Monday, April 29, 2019

5 Ways AI is Advertising’s New Guru

Like many other industries, the advertising and media worlds are experiencing major disruptions caused by artificial intelligence (AI). While there remain many challenges when it comes to advertising with AI, there are also many benefits to this emerging tool. Using research and data on current trends, we highlight five essential ways AI can harness consumer data, engagement tools, and employee skills to help transform how the advertising world informs and reaches consumers.

When people hear the phrase “artificial intelligence,” consumers and advertisers alike have a variety of reactions to it. Some people envision robots taking over the world, or at least much of the workforce, which means forfeiting some jobs. Some advertisers may picture hackers and disruptors working on fake ads. The reality is that although there are definitely challenges to integrating and working with AI, advertisers are already using it to their advantage and will only continue to further integrate AI applications to more effectively reach a target audience in an increasingly fragmented consumer space. For those advertisers who are still wary of using AI, there are lots of benefits.

In 2019, most people are aware of the controversy surrounding Facebook, when it was discovered the tech company has been sharing user data to allow other companies to target users in very specific ways, often through utilizing AI. We have all seen the ads that pop up in our Instagram feeds for things we were thinking about buying and wondered - “how did they know?”, or gotten emails from Netflix suggesting shows we knew we wanted to watch, but just hadn’t gotten around to doing so. While sometimes this form of advertising can feel invasive, it makes it easier to find products, services, and entertainment tailored to your needs and interests thanks to AI. Facebook’s methods of sharing information with advertisers may be a bit extreme, but it led to the type of advertising that’s becoming more and more common today.

Through analyzing massive, almost inconceivable, amounts of data, AI can track your habits and guess at what you might want to watch, buy, or read. Surveys of media buyers and advertisers show that a majority of marketers are incorporating AI research into their creative planning and marketing strategies; even more are planning to add it into their methods in 2019. The advertising industry is gathering and harnessing user data and then turning that information into smarter ways to reach consumers. The following five areas highlight some of the innovations in the use of AI; most advertisers believe this is only the beginning.

Data Science

The $100 billion ad industry has always done its best to reach you where you want to be reached, such as advertising clothing in a fashion magazine because they know their target audience is likely reading those magazines. The challenge for advertisers is that consumers have more choices than ever before. Another challenge is that even though breaking down user data means advertisers can make smart, data-driven decisions, the amount of data across different systems can be hard to process. AI technology makes gathering this data and analyzing it for trends more accurate and less expensive than previously seen in advertising, allowing advertisers to more efficiently use this data. AI can also tackle the data across all available platforms to create better marketing analytics.

As finely tuned AI capabilities are further integrated into marketing data collection, the worry that staff will have to become more technically educated, or even that humans could possibly be phased out of the process altogether, isn’t the case. AI technology serves advertisers, saving them time and effort, but it still needs a human eye to decode and apply it to various tasks. The efficiency that AI provides creates more time for creative thought, direct consumer relations, and decision-making that could benefit the entire advertising cycle.

Machine Learning

The systemic integration of AI into digital marketing strategies means that consumers may not even realize decisions are being made based on their preferences and usage of platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. For example, if you click on and buy clothing shown to you on Instagram, an algorithm very likely chose it. Consumers, while still wary of sharing too much with companies or of big tech being too invasive in their lives, are becoming more comfortable with AI’s ability to learn from them and serve up content that fits their needs.

The greater audience understanding that marketers garner from experience-based self-learning algorithms can help business strategy, marketing choices, and content creation be more tailored, cost-effective, and achieve a better return on investment. Connecting with consumers where they want to be met means consumer response is generally positive, since using these models ensures the content they want is what they get.

These AI capabilities are projected to grow quickly and include futuristic initiatives such as machine vision, the ability to take a photo of a product and have your phone or computer find it for you, and interactive programming, which then changes outcomes based on your known preferences when it comes to the advertisements you see.

Targeted Advertising

The average click-thru rate for advertisements is often so small that it's leading to limited ROI for many advertisers. Consumers respond to personalized advertising for the content of their choice, which means highly targeted ads help consumers get more information about what speaks to them and the response rate is much higher for businesses.

