Past, Present & Future – Automating Customer Service & Social Media

The article by analyst @jowyang on Techcrunch today:

http://techcrunch.com/2012/06/07/brands-start-automating-social-media-responses-on-facebook-and-twitter/

Took us back in time, about 2 years, when we first tested automated “human’ish” responses with our platform, via Twitter (and, even into Facebook, via IM).

We discussed with Brands about the cost and scaling of “humans” v. automated bots (as well as consistency and the instant response we provide), but, 2 years ago, I guess we came across sounding like Science Fiction fans, not mobile and social marketers!

So, today, it’s official, we in the “nascent, but growing” stage of seeing this engagement format move into the marketplace.  Our two years of building our platform and testing our “creative” and interactive narrative positions us well ahead of anyone just starting to dabble in this space.

@jowyang’s “future” looks like this:

“Human-like Relationships:  While on the distant horizon, artificial intelligence agents will simulate human behavior and be a guiding agent, conversationalist, and act like a real world concierge, “

Well, that’s what our “today” looks like.  Brand Agents who guide.

Our blog posts haven’t used the CATEGORY “AI and Twitter” in a heck of a long time.  Nice to dust that off again!

Now, we do respect that there are diverging opinions on this topic, really just specific to use of automation within “social media,” as if it’s a “pure” landscape that should be reserved for “humans only.”  (See the OPINIONS section of the Techcrunch article).

We have the ability to clone or create the “best” customer service bots, who respond instantly, around the clock – and can manage high volumes of concurrent users (and each receives a personalized response).  Compare that to most “human” customer service representatives?  Perhaps most who work  a Brands Twitter account are a bit hipper than those in the Call Centers, but, well, we can add “hip” to our bots.  Do people really care if it’s human or silicon, provided they get what they need?  Quickly?

As humans, we’ve adapted and evolved to accept Human::Machine interaction quite well.  At the grocery, if the line is shorter at the automated check-out, that’s where we go.  Yes, I like a brief chat with the human check-out person, but, nine times out of ten, I head to the automated check-out, who is always friendly and gets me out the door quickly (And I never find someone has put the fresh strawberries at the bottom of the bag).

 

Why is “Mobile First” a “Second Screen?”

Folks who work in digital/interactive started the “mobile first” meme about a year and a half ago.  I believe it was Google who really made the phrase popular?

But, what is often overlooked is that for the mainstream, average human being (e.g. consumer), “television” remains the #1 screen in their lives:

http://www.appmarket.tv/news/1727-report-americans-still-love-tv-more-than-anything-else.html

Posts from a month or so ago (below) include studies that indicate strong “second screen” use of mobile devices (throwing “tablets” into the mobile category; but, smartphones as well), as being used concurrently with television (with use of all devices peaking during Prime Time).

The opportunities to “bridge” those screens, through so-called “2nd Screen” apps and extended story experiences is what we at contentAI feel is an extraordinary opportunity.   In fact, this entire engagement format was why we started building our platform about 2 years ago….we didn’t know if or when the market would catch up…but, we’re pleased that it has (in a big way).

Is the money shifting to this area?

http://www.appmarket.tv/news/372-tv-applications-and-widgets-market-worth-over-1-billion-euro-by-2013.html

There are still structural issues with regard to ACR (automated content recognition) to more intuitively sync the screens – We have a few ideas on how that will evolve.  But, we’re technology agnostic in that regard as well, as we can adapt our platform to integrate with 3rd party APIs quite easily (Actually, we really like the YahooCTV SDK; though whether they’ll get a significant user base is the obvious question).

So, “stay tuned.”  On all of your screens.

Interactive Scene Engine (Another Way of Looking At Us)

Introducing our platform to an ad agency executive over the weekend, we spent a fair bit of time “defining” the applications that are built as “interactive scenes.”

Interestingly, that phrase is not one we’d used before, but, it helped (let’s call him “Bob”) Bob quickly understand the contentAI  platform in relation to his other work.

We often talk about “motivated characters” or “virtual characters,” but, what we really do is create “scenes” that both the virtual character and the End User play-out.

