Skip to main content

Business Aviation Saying No Privatized ATC

There are many things I love about business aviation. The ferocity of our tribe is one. Come at us, and we circle the wagons. A big attack is bearing down upon us: the proposed privatization of our country’s air traffic control (ATC) system.

And the business aviation community is preparing for the fight. And has been for some time. At a town hall meeting in Washington, D.C. last year, Cessna Aircraft Chairman Emeritus Russ Meyer was among the who’s who of aviation in attendance. He called ATC privatization the most significant threat to general aviation’s future that he has seen. And he’s been in aviation for four decades.

Experimental Aircraft Association CEO Jack Pelton agreed and encouraged the Kansas Congressional delegation to continue working against privatization. It has. U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran came to Wichita Eisenhower National Airport last week. Greteman Group colleague Deanna Harms and I were among those attending the June 23 press conference and tour of Wichita Eisenhower National Airport.

Smart Solutions Needed, But Privatization Isn’t One

Let’s be clear. The ATC needs modernizing. No one disputes that. But that work is underway. Privatization efforts, in fact, could significantly slow down the efforts to build a much-needed NextGen aviation system. A commonsense approach is needed. One that strengthens our air transportation system rather than causing more problems than it solves.

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and most of general aviation believe privatization would be bad for business. My colleagues, peers and I also do not think it is in the public’s interest to simply giveaway ATC control to a group of private parties that would have little accountability to Congress.

“I am one of many who believe this is terribly damaging to all but the largest airports and the largest communities in the country,” Sen. Moran said.

The Air Capital could receive a real body blow. No doubt resources will be directed away from general aviation and smaller communities like Wichita. ATC privatization could increase flight costs for smaller aircraft and the ability to use air space nationwide could be jeopardized. The wallop to general aviation would likely shrivel up our nation’s primary source of new pilots, which is the opposite of what we want and need. The pool is shrinking already. Let’s add to it, not detract.

“General aviation creates a natural pipeline for pilots transitioning to business and commercial aviation,” said Executive AirShare CEO Keith Plumb. “ATC privatization would dry up that irreplaceable source of high-caliber, focused, young adults beginning their aviation careers.”

Let’s Learn from Others Hurt by ATC Privatization

Director of Airports Victor White spoke at the press conference, too, and noted that in other parts of the world where privatization has taken place, general aviation has practically disappeared.

Mid-Continent Instruments + Avionics CEO Todd Winter has witnessed the results firsthand. He said, “I have seen the effects of similar efforts on my international customers and the European business aviation community. The impact has been devastating and has all but eliminated private and business aviation.”

Time Is Running Out, Please Act

Vote on the bill, H.R. 2997, is expected by mid-July. Congress should say no to ATC privatization and yes to reauthorizing ATC within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). We’ve reached out to our members of Congress, and ask that all concerned U.S. citizens do the same. Here’s a quick link:

If you want to join the fight on Twitter, be sure to use the hashtag #NoPrivatizedATC. Quite a debate’s underway. Let’s ensure our voices are heard. And prevail.

Yes, that’s me with my trusty iPhone, tweeting while Kansas TV, print and radio media capture Sen. Jerry Moran’s statements about the dangers of ATC privatization.


Left to right: Ashley Bowen Cook, Greteman Group (me); Melissa Nesmith,; Peggy Deiter, Bombardier Learjet and Sen. Jerry Moran.


Sen. Jerry Moran followed up his press conference with comments to Wichita’s aviation community and a tour by Director of Airports Victor White.


Sen. Jerry Moran is helping lead the charge against ATC privatization.


Victor White loves everything about Wichita Eisenhower National Airport – from its unique glass bridges to air traffic control that rightly is managed by the FAA.

Shout Out From Senator Jerry Moran

Greteman Group got a small shout out from Senator Jerry Moran in his weekly newsletter. Last week he stopped by Eisenhower National Airport to discuss the privatization of Air Traffic Control. Don’t forget to contact your members of Congress and let them know they should say no to ATC privatization and yes to reauthorizing ATC within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Just Say No to ATC Privatization

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran came to Wichita Eisenhower National Airport recently, voicing opposition to the proposed privatization of our country’s air traffic control (ATC) system. Greteman Group colleague Ashley Bowen Cook and I were among those attending the June 23 press conference and airport tour. Everyone agrees that ATC needs modernizing, but that work is already underway. In fact, the efforts to build a NextGen aviation system could be disrupted in the scramble to set up privatization.

