Friday Wrap #189: Facebook’s Workplace, Wells Fargo’s crisis plan, consumers’ cross-platform habits

Friday Wrap #189I extract items for the Friday 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.


Facebook’s Workplace arrives—In tests it was called Facebook at Work, but now that it’s available to any organization that wants to pony up for it, Facebook has named its workplace messaging tool Workplace. Designed to take on popular tools like Slack, Hipchat, Yammer, and Chatter, Workplace brings a Facebook-like interface to the enterprise. The tool features groups, updates, the ability to tag people, share files, chat with multiple colleagues, and publish material. Options also include one-on-one video calls, group audio calls, and Facebook Live-like video broadcasts. The service is $3 per user per month for the first 1,000 users, $2 per user per month for the next group up to 10,000 users, then $1 per user per month for more than 10,000. A 3-month trial is available at no charge. The takeaway: Facebook will have to overcome corporate resistance to employees using Facebook, but built-in familiarity with the interface is a huge benefit. I’m not ready to predict success, but Workplace has all the makings of a blockbuster product—and the pricing is highly competitive. With hooks into other enterprise systems, it could be the future intranet in a lot of organizations. Read more

Fake news persists on Facebook’s trending topics—It has been weeks since Facebook promised to address the flood of fake news its algorithms were injecting into its Trending feature after the company axed its human editors after allegations of bias. A Washington Post experiment found that the fake stories are still a problem. Between August 31 and September 22, the Post found five “indisputably fake” trending stories and three “profoundly inaccurate” items. The takeaway: Facebook insists it’s not a media company. They’re wrong. It’s one of the most powerful media companies in the world and this is a problem it must fix. In the meantime, do what I do: Ignore the trending items (or at least view them with a grain of salt) until they get this right. Read more

Wells Fargo presents its crisis plan—On a conference call with 500 of its senior executives, Wells Fargo said business would decline more due to its scandal before things start to improve. Among the plans are “listening tours” undertaken by a new community bank executive, regular memos and videos to employees, and increased proactive communication with large investors. The company has also launched “Project Duel,” designed to “clarify roles and responsibilities and to improve oversight and controls and reduce duplication.” The bank will also investigate claims of retaliation from employees who called its ethics hotline. Wells Fargo has also bought more social media advertising than usual and plans more proactive customer outreach. The takeaway: It’s hard to deduce much from a report of a private conference call, but what’s missing here is a dedicated effort to rebuild public trust. The call was led by former CEO John Strumpf just before he resigned. Read more

Google introduces fact-checking—A new Google feature tags and helps users find “fact-checking in large news stories. Tagged articles will show up in the new story box” on Google News, along with the News and Weather app for iOS and Android. Google will search for actual markup in the source code of the site reporting the news, then seek pages “that follow the commonly accepted criteria for fact checks.” The takeaway: The torrent of lies in the current “post-truth” election cycle is most likely the catalyst for this new feature, but its impact could be felt far beyond the world of politics. For example, spin-focused PR could be subjected to fact-checking that will be seen by any of Google’s massive audience of news readers. Read more

Pinterest adds 50 million users in one year—Pinterest’s monthly active user numbers jumped 50%, from 100 million a year ago to 150 million now. In that time, some users have added some 75 billion pins. More than half of the Pinterest’s users and 75% of new users are from outside the U.S. Men now make up 40% of the user base, up 70% from a year ago. The takeaway: Pinterest’s numbers aren’t even close to Twitter’s, but don’t let that fool you. Its influence is huge, serving 3 trillion recommendations per year. Research finds that Pinterest has an outsized influence on purchase decisions. Read more

Twitter tries yet another tweak—Twitter is apparently throwing anything against the wall to see what sticks. Now it’s the possible replacement of the Moments tab with “explore, which focuses more on content discovery. Explore spotlights trending topics and search alongside the content you’ve seen in Moments. The takeaway: Focusing on discovery could help, especially with new users more easily finding content they like, but it still smells like desperation now that there seem to be no suitors for the company. Read more

