Keeping the human touch in a world of data: Online Influence West 2015

Sam Abercromby

Last week I made the short trip to Bristol to join Online Influence West, a conference exploring new developments in online marketing.

With speakers from social platforms such as Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube as well as data-focused companies like Microsoft, there was a wide scope of views on offer, but what struck me as a common theme was the importance of human insight.

Here are the three big things I took away:

  • Technology proliferates but humanity prevails 

Technology is an integral part of our lives and will only continue to evolve, but for businesses to use it effectively it has to be about who uses it. There are lots of algorithms and automation to serve suggested web pages or triggered communications but these don’t always ring true when we see them. We need to get more human friendly. Forget ‘customers’ – think ‘people’. Machines can’t yet make people laugh, organise, lead and support or use intuition, so use the human touch to create content.

  • Think and act like a content creator

Popular broadcasters on YouTube have more followers and engagement in the social sphere than any other company. The reason? They’re honest and believable. Don’t push a corporate message at users. Instead, look to educate, entertain and inspire. Social engagement also takes time – which means building sustained, long-term relationships not looking for quick wins. The half-life of a tweet is 20 minutes so a trending promotion may work well but could be forgotten an hour later.

  • Use human insight to focus your data

- In the age of the algorithm, think critically and don’t rely on automated suggestions – always question your data and apply common sense.

- BUT if the data is robust, use it to drive your learnings and challenge unfounded preconceptions.- Use data experts to focus on what’s important. They can identify key metrics, set hypotheses and get an holistic view of how your data fits together. 90% of all data in the world didn’t exist 12 months ago so don’t get overwhelmed with Big Data – narrow your focus to what matters.

Within the next 10 years it’s predicted there’ll be a 44x increase in data being captured and I’d actually consider this a conservative estimate. But to quote James Gleick:

When information is cheap, attention becomes expensive.

So despite some serious advances in AI and tech, it seems us humans aren’t outdated. Yet.