Friday Wrap #226:  Twitter “rooms,” a BBC font, a Google Snapchat clone, a podcast ruling, and more

Posted on August 11, 2017 11:25 am by | Chatbots | Virtual and Augmented Reality | The Workplace Experience | Content | Instagram | Advertising | Audio | Brands | Business | Channels | Facebook | Marketing | Media | Mobile | Politics | PR | QR Codes | Social Media | Social networks | Twitter | Video

Friday Wrap #226I 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.

The Big Stories

Instagram tests letting friends join your live video—You may not have to livestream by yourself on Instagram much longer. The company is testing a feature that will let you invite friends to join your Instagram Live broadcast. When someone accepts your invitation, the screen will split in two to display both participants. Viewers will still be able to like and comment. When the session ends, you can share it as an Instagram Story or dump it. The feature will roll out over the next few months. The takeaway: I haven’t yet detected much drooling by brands over this development, but there are clearly opportunities for interviews, conversations with customers, and other interactions to attract people to a brand livestream. Read more

Pro-Trump forces leverage little-known Twitter private spaces—Hardcore supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump are earning huge numbers of followers by using private spaces on Twitter that let multiple users coordinate messages and retweet one another, “dramatically multiplying their impact.” These rooms “are an outgrowth of Twitter’s group direct message function,” which has been around since early 2015. The invitation-only rooms have names like “Patriots United” and “Trump Train.” Many have adopted hashtags so they can track members’ tweets as they spread. Each room can accommodate up to 50 people. Some people participate in as many as 20 rooms. “The rooms allow members to post, share, and follow each other with machine-like efficiency and speed.” The takeaway: So why hasn’t anybody else—from Trump critics to brands—figured out these Twitter rooms? (It actually explains some DMs I’ve been getting from a local organization.) They seem like a natural for advocacy/ambassador programs of any kind. Have you heard of them before? Read more

Clients shift from big agencies to independent shops—Some big brands have had enough of large agencies owned by the “Big Six” holding companies (WPP, Omnicom, Publicis, Havas, IPG, and Dentsu), opting to move their business to smaller independent groups. The cause may be a loss of confidence in the big holding groups. Among those making the move: Sprint and Honda. The takeaway: While this report deals mainly with advertising, a lot of PR agencies are owned by the same holding groups. The report suggests the same opportunities are out there for smaller PR agencies, as well. Read more


Milestone: 3 billion people use social media—That’s about 40% of the global population, according to a new report from Hootsuite and We Are Social. The report finds 3.028 billion active social media users, with 2.78 billion accessing social media via mobile devices. Read more

Facebook takes on YouTube with Watch—Facebook has introduced a Watch tab for the discovery of video programming your friends are watching, and to follow shows you like. The tab also allows you to chat and connect with people during an episode and join groups with people who like the same shows. Watch is being rolled out to a limited number of people in the US with more widespread rollout planned. Read more

BBC introduces new font for mobile screens—I know there are font geeks out there among you who will love knowing the BBC is introducing a new font to be used on all TV and digital platforms. Called BBC Reith (named for the broadcaster’s founder), the typeface was created to make type clearer on mobile devices. By creating its own font, the BBC can also stop paying licenses for the fonts it has been using up until now. Read more

YouTube rolls out video sharing and messaging—A new sharing feature in the mobile YouTube app lets users send videos to their friends and chat from inside a new tab, making YouTube something of a mobile messenger. Users can chat and reply while watching a video for a real-time experience. Read more

Brands fall for fake Instagram followers—Mediakx created two fake Instagram influencer accounts and bought fake followers for between $3 and $8 per thousand. “Both accounts then managed to secure four paid brand deals,” the company said, including a swimsuit company, an alcohol brand, and a food and beverage brand. Mediakix devised the scam as a way to create awareness of the problem. Read more

It’s safe to podcast—A court has affirmed that a patent for recording and distributing podcasts is invalid, a finding made by the U.S. Patent Office in 2015. A company called Personal Audio had sued podcasters, including Adam Carolla and networks including CBS and NBC for infringing on its patent, but the Electronic Frontier Foundation found examples of the patent’s methods being used by others, legally known as “prior art,” before the patent was issued in 1996. Read more

Apple ventures into social media—Apple has notoriously eschewed social media, but the company recently joined Instagram to invite fans to share photos they have taken with the iPhone. Well, actually you would post it on your own account and use the hashtag #ShotoniPhone for the opportunity to get regrammed onto the Apple account. Read more

