While influencer marketing has become a mainstay for marketers, this doesn’t mean that marketers should start getting comfortable. As social apps start to integrate more creative functions to suit their users’ needs, an increasing number of users have started to become creators in their own right.
Anyone with a smartphone can create content, but those that create unique, high-quality content have risen to join the ranks of top influencers.
However, marketers often only consider partnering with ‘traditional’ influencers — influential tastemakers that usually have a large following. While these individuals may not necessarily create posts of high quality, their ability to leverage their fans makes them attractive to marketers seeking to promote their brand.
While creators can become influential and influencers do often create their own content, they aren’t one and the same. Marketers shouldn’t make the mistake of conflating them. Here’s why:
Influencers and content creators have different impacts on their audiences
Marketers increasingly understand the need to shift from ‘vanity’ metrics such as ‘likes’ towards engagement metrics such as ‘views’ and ‘impressions’. This also means that influencer marketing isn’t used just for the purpose of attracting eyeballs. Brands must engage the individuals that best suit their campaign objectives and KPIs.
For example, a beauty brand looking to raise brand awareness might engage a beauty influencer to create a sponsored post, then track impressions on their posts, or audience growth on their social media.
A YouTuber that uses the same products as part of a morning routine video or beauty challenge, on the other hand, can generate interest in your product that leads to greater click-throughs to your product page.
The main difference is that influencers act as an amplification channel for your content or product, driving awareness through reach, which can generate sales with the right target group.
Content creators, on the other hand, incorporate your product into their own content styles — be it beauty routines, funny challenges, or breathtaking photographs. These creators may not have a large following, but often have loyal audiences that are already interested in the form of content they produce. As such, they score greater points for relatability.
Think of influencer marketing as a form of brand partnership
Gone are the days when influencers are willing to plug your brand or product in exchange for free goods or cash. Influencers now hold greater accountability to their followers, meaning that it is imperative for them to be honest about sponsorships and create more authentic content.
According to Campaign, some factors that determine if a user decides to follow an influencer include how “real” their content is, how well-intentioned their posts are, and whether or not the content or products they endorse are in keeping with their usual style.
This means that influencers are likely to be more selective with the brands that they choose to work with. An influencer such as Liv Lo (@livlogolding), for example, builds her personal brand around her sustainable lifestyle and the use of environmentally-friendly, organic products. Liv Lo features cruelty-free skincare brands on her Instagram page and isn’t shy about criticising brands that aren’t as supportive of environmental initiatives.
Top influencers hold even greater prestige and control. Apart from being awarded ‘verified’ badges on platforms such as YouTube or Instagram that cement their status as top dog, high-profile influencers are being provided exclusive features that allow them to directly drive social commerce.
Last year, Snapchat invited 5 top influencers to gain access to their in-app store function, allowing these influencers to sell their merchandise straight from the app. Instagram’s Creator profile, which was initially beta-tested on a small group of users, now allows influencers and creators to have more flexible profile controls, access to a dashboard of performance metrics, and the ability to create shoppable posts.
Creators are also being recognised for their influence. Events like VidCon celebrate the unique achievements of video creators and educate brands on how they should navigate the changing influencer landscape.
It’s clear that marketers can no longer expect to mould an influencer to their needs. Instead, marketers must learn to accept that influencers and creators are their own mini-brand. A successful partnership, therefore, depends on aligning the needs and values of both parties.
Just like celebrity endorsements, influencer partnerships work well in the long-term
Influencer marketing should not involve too many one-off partnerships. As consumers seek out relatable, authentic content, “momentary endorsements” become less attractive to most brands and influencers. After all, consumers place less trust in influencers who readily promote a variety of brands.
Marketers should strive to create long-term partnerships with the influencers that they engage. While long-term partnerships generally reflect well on both the brand and its partner, these partnerships also help both parties solidify their fanbase.
Influencers who work with brands on a longer-term basis can leverage a variety of posts that better reflect their relationship with the brand over time. For example, an influencer is likely to attend events hosted by the brand, speak about related social issues, and review the brand’s products. If an influencer praises the brand’s offerings, their fans are more likely to believe them.
Brands that embark on long-term partnerships may also benefit from the influencer’s follower circles. These audiences are likely to relate the influencer with the brand and thus confer a sense of trust towards the products that they endorse. This also means that audiences are likely to feel a greater emotional connection with the brand, leading to more sticky customers.
Content creators, too, are valuable partners. Brands that make creators their partners can turn the artists’ style or content form into a part of their brand identity. This is especially true for organisations that manage recurring events.
Arts House Limited, for example, manages the Aliwal Arts Centre, which organises the annual Aliwal Urban Arts Festival. While the lineup for each year differs, the Urban Arts Festival consistently showcases local street dance crews and musicians. The festival has become synonymous with local street culture, while the Arts Centre has become the go-to venue for local indie dance and theatre shows.
Brands like Arts House Limited show a keen understanding of their own appeal and their audience’s interests. Likewise, brands that seek to effectively engage influencers as long-term partners must create campaigns that appeal to their key audiences.
Meltwater’s Audience Insight reports allow you to understand the communities that drive conversations on your social media channels. Our tool helps you to discover your audience’s consumption habits, analyse shifts in their demographic, and identify key influencers within these groups. You can then use these insights to determine the trends and topics that resonate with your audience.
To move ahead, brands must shake off old conventions
Now that we’ve highlighted the reasons why marketers should understand the value of both traditional influencers and content creators, it’s imperative that they formulate an influencer marketing strategy that includes both facets.
As the social media landscape continues to change and include newer apps, functions, and trends that steal the headlines, social media marketers too must adapt to make sure that they stay ahead of the curve.
Perhaps one of the most sweeping outcomes of the 2020 pandemic has been its effect on the global supply chain. From consumer goods to raw materials, products are either unavailable for purchase or take excessively long to reach their destinations. Even common grocery items like baby formula are becoming hard to find, as reported by CBS in an April 2022 report.
