Friday Wrap #197: Anonymous worker discussions, NASA GIFs, print’s viability, executive news habits

Shel Holtz's picture

Friday Wrap #197

I extract items for the Wrap from my link blog, which you’re welcome to follow. To make sure you never miss an issue, subscribe to my weekly email briefing.


Write online reviews with no fear of lawsuits—U.S. President Barack Obama has signed the Consumer Review Fairness Act, which protects consumers who write negative reviews on Yelp, TripAdvisor, and other review sites. The bill also bans non-disparagement clauses in contracts that require consumers to agree not to write bad reviews before they can avail themselves of the business’s services. The takeaway: Businesses getting bad reviews will now actually have to make improvements to earn good reviews. As the TNW article points out, this is also good news for review sites whose credibility requires the authenticity of consumers speaking their minds. Read more

Facebook has altered the layout of brand Pages—These design changes are rolling out in phases to users, so you may not have encountered them yet. The order of your page’s timeline is the biggest difference: “Previously, the Shop or Services section would be followed by your pinned or latest posts. Now you see boxes for Videos and Photos next,” according to Social Media Examiner. These are followed by your most popular posts. the takeaway: If you have a Facebook page, you’ll want to spend some time with this post, which covers steps to take to manage the changes. No complaining allowed, though; it’s Facebook’s site and coping with changes is just part of using she “S” in the PESO model (paid, earned, shared/social, and owned). Read more

Anonymous chat app attracts disgruntled Amazon employees—As though it wasn’t already hard enough to keep your finger on the pulse of employee reactions to events, a new anonymous-chat app called Blind is designed specifically for employees to talk freely about their companies. (Business Insider calls it a cross between Glassdoor and Secret.) Blind is available only to people with active company email accounts. More than 200 Amazon employees shared their thoughts about a suicide attempt by a worker at the company’s headquarters and the company’s muted response. The takeaway: Communicators can sign onto Blind as easily as any other employee; after all, they have active company email accounts, too. The idea would be to gather information in order to improve communication, not try to identify malcontents. No doubt some companies will try to do exactly that. Read more

Facebook tackles fake news with labels—Facebook will clearly label fake news and cut off the dubious sites that publish fake stories. The social network is also recruiting third-party fact-checking sites (which will be responsible for adding the warning labels to stories deemed fake) that will appear in the News Feed and pop up if you try to share it. Among the third-party fact-checkers: Snopes,, and Politifact. The takeaway: About time. Read more

Skype enables real-time translation—Star Trek fans, rejoice. Skype’s latest feature comes pretty close to the Federation’s Universal Translator. To use it for now, you have to register for the free Windows Insider Program and install the latest version of Skype Preview. To make it work, activate the Translator and select the language. The takeaway: To say that machine translation is undergoing a major upgrade is a massive understatement. What it can mean for business is game-changing. It shouldn’t be too long before this is available on all versions of Skype. Read more

Google stands firm on Holocaust-denying search result—Google’s algorithm is designed to deliver the best results for a search query. But if you ask, “Did the Holocaust happen?” the top result links to a hate site that lists 10 reasons it didn’t. Google has responded with sadness that hate organizations exist, but “does not remove content from its search results, except in very limited cases such as illegal content, malware and violations of our webmaster guidelines.” The fact that these results appear—even in the #1 spot—“does not mean that Google endorses these views.” The takeaway: It’s a dicey situation. On the one hand, Google should be agnostic, not biasing results. On the other hand, as society becomes more tolerant of false information, it does not seem out of line to expect Google to take steps to stop its spread. Read more

NASA launches Giphy and Pinterest pages—I still experience eye-rolling when I suggest brands can capture some attention with GIFs. It turns out they’re not too frivolous for rocket scientists. NASA has added Giphy and Pinterest to the list of social media networks where it shares its images. Pinterest will be NASA’s destination for “new and historic images and videos,” while the agency offers a veritable buffet of short video clips on Giphy, from the nonsensical to the serious. The takeaway: I can’t tell you how weary I am of being told that “We’re a business and we’re too serious for GIFs.” Nonsense. Some messaging apps include keyboards that make it easy to add Giphy clips, which means one-on-one messages could include material from your brand if only you make it (a) available and (b) worth sharing. Read more


Brands are shifting their focus on Twitter—It’s premature to predict Twitter’s demise despite non-existent growth and limited success with its advertising model. brands aren’t abandoning Twitter, but they are shifting from using it to pitch product to a platform for customer service. The takeaway: Twitter is a great customer service platform, but it won’t survive without revenue, which comes from ads. If customers continue to flock to Twitter for support, the company might be able to offer more sophisticated fee-based services to make the experience even better. But the advertisers are definitely focusing on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Read more