The data analyzed to help advertisers choose where to place their spots can even predict demand or problems in content supply in real time as consumers click on what they want to look at or buy.

Advertisers have learned that context and content are everything. There is even a movement to tie ads and messaging to a particular moment, so companies don’t appear to be ad blind, or not in touch with what is happening at any given time. You wouldn’t want to run a bubbly spot showcasing positive interactions during coverage of a tragic event, for example. Utilizing AI to identify when is or isn’t an appropriate time to run a certain ad can help companies avoid embarrassing situations.

Next Generation Automation

As AI continues to advance, the things we are already growing used to will evolve and add capabilities that once seemed the stuff of science fiction. Speech recognition already means that your Alexa device can order pizza, paper towels, or even play a song like the ones you’ve already listened to; voice commands will continue to be used in more applications. Image recognition and speech-to-text transcription lead to even closer direct consumer relationships across channels and interactive entertainment; these developments are on their way to our daily lives.

Social media is where a lot of innovative technologies first appear and go through consumer tests. Facebook is still the source of most data that advertisers utilize and which then often influences what you see on other social media platforms, such as Instagram. Twitter already crops photos to be most appealing based on eye-tracking, pinpointing where a person will look first. Companies that do the best on social media are those that use data science to analyze and act upon findings to change messaging or products as needed. AI can help with this quickly and cheaply.

Other products already being used, but with increased development and applications, are chatbots and dynamic pricing. Chatbots appear on sites and can handle routine customer questions and issues, dynamic pricing analyses pricing across the web, and make sure a company’s pricing of products is relevant.

Content Curation and Creation

While a real person wrote this article, you’ve probably read one that was written by a computer. Clearly most things still need human oversight, but AI “writers” are growing more intelligent about the pieces they can put together. At Forbes, for example, staff members use Bertie - kind of a “writer’s companion” that studies what a writer most often writes about, how they write, and then makes suggestions about stories, areas of interest, and writing styles.

AI can also suggest headlines based on what works best for SEO purposes. If you’ve ever been drawn in by a headline such as “Top 10 Places to Go on Spring Break,” it may have been written by AI. AI is even used to analyze behavior and see what you might want to do next and make suggestions. Eventually, it’s likely AI will be involved in content creation and immersive content experiences, studying and then suggesting what content viewers are most likely to watch. This direct consumer relationship is possible through the use of AI.

The keys to successful advertising in the AI age are to know your brand, invest in understanding context and content, and then use that targeted content across channels to develop messaging that has a human touch. Because no matter how much data you have, you still need to disrupt the massive amounts of information each consumer interacts with each day to strike a nerve and capture or change behavior in order to draw attention to your product or service.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

How to Improve Your Confidence at Work

No matter where you are in your career path, you could likely use a little extra confidence. This feeling is especially real for young professionals or those who are starting at a new company. Learning to have confidence in your work and position can help you go a long way at any company. We’re often far too critical of ourselves and need to acknowledge that we probably know more than we think we do and are capable of a lot. You shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help at work, but you also need to learn to feel confident in your own abilities. Here are some ways you can improve your confidence at work.
Stick to your word
By staying true to what you say at work, you’ll gain more confidence in yourself and also see your coworkers gain more confidence in you. If you say you’re going to get a project done by a specific deadline, get it done. If you offer to help out someone, help them when they ask for it. Proving to yourself and others that you’re honest and reliable can significantly increase your confidence.
Improve your knowledge
If there’s a specific area that you do not feel confident in at work, improve your knowledge in that area. Listen to podcasts, read books and articles, or take courses that can help you master that skill.
Stand up for yourself
To have true confidence at work, you need to learn to stand up for yourself. There are going to be times when people may try to take credit for your work or push ahead of you to benefit in the workplace. If you feel like you’re not assertive enough when it comes to the work you do and possible promotions or other benefits, learn to speak up for yourself.
Be friendly
Being friendly to the people around you and learning to smile and greet others, even when you’re busy or stressed out, helps you seem like a more confident person. You’ll come across as relaxed and in control instead of harried and unfriendly.
Talk about achievements
While there’s a fine line between bragging and rightfully talking about your accomplishments, there is a difference. If you accomplish something at work, go ahead and mention it to your supervisor. You need to feel comfortable talking about what you’ve done well; knowing these items can be vitally important when you’re interviewing for a new position or going through a review.
Find a support system
If you have a strong support system at work, you’ll find that it helps your confidence immensely. Having others, you can go to for advice or run an idea past is incredibly valuable. Having a support system outside of work is great too since you can talk to someone who’s removed from the environment. Surround yourself with people who are encouraging and positive.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Five Tips for Using Google Ads to Promote a Business

