Friday Wrap #225: Instagram fixation, sponsored GIFs, Microsoft’s AI vision, fallout from bad press

Posted on August 4, 2017 8:49 am by | Employee Engagement | Chatbots | Virtual and Augmented Reality | The Workplace Experience | Content | Instagram | Pinterest | Advertising | Brands | Business | Channels | Crisis Communication | Ethics | Facebook | Legal | Marketing | Media | Mobile | Podcasting | PR | QR Codes | Social Media | Social networks | Twitter | Video

Friday Wrap #225I 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

Young Instagrammers spend 32 minutes daily on the app—Most people younger than 25 spend 32 minutes on Instagram every day. As for the rest of us, everyone over 25, we spend a mere 24 minutes a day using Instagram. Most of that growth is due to Stories, the feature Instagram cribbed from Snapchat (and is now a feature on Messenger and Facebook, as well), according to Facebook. Stories, which launched a year ago, has 250 million daily users. This data no doubt is salt in Snapchat’s wounds, but the message is crystal clear: Instagram is not an optional channel, especially if you’re trying to reach a young demographic. As the migration to messaging apps continues—where few of the rules of social media communication and marketing apply—Instagram represents a social network that is commanding the serious attention of a lot of people. Read more

Bad press deters job applicants—I keep hearing that United Airlines’ big, profitable quarter is just further proof that reputation-damaging crises really don’t mean anything. Just look at the whole “United Breaks Guitars” situation from eight years ago. It was another reputation hit that wound up costing United nothing. Short-term profits aren’t the only measure by which to assess the damage of bad press, however. A Harris Poll conducted for CareerBuilder found 71% of workers would not even apply to a company experiencing negative press. “Female workers are especially intolerant of scandalous and unethical behavior—they are much more likely not to apply to a company getting bad press than their male counterparts (79% vs. 61% respectively). Twenty-six percent of employers say their hiring process suffers when their company experienced negative publicity, 61% of whom report the bad press resulted in fewer job offers accepted, fewer candidate referrals from employers, and fewer job applications submitted. Current workers, however, tend to stick with their jobs; only 6% have left a company because of bad publicity. The takeaway: This is useful data for communicators facing leaders who shrug off a crisis. Earnings may not suffer right now, but with the company unable to hire the best workers, productivity, innovation, and performance could suffer badly down the road. Read more

Court rules on public officials blocking social media users—I routinely hear from people I know who announce that U.S. President Donald Trump has blocked them from his Twitter account after they tweeted something critical to him. Trump isn’t alone; other public officials have also blocked people they don’t want to hear from. That includes Phyllis J. Randall, a county supervisor who blocked a citizen from her Facebook page after deleting his comment. The citizen, Brian Davidson, sued and the court agreed, saying that blocking him was a form of “viewpoint discrimination,” prohibited under the First Amendment. Responding to the argument that Davidson was free to express his views in other venues, the judge cited a Supreme Court decision that found social media could no be “the most important” channel “for the exchange of views.” The takeaway: Whether President Trump stops blocking critics—for which he has already been sued by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University—remains to be seen. For communicators working in government at lower levels than the U.S. presidency, however, view this case as precedent and advise your officials that their Twitter and Facebook accounts set up specifically to communicate with constituents should not be subject to blocking people just because the official is offended by what they say. (The same is not true outside the halls of of government, where executives are free to (if not ill-advised to) block whomever they like.) Read more

News

Facebook will favor fast-loading websites—If you share a link in a Facebook post, how high up it appears in users’ News Feeds will depend on how quickly it opens. Slow-loading websites will be demoted and, consequently, earn less traffic. Facebook’s engineers argue 40% of people don’t want to wait more than three seconds for pages to load. Read more

Amazon launches home makeover show featuring YouTube stars—It’s being touted as entertainment but will be filled with products you can buy on Amazon. A special Amazon video hub will host “Overhaul,” which will let users click to order items or less expensive alternatives. Read more

Google Image Search results now include relevant links—For example, a picture of food will include links to related recipes and a product photo will feature links to sites where you can buy the item. The update comes on the heels of Pinterest moving search prominently to the top of its app’s home screen. Read more

Facebook automates search for fake news—The algorithm spots suspicious content on the network and forwards it to third-party fact checkers. On reviewing the content, the fact-checkers can write a response, which could appear below the original post. Read more

Brands will be able to target people who RSVP’d to their Facebook events—Facebook has announced a new advertising feature allowing brands to create custom audiences of people who RSVP’d to an event on the brand’s Facebook page. Read more

Lawsuit filed by Pokémon Go Fest attendees—You know a company failed in its promise to deliver a great experience with customers file a lawsuit over it. Niantic is facing just such a suit from the Pokémon Go Fest, the Chicago event plagued by bad phone connectivity and overloaded servers. The plaintiffs want the company to compensate them for travel to the festival. Niantic has already refunded ticket prices and offered $100 of in-game currency. Read more

