Friday Wrap #186: Bank ethics, AI messaging, live-streamed debates, declining Twitter spends, & more

Friday Wrap #186I 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 overestimated video viewing times—The average time Facebook has told advertisers people spent watching videos was seriously overestimated for the last two years. The excessive figure resulted from only counting videos seen for three or more seconds and didn’t factor in shorter views. “The miscalculation likely led to an overestimated viewing time of 60 to 80%,” according to C|Net, and may well have led advertisers to spend more than they otherwise would have. Facebook says it has fixed the problem and that it did not affect billing. The takeaway: Marketers should be looking at more metrics than those provided by Facebook (or other social sites). Conversion should be at the top of the list Read more

The news just gets worse and worse for Wells Fargo—Half a dozen former Wells Fargo employees report they were fired after blowing the whistle on the fraud they saw occurring at the bank. Employees used an ethics hotline and called Human Resources to report the activities, after which they were terminated for reasons like tardiness. The workers are sure it was actually retaliation. The experience contradicts Wells Fargo’s CEO’s testimony before Congress, in which he said “Each team member, no matter where you are in the organization, is encouraged to raise their hands. We want to hear from them.” The takeaway: Ethical behavior is increasingly important to customers and investors. if you have an ethics hotline, take it seriously. If your values promote ethical behavior, leadership needs to walk the talk. Read more

Google rolls out its AI-based messaging app—Allo is finally available. Announced at the last Google I/O developers conference, Allo features the Google Assistant, which uses AI, voice recognition, and natural-language processing to answer questions and respond to verbal and texted requests. The same technology is due to appear in a competitor to Amazon’s Echo. The takeaway: Google is late to a game that will be even harder for them to play given that the AI tool is tied into a messaging app that will have to compete with Messenger, WhatsApp, and a host of others that are also building AI-enhanced assistants into their systems. Still, I tried it out and it’s kinda cool. However, since only one person I know is using it, I won’t be opening it often as a messaging app, which limits the amount of utility it has as an assistant. Read more

Yelp libel case to be heard by California Supreme Court—A lower court had ordered Yelp to delete comments from its site critical of a Bay Area law firm. The firm’s owner had sued the former client who had posted the negative reviews. The firm claimed the comments were inaccurate and defamatory and ordered her to remove them. When she didn’t, the firm sued for defamation and a judgment was entered against her. When an appeals court upheld the order, Yelp turned to the state Supreme Court even though it wasn’t a defendant in the case. With the support of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and Pinterest—each of which wrote to the court—Yelp is claiming the order could “silence a vast quantity of protected and important speech.” The takeaway: It’s risky to go after people who post negative comments about your company. It’s better to respond directly than to be seen (no matter how inaccurately) as an obstacle to free expression. Read more

Why Twitter’s NFL audience matters—Twitter earlier reported 2 million people tuned in to its first Thursday Night Football stream. In reality, just 243,000 people were watching at any given moment, on average. That compares to 15.4 million watching on television. The difference, though, is that completion rates on ads shown during the game hit 98%. The takeaway: Twitter has a lot of work to do to entice people to watch its streams; Yahoo’s live-stream of the game was seen by an average of 2.36 million people at any given moment. The ad completion rates are a silver lining on a very dark cloud. Read more

Twitter will live-stream presidential debates—The first one conflicts with the NFL’s Monday Night Football, so we’ll have to see if it draws much of a viewing audience, but Twitter has announced it will live-stream the presidential debates. A live tweet-stream will accompany the video, and coverage will be bookended by commentary from Bloomberg Politics. The takeaway: There’s no doubting Twitter’s belief in the power of livestreaming news and sports events as a key element of their belief that people use Twitter for “right-now” information. Whether people will flock to Twitter for debates, though, is a big question, and if they can’t police the filth from the tweetstream, a lot of people may abandon it. (Unlike sports, debates are easy to watch on video, as I suspect a lot of Monday Night Football fans will.) Read more

Big changes coming to LinkedIn—A redesign of LinkedIn is imminent, featuring new messaging features (including bots) and a simplified feed. The new look aims to make the desktop experience more consistent with the popular mobile app. The bots will focus on scheduling at first. LinkedIn was acquired recently by Microsoft, which is pushing its bot platform. LinkedIn is also introduction LinkedIn Learning, based on the company’s acquisition of The takeaway: Anything that makes LinkedIn uniquely relevant to business people is a good thing. Lately I have seen way too many posts on LinkedIn that are more suited to Facebook. While these new features don’t directly address that problem, if there is more business utility that is easier to use, then more business-focused users should spend more time on the network. Read more

