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Techonomy Virtual Day Five: Understanding the TikTok Dance

And so we arrive at the last day. What a week it was! The discussions have all been thoughtful and illuminating, shedding light on where tech is and where it’s going, in a world-changing faster than ever. Today we heard from Matty Lin, TikTok’s managing director of monetization and partnerships, and Billy Mann of Manncom Creative Partners on how TikTok is changing Gen Z and what it means for marketers, Raj Seshadri, president of data and services at Mastercard, on how secure our data is in a contactless world, and Roy Schoenberg, CEO of Amwell, on the recent roaring success of telehealth. Here’s what I took away.

2 p.m.Matty Lin and Billy Mann on How TikTok’s Social Media Triumph is Changing Gen Z – and Society

We start off in the most fun place possible for a Friday afternoon: TikTok! It’s no secret it has blown up and changed social media, allowing creatives to express themselves, and turning everyone into creatives. And now more and more brands are finding ways to collaborate with these largely young creatives.

“TikTok becomes the birthplace of a lot of cultural movements…so what it means for the brands is very important.” TikTok’s Lin says. He says the platform flips traditional marketing on its head by forcing brands to be more creative and at the same time more authentic. “TikTok really provides a vehicle for the brands to be collaborative,” Lin continues. In a time when influencers rule the world, TikTok enables brands to partner with emerging talent. While now they’ve become celebrities in their own right, Mann notes that artists Shawn Mendes and Alex Aiono got their start on social media. He manages Aiono as well as TikTok’s top star Charli D’Amelio and her entire family of TikTok stars.

“What I find refreshing is…that the criteria is less and less about money and more and more about mission-alignment,” Mann says. “So from a brand perspective, I would encourage people to bring that to the table.”

“TikTok video is about being authentic, being inclusive and positive,” Lin says. “Our mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy.” While moderator Robin Raskin pressed him gently to talk about the manifold geopolitical and economic pressures of TikTok, he mostly demurred.

2:40 p.m.Raj Seshadri on How Data is Helping Executives Rethink Everything

It’s a tall task to have to follow TikTok, but Mastercard’s Seshadri turns out attention to the more sober topic of data strategy.

“The data is powerful, but it’s not about the data, it’s about the insights and what it tells you,” Seshadri says. “We …take our own Mastercard experience and then try to figure out how we can make that useful to a customer,” she says. Security is key. “There’s a principal we have called security by design, and what you do is take standards that are out there, leading-edge technologies and combine them in the right way,” Seshadri says, adding that it’s a multilayered approach analogous to taking the measures you would to secure your home both when you’re in it and when you’re away.  “Cyber risk is complicated,” she says. “You got to look at your technology, you got to look at what you do with your workforce, you got to look at your processes.”

Machine learning and AI has become helpful to avoiding fraud.

2:59 p.m.Roy Schoenberg on the Explosion in Telehealth

Rounding out our week is a session on the explosion of telehealth. Amwell’s Schoenberg says telehealth is being used 40 times more now than pre-Covid. It has exploded  in health care the last few months. “A lot of clinicians are using everything that’s in their power to practice their art with the patients they’re responsible for,” Schoenberg says.

When telehealth first emerged, it faced many challenges. Doctors were skeptical about virtual consultations. So were government officials. The state of Hawaii, where Amwell first launched more than a decade ago. even said initially it would cancel the license of physicians who utilized it.  But it’s clear Covid has changed how clinicians view and utilize telehealth.

“The biggest misunderstanding about telehealth during Covid is that people think that telehealth was used to treat Covid patients or treat people that were concerned with Covid, and while that is definitely true…still the people that were exposed to Covid represent a very, very small fraction of the people that have health care issues,” Schoenberg says, adding that right now telehealth has been used the most by these patients who have serious and/or chronic medical issues, such as cancer.

3:20 p.m.

We move into a wrap-up “room-wide” session. Techonomy Chairman Jim McCann wonders if AI could ultimately help frontline health care workers collect data and more efficiently be able to make diagnoses based off of big data.

But then we talk about this entire week.

“I think the overarching theme we heard this week was that Covid has been the great accelerator,” McCann says. But with that, McCann notes, technology is revving up, and bringing urgent challenges like providing everyone high-speed internet access to the fore.  If we don’t move quickly, our failure to get access to everyone will further widen the divide between the haves and have-nots.

“We do not want to ever lose sight of the importance of social ramifications of every single change that technology’s bringing to society. or to not lose sight of our ultimate goal, which is a fairer, healthier, wealthier, more equal society,” Techonomy Founder David Kirkpatrick summarizes. That feels, to me, exactly what this week at Techonomy was about.

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