Friday Wrap #207: What “viral” means, oversized ads, patient influencers, Hologram Barbie, and more

Shel Holtz's picture

Friday Wrap #207

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.


Zuck pens a manifesto—Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg used his own platform to publish a 5,700-word mission statement on what he sees as Facebook’s future, its role in world affairs, and its influence. According to a Guardian annotation of the missive, the mission statement is contained in these two paragraphs: “In times like these, the most important thing we at Facebook can do is develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all of us…Our job at Facebook is to help people make the greatest positive impact while mitigating areas where technology and social media can contribute to divisiveness and isolation.” The takeaway: It’s a long read and the Guardians annotations are helpful. Arguments are still going on over the real meaning of the post. Does he plan to run for office? Rule the world? Or just sell a lot more ads? My bet is that he sees Facebook as the marketplace for ideas and civic engagement. Read more

Twitter humanizes customer service—A lot of companies’ Twitter accounts are geared toward responding to customer service queries. Even though a human responds, what you see is the company avatar. To make those interactions a little more personal, Twitter has introduced custom profiles. In a trial with T-Mobile, customers looking for help through the mobile carrier’s Direct Messages will see the name and photograph of the actual person assisting them. The takeaway: As trust in companies slides but trust in real people rises, this should increase satisfaction with online customer service. Watch for the feature to move out of trials so you can adopt it in your company. Read more

YouTube’s third-party measurement partners to be audited—Google announced that the Media Rating Council will audit YouTube’s third-party measurement partners. Google hopes introducing MRC’s audit will help standardize the metrics reported across all three of its measurement partners to eliminate discrepancies and ensure the Internet Advertising Bureau’s standards are met. The takeaway: It’s about time. Apples to apples metrics matter when assessing the performance of your YouTube investment. Read more


It’s time to get hyperlocal—Google Trends has shown a huge increase in the number of “near me” searches since mid-2015, leading to speculation that 2017 will be the year hyperlocal marketing truly takes off. The takeaway: If your company manages local retail operations and you don’t prepare for this trend, you could wind up seeing a drop in both online and in-store traffic. Read more

Hotels up the social media ante—Social media is becoming a standard tool in the hotel industry’s marketing mix. Hotels are amping up the use of social channels to increase room reservations and guest satisfaction scores, in addition to interacting with guests—current, future, and potential—in real time. The hospitality brands represent the third most responsive industry on social media: 46% of messages require a response. The takeaway: This more than content marketing. This is one-to-one engagement with customers who prefer to contact the hotel via social media. Other industries need to pay attention and follow suit. Read more

Going viral doesn’t mean what you think it means—We all know what we mean when we talk about a video or meme that “goes viral.” The term has its origins in medicine, where a disease infects multiple people and spreads. Research has found that’s not what happens with content. That is, the popularity of content is not diffused. “Popularity on the Internet is mostly driven, not by a million one-to-one shares, but rather by a handful of one-to-one-million blasts,” according to research from Microsoft, which looked at one viral video and found “its popularity did not bloom like a virus…Instead, the information cascade looked more like a bomb fuse—a quiet string of solitary shares followed by several explosions, in the form of celebrity tweets, which were responsible for the vast majority of its reach.” The takeaway: In other words, virality depends on influencers sharing the content. Read more

Ads are too big—Like you needed a report to tell you that, right? There is one, though. Ad Lightning studied more than 605,000 adds across 60 high-traffic sites for more than two months and found 28% of ads have quality issues that slow down the loadtime of the webpage where they appear. More than 40% exceed the standard 200KB size for a banner ad; nearly 10% were bigger than 5MB. The takeaway: If you’re buying ad space on a publisher site, make sure the people developing the ads play by the rules. Don’t be the company responsible for creating a bad online experience. Read more

Extending paid influence to healthcare patients—BrandTrust is working to connect patients with brands interesting in paying them for their influence. One patient suffering from a rare disease who has built a large network in her efforts to raise awareness was approached and offered a fee if she could recruit people from her network to participate in a pharmaceutical company’s research. The takeaway: It’s a whole different angle on influencer marketing that represents out-of-the-box thinking. As trust in experts and companies decline, tapping into influencers with these kinds of networks could help overcome that obstacle. Read more

