As martech practitioners, we need to stay abreast of more than product and channel features, capabilities, competitor comparisons, stack fit, best practices, etc. We should also consider macro factors, which Investopedia defines as “influential fiscal, natural or geopolitical event[s] that broadly affects a regional or national economy.” Our recommendations to stakeholders should account for them.

Real challenges

For example, the U.S. Congress is back at it with White House support. It is seriously considering banning China-based social network TikTok to force it to sell itself to a company that’s not Chinese.

News outlets are focusing on individual influencers who owe a significant portion of their income to social media channels. A platform ban would threaten their short- to mid-term livelihoods. Larger companies enjoying success using TikTok as a targeted channel will also face challenges if the app is banned..

However, national bans are not the only threats to individual influencers and companies. Changes to how different platforms administer their ad networks also have downstream impact.

CNBC recently explained how direct-to-consumer (D2C) companies benefited from cheap social media advertising years ago, but are now struggling as platforms increase their ad pricing. This includes well-known companies like Allbirds, Casper and Peloton.

As martech practitioners, we are certainly aware of the challenges our SEO colleagues face when search engines tweak their ranking algorithms. Let’s also not forget how regulators and browsers are placing further restrictions on cookies.

While it is important to include such threats in business continuity planning, there’s a bigger concern here. 

Dig deeper: Current trends in marketing and data have deep roots

Macro factors

Platform owners

First, there are the fickle whims of ultrarich owners. For example, when Elon Musk acquired X/Twitter, one of the main drivers was decreasing the terms of service related to user interaction. Musk felt the platform was infringing upon too many users’ “freedom of expression.” He then reduced the size of the team tasked with maintaining positive community interaction. This spooked major advertisers concerned about their posts appearing next to problematic materials. Further, these changes resulted in a dramatic drop in usage that narrowed the audience X can offer advertisers.

There’s a current podcast commercial for ADP, the human resources services company that many associate with their pay slips and W-2 tax forms. The ad focuses on employees discussing risks to their organization and one of them wonders what would happen if a celebrity buys the company. It depends upon the celebrity, the other person quips, but there’s no need to worry for ADP clients. 

Regardless of the celebrity owner, the rest of the marketplace is affected, and in this particular case — tech platforms. What makes a funny joke in an ad requires serious consideration in the real world.

Culture wars

Second, political culture wars sometimes affect our line of work. A recent example is social media moderation. 

I am not a legal expert, but it is important to understand that — at least in the U.S. — constitutional freedom of expression protects individuals from government interference, not the terms and services of private entities.  

Various politicians (not unlike other prominent individuals, like Musk) have questioned social media platforms’ moderation policies, accusing tech companies of taking sides. This culture war has affected most platforms, not just X.

As some platforms have eased moderation, brands find their posts and ads next to someone’s controversial opinion on a hot-button issue. From a brand perspective, this is problematic. While companies may not weigh in on specific topics, the appearance of supporting a stance can gain and — perhaps more importantly — repel potential customers.

Then there are times when a prominent political figure lashes out at a platform and dramatically affects its stock price, threatening its short-term stability. Such events can further threaten a channel’s viability for advertisers.

Societal changes

Third, societal changes can also affect the suitability and effectiveness of platforms. 

Recently, many in society blame social media for significant declines in the mental health of youth. This certainly threatens how companies with youth-oriented products can use tech platforms to advertise to youth and there are far more implications to this societal concern.

This awareness has also inspired many people who are young at heart but not by age to also decrease their social media usage, which in turn affects how companies can use such platforms to target them as well.

Long-term schedules

On a lighter note, sports-related companies should also factor in the broader world in their marketing activities and planning. Believe it or not, the sport of curling is enjoying significantly more popularity from time to time. That usually follows a four-year pattern.

Hint: It’s the Winter Olympics. Thus, a Curling-related company should factor that into its plans, analysis and forecasts.

To be fair, such threats are not unique to the current wave of technology. For instance, advertising via radio and television evolved over several decades — and centuries in the case of newspapers and magazines.

Various regulations, tactics and societal trends have affected these channels and how companies harness them. We can take a cue on how those industries have weathered such change.

Actions

There are ways that we can stay abreast. For instance, plenty of technology-focused news podcasts cover how broader geopolitical, political and societal trends and events affect our professional lives. Listening to them and reading their associated outlets will help one remain aware of relevant trends.

Another important place to include such work is our continual professional development efforts. This should include far more than narrow learning related to our specific job functions. In addition to enhancing our interpersonal skills, we should keep track of what’s happening within the specific industries in which we work. 

Perhaps there is something particularly relevant for specific industries. Apartment management companies, for example, ran into trouble in the past for using advertising platforms like Facebook to target people using demographic filters like race and income. That leads to discrimination regarding housing, which isn’t a good look. That sector needs to remain vigilant in ways different from other industries.

A complex world

Our jobs are complex enough as they are, staying on top of products, vendors, competitors and audiences. Adding general news to the mix certainly complicates things even more. However, we do not work in a vacuum immune from influences from the broader world.

We ignore macro trends and issues to our peril — as well as to our employers. Failing to factor in the broader world will make our work and recommendations, at best, incomplete.

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