What kind of content gets shared on “dark social?”—Dark social is the label given to channels people use to share content that can’t be tracked or monitored, including email, Facebook Messenger and other messaging apps, Twitter DM, and SMS. The most common ways dark social is used includes things you want to go to (e.g., sending a friend the link to a concert that has gone on sale to see if she wants to go), things you’re embarrassed to share publicly, topics about which you’re seeking an opinion (such as shoes), news items you want to share, and new ideas for your organization. The takeaway: There are ways to see the links people are sharing via dark social even if you can’t look directly at private messages. Dark social represents the vast majority of online sharing, so knowing what links matter to people could be useful. Note, this article is from Simply Measured, which provides a Social Attribution service. Read more

Yik Yak’s decline reveals why Facebook succeeds—Yik Yak was hot a while ago, especially on college campuses. It was location-specific and anonymous, leading it to become one of the 10 most downloaded apps of 2014. Investors valued it at $400 million. Now the company is laying off 60% of its staff as user growth stagnates. Anonymity led to user abuse, which the company had to address. The challenge for wannabe social networks is delivering ROI for marketers, which Facebook has been able to do, and is pretty much alone in that regard. The takeaway: You may well be one of the many people I talk to who absolutely hate Facebook. Ignoring it, however, is just not rational. It’s not just an 800-pound gorilla. For marketers, it’s the only gorilla in a roomful of gerbils. Not that taking advantage of gerbils is always a bad idea, mind you. Read more

What if everything we’ve been led to believe about the future of journalism is wrong?—That’s the question posed by a Washington Post writer and enthusiastic supporter of all things digital who believes we may have been too quick to abandon print. The supposedly dying print edition of newspapers still outperforms the digital product by nearly all standards, including readership, engagement, and advertising revenue, along with a willingness to pay for it, according to one researcher cited in the article. Other research suggests interest in print persists; in fact, it’s the most common way of reading news. even in the 18-to-24-year-old demographic, nearly 20% have read the print edition of a newspaper in the last week while only 8% read it digitally. The takeaway: I’m a lot like the author of the piece. I love all things digital. I was an early advocate for doing things online (even when my peers thought I was crazy). But I never supported simply shoveling everything that had been print into a digital format. Turns out I was right. Digital books, once expected to reach 50% of book sales, topped out at 20%, and even teens prefer reading actual books. And there’s nothing strategic in assuming everything should be digital. Let’s go back to strategizing the best platform for content and if it turns out to be print, let’s use it. Read more

How marketing might use blockchain—Blockchain is a technology that will disrupt business, yet most communicators haven’t familiarized themselves with it. While its most obvious uses are in financial services, there are potential applications in marketing, including ad-delivery verification, the creation of digitized corporate social responsibility contracts, general marketing purposes (one company used blockchain to let customers verify a product selection), and management of consumer data. The takeaway: And there’s more to come. Blockchain is new enough that most of its uses in the communication field haven’t even been dreamed up yet. Read more

Big brands are unknowingly funding fake news sites—Programmatic buying is resulting in advertisements from major brands like Bose and Choice Hotels appearing on sites that promote fake news, lending the sites an air of legitimacy and enabling the sites to remain in business and even grow. Advertisers often don’t even get the names of publishers where ads appear. Demand for an end to placing ads on fake news sites is growing, and Google is in the process of implementing a new policy that includes human review. The takeaway: The online ad business is complex. The steps some companies are taking to deal with the issue are welcome, but fake news isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Because of the viral nature of much of the fake news these sites host, purveyors will find other ways to game the system both to remain profitable and to continue with their ability to influence people. Read more

What do influencers want from brands?—That’s easy, according to one survey: They want a say. More specifically, 63% of influencers say “the top reason for not wanting to work with a brand was because the brand was too controlling of the content.” While influencers like working with a company because they have an affinity for the brand, 83% say they would work with a brand again only if the partnership was collaborative. The takeaway: The reason consumers follow influencers is because they are perceived as authentic. Being too controlling is the fastest way for a brand to lose that perception of authenticity. Influencer programs need to strike a balance between ensuring the proper portrayal of the brand or product and the influencer’s ability to present content in a way that is honest and consistent with what brought followers on board in the first place. Read more