Marketers plan to spend less on Twitter—An influential analyst has downgraded Twitter shares to “underperform” as marketing departments plan to decrease their ad spends on Twitter for the first time. Marketers who do spend money on Twitter “aren’t getting a lot of bang for their buck.” The takeaway: Don’t write Twitter off yet, and don’t dismiss a spend on promoted tweets if you know your audience is there. It also continues to be a key source of news and the primary channel for journalists. It is not, however, a place to put all your eggs. Things will get worse before (and if) they get better. Read more

YouTube invests in social good—YouTube is committing $1 million in equipment and production grants to its Creators for Change, a group of YouTube creators who use their channels to focus on social issues. The first six program ambassadors are charged with “fostering productive dialogue around these topics through the videos they create.” The takeaway: Most YouTube comment fields are cesspools. Anything that inspires purposeful conversation is a good thing. Also, as consumers grow more concerned with organizations that exist to do good, not just make money, investing in creators who promote social good may attract some viewers (and advertisers). Read more

Instagram now lets you save posts to send later—“Drafts” is now a feature everyone can use on Instagram. You can start work on a post, tap the back button and you’ll be asked whether you want to save the photo in your drafts. Saved drafts show up in a special section of your library when you next open the app. The takeaway: Making things easier for users is always a good idea. For busy communicators, it’ll be great to start a post that you can finish later when you’re interrupted. Read more

YouTube also invests in comment moderators—They’re called YouTube Heroes, moderators who will earn rewards for reporting bad comments, writing accurate subtitles, and answering forum questions. They’ll have no actual power over the site; that still falls to YouTube employees who will remove the flagged comments and approve improved subtitles. The takeaway: I wish them luck. As noted above, something needs to be done to address the truly awful comments so many people leave on YouTube videos. Read more

Chipotle has a content marketing plan to bring customers back—Former Chipotle customers who loved the fresh burritos made from locally-sourced ingredients haven’t flocked back following the company’s E. coli crisis. The company is turning to content to restore confidence in the safety of its food, including newspaper and digital ads that go into detail about the steps the company has taken since the outbreak. The takeaway: Paid media makes sense, but I’m surprised there’s no influence marketing to accompany the ads. If someone I trust tells me the food is safe, it will go further than the company telling me. Read more


Real-time marketing is on its way out—That may be a big of an overstatement, but the efforts of companies to blast out oh-so-clever tweets based on breaking news or cultural events may be grinding to a halt. Donald Trump Jr., son of the Republican presidential nominee, tweeted an image of a bowl of Skittles with the note, “If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.” Mars, the candy company that makes Skittles, might well have been expected to take advantage of that newsmaking tweet. Instead, after waiting a while, the company responded: “Skittles are candy. Refugees are people. We don’t feel it’s an appropriate analogy. We will respectfully refrain from further commentary as anything we say could be misinterpreted as marketing.” The response was widely praised and some have suggested that it could signal the welcome demise of that particular brand of real-time marketing. The takeaway: We can only hope. After all, nobody will ever achieve another Oreos “dunk in the dark” moment, and these clever tweets do nothing to build long-term relationships. See my latest “Shrink-Wrap” video for more. Read more

AI churns out a Beatles-inspired song—“Daddy’s Car” is a catchy tune, which is a bit creepy given that it was written entirely by artificial intelligence. The takeaway: Not too long ago, I reported on IBM’s AI engine, Watson, creating a movie trailer. In the meantime, AI is already writing stories about minor-league baseball games for Associated Press. While most of the conversation is about robots taking low-paying jobs, some creative work will also get assigned to AI, which no doubt could crank out a press release given enough information from which to draw. Read more

Millennials now drive corporate culture—It has now been a while since Millennials became the largest part of the workforce, and more than half are moving into leadership roles. Deloitte (along with the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative) reports in a white paper that Millennia values are now permeating organization cultures. Profit is secondary to this demographic, according to the study, as Millennials believe profit shouldn’t be the primary reason for businesses to exist. Instead, nearly 2/3 say they chose their employer because “it seemed purpose-driven.” Only 20% of those who chose an employer that lacked a sense of purpose are satisfied. Another key finding: Millennials love technology and are frustrated at the slow pace of development or adoption of tools that make it easier to get work done. Also, flexible working conditions and work/life integration” are the top ways for organizations to change in order to improve retention. The takeaway: Don’t wait for Millennials to take over your company’s senior leadership positions. These are the people you’re trying to attract and retain. Your employer brand (based on the company culture) needs to reflect values that are important to the workforce you need. Read more

