Friday Wrap #63: Google’s attack on press releases, Facebook’s updated algorithm, anti-social CEOs2013-08-09
(c) Can Stock PhotoA steady stream of reports, studies, surveys and announcements flooded my feeds this week. Today’s Wrap includes some big announcements as well as some other items that may have escaped your notice. I collect all the items from which I choose the Wrap contents at my link blog, LinksFromShel.tumblr.com, which also serves as the source for stories I report on the For Immediate Release podcast. Feel free to add it to your list of resources.
Google vs. PR
Press releases have been around for more than 100 years and they serve a distinct purpose, even when they’re posted to the Web (as they all are these days). But Google doesn’t see it that way, lumping press releases into the same category as any other content. Google’s updated webmaster rules on links and keywords states that “Any links intended to manpulate Pagerank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.” Also, Tom Foremski in ZDNet, “If you repeat the use of a word in your press release, Google will think you are trying to stuff it with keywords and try to trick its index. Repeated words are a big red flag.” Foremski also points out that, while press releases are routinely posted to multiple sites, Google will penalize you for that, as well. “They don’t see themselves in this way, but PR agencies are essentially engaged in a form of SEO. Google is at war with SEO companies and is trying to wipe them out,” Foremski writes. He points to three problems for PR agencies: unhappy clients affected by Google’s response to age-old PR practices, liability for any damage agencies cause to clients “through the execution of normal practices,” and understanding that Google is a competitor. “How do they promote a client when Google punishes any form of paid online promotion?” On his blog, Sword and the Script, Frank Strong offers advice for press releases under Google’s new rules: use links sparingly, product anchor text is probably okay, and do not link to key words in anchor text.
Facebook updates its newsfeed algorithm, kills EdgeRank
For years, EdgeRank has guided Facebook marketers in their efforts to see their updates migrate from the brand page into users’ newsfeeds. The actual algorithm was secret, but the elements were well known: affinity, currency and engagement. This week, Facebook put an amen to EdgeRank when it revealed a significant update to the algorithm. Currency has been downgraded as the update will resurface “older updates that it thinks are relevant,” writes Christopher S. Penn. “It’s based on something simple: if Facebook registered that you never saw the item and it’d be an item that you’re statistically likely to engage with, it’ll bubble the item back into your ‘current’ news.” The four signals that determine whether you’re now likely to see an update in your newsfeed, according to Facebook: affinity (how often you interact with a friend, page or public figure), engagement (the number of likes, shares and comments a post gets, both in general and from people you’re connected with, the degree to which you have interacted with similar posts in the past, and whether you or others are hiding or reporting a post. “Take note that the behavior of hiding a post is specifically called out,” Penn says. “Anything that triggers a hide – cadence, content, etc. – is bad news and calls for an immediate reassessment of what you’re doing.”
Most CEOs still aren’t using social networks
Last week I wrote a post blaming the failure of most organizations to make the shift to social business on leaders who have failed to grasp the greater importance of social media. (Social businesses develop processes and structures that allow them to derive value from networks of people.) There is further evidence to support laying the blame at leadership’s door. “Of the 500 leaders of the biggest companies in the US, only 28 have a Twitter account and only 19 of them actually use it,” writes Roberto A. Ferdman for Quartz. Ferdman cites a study from Domo and CEO.com, which shows similar low usage rates for other social networks. Sixty-eight percent of CEOs “have no social media presence whatever—whether it be on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+,” Ferdman writes. What’s more, engagement is actually falling among those use Facebook. Only LinkedIn shows gains, with 140 CEOs holding accounts. The report speculates that LinkedIn’s “influencer” program—featuring articles written by well-known business people—has led to the increase. “CEOs are rushing to become part of LinkedIn’s ‘prestigious club of experts.’” Leaders who don’t use social media will be unlikely to support its integration into business processes.
Pew social networking report shows dramatic increase among older users
At a recent meeting, I heard a CEO proclaim that social media was really just for younger people. That CEO should take a look at the most recent data from the Pew Research Center, which shows that users “ages 65 and older have roughly tripled their presence on social networking sites in the last four years—from 13 percent in the spring of 2009 to 43% now,” according to a Search Engine Watch article by Jessica Lee.
YouTube creators introduce new short-form video service
First there was Vine. Then Instagram added short video creation to its platform. And now, Steve Chen and Chad Hurley—the co-founders of YouTube—have launched MixBit, which like Vine and Instagram lets users upload short videos from their smartphones. The differentiation is greater than the 16-second limit to MixBit videos (Vine videos are six seconds, Instagram’s are 15). “Once uploaded, all Mixbit videos are fair game for other users to edit, splice and mix with their own, creating new videos up to an hour long,” writes CNN‘s Doug Gross. According to Hurley and Chen, MixBit’s proposition is encouraging collaborative creation. “The app features easy-to-use editing tools that let users link up video clips as short as one second long. Up to 256 clips can be used in a video,” Gross writes. The service is available now via the Web and iPhones. An Android version is due by the end of September. It’ll be interesting to see if brands take to Mixbit as they have to Vine and Instagram—and if so, how they’ll tap into the collaborative creation feature. They could create their own videos or encourage fans to do it. Or, they could ignore it and stick with Vine and Instagram. In any case, I’m keeping my eyes peeled for the first brand-produced MixBit video.