Like the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and most of business aviation, we at Greteman Group believe privatization is a bad idea. We do not think it is in the public’s interest to give ATC control (for free) to a group of private parties, largely unaccountable to Congress.

Here in the Air Capital, we could be especially hard hit as resources are directed away from general aviation and smaller communities. It could add to the cost of flying smaller aircraft and the ability to use air space nationwide. The blow to general aviation would also shrivel up our nation’s primary source of new pilots, an already-shrinking pool.

“I am one of many who believe this is terribly damaging to all but the largest airports and the largest communities in the country,” says Sen. Moran.

In other parts of the world where privatization has taken place, Director of Airports Victor White says general aviation has practically disappeared. Mid-Continent Instruments + Avionics CEO Todd Winter concurred, saying, “I have seen the effects of similar efforts on my international customers and the European business aviation community. The impact has been devastating and has all but eliminated private and business aviation.”

Vote on the bill, H.R. 2997, is expected by mid-July. Congress should say no to ATC privatization and yes to reauthorizing ATC within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). We’ve reached out to our members of Congress, and ask that you do the same.

More coverage on Sen. Jerry Moran’s visit to Wichita:



KSN News

The Wichita Eagle

75 Business Leaders Reveal Their Best Tips for Staying Organized

Sonia Greteman was recently included in an article with tips from 75 business leaders on how to stay organized, here is what she had to say.

Deadlines have an amazing ability to focus attention and energize efforts. Every project that comes into the agency gets a timeline. Keeping those front and center helps keep meetings solutions oriented and work steadily advancing. I’m a big believer in meditation. We have something we call Monday Meds, a 10-minute guided meditation. We also have a park a block away. I frequently have walking meetings in the park with a colleague. Walking and talking in green space does wonders for your focus.

Read the full article here.


Greteman Group launches Aviation Partners, Inc. website using new SmartParts tool

WICHITA, Kan. – Wichita-based marketing agency, Greteman Group, has launched SmartParts, a website theme that streamlines the web-development process. Its backend code serves to save both time and money. The agency estimates in many cases it will save clients 20-30 percent on backend development. SmartParts combines best practices in prototype, responsive development and content management systems (CMS) for sound web solutions.

“SmartParts grew out of clients’ communicated needs for the best possible creative and functionality at the best possible price,” says Sonia Greteman, agency creative director and president. “We listened.”

Clients increasingly must do more with less as their teams get streamlined and marketing departments are tasked with ever-greater responsibilities. Their websites have become critical, dynamic tools for guiding prospective clients through every stage of the buying cycle: awareness, consideration, preference, purchase and repurchase. Having a website that’s always up to date becomes crucial. A CMS site that can be easily updated with events, special offers, blog posts, newsletters and more becomes paramount.

The agency started with a foundation of web knowledge that dates to its first website 24 years ago. It began research and development for SmartParts three years ago. SmartParts consists of custom-programmed, fluid templates that improve upon the conventional WordPress content management system (CMS). The agency built the theme to be lean and intuitive, which minimizes the need for plugins that can be vulnerable to security breaches and random updates that play havoc with your site. They can also slow down a website, which is both bad for SEO and the user experience.

SmartParts is used throughout the agency’s website process, creating efficiency without sacrificing responsive design and avoiding me-too websites that look like everyone else’s. (Example: drag-and-drop builders such as SquareSpace.) Beginning with the prototype, SmartParts enables the agency to collaborate with clients and navigate the site as if it were fully designed. They can offer input early on rather than waiting until the site is almost ready to launch before having a chance to give feedback and Clients can see the site come to life, grow and take shape.

A key benefit of SmartParts is enjoyed post website launch. Unlike proprietary CMS systems out there, SmartParts gives clients the control to manage their websites internally. Plus, they need not have knowledge of programming. SmartParts was built with the end-user in mind for quick site loads and mobile optimization.

Being the Change

“In the early ’90s, we designed one of the region’s first agency websites,” says Greteman. “It only had a few pages. There was little text. The navigation was so subtle finding your way around became a game. It had no SEO because Google didn’t exist. Nor did Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or YouTube. You accessed the site through painfully-slow, dial-up modems. We persevered and evolved.”

“Today, every project we touch is digital or has a digital component. We haven’t just changed with the times. We’ve been the change. Responsive design, search-engine optimization, data-driven marketing, email campaigns and social-media management. We dive into analytics to see how well everything’s performing – and adjust as needed. SmartParts is a part of our digital progression. One our clients will love.”