Analysts predict that the major supply and demand crunches will have less impact in the future, per CNBC. However, businesses and buyers aren’t content to wait until early 2023 to feel less of a pinch. They want answers now, and they’re getting them in the form of innovative uses of data and technology.
As it turns out, data—when utilized thoughtfully—has value in smoothing out supply chain hiccups. Below are several examples of how data is being tapped to tackle post-pandemic procurement and delivery issues.
1. Data is revealing where companies should focus their resources to satisfy customers.
Nothing is as frustrating for shoppers as being unable to get what they want. To better allocate resources and anticipate needs, some brands are leveraging real-time data analytics. Understanding in-the-moment demands enables teams to pivot and respond.
An example of this type of process is Chipotle’s use of Semarchy’s data management tool. After “The Great Carnitas Shortage of 2015,” the company realized that it needed to make adjustments to its supply chain. By aligning operations, communications channels, and ordering platforms, Chipotle found it could more easily stay ahead of supply chain issues. This has helped the company meet customer experience assumptions and avoid snags.
2. Data is reducing friction from delays in service industries.
Many services that followed more traditional in-person models were forced to embrace digitization during Covid. Many found that their internal processes weren’t ready for the challenges or consumer expectations of online transactions, though. For instance, some small to mid-sized financial lenders realized that they didn’t have the workflows or tools to streamline application processing. As a result, they risked falling behind their bigger competitors.
Data-driven software solutions from entities like publicly traded MeridianLink have helped fill this gap. MeridianLink, valued at over $2 billion, designed a data-rich platform to gather and process loans rapidly. Their platform has enabled nearly 2,000 financial institutions to swiftly turn around consumer loan applications without causing friction.
3. Data is freeing employees to concentrate more fully on supply chain management.
Overcoming major supply chain hurdles can only happen when thought leaders have the bandwidth to brainstorm. Regrettably, far too many of them are bogged down by repetitive tasks. If those tasks can be automated, they can take up far less time. The result is teams who can concentrate on solving high-level concerns.
For instance, consider digital pioneering company IBML and its Cloud Capture software. The software captures, identifies, and classifies information from any source such as a complex invoice or a standard customer return form. Once appropriately logged, the information becomes available to authorized users. This type of consistent data capture facilitates a less clunky document processing.
It also frees executives, managers, and supervisors to divert attention toward pressing supply chain concerns. The supply chain conundrum won’t be fixed overnight or even in a few months. Yet fresh, data-driven solutions can help companies undergo fewer stressors as a result of supply and demand interruptions.
Many businesses have yet to digitize their supply chain processes, but rather rely on paper-based exchanges. This can lead to very limited visibility and coordination, and processes being heavily disrupted in times of crisis. This can lead to a failure to anticipate and meet demand and consequent loss of revenue.
Digitization requires investment and change management, but if properly leveraged it supports visibility, collaboration and communication. Access to real-time data compared with historical data can help businesses to identify cost drivers, support demand-supply balancing, manage warehouse cost by way of stock optimization, optimize processes, and in turn, identify opportunities to lower costs.
This can result in an ecosystem which makes digitization and data sharing pay by improving economic and financial performance.The collection and analysis of data creates valuable visibility and understanding within the supply chain but also greater confidence in the analysis and decision making process.
It enables businesses to introduce governance mechanisms and business models to measure the demand signal across the supply chain. Data can be used to oil the wheels of the supply chain but to achieve these benefits collaboration and the sharing of data is required amongst participants across the supply chain or at least between critical parts of the chain.
Collaboration and data sharing require trust. This can be challenging, particularly where the parties in the supply chain are competitors.
Big data holds big potential. According to IDC, businesses spent $215 billion on big data and business intelligence solutions in 2021 alone. That represents a 10% increase compared to 2020. Job growth in data analytics and business intelligence (BI) also remains strong. It’s clear that the future is doubling down on data. But all its power and glory mean very little until you can answer one question: What can data-driven intelligence do for you?
Having a theoretical understanding of how to foster an intelligent business is one thing. Putting your BI tools to work and generating results is quite another. Too many organizations fail to bridge the gap and successfully use business data to transform their operations. The effectiveness of BI data can suffer from:
Failure to involve the right people in the decision-making process
Limitations within the BI software itself
Poor adoption processes
So, let’s fix that. Here’s a closer look at BI, along with some steps you can take to ensure it’s broadly adopted and benefits all users.
BI Definition: What Is Business Intelligence?
Let’s start with some clarity. First, what is a good business intelligence definition? Business intelligence, or BI, refers to software that turns data into usable insights. To make sense of information, it uses:
Data collection tools
An organized data warehouse
When you wrap your data up in a neat and tidy package, you can make better business decisions based on real-world insights.
What Is Business Analytics?
So what is business analytics, then? There’s a little overlap here. Business analytics uses historical data to identify potential trends and patterns that help companies make predictions for the future.
An easy way to think about it is that business analytics is a small slice of BI. Both are important, especially for informed decision-making. Both can work together to drive better business outcomes.
Why Are BI Reporting and Business Data Important for Companies?
Imagine you are shopping for a new car. You go to the lot and see they have several of the same model in stock. On the surface, they all look the same except for the color. But after you buy one, you learn that it was actually a year older than the others on the lot and had thousands more miles than them. It had also been in a previous accident, but it still costs the same as the newer cars.
With a little more insight into what you were buying, you may have chosen differently. Since all the cars cost the same in this example, you could have gotten more value by getting a newer, less-driven model that was in better condition. BI and analytics work in a similar manner. They provide users with data they might have overlooked or might not realize is available. With those insights, users can improve business operations and data-driven decision-making.
To be clear, BI data doesn’t tell companies what to do or what will happen if they make certain decisions. Its value lies in presenting business leaders with simplified data insights related to a specific area of business. It helps to remove some of the guesswork of an endless list of what-if questions. It streamlines the process of searching for and combining various data sets to speed up the decision-making timeline.
How Do Companies Use BI Software?