More evidence of audio’s importance—Audio is the poor stepchild of marketing channels, but brands that use it well find they get amazing results. For example, Kentucky Fried Chicken’s ads target our autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), in which a pleasurable feeling is activated by sounds like “whispering voices, makeup brushes buffing at skin, nails scratching across cardboard.” In KFC’s case, it’s the also the sound of biting into a piece of chicken. Google notes there are more ASMR searches on YouTube than for “candy” or “chocolate;” 5.2 million videos feature ASMR. There are even ASMR influencers (one has more than a half-million subscribers). The takeaway: ASMR is absolutely fascinating. I wasted a lot of time tracking down videos that feature the technique. Its use may be limited, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find times you’ll want to give it a try. Read more

Brands are embracing Twitter’s new customer service tools—The update to Twitter’s customer service tools—notably a “Provides Support” button customers can tap or click to initiate a conversation—is being adopted by companies that provide customer support on the messaging/networking platform. Delta, T=-Mobile, and United are among the companies that have activated the feature on their accounts. The takeaway: You need to provide customer support through Twitter and Facebook, since a lot of people prefer to initiate their support sessions through these social channels. The new tools are free. Use them. (No doubt the more companies that activate the features, the more people will use twitter for customer support, leading more people to subscribe to the service so it’s available to them for support purposes.) Read more


We unlike people who give us critical feedback—“People tend to movie away from those who provide feedback that is more negative than their view of themselves,” writes Francesca Gino, a professor at Harvard Business School, based on a study she conducted. “They do not listen to their advice and prefer to stop interacting with them altogether. It seems that people tend to strengthen their bonds with people who only see their positive qualities.” The takeaway: There are certainly lessons to be taken from the study for managers in the workplace, but the same circumstances could inform your communication and social media efforts. Reinforce the positive qualities your customers see in themselves and you could strengthen the bond you have with them. Read more

Companies suck at listening to customers—Well over 90% of business executives know that listening to customer feedback is vital to the bottom line and 89% believe instant customer feedback is critical, more than a quarter don’t use real-time feedback tools. The takeaway: Half of communication is listening but I can’t think of an organization that devotes half its communication budget to it. Ditto employee feedback for internal communicators. Read more

Customer support phone conversations still matter—I have seen data that shows most people want customer support through social media, but that data conflicts with research from Cogito that argues “phone professionals” continue to be the heart of the customer relationship: Three-quarters of consumers prefer to speak with a live individual. The study found that “establishing a more personalized rapport, and better awareness of the customers’ perception within a call are critical to delivering positive outcomes.” The takeaway: Every employee is responsible for the Customer Experience, and that includes recognizing the need connect emotionally with the customer. This is as true for content aimed at customers as it is for customer service reps who take customers’ calls. Read more

On the other hand, 90% of consumers want to text with brands—Here’s what I mean by contradictory research. Cloud communications platform company Twilio has released research results that found 9 out of 10 consumers want to use messaging to communicate with brands. I’m not sure how that squares with the two-thirds who want to talk to a human being from the item directly above this one, but either way, you have to be good at both. The average consumer has three messaging apps on thier phone’s home screen and use three different messaging apps each week. They also prefer messaging at least three times more than face-to-face; among Millennials, that jumps to eight times more than face-to-face. Sixty-six percent of consumers prefer to reach brands or be reached by them via messaging than any other means. The takeaway: Messaging is the new normal. I’m willing to bet your organization is well behind the curve in tapping into this trend. The research from twilio found that less than half the businesses it surveyed have the infrastructure to meet the demand from consumers. Read more

Does podcast advertising work?—We know that podcast listeners are very loyal to their shows, but does that loyalty extend to the products and services they advertise? Not much, according to a study by Edison Research and the Interactive Advertising Bureau. The study found only 8% of respondents said they bought an item or service after hearing an ad or sponsor spot on a podcast. However, 45% said they visited a brand’s website and 42% said they considered the product; 37% collected more information. The takeaway: Those are good numbers. As people get accustomed to hearing ads on podcasts, the site visits could lead to more conversions. You have to wonder, though, if they justify the cost of ads on the most popular podcasts, which are several multiples more than other forms of digital advertising. Read more

Paid social outperforms organic—I reported last week that most marketers—in the 90% range—are sticking with organic Facebook posts, but a study from research firm Clutch finds that paid social media is better at helping businesses achieve their goals. Nearly 60% of respondents said they agreed with this statement: “Paid social is more effective than organic social.” Only 8% of respondents disagreed with the statement. (The rest were neutral.) Thirty-nine percent of respondents said they use mostly organic with some paid social media; 35% use paid and organic equally. Only 13% use only organic and 1% use only paid. Facebook dominates among the networks used at 66% followed by YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn, all in the low 30% range. The takeaway: The line between paid and earned media has been obliterated. Boosting posts and buying attention is now a requirement. If you haven’t paid to boost a post, give it a try. You may be amazed at the results. Read more