GE startup wants to change the way you work—Fuse is the name of a GE startup that “will test a hugely ambitious and radical approach to creating new companies through processes and technologies designed to harness the work of global crowds of experts.” The company’s approach could (according to GE) reduce the cycle time from idea to product by half “through automation of best practices and a collaborative technology platform that collectivizes and engages expert talent wherever it is.” The takeaway: There are huge changes coming to the way work is configured. Even blockchain technology will play an outsized role. Stay tuned. Read more

Google buys influencer marketing company—FameBit connects brands with YouTube stars for the creation of marketing content. Google acquired the company to help it grow the number of branded opportunities and increase YouTube revenue. The takeaway: It hasn’t been hyperbole when pundits have declared influencer marketing the most important form of marketing these days. consumers pay more attention to people they know and online celebrities they follow than they do to companies and brands. I don’t doubt that we’ll see more companies crop up that help connect marketers with influencers, especially as companies recognize the value of lesser-known influencers who have sway within a niche. Read more


Periscope lets broadcasters stream from any live-video feed—Up until now, Twitter’s Periscope required you to broadcast from your smartphone. In an effort to attract more high-quality content from brands and broadcasters, Twitter has introduced Periscope Producer, which allows broadcasters to stream any live-video feed, such as a local news broadcast or a fashion show. Not just anyone can use Producer, though; you have to apply for access. The takeaway: Whether this will help Twitter attract users and advertisers remains to be seen. Numbers are up for its Thursday night NFL broadcast, but most people just watch for a few minutes, making it a less-than-appealing proposition for advertisers. It does, however, speak to the increasing overall popularity of live-streaming video as a television alternative (which, of course, you can now watch on your TV, per the next item). Read more

Facebook videos come to your TV—If you have Apple TV or Chromecast, you can watch Facebook videos on your television; it works now on iOS and the Web; Android functionality if a couple weeks away. Facebook’s support for these devices follows Twitter’s release of apps for watching video on Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV. The takeaway: The lines continue to blur between channels that once were clearly separate. Communicators need to think about how their content will work across these eroding boundaries. But wait. There’s more. Read the next item. Read more

Cross-platform video ads are the new normal—Marketers are distributing video ads across a broad spectrum of devices and platforms. While obstacles remain to a full-on advertising ecosystem, the trend makes sense given eMarketer’s projection that more than 70% of Internet users will use smartphones concurrently with TV at least once a month by 2018, while those who use their computers with TV will grow to 52.8% With this kind of multitasking a common behavior, advertisers will make sure their videos spots show up in all possible viewing devices. The takeaway: See the previous two items. The lines are blurring between devices. Communicators and marketers must start thinking multichannel as the normal state of things. Read more

YouTube draws debate viewers—Just in case you’re not convinced yet that the distinctions between channels are getting less important, consider that 20% fewer people watched the second U.S. presidential debate on TV than watched the first, but YouTube drew 124 million live views of the debate, a 40% increase over the first. Further, 3.2 million watched on Twitter and 7.4 million on Facebook. The takeaway: Even podcasts are now being streamed on Pandora. The medium is become far less important than the content. I wonder what Marshall McLuhan would think. Read more

UPS launches new video series—A few weeks ago I reported on Kotex’s YouTube vampire series, “Carmilla.” Now UPS is joining the fray but taking the reality TV route with “The Elevator Pitch,” a three-part miniseries with contestants riding the Chicago Tribune Tower elevator while pitching a business idea to Marcus Lemonis, a billionaire host of a CNBC series. One winner in each episode will receive a $10,000 prize from The UPS Store. The takeaway: Every company is a media company. It’s a good idea to start pondering what kind of TV-like content you can deliver to YouTube (and beyond) that draws viewers, bolsters your brand, and gets people talking and sharing. Read more


Publishers up the personalization ante—Twenty years ago, MIT Media Lab Director Nicholas Negroponte coined the term “The Daily Me” in his book “Being Digital.” The idea was that publishers would deliver newspapers tailored entirely to each subscriber’s tastes, interests, and preferences. His vision is coming closer to reality, with publishers customizing sites based on user data. The Atlantic is one example, targeting readers with messages “based one everything from what its readers consume to the status of their subscriptions.” The takeaway: The tools are emerging for any site with a subscriber base to customize its content. What disturbs me is the lack of interest in applying these technologies to employee communications, where customization is usually limited to geographic location, business unit, and an employee’s rank in the company hierarchy. Check out the next two items for additional takes on customization. Read more