European Pokémon Go events postponed—In the wake of the disastrous Pokémon Go Fest in Chicago, Niantic has postponed events scheduled in Europe to ensure that they deliver “the best possible gameplay experience” when the Pokémon Safari events are rescheduled. Some events, though—in Japan, France, Spain, and Germany—are still on the schedule. Read more

Sponsored GIFs are coming to Giphy—You can stop losing sleep wondering how Giphy plans to make money. Now that it has 200 million daily users, it’s appealing to brands. Under a test, search results could include a sponsored GIF in the messaging tab. For example, a search for Walmart could produce a GIF featuring Target (which will have paid for the privilege). Read more

Now you can share your Facebook Stories publicly—When Facebook Stories launched, you could share only with your friends (or a subset of your friends). “Now if you allow public followers, you can post your Story publicly so anyone can watch.” Read more

Facebook Stories comes to the desktop—Facebook Stories—the same idea that has propelled Instagram—haven’t gotten much traction in the mobile apps, but the company is bringing them to the desktop anyway. Stories are undergoing a test on some desktops; broader rollout is coming soon. Read more

SoundCloud close to a deal—Audio-streaming service SoundCloud is close to a deal to sell a majority of company ownership to two private equity firms, which would help keep the company afloat. SoundCloud is a popular channel for unknown musicians and DJs (and podcasters) to post content; well-known artists have used SoundCloud to share rough cuts of new tracks. But it has struggled to generate revenue. Read more

Android users will be able to exchange data even when offline—Google has made a feature available publicly that will allow Android apps to communicate with nearby devices even if they’re offline. The Nearby Connections API can be used, for example, to detect when you enter a hotel room; the thermostat will adjust automatically and the TV will begin playing your favorite music. Google also announced several apps, including The Weather Channel (for weather warnings), that incorporate the API. Read more

Trends

Publishers are pretty desperate for video content—How desperate? They’re re-editing ads and sharing them as their own content. One example: Business Insider posted a video of a garden tool that used marketing footage from the website where the tool is sold. We’ve also heard publishers are equally desperate to meet their commitments to Facebook to produce Facebook Live segments. This is a huge opportunity to brands with content these publishers can use. Read more

No, QR codes are not dead—far from it—QR codes never took off the way some (myself included) expected them to. It turns out the gestation period was just a long one. The markers, scannable by a smartphone, are finding a wide range of uses. If you buy an off-brand drone or other electronic gear, a QR code may connect to you the companion app that would have been impossible to find by searching an app store. They’re a common sight on store shelves and are becoming a regular feature of WiFi (letting guests connect without having to key in your complex encryption key). If that’s not enough, iOS 11 will feature automated QR-code scanning. Read more

Coming to a windshield near you: in-car advertising—If the car is driving itself, an ad on the windshield won’t be an accident-causing distraction. “A new report (Forrester) paints a picture of autonomous vehicles becoming a new frontier aggressively used by brands to build deeper digital relationships with customers.” If you’re shaking your head in disgust, keep in mind that you’d probably be nose-down in your smartphone anyway. Read more

Research

Pondering the increasing complexity of social media messages—The messages people share on social media have become more complex as they get older through their 20s. The complexity of the messages remains stable in their 30s but then gets increases from their early 40s. Overall, the complexity of posts is constantly increasing and age alone cannot account for the increase. This according to an analysis of messages posted to Russian social media site VK from 2008 to 2016. The researcher attributes some of the increase to changes in technology making it easier to post, but “the more general increase in complexity is a puzzle. And it is dramatic, too: ‘15-year-old users in 2016 wrote more complex posts than users of any age in 2008.’” So stop worrying that your kids’ use of emojis, acronyms, and incomplete sentences will somehow leave them incapable of constructing a sentence by the time they get out of school. Read more

What will keep Millennials as long-term employees?—Conventional wisdom says Millennials won’t stay long at one company, but research from North Dakota State University and National University of Singapore finds they could change their minds “when employee communication is open, thorough, and applicable to their work. Published in the Journal of Public Relations Research. The study found “that millennials were more engaged, or absorbed in their work, with an increase in the quality of information flow, information adequacy, and supportiveness. Those three elements also were positively associated with organizational commitment.” Read more

Consumer satisfaction with search engines declines—Google is undertaking all kinds of experiments to find new ways to generate revenue as digital assistants and smart audio starts to replace traditional search. Adding to the urgency to replace income is a growing dissatisfaction with search engines. The American Customer Satisfaction Index has found satisfaction dropped 1.3% to a score of 76. While search and online news declined in the index, the social sector remained steady. The amount of advertising on search sites is the worst part of the experience, “down 4% to an ACSI score of 44.” All search engines except AOL have lost ground. “Google slipped 2% to a score of 82. Microsoft Bing declined 3% to a score of 73, and Yahoo—now owned by Verizon Communications—fell 1% to a score of 73. Read more

Email is the top B2B sales tool—Some people wish email would just die already, but the 50-year-old technology is finding its level amidst newer communication tools. The New York Times has millions of subscribers to its 50-plus email newsletters. And now a study finds that email is the top tool for B2B sales outreach. Thirty-two percent of companies use email, producing 61% of first contacts. Phone and voice mail come in second with a mere 6%. Read more

