Friday Wrap #234: Inflating numbers, facelifts on Instagram, resistance to new tech, AI for kids

Posted on October 6, 2017 7:26 am by | Chatbots | Virtual and Augmented Reality | Content | Instagram | Wearables | Advertising | Brands | Business | Crisis Communication | Facebook | Instant Messaging | Marketing | Measurement | Mobile | PR | Publishing | Search | Social Media | Social networks | Transparency | Trust | Twitter | Video

Friday Wrap #234

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.

News

LVPD applauded for online response to massacre—While a torrent of fake news accompanied the horrific shooting in Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Police Department was able to ensure accurate information was available by posting timely announcements and press conferences across its various social media profiles. Takeaway: Institutions can’t think about this after a disaster strikes. Part of a social media presence means being prepared to swing into action during difficult times. Is social media part of your organization’s crisis plan? Read more

Snapchat curates on-the-ground views of Las Vegas shooting—Snapchat editors curated images from people in the midst of the horrific massacre in Las Vegas on Sunday night. The Snapchat Story carried a warning label. The snaps were available from Our Story, Discover, Snap Maps, and via search. Takeaway: Ask the article notes, no other medium provide an on-the-ground view the way Snapchat did. Twitter touts itself as the what’s-happening-now tool, but Snapchat (if it focuses more on this approach to delivering news from the scene) could find a path to growth that has eluded it so far. Consider that journalists were slammed for requesting to use video shot on the ground by bystanders while the public was able to go see the real deal without Snapchat getting the same criticism. Read more

Facebook data called into question again—Advertising groups are accusing Facebook of inflating the number of young adult users; Facebook says more of the demographic use the service than actually exist based on Census Bureau numbers. Takeaway: Facebook has a trust issue that seems to grow with each new revelation. Its audience is clearly too large to ignore, but communicators need other metrics to justify the investment than those that Facebook presents. Read more

This isn’t what you’d hope for in the first week with a new client—The New York Times’ expose on Hollywood studio mogul Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment comes just one week after PR agency Ketchum inked a deal to represent The Weinstein Company. A Ketchum spokesperson, said, “We are taking this very seriously and are looking into the matter.” Takeaway: PR agencies need crisis strategies. Ketchum did nothing wrong signing on to do work for a successful movie studio, but the questions are inevitable: Was Weinstein looking for PR because he knew the bombshell story was about to break? Read more

Paper urges end to plastic surgeons posting surgery images on Instagram—This isn’t the same as surgeons streaming heart or brain surgeries for educational purposes. These plastic surgeons are doing it purely for entertainment and marketing purposes and the authors of a paper published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery think it needs to stop. Takeaway: I had no idea this was happening. If I needed a plastic surgeon, one of the steps I’d take is to make sure he’s not engaged in this kind of repulsive behavior. Just because you can twist a code of ethics to accommodate such tactics doesn’t mean you should. Read more

You can share a poll in your Instagram Story—Two-option polls are now available to all users posting to Instagram Stories. Just select the “Poll” sticker from the sticker menu, then type your question and two responses. Polls and results vanish after 24 hours. The takeaway: Communicators seeking to attract audiences for their companies and clients on Instagram, listen up: This could be big. Read more

You could soon regain access to your locked Facebook account with your face—As with most new Facebook features, the facial recognition technology for regaining access to a locked account is available only to a few users as the company tests its potential. Takeaway: Given mixed reactions to the new iPhone X facial unlock system, it’s curious that Facebook is going down the same road. For now, though, it seems limited to getting back into an account that has been hacked or to which you have otherwise lost access. If it can’t be fooled with a photo or other means, it could be a useful approach to a usually-frustrating problem. Read more