So, are we really a “scene engine?”

Yes, in part.

But, we’re still a “virtual character” engine as well.

There are both simple and complex avenues to apply our platform.  We think of “character only” as being akin to chatbots who access a database of deep information via Natural Language Processing.

But, our interactive scenes are 3-dimensional, including  depth (same as “character” – deep data and knowledge), coupled with width (alternative paths) and length (all “scenes” have a beginning, middle and end)

I suspect we’ll start using “interactive scene engine” in some of our description phrasing more frequently.  It seems easier  to grasp than “motivated characters.”

“My Tooth Fairy Chat” App Released

Based on the success of our annual MY SANTA TALK app (mobile web, Android and AppUp), we decided to add a year-round children’s app to our library…

MY TOOTH FAIRY CHAT is now on Android, with Updates to additional devices posted below.

Now in the Google Play Android Store

Also in INTEL’s AppUp Store: http://www.appup.com/app-details/my-tooth-fairy-chat

And in Amazon’s App Store plus Kindle Fire: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0084F1PHK

If you review children’s apps, please CONTACT US for free access.

Second Screen Apps – Extending Story & Character

Over the past 5 weeks, it seems that not a day goes by when some new study emerges specific to how “the audience” for television are already engaged in concurrent, multi-screen engagement (see blog posts below with links)  – Just not with the 2nd Screen content being related to the television (email, social networks, essentially communication is #1 use).

So, after about 15 years of the term “convergence” being bandied about, the audience are converged.

But, the content is lacking.

Each study talks to the massive growth opportunity for 2nd Screen apps.

We have little doubt there will be a mad-rush to fill in this gap with aggregated content apps and superfluous layers of data streamed to the 2nd Screen.

But, what interests us (and where the contentAI platform is perfectly well suited), is to create personalized, extended story experiences on the 2nd screen that are indigenous to the television screen content.

For drama or any fictional content, the audience are already in a “suspension of disbelief” mode, as they are emotionally engaged in characters and story.  Creating seamless experiences that are personalized and interactive, that deepen the engagement in the television content, is where this all gets fascinating.

 

Even the MPAA Says “Get Connected” – It’s a Multi-Screen World

The MPAA are traditionally behind-the-curve (let’s say, “historically” on many issues).

So it was interesting to see this statement from their CEO, Chris Dodd:

http://www.homemediamagazine.com/piracy/mpaa-ceo-hollywood-must-get-connected-27074

“Our business has become much more than simply making a great movie and inviting our customers to a theater,” Dodd said. “This new age of the connected consumer is here, and so we must adapt.”

Driving more movie attendance through deeper audience connections with story and character (from their 2nd Screens) is our favorite topic.

Now, the issue for “Hollywood” really focuses on the Unions and their abilities to adapt to incorporate Talent (Writers, Directors, Actors) across multiple screens beyond “marketing” spends, but where it’s inherent to the Production and story itself.

*****

UPDATE:  Some additional Nielsen numbers on “2nd Screen” concurrent engagement with TV:

http://techcrunch.com/2012/04/27/report-69-of-tablet-owners-watch-tv-and-surf-the-web-simultaneously/

According to Nielsen, 45% of tablet owners watch TV and use their tablet together at least once a day. A whopping 69% say they do so at least several times a week and only 12% say they never do this.

 

Conversational Writing – Defined

We’ve always referred to our platform as “conversational…” – Which has lead to discussions about how we define (primarily) mobile text based engagement.  Our apps are “conversational writing” based.  i.e. “conversation” does not require voice/speech.

It was terrific to read a NY Times story about “Conversational Writing” here:

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/23/talking-with-your-fingers/

Where the author defines “Conversational Writing” as being different from “writing.”  There are some great quotes, one take-away is:

 Not surprisingly, then, the earliest writing was based on the way people talk, and that meant short sentences with a direct logical throughline. Researchers have found that even educated people today speak in word packets of 7 to 10 words a pop.

 

How does this related to “connected TV” experiences?

