplest way to make an alfredo sauce, to asking what the weather looks like.

While some detractors aren’t too keen on the idea of a robot listening to our personal conversations, the facts are simple – more and more houses will integrate AI into their construction and remodels thanks to their demand and proven ease of use.

But, for marketers, these machines are active ways to search something without touching a keyboard, and an effective way to market an idea, if the user is open to new products when it comes time to tell Alexa to buy a certain brand of dish soap, and another is on sale.

User experience drives everything

If you’re looking for support for a product, most sites have a chatbot ready to answer questions. Instead of a human having to find a query and search endlessly through knowledge bases for an answer, a chatbot can recognize patterns in questions and hone in on a few keywords to make a suggestion that’s based on data versus a human’s best guess.

Chatbots are based on the AI principle of storing information and self-learning.

Tools like Wit.ai, IBM Watson, and Api.ai, incorporate language processing and learning faculties.

But, aside from customer support or online ordering, we can also tailor websites and the buyer journey to what a user’s needs are. Because of the collected data, website personality can hone in on a specific product type or suggest things based on a past history of browsing.

This is an opportunity for a marketer to run specific campaigns based on someone who’s looking for old-school Adidas and see if they’d be interested in a new streetwear magazine that’s launching this fall. The partnership opportunities are endless thanks to a fluid AI-based UX experience.

Social media giants Facebook are all in when it comes to investing in artificial intelligence, too. Yann LeCun, Facebook’s chief AI scientist, and an early machine-learning architect, told the Washington Post that boss, Mark Zuckerberg told him to press down on the gas pedal and make Facebook more AI-inclusive.

“AI has become so central to the operations of companies like ours, that what our leadership has been telling us is: ‘Go faster. You’re not going fast enough,’” LeCun said.

What else will AI drive in marketing?

For marketers, AI is a massive win, we can track, improve upon, and watch AI evolve. According to TowardDataScience, marketing’s next significant trend is consumer personalization (29 percent), and then AI (26 percent) – data via BrightEdge.

We’ll soon be able to offer deeply personalized website experiences, change how we use PPCs (Pay Per Clicks), and we’ll start seeing data collection for traffic, and budget in ways we never thought considered.

Because of how we concentrate PPCs, AI will help target ads with thousands of variations on ad copy or swap out a photo for greater impact, based on user data.

Writers will create boilerplate copy and then updated snippets that will automatically move in and out or rearrange, depending on the user.

We’ll also have a clearer idea of when to run specific ads for a high click through based on emotional data and reactionary times, which will calibrate the fight against lowest priced clicks for lead conversion.

MemSQL surveyed 1,600 marketing professionals, and 61 percent, regardless of company size, named machine learning and AI as their most significant investment for next fiscal year. These numbers will only increase as in-house teams and agencies alike will adopt AI as a new tool to get the customer excited and clicking.

Artificial Intelligence is like the wild west in marketing – there’s so much to explore, and to experiment with. We could see gains like never before because we’re dedicating the experience to the customers’ wants and needs, which is a new tactic. We’ve always tried, but armed with this level of data, we can now be precise in regards to the the buyer’s journey.

The future is bright for AI and marketing. We’re standing at the forefront of a technology that will change the world. Talking houses are a slice of the next wave, and it’s exciting. Personally, I’m waiting for a robot best friend or a Delorean – I’ll take either.

Robert Dean is a writer at Adia and The American Genius. He is a writer, journalist, and cynic. His most recent novel, The Red Seven is in stores. Currently, he’s working on his newest novel, Tragedy Wish Me Luck. He also likes ice cream and panda bears. He currently lives in Austin. Stalk him on Twitter.

Tech News

Domino’s asks Supreme Court to take up web accessibility case

(TECHNOLOGY) Domino’s is going all the way to the top to ask the Supreme Court to decide if ADA applies to their (and your) website.