From Development to Implementation

During the R&D stage, Greteman Group used SmartParts elements on various aviation websites, and recently launched its first, full SmartParts site for an aviation client, Seattle-based Aviation Partners, Inc. This industry leader provides performance-enhancing winglet systems that increase range and improve performance. Gary Dunn, Aviation Partners vice president of sales and marketing, wanted a website as smart, sleek and cost saving as the company’s winglets.

“The agency more than met our expectations,” says Dunn. “SmartParts is Greteman Group’s version of a winglet, creating efficiencies that free up budget to design and build custom solutions as needed. We’ve never had a website deliver so much qualified traffic and engagement.”

Search traffic for Aviation Partners and winglets jumped from 100 visits to more than 800 in the first two weeks since the site launched. New visitors and potential new leads have increased 5 percent, and average time on site has increased almost 30 percent. Time on the Go Green page, which includes a fuel savings counter, doubled.

The Case for SmartParts

So, why not just use off-the-shelf WordPress themes? Well, if you’re a young person setting up an online portfolio, need a site for a short-lived special event, have little or no budget, or generic suits you fine, you probably should.

If, however, you’re a mid-to-large business reliant on a professional, functioning, put-your-best-foot-forward site, don’t do it. Off-the-shelf can be problematic if trying to integrate with other services, such as donor databases or customer portals. It can be difficult and time intensive to customize and have overly complex administration screens, because they’re trying to cover every scenario possible. That’s what happens with themes built for anyone and everyone to use. You often end up with lots of unnecessary code and unneeded features that bulk up and slow down the site. Sluggish site speeds result from a host of files automatically loaded onto every page – rather than customizing and only loading the ones in use. Off-the-shelf solutions force you to sift through lots of sections to locate the things you want to change.

“We think through how our clients will be updating content and whenever possible, we keep the code hidden so they don’t have to worry about learning a new language or breaking something as they complete updates,” says Jordan Walker, Greteman Group digital director.

“Bottom line, if you’re looking to stand apart from your competitors, a website can be instrumental in building credibility and customer loyalty. It is incredibly hard to do that with an off-the-shelf solution that is built for everyone. SmartParts helps us deliver outstanding return on our clients’ website investment.”

Click for Imagery.

Coverage by Just Helicopters.

What CEOs Need to Know About SEO

If you’ve ever wondered why your marketing director cares about your website SEO so much – or if you’re unsure why SEO even matters – I wrote this column for you. My high-level overview won’t give you the tools to conduct SEO yourself, but it will shed light on why you ought to share your marketing team’s enthusiasm about this increasingly critical, website traffic generator. For starters, search-engine optimization, or SEO, helps people who are actively seeking information. Note that “actively seeking” phrase. If someone’s not online, not searching, SEO does nothing. SEO doesn’t go out and tap someone on the shoulder and say check this out. It’s not an ad. It acts as a response to an action a person initiates. That is SEO’s key benefit. Someone needs something. Is hunting for information. Wants help. And your SEO can be there with the solution, drawing him or her to you. HubSpot reports that 80% of a website’s traffic starts with a search query. SEO connects you with the right people. It’s not about falsely attracting people to your website just to gain clicks, but about attracting folks genuinely interested in your services or products.

Search Engines Care

Search Engines Care About the Words You Use

“Optimized” just means your website content has been created to attract both humans and search bots. Use words and phrases people actually use when they’re doing a search. Do they search “aircraft” or “jet’? “Fixed-base operator” or “FBO”? Think it doesn’t matter? Consider this. A quick look using Moz Pro’s keyword planner tool shows that in one month’s time, there are 200 searches for “fixed-base operator” versus 30,000 for “FBO”; and 500 searches for “aircraft sales”, but 11,000 for the phrase “airplanes for sale.”

Science of SEO

Not Rocket Science, But Definitely Science

Smart tools exist to help you. They include Moz Pro, Google AdWords Keyword Planner, Google Analytics, Google Trends and Google Webmaster Tools. (Sensing a trend?) They let you see what terms actual searchers are using and provide additional keyword intelligence. Conducting this analysis takes time and thought. Use a keyword planner tool and let it guide your word choices. Don’t worry about being a slave to it, though. Artificial intelligence is one of the biggest trends today. Bots are getting smarter and smarter. They can now take human search and connect the dots without marketers having to use keywords word-for-word.

