Friday Wrap #233: Twitter doubles characters, Alexa gains ground, video pivot fails, AMC bets on VR

Posted on September 29, 2017 11:39 am by | Data and Data Journalism | Virtual and Augmented Reality | Content | Instagram | Visual Communication | Pinterest | Brands | Business | Facebook | Instant Messaging | Media | Mobile | PR | Research | Search | Social Media | Trust | Twitter | Video

Friday Wrap #233I 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

Twitter expands to 280 characters—Twitter’s 140-character limit will soon be a thing of the past. The company is expanding the limit on posts to 280 characters. Only some users have access (though several people have published tricks to get access to the expanded limit, including using Tweetdeck). The company said it’s confident that change will be positive but wants to test it with a small group before expanding it to everyone. Takeaway: See the next item. Read more

How brands used those 280 characters isn’t pretty—With twice the character count available to brands via Twitter, the level of creativity applied initially was essentially non-existent, though I did like Denny’s tweet, which subtly proclaimed that 140 characters is enough. “last night we received the 280 character count. we traded the extra 140 for beans, not even magic.” Well played, Denny’s. Takeaway: Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. I can see using 280 characters to address crises or answer customer questions, but even though the 140 character limit was somewhat arbitrary, it forced brands and users to be concise. Brands will benefit by continuing to be concise. Read more

Users also respond to 280 characters—Just in case you’re interested in the user reaction, which was pretty funny, in large part because most of them didn’t yet have access to the expanded character limit. Read more

Google yanks YouTube from Echo Show—Amazon has accused Google of disabling YouTube from the Echo Show devices. Google responded by saying “Amazon’s implementation of YouTube on the Echo Show violates our terms of service, creating a broken user experience.” The Echo Show doesn’t show video recommendations or let users subscribe to channels.  Takeaway: The Amazon Show is a small touchscreen device that uses your voice as its operating system. Compatability with services designed for computer screens and mobile devices is going to continue to be an issue. Working together to evolve the ecosystem to everyone’s advantage (as the video gaming industry did) makes more sense than squabbling and keeping users from accessing publicly-available content. Read more

Walmart adopts Facebook Worplace—You don’t hear many people who talk about enterprise collaboration discuss Facebook’s product, Workplace. But America’s biggest employer, Walmart, has adopted it, making it the biggest deployment in the country (even though Walmart is using it as part of the 90-day free trial; Facebook says they are set to become a paying customer when the trial period ends). Facebook says 14,000 companies are using Workplace, including Starbucks, Spotify, and Lyft. Takeaway: A Ketchum executive called Workplace a “game-changer.” Don’t exclude it from your thinking if you’re looking to implement an enterprise collaboration and communication tool, or replace the sucky one you have now that everyone hates. Read more

Vimeo launches live-streaming product—Video platform Vimeo is acquiring Livestream and has launched its first-ever live video product, which it is calling (not so creatively) Vimeo Live. Takeaway: Live-streaming video is gaining traction at a rapid pace. Communication opportunities abound, including the ability to stream something live just because you can. Be strategic—know what you hope to accomplish with live-streaming video—and you’ll do well. Read more

Target adds Pinterest’s camera image search to app—Target Corp. is licensing Pinterest’s camera image search tool, which the company will embed in its own app. Shoppers can take pictures on their phones and get suggestions from Target for products like the ones in the photos. Takeaway: More evidence that search will involve typing something into a query box less and less. It’ll be image- and voice-activated. Read more

From one ad, thousands—YouTube has introduced Director Mix, which will let marketers crank out hundreds (or even thousands) of variations of their video ads, tailoring each iteration for different viewer profiles. Marketers will also be able to use Google data to target the various versions of their ads at the right people. Takeaway: Personalization is going to be the key to marketing over the next few years (with AI playing a big role). Subtle differences in video ads could be a big deal. Read more