Podcasting

Spotify undertakes podcast initiative—In exchange for the hosts of some very popular podcasts talking up Spotify, the top streaming music service will promote their podcasts in its app and on bus ads. Spotify wants to diversify beyond music, earning revenue to offset the huge cost of music royalty payments. Podcasting is hot, so why not? While Apple has owned the podcast distribution market for a long, long time, it doesn’t pay much attention to the space and streaming is taking a bigger and bigger piece of the podcast distribution pie. Read more

Radio gets diverse in face of podcast threat—Radio programming in the U.S. has been “the domain of middle-class white folks, most often of the straight male variety” for decades and radio’s view of podcasting is that it’s a modest vehicle for expanding listenership of current content. As podcasting gets more popular, though, listeners are finding content that speaks to them, including “shows created and hosted by women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community.” As listeners habits shift to podcasts, radio stations are accelerating their efforts to be more diverse and attract those listeners who want different content. New York Public Radio has even brought radio shows aboard that started out as podcasts.  Read more

Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality

BBC tackles refugee crisis with first Oculus VR video—The video features an animated Syrian family’s migration across the Mediterranean seeking refuge in Europe. The tale is based on interviews with refugees who have been through the experience. The file is available for download from the Oculus store. Just as the BBC sees this as a distinctly new way to deliver news (and context within the news), communicators need to begin exploring what it takes to develop a VR experience beyond immersive video. Read more

Disney’s Star Wars Land coming to VR this year—Star Wars Land won’t open at Disney World or Disneyland until 2019, but “Secrets of the Empire,” a VR experience that will immerse users in the franchise’s world, will be available this holiday season. Read more

Asus’ new phone is AR-ready—As Apple prepares to release iOS11 with Augmented Reality built in, Asus has unveiled the Zenfone AR, the second Android phone with “Google’s tango-based 3D depth-tracking for advanced augmented reality experiences,” for sale in the U.S. Since Apple’s offering will hit a billion devices at all once, the company has a distinct advantage in AR, but Android phones should catch up gradually. Read more

“Storyliving” is a term we may need to get used to—A study from Google Zoo, the company’s in-house creative think tank, has coined the term, “storyliving,” which is when people experience stories and brand messages through VR. I can hear it now. “Hey, have you storylived Bud Lite yet?” Ugh. Read more

Messaging Apps

Line tries to break into American market—Line, the six-year-old messaging app from Japan, is trying to push its way into the crowded US market by opening a Times Square store selling plush toys, slippers, mugs, luggage tags, tote bags, and other merchandise bearing the likenesses of the 11 characters from the app’s sticker set, known as Line Friends. Read more

College newspapers coming to Snapchat Discover—Snapchat is looking to college newspapers to create editions for its Discover section. Colleges Snapchat has approached include Yale, Dartmouth, UCLA, and the University of Washington, which have tested Discover sections. The college editions represent Snapchat’s first move into hyperlocal Discover content. Read more

Artificial Intelligence, Smart Audio, and Chatbots

AI better than humans at finding extremist YouTube videos—The AI Google has unleashed to find extremist content on YouTube is able to identify the posts before a human 75% of the time. Researchers expect to improve on the AI’s ability to review twice as much content as humans as they continue to refine the system. Read more

Microsoft adds AI to corporate vision statement (and drops mobile)—Microsoft’s 2017 annual report includes six references to Artificial intelligence; there were none in the 2016 report. AI is now a top priority for the company, which has dropped mobile from its vision statement. Read more

Chatbots are paying off—Despite continued skepticism, chatbots are doing just fine. A Juniper Research study found conversational interfaces will save companies $8 billion in five years. Gartner estimates in three short years, 85% of customer interactions won’t require human involvement. That should make those interactions that do require the human touch should be much better. Even customer service reps are looking forward to being able to take more time with complicated customer problems. And while the first wave of chatbots was mostly underwhelming, the new generation is performing much better. Read more

About that AI that created its own language—Stop worrying. In case you missed it, bots in a Facebook AI lab created its own language to communicate with one another. Facebook shut down the network, making headlines that conjured images of Skynet. In truth, the two machine learning devices were negotiating how to split items like books and basketballs into sets. Because the bot programming didn’t include incentives to use English, they created a language they could understand. As one researcher said, this concept “is a well-established sub-field of AI, with publications dating back decades.” Read more

Is Starbucks’ new AI creepy or will customers love it—or both?—Called Digital Flywheel, Starbucks’ cloud-based AI will know everything about Rewards members’ coffee habits and use that knowledge to entice them with their regular favorites and new temptations. It’ll even suggest something different on a rainy or sunny day. Read more

China shuts down chatbots critical of the party—China’s Tencent has removed two chatbots—one a Microsoft-created bot—that delivered answers that weren’t satisfactory to the party (like answering “No” to the question, “Do you love the Communist party?”). Read more

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This week’s Wrap image of a handmade spring roll wrapper is courtesy of Liao Zi’s Flickr account.

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