Know Your Customers and Give Them What They Need

If you optimize your website for the customer first, your site will be optimized for search. Hallelujah. As a CEO you probably already spend a great deal of your time thinking about your customers. How you can help them. What their challenges are. What questions they always ask your sales team. What problem your product or service solves for them. Your sales staff can answer some of these questions. Consider going directly to customers, too. Send a quick survey. Conduct some focus groups. Then use this information to make your website the answer to your customers’ prayers. Optimizing for the customer also means optimizing for a great user experience. That requires streamlined navigation, appropriate calls to action, helpful downloads, engaging video and more. Provide clear organization and information hierarchy. People love site maps. Search engines do, too. They help bots find and add your content to their databases.

Aviation Serves Mobile People, Your SEO Should, Too

Consider mobile versus desktop usage. Most search is done on a mobile device. Last year mobile racked up nearly 120 billion searches compared to just over 80 billion on a desktop. Something anyone in aviation ought to pay attention to – more than half of travel-related searches are on a mobile device. If you haven’t made your website mobile friendly make that your next priority. I won’t go into details here, but you essentially have three choices: responsive design, adaptive design or a separate mobile site. Talk about it with your marketing director.
Aviation serves mobile people

Keep It Real

A word of caution. There are all kinds of articles out there suggesting ways to generate quick web clicks. Don’t be swayed. Good SEO practice isn’t about planting click bait just to jack up your numbers. Trying to trick Google into ranking your website higher often backfires, as Google will penalize sites when it catches them being sneaky. Plus, if you lure people falsely, they may come to your site, but they’re not going to stick around. And they’re sure not going to request more information, buy a product, sign up for your enews, contact you directly – or any of the myriad actions you might want from a bona fide visitor. As CEO, you don’t need to know about meta-keywords (which Google now ignores anyway), H1 headlines or alt tags (which someone else will be writing). Just know that your website is your most important piece of marketing collateral. And it’s worth taking time to make it more findable. It’s not a once-and-done activity. SEO requires ongoing adjustments and refinement. Partially because search constantly changes. And you must change with it. You note I mention Google more than the other search engines. It’s because Google scoops up 80% of search. Yahoo captures another 9.5%, Bing 8.5% and the rest scrape the other 2%. So, Google matters. Pay attention to its guidelines for best practices. Google can make or break your website’s success.

Organic Search for the Long Haul

Paid search serves a purpose if you need results fast – say to generate a bump in sales. But organic search – what people key in when they’re looking for something – ought to be where you put your greatest effort. It accrues over time and represents up to 95 percent of most search traffic. Your communications department should ensure the site has good page titles and text throughout the site should be relevant and real – not rendered as graphics, which the search bots cannot read. Your anchor text ought to be relevant to the searcher. Provide things easily and quickly that people are most apt to want. A name. An email address. Deeper information about that new product you just launched. One of the best ways to improve your findability through search is to keep your content fresh. Blog posts, recent news postings and other frequent updates directly affect how Google indexes your site. Google’s algorithm rewards sites that offer good, timely data. SEO’s devils are the details. That’s also where you reap the rewards.

Support from the Top – Which is Where You Come In

Your team will appreciate if you value SEO and align it with your corporate objectives. SEO requires collaboration across multiple departments and disciplines – and a clear leader to consistently champion the process. Be that leader.

This column ran in the June 8th issue of BlueSky Business Aviation News.

Better with Bots

Be honest. Do you love or hate Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa? Do you find these artificial-intelligence, voice-command digital assistants personable, helpful resources? Or wily, always-listening-behind-your-back snitches? Like me, you may consider them a bit of both.

I just returned from a conference in Boulder, Colorado – aptly called Big Boulder – focused on today’s avalanche of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (i.e. the ability to adapt and improve performance without being explicitly programmed). We can either be crushed by it, or climb out and plant on flag on top. Speakers from Facebook, Twitter, IBM Watson, MIT Media Lab, Slack, Dataminr and more encouraged the latter.

Prepare for Change

It will take work. Developing best practices. Addressing privacy and ethical concerns. Building a better consumer experience. Powering data-driven, business value. But the rewards will be great. For one, doing so will help your company survive.

The conference started by thinking big picture. Considering the world we now inhabit. Where every move we make gets captured as data – from stepping on our digital scales in the morning to tossing and turning with our Fitbit at night. Where our days feel increasingly compressed and overwhelmed with information coming at us from all directions.

