Which social media channels fit your organization?

©TanjaCappell/flickr.com

©TanjaCappell/flickr.com

There is no need to explain that social media has become inevitable for our society. Most of us are registered on at least one social network and are active there, almost daily. It is clear that companies should also try to use the large potential of these online communities to share their messages and stay in contact with their customers and stakeholders.

Social media requires planning
The large number of social media platforms makes it difficult for companies to decide which ones are the best choices to reach their target audience. However, the right decision is extremely important. Social media requires a lot of time and effort because it needs to be planned thoroughly. It is better to have only few channels that are well prepared and aligned with the target audience than to perform badly on every social media platform. Less is more in this case. Also, the content which is published has to match with the respective social media site. Aligning the posts with the needs and expectations of clients is crucial for the success of an account. After all, we only share what we are interested in.

Another important issue is the amount of available content, because usually posts have to be prepared on a regular basis. Often, it is easier to create content for consumer products, especially on picture-based media like Instagram or Snapchat. But even in this case, it is important to keep in mind that social media is a long-term project. And make sure that there will be enough material to be able to keep posting new content even after a year.

Is Facebook headed south?
Facebook is being criticized a lot lately. On one hand, fake news spread easily on the platform. On the other hand, our newsfeeds have changed. Facebook is using algorithms to show us exactly what we allegedly want to see. Sometimes we get the feeling that all we ever see are likes from friends that we haven’t met in three years. Still, it is really difficult to find anyone, under the age of 50, who doesn’t have a Facebook account and use it at least once a week. What has changed is the way we use Facebook. More and more people access Facebook over mobile devices and they post less, but share and watch more. Facebook is still an amazing tool to reach a broad public, but it has become more important than ever to create interesting content so it doesn’t disappear in endless timelines.

Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest – the world of images
Especially for consumer products, Instagram and similar platforms are the place to be. Companies can present their new products and share an inside view of their company. The pictures should provide good quality, but are not supposed to look too marketing-like. It is important to create an authentic image of the brand to attach the followers to it. Especially young audiences can be reached via Snapchat. Here, companies can show their audience behind-the-scenes content. Storytelling is key to bind customers to a brand.

Twitter
One of the world’s largest social networks is based on real-time news. The short messages are supposed to inform about recent topics and create an overview. Operating a Twitter account takes a lot of time and effort, because the posts should be prepared on a regular basis and posted while the topic is still up-to-date. However, companies should take care of posting only relevant information for their audience so they don’t get blocked as “spammers”. Twitter is also a great possibility to react to recent topics, state opinions and spread important links.

LinkedIn and XING
The business platforms LinkedIn and the German version XING are used to network with colleagues from other organizations and other employees. Especially XING focuses less on brands, but more on individual people. It is important for employees to connect employees with the company. That way, they can spread news and draw attention to the company.

No matter which social media platforms a company chooses, the content has to be aligned with the needs and expectations of the respective target audience. However, it is equally important to create the posts in a way that fits the medium. Therefore, companies need to inform themselves about the customs of the social platform. Creating random accounts and posting without a real plan should be avoided. But a good and thought through social media plan with posts that are aligned with the target group can lead to great brand awareness and loyalty.

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A day in the year 2040 – Living in smart homes

©NiklasRhose/unsplash.com

©NiklasRhose/unsplash.com

Munich, 5/1/2040 – Yesterday, I watched an online documentary about the history of smart homes which surprised me. In this documentary, they showed a short report from 2016 (randomly this is my birth year). In this context, the question was raised if smart homes are really the future. In 2016, Facebook was one of the most popular social media platforms and the founder, Mark Zuckerberg, attracted media attention for making his house completely smart – and for developing and programming the entire system by himself. Back then, only 3 to 6 percent of the people in Germany actually used smart home applications. This is unbelievable when you consider that there is hardly anyone today who does not control the lights, the heating system or the webcams with their smartphones. This is no surprise because we really do not live in the Stone Age anymore. My parents often told me about the first years of the new millennium, but I could never really imagine it.