Business intelligence software sounds helpful in theory. In reality, the possible applications are nearly endless. For instance, a retail store or logistics company might use BI for predictive purposes. AI is useful for identifying supply chain risks and may help companies plan for unexpected surges in demand or delays in transport.
Sales teams will often use a BI platform to visualize their pipelines and see where all of their deals are in real-time. Take Meltwater client AxiaOrigin, for example. This consultancy specializes in best-in-class data discovery and analysis, with a particular focus on unused data that its clients struggle to unlock value from.
Much of its work is bespoke to each client, so having a flexible solution that can address a wide range of requests is critical. AxiaOrigin can explore large sets of raw data without manually mining and extracting insights. And it’s all because of our AI-powered business intelligence and analytics tools.
Another common use case is to predict future trends, which is how Fund for Peace uses Meltwater. This non-profit works to prevent conflict. It relies on easy-to-use BI to track trends and get early warnings of potential conflict. This forward-thinking approach allows the organization to respond quickly to escalating situations. Using an easy-to-understand, end-to-end solution reduces the time it takes to research and track events, which has enriched the organization’s data even more.
Specifically, BI reporting can be useful in several ways:
Increase sales and profit
Uncover problems or issues
Predict future trends and successes
Understand your customers
When used to its potential, BI reporting can help to improve just about any aspect of your business.
What Kinds of Business Intelligence Tools Should You Use?
The right BI tools let you go from theoretical benefits to tangible value. To make this leap, you must first explore your options for choosing and implementing BI solutions.
Types of Intelligent Business Tools
A range of tools and solutions are part of the BI market. Examples include:
Among the most common are dashboarding and visualization tools. Dashboards can be customized to display certain types of data at a glance. These are most often used when business leaders need to access the same information on an ongoing basis. Visualization tools turn data into visual images or models for easier information processing.
All of the above can fall into one of two buckets. There’s the “classic” BI that focuses only on in-house transactional data. And then there’s “modern” BI that takes internal and external data from a variety of sources into account. Modern BI offers additional advantages to completing and enriching data sets, which allows for faster and easier analysis.
Today’s BI solutions are largely cloud-based software-as-a-service (though some are still on-premise). They span a range of features and functionality. They’re enterprise-grade in terms of power. But even non-technical users can benefit from the approach that many BI applications take. Having your own data analysts or team of data scientists is great, but it is no longer required for deploying BI.
Going Beyond a Business Intelligence System
It’s not just a matter of choosing software and tools to make BI solutions work. This is where a lot of companies go wrong. You cannot simply “solution-ize” your business. You must factor in other considerations that can make or break your BI implementation.
First, companies need to instill the right culture. Technology itself isn’t enough if the people using it can’t make heads or tails of it. Staff empowered to make decisions who know the right questions to ask are ideally suited for BI. They’re usually skilled in finding patterns in sales data or social media mentions, for example. They also view a BI solution as more than just a data tool. They see it as a valuable way to investigate how past actions triggered results and to better predict the results of future actions.
Also, companies need buy-in from the top down. BI software isn’t just a one-off activity. On the contrary, its value grows over time as it collects more data for deeper and more reliable insights. With this in mind, don’t expect BI solutions to perform miracles overnight, and don’t try to implement them quickly.
Doing so most often means that some aspects of the organization were not taken into account. Using an implementation consultant can shore up these little bumps in the road that could ultimately derail your BI program. They ask hard questions to achieve short-term goals and long-term value.
The data you feed your BI software will also contribute to your success. You need to consider structured and unstructured data sources to gauge customer sentiment and relate it to other data points. This is becoming critical as customers engage with businesses through a variety of channels. Also, data should come from verified, reliable sources to maintain its integrity and reap all the benefits of BI.
Lastly, organizations need to establish specific goals for their BI system. Goal creation ensures that companies are collecting and analyzing the right data. You’ll likely have a mix of metrics related to customer satisfaction, sales, and internal user adoption. Your BI system must be flexible and customizable to accommodate future goals and priority shifts.
“Decoding big data buzzwords”. cio.com. 2015. BI refers to the approaches, tools, mechanisms that organizations can use to keep a finger on the pulse of their businesses. Also referred by unsexy versions — “dashboarding”, “MIS” or “reporting”.
Dr Nate Zinsser, a top US army psychologist renowned for helping lieutenants and officers build their confidence, is giving me a talking-to. We’ve been discussing highly disciplined writers who sit at their desks at 9am each day, no matter the circumstances, and assertively punch out stories. “I definitely don’t do that,” I say, remarking that I envy their confidence to sit and deliver. An aggressive perfectionist streak combined with niggling impostor syndrome insecurities mean I need conditions to be just-so in order to have faith that I’ll produce anything decent. Zinsser blanches.
“The statement ‘I don’t do that’ is a decision you’re making about yourself,” he says, speaking over video call from his office at the US Military Academy in upstate New York; behind him there’s a whiteboard, ornamental Japanese swords and photos of athletes he’s counselled, including the Olympic-medal-winning US men’s bobsled team.
“A constructive shift in your thinking would be the idea that, ‘Whether or not I got the right amount of sleep the night before or had a good breakfast, once 9 o’clock strikes, I am at my desk, lights on, ready to go – and I’m producing good stuff,’” he says. “That’s a belief about yourself that you can de-li-be-rate-ly cultivate,” he adds, stretching out each syllable in “deliberately” so there can be no question that in this matter, as in all self-confidence-related issues, change lies with me.
Delivered with a gentle assuredness, rather than barked across the screen, it’s not the tone you might expect from a man who for 27 years has directed the academy’s performance psychology programme. Indeed, the only thing about him that screams “army” is his black jacket, which has the word emblazoned in capitals across its front.
With his snow-white beard and softly yawning New Jersey twang, the 67-year-old has a calm, almost paternalistic presence. His brand of optimism is far more reserved than the full-throttle enthusiasm often associated with self-help gurus. “We don’t live in a world of sunshine and lollipops,” as he puts it. “We live in a real world of deadlines, sweat, blisters and muscle fatigue, and we have to look at what is a constructive way to think in those situations.”