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As long as your company is following the rules and regulations set by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), customers with disabilities should be able to access your brick-and-mortar store. The ADA ensures that stores have parking spots, ramps, and doors wide enough for folks in wheelchairs.

But does the ADA also extend to your business’s website? That’s a question that the Supreme Court may soon have to answer.

As an increasing number of services and opportunities are found online in this day and age, it’s quickly becoming a question that needs answering. Several New York wineries and art galleries, Zillow, and even Beyoncé have been sued because their websites were unusable for people who are blind.

In 2016, Domino’s Pizza was sued by a blind customer who was unable to order a pizza on Domino’s website, even while using the screen reading software that normally help blind people access information and services online. The Ninth Circuit Court ruled that Domino’s was in violation of the ADA and that the company was required to make their sites and apps accessible to all. Three years later, Domino’s is petitioning SCOTUS to take on the case.

Domino’s argues that making their sites and apps accessible would cost millions of dollars and wouldn’t necessarily protect them or any other company from what their lawyer called a “tsunami” of further litigation.

That’s because the ADA was written before the internet had completely taken over our social and economic lives. While the ADA sets strict regulations for physical buildings, it has no specific rules for websites and other digital technologies.

The Department of Justice apparently spent from 2010 to 2017 brainstorming possible regulations, but called a hiatus on the whole process because there was still much debate as to whether such rules were “necessary and appropriate.”

The Domino’s case proves that those regulations are in fact necessary. UsableNet, a company that creates accessibility features for tech, reports that there were 2,200 court cases in which users with disabilities sued a company over inaccessible sites or apps. That’s a 181 percent increase from the previous year.

While struggling to buy tickets to a Beyoncé concert or order a pizza may seem like trivial concerns, it’s important to consider how much blind people could be disadvantaged in the modern age if they can’t access the same websites and apps as those of us who can see. Christopher Danielsen from the National Federation of the Blind told CNBC that “If businesses are allowed to say, ‘We do not have to make our websites accessible to blind people,’ that would be shutting blind people out of the economy in the 21st century.”

If the Supreme Court decides to take the case, it could set an important precedent for the future of accessibility in web design.

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Slack video messaging tool for the ultra lazy (or productive) person

(TECHNOLOGY) Courtesy of a company called Standuply, Slack’s notable lack of video-messaging options is finally addressed.

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Slack — the popular chat and workflow app — is still going strong despite its numerous technical shortcomings, one of which is its notable lack of native video or audio chat. If you’re an avid Slack user, you might be interested in Standuply’s solution to this missing feature: video and audio messaging.

While it isn’t quite the Skype-esque experience for which one might hope when booting up Slack, Standuply’s video messages add-on gives you the ability to record and send a video or audio recording to any Slack channel. This makes things like multitasking a breeze; unless you’re a god among mortals, your talking speed is significantly faster than your typing, making video- or audio-messaging a viable productivity move.

The way you’ll record and send the video or audio message is a bit convoluted: using a web browser and a private Slack link, you can record up to five minutes of content, after which point the content is uploaded to YouTube as a private item. You can then use the item’s link to send the video or audio clip to your Skype channel.

While this is a fairly roundabout way of introducing video chat into Slack, the end result is still a visual conversation which is conducive to long-term use.

Sending video and audio messages may feel like an exercise in futility (why use a third-party tool when one could just type?) but the amount of time and energy you can save while simultaneously responding to feedback or beginning your next task adds up.

Similarly, having a video that your team can circle back to instead of requiring them to scroll through until they find your text post on a given topic is better for long-term productivity.

And, if all else falls short, it’s nice to see your remote team’s faces and hear their voices every once in a while—if for no other reason than to reassure yourself that they aren’t figments of your overly caffeinated imagination.

At the time of this writing, the video chat portion of the Slack bot is free; however, subsequent pricing tiers include advanced aspects such as integration with existing services, analytics, and unlimited respondents.

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Want to know how your passwords could get hacked?

