Friday Wrap #200: Wendy’s rules Twitter, coping with fake news, a deceptive Instagram account & more

 
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Friday Wrap #200

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.

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News

Medium’s new trajectory—Twitter-co-founder Ev Williams announced a pivot for Medium, the publishing platform he founded. Included in the shift is the elimination of one-third of the company’s employees and the end of native advertising as a source of income (which apparently came as a surprise to some of the companies that bought native ad space on Medium). In a rambling, somewhat coherent post, Williams touted growth in the number of posts published to the platform, including several by major influencers writing important stuff. Advertising, though, isn’t working for Medium, so the company is trying something new, something that rewards writers who attract attention. What the new model will be has yet to be defined. The takeaway: Despite its woes, I’m a Medium fan. I hope this works. There are other platforms trying to reward content creators, like the blockchain-based Steemit social network. The idea sounds great. Making it work might be harder than anyone thinks. Read more

Did Snap mislead investors?—That’s the accusation from a former employee who has filed a lawsuit against the company. The ex-employee claims he was fired because he wouldn’t participate in misrepresenting the company’s growth. He asserts those same misrepresentations were used to lure him away from his previous job at Facebook. He claims to have urged executives to fix the problem. Snap denies the allegations. The takeaway: You have to believe the former employee has evidence to support his allegations. What investors will want to know is just how much the company’s growth was exaggerated. Don’t expect Snapchat users to abandon the app over this, though. Read more

In France workers can shrug off after-hour emails—A new employment law in France requires companies with staffs of more than 50 “to negotiate the terms of sending work emails after hours and define the rights of employees to ignore such communication.” The goal is to address the “always-on” work culture and give workers the “right to disconnect.” The takeaway: When business fails to self-regulate, government will step in and do it for them…and business almost always fails to self-regulate. Non-French companies should address the expectation that employees are at work even when they’re not before they’re forced to comply with regulations that could be more onerous than they need to be. Read more

Google wants to become intermediary between YouTube creators and brands—That’s a role agencies have been playing as brands have turned to YouTube creators to deliver eyeball-grabbing content. Through an initiative called YouTube Labs, Google has begun connecting brands with creators. Unlike agencies, Google isn’t taking any fees for linking companies like L’Oreal to creative talent; they make their money from the ads that run on the videos. The takeaway: More competition for traditional third parties, which need to figure out new ways to deliver value to clients who no longer need them for some traditional activities. Read more

App alerts you when Trump tweets about companies—When President-Elect Donald Trump tweeted his ire at Toyota’s plans to build cars in a new plant in Mexico, the market responded with a sudden drop in the company’s share price. For investors, knowing Trump tweeted or said something that could have an impact on share price—short-term or long—will be important, just as companies need to be alerted as soon as he invokes their name. Now there’s an app for that. The iPhone app Trigger—which lets you set up “triggers” to guide your investment decisions—has added a “Trump trigger” that lets you trade based on what Trump has tweeted about publicly traded companies. The takeaway: It may be for investors, but getting the news that Trump said something about your company or client as soon as possible could prove invaluable. Now if only they’d produce an Android version. Read more

Wendy’s grabs attention on Twitter—The approach Wendy’s has taken to Twitter over the last few days definitely isn’t for every company, but there is a lesson to be learned. Amy Brown, who manages Wendy’s social media accounts, and her team of two staffers have been issuing smackdowns of critics that are utterly hilarious. Since this began just a few days ago, the team has also been engaging directly with others joining in the fun, including those making requests and asking questions. The takeaway: You don’t have to be sassy to take something away from the cred Wendy’s is earning. You just need to be authentic and non-corporate. Incidentally, I remember leading a consultation with a Wendy’s team about social media several years ago. Whether Amy was in the group I don’t know, but I do remember a lot of confusion about how a fast food joint could use social media. They’ve come a long way. Read more