Instagram engagement levels pummel Facebook’s
While Facebook’s algorithm rewards engagement, the social network’s photo sharing site, Instagram, is where real engagement seems to be happening. “It registers 18 times that of Facebook and 48 times that of Twitter,” according to Erin Shea, writing for Mobile Marketer. Shea cites a report from L2 Think Tank that found other visual platforms have also grown significantly and “continue to be platforms for brands to deeply engage with consumers.” According to the study, visual-focused social media platforms “engage consumers more than other kinds of social platforms. Users on Instagram,” Shea writes, “are even interacting with brands that do not have an official Instagram presence.” She points to Chanel, which although it has no official Instagram account, is the subject of more than 2.7 million images to which users have attached the #Chanel hashtag.
Companies embrace content marketing, seek lead generation
Nearly half of U.S. companies have formal content marketing strategies in place, up from just more than a quarter a year ago, according to IMN’s 2013 Content Marketing Survey Report, reported by eMarketer. “Those without a content strategy contracted from 26% to 18% during the same period,” according to the article. The key goal for most of the companies adopting a formal content marketing strategy is lead generation, according to the report. A year ago, lead generation ranked fourth, behind engagement, awareness and loyalty. Now, 44% of respondents cite lead generation as the top goal, “far ahead of any other response. This points to content marketing as primarily a first step in new customer acquisition, as opposed to a tactic used primarily for hooking current or already-identified customers.” Awareness and engagement were each cited by 19% of respondents. “Social media’s role in content strategy also keeps growing,” the report says, “as social outreach helps companies reach new potential clients.” More than half of respondents said social media was the most effective content marketing strategy. Behind social media were the company’s website, newsletters and email blasts.
Facebook channels Twitter, introduces Trending Topics
Trending topics—a list of topics that have inspired significant conversation—has been a staple of Twitter for years. Now, Facebook is experimenting with its own version, according to a Seth Fiegerman piece on Mashable. The test is available to a small number of US users via Facebook’s mobile website. There’s no word on whether or when it could be rolled out more broadly.
Twitter subversives are out to hurt your brand
A Twitter subculture is emerging. Unhappy with promoted tweets and other ways businesses are co-opting Twitter, these subversives are taking steps to damage brands by altering and then retweeting brand tweets, according to The Wall Street Journal‘s Katherine Rosman. Known as Weird Twitter, the subculture group distributes “purposefully nonsensical code that is meant to satirize the growing presence of corporate brands and marketers on the popular network.” By way of example, Rosman points to a St. Louis-based IT worker, Ryan Woodsmall, who “will reply to a (brand) tweet or retweet after editing the tweet to insert misspelled words or other flourishes that he hopes will reflect poorly on the brand. He also does this because he hopes it will drive up the cost of advertising for the brand.” Twitter spokesman Jim Prosser responds that “it’s the eternal battle people have over hipsterdom.”
More video is coming to the workplace
The upcoming generation of leaders plan to “depend heavily upon business-class video to connect with their teams, colleagues, suppliers, customers and prospects, as well as to help their businesses deliver new products and services,” according to Bulldog Reporter’s Daily Dog. The 2013 Global Young Executives’ Video Attitudes Survey from Cisco Systems—which surveyed workers under 34 years old who are on the management track—found that 87 percent “believe video has a significant and positive impact on an organization, citing benefits ranging from enhancing the experience of telecommuters to saving money on travel costs and even attracting top talent.” Nearly 90 percent would choose to work for a video-enabled company over one that hasn’t made the investment in enterprise-class video communications.
GE hosts a Vine science fair
If you’re wondering how your brand can get creative with tools like Vine and Instagram, look to General Electric for inspiration. GE recently launched a social media campaign under which the company will both create and curate from others six-second Vine videos “showing the miracles of science,” according to an AdAge report. Any Vine video that demonstrates something scientific and tagged #6SecondScience could show up in GE’s collection, which is being housed on Tumblr. The campaign grew out of a Vine video GE tweeted showing what happens when milk and food coloring are combined in a soap dish. It was GE’s most retweeted Vine video. The new campaign will feature Vine celebrities and science-themed gifts for selected participants. “So far, Vines have included one that shows the cells inside your hand, and one showing the chemical properties of your daily cup of coffee.”