Friday Wrap #169: Wikipedia purges editors, GM CEO on Facebook, sad state of social customer service

Friday Wrap #169
Flickr photo courtesy of Erich Ferdinand
The Friday Wrap is my weekly collection of news stories, posts, studies, and reports designed to help organizational communicators stay current on the trends and technology that affect their jobs. These may be items that flew under the radar while other stories grabbed big headlines. As always, I collect material from which I select Wrap stories (as well as stories to report on the For Immediate Release podcast, along with stuff I just want to remember to read) on my link blog, which you’re welcome to follow.


Wikipedia bans hundreds of editors for promoting brands—A months-long investigation by Wikipedia’s Checkuser team resulted in the banning of 381 editors from the site for taking pay to create and edit “promotional articles.” The accounts—active between April and August but probably engaged in the policy-violating activities for even longer—were used to create draft articles, fill it with promotional links, then demand payment to publish the article and prevent it from being edited or removed. The takeaway: The temptation is strong, I know, but breaking Wikipedia’s rules can result in some seriously negative publicity. Learn the labyrinthine process of getting representation in Wikipedia and follow the rules. Read more

GM’s CEO joins Facebook—Executive notoriously shy away from social media accounts, but General Motors CEO Mary Barra has launched an account following a conversation with Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. The takeaway: The days of executives avoiding social media are drawing to a close. Read more

Google’s new logo is flat for a post-PC world—I have been using—and loving—a Chrome extension called Facebook Flat that dramatically improves the look and feel of the notoriously ugly social network. The same idea is behind Google’s new flat logo, created by the same team that developed Android’s “Material Design.” The goal was to update the logo for a world of mobile devices with smaller screens. The takeaway: Brands don’t seem to be looking at logos and icons in the context of the flat design that works better on the mobile devices that increasingly dominate our online experiences. I know redesigns are costly, but Google’s move should tell us something. Read more

How will the NFL’s PR team deal with this?—The NFL has managed to tamp down criticism of concussion risk, not just among its own players but even among school children. (The league puts on “Football Safety Clinics for Moms” designed to convince parents to let kids as young as 7 play the game, despite evidence that hits to the head can be as traumatic as those suffered by professional players.) Now comes “Concussion,” a big-budget movie starring Will Smith and Albert Brooks scheduled for a Christmas Day release. Smith plays the Nigerian-born forensic pathologist who identified CTE, the degenerative disease concussions create. The film was made by Sony Pictures, “which unlike several other Hollywood studios doesn’t have direct ties to the NFL and won’t worry about retribution.” The takeaway: Defending bad behavior—and trying to deflect attention from it—is an old technique that doesn’t work in the connected world. Smart companies will take ownership of their issues and be transparent about efforts to address them, even collaborating with customers and other stakeholders to find solutions. The NFL is an example of a dinosaur trying to lumber through a more transparent world. (And…go Raiders!) Read more

Yelp faces an NFL-like PR battle, too—An unflattering documentary about Yelp—funded via Kickstarter—portrays the recommendation site as “a racket against small business owners,” comparing the site to the Mafia. A day after the release of the documentary’s trailer, Yelp’s share price dipped 4%. The company has fired back, claiming the director has a conflict of interest based on reviews she wrote on behalf of an attorney under six separate accounts. The takeaway: See the item above. Read more

Washington Post embedding social media editors—The Washington Post has announced it wants to hire several editors to be part of a group of social media “embeds” who will work in the content sections of the paper’s newsroom. “These embeds will search for opportunities to develop readership for Washington Post journalism on a wide variety of platforms, work with editors and reporters to interpret and act on data about how our journalism is being consumed, mine social media for story ideas, and build Post-branded and personal social channels with our journalists.” The takeaway: Social media is an increasingly important dimension of journalism. One would hope the role of these embedded editors would also be to listen to their readers to determine what stories they want covered. Read more

Time consolidates branded and editorial content—The Chinese Wall is down at Time, Inc. The publisher introduced The Foundry, a content and creative collective that represents the combination of Innovation Studio, Content Solutions, and Time’s verticals (such as a new automotive site called The Drive). According to a Time representative, The Foundry “plays into the strength of what Time, Inc. is about: storytelling and immersive customer experiences.” The takeaway: It’s time to worry about the integrity of editorial content when it’s under the same management as branded content. Consumers are already suspicious of branded content, and moves like this could reduce the credibility of earned media. Read more

LinkedIn targets Slack with updated messaging platform—An update to LinkedIn’s messaging system transforms the formerly email-like service into a place to engage in meaningful conversations. The chat-like interface supports animated GIFs and stickers along with Slack-like tools that let workers communicate with colleagues. The takeaway: Mobile collaboration is the future of the enterprise. Slack is the current leader, but has no lock on the marketplace. Old tools build for desktops (think Chatter and Yammer) will be challenged, though, but tools that are better at accommodating workers’ needs. Read more