Google Ads, formerly branded as AdWords, is a robust advertising service that entrepreneurs can use to promote their business. It features a web-based interface from which entrepreneurs can create ads for Google’s search results, YouTube, Blogger, and millions of partner websites. And because it’s a pay-per-click (PPC) service, Google Ads only charges entrepreneurs when a qualified user clicks their ad.
Choose relevant, long-tail target keywords
When creating ads for the search network, entrepreneurs must specify the words or phrases that will trigger ad impressions. Known as target keywords, they can make or break a Google Ads campaign. Short, generic target keywords may generate lots of impressions and even clicks, but they’ll quickly consume an entrepreneur’s advertising budget while yielding few conversions in the process. For a higher return on investment (ROI), entrepreneurs should choose long-tail target keywords that are relevant to their ads.
Optimize landing page for keyword relevancy
The landing page associated with an ad should also be highly relevant to the ad’s target keywords. Using the target keyword “baseball bats for sale” with a landing page displaying golf clubs for sale doesn’t make much sense. Instead, entrepreneurs should create several small ad groups, each of which with a relevant landing page that corresponds to the ad group’s target keywords.
Use remarketing to target website visitors
In 2010, Google launched a new advertising feature that specifically targets users who’ve visited an entrepreneur’s website. Known as remarketing, it’s a highly effective way to promote a business since it only reaches users who’ve visited the website. Entrepreneurs can expect fewer clicks with remarketing, but those clicks will likely drive more conversions.
Increase ad visibility and functionality with extensions
Entrepreneurs aren’t required to use extensions with their ads, but doing so is well worth the nominal time and effort it needs. Extensions increase the visibility of ads by adding new information or functionality. The call extension, for instance, allows entrepreneurs to include their business’s phone number in their ads whereas the site links extension displays clickable links to the entrepreneur’s desired web pages.
Experiment with the display network
Some entrepreneurs are reluctant to target the display network, believing that the quality of traffic is lower than that of the search network. While the display network typically yields a lower conversion rate than its search network counterpart, it’s able to reach a broader audience. According to WordStream, the display network reaches more than nine in 10 of all internet users worldwide.
There’s a reason over 1 million entrepreneurs use Google Ads to promote their business: It’s a cost-effective service that gives entrepreneurs full control over their ads. To succeed, however, entrepreneurs should follow these five tips when creating campaigns.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

How to Strengthen Your Brand

Entrepreneurs with small businesses are often eager to expand their brands to help grow their consumer base and their bottom line. There are several benefits to strengthening one’s business by way of extending their brand. Having a strong brand helps you establish yourself as an expert in your industry; a consistent brand also makes a company more appealing to potential clients or consumers. However, any brand extensions require adequate research and forethought if you want to do the best job possible.
A small business doesn’t become an expansive company overnight. Building a lasting brand is a long-term process that requires a concentrated effort and the right strategies. Read on for four various brand extensions to consider when trying to expand a brand.
Expand your products
Starting a business from the ground up is incredibly challenging. This obstacle is why it’s tempting to stick with what works once a company finds success with a product. However, no business will succeed if they refuse to change and adapt to market demands and advances.
To keep one’s brand relevant for the long term, it helps to consider extending their current line of products. With a line extension, brands work to add other branded products within an already existing product line. This improvement allows the brand to keep their current customers interested while attracting new consumers with other products.
New categories of projects
Category extensions allow a brand to introduce their company to consumers in a separate category. These category extensions are more successful for brands that have an established reputation in their industry. This expansion allows the brand to branch out into an entirely different category of a product without alienating their customers while beginning to offer a more extensive array of categories within their industry.
Try a new niche
Market extensions can be a trickier endeavor for brands. However, when done successfully, market extensions attract consumers from a totally different niche. The most active market extensions introduce consumers to a brand that they may have never heard of otherwise and help that business move into a new industry.
New location
A brand that is looking to expand outside of their current locale should consider geographic extensions. While considered the most expensive method of strengthening one’s brand, the use of online marketing campaigns makes geographic expansions more effective. While introducing products to a completely different region presents a considerable risk, the opportunity of tapping into a totally different set of consumers is worth it.
There is a multitude of ways a business can strengthen their brand. With the right research and strategies, brands can apply these various extensions to their business plan to help expand into a new market and draw in a new audience.