Also…

  • Facebook is now one of the top 10 global brands, ranking 8th on Interbrand’s annual Best Global Brands list. Read more
  • Apple has ditched Microsoft and is now using Google to power Siri-activated searches. REad more
  • Microsoft is backing off its commitment to Skype for Business, adding MTeams as its primary teamwork software in a bid to compete better against Slack. Read more
  • Three widely-used WordPress plugins have been found to contain malicious code. They are: Display Widgets, Fast Secure Contact Form, and SI CAPTCHA Anti-Spam. WordPress has removed them from its official plugin repository but hasn’t said much about how users can be sure other plugins won’t be attacked. Read more

Trends

Alexa is the next big operating system—Not every Amazon Alexa device is a sure hit, but the company is able to iterate fast enough to maintain the big lead it has built based on the surprise success of the first Amazon Echo. The key to securing that lead will be the Internet of Things, with the Echo Plus (the rebranded and improved Echo) equipped to be the home hub for your connected devices. (It comes with a Philips Hue connected light bulb.) “This is a land-grab,” according to ZD|Net. “Whichever company reaches enough homes fast enough will become the effective standard.” Among the features Amazon is building into the ecosystem: “routines,” which let you speak a single command to execute a series of actions. Saying, “Alexa, good night,” for example, will turn off your lights, lock the door, and turn off the TV (if that’s what you set it up to do). Takeaway: Is anybody in your agency or company focused on rising to the top of the Alexa ecosystem for your industry or product category? Read more

Data journalism gains steam—Data journalism is surging, with 42% of reporters using data to tell stories twice or more per week, according to Simon Rogers, Google News Lab’s data editor. His report on the state of data journalism also notes that 51% of all news organizations in the U.S. and Europe have at least one dedicated data journalist. Takeaway: Increasingly, data will be a great way to pitch a story as data journalism becomes more routine. Companies and agencies must also become adept at responding to data stories that affect them. Read more

Publishers shifting to platforms other than Facebook—Several publishers, frustrated with the low levels of income they’re generating on Facebook, are shifting to other platforms, including Google and Apple News, Snapchat, and Instagram. That doesn’t mean they’re abandoning Facebook, but rather spending less time with it or increasing their spends elsewhere. Takeaway: In a multi-channel world, this makes sense. Don’t wait for your Facebook results to falter before expanding to other platforms. just be sure you’re using each platform based on its strengths. Read more

Combining multiple tools can produce better forecasting—The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is behind a forecasting research initiative that could build better methods of forecasting the shape of the next flu season. Researchers are combining the CDC’s existing data with information from Google Trends (which can track people searching for information about the flu), Wikipedia access logs, and tweets about the flu. Add Artificial Intelligence to the mix—feed it all the other information and let it predict what’s coming—and you could have a whole new level of forecasting functionality. Takeaway: Connect the dots between predicting the flu from this kind of data and predicting anything else a marketer may want to know and the broad applicability of the approach gets pretty appealing. Read more

Get prepared…for more of the same—Entrepreneur Magazine has listed 10 social media trends coming in 2018. Prepare to be blinded by these flashes of the obvious: the continued rise of Augmented Reality and Instagram Stories, more investment in influencer marketing, a growing focus on Generation Z, more brand participation in messaging platforms, and more live streaming. Only three items on the list go beyond continuing trends: digital hangouts like Houseparty and Facebook’s VR Spaces going mainstream. The last trend is stronger social platform governance in the wake of Russian election meddling via Facebook and Twitter. Takeaway: I am skeptical that the last three trends will come to pass.For one thing, VR adoption curve is taking much longer than enthusiasts projected. And the big social platforms will do as little as they can get away with when it comes to governance until regulators step in and force their hands, which won’t happen overnight. Read more