Hilton and Uber team up—Uber, the poster child of the sharing economy, has inked a deal with Hilton to provide services to hotel guests, who will set up automatic notifications to request Uber rides to and from the properties. HHonors members will be able use a digital guide of restaurants and other night spots most visited by other Uber riders. The takeaway: This is a great example of an traditional company finding a way to participate in the sharing/gig/freelance/whatever economy. More companies will be looking for ways to engage rather than resist. Read more

Native ads come to Gmail—Advertisers can buy ads that appear at the top of users’ inboxes looking a lot like any other email. When you click one, it will expand to a full-page ad. The approach is meant to “recreate the informational and visual richness of a landing page,” according to Google. You’ll be able to forward an ad as well as save it to your inbox. Advertisers can use AdWords targeting options to get ads into the inboxes of people most likely to be interested in them. The takeaway: If you’re engaged in—or thinking about—pay-to-play for PR purposes, Gmail could prove useful, although you should be very careful you don’t earn resentment for interrupting the routine task of checking email. Read more


How people use Twitter to get news—Twitter users tend to be heavier news consumers than users of other social media platforms, according to an American Press Institute survey of 4,700 social media users conducted in partnership with Twitter. They also tend to be younger than social media users overall, and they use the service a lot—most of them multiple times daily—and “their use of the network is increasing how much news they consume. Almost all twitter users are also consumers of other forms of news media.” Overall, 86% of Twitter users get news from twitter, with 74% getting it every day. 73% of users follow individual journalists, writers, and commentators. The takeaway: Just because you don’t get much engagement on Twitter is no reason to abandon it. Your news could well get traction if you share it there. Read more

Americans want the right to be forgotten—Europeans have it, the result of a court ruling that requires Google to honor requests to remove links to content deemed no longer relevant. Now a study finds nearly 70% of Americans agree the right should be a human right; only 29% equate it with censorship. The takeaway: The First Amendment will make it very hard to duplicate the European right in the U.S., but the fact that people want it is troublesome. Removing a link to content is like removing a card from a library catalog; it’s a means of rewriting history, a very dangerous practice. Read more

Foodies favor Facebook—Facebook is the top social platform for foodies, despite Pinterest’s popularity as a recipe source. Eight-one percent of foodies worldwide used Facebook to look up food content, compared to only 18% for Pinterest. Twitter drew 20% and 16% used Instagram. YouTube and LinkedIn barely registered in the Sopexa study. The takeaway: It should be obvious that food companies need a strong approach to Facebook, but this story also reveals that rumors of Facebook’s decline are exaggerated. Of course, with 1 billion unique logins in a single day, this shouldn’t be a surprise. Read more

Gender parity on social media—A similar share of men and women used social networking sites this year, a shift from traditional patterns of women being more active users. The gap was 15 percentage points in November 2010. Today, 73% of online men use social media, close to the 80% of online women who say they do. Gender differences still exist on specific platforms, such as Pinterest, which is dominated by women, and Reddit, which attracts more men. The takeaway: Assumptions about who’s using social media need to be brought into line with current trends. Don’t succumb to overarching data; know the demographics of the platform you plan to use as a channel for your messages. Read more

Native ads aren’t resonating with audiences—There are bright spots in the world of native advertising. For example, mobile native ads performed up to 10 times better than mobile display ads, and users spent 40% more time interacting with native ads than with standard advertising. Brand recall is better with native ads, too. However, two-thirds of readers have felt deceived when they found out the article or video they were viewing was sponsored, and 54% of readers just don’t trust sponsored content. The takeaway: Native advertising can work, but the flood of terrible ads has seriously hurt the tactic’s potential. Richard Edelman said a couple years ago that the window was small for PR to exert ownership of native advertising before advertisers took over. That window may close completely soon if communicators don’t take positive action. Read more

Customer Care still a wide-open social media opportunity—Consumers are reaching out to brands for support on social channels—the number who do has risen 21% in the last two quarters. Experts think that’s where business can get the most out of social media. Yet businesses still aren’t taking it seriously, according to research from Sprout Social. The overall response rate to social customer service has declined 2.5%, with seven out of eight customer messages going unanswered for 72 hours or more. Brands are busy posting content four times as often as they reply to customer inquiries. The takeaway: You have the opportunity to create the kinds of experiences customers talk about. Start making the case for social customer care. Talk to your customer care department about how PR/communications can help. Consider enlisting employee ambassadors. Whatever you do, make sure you clients or companies stop shrugging it off. Read more

More evidence of worsening customer service—It’s not just online that consumers are experiencing a decline in the quality of customer service. A study from eGain (in partnership with Forrester) found most customers rated customer service “about the same” or “worse” in all modes of customer service, from call centers to agent-assisted web customer service. Worse, an Accenture study found two-thirds of consumers took their business elsewhere during 2014 as a result of bad customer service from a brand. The takeaway: Investments in customer care have to grow, and leaders have to stop seeing it as a cost center. Customer service is the experience customers talk about, that influences perception of your reputation. I’ve long argued it belongs in the PR department, where building relationships is the goal rather than seeing how many minutes faster you can get a customer off the phone. Read more

