Social Media Week: Digital Marketers Must Predict the Future to Succeed

In order to thrive in the future world of digital marketing, marketers must have the ability to predict the future, according to Mashable chief executive (CEO) Pete Cashmore.

In his Social Media Week keynote, Cashmore explained that a new algorithm developed by Mashable can comb through millions of headlines and keywords to analyze the news and predict the next trending topic up to eight hours in advance of the traditional news cycle. “In the past, we’ve looked at the Tweetdeck for breaking news,” Cashmore said. “Now, we look at the velocity dashboard to be on the trend rather than behind it.”

Mashable‘s product is currently rolling out to both brands and agencies and allows marketers to predict and prepare relevant content around topical events. For example, Cashmore said that for this year’s Oscars the algorithm became a listening platform for brands and media to understand which Oscar topics would be trending around the watercooler the next morning and prepare videos, tweets, and other content in order to be trend-makers.

The algorithm also works for targeting and segmenting audiences, Cashmore said. For example, a fast-food brand could look at which food conversations might appeal to U.K. males aged 18 to 20 in the coming days. The algorithm could even be used for predicting competitors’ weaknesses.

And while Mashable is now trusting artificial intelligence (AI) to predict the news, Cashmore is still banking on humans to write it. “There’s nothing worse than content that doesn’t sound human,” Cashmore said. “AI is not going to speak in a human voice. We’ll never be able to program humor. And it’s really hard to produce video in an automated way. We’re producing tech that helps people be creative.”

Voice search is another AI trend Cashmore isn’t banking on, since speaking at watches and phones still feels too awkward for users accustomed to typing on keyboards. “In theory [voice search] should be a good thing. The challenge is strange. There’s kind of a social weirdness, and new tech has to fit with social norms.”

Cashmore thinks folding and rolling screens, like the prototypes he saw this year at the Consumer Electronics Show, might be a more applicable alternative to chunky screens and shy voice users. But ultimately, Cashmore says, screens and wearables will have to be used in conjunction with one another, no matter what the future holds for tech. “It remains to be seen if people want to speak into their devices. [The future] is going to be both [screens and voice search], not either or.”

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