Another Facebook algorithm change—Marketers who have seen their Facebook strategies thrown into chaos by algorithm changes have a new one to deal with. The new update reflects a further clampdown on link posts, preferring users stay on Facebook than follow links to other sites; the algorithm apparently demotes link posts. It also favors paid content. Takeaway: Really? You have a Facebook strategy? Please. Facebook is a channel. You should have a content strategy that shouldn’t miss a beat if Facebook went out of business tomorrow. That strategy should include native content and paid distribution. Read more

YouTube is also taking steps to minimize external links—It’s not just Facebook. New requirements for users who link to crowdfunding campaigns or other external sites have to be part of the YouTube Partner Program if they want to use the end cards that support those links. That drops the number of channels that can currently take advantage of the feature only to those with 10,000 total public views or more. Takeaway: Joining the program shouldn’t be a problem for most legit organizations, but again, communicators need to think about native content as opposed to that which drives content to other sites. Read more

Research

Communicators continue to resist new technologies—A survey from APPrise Mobile finds that the communication industry remains resistant to new ways of communicating, clinging primarily to email for both internal and external communication “while newer technologies like social media and mobile apps linger behind.” Takeaway: This has long been an issue for me, as advertisers and marketers quickly experiment with and adopt new technologies to gain competitive advantage. It’s one reason I’m not surprised to see studies from Nasdaq and the Center for Public Relations at USC’s Annenberg School finding that marketing is increasingly taking over the PR role. Read more

Consumer trust in family businesses is skin deep—People like the idea of a family business. According to an Edelman Trust Barometer special report, 75% trust them more than corporations in general, would prefer to work for one, and prefer to do business with one. However, they’re not seen as job creators (even though they are) and consumers don’t think of them as long-term thinkers, innovators, or drivers of financial success. Even more troubling, only 17% of respondents perceive them as leads in addressing societal issues, a growing consumer expectation. Takeaway: Family businesses are generally run the same way today that they always have been. Transparency isn’t a hallmark of the category. Edelman CEO Richard Edelman notes that “family businesses have been reluctant to share even the most basic information about their business and family heritage.” That’ll have to change. Read more

Snapchat use by top influencers declines 33%—Instagram Stories has more users than Snapchat has overall users, so it’s no surprise to hear that influencers are abandoning Snapchat for Instagram. In addition, Instagram has better tracking, data, and reporting tools and is making it possible to cross-post Instagram Stories directly to Facebook. These all are factors that have led influencers to leave Snapchat for Instagram. According to MediaKix, influencers are using Snapchat 33% less. Takeaway: Of course, you may still find the Snapchat demographic appealing, if not for influencer marketing then for direct marketing or even just company accounts Read more

Messenger’s dominance may be coming to an end—Facebook-owned Messenger’s growth will slow through 2021 while teens and young adults adopt Facebook-owned Instagram and competitor Snapchat instead. Messenger currently owns the U.S. chat app market with 125.4 million users, an increase of 7.5% over last year. WhatsApp (also owned by Facebook) will ad 9.5% more users by the end of the year to 20.5 million. Takeaway: Messaging apps will overtake (but never replace) social networks. Read more

Brands appeal to Instagram users—Eighty percent of Instagram’s 800 million users connect to a business voluntarily, the company said. According to the company’s COO, there have been 180 million interactions with businesses in just the last month. Customers ask how to contact a company, ask about specific products, offer ideas and feedback, and more. Takeaway: Perhaps more than any other platform, Instagram offers a desirable means for customers and companies to engage. It’s worth getting more knowledgeable about building a presence there. Read more

Trends

Magazines are making a comeback—digitally—We’re not talking about Good Housekeeping or Road & Track. These are digital magazines created for nothing (or next to nothing) by entrepreneurs using platforms like Issuu, which is now introducing a product that will let these publishers charge readers for subscriptions. Issuu’s CEO says 35 million indy publications use the company’s free tools, reaching 100 million unique readers. Takeaway: Lest you thought the magazine format was dead, think again. The format that collects a curated body of work can be more interesting than a blog. If entrepreneurs can build followings, why can’t established companies with built-in opportunities to create awareness of the magazine’s availability? By the way, some mainstream publishers are using the platform, too, like Fast Company. Read more

