Friday Wrap #202: Trust falls, LinkedIn gets a makeover, talking up CSR improves sentiment, and more

Friday Wrap #202I 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.

Webinar Alert

Employee engagement webinar—This coming Thursday, January 26, I’ll share 10 innovative and unexpected tactics communicators can employ immediately to build engagement. I’ll also talk about how engagement fits in a broader employee communication strategy designed to deliver bottom-line business results and distribute a tip sheet. Your registration covers you and all the members of your team or department. Register

News

Employees are key to winning back trust, Richard Edelman says—Speaking at the World Economic Forum, Edelman CEO Richard Edelman said the pyramid of authority has turned upside down. “The influence actually rests with the mid-level people, who speak peer-to-peer. If they’re for you, you win.” The remarks were part of a conversation about the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, which found an “unprecedented crisis of trust shared across the western world.” The takeaway: Some may scoff at the idea of focusing on employees instead of investors, but if employees are on board, investors will do just fine. Be sure to read the CSR item in the Research section of today’s update for more. Read more

LinkedIn gets a makeover—One of the most significant design changes for the social network’s website was launched this week, designed to make it easier to find and use content. The new design unifies content rather than leaving users feeling like the site is a loose collection of multiple sites. The design borrows a lot from the upgrades to LinkedIn’s mobile app and should help people who don’t get LinkedIn figure out why they should use it. The takeaway: The new look and structure is pretty easy to figure out and should go a long way to making LinkedIn a friendlier place to visit. I find LinkedIn invaluable but have trouble convincing others to spend time there for anything more than job hunting (or recruiting). Read more

70% of GQ’s social media revenue came from Instagram—Conde Nast’s GQ got about 7% of its total digital revenue and 70% of its revenue from social platforms from Instagram alone. GQ tapped Instagram as a key platform based on its alignment with the magazine’s strengths, according to GQ’s executive digital director. GQ has 3.3 million Instagram followers who see sponsored posts from other brands that pay GQ for the privilege. The takeaway: 70% is huge considering GQ has a presence on Facebook (which owns Instagram) as well. The breadth of GQ’s Instagram approaches is breathtaking, including bundled sponsorships (such as a travel story sponsored by Canada). Your brand could adopt a similar approach or take advantage of Instagram accounts like GQ’s for your own paid media efforts. I must admit, I love the idea of a brand with millions of followers getting paid by another brand to share content with its audience. Read more

Firing words—Katie Nash lost her managing the social media accounts at Frederick County Public Schools when she tweeted to a student who tweeted that schools should be closed “tammarow.” Nash replied, “But then how would you learn how to spell ‘tomorrow?’ ;-)” It’s not often a school district tweet gets 1,000 retweets and 1,000 likes, as this one did, but the school district felt it was a distraction. The takeaway: Stupid, stupid school district. Read more

YouTube tests in-app messaging—YouTube is testing an in-app messaging tool on its iOS and Android apps that will let users “exchange clips, texts and links without ever having to leave the app.” The test is being conducted in Canada, where more video is shared than anywhere else in the world. If you want a preview, have a Canadian friend add you to a conversation. The takeaway: Messaging continues to demonstrate that it’s at the center of pretty much everything. YouTube wants a piece of the engagement Facebook gets with its in-app messaging. Watch for more apps to build messaging into their platforms. In the meantime, it’ll be interesting to see if YouTube user habits can be changed to embrace in-app sharing. Read more

Trends

Blogging trends—Research from the Content Marketing Institute found that blogging continues to deliver returns on investment. Among the trends in blogging (especially among B2B companies with blogs): Long-form content is replacing shorter posts, more blogs are written by multiple authors, images and other visual content is getting common in posts, companies are paying to promote their posts on social channels, and more bloggers are relying on analytics to determine how their blogs are performing. The takeaway: Blogs continue to work well. It’s important to know how to use them as habits change with the introduction of new channels. For instance, with most new tools focusing on snackable content, it makes sense that blogs can deliver more substantial long-form posts people may be craving. Read more

Voice commands coming to software—Adobe has published a concept video in which an iPad users edits photos using voice commands, then taps a play button to see the result. While the process seems cumbersome compared to using the touchscreen, Adobe is positioning the concept as “a first step towards a robust multimodal voice-based interface which allows our creative customers to search and edit images in an easy and engaging way” on mobile devices. The takeaway: I anticipate some missteps in voice technology, but ultimately talking will be the interface to pretty much everything. Read more

Is Twitch on your radar?—I have to admit I almost skipped this article when it crossed my stream. Why do companies outside the gaming industry need to pay attention to a videogame livestreaming channel no matter how popular it is? But the fact is, Twitch has moved beyond gaming, with lifestyle and other content categories moving into the mix. And it’s huge, with 100 million monthly viewers and 2 million content creators. Users spend an average of 1.5 hours on the network every day. It pulls attention away from other media channels, keeping close pace with Netflix and “eclipsing social mentions of big brands like iTunes and Spotify.” The culture is one of sharing on twitch. It’s a platform that delivers some real opportunities for brands to identify influencers, create and deploy content, and deliver the attention of a younger demographic. The takeaway: Amazon paid about $1 billion for Twitch and Jeff Bezos doesn’t often spend money on assets that won’t provide ROI for him. As you consider channels for deploying content or engaging audiences, get to know Twitch’s demographics and culture and keep it in the mix. Read more