Big Boulder organizer Chris Moody and Foundry Group partner poked fun at himself, saying that at last year’s conference he passed on the opportunity to meet with the Dalai Lama as he just “didn’t have time.” Now, of course, he’s chagrined by that decision. He cautioned us to learn from his mistake and to not let data keep us from being in the moment.

Replace Guesswork with Data

Data can benefit your brand whether you’re marketing aircraft or motorcycles. The Harvard Business Review just published an article showcasing how a Harley-Davidson dealership in New York used artificial intelligence to increase sales leads by almost 3,000 percent, resulting in a tripling of sales.

The dealership worked with a firm, Adgorithm, that measures then optimizes digital marketing efforts across such platforms as Facebook and Google. A key strategy was to target lookalikes, people resembling current customers. AI helped the dealership broaden its net, find prospective customers and send them strong calls to action. AI can do what a human never could: processing and managing millions of interactions and keywords, testing and modifying creative variations that boost performance, and more accurately predicting outcomes.

Understand Your Audiences

Facebook Audience Insights Partnerships Lead Kunal Merchant spoke about target markets and how to correctly use social data to better understand and connect with people.

To those who worry that we’re being manipulated or otherwise exploited through Facebook’s social data, Merchant said, “We’re using data to create a better user experience, not for evil.”

He stressed that the days of blasting out general content to everyone are long gone. Content must be relevant and timely. When looking at your data to better refine your content strategy, he cautioned to go beyond the surface level, otherwise you may just skim the noise. Dig deeper.

SEO data drives marketing
“Everything is about data and driven by data,” Merchant said. When an audience member asked what possible data Facebook might not have access to, Merchant quipped, “Twitter data.”

One thing Facebook currently does not allow: “Right now you cannot target people based on conversation.” That ought to cause some folks to breathe easier.

In his work with business clients to align with and help achieve goals, Merchant said, “Our philosophy is not to give you everything, but to give you what you need.”


Merchant Facebok Right: Kunal Merchant, Facebook audience insights partnerships lead

Get Smart with Cognitive Solutions

IBM Watson AI General Manager Beth T. Smith started her career 30 years ago as a programmer. Now she heads IBM’s flagship cognitive system, which runs on the cloud and serves a global ecosystem of partners and developers. Smith says she’s seeing a change in the conversations she’s having: talking increasingly to high-level executives, not just IT. It’s all part of a shift to a cognitive era, she said, versus the programmable one we’ve been in.

Smith sees conversational chat bots as a big piece of the new engagement spectrum. She believes technology, used correctly, can impact the greater good, particularly in the areas of health and safety.

“Maybe think about APIs (application programming interfaces, or tools for building application software) like Blue Apron,” Smith said. “Ingredients ready for you to put in the oven.”

Beth Smith Right: Beth Smith, IBM Watson AI general manager

Learn from the Pros

All of the Big Boulder speakers impressed me, but none more than cognitive scientist Deb Roy, who now serves as Twitter’s chief media scientist and director of MIT Media Lab’s Laboratory for Social Machines. Some of you may have viewed his now-famous 2011 TED talk, Birth of a Word, which used data-rich research to highlight how we learn. Today, he helps deep-learning networks translate the Twitter firehose into a refined stream.

Roy addressed the changing interplay between news, government and society. He used the 2016 U.S. presidential election as a most-relevant case study. He pulled up slides to shed insights. A key element he highlighted on a map is that 80 percent of journalists live in three major cities. Rural America caught them unaware.

He showed how a better analysis of social media could have made the outcome less shocking. “There’s a hunger to figure out what the hell happened,” Roy said. “There’s an appetite to understand the other side.” He then pulled up FlipFeed, which drops you into someone else’s real Twitter feed. This gives you a (possibly radically) different view of the Twitterverse, be it liberal or conservative or somewhere in-between.

Roy said we need to look at who’s setting the agenda, filter bubbles and separation of networks. “America has self-sorted,” he said. When studying groups, or tribes as he called them, look at their lexicon. He showed that the blue (liberal) tribe in the last election hardly used the word “legals,” for instance, but the red (conservative) tribe did heavily.