Five Tips for Getting Great Referrals from Your Top Clients

Word-of-mouth news about a company is an essential part of any brand’s marketing strategy. Companies with stellar reputations and quality work typically find that a significant amount of their customer base comes from referrals. However, to get these referrals, brands must encourage their top clients to spread the word. It can take some time for referrals to occur organically. For this reason, brands looking to cash in on word-of-mouth marketing should use the following strategies to do so and make the most of this strategy. 

Make use of LinkedIn

Making use of LinkedIn is a great way for brands to identify potential clients and customers. LinkedIn is the perfect platform to use when researching an individual or company before getting a referral. Instead of asking satisfied clients for blind referrals, looking for leads on LinkedIn will make the entire process that much easier. You can see who your clients are connected to and know whether or not they have connections who would be a good fit for your company.

Target satisfied clients

Clients are most likely to provide referrals after they have had a positive experience with a company. Brands looking for good referrals should ensure that every client has a positive experience. By providing customers with regular updates on a service or product, these clients will be satisfied and more inclined to spread the word about their new favorite brand. Prioritize communication with clients to keep them happy.

Use a template for referrals

In order to get the most out of the entire referral process, brands should take the initiative and simplify things by providing clients with sample email templates. These templates allow the client to plug in their name and the name of the person they are referring, instead of having to handle the entire process themselves.

Promote positive feedback

To get referrals, a brand must show that they are worthy of them. Companies that promote their satisfied customers’ positive feedback will automatically encourage other clients to share good things about that brand. Moreover, these clients will be more inclined to provide the brand with referrals. 

Offer incentives

No customer has to give brand referrals. This reality is why brands like to include incentives for any clients that provide them with their contacts. With the positive reinforcement of an Amazon or Starbucks gift card, brands are likely to get better referrals than they would otherwise. 

Ready to score high-quality referrals? Put these five strategies into practice to encourage clients to share their best referrals.

Saturday, December 22, 2018 Show Cancellations by Leo & Lisa Laporte

This is a repost of our blog post on, but please stay tuned as we are announcing our new 2019 live broadcast schedule along with our newest show that we will be launching in the first quarter.  

The New Screen Savers, Know How, and This Week in Law end of life by Leo Laporte

I was so excited when we launched “The New Screen Savers” three-and-a-half years ago. Since then it's been one of my favorite shows in our line-up and a great way for us to showcase products and ideas that don’t fit any of our other shows. But doing justice to that mission makes it the most complicated and expensive show on TWiT. We’ve been trying to do a network television show on a podcaster’s budget.

Part of what made “The New Screen Savers” special is the many former TechTVers joined me as co-hosts including Patrick Norton, Kevin Rose, Megan Morrone, Martin Sargent, Robert Heron, Roger Chang, Sarah Lane, and of course, Kate Botello. TWiT regulars like Jason Howell, Jason Snell, Jason Calacanis, Ron Richards, Iain Thomson, Fr. Robert Ballecer, SJ, and others have stepped in as co-hosts as well. I thank them all from the bottom of my heart.

We thought it fitting that Patrick and I host the last live episode together on December 22. The Best of 2018 show will post on December 29, 2018. The entire back-catalog of episodes are available to watch anytime at

But that’s not all...