New York Times experiments with personalized news—The New York Times has been experimenting with delivery of news tailored to individuals based on signals including past user behavior, location, or time. “Just as your Google search results aren’t the same as mine, your New York Times might be subtly different from your neighbor’s.” The editorial director of the Times’ new desk says it’s a new way of thinking about distribution. Takeaway: This is a step closer to the vision of journalism in the digital era Jeff Jarvis presented in his book, “Gutenberg the Geek: Imagining New Futures for News.” Now if only our PR industry could apply the same principles. Speaking as someone who gets dozens of irrelevant press releases every week that were distributed to entire purchased lists, I would be much more likely to respond to a pitch that was personalized based on the ample signals I have sent. (Adding my name in a mail-merge doesn’t count.) Read more

Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality

Microsoft heralds the era of Mixed Reality—At a media event in San Francisco, Microsoft revealed that pre-orders for Windows Mixed Reality (MR) headsets from a variety of manufacturers are now available and that some 20,000 MR apps would be made available on October 17. MR combines Augmented and Virtual Reality. Microsoft asserts that Windows will deliver “the only OS designed for the broadest range of inputs from traditional inputs like keyboards and mice, touch and ink, gamepads and our new industry defining motion controllers to now more natural human inputs such as gaze, voice, and gestures.” Takeaway: The reasonably-priced third-party headsets and the array of apps may challenge Apple, which hasn’t made the splash with Augmented Reality in its iOS devices many expected. Read more

Microsoft acquires AltspaceVR—A few weeks ago, word was that Altspace VR had shut its doors. It turns out that the VR startup that let people meet in a VR space (think of an immersive Second Life) has Been acquired to Microsoft. The announcement at the event noted in the item above noted that the team has been assigned to build “the world’s preeminent mixed reality community.” Takeaway: If Mixed Reality takes off, the ability to gather virtually in a real-world environment with friends or associates could become a big deal, including in the enterprise, supplementing or even replacing videoconferences. Read more

Snapchat launches AR art gallery—Snapchat has introduced “Art All Around You,” which makes the art of Jeff Koons available through your phone when you’re at a location where one has been situated (not unlike Pokemon Go characters located at specific places). Koons’ “Balloon Dog” can be found in Central Park while a Popeye sculpture stands on the stairs leading to the Sydney Opera House. Takeaway: Consider this another proof of concept for AR, something that could easily be created using Apple’s ARKit. Now that the technology is available to millions, we’ll see more experimentation, some of which will undoubtedly click with consumers. Read more

AR will be everywhere—in retail—While the Apple AR rollout has been underwhelming, the Ikea app that lets consumers see how a piece of furniture will look in their own homes has awakened retailers everywhere to the technology’s utility. Already, 20% of consumers say they expect retailers to have an AR tool, and nearly half expect retailers to introduce AR features within the next six months. Wayfair, Topology Eyewear, and Anthropologie are among the retailers that have already rolled out AR apps. Many of the apps already available (and in development) are powered by Artificial Intelligence. Takeaway: The problems AR solves for retailers are obvious, though creativity is still a requirement in creating these apps. Consider the ways a company like Estee Lauder—a big-time retailer in the cosmetics and skin care space—could boost sales with AR. Want to see how much younger you’ll look if you use one of its skin care products? That could sell boatloads of bottles of gunk. Read more

Artificial Intelligence, Chatbots, and Smart Audio

Mattel cancels AI device for kids—Mattel was developing a child-focused smart hub that drew criticism from health and privacy advocates who said the company would be able to collect huge amounts of data on the personal lives of the kids who used it. Dubbed Aristotle, the device was meant for a child’s room where it could turn on a night light and offer up a variety of activities, including homework help. Mattel said the device doesn’t “fully align with Mattel’s new technology strategy.” Takeaway: To think that AI and smart audio devices won’t someday be incorporated into children’s lives is naive. (Parents are already using Amazon’s Alexa to play lullabies, for example.) The industry needs to develop and promote safeguards first. Aristotle was just a matter of “too soon.” Read more

