Friday Wrap #222: Social media diversfiies the news you see, astroturfing Reddit, online harassment

Posted on July 14, 2017 12:06 pm by | Chatbots | Virtual and Augmented Reality | Content | Instagram | Visual Communication | Advertising | Audio | Brands | Business | Channels | Ethics | Facebook | Marketing | Media | Mobile | PR | Publishing | Research | Social Media | Social networks | Twitter | Video

Friday Wrap #222I 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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The Big Stories

It’s not just retail being hammered by shifting preferences—PepsiCo’s second-quarter earnings of $1.50 per share beat analyst expectations by $.10 in its most recently-reported quarter. You might think that would be the biggest news from CEO Indra Nooyi’s conference call. It wasn’t. Drink and snack companies, she said, are suffering from the same behavioral shifts as retail: more spending is happening online and people are spending their money on experiences, health, and wellness instead of possessions. As Bloomberg notes, PepsiCo and its rivals “spent decades building a distribution system that serves vending machines and brick-and-mortar stores, but they’re still in the beginning stages of selling products directly to customers online.” The takeaway: Both trends will affect most businesses. An online presence transcends a website, a social media presence, and an app; it’s where transactions happen. Whether your company is B2B or B2C, you need to make it easy—and worthwhile—for people to engage and do business there, through any device they prefer to use. Meanwhile, the shift from buying stuff to spending on experiences (such as travel, music events like Coachella and Bonnaroo, and dining) and health and wellness has transcended Millennials to become a preference across all generations. We have to consider how to accommodate these preferences. Consider that a couple airlines are hosting on-the-ground food-and-entertainment experiences to attract affluent young travelers. What can your business do to deliver experiences that will convert people into customers? Read more

Human content creators, rest easy…for now—AI is generating content, but its attempts at creative content are less than optimum. Gartner predicts 20% of all business content will be produced by AI by next year, but much of that will take the form of formulaic material like earnings releases. AI attempts at creative content have been “well-structured, informative, and accurate, but lacking in the artistic elan that marks out a human author’s work,” according to SEO strategist Clark Boyd. That’s not likely to change soon, but “if AI systems attain the capacity to think creatively and independently, there is no reason why this skill would not be applied to content generation.” We’re most likely headed to AI-human collaboration. “The lines between human and machine are constantly shifting, and that matters. We need to know what this technology can do, what it can’t do, and where we should position ourselves to capitalize on upcoming possibilities for collaboration with AI systems.” The takeaway: I can’t say it any better than Boyd. If we don’t learn about AI, we won’t understand the skills that add value to our contribution. Those contributions will be necessary, but if we don’t know how to position ourselves, organizations will look for people who have those skills outside of the communication industry. Read more

Toyota funds Research Institute with $100 million—Toyota’s R&D unit is “spinning out a corporate venture capital arm that will finance and incubate startups in Artificial Intelligence, robotics, and autonomous mobility.” The takeaway: While some companies like Microsoft and Salesforce have had long-standing incubator units, this will become more common in the years ahead. Funding incubation projects will allow companies to prepare new businesses to replace their cash cows when they begin to fade: Consider Microsoft Windows and Office, both of which are in their sunset years, giving way to cloud computing and AI, among other newer technologies. Among other communication challenges, internal communicators will need to understand that employees working in incubators will need different news and information than those working for the long-established and much larger part of the organization, as will those working in the startups that are chosen from the incubator to be transformed into a full-scale offering. Employees in other parts of the company will need to understand and support the strategy, as will investors and other stakeholders. Read more


Snap closes below its IPO price—Shares of Snap, Snapchat’s parent, have been hovering at its IPO price for a few weeks, but it officially dropped below by 1 cent on July 10. That means investors have taken a hit on their investments. Snap’s market cap remains at $23.8 billion. Stay tuned, and think hard before considering long-term advertising, marketing, or communication programs that rely on Snapchat. Read more

India is Facebook’s #1 country—India has passed the U.S. to become the country with the biggest population of Facebook users. With 241 million active users, India has 1 million more than the U.S., where growth has largely stagnated. Read more

Major websites banded together to demand net neutrality—With the U.S. Federal Communication Commission’s new Chairman Ajit Pai intent on rolling back rules that ensure net neutrality, a number of major websites spoke out on July 12—a day of action—by altering their homepages. These included Reddit, Netflix, Amazon, AirBnB, Spotify, Yelp, and even Pornhub. Other companies, including Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, have added their voices to the chorus calling for the FCC to retain the existing rules. Read more here and here