Could Google buy SoundCloud?—That’s the rumor, and the price could be half the $1 billion SoundCloud wanted from Spotify or Twitter. The Takeaway: google already streams music through Google Play, but adding SoundCloud to the mix could signal a consolidation in the streaming business; rumors also point to Sirius XM buying Pandora. Of more interest to me is what Google will do with it. I hope they make it easier for anyone to record and stream audio, whether it’s for podcasting or music production. Read more

Trends

Draft PR framework for tackling fake news—Stephen Waddington, chief engagement officer for Ketchum and former president of the UK’s Chartered Institute for Public Relations—is proposing a framework for PR practitioners to deal with fake news. Wadds’ work-in-progress includes updating your crisis communications plan and monitoring activities, improving your ability to tell your story quickly, living your values, using paid media to amplify your response, employing employees as advocates, and more. Waddington is looking for feedback. The takeaway: While I agree with Waddington that fake news isn’t new, its current manifestation is different. (Chatbots have been around for decades too, but technology has made them into something new.) In any case, this is a good start. The trick will be getting organizations to adopt each of these tactics. Read more

Brands promote inclusion—While anti-Muslim sentiment has been at the core of a lot of political discussion in the past year, some brands—from Amazon and Honey Maid to Microsoft, Chevrolet, and CoverGirl—are featuring Muslims prominently in their marketing. The ads are decidedly not political, but the themes are seen as challenging the current environment of suspicion and fear. Some observers liken the movement to including same-sex couples in ads, something that began in earnest in 2013 and 2014. The takeaway: There is more at work here than appealing to Muslim consumers. Brands are playing an active role in advancing social norms, airing commercials on TV shows likely to be viewed by people inside “siloed information bubbles.” Blowback from anti-Muslim influencers doesn’t seem to have much of an effect on these marketing decisions—or on sales. Read more

How to gear content marketing to the C-suite—If you want business leaders to pay attention to your content marketing, you need to know what they want. In the B2B marketplace, a study found that executives pay most attention to content that helps they stay ahead of emerging trends and make better, more informed decisions. They prefer short and punchy content—800-word articles work well, along with blog posts of 300-500 words. Peer and colleague recommendations are the preferred source of content, and Facebook is the platform execs are most likely to use for engaging with thought leadership. The takeaway: You read that right. Seventy-nine percent of respondents prefer Facebook compared to 73% for Twitter and 68% for LinkedIn. Read more

Fodder for internal communicators—If you want to be relevant to employees, consider crafting content that addresses things that keep them up at night. FastCompany has helpfully assembled a list for you: the future of healthcare, wage uncertainty, automation, and the declining number of full-time jobs. The takeaway: The more employees read about these issues, the more angst they’ll experience. It’ll help to know where their employer stands. Read more

Twitter Moments is gaining some traction—Twitter is a troubled company on a number of levels: rampant trolls, painfully slow growth, low ad value, executive defections, and trouble figuring out what their value proposition is. At least there’s Twitter Moments. Launched in late 2015, Moments is Twitter’s curated collection of tweets around various topics. Everyone has been able to create Moments since the fall and Adweek notes that “marketers are diving in.” One agency honcho noted that Moments lets you “curate fan reaction to other social campaigns in a Moment.” Even YouTube has used Moments to promote a YouTube Red video series. Newsweek has created some, too. The takeaway: Maybe Moments will attract some new users and help Twitter stave off further declines. In the meantime, it’s free and easy, so why not see if it’s useful for your social media efforts? Read more

Five big data-driven communication trends—Too many lists I see (the top 10 this or the best 20 that) are not really the top 10 or 20 of anything more than what the list author is aware of. I often wish I could add that to their headlines, as in “The top 10 marketing bloggers (based strictly on my opinion and only those marketing bloggers I’m aware of). So when someone comes out with a quantifiable list, it’s gold. That’s what Quantified Communications has done, basing its list on its global communication database “which contains millions of data points on communication from leaders and professionals around the world.” These trends are worth paying attention to: the growing importance of trust in leadership; leaders harnessing the power of emotion; authenticity; leaders who speak for their companies, communities, and social values; and the need for clarity. The takeaway: It’s hard to argue with any of this—especially when they have the data to support it. Read more