I am 24 years old and I grew up in the age of smart homes. Obviously, everybody knows what this term means, but – for completeness – a definition should not be missing: A smart home is a home that incorporates advanced automation systems in which all of the appliances are connected with each other. Decades ago, maybe it was unimaginable that the appliances are connected and work automatically, but today this is reality. I have to admit that I haven’t thought about this topic so far, because the complete interconnectedness of all things is quite natural for me.
In 2016, people had already developed the technology which we use in a much more advanced way now (I will include the links of the technology from 2016 in the following text for your information). However, I am sure those people could not have imagined what today – almost 25 years later – became normality.

My day starts at 6.30 am sleeping in my bed. I am awakened by a pleasant sound that comes from the built-in speakers in my ceiling. The timer is set to open all of the blinds in my apartment five minutes later and the day is about to start. Because it is January, the sun hasn’t come up yet. Luckily, all my lamps adapt automatically to the lighting conditions in my apartment. When I leave a room, motion sensors register this as well and all of the lamps are turned off. After I get up, sensors detect that the bed is empty. That is why the robotic bed makes itself. It raises the pillows, smooths the blanket and puts the pillows on it again. My bed really is smart – and it saves me time!

While I get ready for work, I switch on the tea maker in the kitchen with my universal app to prepare a peppermint tea. Most of the days, my coffee maker is configured in a way that my coffee is ready when I enter the kitchen. However, since yesterday I feel a little bit weak, I have a scratchy feeling in my throat and also a constant headache. That is why I decided to have a cup of tea today. While the tea cools down, I measure my blood pressure with my mobile blood pressure monitor that is connected with an app. Afterwards, I send my test results with a detailed description of my pains to my doctor. He will provide a clear diagnosis until this evening and will suggest measures. Only when my condition will not improve or get worse, I need to see the doctor in person. Luckily, at least my indoor security cameras have good news for me. The integrated air sensors have shown that the air quality in my apartment is good and that there is a harmless number of germs in the interiors. At least, my condition will not get worse from that.

While having breakfast which I prepared by myself (even I have my limits!), my smart vacuum cleaner drives around the whole apartment – only with a click in the app. It registers dust, absorbs it and mops the floor afterwards. Thus, I save time again and I already have a sparkling clean floor right after breakfast. Nevertheless, I need to hurry afterwards because I have to be at an early meeting in the office. Fortunately, the heating system notices via an app when I leave the apartment and turns down automatically. Today, I really would not have had time for something like that. However, our current environmental situation in 2040 makes it clear that it is crucial to reduce the energy consumption. At least, the worldwide situation was defused by the development in the automotive industry – but that is another story…

During the course of the day, I got startled a little bit because I heard a shrill alarm coming from my smartphone. Via app I got a message that there is a leakage in a tube of my basin in the bathroom and that water is running out – my water sensor detected this. Luckily, the app already shows me a selection of the best available mechanics nearby, so that I only need to choose my favorite. The mechanic can enter my apartment within the next two hours by using a special smartphone code. In this moment, I am glad that door keys don’t exist anymore and that access is possible with an electronic entry system. To see if everything is okay, I also open the live stream of my indoor and outdoor security cameras. In doing so I can observe the repair work – with prior permission from the repair service of course.

Overall, I am not very much concerned about my security at home. Through my security cameras I can always check if something is going on in my apartment. In the event of any suspicious movements my smartphone warns me and I can call the police. However, the number of domestic burglaries has dropped extremely. The main reason for this development is the presence simulation which has been installed in many houses and apartments. Thus, the blinds close when it gets dark and the lighting is switched on in certain rooms to simulate the presence of residents. The safety has increased significantly because potential burglars are deterred off.

I have never thought about smart homes very much, but when I watched the report from 2016 about the evolution of smart homes, I noticed how many advantages this technology has brought us. I can only imagine that the life back then had to be so much more complicated and time-consuming because everything needed to be done manually.

If I would have to tell the people from 2016 something, it would be this: Yes, smart homes are the future, but you don’t have to afraid of the new technology. It will make your life easier so that you have more time to do the things your really enjoy!

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Fighting cyber criminals with artificial intelligence

©MarkusSpiske/unsplash.com

©MarkusSpiske/unsplash.com

News about cyber-attacks have dominated the media over the last weeks and there are no signs of a soon ending. The attack on Telekom routers which paralyzed many German homes or the Deutsche Bahn, whose Wi-Fi standards have failed security tests in their trains are only two of the most prominent examples. Even the US election raised suspicions about the involvement of hackers and the discussions about the security of the upcoming German parliamentary elections have already started.