Deb Roy Twitter - MIT Deb Roy, Twitter chief media scientist and MIT Media Lab director

Harness Social Data for Social Good

While most of the conversations swirled around commercial applications, several speakers expanded our thinking about humanitarian efforts, social justice and security. Daniel Pedraza from the UN Global Pulse shared his belief that big data can accomplish big good. Toward that end, his organization serves as a convener bringing together industry leaders like Facebook and Twitter to wrangle with such pressing issues as data access versus privacy. He hopes, he said, to make the UN Global Pulse more fleet footed in its efforts to protect those most at risk.

Dr. Safiya Umoja Noble from UCLA spoke about social justice and urged caution regarding the unintended consequences of datamining. Her soon-to-publish book, Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism, hooks you with its cover. It shows the results of predictive search with the search field “why are black women so…” followed by search suggestions “so angry, so loud, so mean, so lazy, so annoying…” She seemed less encouraged than other panelists that data would lead us to a better place, noting that sharing atrocities on social media doesn’t seem to be lessening the severity or number of these incidents.

“Virality is the name of the game,” Noble said. “What does it mean when ads are sold next to a video of a man being choked to death by police? … We’re complicit.”

“Mark my words,” she said, “artificial intelligence will become a human rights issue in the 21st century.” Noble also spoke to the value of forgetting, saying it’s why we seal juvenile records. What happens when nothing can ever be forgotten, when there’s a permanent digital record?

Dr. Safiya Noble- UCLA Right: Dr. Safiya Umoja Noble, UCLA Department of Information Studies assistant professor

Don’t Worry About Government Social-Data Use (or Do)

Andrew Hallman, digital innovation deputy director for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), got laughs by saying that advertisers know more about U.S. citizens than the CIA does. Concerning the CIA’s level of intelligence, he said, “If you’re not a bad guy, don’t worry about it. If you’re a bad guy, worry about it.”

Hallman admitted that the CIA isn’t where it needs to be in integrating digital and cyber capabilities across all the agency’s mission areas and applying machine learning to its ability to forecast threats and events, “but we’re getting better.”

Andrew Hallman - CIA Right: Andrew Hallman, CIA digital innovation deputy director

Listen to Images, Too

Images searched by AI
Social listening also extends to the visual. Netra CEO Richard Lee said our eyes used to be the window to our soul, but now it’s what we chose to photograph and share on social media. As a result, the camera’s replacing the keyboard for communication. AI can search those visuals (and voice) as well as text.

Noam Cadouri, Reddit business development manager, shared his thoughts about the platform’s “pseudonymity,” being able to preserve anonymity to express your true views (i.e. without them being linked to your name). He announced at the convention that Reddit would be making its data available to the marketplace. That’s meaningful considering Reddit hosts more than 100,000 active communities.

Richard Lee, Netra CEO Richard Lee, Netra CEO

Don’t Confuse Simple with Simplistic

A finance panel with executives from StockTwits, Morgan Stanley Research and System2 had a far-ranging discussion about data-driven investing. On the downside there were complaints about exorbitant fees for data purchasing and the difficulty of obtaining transparent data from China and other emerging markets and how valuable that data is, particularly for mobile behavior.

On the upside, panelists applauded the ability to create beautiful, bespoke data sets from simple, standardized platforms. System2 founder Matei Zatreanu cautioned us to always look at the qualitative value of the data and ask, “Can I trust it?” Pierce Crosby, StockTwits director of business development, said, “Insights is the biggest rat race right now.”

Make Instagram Work for Your Brand

Instagram Director of Product Management Vishal Shah helps connect Instagram’s loyal enthusiasts to marketers and businesses.

“We ask, ‘What are people doing organically and what tools can we built to support that?’” he said.

While Instagram works with businesses of all sizes, Shah noted Instagram’s increasingly supporting larger marketers.

Vishal Shah - Instagram director Right: Vishal Shah, Instagram director of product management

Use Social Data to Make Better Decisions

A corporate panel with representatives from Nestle, MGM International Resorts and The Coca-Cola Company talked about decision making during this period of digital transformation. They lamented a dependence on third-party data.

“It feels like driving the car forward looking through the rearview mirror,” said Gloria DeCoste, Nestle USA head of digital strategy.

All talked about the goal of seamless, targeted consumer experiences. Beverly Jackson, MGM International Resorts VP of social portfolio strategy, said they’re testing different gaming environments for those highly social Millennials. They don’t want to just sit alone at a slot machine. They want to game collectively with their friends.

“My dirty-dirty,” said Jackson, “is getting people out of their silos and thinking enterprisewide.”

