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CES 2017: social media hits and misses

Robots. Cars which park themselves. Hairbrushes which optimise your hair care. Last week’s Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas had them all. Analysing the social media conversation provides interesting clues to which of the showcased products and technologies will make the jump to consumer’s hands, and which will be left languishing on drafting boards and warehouses.

Looking at the numbers on Twitter the term CES or 'CES2017' had 10.2 billion potential estimated impressions. A modest increase from 9.8 billion impressions in 2016. The 2017 chatter comprising 820,000 unique users was overwhelmingly male dominated, with 600,000+ of them male. This ratio was consistent across all products, with even the female-focussed “Smart Brush” by L’Oreal still seeing a male/female ratio of 68/32 male/female.

Those of you who are worried about a robotic uprising may have even more nightmares that it is only a matter a time before we are ruled by these overlords. This sector tripled in the amount of noise it was making on Twitter. Last year there were 6,200 tweets which referenced the term “robot”, whilst this year it rose to 16,000, with impressions rising from 32 million to 160 million. Self-driving cars also enjoyed similarly explosive growth. Last year the whole car sector at CES generated 18k mentions with a reach of 124 million. This year tweets just referencing self-driving cars got 25,000 mentions and had a potential reach of 213 million. Faraday Futures were the runaway winners this year. They managed to gain 40% more noise than their next biggest rival – Toyota.

For those looking to escape the winter blues, virtual reality (VR) was a big hit this year, with nearly 50,000 people having some reference to VR. This was a popular sector but much of the conversation focused on how the technology was moving on and wasn’t necessarily linked with specific companies. Small companies, especially those not focused on the consumer, failed to gain significant traction on social media. For instance, Usens, a startup which aims to sell  directly to developers and not consumers only managed to generate a disappointing 21 tweets.

Drones, however, saw a notable decline, and only managed 74m impressions in 2017, down from 229 million (a drop of 68%). The amount of users who referenced drones dropped from 16,000 to just over 3,000. It seems this year’s offerings simply didn’t excite the public as much as last year’s, or that the tech has lost the novelty value.

It is interesting that TV manufacturers have managed to remain relevant even against the backdrop of staggering advancements in AI and robotics. Potentially because TV’s are far more accessible to the average consumer and specialist knowledge on the subject is not required, which sees both mass consumer outlets and consumers alike discussing them – a pattern not seen in all product categories. The (relatively) poor performance of many of the niche VR companies show that if you are too technical people find it hard to engage, even if that sector is ‘hot’.


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