Iyaz Aktar started “Know How…” in 2012 to highlight a variety of how-tos and DIYs. Since then, hosts Iyaz, Leo, Fr. Robert Ballecer, Megan Morrone and Florence Ion, Jason Howell and Sam Machkovech have shown you everything from building computers, drones, soldering, Raspberry Pi projects, LEDs, smart devices, and gaming. We’re also ending its run this month but we’ll move some of the content into a new show coming in early 2019. The last episode published on December 20, 2019. You can see all Know Now… shows anytime at

After talking with Denise Howell, we all agreed that “This Week in Law” will also end in early 2019. Denise and her panel of legal minds covered the wide spectrum of topics related to law and tech, including Intellectual Property, privacy, copyright, regulation, and the ever-expanding segment of animal selfies. The last episode will be January 11, 2019, at 3:00 pm PST. As sad as this news is, I’m thrilled to say Denise’s brilliant legal mind and entertaining style will take on a larger role on the network going forward with regular appearances on “This Week in Tech” and “Triangulation.” All of the TWiL shows will remain available at

I know you share my sadness at losing these three shows. We don’t cancel shows lightly, but we also understand it’s part of the process in keeping TWiT fresh and vital. And every ending brings a new beginning. We’re working on a new show we’ll unveil early next year.

We all work every day to fulfill our mission to bring you the best tech programming on the Internet. As always, I thank you for your continued support. TWiT wouldn’t exist without you.

Leo and Lisa Laporte

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

What Will It Take for All Companies to Enact Pay Equality?

The gender pay gap is here to stay. Or at least it’s likely to hang around until companies actually address it. To be exact, the World Economic Forum (WEF) predicts that women around the globe will need to wait another 217 years until the gender pay gap is closed. Sadly, the WEF added 47 years to its projection within the last year alone, meaning global gender parity is actually shifting into reverse. While the reasons for this are wide-ranging, one factor is simple enough: wage inequality requires more than idle chatter. It requires action.

It’s not that there’s been zero progress. In America, the 18-cent on the dollar gap has narrowed since 1980, when it was 36 cents. But before we congratulate ourselves, also consider that despite being one of the most trumpeted business initiatives in recent memory, the disparity has held relatively stable for the past 15 years.

In 2017, American women earned 82 percent of what men earned, and those figures become even more dismal when segmented by race and ethnicity. The gap is also much wider in higher-paying industries and roles. While 20 cents may not sound like much, consider that it necessitates 47 extra work days for women to recoup the same annual salary as men. As a result, the average woman misses out on $400,000 during the course of her career, a figure that’s even more upsetting when considered from this angle: equal pay could lift 3.1 million working women and their families out of poverty. Why, then, aren’t we doing it?

Most business owners and executives already know that equal pay is good for business. Countless studies have demonstrated that when employees are rewarded fairly, productivity and talent retention increases. Plus, wage equity matters to employees and customers alike. Almost 75 percent of Americans think the gender pay gap is unfair and only 16 percent believe companies are doing enough to close it. Meanwhile, 66 percent of Americans are less likely to buy a product from a company that doesn’t pay women fairly. So, what, exactly, is the problem?

Despite evidence to the contrary, employers still like to attribute gender bias in the workplace to the behaviors of their female workers. Maybe women aren’t assertive, proactive, or confident enough to command equal pay. But a recent Harvard Business Review study found no perceptible differences in the behaviors of men and women at work. Women had the same basic work patterns, the same number of contacts, spent as much face time with senior management, and allocated their time similarly to men in the same role. It’s not a confidence gap, either. Women rate themselves no lower than men performance-wise and there are no self-reported discrepancies in self-confidence.

Despite the common rhetoric that women can do more to help themselves in the workplace, the difference truly lies in the perceptions of their behaviors rather than the behaviors themselves. In other words, it comes down to bias. That being said, the onus for pursuing a gender-diverse workplace needs to be shifted from female employees onto the shoulders of the organization itself.

And, for those businesses that believe their female employees are satisfied with the status quo, think again: 4 in 10 women believe they’re discriminated against in the workplace, while only 2 in 10 men believe they’ve experienced gender discrimination; women are four times as likely as men to say they’ve been treated as incompetent due to gender; and they’re also three times as likely to say they’ve experienced repeated workplace slights because of gender. Those are not the sentiments of a satisfied workforce.