It seems that cyber criminals keep influencing our daily lives more and more, while many of the safety measures we take are insufficient. But how can we protect ourselves in the future when cyber criminals become increasingly sophisticated?

One approach is using the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The technology behind AI has not only been convincing when playing chess but it could also win the “game” against cyber criminals. There are already some events where mainframe computers infect themselves with malware and try to conquer each other automatically. This exact scenario was practiced by research authorities of the US Department of Defense at the Defcon competition „Darpa“ in Las Vegas. The event was supposed to show how computers react to attacks and how they react in a fully automated way. Surprisingly to the audience, the computer which was attacked first didn’t immediately defend itself, but worked out a strategy to fix the security breach before attacking the other computer.

Machines learn by detecting patterns

Security solutions are based on mathematics and increasingly on machine learning and artificial intelligence. Machine learning is based on detecting patterns. Self-learning solutions use available knowledge to generate an infinite amount of possible attack scenarios to develop increasingly sophisticated recognition and reaction abilities. In the future, systems might be able to carry out transactions safely, even when they are attacked, and repair themselves as soon as an attack is registered.

The problem is, however, that most procedures can only detect an attack after it has been carried out. It will be important for intelligent software to interpret the data, in case of a security breach, and evaluate which software has been used. Therefore, it will be crucial to detect suspicious operations as fast as possible and send out warnings in case of a breach.

What does this mean for organizations and private users?

Considering the increasing complexity of company networks which results from the use of mobile, virtual and cloud-based technologies, defensive systems using artificial intelligence represent protection in a flexible network environment which can’t be provided by rigid solutions anymore.

Also, interventions in networks of private owners can become more severe due to insufficient protection. The networking of household appliances and the access to internal devices using mobile phones which comes with the Internet of Things (IoT) bears many safety risks that are not addressed enough by users and providers.

Using machine learning to cope with the virtual threat is seen as the ideal answer to the problem. The analysis of large amounts of data could proceed faster in case of an emergency, or could at least be reduced to a minimum.

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Is the future designed by printers?

3D printing in Germany is close to the breakthrough

©fdecomite/flickr.com

©fdecomite/flickr.com

Digital technologies like 3D printing are about to achieve the breakthrough in Germany. This is the result of a representative survey among companies on behalf of the digital association Bitkom. So far, only 5 percent of the German companies use 3D printing. However, 20 percent plan or discuss using it in future. In the production industry, the percentage is even higher – 16 percent already use 3D printing technologies and additional 40 percent plan its usage.

What is 3D printing?

Under the term 3D printing (or additive manufacturing) we understand a variety of technologies that use additive processes. In such a process an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object. The processes work according to multiple different principles and are only suitable for special materials. What they all have in common is that they build three-dimensional objects while applying thin layers and solidifying them.

What are the advantages of these processes?

Supporters of 3D printing expect cost savings compared to mass production in terms of raw materials, staff, transport and energy. Furthermore, traditional technologies are not able to produce the 3D honeycomb structures, because these are light and solid forms with hollows. Many forms like this could not be produced with drilling or injection molding. In addition, 3D printing can be used very well for producing goods with a certain level of customization.

Who is 3D printing for?

3D printing provides a multitude of possibilities. Nowadays, its usage in the manufacturing industry is as common as personal 3D printing. According to this, the variety of 3D printers is extremely large: the price range reaches from millions of euros for expensive models to a couple of hundred euros for cheaper alternatives.

Is this technology revolutionary?

Actually, it isn’t, because 3D printing has been in use for decades. The techniques have already started to influence our daily life. Hearing aids and dentures are produced by 3D printers as well as gas turbines from Siemens or MTU aircraft engines. A prototype from BMW has about 3,000 printed parts. However, these techniques are seen as an extension and not as a substitution technology for mass production.

Why didn’t we hear about 3D printing much earlier?

The media has started to care about this topic relatively late. The public awareness has only been created in the last years. Several high-circulation newspapers and popular magazines as well as the internet report about 3D printing now. Expired patents are the reason why license fees cease and cheaper alternatives are brought to the market who can be used by individuals as well. Due to this, attention-grabbing news and experiments like „Gun produced by 3D printer“, „3D printer for preparation of meals“ or „High-Heels produced by a 3D printer“ emerge. If you want to know how experiments like this look like on YouTube, click here.