B2B companies are ignoring customer renewal messaging—A survey determined that nearly 80% of companies spend less than 30% of their time and money on content designed to retain customers; 42% say their companies spend less than 10% of their marketing budgets on renewal efforts. A spokesman for Corporate Visions, which conducted the study, found the results “alarming…especially given how many B2B companies are relying on subscription or service models.” The takeaway: Alarming, maybe, but not surprising. Most marketers can’t see beyond customer acquisition despite the fact that it costs less to keep an existing customer than recruit a new one. Read more

Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality

Hologram Barbie—As a former Mattel employee, I’m always amazed at how the company manages to keep a product line established in 1959 fresh. Last year the company introduced a Barbie that talks via Amazon’s Echo. This year at Toy Fair, Mattel introduced Hello Barbie Hologram. The virtual doll stays in her box and responds to commands (like dancing to the music of your choice). Barbie will change her look on command and will speak reminders to owners. The takeaway: Hologram technology is rolling out quickly, representing another technology that may have utility in your communication plans. If nothing else, do some basic reading on the technology. Barbie is a hologram. Need I say more? Read more

Google aims to make VR headsets invisible—What you see when wearing a VR headset may be cool, but what others see when you’re wearing it is a dork with a massive piece of hardware obscuring your face. Google wants to change that through a technology that constructs a 3D model of your face, then projects it to the front of the headset so you can be seen, sort of the way you can be seen when wearing a scuba mask. The takeaway: They’re calling this “headset removal.” Not really, but you get the idea. It’ll be especially useful when playing multi-player VR games or hanging out in virtual lounges with other people. Read more

If this doesn’t propel VR into the mainstream, nothing will—Terpon, a Swiss startup, is introducing streaming VR webcams made specifically for the adult entertainment industry. Porn producers can rent the cameras for $30 per month, which includes 24/7 tech support. The cameras are intended for the women who live-stream over webcams to paying audiences. The takeaway: Sad to say, if it works—making viewers feel like they’re right there in the room with the model, and word spreads, this will create greater demand for VR headsets. You know it will. Read more

Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots

Brands experiment with Watson ads—IBM’s Watson Ads offering is designed to understand and respond to voice-activated questions as part of advertising efforts. In the consumer packaged goods (CPG) space, Campbell’s is using its deep knowledge of cooking to let customers get answers to questions and learn more about its products. The takeaway: And where will customers interact with Watson Ads? Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, of course. Voice tech is the biggest new platform for communicators. Sorry if I sound like a broken record, but I’m just sayin’... Read more

Google’s new weapon in the troll wars—Google has unveiled an AI tool called Perspective that scans online content, then rates its toxicity based on ratings by thousands of users. The toxicity score will help users decide whether to engage in the conversation. You can also feed specific words into Perspective to see how they have been rated. (The “n” word, for example, was rated 82% toxic.) Perspective’s developers note that the tool will work only if people contribute to it. The takeaway: With luck, people will take a second to rate the toxicity of content. Using AI to identify objectionable content is a good idea. Read more

Mobile and Wearables

Instagram expands photo carousel—Photo carousels aren’t new, but Instagram hasn’t made them widely available until now. Both ads and individual accounts will be able to pick up to 10 pictures and videos to add to a single post. People seeing the post will swipe through the images horizontally. One drawback: No landscape photos or vertical videos when they appear in the carousel. The takeaway: For communicators, creating themed carousels can add some zip to your account. Read more

Messaging is cannibalizing the app space—The writing is on the wall for apps. The functionality of messaging apps is replacing the need to have a lot of discrete apps that perform one set of functions. According to a new Gartner report, usage of standalone apps decline by three points and usage of social media apps dropped by two points. Messaging app usage, on the other hand, rose three points. In China, WeChat is the dominant app—a super-app that is the tool for doing everything. Gartner suspects WhatsApp and Messenger (both Facebook properties with over a billion users each) will provide the same functionality. The takeaway: Especially with chatbots and AI letting you do everything from book a flight and transfer funds to call up a song or get the news, why would anybody download a new app that’ll take up storage space even though they hardly ever use it? I’ve been saying this for a while now: Apps are not the future of mobility. Messaging apps are a platform. Read more