In addition to his army duties, in his private practice Zinsser has worked with a glittering roster of clients, including neurosurgeons, congressional candidates, ballerinas, writers and star athletes, such as two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Eli Manning. Whether their arena is the surgical table or the running track, they come to him for gamechanging advice on how to dispel those pesky naysaying voices in their head so that they can deliver knockout performances under pressure. And now he’s distilled his knowledge into a book, The Confident Mind: A Battle-Tested Guide to Unshakable Performance.
I’m hoping to glean some tips from the famed confidence-whisperer. While hardly a quivering mess, I do have a habit of second-guessing myself in parts of my professional – and social – life. And the thought of public speaking sends me into a cold sweat. The chance to smooth out the chinks in my self-belief armour and come away with a quarterback’s swagger is tempting to say the least.
But is it realistic? We tend to view confidence as a magical elixir that’s only available to Olympic sprinters, CEOs and other creatures blessed with rare talent, puffed-out chests and Colgate-white teeth (plus, the odd blustering buffoon). For most of us, being an adult means having a PhD in our multitude of shortcomings, foibles and crippling insecurities. And while I can improve my fitness with a Peloton, and my inner calm with meditation, surely I can’t just learn how to think highly of myself, can I? How to be unflappable under pressure? How to believe – with a surety that overrides any lingering doubts – that I can be good at anything?
In his poised, methodical way, Zinsser is here to tell me that, if I doggedly commit to altering the story I tell myself about myself, then yes: yes I can.
First, some housekeeping: Zinsser wants to straighten out some common misconceptions around confidence – starting with how we define it. Although we tend to think of it as a sense of belief in one’s own ability, he finds this unhelpful because it neglects a crucial fact: we are hardwired to perform skills unconsciously. When we’re in the zone – whether during a tennis match, maths exam or violin concerto – we’re not critically assessing each movement but operating in a free-flowing state.
“If you’re hung up with the mechanics, and trying to think about what you’re doing as you’re doing it, you access a whole lot of neural pathways that tie you up,” he says. He defines confidence, then, as having “the sense of certainty about your ability that allows you to do something without thinking about it: that allows you to execute more or less unconsciously.”
Being in this state makes success possible, not guaranteed. It won’t conceal a lack of ability, but it will enable you to go into a performance thinking: “I’ve got this money in my wallet and now I can spend it – let’s see if I’ve got enough,” he says. Without confidence, we’ll never know how good – how talented, how skilled – an individual really is.
Zinsser doesn’t particularly see confidence as a product of genetics. Nor is it necessarily linked to competence. Sure, we idolize superstar athletes whose talent and bravado seem to go hand-in-hand, but he comes across just as many gifted people lacking self-belief. “The unfortunate fact I have seen is that our actual competence is higher than our degree of confidence in it,” he says, speaking about the population generally. “It’s the conclusion you draw about yourself from experiences of success [that breeds confidence],” he says. “Unless you make those conclusions, the actual success that you have might not do you any good.”
He believes confidence is cultivated during childhood – “how you were encouraged as a young person to think about yourself” – and cites as an example King Richard, the recent biopic showing Richard Williams constantly telling his daughters Serena and Venus that they were destined to become the world’s best tennis players.
Can anyone become more confident or is it only attainable for certain individuals? He pauses for a few beats, chewing over his words. “I think it’s quite possible for anyone to develop a greater sense of certainty,” he says, eventually. “Some people might have to overcome more baggage from their past than others, but I’m quite a believer in that kind of human potential.”
In any event, there’s no such thing as “a confident person”; it’s more that you’re confident in a particular skill or situation (and even within a skill, you’ll feel better about some things than others). Case in point: Eli Manning. The former NFL superstar, who twice led the New York Giants to Super Bowl triumphs, “was very confident in his ability to throw certain balls and reach certain defences, but he did not like to stand up and talk in front of a crowd,” says Zinsser. “I’m convinced that’s the case for all of us: I don’t think there’s anybody who’s confident across the board.”
“Have you ever produced good work in suboptimal conditions?” asks Zinsser rhetorically. We’re back to helping me forge a bulletproof writing mindset. “I would think so,” he continues, “otherwise, you wouldn’t be in the job you’re in. So what you need to be reinforcing, a story that you need to tell yourself about yourself, is: ‘I work well, despite distractions. I work well, in almost any condition. My editor can count on me to deliver quality work, even when things are chaotic around me.’”
This rather simple reframing of how I view myself feels pretty significant. And I put it into immediate practice: in a meta situation, I’m writing this article from a cramped plane seat en route to Australia, a series of pre-flight texts from my editor demanding reassurance that I will be able to deliver words by the deadline still warming my phone. With each blood-curdling wail from a baby in a nearby bassinet, I repeat my new mantra about myself with an increasingly feverish vigour.
Yet there’s much more to be done. Zinsser likens confidence to a mental “bank account” that we must constantly top up with valuable deposits. That includes mining our memories for instances of when we have done things well. After each training session, or day at work, we should devote about five minutes to reflecting on things we have accomplished and committing them to our “internal hard drive”. No victory is too small for inclusion. (He also notes that it’s worth spending time looking ahead and envisioning, in realistic HD-film quality, the dreams you most desire.)
This can apply to whatever knee-knocking situation is keeping you up. Plagued with impostor-syndrome thoughts of not being qualified to do your job? “I’d tell you to give me the whole of your résumé,” says Zinsser. “We’re so good at overlooking the skills that we have cultivated, the effort that we have put in to develop ourselves to the point where we are indeed employable and competent. Look for some of the reasons that you are indeed the genuine person for the job.”
His book contains countless tactics for keeping that bank account fat by recasting how you think about your missteps. Some are sourced from Martin Seligman, the father of “positive psychology”. These acknowledge that you will have negative thoughts and will make mistakes, but you can effectively see them off by viewing them as “temporary (“It’s just this one time”), limited (“It’s just in this one place”) and non-representative (“that’s not the truth about me”).