Mobile and Wearables

Polling and payment features come to Messenger—Facebook Messenger is adding polling and money prompt features as part of its bid to “become a central up for people’s daily activities and interactions.” Polls only appear in the group you’re currently chatting with. Machine learning is behind the payment feature; Messenger will understand you’re asking for money and display a pop-up the person who owes the money can use to pay it. The takeaway: Messenger aims to be the WeChat of the West. With over a billion users, it’s well on its way, which means businesses should be figuring out how they fit into Facebook’s messaging ecosystem. Read more

Instagram tweaks its call-to-action button—Instagram is rolling out four improvements to its advertising services, notably a call-to-action button that will do a better job of attracting users’ attention. In tests, the larger button improved performance 45%. Other improvements include what happens when you unmute a video: You’ll be taken to the destination URL “while the video continues to play at the top of the screen. Now people can explore, browse, and take action on a landing page while continuing to watch the video.” The takeaway: It’s not discussed as much as some other channels, but Instagram is a massive powerhouse for marketers. If you haven’t been directing any dollars toward Instagram, these improvements masy be enough to push you over the edge. Read more

We use apps on mobile devices far more than the mobile web—Adult mobile phone users spend nearly two hours daily using apps, compared to only 19 minutes on the mobile web. App use is growing while mobile web use is declining. The takeaway: Keep in mind that Messenger, WhatsApp and other messaging tools that have grown incredibly popular are apps, so mobile messaging is part of this equation. As a result, so is chatbot usage. So rather than get excited at the prospect of deploying more apps (people install an average of zero new apps each month), focus on how to be effective in the messaging space. Read more


The bot economy is outpacing the app economy—Citigroup analyst Mark May pointed out that the bot economy is growing much more quickly in its early days than the app economy did. “There is significant potential for bots to become an everyday-technology,” May said, just as apps did. He shared two charts, one showing more bots created in the first 90 and 120 days than there were apps during the same period, another demonstrating that nearly 20,000 more developers are creating bots than were involved in developing apps during the early months of their availability. The takeaway: The best way to get acquainted with bots is to start using them. May I suggest Purple, a project by a graduate of CUNY’s entrepreneurial journalism program? Read more

Al Jazeera English the latest news organization to launch a bot—I already get CNN news delivered by a Messenger chatbot. I’ll probably add the new Al Jazeera English bot. While CNN sends me a daily update, pushing a carousel of news items to me via Messenger, Al Jazeera English promises to “deliver the right news at the right time” by letting users customize the categories of news that interest them and the frequency with which they’ll deliver breaking news items. The customization occurs as soon as you follow the bot, which asks a series of questions to build your profile. The takeaway: Seriously, folks, if your company distributes news releases, the time to start building a news bot is now, even if it’s aimed at journalists covering your company, shareholders, employees, and other targeted audiences rather than the general public. Read more

Fashion industry goes nuts for chatbots—Tommy Hilfiger, Burberry, Jack Threads and other fashion houses are diving into chatbots in order to give fans an in-store experience online and give the companies the chance to speak one-on-one with customers. One CEO called the chatbot experience “intimate.” The takeaway: Marketers tend to keep an eye on the fashion industry as trendsetters. This is one of those times. Read more

Cool Ideas

Marriott opens an upside-down hotel room—The #MGravityRoom at a New York Marriott hotel is upside down: a chair, desk and bed hang from the wall on one side “so when you walk in and take a picture, it appears as though you are on the room’s ceiling.” The idea is to show off a new room design. Guests are encouraged to visit the room and share the pictures they take. The takeaway: I would visit the room if I were nearby, and I would share the pictures online. Wouldn’t you? Read more

Delete a foot photo from Instagram and Land O’Lakes will make a donation—“Delete to Feed” is a campaign that raises money for Feeding America. Delete one photo of food from your Instagram account and Land O’Lakes will donate 11 meals to the hungry. You have to visit the Delete to Feed website first to connect your account. The goal: 2.75 million meals. The takeaway: This is an example of slacktivism that produces a tangible result. It’s also an example of a company demonstrating its commitment to social good in a way that will resonate with people who actively participate. And who doesn’t have a food photo you could stand to get rid of? Read more

This week’s wrap image is from National Marine Sanctuaries’ Flickr account. It’s “an unnamed seamount never before surveyed in Papahanamokuakea Marine National Monuement.” The seastar is wrapped around it.