Machine Learning and Social Marketing

July 9, 2018

There’s an old real estate saying: Location, location, location. And it turns out to be just as crucial in social media marketing. But if you haven’t learned that yet, don’t worry; the machines you use are already learning it.

Machine Learning

It may sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but machine learning has become a reality. Machine learning happens by way of algorithms. Merriam-Webster defines an algorithm as a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem or accomplishing some end, especially by a computer. Thanks to increasingly complex and responsive algorithms, machines can analyze data and recognize certain patterns and then predict what actions users will take. If you’ve ever had Amazon recommend a certain book or movie to you based on what you’ve browsed or bought, or based on what others who have browsed or bought if there is some crossover, if you’ve ever seen the words recommended for you on your browser screen, you know what this is. It’s machine learning, the early evolution of the long-awaited and much-dreaded artificial intelligence. But we’re still a long way from a robot rebellion as yet.

Are You a Follower?

Of course, you are. But there’s nothing to feel bad about. If you’re like the overwhelming majority of Instagram users, for example (or Facebook or other social media platforms), you can follow the posts of your favorite friends, celebrities, even politicians. You may even have attracted a sizable following of your own. So a followers section is one of various quick and convenient ways to appeal to followers and reduce excess posts that don’t reach the intended audience. And through these new algorithms, machines have learned to differentiate which users, or followers, are more likely to respond and participate as the posts intended.

The necessity of this type of sorting is clear. There are 800 million users per week on Instagram alone. Twitter and the other major social media sites boast similar, astronomical numbers. With so many connections and so much interaction, and so many potential clients and customers, some of them have to be sorted out.

So the task fell to the creators of applications that manages search filters to maximize efficiency and filter out the unproductive static of social media marketing. Combin writes, “New search filtering ability is a solution for pointless interaction with Instagram accounts of celebrities, shops and spammers that always manage to be present among followers of all accounts and tagged within any location or hashtag imaginable. Weeding out accounts that won’t mutually interact or be genuinely interested in the content of users was crucial for productive, time-saving application use.”

Machines sort information and its users in some ways; subjects of items searched for, browsed, or bought, age and race of user if this information is available, and other various factors including liking, commenting, and other interactions. But one increasingly important factor is location.

Location, location, location!

Location is crucial because so much information comes in about where users are, where they drive, where they shop. Smartphones, Fit Bits and watches, and other mobile devices provide more information and in greater detail about a user’s whereabouts and habits, while new and faster processing power enables applications to organize and analyze that data faster and more efficiently. The result can only be that location is more and more important in social media, even as the range of social media expands to every corner of the globe and soon well beyond that.

Location is crucial when targeting retail customers, for example. Users can check the inventory of a store or stores in their area and find out how many items are available for immediate purchase. All the major retail/online outlets have a store finder function on their website to direct their customers to their stores and draw them in. Accounts at sites for chains like Home Depot and Guitar Center offer a “your store” option so that local shoppers will know at a glance what may be available around the corner or perhaps a few miles away. Concert promoters target ticket buyers in certain locations based on what other shows they’ve seen in those locations. It only makes sense that location would be crucial to social media marketing.

The numbers help tell the tale: Entrepreneur says that by 2018, more than half of all consumers will be using mobile devices first for anything they do online, in the U.S., 71 percent of total digital minutes comes from mobile devices and that people use their phones to check their email, surf the Internet, and maintain their social media connections. More and more businesses are targeting their advertisements to individual phone users in particular locations.

There’s even a new term for it: Geomarketing, the use of social networks, smartphones, IP addresses, and Web searches to target advertisements and information to a user’s location. Small and medium-sized companies can now join bigger businesses in partnering with search engines and social network companies to tailor their message not only to their clients but their clients’ locations.

Does all this mean that location is even more important than the user? Well, locations don’t buy goods or services, people do. But studies show that behavior changes with environment. The old saying goes; When in Rome, do as the Romans. So whether your users are French, American, or Inuit, if they’re in Rome, they will likely behave and react and even buy as Romans. Location may not be the most important thing, but it is crucial when it comes to social media marketing.

Now is the Time

There’s no doubt that the future of marketing is the internet, and that means an increased emphasis in location. Machine learning, algorithms, and faster processing power allow the savvy marketer to use the internet and all its users’ information to reach out to the clients who are most within reach and to appeal to them in ways more personal and particular than ever before. Thanks to industry leaders, those new resources are at the fingertips of every business; big, medium, or small. But any business that follows the adage of “Location, location, location!” is certain to get bigger and bigger and finally to overtake the competition. If machines can learn that, the business leaders of tomorrow surely can too. If they want to thrive, they’d better learn it … and fast.

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