There are physical techniques, too: keeping your shoulders slightly back and eyes straight ahead will improve your posture, while focusing on breathing during a performance can be a powerful way to bring a feeling of control and yank you into the present moment. (Note that none of these require you to obnoxiously strut about like The Wolf of Wall Street.)
The most extreme example of selective thinking, the “shooter’s mentality” pursued by Golden State Warriors basketballer Stephen Curry, involves treating missed shots as temporary and as an omen that you’re about to experience a return to fortune (“I’m bound to make the next one”), while viewing successes as permanent (“Now I’m on a roll”).
One nagging thought I had while reading these passages: building confidence often requires you to ignore logic. This took me back to the late 2000s when, as a tennis-obsessed teen who travelled around Australia competing in tournaments, my on-court confidence was fragile at best. If my warmup went badly, I was convinced the whole match would be a disaster.
And I couldn’t get my head into the game if I had assessed, pre-encounter, that my opponent was better than me – smoother technique, bigger shots, flashy overseas academy training. In those instances, I was defeated before the match started. As often happens when we enter a situation devoid of confidence, it became a self-fulling prophecy.
If someone had told me about the shooter’s mentality, which Zinsser calls a “thermonuclear psychological weapon”, I would’ve said: “Great, but how am I actually meant to believe these things?” To cast aside all reason and buy into a fantasyland where errors lead to success and success also leads to success?
If I’m being honest it sounds slightly delusional, I tell Zinsser now.
It is, he replies. But the way to wholeheartedly believe in it is to practice it, repeating these mantras, memories and mental tricks until the story they tell becomes “your dominant way of thinking about yourself in that context”, he says. “It’s got to become your dominant habit of thinking about yourself – just like you brush your teeth every morning and night – if you want it to materialize in a challenging atmosphere.
You can’t just turn it on. It has to be already in you.” He can’t say how long this could take: for some clients it’s happened after only a few sessions, while for others it has taken six months of conscientious observance before it became endemic to their thinking.
In case confidence wasn’t slippery enough, once you have gained it, the struggle continues. “We’re all imperfect beings and, no matter how many times you practise that second serve, occasionally you’re going to mess it up,” says Zinsser. Confidence is more delicate than a handblown vase. Acquiring some of it “doesn’t mean you’re going to have it for ever. It can easily be knocked down. You’re going to have to wake up again tomorrow and rebuild it.”
Talk of confidence has been around for as long as humans have been going into battle. Zinsser’s book opens with a quote from the legendary Chinese general Sun Tzu who, in his fifth-century BC treatise The Art of War, declared: “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”
Yet now, perhaps more than ever, individuals need to embrace self-assured thinking. Modern society is, at best, “very ambivalent” about confidence and is not about to puff us up, says Zinsser. Growing up, we’re taught that a soupçon of it is good; any more and we risk becoming smug or arrogant and therefore unlikable. Zinsser believes the biggest hurdle to striving for greater confidence is “the misguided impression that if I become certain about myself, I will somehow become lazy and complacent and I will lose my fire and motivation to improve,” he says. “Boy, is that a big misconception.”
As part of our education and socialisation, we’re taught to focus on fixing imperfections and mistakes, marking every facet of our lives with red pens. “There is a curious tendency in our modern world to over-identify with our shortcomings and even define ourselves by our mistakes, presumed limitations, and all the things we can’t yet do,” writes Zinsser. While he admits that there’s a time for being a harsh critic, “there’s also just as much value in being one’s best friend”.
Social media hasn’t helped the cause. “The 24/7, nonstop barrage of messages are always putting these somewhat false images in front of us: ‘Look at me, at this place, enjoying this wonderful day and this fabulous drink,” he says. “It tends to make us think, ‘Well, gee, I’m not in a beautiful location with a beautiful someone enjoying a beautiful drink. What’s wrong with me?’”
Are we less confident than previous generations? There’s another long, reflective pause from Zinsser. In the 1950s and 1960s, he says, “There was a whole generation or two of folks who really grew up believing, ‘Things can be better, I can have a great life, I can succeed. Today, with the generation that’s grown up online, I’m not sure there’s the same general level of optimism,” he says. “My sense is that maybe we’re not quite as confident and optimistic now.”
All the more reason to get to work on that movie about your life in which you’re the charming protagonist who completes everything – real feats from your past and wishlist goals alike – at a remarkable level. It takes dedication to stream this flick in your mind each night, sure, but it makes all that other hard work you’ve done – the backhand drills, the weekend reading, the university degrees, the blood and sweat – worthwhile by putting your head in the game come crunch time.
Zinsser calls it the cherry on top. “It’s the decision to say: ‘I’ve done the work. I know what I know. I’m going to deliver now. I am enough.’”
The Confident Mind: A Battle-Tested Guide to Unshakable Performance by Dr Nate Zinsser is published on 27 January by Cornerstone Press at £14.99. Buy it for £13.04 at guardianbookshop.com
Predicting future events is hard, but it’s among the most important tasks a journalist can perform. Especially if you work at a section called Future Perfect.
Our mission is to explain the world around us to our readers, and it’s impossible to do that without anticipating what comes next. Will inflation continue to rise in the US and Europe, or level off? Will the Supreme Court allow states to ban abortion, eliminating legal access in red states? Will Brazil’s 212 million people be led by a left-wing populist, or a far-right anti-vaxxer?
All of these questions matter, and preparing ourselves for potential outcomes — and having a good sense of how likely specific outcomes are — is a major part of explaining the world accurately. And if policymakers could rely on accurate predictions about the outcome of a foreign war or the advisability of a budget proposal, they could make much better policy decisions.
Being good at predictions is a skill like any other — you have to practice it. University of Pennsylvania psychologist Philip Tetlock studies forecasting, holding tournaments to identify the skills that make people better than their peers at predicting future events. He finds that the most critical skills for forecasting are thinking numerically, being open to changing your mind, updating your beliefs incrementally and frequently instead of in rare big moments, and — most encouragingly — practicing.
