Semantic marketing gains mainstream attention: article in Advertising Age

Nice article in AdAge Digital by Marta Strickland of Organic (and editor-in-chief of the wonderful blog ThreeMinds): What the Semantic Web — or Web 3.0 — Can Do for Marketers.

Marta does an excellent job summarizing some of the benefits semantic web technologies can have for marketers. Certainly this includes semantic advertising, such as better contextual advertising (e.g., Peer39) and dynamic content in ads (e.g., Dapper MashupAds).

But she also draws connections between semantic technologies and improved measurement in social media marketing, describing how semantic technology plays a role in the growing field of sentiment analysis and “moving away from the tag cloud” into identifying “trends of the real conversation, not just the keyword of the day”.

These are all great ways for marketers to start thinking about semantic marketing, although these uses of semantic technologies should be largely invisible to marketers — semantic secret sauce if you will. In fact, Marta’s advice to semantic technology providers:

The successful technologist won’t approach the marketer with buzzwords. He won’t throw out phrases like “dynamic ontologies” or “semantic triples”. Because good semantic technology is like movie editing — you aren’t supposed to notice it’s there but it fundamentally changes the experience. So when someone approaches you about a “smarter” semantic solution, make sure they can answer this: how will this make my ads more relevant and my metrics more meaningful?

I agree… to a point. This wave of products with semantic secret sauce is useful for building awareness of what semantics can do, and to the degree that regular natural language processing can deliver better results in advertising and social media measurement, that’s a beautiful thing.

But, as I understand Tim Berners-Lee’s vision for the Semantic Web, it’s not just about computers grasping the meaning of conversations (with some probabilistic degree of accuracy), it’s also about the web having the capacity for shared and distributed “structured data” — delivered without any probabilistic errors of interpretation at all.

Many of the ideas promoted in Marta’s article are incremental innovations to existing online marketing — good, but not earth-shattering. A web of structured data has the potential to be as major of a disruptive innovation in marketing as search engine marketing and the Internet itself. In such an environment, not all marketers need to be semantic technologists, of course, but having semantic technologists in the marketing roster will be a significant competitive advantage.

But that vision is still a ways off. In the meantime, having a Semantic Web article in Advertising Age is a good step forward for everyone.

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