Facebook kills its Groups app—It seems an odd move given Facebook’s recent emphasis on Groups as a big part of the social network’s future, but the company removed its standalone Groups app from Google and Apple app stores. The company says it can handle Groups better from within the main Facebook app. The app hasn’t been updated since fall 2016. Read more

LinkedIn announces changes—Five new features are among a host of updates to LinkedIn. these include multiple photos in posts, uploading of native video content (rather than just sharing a YouTube link), off-network sharing (users seeing a link to your LinkedIn article won’t need to log in to LinkedIn in order to see it), draft sharing (letting others edit your articles before you publish them), and comment disabling. Read more

iPass branches out into consumer marketplace—If you travel a lot (like I do), you’ll want to know about iPass, which until now focused on corporate subscriptions. The service provides access to 60 million WiFi hotspots in 120 countries and is pushing to bring more airports and airlines into the fold. The idea is that you’ll stay WiFi connected as you move from one hotspot (like the airport) to another (your hotel). The company promises to end the hassle of logging into multiple systems with different pricing models just to stay connected. the company’s website doesn’t yet reflect its consumer-focused service. Stay tuned. Read more

BuzzFeed will introduce a morning show on Twitter—Wendy’s will sponsor the daily newscast. BuzzFeed is filling positions (like someone to book guests) for “an hourlong broadcast each weekday morning from 8 to 9 a.m. ET.” Read more


Paid influencer posts beat brand posts—Engagement levels for paid posts from influencers soundly trounce those of owned posts from brands. One example: “JetBlue averaged 2,363 engagements in June on its owned posts, while influencer posts garnered an average of 241,226 engagements,” according to eMarketer. The numbers from other brands were similar. Read more

Instagram Stories twice as popular as Snapchat among brands—Brands are uploading to Instagram Stories more than twice as often as they upload to Snapchat, according to a report from L2, which tracked 89 brands that use both services. Read more

Millennials demand CEO activism—Millennials expect brands and businesses to take sides on cultural and societal issues, according to a report from Weber Shandwick and KRC Research. Millennials also expect brands to take action to address those problems. Forty-seven percent of survey respondents believe CEOs have a responsibility to speak up about issues that matter to society, compared to 28% of Boomers and Gen Xers. Fifty-six percent of Millennials agree that business leaders have a greater responsibility to speak out now than they have in the past. Read more


It’s not text. It’s not video. It’s a new form of journalism—The short explainer video with captions or motion graphics “is less an evolution of video itself and more an evolution of the hundreds and thousands of pieces of text-based journalism that are produced and consumed digitally,” according to Mic publisher Cory Haik. “Audiences that spent time-consuming only the first couple of paragraphs of a news story are now watching 45 seconds of a video that contains the same information.” Read more

Will marketing-as-a-service become the norm?—For startups, at least, the idea of marketing as a service could make sense given the failure rate, which is often linked to marketing issues. Marketing as a service, the theory suggests, recognizes three startup phases, the second of which—the transition from the lab to the market—is ripe for MaaS, which requires only a few full-time marketers; the rest can be outsourced. The authors of this piece are the founders of Crowded Ocean, a marketing firm that has launched some 45 startups using the MaaS model. Read more

Get ready for the era of 6-second ads—Google, Facebook, and Fox are all pushing 6-second ads, leading ad agencies to gear up for the production of ads to accommodate the format. The short ads produce better ad recall and brand awareness, according to a Google study. Analysts expect the format to gain real traction next year. Read more

Don Draper wouldn’t do well in this era—In the Mad Men era of advertising, sex appeal sold. Today, gender-positive advertising works better, according to a survey conducted by Facebook. “Women were almost twice as likely to say they wanted to watch a related movie trailer after seeing an ad featuring an image of a woman dressed as a firefighter versus an image of a woman dressed in revealing clothing.” Men, on the other hand, reacted pretty much the same to both ads. People in the US respond 8-10% more positively to brands “that engage in gender-positive advertising than to brands that do so less or not at all.” Read more

Can brand value be ISO-compliant?—Kellogg School marketing professor Bobby Calder is also head of the International Standard Organization’s (ISO) Committee on Brand Evaluation. Calder believes there are benefits to a standard approach to assessing brand value, but there has been no agreement on how to arrive at that figure. The ISO committee’s work is ongoing—don’t expect a metric soon—but Calder insists it’s coming. Read more

New agencies focus on Gen Z—If you’re sick to death of hearing about Millennials, relief is on the way—sort of. Agencies are popping up that focus on reaching Gen Zers, born in the mid-1990s and early 2000s. These agencies contend the demographic is different, especially when it comes to Gen Z use of technology. Read more