Should you really be going all-in with video?—“You gotta do video,” says pretty much everybody. This Columbia Journalism Review analysis throws cold water on the big pivot so many brands have been making, noting that comScore data shows that “publishers that pivoted to video this summer have seen at least a 60% drop in their traffic in August compared to the same period a year ago.” The reasons: faulty metrics, trusting other platforms to handle distribution for you, low-quality video production and weak technological support for video content, and “a failure to effectively turn video views into either higher readership or ad dollars.” Takeaway:  May I add another reason to the CJR’s four? Lack of strategy. Video is awesome and people are definitely watching a lot of it. But if you can’t strategize a way for your video to deliver results, then you’re just chasing the latest shiny object. Read more

Also…

  • Instagram may soon attract more new users than Snapchat for the first time. Read more
  • Yelp has seen a spike in users looking for restaurants and including the word “Instagram” in their searches, leading restaurants to “think about how things are going to look on Instagram.” Read more
  • I like Phish, so I’m including this report about how the band and its promoters use data to make its concerts a better experience. Included in the data analyzed are demographics, preferences, geography (the band is from Vermont so there’s a strong interest from people leaving nearby), lifestyle, brand preferences, travel, and sports. Read more

Research

Wells Fargo scandal has tainted all banks—Your bank didn’t open accounts for customers without their knowledge or put undue pressure on employees that forced them to work long hours to meet unrealistic targets. No matter. Research reveals that Americans trust big banks even less than scandalized celebrities (Charlie Sheen, for example, or Tiger Woods). “When choosing from big banks, Congress, used car salesmen, Charlie Sheen, or Tiger Woods, 14% of Americans said they trust big bangs the least,” according to the study. Wells Fargo is the reason. Most consumers are aware of the scandal and most trust their own banks less as a result. Takeaway:  There’s a lesson here for every industry. If a competitor is at the center of one of these scandals, you should start work immediately to differentiate your company. How much institutional marketing and communication have we seen from the likes of Experian and Sodexo in the wake of the Equifax crisis? Not nearly enough, says I. Consumers will be wary of all consumer credit reporting agencies thanks to the Equifax breach. Read more

CEOs are elevating CSR as part of corporate vision—A report finds that CEO’s and other senior executives are talking to a wider variety of stakeholders about their CSR efforts, the result of consumer demand for brands and businesses to be more accountable. Takeaway: Since I have been saying for more than a year that we’re entering a values-driven marketplace, this is no surprise. Are you having these conversations at the highest levels of your organization? Read more

Fake news has damaged all media credibility—A study finds that 78% of Americans believe fake news has damaged the credibility of the entire media industry. Even though survey respondents blame social media for the situation, journalists believe cuts in fact-checking staff and other budget-driven reductions are playing a part. Takeaway:  The opportunity for PR is to help reporters produce bullet-proof content. Media relations practitioners should develop strategies for ensuring reporters know the information they’re getting from companies is sound. Read more

Video ads need to work in 2 seconds—If the average video ad view on digital platforms is 1.7 seconds, do marketers need to get their messages across in 2 seconds? A study from Oracle Data Cloud and Facebook found that video ads seen for less than 2 seconds actually do help drive sales; in fact, they can be a big part of the campaign’s success. Takeaway:  While I would be fascinated to see what creative people might do with a 2-second ad, that’s not the point. You need to get your key message across in the first 2 seconds of a 3-, 7-, or 15-second video. Read more

Artificial Intelligence, Chatbots, and Smart Audio

A big shift in advertising is coming—If you’ve ever driven north on Interstate Highway 5 from Los Angeles to San Francisco, you’ve seen signs luring you to Pea Soup Andersen’s restaurant in Santa Nella. Before long, when you’re in an autonomous vehicle, you probably won’t be looking at billboards since you won’t need to have your eyes on the road. At that point, you may ask, “Alexa, where can I get the best hot meal at the next off-ramp?” If Pea Soup Andersen’s isn’t the top answer, that’s not where you’ll eat. Advertising, consequently, will target Alexa, not you. Takeaway:  Since Alexa (and Google Assistant and the host of other competitors on the horizon) deliver a single answer, marketers have their work cut out for them. The shift will be dramatic and there will be a lot of losers among advertising and marketing agencies. On the plus side, as this article notes, we could also see pristine roadway landscapes as useless billboards are removed. Read more