(TECH NEWS) While we all know that passwords can be hacked, it is rare that we know how they’re hacked.

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Ever wonder how passwords get stolen? I like to imagine a team of hackers like The Lone Gunmen from The X-Files, all crowded in some hideout conducting illegal computer business based on tips from rogue FBI Agents.

Turns out there’s a little more to hacking than waiting for Fox Mulder to show up with hints.

Most of the common tactics involve guessing passwords utilizing online and offline techniques to acquire entry. One of the main methods is a dictionary attack.

This method automatically tries everything listed in a small file, the “dictionary,” which is populated with common passwords, like 123456 or qwerty. If your password is something tragically simple, you’re out of luck in a dictionary attack.

To protect yourself, use strong single-use passwords for each individual account. You can keep track of these with a password manager, because no one is expecting you to remember a string of nonsensical numbers, letters, and characters that make up a strong password.

Of course, there are still ways for hackers to figure out even complex passwords.

In a brute force attack, every possible character combination is tried. For example, if the password is required to have at least one uppercase letter and one number, a brute force attack will meet these specifications when generating potential passwords.

Brute force attacks also include the most commonly used alphanumeric combinations, like a dictionary attack. Your best bet against this type of attack is using extra symbols like & or $ if the password allows, or including a variety of variables whenever possible.

Spidering is another online method similar to a dictionary attack. Hackers may target a specific business, and try a series of passwords related to the company. This usually involves using a search “spider” to collate a series of related terms into a custom word list.

While spidering can be devastating if successful, this kind of attack is diverted with strong network security and single-use passwords that don’t tie in easily searchable personal information.

Malware opens up some more fun options for hackers, especially if it features a keylogger, which monitors and records everything you type. With a keylogger, all your accounts could potentially be hacked, leaving you SOL. There are thousands of malware variants, and they can go undetected for a while.

Fortunately, malware is relatively easy to avoid by regularly updating your antivirus and antimalware software. Oh, and don’t click on sketchy links or installation packages containing bundleware. You can also use script blocking tools.

The delightfully named (but in actuality awful) rainbow table method is typically an offline attack where hackers acquire an encrypted list of passwords. The passwords will be hashed, meaning it looks completely different from what you would type to log in.

However, attackers can run plaintext passwords through a hashtag algorithm and compare the results to their file with encrypted passwords. To save time, hackers can use or purchase a “rainbow table”, which is a set of precomputed algorithms with specific values and potential combinations.

The downside here is rainbow tables take up a lot of space, and hackers are limited to the values listed in the table. Although rainbow tables open up a nightmare storm of hacking potential, you can protect yourself by avoiding sites that limit you to very short passwords, or use SHA1 or MD5 as their password algorithms.

There’s also phishing, which isn’t technically hacking, but is one of the more common ways passwords are stolen. In a phishing attempt, a spoof email requiring immediate attention links to a fake login landing page, where users are prompted to input their login credentials.

The credentials are then stolen, sold, used for shady purposes, or an unfortunate combination of all the above. Although spam distribution has greatly increased over the past year, you can protect yourself with spam filters, link checkers, and generally not trusting anything requesting a ton of personal information tied to a threat of your account being shut down.

Last but certainly not least, there’s social engineering. This is a masterpiece of human manipulation, and involves an attacker posing as someone who needs login, or password, building access information. For example, posing as a plumbing company needing access to a secure building, or a tech support team requiring passwords.

This con is avoidable with education and awareness of security protocol company wide. And also you know, not providing sensitive information to anyone who asks. Even if they seem like a very trustworthy electrician, or promise they definitely aren’t Count Olaf.

Moral of the story? Your passwords will never be completely safe, but you can take steps to prevent some avoidable hacking methods.

Always have a single-use password for each account, use a password manager to store complex passwords, update malware, keep your eye out for phishing attempts, and don’t you dare make your password “passoword.”

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