Mobile and Wearables

WhatsApp unveils desktop apps—Facebook’s mobile messaging app (one of four Facebook properties with over 1 billion active users) has introduced desktop apps for Mac and Windows PCs. The takeaway: this is what we mean by “mobile first.” It’s mainly a mobile app but accessible across all devices. Read more

Subversive Instagram account tackles excessive alcohol consumption—Louise Delage’s Instagram account attracted 58,000 followers who thought they were looking in on the enviable lifestyle of an attractive young woman. It was really an actress and alcohol figured in every single image. The account was launched by group Addict Aid and created by an ad agency. It was designed to show how easy it is to not notice the presence of liquor in your life. Most followers didn’t notice until the campaign was revealed (which included a video titled, “Like My Addiction”). The takeaway: Aside from the important message the campaign shared, communicators should study this as a subtle way to make a point and then get huge attention once the deception is unveiled. Subtlety can win over beating someone over the head with a message. Read more

Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality

Intel holds VR press conference—Intel held a press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this week in which participants donned Oculus Rift VR headsets and watched CEO Brian Krzanich outlined his vision for the future of VR.  Intel expects to play a part by providing chips and its Project Alloy cordless headset. Attendees discovered that by standing or leaning to one side they could see around or over objects. The demo included exotic travel locations, an NBA basketball game (“I could look all the way to my right to see a graphic for scores and stats”), and a flyover of solar panels delivered live via a feed from a drone. The takeaway: For the time being, using VR at events is a great way to stand apart from the crowd. Intel’s focus on practical applications of VR—such as letting workers more safely do hazardous work like inspecting work sites from a remote location—reinforces my view that VR will fit more easily into niches than become a general-purpose consumer appliance. Read more

Google partners with Gap and BMW on AR shopping—Google is partnering with BMW and Gap for real-world uses of its 3d scanning initiative called Tango. Consumers will use their phones or tablets to see digital images overlaid in a physical space. For BMW, the app will let users see a virtual showroom with two of its models with the ability to choose different features. Shoppers will be able to test clothes from Gap. This kind of mobile-based AR currently will work on a limited number of Android devices but eventually will reach all smartphones. The takeaway: Don’t look for huge uptake of this technology soon, but brace yourself for the inevitable use of phone-based AR to do a lot of things that used to require getting in your car and driving to a brick-and-mortar store. Read more

We’re getting closer to Augmented Reality headsets—A company called ODG showed off a pair of rather stylish Augmented Reality headsets at the Consumer Electronics Show. The more expensive of the two will sell for $1,800. If that sounds pricey, you’re right—I won’t be buying one soon—but it’s still $950 less than the Microsoft HoloLens. The less expensive pair (which has fewer features) will go for $1,000. The takeaway: While these are still out of most people’s reach, they signal that competitors to Microsoft and the secretive Magic Leap are in play and as demand for AR headsets ramps up, prices will come down. I give it less than a year before we see a headset for under $500. Which means you should be thinking about how AR can figure into your communication plans sooner rather than later. Read more

AI and Chatbots

AI replaces 34 white-collar workers—Communicators will soon have to address layoffs attributable to Artificial Intelligence. Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance is replacing 34 insurance claim workers—white-collar jobs—with IBM Watson Explorer. A press release says the AI will scan hospital records and other documents to determine insurance payouts, factoring injuries, patient medical histories, and procedures administered. While the goal is to help those human workers still in the department get their jobs done faster, replacing the workers will save the company about $1.1 million per year, producing ROI in less than two years. The AI will also improve productivity by 30%. Three other Japanese companies are testing similar systems. The takeaway: The presidential election focused a lot on bringing manufacturing jobs back to America from overseas, but that’s a diversionary issue. Few politicians have begun to address the replacement of jobs by AI. Once companies here start shedding jobs thanks to AI, communication both internally and externally will be vital. Business leaders should start engaging in a society-wide conversation about the future of work and what people will do when their skills are no longer required. Read more