Status: A Snapchat-like Story feature for WhatsApp—It’s not hard to see why investors are lukewarm on Snapchat’s IPO given that larger platforms keep adapting the features users love about it. The latest is WhatsApp, which has added a feature called Status that mimics Snapchat’s Live Stories. “The Status tool will let people share photos, videos, and animated GIFs with friends, all of which will disappear after 24 hours.” The takeaway: You can also add text, emojis, and drawings. Instagram—also owned by Facebook—cribbed the Snapchat feature last year. Is there a way you can take advantage of this now-widespread feature in your marketing or communication if your audience is already using Instagram or WhatsApp? Read more

Sponsored Instagram posts average $300 each—As influencer marketing becomes a vital campaign element, we’re learning more about average costs for an influencer to share a message on Instagram. In the modeling niche, the average is $434, $385 in photography, $326 in food, $320 in pets, $306 in fitness, and $217 in fashion and design. Lifestyle posts earn the less at $172. That all averages out to about $300 for an influencer to share your product on Instagram. The takeaway: Don’t let anybody tell you social media is free marketing. Those days are long gone. Read more


Live streaming video is popular with Millennials—While communicators still struggle with the value of live-streaming social video, Millennials are gobbling it up. Sixty-three percent of US internet users age 18 to 34 have watched live video and 42% have created it. That’s leading to more experimentation. The takeaway: This is another technology I’ve been advising communicators to adopt for a couple years, ever since the late Meerkat was launched. Try something event-oriented that will be likely to attract comments and sharing. Read more

Periscope Producer now open to everyone—Anyone can now broadcast high-quality video from devices other than their smartphones via Periscope. Twitter has released its Producer service to all users. The takeaway: As quality increases, viewership is likely to increase as well. Live-streaming video’s popularity is a virtuous circle. See the next item. Read more

The mobile video movement is real—Fifty-seven percent of consumers watch videos on their mobile phone every day. A study from AOL found 70% of consumers watch video on their desktops with mobile catching up at 67%. Shorter videos are more popular on mobile devices (which could explain why Google is getting rid of the YouTube’s unskippable 30-second ads). Nearly 60% of respondents watch video of a minute or less every day; only 31% watch video of more than 20 minutes daily. The takeaway: Mobile video viewing will undoubtedly surpass desktop viewing as the shift to mobile continues. The trick is to know where your audience is watching and create videos that accommodate their preferences. But if you’re not producing video, you’re behind the curve. Read more

Pepsi is getting into the movie business—I have reported over the last several months about a number of companies that have produced video series and documentaries. PepsiCo is taking it to a new level with plans to produce a full-length feature movie based on an ad from its advertising. The company has invested heavily in Uncle Drew, “the elderly, pot-bellied, basketball-loving man played by NBA star Kyrie Irving.” The company sees the movie as more than just product marketing. The takeaway: Having entertainment properties that are associated with product isn’t new. Remember “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” which was first a toy, then an animated TV series, then a movie—all from Mattel. This is the first time I can think of a food-and-beverage company going down this road. If it succeeds, we’ll undoubtedly see more. Are you up for a most interesting man in the world movie? Read more

Grammys preshow pays off for Twitter—Twitter is positioning itself as the channel for knowing what’s happening right now and video is a big part of that play. As it turns out, the Grammys live preshow attracted about 5.1 million people, more than any of Twitter’s Thursday Night Football broadcasts. The company will double its live programming this year. A broadcast of a lacrosse game drew half a million viewers. The takeaway: Another reason to give more thought to what you can do with live streaming video. Read more

This week’s wrap image is from NASA Kennedy’s Flickr account. It’s a look at Petri plates wrapped in black cloth to prevent them from germinating before an experiment begins on the International Space Station.



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