Crowdsourcing for ads—Crowdsourcing TV spots isn’t new—Doritos has done it with its Super Bowl ads for years—but more companies are learning the Doritos lesson. Among those that are saving advertising agency dollars by turning to consumers are Mattel, Coca-Cola, Procter 7 gamble, General Mills, and Nestle (and this is far from a comprehensive list). There are good reasons crowdsourcing ads work. The scale of the crowd is far greater than an agency, bringing more people to bear on a given brief. The diversity of people involved brings outsider thinking into the mix. The motivation of the crowd is intrinsic versus the profit motive of an agency. The takeaway: If it works in advertising, it’ll work in marketing and it even has a place in corporate communications. It also gives consumer a voice and can build a stronger connection to the brand. Read more

The power of brand partnering—Collaboration is getting more common in the fragmented, fast-moving media space. As a means of better connecting with customers, the strategy can make tremendous sense, especially as the Internet of Things becomes pervasive. Consider that Ford could partner with Starbucks as its cars become more connected, ensuring “a seamless personalized drive-through experience.” There have been collaborations between Levis and Google to tackle wearable technology and between Apple and Hermes on a Hermes digital watch. The takeaway: If you work in marketing, thinking outside your own organization’s boundaries is a new mandate. Where does a partnership with another organization make sense for you to enter new markets or reach new customers? Read more

How blockchain might change marketing—Blockchain, the distributed ledger technology that makes bitcoin and other crypto currencies possible, could upend marketing. Among the ways blockchain could disrupt traditional marketing, individuals will control access identity and personal information, brand affinity will align to decentralized protocols that represent a set of core values (people could, for instance, opt to participate in a censorship-resistant marketplace like OpenBazaar instead of eBay), value will be creating by how companies help customers take advantage of data rather than by creating customer data, the supply chain will become part of the value proposition, loyalty points and coupons could become freely tradable, and customers will use social platforms that reward them for their attention. The takeaway: I implore you (again) to get up to speed on blockchain. Even if it doesn’t affect the way you work (it will), you will need to communicate with customers and other stakeholders about how it affects them and your company or client. Read more

Research

Trust falls, populist action rises—The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer is out and it paints a bleak picture. The annual study “documents a direct link between trust in institutions—or the lack of it—and the populist movements that have led to the overthrow of established governments and treaties in multiple countries over the last year,” according to the report. The global Trust index fell three points, “the steepest decline we have ever documented,” and the drop hits all the segments the study covers: government, business, media, and NGOs.” The takeaway: This is always one of the most important annual pieces of research for communicators. Don’t ignore it. Study it and plan action based on what you learn. Read more

Gender stereotypes in advertising are holding people back—Nearly 70% of men and women surveyed think the world would be a better place if children weren’t exposed to gender stereotypes in media and marketing, according to a global study from Unilever. Even more—75%—don’t think enough is being done to address the issue, which should be a concern of senior leaders. Unilever CEO Paul Bolman says his company is on a mission to achieve “unstereotyped” mindsets both inside and outside the company. The takeaway: This is a wonderful example of a brand taking ownership of a cause that is directly related to its own operations and identity. Conducting the survey and reporting the results at the very visible World Economic Forum is a smart move. Other brands can learn from this approach to a social issue that also informs the company’s own operations. Read more

Companies that talk about CSR get better sentiment—New research shows that companies can bolster their reputation online by sharing stories about the work they do around corporate social responsibility. In most industries and situations, reporting online about social impact and sharing sustainability news drives more positive sentiment. The study was conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and IBM. The takeaway: Entirely consistent with everything else I have been reading for the last few years. Companies that care about employees, the environment, social causes, customers, and communities will win—if they put their money where their mouth is—but they have to get better at making sure their stories get told. Read more

Higher Facebook engagement for shorter off-peak posts—BuzzSumo partnered with Facebook expert Mari Smith to look at the number of shares, likes, and comments from 800 million Facebook posts last year and found that the use of video, keeping posts to about 50 words, and posting during off hours (very late at night and on Sundays, for example) are key ingredients to more consumer interaction. The takeaway: I always find this kind of research useful as a starting point, but not as a rule. Your mileage may vary depending on your audience. I have a friend who does social media for restaurants and he finds posting at 10:30 a.m. on weekdays can have an impact on people just thinking about where to go for lunch. You need to experiment to find your sweet spot. Read more

Video

Live video viewership declines—Live video viewership dipped to 36% of Internet users—those who say they watched live video as of November—a two-point decline from those who said they watched a live video in June. While most channels for live video (including YouTube) reported declines, Facebook Live grew from 14% to 17% over the six-month period from June to November. One analyst noted that the dips are more related to live video’s infancy than a failure of the platform. Facebook’s investment in live video are paying off, he said. The takeaway: While live streaming video over social platforms is still nascent, the resources Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (among others) are pouring into it suggest the numbers will rise as more interesting content is streamed by more institutions and individuals. It’ll also take some time to figure out what works and what doesn’t. You should focus on experimentation at this point rather than simply chasing viewers. Read more