Understand Twitter’s Changing Role

Joel Lunenfeld, Twitter vice president of global brand and creative strategy, uses his degree in anthropology to understand culture first and marketing second. He spoke to the shift in the web today.

“People used to hunt for content,” Lunenfeld said. “Content is hunting us right now.”

Twitter has evolved from a social platform to a cultural operating system and a news platform, Lunenfeld said. Why is so much of that negative?

“There’s always been more good than evil in the world,” Lugenfeld said, “but evil’s had a bigger marketing budget.”

He doesn’t see Twitter going away any time soon: “It will outlive us all.”

Joel Lunenfeld - Twitter VP Right: Joel Lunenfeld, Twitter VP global brand and creative strategy

Employ Influencer Marketing Cautiously

Insightpool CEO and self-professed serial entrepreneur Devon Wijesinghe offers a software as a service (SaaS) platform for influencer marketing at scale. He said, “We live in an age where we love to buy, but hate to be sold.”

Wijesinghe used the recent Fyre Festival organized by rapper Ja Rule as a case study of what not to do when working with celebrity influencers. Long-term brand relationships and shared values work, he said. Just getting paid to post about something you may know nothing about erodes trust.

“You can’t just peddle your influence with no authenticity,” Wijesinghe said. “That’s fraud.”

Devon Wijesinghem Insightpool CEO Right: Devon Wijesinghe, Insightpool CEO

Don’t Let Bots Undermine Your Brand

Geek Squad founder Robert Stephens kept the crowd laughing throughout his mostly irreverent comments. Here are a few of his quips:

  • “AI should be called EI, eventual intelligence.”
  • “I’m pretty sure no call has EVER been recorded for quality purposes.”
  • “The only reason people complain about brands on Twitter is because brands aren’t listening.”
  • “Companies take, take, take. They should offer to let you track survey results like a FedEx package.”

Stephens understands the value bots deliver, but he doesn’t see them as a silver bullet that slays bad customer experiences. In fact, he says with things the way they are today, chief digital officers need to hide and keep their heads down.

“The reason bots suck right now,” he said, “engineers are designing them.”

It doesn’t matter if a company cares about bots, Stephens said, but it better care about something. The role of a brand is a personality and what the brand stands for. “It’s more than an API.”

Right: Robert Stephens, Geek Squad founder

Make Things Better with Bots

Amir Shevat, Slack director of developer relations and author of the newly released book Designing Bots, has seen the light and wants us to join the revolution in software interaction. He promotes useful bots that boost productivity – and hopes people consider Slack one.

Shevat’s all about creating conversational experiences, which entails developing bot personalities – gender, attitude and personality. Brands with opt-in bots that connect to users leads to high engagement and customer satisfaction, Shevat said.

While a big bot believer, Shevat cautions us humans to maintain our objectivity. “Data can be tortured to say anything,” he said.

Amir Shevat - Slack director Right: Amir Shevat, Slack director of developer relations

Define Where Bots Stop and People Start

We’ve all had frustrating experiences on the phone where you never have the chance to talk to a human and a bot keeps asking you to choose from choices – none of which include what you want to do. Those experiences should become fewer and fewer, according to panelists representing ListenFirst Media, Converseon, Conversocial and Twizoo.

Panelists left to right: Jonathan Farb, ListenFirst Media chief product officer; Joshua March, Conversocial CEO; Madeline Parra, Twizoo CEO; Rob Key, Converseon CEO
Analytics give clear concise strategy
They urged businesses to err on the side of caution with AI and to hand off bot interactions to a human or moderated process when needed. But they also noted human interaction ought to become less needed as AI is now approaching human-level precision in understanding. AI is learning nuance and how to resolve more complex issues. In the past, bots correctly picked up on sentiment only about 20 percent of the time. Today that’s more like 80 percent.

Imagine the possibilities. Reaching out and having the bot on the other end know you. Not having to repeat yourself endlessly or give a confirmation number yet again. Sounds heavenly.

A big takeaway from the conference is that everything is very much in flux. Winners in the listening space will no doubt consolidate and emerge. Everyone’s working to make their products cheaper and easier to use. Companies – both small and large – don’t have the time or resources for a lot of gobbledygook, so analytics products need to deliver clearly and concisely. Bots need to mimic human interaction as much as possible and to seamlessly communicate with other systems. We want faster responses and improved efficiencies. The good news: they’re on the way.

This column ran in the June 15th issue of BlueSky Business Aviation News.