LinkedIn is testing a mentor feature—With the growth of the freelance economy, it’s harder for people to find mentors, so LinkedIn is testing a free service to match them with professionals who will share career advice. Read more

Speaking of muting notifications…—Twitter has introduced some new advanced filters that let you mute notifications on accounts that don’t follow you. You can also mute accounts that have the default profile photo, those that don’t have a confirmed email address and phone number, and those you don’t follow. For some people anxious to get their message out, you’ll never know if that notification went unseen. Read more

User-generated content coming to Google Earth—Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is looking to users to share stories, video, and photos on Google Earth. The “Voyager” tool already lets you take “interactive tours of exotic destinations,” but now you and I will be able to create unedited content for private or public use. What might you share? Google Earth Director Rebecca Moore suggests things like, “The story of your family history, the story of your favorite hiking trip—it could be anything. It doesn’t have to be profound.” The opportunity will be available in two to three years. Read more

PDF Association’s newest members: Library of Congress and National Archives—The PDF Association promotes adoption of international standards for portable document format technology. The Library hopes its participation will allow it “to communicate its needs to the community that develops the software,” according to a Library spokesman. Read more

Google is investing in European journalism projects—Google’s Digital News Initiative has announced that 107 recipients will get $24 million in funding for journalism initiatives, including WikiTribune (from Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales); a transcription, translation, and voice-over platform from a German broadcaster, and the Open State Foundation, an effort from The Netherlands to establish a real-time database of where politicians stand on issues. Read more

New features and options for LinkedIn notifications—LinkedIn users can now mute and unmute specific notifications, unfollow specific connections directly via notifications, and turn off certain types of notifications (like birthday updates). LinkedIn has also introduced a daily rundown with a summary of the top news and a weekly notification of how many people found you from a LinkedIn search. Read more

Google bans pop-unders—You’ve seen them: ads that appear when you close or minimize a window. They’ve actually been there ever since you visited a particular site. And now, Google is banning Google ads on any websites that use them. Read more


Reddit will be astroturfed for political gain—One PR agency has already achieved remarkable success, spawning massive media coverage and huge traffic based on buying upvotes to become the most popular article on r/politics. They next “anonymously spammed over 20,000 media contacts with a link to the Reddit post. Each time a publication covered the news, it would repeat the same process.” The cost to the PR firm was $255 (on upvote packages) to generate 5 million media impressions and 6 million website hits. Both the Trump and Clinton campaigns used Reddit, but the effectiveness of the more recent campaign “raises some troubling ethical points.” Read more

Information technology enables Flash Organizations—These are “ephemeral setups to execute a single, complex project in ways traditionally associated with corporations, nonprofit groups, or governments,” according to a pair of Stanford professors, and they’re becoming increasingly common. The temporary organization is comprised of freelancers who come together to complete a project, then go their separate ways. Intermediaries are emerging to assemble Flash Organizations much as Uber is an intermediary between drivers and passengers. “They rely heavily on data and algorithms to determine which workers are best suited to one another, and also on decidedly low-tech innovations, like middle management.” Read more

Publishers game Facebook by posting photos in video format—You have an image to share on Facebook and you want the traffic Facebook sends to publishers who post videos. So publishers are posting static images in MP4 and other video formats. BuzzFeed, along with some lesser-known publishers, are among those gaming the system in order to draw more views. Read more

Brands turn to pop-up stores—If you read the first Big Story, you won’t be surprised to find that consumer brands are increasingly using pop-up stores to deliver consumers an in-person experience. Among those experimenting with the idea in New York City are Pure Leaf Tea (from PepsiCo and Unilever), Kellogg, and smaller brands like beverage company Dirty Lemon. Pop-up stores are ways for brands “to tell their stories—rather than relying on other retailers to do it for them.” But don’t discount the in-person experience factor. Read more

Lip-synched video is now a thing and we should be very, very worried—the technology now exists that will let anyone put any words into the mouth of anyone speaking in a video. Researchers at the University of Washington, for example, have developed an algorithm that puts audio into a realistic video of someone else speaking those words. An example shows two sets of video side-by-side: On the left, former President Obama speaking in informal settings; on the right, he’s speaking those same exact words while looking into a camera. While there are plenty of practical uses for this technology, the potential for deceit is high. Imagine what purveyors of fake news can do with this capability. Read more