Over time, the extensive 3D printing possibilities in the field of medicine have drawn to attention. Since years, regenerative medicine specialists have tried to reproduce living tissues. They want to use 3D printers with various types of cells in the cartridges. Growth factors and supporting substances are supposed to secure the form of the print. Testing on animals was successful but a long-awaited opportunity of applying it to human medicine is still not possible. Intensive efforts of researches to print whole organs provide hope for 11,000 people in Germany. In the US, there are 119,000 candidates for transplants on the national waiting list.

Other researches have already come closer to their visions while working on customized 3D printed prosthetics. The goal is to provide as many affected people with cheap leg and arm prosthetics as possible. The German cyclist Denise Schindler competed with her 3D printed leg prosthetics in the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro in September 2016. Due to the participation in a competitive sport, the prosthetics needed to be extremely resilient and light at the same time. Denise won a silver and bronze medal which shows what is possible with 3D printing technology. Especially stories like that bring the topic even more to public awareness.

3D printing is advancing fast, that is clear. However, experts say that the much-discussed potential technical revolution is uncertain. One of the main difficulties is that the engineers have to cope with the new specifications of the 3D printing technologies. There is a huge wealth of experience about traditional technologies that does not exist for the new technology. Especially in industries that give warranties of ten or twenty years, these experiences are a huge advantage. Even though 3D printing can have huge benefits, this advantage should not be underestimated. Generally, it applies that the more complex a product is, the more difficult and riskier it is to 3D print it. That is why the idea of completely 3D printed cars or planes is still a faraway future vision.

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How can companies use the potential of online videos properly?

©ClemOnojeghuo/unsplash.com

©ClemOnojeghuo/unsplash.com

Social Media is full of videos. Whether we are on the bus on our way to work or on our couch at home, we all like to be entertained by an interesting or funny video for a moment. If we like certain videos in particular, we share them with our friends. Because of this, a video of a kitten fighting with a butterfly on a flower meadow can gain millions of clicks.

According to a survey conducted by the communications consulting agency fischerAppelt AG and the market research institute appinio GmbH, 97 % of respondents between the age of 16 and 50 years watch online videos every day. However, only 20 % stated that they watch videos published by companies regularly.

This raises the question where this difference comes from and why companies can’t realize the enormous potential of online videos.

We generally know that most videos are watched for quick entertainment. The survey confirms this thesis: for 75 % of the respondents the entertainment factor is the most important reason to watch a video. Of course, most of us don’t want to watch the commercials on TV either, so why would we actively choose to watch commercials online? Instead we want to watch something that makes us laugh or think or even something that shows us something new, something we haven’t seen before.

It is not the commercials themselves that scare us off. The famous Super Bowl commercials airing during the halftime of the sporting event proof this. Afterwards, the companies earn millions of clicks on social media because they are known for their creativity. Many similar examples show how large the success potential of branded videos is. It is important to tell a story with the videos in order to surprise, fascinate or entertain the viewers. Therefore, the structure of the video should be designed in a way that keeps the viewers watching until the end of the video, including a beginning, a middle section and an ending that is worth waiting for. The product or brand should not be the center of the video, the message you want to convey to the customers should be the focus. In terms of duration there is no right or wrong. If the story of the video works well, it can even capture the viewer for several minutes. The length should be chosen in a way that the story can be told properly, without prolonging the video unnecessarily or handling it too quickly.

Viewers want to identify themselves with the videos, they want to be reminded of good memories or feel compassion with the story of the video. It is important to know the target audience of the videos in order to create them in a way that the viewers will identify with them. Another popular format are informative videos or tutorials. We all like the feeling of learning something new and that we are spending our time in a useful way.

Furthermore, the videos should be very well thought out. This means they have to be aligned with the marketing mix of the company and match the target group perfectly. This preparation should also be reflected in the high quality of the video. It happens quiet often that low quality videos go viral, but they usually are spontaneous recordings. These appear unprofessional and are usually not suitable for marketing purposes. However, the viewers should not be able to see that the video is thoroughly prepared and scripted, so that the video still seems authentic.

Online videos bear unbelievable potential and can build the basis for an emotional tie between the company or brand and potential customers. Whether the videos actually end up going viral might be up to some luck, but an interesting and well planned video can get the message across to customers in a very authentic way.

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