Amazon adds Alexa to its music apps—Amazon has added support for the Alexa assistant to its Android and iOS apps. Ask for a song and it’ll play. Takeaway:  Amazon is adding Alexa support for everything it can. See the item in the “Trends” section about Alexa becoming the new operating system. Read more

Also…

  • As further evidence that Amazon intends Alexa to become the way we interface with information, the company has introduced several new products, including a smaller Echo with better voice recognition; Buttons (with which you and Alexa play games); a Fire TV enabled with Alexa; and the Echo Spot, an alarm clock device with a 2-1/2-inch screen that can show video feeds. Echo will also be embedded into BMW vehicles next year. Read more
  • American Airlines is offering an Alexa skill that lets travelers plan their in-flight entertainment before they even get to the airport. American is using the Spafax Profile entertainment personalization platform. Read more
  • Every major flagship phone and tablet will include an AI chip by the end of next year. Read more

Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality

Making it easier to distribute VR content—“The virtual reality industry is fragmented. Secret Location, a VR tech company, wants to address that with Vusr, a white-label distribution platform for VR apps. It’s getting an update today that makes it easier to publish, distribute, and monetize 360-degree video and other VR content on any VR headset.” Takeaway:  This could help speed up adoption. After all, if I hear about a great VR app but can’t access it because it was made for one VR platform and I have another, it won’t spread. Read more

AMC invests $20 million in VR—AMC, the biggest movie theater chain in America, is spending at least $20 million in VR arcades and productions, partly in response to stagnating growth in traditional moviegoing. Takeaway: I’m not convinced VR arcades will survive the novelty phase, nor do I think people will flock to VR theaters to watch VR productions. I do think people will watch VR movies at home (because once you have the goggles on, it doesn’t matter where you are). Being immersed in a story represents new vistas of storytelling that communicators should explore. Read more

Also…

  • AI will change email marketing. For example, marketers will be able to create better tests than the A/B and multivariate tests they’ve been using, identify trends, and make better predictions. AI can optimize subject lines and copy, do a better job of personalizing messages,  predict the best time to send emails, and deliver better analytics. Read more
  • The number of gaming industry jobs has fallen, but AR software jobs are on the rise and “can be just as exciting as the entertainment and consumer tech realms.” Read more

Blockchain

Sirin Labs wants to create a blockchain based smartphone—The company behind a $16,000 luxury phone wants to raise $100 million to fund development of a smartphone and PC that run on a blockchain. The founder calls the products “secure open source consumer electronics for the blockchain era.” Takeaway: I’m bullish on blockchain but this will be a tough sell before the public is widely aware of what it is and why it’s beneficial. And the phone had better cost less than $16,000. Read more

Product Updates

Google Slides gets add-ons—An overhaul to Google Slide includes tighter integration with Shutterstock and Adobe Stock, among other third-party services. You can also drag-and-drop ideas from Google Keep. Linked Slides lets you synchronize elements between presentations, letting you update an element once and updating it across all your presentations. Read more

New tools from Instagram—The latest Instagram update lets you limit who can comment on your photos. It’s also expanding its offensive comment filter to four additional languages and adding the ability for viewers to send mental health resources to the broadcaster as you’re watching the stream. Read more

Snapchat filters transform the sky—Maybe you took a snap in daylight but want to make it look like night. Maybe it’s night but you want it to look like a sunset. The latest set of AR features from Snapchat, “Sky Filters,” let you time-shift with ease. Read more
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This week’s Wrap image—of two seamen wrapping a mooring line around a bit aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, is courtesy of the Naval Surface Warriors Flickr account.

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