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What We Think

9 Mar 2017
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6th St during SXSW

6th street @ SXSW 2016 by nrkbeta cropped from original / CC BY-SA 2.0

I’ll be in rainy London for SXSW, but Austin’s buzz has permeated even those members of the team not going. It’s a big event in the calendar for my team, who are responsible for developing and delivering innovative social media services to clients. There are a few issues top of our minds, which I’m glad to see reflected in the SXSW schedule, namely: machine learning and Artificial Intelligence; personalisation and content creation.

Personalisation

I’m delighted that there’s a huge amount on personalisation and content creation, but my top pick from the sessions has to be Accenture’s Living Profiles and the Power of Personalisation. Accenture’s global lead for personalisation, Jeriad Zoghby, promises to look at market forces in personalisation, and examine how brands can get to understand their customers by creating (and understanding) ‘living profiles’ that give insight to customers, and help brands ‘deliver on the personalisation promise’. In his session descriptor, Zoghby makes the point that 65% of consumers are ‘more likely to buy if they are recognised, remembered, and receive relevant recommendations’.

The flip side of that will come under scrutiny in the session Is Curated Content Creating Tunnel Vision, an issue that was highlighted by the supposedly shock results of Brexit and the US election. If we are only exposed to content and views based on what we like, our world view gets narrower, and we’re less able to see what’s really going on in the world, beyond our networks. In a world where 62% of adults get their news from social media, this session promises to look at the role social media has in curating content, and whether we all have a responsibility to widen our vision beyond what we like.

 

Artificial intelligence

Sapient Nitro’s Strategy and Consultancy Lead, Southeast Asia, Melanie Cook presents the alternative to the popular notion that with Artificial Intelligence comes Armageddon, in her talk Augmented Intelligence, the next gen AI. The session promises to tackle the huge issues of humans working with machines (not against them), examining how AI takes and scales human intelligence to create the ‘intelligent workplace’.

 

Bots

Bots are centre stage throughout SXSW. There’s a hands-on workshop – Build a Chatbot, the New Consumer Engagement tool, that puts the theory of automating conversations into practice, led by senior web engineer at Mutual Mobile, Tricia Katz, that promises business leaders and technologists that they will leave the session with ‘their very own introductory bot’. Facebook is also taking part in a session – Facebook Messenger and the Rise of the Chatbotlooking specifically at using bots on its Messenger platform. I am fascinated by the possibilities of bots, but like many people, cautious – nothing will replace the personal touch that comes from human contact. But if machines can cope successfully with routine queries, it frees humans to tackle more complex issues, requiring higher skill levels, and so improving effectiveness. The trick will be getting the balance right.

As ever, there are sessions to challenge, provoke, inspire and enrage. Now if only a bot could choose the best sessions for the team…