Pet influencers outperform humans—At least, that’s what the founder of a New York talent agency that represents social media celebrity animals says. The Dog Agency also reps a hedgehog, a pig, and two finger monkeys that have over 1 million followers. Pets could be the safest influencer bet for a lot of brands. Read more

Instagram continues to ban hashtags—If you use just one hashtag banned by Instagram, all your hashtags will be undiscoverable for the post in which that one banned hashtag appeared. And Instagram has banned more than 60,000 hashtags. If you’ve noticed a decline in engagement on Instagram lately, using one of these banned hashtags could be the reason. The bans are focused largely on unsavory or pornographic themes, although #dogsofinstagram is also on the list, along with #costumes, #tgif, #saltwater, #elevator, #books, and #easter. Go figure. This post includes a link to a complete list. Don’t use any of them. Read more

Advertisers aren’t warming up to six-second videos—Facebook and YouTube are both pushing advertisers toward six-second mid-roll video ads, a much more tolerable length than the traditional 30-second ad. Advertisers, though, aren’t making the change, nor are they set up to adapt to new formats. It looks like we’re stuck with the mind-numbing, annoying 30-second spot in publishers’ social media videos for the time being. Read more

More than half of North American homes will be smart by 2021—According to a forecast study, 55% of all homes in North America will be “smart homes” within five years. As of last year, the count was already up to 31 million homes, most of which were for single functions (such as smart lighting or smart security), while 5 million were whole-home systems. Read more


Online harassment has affected 41% of Americans—More than one in 10 Americans has been subjected to harassing behavior online, with 18% have experienced “particularly severe” types of harassment online, including physical threats, harassment over a sustained period, and sexual harassment or stalking. Sixty-six percent have observed harassment directed at others. Sixty-two percent of Americans believe online harassment is a major problem, though there is disagreement about how to solve the problem and where to draw the line between online safety issues and free speech. Read more

Social media diversifies the news you see—This is about as counterintuitive as it gets. We are accustomed to hearing about the filter bubbles we have created in which we only get news that fits our worldviews. The 2017 Reuters Institute Digital News Report finds otherwise. “Social media use is clearly associated with incidental exposure to additional sources of news that people otherwise wouldn’t use—and with more politically diverse news diets,” the study shows. Read more

It’s time to give each of your retail locations its own social media page—Eighty-four percent of consumer impressions take place on social media pages and other assets that represent individual stores, showrooms, and restaurants; only 15.2% of impressions occur on brand or corporate sites. Most of this consumer preference for locally relevant pages is happening on smartphones, with the vast majority of impressions coming from only five sources: Facebook, Google, Apple, Yelp, and Bing. Read more

Instagram is tops for video engagement—Instagram’s video engagement towers over other social media platforms. Its engagement number currently sits at 16%, while Facebook is at 1.5% and YouTube produces 0.3% Facebook leads in views, which makes it the best platform for achieving video reach. Read more

Managing growing number of digital and social media risks is a challenge—Those are the results of JEM Consulting’s 2017 State of Digital & Social Media risk Study, which found that the ability to manage digital and social media risks is far less mature than managing traditional IT security risks. (Given hacks of traditional IT networks, most recently Verizon’s, that must be cold comfort to a lot of leaders.) “Although digital governance teams and Digital Centers of Excellence are beginning to be more common, most organizations do not yet have fully optimized, managed, and resourced processes and programs to comprehensively manage new and growing types of digital and social media risks, and are slow to adopt tools and technologies to help manage these risks.” Read more

Video ranks first among influential content formats—When it comes to social media, nothing influences purchase decisions like video. Ninety percent of social media users are influenced to reach for their wallets after seeing video content on social media, according to the study, “The Influence of Influencers.” A third of survey respondents say social media influencers are their most trusted sources for shopping, making the idea of asking influencers to make and share videos touting your products even more appealing. Read more

Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots

Publisher uses AI to draw readers into stories—Quartz, a mobile-first news publication, has launched an ad series, “Machines with Brains,” that features a chatbot to help users learn more about the subject matter of the stories in which the ads are featured. The ads appear as native display ads within the stories. The AI analyzes the article “to understand its content and then serve a relevant display ad about it, prompting the reader to start a conversation with Hugo about that topic.” Read more