How do executives consume news?—That’s the question posed by the Quartz Global executives Study, which surveyed 1,357 execs to gain insight into their media habits. It turns out they’re most focused on news first thing in the morning; only 20% read news throughout the day and 6% in the middle or at the end of the day. Eighty-nine percent use social media, with LinkedIn the most common platform, followed by Facebook and twitter. Only 14% use Snapchat. The study also breaks out platform usage for finance execs and those in technology, media, and consulting.) Twitter is the primary social network for news. The use a variety of platforms to get news; for example, they’re twice as likely to get news from email newsletters than from video. (More than half listen to podcasts.) They are most likely to share long-form articles than any other kind of content. Among the many other data points in this highly visual report: execs are most responsive to charts and other data visualizations. The takeaway: Read this report. Seriously, read it. Have you read it yet? Now apply it to your interactions with executives, whether they’re in your own company or prospects for business. Read more

Mobile and Wearables

Are we at the beginning of the second stage of mobile dominance?—Andreessen Horowitz partner Benedict Evans says the questions of what smartphones look like and who will control them have been answered. The next stage will deal with what we can build with the platforms we have. A lot of technologies—from apps to Augmented Reality—are commonplace in mobile devices. New capabilities are coming, including motion sensors and general purpose machine learning. As these digital Swiss Army Knives in our pockets allow us to do more and more, old-guard institutions face the same fate that has befallen newspapers, Evans says. The takeaway: How do you avoid becoming a victim of inevitable disruptions catalyzed by technology? Rethink what your core purpose is and how these you can employ technologies to achieve them. Think about retailers, for example. Are they in business to stock items on store shelves for customers to come buy, or do they exist to meet customers’ needs for the kinds of products they sell? Read more

Surgery livestreamed using Snapchat Spectacles—Remember when a surgical team live-tweeted a surgery? A London doctor has one-upped that experience by live-streaming surgery from his perspective using the new Snapchat Spectacles. He also narrated the procedure so medical students could watch; 150 to 200 followed the surgery on the doctor’s Snapchat Story, where it was archived for 24 hours. The same doctor earlier used a 360-degree camera to record colon surgery, making it the first VR film. The takeaway: Dismissing Spectacles and other technology is a mistake, since useful and even important applications are just waiting to be thought up. First-person tutorials are realistic for all kinds of activities. All you need is an audience that can learn from the expert performing the procedure, whether it’s surgery or auto repairs. Read more

Snapchat adds group chat and three other new features—Responding to user demand, Snapchat has launched Groups, which allows up to 16 people to participate in a chat. Other new features include Shazam compatibility (so you can identify a song that’s playing), “scissors,” which allows users to cut out part of a message and transform it into a custom sticker they can store in their account (iPhone only for now), and “paintbrush,” that lets you dress up snaps with color and other artistic effects. The takeaway: Snapchat’s fast adoption of features users want will aid its continued growth and its desirability as a platform for marketers. Group chat should be embraced by marketers in short order. Read more

Instagram rolls out live streaming video—It will soon be the rare messaging app that doesn’t enable live streaming video. Instagram is in the midst of a U.S.-wide rollout of Live video in Stories. To try it out, swipe into the Stories camera mode, then tap the Live button. The videos vanish once you finish. You can find video currently being shot by going to the Explore tab, then tapping “Top Live.” The takeaway: Messaging apps and social networks are tripping over themselves to launch or improve live streaming video features. Facebook is even focusing a rare TV ad campaign on Facebook Live. Whether this will wind up being something people actually want remains to be seen. I have read commentary by a number of highly regarded digital media and marketing thought leaders who don’t think streaming video will become a must-use feature. Read more

Bloomberg plans more apps—Having redesigned its flagship mobile app, Bloomberg Media is planning to introduce several new apps to deliver personalized content. According to the company’s global head of digital, “Apps are the new magazines and newspapers.” The takeaway: There may be some short-term lift from this strategy, but apps will fade. Already we know people never revisit most apps they install, only use four or five with any degree of regularity, and install no new apps in an average month. I continue to tweak my flash news briefing from the Amazon Echo so the news is read to me as I’m making coffee, with content from a variety of sources that matter to me. I still use some news apps to kill time, but they’re not a primary source of news. Read more

Twitter app now features live streaming—You no longer need to open Periscope in order to live stream from the twitter mobile app. “Live” is an option alongside the photo and video options from your camera roll. Streams initiated in Twitter will be available from the Periscope app, too. Twitter hopes the ready availability of live streaming will inspire more people to use it. The takeaway: A lot of people will no doubt embrace Twitter live streaming just as they have Facebook Live. Sadly, this doesn’t mean there will be a lot of high-quality, interesting, informative, useful live streams to watch. At some point, someone will come up with a way to help us find what’s genuinely interesting to us. Read more

