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Put A (Social) Ring On It



Right about now, many a nervous suitor is making the trek to a jewelry store to choose the perfect ring for a painstakingly planned Valentine’s Day proposal. They’re thinking about flowers, dinner reservations, and—if T.H. March has its way—insurance for that sparkly new bling.

A jewelry insurance broker that first opened its doors in 1887, T.H. March provides commercial insurance for jewelry retailers and designers, as well as personal jewelry insurance for the consumer.

And since the age at which people first marry has risen to approximately 30 for men and 27 for women in much of the world, T.H. March’s target demographic is squarely in the powerful millennial generation. The company’s challenge is a common one today: How do you connect with young, established, and social media-savvy adults?

As digital natives, millennials orchestrate their own brand experience, and expect to interact with content across devices, channels, and in the language they prefer. The traditional marketing funnel is obsolete.

T.H. March currently generates around £30 million in annual premium income and has seen double-digit increases in consumer product sales over the last four or five years. But sustaining this success with millennials will require a radical departure from its traditional business model.

The firm needed a forward-thinking strategy that met this target consumer’s expectations and fostered a personal bond with them, despite being in an industry with an impersonal reputation, said T.H. March Managing Director Neil McFarlane.

Results of a customer satisfaction survey conducted by T.H. March in 2014 were clear: Existing customers wanted better and more responsive ways to talk with the company. And to grow that customer base, the company needed to step up its digital game.

At that point, however, the company couldn’t even send letters with personalized salutations, says McFarlane. “It just wasn’t going to cut it,” he says. “In order to keep growing, we had to change. We as a business are going to be fundamentally different in five years.”
The good news for T.H. March is that companies that successfully transition to a digital approach tend to outperform industry peers by about 26%, according to a joint study from Capgemini Consulting and MIT. But how does a 127-year-old company make that vital digital shift?

McFarlane is leading the charge. Digital transformation is not simply a technology implementation; the Capgemini/MIT study found that such change requires strong top-down leadership. Yes, such strategies require tools such as social, mobile, cloud, and analytics—but that technology must be used in conjunction with an enterprisewide business strategy. For T.H. March, that meant sharpening the focus on customer experience.

“Everybody flippantly says, ‘CX,’ but what does that mean?” asks McFarlane. The company’s new business strategy puts the customer experience front and center by integrating sales, service, marketing, and social on an integrated, cloud-based platform that will help the company converse with customers, rather than talk at them—across a range of channels.

For example, T.H. March realized that something as simple as filing an insurance claim should trigger an immediate nurture program that conveys useful information to the customer about how the claim process works.

“In terms of insurance, one of the biggest frustrations is not hearing anything,” he says. “Keeping customers in the loop on a regular basis helps them realize that their claim is progressing. Of course that is what we have always done, but technical innovation will help us to do it better!”

That’s a smart way to avoid negative social chatter, too—an important consideration when so many in this demographic use social media to research purchases. In fact, online polling from Harris Interactive last year found that nearly 70% of millennials were at least somewhat likely to make a purchase after seeing a friend’s post.
Beyond the shopping experience itself, brands need to engage with millennials through a consistent, omnichannel approach. A 2014 survey by Oracle ORCL +0.14% Retail and Retail TouchPoint Research found that such strategies improve customer loyalty by 66%, while increasing brand interaction by 40%.

To address this critical need, T.H. March is building targeted digital campaigns on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn that engage its target demographic, as well as help the company listen and respond to social chatter.

“We don’t want to be boring old insurance,” says McFarlane. “To build a follower base, you have to have content that people want to ‘Like’ and follow.”

And since millennial customers are more likely to seek customer support through social media than by using the customer support form on a company website, listening is critical.

In addition, McFarlane says, social media “provides the sentiment and tone. If the feedback is positive, we can expand upon it; if it’s negative, we can do something to rectify that, but do it really quickly.”

In addition to social media endeavors, T.H. March is piloting smaller, standalone, automated marketing projects that further support the new business model, which will eventually rework processes for about two-thirds of the workforce—from sales and marketing to call centers and the executive suite.

McFarlane hopes that building a critical mass of small successes will boost acceptance and build enthusiasm within the company as the project moves ahead. “It’s a big learning curve for us,” he says, “but once we can see the results of personalization and have a sense of what is going to happen, it will help people buy in.”
Just as so many suitors will be hoping for buy-in and lots of excited social media shares when they pop the big question with a shiny—and well-insured—ring.