Expedia recommends travel destination based on facial expressions—If you have a webcam when you’re cruising Expedia looking for a place to vacation, your facial expressions will help you find just the spot. Okay, it’s a little more specific than that. You have to visit the “Discover Your Aloha” site, and the destinations you’ll find are all in Hawaii. The takeaway: This campaign for the Hawaii Tourism Authority is a taste of what’s coming. Again, I see internal communication applications, too, gauging employee responses to initiatives, benefits changes, and other news. Read more

Billboards will deliver targeted messages—At least, that’s the idea behind a Yahoo patent for a smart billboard that uses cameras, microphones, and other sensors to gather data on passers-by in order to project just the right ad. For example, detecting an expensive vehicle passing by could, along with knowing the time of day and other information, result in the billboard displaying an ad that’s relevant and appropriate to an upscale demographic. The takeaway: Just wait until the billboard can tap into your car’s digital communication system, such as Android Auto! While I find this one a bit creepy, it bolsters the notion that communication will grow increasingly personalized. Read more

Big data could change crisis communications—The best crisis communication plans aren’t tooled to deal with the firehose of commentary and reporting across the digital world. Because modern crises are fueled by data, data needs to be a big part of a modern plan. “Data will reveal critical trends, patterns, and insights in the wake of a crisis to empower communications, PR, public affairs, and marketing teams.” The takeaway: I suspect a few companies will start to figure out how to integrate real-time data into crisis communications, but too many companies don’t have plans at all. (Among those that do, very few drill those plans.) Consequently, crises are going to have bigger and bigger impacts on companies as they spread and grow over digital channels. Read more

Bisquick accelerates real-time marketing’s demise—There is growing evidence that real-time marketing is giving way to real-time public affairs. Bisquick’s marketing tweet during the second presidential debate demonstrates the tin-eared approach too many companies have taken to efforts to ride the coattails of cultural events. The tweet: “We’re answering your questions LIVE tonight during the debate! tweet @Bisquick or #PancakesvsWaffles to chat.” The response was less than enthusiastic. Read more

New overtime regulations create internal communications challenge—The U.S. Department of Labor’s new overtime regulations could result in reclassification of many employees from salaried to hourly positions. Reactions from employees who could be subject to the status change has been mixed. The takeaway: If your company has employees who could find themselves in this situation, you need to start communicating now in order to minimize the impact on morale and productivity. Read more

Advertisers spend more on social media than TV—Producing a great TV commercial was once the holy grail of advertising, but TV ad spending is declining while digital advertising is trending upward. In fact, this year digital ad spending has outpaced TV buys. Advertisers will spend $71.29 billion on TV and $72.09 billion on digital, which represents 36.8 of all media ad spending. The takeaway: The article has its own takeaway with which I completely agree: If you’re spending money on advertising, mobile is your best bet. There’s a lot of “it depends” in that statement, though, including what you’re advertising and to whom. Read more

Mobile and Wearables

Google is building an index just for mobile—Google’s search index covers everything, whether you’re searching on a smartphone or from your desktop. Soon, though, a search from your mobile device will use a separate mobile index that is more up-to-date. The takeaway: The transition to a mobile world continues apace. The fact that a desktop index won’t be as up-to-date as the mobile one speaks volumes. Read more

SMS is a popular target for spam—Messaging’s star is rising, which makes it an appealing target for spammers. SMS text messaging is particularly vulnerable, with more than half of SMS users worldwide getting spam at least once a week; more than 25% say they receive unsolicited pitches every day. More than a quarter of mobile message app users are also receiving spam via their messaging apps at the same clip, though app users aren’t experiencing the problem to the same degree as SMS users. In fact, app users were almost twice as likely to report never receiving spam as their SMS counterparts. The takeaway: The obvious message is: Don’t send spam; build relationships instead. Also, it makes sense to focus on apps as fed-up SMS users begin making the transition just to get away from the spam. Read more