Practice makes perfect for prediction-making, but you need to do it all the time, note your successes, learn from your failures, and refine your understanding of where your forecasting abilities are strongest. So for the third year in a row, the staff of Future Perfect is providing predictions on the year to come. As with last time, we assign each event a probability between 10 percent and 95 percent (Tetlock found that the best forecasters thought in terms of probabilities rather than simple yes/no predictions).
To say that something has an 80 percent chance of happening doesn’t mean it’s definitely happening; it means that if we make five predictions at 80 percent confidence, we’re expecting to have four of them come true. (This kind of probabilistic thinking can trip people up, as Nate Silver has documented.)
You can also read our retrospectives on our 2021 predictions, our 2020 predictions, and our 2019 predictions. We don’t speak for Vox, or even for each other, and we hope that where you disagree, you’ll weigh in with predictions of your own. If you want to try your hand, the site Metaculus is a good place; the successor company to Tetlock’s Good Judgment Project also runs competitions.
The United States
Democrats will lose their majorities in the US House and Senate (95 percent)
Midterm elections are fairly predictable. With extremelyrareexceptions, the party in power loses seats. Public opinion is, as political scientist Christopher Wlezien has argued, thermostatic: The public elects one party, then finds that its policies are a little too far left or right for its tastes, and compensates by moving the other way in the midterms.
Wlezien, along with Joseph Bafumi and Robert Erikson, has also found that polling many months ahead of midterms can be quite predictive of the eventual results. As of this writing, Democrats are slightly behind in national House polling, which suggests they’ll lose the popular vote for the House this coming November. Data analyst David Shor told me that as of December 9, 2021, the generic ballot polling suggests Democrats losing the House popular vote, 48 percent to 52 percent. With the current razor-thin Democratic majority in both chambers of Congress, such a performance would translate to a near-certain Republican takeover. —Dylan Matthews
Inflation in the US will average under 3 percent (80 percent)
The definition of “inflation” I’m using here is annualized rate of growth in the personal consumption expenditure (PCE) price index, excluding food and energy. This measure, known as “core PCE,” is the one preferred by the Federal Reserve, and thus the one most relevant for public policy. I’m also specifically looking at the average of the first three quarters of 2022, as we plan on reviewing these predictions in December 2022, when the final quarter’s data won’t be available.
While higher-than-expected demand and worse-than-expected supply chains have led to elevated inflation in 2021, I suspect that problem will resolve itself in 2022. The Fed predicts core PCE inflation of 2.7 percent in 2022; the Congressional Budget Office predicts 2 percent. Professional private-sector forecasters predict it will decline from 2.5 percent in quarter one to 2.3 percent in quarter three. All of this suggests to me that inflation will fall below 3 percent, toward a much more comfortable range than experienced in 2021. —DM
Unemployment in the US will fall below 4 percent by November (80 percent)
The current US unemployment rate is only a hair above 4 percent, so one might think it’d be an easy call to predict it will dip below 4 next year. But I do have a couple of hesitations, with the big one that the omicron coronavirus variant is here and looks likely to be at least temporarily devastating. And it might not be the last game-changing variant.
The pandemic has done bizarre things to the US employment situation, and predicting where the next year will take us requires predicting the pandemic’s course from here. That means that while I’m broadly optimistic about job growth in 2021, it’s hard to be too sure of anything. But on the whole, it seems to me that we ought to see at least a moderate degree of economic recovery over next summer and fall, and that moderate degree should be enough for unemployment to fall below 4 percent at some point. —Kelsey Piper
The Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade (65 percent)
For nearly 50 years, anti-abortion activists have engaged in a highly organized campaign to appoint judges willing to overturn Roe v. Wade and allow states to enact outright bans on abortion. The savvy opinion has traditionally been that conservative jurists will seek to narrow, not overrule, Roe by gradually allowing more and more restrictions short of outright bans. I think this is mistaken.
While Chief Justice John Roberts may be pragmatic enough to take that option, my sense is that the other five Republican appointees genuinely believe Roe was wrongly decided and likely believe overturning it will be an admirable part of their legacy.
The Court is currently weighing Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case considering Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks. After oral arguments, court observers like my colleague Ian Millhiser were confident that all the conservatives but Roberts were ready to overturn Roe. The prediction market at FantasyScotus concludes the same. I defer to their expertise and think 2022 will see the emergence of a divide between red states where abortion is outright banned and blue ones where it is legally protected and funded. —DM
Stephen Breyer will retire from the Supreme Court (55 percent)
In September, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, the Court’s oldest and most senior member, published a book warning against “politicizing” the Court. To me, this is absurd: The Court is, has always been, and always will be a political institution. Indeed, his colleague Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s willful obliviousness to partisan political concerns will likely soon cause the overturn of Roe and the undermining of one of her biggest legacies.
Partially as a reaction to Ginsburg’s colossal mistake, I predict Breyer will buckle to public pressure to retire before the 2022 midterms. Without a Democratic Senate, President Biden can’t replace Breyer with a like-minded jurist. Breyer is not a fool — he knows this is the dynamic, and while it likely pains him to be seen as responding to political concerns, I suspect he will ultimately let Biden pick his successor. —DM
Emmanuel Macron will be reelected as president of France (65 percent)
Macron also benefits from a divided far right, with newcomer Éric Zemmour digging into Le Pen’s base. Macron’s best-case scenario is that Zemmour and Le Pen continue to attack each other viciously, leaving whoever prevails in a weak position to take him on in the second round of the election. If he loses, my guess is it’s because mainstream center-right candidate Valérie Pécresse snuck past Zemmour and Le Pen and made it to the runoff, where she stands a better shot than the far-right leaders. —DM
Jair Bolsonaro will be reelected as president of Brazil (55 percent)
If you consult the opinion polls, you’ll see that Bolsonaro — the radical right-wing anti-vaxxer and death squad fanboy currently running Brazil — is behind leftist former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva by a decent margin. And I think it’s certainly possible Lula prevails.