It’s time for companies to actively combat wage discrepancy by taking measurable steps to reduce workplace bias. This work needs to go beyond much of what we’ve seen to date: the few token hires, the obligatory sensitivity training, and the programs designed to alter women’s behaviors. Companies can begin to charter real change by applying this three-step methodology:

Determine the Scope of the Problem
Investigate which problems are most pervasive within your organization. You might consider spearheading focus groups with female employees or anonymously polling employees to understand where some of your biggest issues lie. Try to determine things like: whether women feel they need to justify their competence more than men; or have trouble landing higher-status assignments; or are given demeaning office clean-up roles more than male counterparts; or have trouble walking the tightrope of being aggressive enough for the job versus being perceived as likeable? Is there a motherhood bias, causing fewer mothers to be hired, promoted, or paid fairly? Turn over as many rocks as possible and see what you find.

Identify Metrics
Develop ways to measure your business’s most pressing shortcomings. Are there ways to track the circumstances around internal promotions? Can you identify low value, “office housework” and track how it is assigned? You might also consider monitoring whether women’s assignments differ before and after maternity leave. Record how people are hired, how work is assigned, how performance is evaluated, as well as why women aren’t hired, promoted, or choose to leave. By establishing baseline measurements for as many areas as possible, you lay the foundation for meaningful change.

Interrupt the Bias
Generally speaking, it’s easier and more effective to make a series of small changes that address specific problems, rather than launching extensive programs aimed at raising awareness and changing corporate culture. Sweeping initiatives such as Best Buy’s Results Only Work Environment can be very effective, but run the risk of being cancelled due to the expense (as happened to Best Buy following a leadership change). By interrupting each bias separately, company initiatives remain nimble and tie into metrics more easily. It’s also harder to discontinue practices since they’re more finite and ingrained in your existing processes than a larger initiative would be. Once the measurement begins, companies can track the results of interruptions, ratcheting up those that work and replacing ones that don’t.

There are a number of small bias interrupters that companies can try, potentially making really big strides with little expense or effort, depending on their problem areas:

One easy hiring change would be to develop job advertisements that steer away from masculine-gendered words like competitive, assertive, or ambitious. Or, consider handing hiring managers blinded resumes so that candidates can be evaluated equally. Another possibility would be to mandate a diverse slate of candidates. Companies can also standardize interview questions, keeping in mind that women are less comfortable with blatant self-promotion because of the double-standard that requires them to be “modest” and “likeable.” Do everything you can to standardize pay inequality, and also consider adding a “salary negotiable” clause into job descriptions, which has been found to encourage more women to ask for higher salaries upfront, helping to close the pay gap by 45 percent.

If you find that men are receiving higher-value assignments than women, consider raising awareness of this issue, or combat it by developing a system that divides work more evenly. Some companies have also lessened expectations for employees that are struggling to balance work with home and family obligations.

Performance Evaluations
If performance evaluation criteria and materials aren’t standardized, women will likely receive smaller raises than their male counterparts. Evaluations that are solely performance-based currently yield greater rewards for men versus women. Outside firms like Ernst & Young can read through evaluations and identify such issues. Also, make the requirements for success explicit. Women fare best when compensation systems are based upon objective, measurable metrics. If there are universal skills that are expected from employees in order for them to succeed, communicate that list to all employees. No one should need to guess which factors determine their pay. Any desired “soft” skills should also be analyzed for bias. For example, women shouldn’t be penalized for not conforming to certain gender role expectations. One common manifestation is when women are required to both excel at their jobs and show warmth toward others when men need only fulfill the first imperative. Reviews and promotions can be periodically audited to ensure men aren’t systematically edging out women.

Promotion and Compensation
Conduct a pay audit immediately. You may be surprised what you find. It’s also a good practice to tread carefully in areas where women are expected to engage in heavy self-promotion in order to advance, as our unconscious bias can either discourage or penalize women for doing so. For example, Google identified systematic bias in their promotions because of a policy requiring employees to nominate themselves, which fewer women were willing to do. Ideally, these types of requirements should be removed. At a minimum, companies should encourage female employees to negotiate and self-promoter and applaud their efforts accordingly.

Addressing bias requires trial and error, and efforts inevitably strengthen over time. After all, if there were a universal, no-fail solution, such large discrepancies might not persist. But if nothing is risked, nothing is gained, and by creating hypotheses on what small shifts might move the needle on your metrics, you can start the process, ensuring that eventually you’ll drive meaningful change for your organization, your employees and, ultimately, for the world. Let’s not wait 217 years.