Augmented messaging comes to video chat app—Tribe introduced a new version of its chat app that “listens to your conversation, and when keywords are identified—like a product, celebrity, calendar event, brand, or movie title—natural language processes convert speech to text and the words appear on the screen.” Users can tap the word to get to the Amazon listing for the item, a new calendar event, a Wikipedia page, or an Uber. The video messaging and chat company also closed a $3 million seed investment round. The takeaway: Natural language processing is going to paly a bigger and bigger role in most of our interactions with devices. Amazon’s Echo is one example, as is the new Google Assistant. Integration into video messaging is a natural next step. Have you started considering the role it could play in your brand’s offerings? Read more

Snapchat makes Discover content harder to find—A small change to Snapchat’s interface has put user Stories at the top of the Stories page, moving publishers’ Discover content below your friends’ stories. If you have a lot of friends on Snapchat, you could have to scroll a ways before you find the Discover content. The takeaway: Snapchat seems to be following Facebook in its focus on user content at the expense of its paying publishers. Read more

Virtual and Augmented Reality

IMAX is opening a Virtual Reality Center—Movie company IMAX is opening a new VR Center for Europe, part of its move into virtual reality. Another is being opened in Los Angeles. “The facilities will offer a selection of VR experiences that range between 5 and 15 minutes and that are sourced both from Hollywood studios and game publishers.” The takeaway: VR will be everywhere. Watch for VR stations at retailers, some from the retailer itself and some from brands sold there. I can even see movie theaters with VR headsets for viewing immersive trailers. Brace yourself. Read more

Facebook introduces VR emoji gestures—VR emoji are a Facebook innovation designed to convey in a virtual environment what you’re feeling. For example, shaking yur fist will turn your VR avatar’s face angry. Putting your hands on your face to express shock will produce a shocked emoji. Pump your hands in the air and your emoji will show joy. Just as emoji are attached to text messages to convey an emotion, VR emoji will “alleviate…sentiment ambiguity that exists in social VR as you don’t usually see someone’s real face.” The takeaway: Now that VR is building momentum as a consumer product, more sophisticated features will stream out of companies involved in VR’s development. Facebook and Google will be among the leaders in this space for now. Read more

Apple is focusing on Augmented Reality—During a trip to Japan, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed that the company is more interested in Augmented than Virtual Reality “because it can enhance and amplify human experiences.” Said Cook, “We are high on AR for the long run. I think AR can be huge.” The takeaway: While there is no word on specific products, expect some serious innovation from Apple to compete with efforts from Microsoft (HoloLens) and MagicLeap, which has amassed considerable funding, including half a billion dollars from Google. Read more


Let employees tell the values stories—Employee engagement is built, in part, on employees who are aligned with the company’s values and detect no say-do gap among leaders. But leaders telling stories about values has a significantly smaller impact on employees than hearing tales shared by their colleagues. According to a study, “stories of CEOs and leaders’ commitment, perseverance, and strength have no impact on their employees’ level of commitment to the organization’s values.” It’s the stories they hear about their co-workers that prove “to be influential means through which organizational values are embedded in newcomers’ behaviors.” The takeaway: This doesn’t mean C-level executives shouldn’t make sure employees can see that their actions are consistent with the values, nor does it mean it can’t be executives who tell the stories of their front-line staff. When a U.S. president tells the story of an ordinary citizen during the State of the Union, it can be a powerful communication technique that also demonstrates high-ranking leaders value their workers on an individual level. Communicators should also find these employee stories for sharing through a broad range of communication channels. The more they can be built into the company’s narrative, the more influential they’ll become. Read more

“Gig economy” isn’t all that big yet—For several years now, we’ve been bombarded with pronouncements of the evolution to a “gig economy,” with “free agents” providing services for “sharing economy” companies like Uber and AirBnB. The number of people participating in this economy has reached 162 million, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, about 20-30% of the working age population. Don’t get too excited, though, since only 15% of independent workers have used a digital platform to earn income—only about 4% of the working-age population. The potential of the digital platforms will grow, though. The takeaway: The key is not in the numbers, but in the potential for digital platforms—which mediate between a company and a worker—could “challenge established notions of how companies are organized,” according to McKinsey. Read more

This week’s wrap image, from Ron Cogswell’s Flickr account, shows the facade of the new National museum of African American History, which is wrapped entirely in an ornamental bronze-colored metal lattice, which pays “homage to the intricate ironwork that was crafted by enslaved African Americans in Louisiana, South Carolina, and elsewhere.”