Will media agencies hire Chief AI Officers?—Artificial Intelligence is weaving its way into all parts of publishing and advertising. Media organizations are already setting up AI dashboards that notify them of important patterns, while they are simultaneously creating chatbots and Alexa skills. One agency, Crossmedia, has hired an executive director of cognitive solutions. Can a Chief AI Officer at every agency be far behind? Read more

AI is giving sight to drones—A group of Swiss researchers has taught some low-priced, off-the-shelf drones to fly without human control and map surrounding areas using “dense surface reconstruction,” which let the drones understand their environment. Read more

Visabot lets wannabe immigrants apply for a green card—For $150, the Facebook Messenger-based AI will walk people wanting to come live and work in the U.S. through the process of applying and scheduling appointments, while also navigating them around unnecessary fees. Read more

Google launches project to improve AI-human interface—The People + AIR (PAIR) program aims to improve human interaction with AI systems. the goal is to refine the interfaces people use to take advantage of AI in “some of the world’s most popular apps.” Read more

IBM puts AI at the center of its Services division—The Global Technology Services division helps customer manage their computer networks. The introduction of AI to the group, which will predict problems and fix them before they happen, follows a series of job cuts from the group. IBM’s Watson AI will be able to broker additional cloud capacity and reroute network traffic around bottlenecks, for example. Read more

Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality

Think distracted texting is a problem now?—When Apple releases iOS 11 and the Augmented Reality apps developers are creating with the ARKit become available, “just wait until people start trying to engage virtual AR objects with the iPhone in nearly every real location imaginable…people will engage with these virtual objects with curiosity and passionate interest, whether you’re standing in the way or not.” Read more

Apple AR will reach 1 billion devices—When iOS 11 is released, it will put Augmented Reality software in up to 1 billion devices. That gives Apple a significant edge of Google’s Android. Apple controls its manufacturing, but for Android AR (known as Tango) to gain widespread adoption, each manufacturer would have to incorporate the software in their hardware, which will take a lot longer. Read more

Facebook opens Spaces to users without Oculus Rift headsets—Facebook Spaces was originally just for users with an Oculus Rift headset, but the social network is opening the tool to others through Live video. Non-headset users can see what their headset-using friends are seeing in VR. Read more

Microsoft offers Mixed Reality Partner Program—The program opens Microsoft’s existing HoloLens agency certification program to include systems integrators, who will be able to connect HoloLens Mixed Realty applications into a company’s broader infrastructure. Read more

Smart Audio

Alexa was a big Prime Day winner—Overall, Prime Day generated more sales than Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The Amazon Echo was the top-selling item during the morning, with the Echo Dot moving into the top spot later in the day. Amazon doesn’t release sales figures, but it’s not hard to conclude that some people added another Alexa device to their households while others took advantage of the price to bring the technology into their homes. Read more

Alexa, Cortana grow at Siri’s expense—Siri is still the most popular virtual assistant, but it has suffered a 15% decline since last year—a loss of 7.3 million monthly users. Engagement with Siri also declined by nearly half. Amazon Alexa usage, meanwhile is surging, up 325% in monthly active users, with engagement more than doubling. Microsoft’s Cortana has also experienced growth. Read more

Voice search is on the rise—While nearly 60% of consumers still have no problem with searching the old-fashioned way—typing a query into Google—45% believe “voice is the future,” while 83% believe “voice makes it even easier to find what they want from brands, while even more of them (89%) feel voice makes search faster, according to a Google UK study. Read more

Mobile and Wearables

LinkedIn opens up video sharing—LinkedIn is going to let users upload native videos through its mobile app. The company began testing the feature yesterday with a small number of U.S. users. the videos will play automatically with the sound off when the show up in your feed. Read more

Brands find ways to get discovered on Snapchat—Companies know a lot of its target audiences are on Snapchat. Discoverability, though, is a long-standing issue on the messaging app. Brands are finding workarounds to solve that problem, such as cross-promotion (e.g., posting a Snapchat code on Facebook and Instagram, offering exclusive gifts—such as first looks and exclusive video drops—to consumers who start following a brand on Snapchat, ads in subway stations with Snapcodes that lead users to games, and stories that begin in one channel and continue on Snapchat. Read more

Ads come to Messenger—I bet you can’t wait to see ads on Facebook Messenger. They’re coming, with ads to be placed in the app’s home tab. Tap it and you’ll be sent to whatever destination the advertiser chooses. Read more

This week’s Wrap image is courtesy of Eric Ray’s Flicker account (and his dog Maggiemae).

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