Publisher builds a chatbot for an advertiser—Publishers embraced native advertising, creating units to create content for paying companies. Quartz has taken that one step further, building a chatbot for Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The chatbot was integrated into a native advertising series addressing Artifical Intelligence. Users who tapped through to the chatbot on their smartphones were able to delve deeper into the series content. “Over a period of six weeks, 117,155 messages were served (after users selected topics) and users spent an average of two minutes with the bot.” The bot will be available soon on Facebook Messenger. Takeaway: Engagement with chatbots is fast becoming a staple. With Quartz’s success, expect to see more in native advertising. Read more

Bing chatbot will let customers connect with companies—Microsoft has introduced a pilot program that will let advertisers take advantage of a chatbot extension on its Bing search engine. “As an example, the user can search for Monsoon Restaurant Seattle, as the bot is active on it. Just below the ‘View on Facebook and Twitter option, users will find the box where its written ‘Questions? Ask Monsoon Restaurant bot for help’.” Takeaway: More evidence that chatbots will become routine (not that Bing attracts all that much traffic, but as a proof of concept, it’s compelling). Since Google doesn’t have a chatbot platform, it’ll probably wait to see if Bing users latch onto the concept, but it’s not hard to imagine a similar feature on the world’s most popular search engine at some point. Read more

Mixed Reality in the enterprise will incorporate chatbots—Chatbots will find their way into Microsoft’s Mixed Reality HoloLens, enabling workers who can see virtual objects overlayed on their real surroundings to interact verbally with the information they’re seeing. The bots can “respond to questions, learn user preferences, and…use and understand ordinary language.” Takeaway: The potential for workers to interact by voice with virtual and augmented environments will have extraordinary impacts on productivity, accuracy, and efficiency. And you thought chatbots were only good for ordering an Uber via Messenger. Read more

Blockchain

Escort service runs on blockchain—SexService.io isn’t trying to hide what it does. It’s an escort platform, but because it uses blockchain technology, it “protects both prostitutes and their clienteles.” It uses no email or user credentials and no private data is exchanged; the entire transaction (including payment) is handled on the blockchain. Takeaway: Okay, so now are you convinced that blockchain is going to affect absolutely everything? Read more

Dubai plans to run government by blockchain—By 2020, Dubai expects to become the first blockchain-powered government. The efficiencies to be gained from the move “could save 251 million manhours, akin to…$1.5 billion, in savings per year” stemming from electronic document processing, which will eliminate some 100 million paper transactions each year. Takeaway: There’s still a lot of suspicion about the role blockchain will play, but Gartner—which never hesitates to call out hype when it sees it—says that in the “long-term…this technology will lead to a reformation of whole industries.” Not to mention governments. Read more

Does blockchain spell the end of fake QA certificates?—DNV GL, a Norwegian company that competes in the quality assurance certification marketplace, has transferred its 90,000 certificates to a private blockchain. The move is designed to “stop counterfeit certificates, as well as (allow) companies to communicate their certifications in a transparent and secure way.” Takeaway: It will take communicators familiarizing themselves with blockchain before we develop innovative ways for blockchain to improve communication beyond the early concepts, such as registering press releases and other documentation and introducing more efficient means of media buying. Ultimately, blockchain will impact every corner of business. Read more

Also…

  • Blockchain may spell the end of fax machines. For example, mutual fund trading still involves faxes (and follow-up phone calls), but a process in the works from Nasdaq and other financial institutions that registers trades on a blockchain could render such techniques obsolete. Read more

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This week’s wrap image is courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Flickr account. Cotton ginning and grain elevator operations in El Campo, Texas include securing harvested cotton in round modules wrapped in plastic.

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