Nearly 1/2 of the Audience are engaged in “conversational writing” on their 2nd Screens while consuming television.

http://econsultancy.com/us/blog/9685-the-five-cs-of-connected-tv

So, how about directing their “conversational writing” to include the on-screen characters?

Prime-Time is Multi-Screen Time. . .Extending Story…

We were asked to summarize some thoughts on 2nd Screen experiences and extending story, and emotional engagement, between screens.

Here’s the ‘in a nutshell’ version. . .

The studies are now in…audiences now participate in concurrent, multi-screen experiences – Prime-tme is multi-screen time — But, that doesn’t mean the content, stories and brand stories are migrating between screens to create seamless and deeper engagement.

How to naturally engage and extend television to digital-device-on-the-couch?

Extend the reason television remains the First Screen to 2nd Screen content applications:  Extend the story.

Whether extending a :30 second television spot, a children’s animated series or a Prime Time drama, creating interactive narrative experiences taps into and deepens the audiences’ emotional connection to the First Screen.

2nd Screen experiences should be seen as a remarkable opportunity for television advertising and content production ventures…not to get clicks and Likes…but, to involve the audience within a personalized, conversational interaction.  This is why we built the contentAI studios’ platform.

Chat with Gossip Girl to uncover hidden clues and story material?

Chat with Astral from Yu-Gi-Oh for advice?

Chat with Mr. Clean, the Skittle’s Rainbow or a myriad of other Brand Characters?

Next time you talk to a television character, they should also talk back to you.

Because the Audience is doing a lot more than just listening.

 

UPDATE:  In addition to the Forrester Reports (Links in Post below), here is additional supporting evidence of the growing dual-screen phenomena:  http://www.screenmediadaily.com/news-viacom-tablets-tapping-into-tabletomics-study-television-consumer-behavior-tablet-user-experiences-airplay-0014001843.shtml

Tap an NFC Tag and Chat with a Mobile Virtual Agent

Where’s the NFC Tag?

We’ll send you one.   While there’s often someone from our team at a conference or off doing demos…we can’t be everywhere…so, we’ll mail you one.  Just ask.

We are big believer’s in NFC.  Once you’ve created one, tapped one and experienced the mindless/seamless gesture…something that seems natural…well, we hope you’ll agree that NFC will play a major role in connecting the world to the internet…making objects speak!

We’re extremely pleased with TAGSTAND and their NFC tags (as well as their App:  NFC  TASK LAUNCHER)…which is where we source our NFC tags; we’d be pleased to send you one, that connects to one of our Interactive Mobile Virtual Agents…Just CONTACT US and ask.

BTW:  If you’re on LINKEDIN, please join the NFC CREATIVE Group and join the conversation.

Mobile & Responsive Experience Design (Emphasis on Experience)

Yes, everyone needs a technically responsive web design or a dedicated mobile site, in order to reach the ever-increasing percentage of consumers who find you on mobile and tablets.

But, after listening to numerous developer and developer service discussions on this topic, the over-emphasis on the technical tends to diminish the heart of the issue:  Mobile experiences are DIFFERENT than desktop.  I’d include the expanding ultrabook engagement format in this as well…

When someone finds you on a smaller screen, even if 50% of the prospects do this from their home (on the couch, while watching TV; see blog posts below), that consumer inherently has a different ENGAGEMENT FORMAT they are expecting.  They don’t need to access 100% of your data…they need to quickly pull up the data they want…

The experience needs to be controlled by the User…and responded to by the data/design (the User’s in control).

Small screens — Even medium screens (and virtual keyboards) — Are increasingly reducing “time on site” for Consumers.  Delivering ONLY the desired “experience,” quickly and efficiently, is paramount.

Therefore, the phrase “responsive experience design” – Where the User’s input shapes the data/content experience (intuitively, not through complex navigation) seems to be the Holy Grail of mobile design…Let the User define “context,” and then let the data flow specific to that context.

Obviously, we believe that natural language processing plays a big part of allowing the User to shape their content experience…Navigating and acquiring content through a User’s input…not forcing pre-set navigation…results in “responsive experience design.”