Facebook wants publishers to shift from live video—Facebook has been encouraging publishers to tap into its Facebook Live platform but new signals suggest the social network wants them to produce more long-form video, where its mid-roll advertising plans make more sense. It also suggests that Facebook’s “investment of more than $50 million in live video last year hasn’t born fruit, in terms of audiences or advertising revenue.” Facebook’s focus on the Live streaming product is targeting individuals as a means to communicate with family and friends. The takeaway: If Facebook is de-emphasizing live video, it could open the door for Twitter to attract brands to its Periscope platform. Brands succeeding with Facebook Live are likely to continue with it, even if their special deals with Facebook aren’t renewed. Read more

Chatbots and AI

Are virtual assistants a new source of campaign data?—Voice data is poised to become a measurable activity in Google Analytics this year, with the data produced by these AI tools potentially informing local SEO strategies and helping marketers integrate paid-search advertising and “gain a different perspective on how the content serves up sites to better answer questions.” Marketers can already install a smartphone app to help them optimize for voice search. The takeaway: Getting familiar with the kind of data voice searches produce will help immeasurably when you develop a voice skill (for Alexa) or action (for Google). Less typing and more talking is coming, so it will pay to build your competencies in that space. Read more

The expanding Alexa ecosystem—It started with the Amazon Echo, but Alexa is finding her way into more and more devices. Ford and Volkswagen vehicles will feature Alexa, as will washing machines, refrigerators, a dancing robot, a baby monitor, and a DVR. The takeaway: Get to know Alexa’s skills to determine where your company could offer value to customers or consumers (or even employees) by developing one. Also, watch for similar expansion of Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana. Read more

Marketers embrace chatbots—I’m seeing a lot of content these days about marketing adoption of chatbots, including a Digiday piece that looked at five different approaches, including an emoji quiz from British Airways, a Unilever chatbot that helps kids get through a complete toothbrushing session before bed, a cocktail coach from Pernod Ricard, and a shopbot from eBay. The takeaway: Chatbots are a blank page that can do whatever they’re coded to do. At this point, you can brainstorm all manner of uses but should be strategic: Where can a chatbot extend your reach, serve customer needs, provide entertainment that draws people to your brand, or aid in the use of your product? Read more

Mobile and Wearables

Brands are figuring out WhatsApp—This roundup of how companies are using WhatsApp for marketing includes Hellman’s, which let users in Brazil sign up for a campaign, then asked them to take photos of their refrigerator’s contents, leading to tips and advice on what to make with those ingredients. The BBC introduced a WhatsApp series, “Young, Angry and Connected,” telling the story of young Africans using social media and messaging apps to be heard. The short daily clip was delivered to anyone who subscribed. The takeaway: The article features three other efforts, which may kick-start your thinking about how to move into the messaging app world, which is fast outpacing social networks in popularity and average daily use. Read more

Snapchat introduces search bar—Snapchat has revamped its search design, which could make it easier for people to find videos from brands and publishers. The enhancements to search don’t necessarily make it easier for users to find new accounts, but it could expand audiences for to find content, especially from companies paying to share content. The updated search features are available on Android phones for now. The takeaway: Snapchat continues to iterate quickly, though some users who have prized the privacy elements of the app may not be excited about how much more easily their stuff can be found. Read more

Fake News

Media companies release a fake news manifesto—The Local Media Consortium—made up of more than 1600 outlets including local newspapers—released a manifesto declaring fake news to be “digital propaganda” and pledging to educate readers in an effort to keep it from spreading. Member outlets include Boston Globe Media, Newsday, Tronc (which owns the Los Angeles Times among other newspapers), and the Seattle Times. All told, the LMC reaches 155 million unique monthly visitors. The takeaway: It’s good to see media tackling fake news. Whether its tactics will reach the people most susceptible to it is the big question. Since every company is a media company, I would like to see brands join the effort to educate both employees and consumers. Read more

Richard Branson takes on fake news and ads—Virgin CEO Richard Branson has penned a screed addressing fake news and ads on the Virgin.com website, arguing that they “are now becoming so frequent that I want to speak out, to ensure everyone can look out for and report them.” Branson says Virgin’s legal team is focused on removing fake stories whenever they appear, noting that they “dealt with more than 130 instances of me being impersonated, fake pages, misleading ads and false endorsements” in 2016. Branson says he is dedicated to protecting his followers and customers “from being misled and prevent anyone being confused into giving money or their personal information on a false pretence.” A simple check, he writes, is to see if they story a reader sees comes from an official Virgin site. The takeaway: Company leaders need to step up and make it easier for customers and readers to be able to differentiate authentic content from fake. Here’s hoping Branson’s leadership inspires others to follow suit. Read more

____________________

Today’s wrap image—“A Cozy Wrap?”—is courtesy of mliu92’s Flickr photostream.