Facebook will let you live-stream in 360-degree video—Publishers can now stream VR-like 360-degree videos from phones to their News Feeds. Users won’t be able to view the videos in a VR headset—just by dragging the image within the News Feed. Dubbed Live 360, the feature was launched with a National Geographic video. The takeaway: 360-degree videos will become commonplace sooner rather than later. If you haven’t tried your hand at producing one yet, there are plenty of free tools available. It’s one more digital category to consider in your comms planning process. Read more

Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality

BBC tackles refugee crisis with first VR production—“We Wait” is the BBC’s first VR experience. Produced for the Oculus platform, “the film depicts the harrowing and often perilous journey undertaken by Syrian refugees as they cross the Mediterranean to get to Europe in search of a better life.” The decision to tell this story via VR was designed to “deepen audiences’ understanding of a topic in a way they wouldn’t otherwise be able to experience.” The takeaway: One of the best possible uses of the immersive video component of VR is the ability to go beyond the detached viewing of a video and put a viewer inside the action. Being among refugees could make people more empathetic than simply watching them on a screen. How can your business take advantage of this unique capability? Read more

Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots

Bot offers advice to Mall of America shoppers—The Watson-powered Experiential List Formulator (E.L.F.) is getting its first test at the 5.6-million-square-foot Mall of America. The bot could “ask guests how much time they have to spend at Mall of America or what types of things they like to do, in order to deliver customized shopping suggestions,” according to an IBM spokesperson. Another Watson-powered bot accessible over SMS text messaging lets shoppers at a California mall text questions in order to get plain-English answers about mall stores that carry the items on their lists. The takeaway: Consumers are most likely to have their first experiences with Artificial Intelligence and chatbots for shopping purposes. That should ease the introduction of bots that perform other functions. Keep in mind, there are already more than 12,000 bots available on the Facebook Messenger platform alone. Read more

Consumer acceptance of customer support chatbots is growing—They haven’t been around that long yet, but already 44% of survey respondents say they would prefer to use a chatbot or automated assistant for customer service. Half said they would rather text or message companies for all kinds of interactions with a brand, with nearly 40% asserting that digital methods of engaging a brand are more effective than talking. Almost 90% of consumers expect the information gleaned from a chatbot conversation to inform subsequent human interaction. The takeaway: One of the biggest objections I hear when talking about chatbots is, “I want to talk to a real human being.” Increasingly, that will put people with that preference in the minority. Read more

Google opens Assistant actions to developers—Consider it catch-up with the Amazon Echo, which has allowed brands to create Skills for some time. Google Assistant—available so far only on the Google Home speaker and Pixel smartphones—is now open to developers to create brand-focused Actions. Only Conversation Actions are available to developers so far, which involve a give-and-take interaction. Unlike the Echo, users don’t need to enable a skill or install an app. They can just ask to talk to a company’s Action. The takeaway: I can imagine readers of this update asking the Google Assistant to read the HC+T Briefing, but only items that cover chatbots, or just items that mention Amazon. That kind of voice interaction is coming, and it’ll be the dominant way we will interact with digital information. Read more

Chatbots will have an impact on the 2017 holiday shopping season —Chatbots represent a new behavior for consumers and, so far, only a few retailers have chatbots available on Facebook Messenger or other platforms. “When holiday shopping traffic starts jamming up and folks are rushed to find good deals and buy online last minute, they will likely leverage the means they are most familiar with,” says a mobility expert working for a marketing company. For 2016, bots will start to have an impact with customer service issues and logistics. By next year, though, people will be more comfortable with bots and use them for gift ideas and ordering. The takeaway: Because bots work by simply engaging in natural conversation, the uptake will be fast once consumers get acquainted with them. I expect they’ll be a big deal this time next year. Read more

Chatbots will be better listeners—As user expectations grow, chatbots will need to evolve. The business implications for chatbots are massive. “Intelligent collaborative dialogue systems will will enable us to access information resources offered by…businesses (such as healthcare information), form and execute complex plans involving multiple service providers (like planning a trip or instructing a robot), and interact with the Internet of Things.” The takeaway: If you’re interested in how these systems are powered, this article will serve as a good primer. Read more

The Old Crown pub is “suitably wrapped up for Christmas,” says photographer Scott Macpherson in his Flickr account, making it an ideal Friday Wrap image.



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