Word of mouth drives B2B decisions—Word of mouth is a key driver of business-to-business decisions, with decision makers tapping industry friends and third-party experts more than traditional or digital marketing resources. Ninety-five percent of B2B professionals surveyed by IDC trusted peers and colleagues, with trust in independent content at 86%. Vendor-supplied content was the fourth-place source, getting a nod from just 14% of respondents. The takeaway: Influencing influencers in order to earn their recommendations remains the best strategy for B2B marketing, but the numbers don’t mean content has no value. As eMarketer notes, “Lead nurture campaigns…have proved effective, along with personalization and targeting efforts.” Read more

Mobile and Wearables

Fashion house introduces VR headsets—You may think those Virtual Reality headsets are ungainly beasts, but what will happen when a fashion designer tackles them? Rebecca Minkoff—which has a reputation as an early tech adopter—has introduced VR headsets as part of its product line. Described as a more fashionable version of Google’s Cardboard, the headset is coupled with an iOS or Android phone to let users immerse themselves in a VR environment. Minkoff fans will be able to see a 360-degree of fashion shows, including the Fall 2015 runway show, which the company shot in VR. Cost of the Minkoff VR headset: a whopping $24. Don’t rush to order one; they’re sold out on the company’s website. The takeaway: VR has unstoppable momentum. I’ve said it before, and I’ll reiterate it: Virtual Reality is going to be freakin’ huge. Read more

Instagram Direct gets an update—Instagram’s Direct Messaging service added new features that lets users move messages from the news feed into a direct message. Users also can share videos and pictures, or send them back to someone else rather than have to forward a new video or photo in order to begin a new conversation. The move is an effort to head off Snapchat’s ascent. The takeaway: Every social media platform is trying to become a big messaging player. It should be clear that mobile messaging is a critical channel. Read more

Snapchat daily videos views equal Facebook—Snapchat has achieved 4 billion daily video views, about the same as Facebook. That’s twice the number of daily views Snapchat was getting just three months ago. Snapchat won’t say how long someone has to watch one of its 10-second videos before it counts as a view. The takeaway: Stop ignoring Snapchat. That is all. Read more

Hyundai innovates Instagram quiz—Can’t make up your mind which of three Hyundai SUVs to buy? The SUV Life Style Quiz draws from 18 Instagram accounts, 390 images, and background algorithms that will match you with the right one. The ad starts out with multiple choice questions in picture form. Answers link to other accounts featuring the next question. The quiz represents an emerging trend of interactive ads that take advantage of Instagram’s popularity and user behaviors. The takeaway: Experimentation on the channels your customers use is one of the most important ways to break through the clutter. Read more

Neiman Marcus expands its “Shazam for Stuff” app—Slyce is high-end retailer Neiman Marcus’s product-discovery platform that lets customers take a picture of a product, then see a selection of the store’s products that are either identical or close to a match. Initially available only for women’s handbags and shoes, the app now covers all of the retailer’s luxury departments. The takeaway: You’ve heard of the “mobile moment”? This is it. Build mobile tools that make it easy for people to accomplish what they want to do at a specific moment, as in this case: “What a gorgeous dress. I wonder if Neiman Marcus carries it?”Read more

Gaming declines—The average amount of time Americans spend using their phones and tablets continues to rise, but there has been a significant drop in the time spent playing mobile games. Yahoo’s mobile analytics company Flurry found the average American spends 33 minutes per day playing mobile games, a 36% drop from the same period a year earlier. The takeaway: Games may be getting old hat or people may be finding other, better things to do with their mobile devices. Either way, if you were thinking a game might be a great marketing idea, you may want to reconsider. Read more


App figures out what your data says about you—An app from researchers at the University of Cambridge compares your Facebook likes against millions of others to figure out how old you are, what political persuasion you identify with, your sexual preference, how smart you are, and even who you’re romantically involved with. The researchers behind Apply Magic Sauce warn that the results are just a measure how you portray yourself online, not your actual personality. The takeaway: Privacy concerns are going to continue to increase with this kind of tool raising awareness and paranoia. Take steps to let your customers know what your privacy policy is and how you’ll use their data. Read more

Retail will invest heavily in Internet of Things—Retailers will spend $670 million this year on the Internet of Things (IoT), but that number will soar to $2.5 billion in five short years, according to Juniper Research. Retailers could take the lead in bringing the IoT to business, including making core changes to cybersecurity, along with increased adoption of beacons and RFID tags. IoT will also be used to push information to consumers through smartphones and other mobile devices. The takeaway: If you work in retail, inventory the IoT tools you’re already using and figure out how to leverage them while exploring new concepts and products. Read more

Ideas and Case Studies

It’s elementary: Sherlock Holmes & the Internet of Things—It’s a game. It’s a story. It’s an experiment. It’s a prototype from the Columbia Digital Storytelling Lab that toys with shifts in authorship and ownership of stories while exploring the ethical and political implications of the Internet of Things. The global challenge is set for October 24 and 25, with a goal of building “a massive connected crime scene consisting of smart storytelling objects.” The takeaway: I’m going to participate. Why not join me? It should be an entertaining learning experience. Read more