But I still give Bolsonaro the edge for three reasons: 1) in Brazil in particular and modern South America more generally, incumbents very often win reelection; 2) in both 2010 and 2018, the party consistently leading in polling for months in the run-up to election season wound up dropping ground rapidly and losing the election; and 3) Lula was knocked out of the 2018 race because of since-overturned corruption charges, and while there’s probably not enough time to convict him of new charges before the 2022 election, I think it’s possible that Bolsonaro and allies will succeed in pushing Lula out of the race. —DM
Bongbong Marcos will be elected as president of the Philippines (55 percent)
The runup to the 2022 Philippine presidential election has been chaotic, to say the least. Sara Duterte, daughter of term-limited incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte, was widely expected to run but opted instead to try for the vice presidency. Duterte then endorsed longtime aide Bong Go, but Go has since withdrawn. And Duterte seems displeased with Bongbong Marcos, the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, even though Marcos is Duterte’s daughter’s running mate. Among other things, Duterte has started spreading rumors that Marcos uses cocaine.
That said, the younger Duterte is a powerful ally for Marcos, as is the somewhat surprising phenomenon of autocratic nostalgia. Keiji Fujimori, the daughter of Peru’s former dictator, has come close to winning the presidency there several times, and the right-wing candidate in this year’s Chilean presidential election is the scion of a family closely allied to the late dictator Augusto Pinochet. A similar romanticization of an autocratic past could help put Marcos over the top.
Marcos seems to be ahead of Manila mayor Isko Moreno and boxer Manny Pacquiao in the (admittedly sparse) polling of the race, and I suspect his last name and canny alliance-building will win him the presidency. —DM
Rebels will NOT capture the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa (55 percent)
Two years after Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed won a Nobel Peace Prize, he finds himself losing a brutal civil war. From 1991 to 2018, Ethiopia was ruled by a coalition centered around the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. As its name suggests, the TPLF is based in the Tigray region in the country’s north, and during its rule repressed the Amhara and Oromo ethnic groups. Growing discontent led to the Oromo politician Abiy coming to power.
After a couple of calm years, during which Abiy made peace with neighboring Eritrea, conflict between Abiy and the TPLF turned violent, with the national government sending the military into Tigray and bombing the capital. The humanitarian consequences have been brutal, to say the least.
China will not reopen its borders in the first half of 2022 (80 percent)
China has been intent on preserving a zero-Covid policy, even as other governments have abandoned that strategy. When a single person tests positive there, it can trigger a lockdown for tens of thousands of people. The country mandates quarantines for even remote contacts of positive cases. And the authoritarian government has tied up its prestige with its ability to crush the virus.
There’s no indication that China’s approach will change in the coming months. In fact, when one of its top scientists suggested relaxing the zero-Covid policy in 2022, he was ridiculed. Economically, China can afford to keep its borders closed; exports and foreign investment are doing just fine. And politically, it may actually be in China’s interest to stay closed: With the Beijing Winter Olympics coming up in February, and followed by the session of its rubber-stamp parliament and, later, party congress, the government may not be keen to let in foreigners who might critique its policies, especially its human rights abuses.
So I predict that China will not reopen its borders in the first half of the year. Specifically, I mean that China will not allow in foreigners for nonessential purposes like tourism. —Sigal Samuel
Chinese GDP will continue to grow for the first three quarters of the year (95 percent)
Per World Bank data, the last year that Chinese GDP fell was 1976, when Mao Zedong died and the Gang of Four was deposed. The 2008 global financial crisis and the pandemic in 2020 (originating in China) couldn’t stop the country’s economy from growing. I’m therefore very confident that Chinese GDP in the first three quarters of 2022 (which are the quarters we’ll consider for this prediction) will grow. —DM
20 percent of US children between 6 months and 5 years old will have received at least one Covid vaccine by year’s end (65 percent)
Vaccine makers are busy testing the safety and efficacy of their shots in children under 5. Pfizer/BioNTech is furthest along, with Phase 2/3 trials currently running that may yield initial data within the next month. Of course, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will still need to issue an approval before shots can go into arms, but Pfizer/BioNTech is already saying it expects to deliver the doses by April 2022.
Dr. Anthony Fauci seems to think a spring vaccination rollout is doable. “Hopefully within a reasonably short period of time, likely the beginning of next year in 2022, in the first quarter of 2022, it will be available to them,” he said, referring to kids under 5.
That said, according to polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 30 percent of parents with kids under 5 say they will “definitely not” vaccinate the kids. As of this writing, only about 17 percent of kids aged 5-11 have gotten at least one dose. When it comes to even younger kids, the hesitation may be more pronounced as some parents choose to “wait and see” about side effects; polling suggests that parents become more hesitant about getting their kids the Covid vaccine the younger the children are.
So, although I think there’s a decent chance that 20 percent of kids between 6 months and 5 years old will have gotten at least one shot if we give the “wait and see” crowd until the end of 2022, I’m not going to bet on a higher percentage. —SS
The WHO will designate another variant of concern by year’s end (75 percent)
I really hope I’m wrong on this one. But I fear a new variant of concern will appear on the WHO’s list, for a simple reason: Between rich countries hoarding doses and some populations showing hesitancy to get immunized, we’re not vaccinating the globe fast enough to starve the virus of opportunities to mutate into something new and serious. In low-income countries, only 7.3 percent of people have received at least one dose.
Within the past year, five variants of concern have made it onto the WHO’s list. I don’t have high hopes that we’ll go all of 2022 without adding at least one more to that sad litany. —SS
12 billion shots will be given out against Covid-19 globally by November 2022 … (80 percent)
The global vaccine rollout has not been as good as was hoped for, or as good as it needs to be to prevent the emergence of new variants. But compared to what the world was capable of even a few decades ago, it has been pretty impressive. It is about one year since the first countries issued approval for vaccines developed against Covid-19, and already more than 8.5 billion doses have been administered. If that rate continued into next year, the world would easily hit 12 billion shots given out, or enough for every person over 20 to get two shots.
Countries probably won’t maintain that rate or even close to it, because people easy to reach for vaccination have largely already been reached, and the remaining vaccination efforts are going to have to involve delivery in poor and rural areas and overcoming vaccine hesitancy. But I still expect the world to hit this milestone, probably sometime in the summer.