Need help with your selfies?—University of Waterloo researchers have developed an app that uses an algorithm to help you take the perfect selfie. Based on reviews of thousands of selfies, the app guides you how to move your camera for the best shot. Don’t rush to the app store, though; the researchers are only now considering how to commercialize the technology. Read more

In the Workplace

The power of employee social advocacy—The number of companies with employee advocacy (or ambassador) programs has skyrocketed, with 90% of brands reporting they are pursuing such programs. That’s one nugget from this Social Reacher infographic that also points out that employees have 10 times more social connections than a brand; content shared by employees earns eight times the engagement of that shared by brand channels, 79% of firms say they get more visibility once they have established an employee advocacy program, and 65% report increased brand recognition as a result of employee advocacy efforts. Leads generated through employee social marketing convert 7 times more frequently than other leads. Read more

Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality

Investors gear up for VR and AR—Virtual and Augmented Reality “is a hotbed of investment and development right now,” says C|Net, which points to IDC research suggesting spending on VR and AR will double every year, reaching $215 billion in 2021 “with a compounded annual growth rate of 113.2%.” An IDC researcher says government, transportation, and education are among the market segments that will develop uses for the technologies. Read more

Artificial Intelligence, Smart Audio, and Chatbots

Facebook translations are now entirely AI-powered—Expect the accuracy of post and comment translations on Facebook to improve now that it’s all being handled by the social network’s AI neural network. Read more

AI to customer service’s rescue—Eighty-seven percent of retailers participating in a survey said they will boost the use of Artificial Intelligence to improve customer service, with an emphasis on improving customer communication. With 82% of customers ending their relationship with a company after a bad experience last year, and customer service costs rising, companies are turning to smart audio (like Amazon’s Alexa) and chatbots on Messenger to bolster customer loyalty, unlock new revenue, and lower costs. Read more

Converseon will apply AI to social data analysis—Converseon, which started as a PR agency but now analyzes social data to deliver insights to clients, is adding AI to its offerings. The company has raised $5 million in a funding round to finance the expansion of its software-as-a-service offering and scale up its business, with a focus on Convey.AI, its platform for clients to use to analyze social data. Read more

Westin Hotel to be outfitted with Amazon Echos—The Westin Hotel in
downtown Buffalo will install an Amazon Echo is each of its 116 rooms. It’s the first New York hotel to outfit rooms with the Echo and the 12th nationwide. Guests can use the Echo to order towels, toothbrushes, shampoo, and other basics, act as a concierge, and eventually order room service. Guests activate the service by telling Alexa to “Ask the Westin.” Presumably, guests can use it to play music and other basic Echo functions, as well. Read more

Chatbot delivers a socially responsible message—Microsoft employees working in their spare time have tested a chatbot designed to combat human trafficking. The chatbot is activated when someone clicks a fake online ad for sex. At first, the bot assumes the identity of the person in the ad but if the would-be buyer indicates he is ready to buy sex, “the bog pivots sharply into a stern message” including threats of law enforcement intervention. The bot was created as part of the Project Intercept philanthropic initiative. Read more

App suggests recipes from your picture of food—Pic2Recipe is an app from MIT that suggests recipes based on the photo you shot of a meal, using Artificial Intelligence to assess the ingredients on your plate and match them to the right recipes. The app is in demo mode and not yet available for download. Read more

Voice is one technology that will replace typing—The Wall Street Journal has proclaimed the death of typing thanks to a wave of mobile newcomers—“the next billion,” according to the tech industry—who will use voice activation and images to communicate with their devices. Many of these new users come from regions with lower broadband speeds, notably in India. Read more

Mobile and Messaging

Millennials prefer Instagram over Snapchat—US Millennials are a bit more inclined to use Instagram daily (34%) than Snapchat (28%). Read more

Google is working on a Snapchat killer—Stamp is a mobile magazine app that looks an awful lot like Snapchat Discover. Stamp grew out of media relationships Google established through its AMP initiative, designed to load articles quickly. Read more

Deep links account for more discovery of brands on Snapchat than Snapcodes—Snapcodes—those Snapchat-branded QR codes that were showing up everywhere not that long ago—are no longer driving discovery of Snapchat accounts. Instead, brands are linking to their Snapchat accounts on their owned and shared media sites. Of the 1.94 million people who began following a brand in the second quarter, 1.10 million used deep links to discover the brand, 494,124 discovered a brand t9o follow by searching usernames, and 205,707 used Snapcodes. Read more

Today’s Wrap image—carts of books wrapped in plastic—is courtesy of the Flickr account from Tutt Library at Colorado College.

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