Pope Francis’s Facebook Messenger bot—Missiobot, from a group that is part of The Pontifical Mission Societies, introduces you to Pope Francis, emojis included. According to VentureBeat, the bot “has more personality and is a lot more fun to speak with than most Facebook Messenger bots you may have encountered.” Employing the pontiff’s tone of voice, the bot delivers text, photos, video, and audio. The bot supports the pope’s Red Cross, which is involved in charitable projects around the world. There’s a call to action at the end of each story. The takeaway: We’re seeing a growing number of bots that simulate conversation with a real person. Organizations with celebrity CEOs, well-known thought leaders, or long-term relationships with influencers might consider going down this road. Read more

Alexa will talk from more appliances—Up until now, to hear Amazon’s Alexa AI assistant talk to you, you had to buy one of the three appliances Amazon sold for the purpose: the Echo, the Dot, and the Tap. At the Consumer Electronics Show, however, Amazon has announced that you’ll soon be able to talk to Alexa from your Whirlpool appliance, your DISH TV DVR, and other appliances. The takeaway: Be sure to read my blog post about the “conversation frontier. Read more

Take Alexa for a ride—In addition to Whirlpool appliances and Hopper DVRs, Alexa will go with you for a ride as long as it’s in a new Ford vehicle. Drivers will be able to talk to their cars “demanding anything from a nearby cheeseburger to a weather forecast.” The takeaway: I have been wondering when Alexa would show up in cars, which makes enormous sense. Now we now. Google Assistant should be available in vehicles soon, too. Read more

Get ready for AI as a Service—Companies that don’t want to or can’t develop AI systems soon will be able to tap into AIaaS (AI as a Service). The first company to offer this service—CrowdAI—lets companies send imagery from autonomous vehicles, satellites, or drones. CrowdAI recognizes what it sees and sends info back to the client. Uses could include detecting parking lot usage or assessing roof damage. The takeaway: While this particular company’s concepts have yet to be proven, the potential is huge. More AIaaS businesses should be emerging from stealth startup mode soon. Read more

Video

Companies turn to employees as live on-air talent—As companies adopt live-streaming video as a more routine communication channel, employees are finding themselves called on to host broadcasts. While some companies are bringing experienced talent on board, others are requiring employees to play an active role. Benefit Cosmetics, for example, trained its entire U.K. social team so they would be available to shoot live-streaming content “on a moment’s notice.” Several organizations have concluded that a day of training is far cheaper than hiring on-air talent. The takeaway: Media trainers and agencies that offer media training will get into this game very quickly. In the meantime, communicators should consider using employees for their broadcasts given that we know (from the Edelman Trust Barometer among other sources) that they are highly credible. Read more

Pandora launches muted video—Pandora is an audio brand, but it plays on computers, phones, and even TVs through apps available for streaming devices like the Roku. It’s no surprise, then, that Pandora has unveiled video ads. And, like videos on Facebook and elsewhere, they’ll play with the audio off. The takeaway: Muted videos are a growing trend with no slowdown in sight, especially given their presence on smartphones, where people view them while in public. Consider muted versions of selected (if not all) videos you produce. Read more

Fashion industry can make great use of 360-degree live video—Live streaming 360-degree video offers huge opportunities for fashion companies looking to connect with consumers. Esquire magazine will use it to broadcast from New York Fashion Week and major film festivals, for example. Others anticipate that it will “help personalize e-commerce by allowing shoppers to get an immersive look at events or even just a look inside a physical store itself.” The takeaway: Getting up to speed on 360-degree video is fast becoming an imperative. Read more

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This week’s wrap image is courtesy of Michael Coghlan’s Flickr account.

 

 

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