Of course, those 12 billion shots will still be nowhere near evenly distributed; many rich countries are now encouraging boosters and vaccinating children, and there are still some parts of the world where vaccination rates are very low. —KP
… but at least one country will have less than 10 percent of people vaccinated with two shots by November 2022 — (70 percent)
For vaccination to help protect the world against the emergence of future variants, there can’t be huge gaps in vaccination coverage. Unfortunately, that’s probably exactly what we’re going to get. In many areas, a lot of people are reluctant to get vaccinated; in others, access to vaccines has been severely limited, and changing that will require funding and dedicated effort that rich countries have been unwilling to extend.
In many parts of the world, health care clinics are viewed as an expensive option for emergencies, not as resources for preventive care; they’re also thought of as primarily serving pregnant people and young children. That makes it hard to get older people at highest risk from Covid-19 vaccinated. Underresourced vaccination campaigns won’t succeed, and sufficient resources means not just access to enough physical vaccines but also the capacity to get them to people. I’d love to see this happen in 2022, but unfortunately I don’t expect to see it everywhere it’s needed. —KP
Science and technology
A psychedelic drug will be decriminalized or legalized in at least one new US state (75 percent)
As momentum continues to build, I think there’s a solid chance we’ll see a psychedelic drug decriminalized or legalized in at least one more US state. I’ll be keeping my eyes on California, which will put decriminalization of a wide class of psychedelics to a vote in a 2022 ballot measure. —SS
AI will discover a new drug — or an old drug fit for new purposes — that’s promising enough for clinical trials (85 percent)
Based on the track record of the past two years, I predict that another such discovery will happen in 2022, yielding a drug that’s promising enough to merit a clinical trial. This could be either a totally new compound or an existing drug that AI has found can be repurposed for a new use. One big new player to watch in this arena is Isomorphic Labs, just launched by Alphabet to discover new drugs using DeepMind’s AI. (Demis Hassabis, the CEO of DeepMind, will also serve as Isomorphic’s CEO.) —SS
US government will not renew the ban on funding gain-of-function research (60 percent)
In 2014, after a series of disastrous lab accidents made it clear that lab procedures weren’t adequate to prevent the release of deadly pathogens, the US government temporarily paused funding for “gain of function” research in diseases that could affect humans and make viruses more deadly or transmissible.
To my mind, this was an incredibly sensible call by the Obama administration. Biology research is valuable, and we should as a society invest more in it, but lab research that involves engineering what could effectively function as deadly weapons isn’t acceptable and shouldn’t be funded. Researchers engaged in gain-of-function work pushed back on the ban, and in 2017 it was reversed — the US is now funding such experiments again.
This is outrageous, and if anything could prompt the government to revisit it, you’d think it’d be the millions of deaths from a new pandemic over the past two years. But I haven’t yet seen any moves by the US government to put this policy back in place. I sincerely hope that changes in 2022. —KP
The Biden administration will set the social cost of carbon at $100 per ton or more (70 percent)
The social cost of carbon (SCC) is a measure, in dollars, of how much economic damage results from emitting 1 ton of carbon dioxide. SCC is an important measure because it guides policymaking — and there’s good reason to think we’ve been radically underestimating it. Although the Obama administration had set the SCC at $51 per ton, the Trump administration put it as low as $1. In early 2021, the Biden administration restored it to $51 as an interim move, promising to study the matter in depth and release its final determination in early 2022.
Recent findings indicate that the official social cost of carbon should be substantially increased. One study found that when factoring in projected heat-related deaths — the “mortality cost of carbon” — the SCC jumps to a whopping $258 per ton. The Biden administration probably won’t go that far, but it really should go at least as high as $100, economists say.
Two top experts on SCC — Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University and Lord Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics — have said around $100 would be appropriate. Other experts, not to mention New York state, have decided $125 is a better estimate. Taking all this into consideration, I think it’s reasonable to predict that Biden will go with at least $100. —SS
2022 will be warmer than 2021 (80 percent)
One of the more obvious — yet sometimes overlooked — consequences of climate change is that almost every year is warmer than the last, meaning experiencing the warmest year in recorded history is now routine. This means that a recurring prediction here at Future Perfect is this gloomy one: that it is 80 percent likely that each year will be warmer than the last. This is based on looking at the last 25 years of atmospheric temperature data: On average, in four out of five years, this prediction would be right. —KP
Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast will win Best Picture (55 percent)
This is not a very brave prediction; bet365, BetMGM, and Betfair all give Belfast, Kenneth Branagh’s autobiographical film about his childhood in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, the edge to win Best Picture. All of those betting sites give it odds of roughly 25 percent, so I’m going out on a bit of a limb by giving it higher odds than the field, but I think that’s justified.
The Oscars like giving late-career awards to directors they forgot to honor earlier, even if the awarded films are inferior to their best. (Think Martin Scorsese for The Departed rather than Taxi Driver or Goodfellas, or Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water and not Pan’s Labyrinth). Branagh, whose reputation rests on his Shakespeare adaptations in the 1980s and ’90s, fits the bill. Repeat wins for directors are rare, which is bad news for del Toro’s Nightmare Alley and Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story.
The best competition I can see are Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza, but both of those directors are, to be frank, too good to win Oscars. Branagh is in the midcult sweet spot. —DM
Norway will win the most medals at the 2022 Winter Olympics (60 percent)
Similar to my Oscar prediction, here I’m relying on the odds of experts. Gracenote, a division of Nielsen, predicts the Olympics by looking at recent results in non-Olympic competitions in various events. It gives Norway a strong edge in Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, with 45 medals to the Russian Olympic Committee’s 33. Norway also came in first in Pyeongchang in 2018, and while the Russians are formidable opposition (they came first on their home turf in Sochi in 2014), the fact that they’re still not allowed to compete as the nation of Russia, due to doping scandals, holds them back. They underperformed in 2018, and I see them coming up short again this time.