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Last year, Instagram introduced an enhanced comment filter that uses machine learning to spot offensive words and phrases in challenging contexts. Now, the company is expanding similar coverage to photos and captions. Today, it announced that it will use AI to “proactively detect bullying” before sending content to human moderators for review.

The new feature will roll out to users in the coming weeks, launching in time for October’s National Bullying Prevention Month in the US and just before Anti-Bullying Week in the UK. The same technology is also being added to live videos to filter comments there as well.

This is the first product announcement under new Instagram chief Adam Mosseri who took over following the hasty departure of co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger last month. The split was reportedly due to simmering tensions between the pair and parent company Facebook, which has frequently meddled with Instagram’s product.

With public trust in Facebook continuing to fall, Instagram remains the bright spot in the company’s product lineup. It’s popular, profitable, and it has yet to be tainted by the scandals that have undermined Facebook. In this context, using AI to help weed out offensive content and keep Instagram a home for good vibes is extremely important.

A story published in Wired last year explained some of the details of Instagram’s machine learning comment filters, but it’s well-established that this sort of technology is no silver bulletfor content moderation. AI is cheap to deploy at scale, yes, but it still has trouble dealing with human context and nuance. That’s why it’s good that these new bullying filters also send content to human moderators to perform the final check. Automation without oversight is a recipe for disaster.

Interestingly, Instagram says it’s not just analyzing photos captions to identify bullying, but also the photo itself. Speaking to The Verge, a spokesperson gave the example of the AI looking for split-screen images as an example of potential bullying, as one person might be negatively compared to another. What other factors the AI will look for though isn’t clear. That might be a good idea considering that when Facebook announced it would scan memes using AI, people immediately started thinking of ways to get around such filters.

Along with the new filters, Instagram is also launching a “kindness camera effect,” which sounds like it’s a way to spread a positive message as a method to boost user engagement. While using the rear camera, the effects fill the screen with an overlay of “kind comments in many languages.” Switch to your front-facing camera, and you get a shimmer of hearts and a polite encouragement to “tag a friend you want to support.”

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Yes, Facebook Dating is a real thing. And we may have just received a sneak peek.

Jane Manchun Wong — an app researcher who’s spotted Facebook features in the past, like Talent Show — posted photos from what she claims is an internal test of Facebook Dating.


The company wouldn’t say whether these pics are the real deal, although it did confirm it’s testing Facebook Dating internally.

Two months ago, at its F8 developer conference, Facebook shared that it was developing a dating app. Aspiring yenta Mark Zuckerberg explained it was “going to be for building real, long-term relationships, not hookups.”

Later, on its blog, Facebook dished out a few more details: “People will be able to create a dating profile that is separate from their Facebook profile — and potential matches will be recommended based on dating preferences, things in common, and mutual friends. They’ll have the option to discover others with similar interests through their Groups or Events.”

From Wong’s photos, it looks like the app will let you prevent your current Facebook friends from seeing your dating profile, thus avoiding potential embarrassment. It’ll also offer a variety of gender options, including trans man, trans woman, and non-binary.

No word on when, exactly, Facebook Dating will become available to the public. Guess you’ll just have to make do with Tinder, Bumble, OKCupid, Happn, Grindr, Hinge, and the thousands of other dating apps out there in the meantime.

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Security researchers have discovered that it’s possible for hackers to change both the content and the sender of a WhatsApp message after you’ve received it …

This includes the ability to change quoted messages, to make it appear you said something you didn’t.

CNET reports that the possibility was discovered by Check Point Software Technologies.

The firm] found that hackers can create a hacked version of the app and alter a quoted message (a past one that someone is replying directly one) to change the content or sender.

The hacker would, however, need to be part of the chat, so the vulnerability mostly applies to group chats.

WhatsApp told the NYT that it was not aware of the technique being used in the wild, and a cure would be worse than the problem.

One solution would be to create transcripts of every message exchange to verify the accuracy of every quote. Creating such a transcript is a significant privacy risk because those accounts of what people wrote to each other must be stored somewhere, the company said.

All WhatsApp messages are protected by end-to-end encryption, which means that only those within a chat would be able to exploit the loophole. Storing a transcript would effectively mean removing that end-to-end encryption.

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