Friday Wrap #173: Ethics-challenged outreach, Twitter reveals Moments, Google AMPs up the mobile web

Friday Wrap #173The 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.


Edelman’s ethics questioned in offer to pay for reporters’ insights—PR agency Edelman sent emails to select reporters on behalf of a client—a federal agency—seeking insights on helping “refine their agency messaging.” According to Washington Post reporter Colby Itkowitz, the email asked reporters to keep the conversation confidential, not to report on anything discussed in the interview, in exchange for which Edleman would donate $175 to a charity of the reporter’s choice. Edelman told one reporter it hoped to “gain insight into how our messages are being received by journalists. Some digging revealed that the client was the Substance Abuse and mental Health Services Administration, which said Edelman was trying to help the agency improve its communications. Itkowitz wrote, “Simply providing information and resources to reporters to tell those stories is probably more effective than secretive research and charity bribes.” The takeaway: Before launching any initiative, you should engage in a formal exercise that asks, “What could go wrong?” Especially if the initiative involves money, journalists, and secrecy. Read more

Can Twitter grow its user base with Lightning?—Project Lightning has gone live under the name Moments, representing the biggest change to Twitter since its 2007 launch. The new button in the official Twitter app lets users follow TV shows, sports, news, and other events with content curated by Twitter staffers. The full-screen experience collects relevant tweets, videos, Vines, and GIFs under a unified theme, such as You can share Moments by embedding them on any website, just as you can a YouTube video or a tweet. You can also follow a Moment in order to see relevant tweets in your timeline as the event continues to unfold. When the event ends, the Moments will vanish, so you won’t have to unfollow them. Early Moments included collections about clashes in the West Bank, the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize, and Thursday night’s NFL match between the Texans and the Colts. You can find moments in categories including News, Sports, and Entertainment. The takeaway: Moments are easy to grasp and could attract users who previously couldn’t figure out what they’d do with Twitter. I’ll be watching to see what kind of impact it has on Twitter’s active user count. Meanwhile, there may be opportunities for brand content to be included in Moments if they’re both relevant and interesting. I access Twitter via Hootsuite—even on my phone—but Moments could easily draw me to the official app, especially when news is breaking. Read more

Google’s new HTML standard aims to speed up the mobile web—Ad blockers are popular because (among other reasons) ads slow down the loading of web pages on mobile sites. Facebook and Apple are attacking that problem with Instant Articles and Apple News, proprietary platforms publishers use to have their content open quickly inside their platforms. Google is taking a different approach introducing Accelerated Mobile Pages—AMP—a new open-source specification that creates lightweight pages that can work alongside Google’s caching infrastructure, enabling these pages to open quickly wherever a user happens to be in his mobile activities. AMP restricts third-party Javascript, but will handle Vine, Twitter, and certain other embeds, with more to come. Google also says AMP will accommodate the ads publishers have already applied to their content. The source code is available at GitHub, which means the developer community can contribute to it. The takeaway: Pay attention to this shift: The whole idea is that content opens quickly whenever someone taps a link, marginalizing the importance of the website where the content is hosted and elevating the importance of getting the link shared. Read more

Reddit launches comment-free news site—Reddit has unveiled a standalone news site, Upvoted, to draw attention to interesting content. The site isn’t much different in appearance from other news sites, with stories, infographics, illustrations, videos, and podcasts on a variety of topics. Dubbed “Upvoted,” the site has a dedicated editorial staff and won’t allow any comments or—interestingly—upvoting. The takeaway: Reddit has been embroiled in turmoil for months and its leaders undoubtedly hope Upvoted will attract traffic its core site has lost during its troubles while attracting an audience of readers who never used Reddit in the first place. I’ll keep a close watch on Upvoted to see if it becomes a channel worth pitching. Read more

Facebook introduces new measurement system—An “advertiser outcome score” is now part of the Facebook Audience Network. The new system is designed to help advertisers determine how well their ads worked based on outcomes, “such as application installs, purchases or registrations,” according to SocialTimes. The score looks at an ad’s post-click performance compared with all Facebook Audience Network placements as well as with ads delivered in the same formats (i.e., banner, interstitial, native). The takeaway: The ability to pinpoint the results of advertising and marketing continue to get more sophisticated on Facebook, where you can get started for very little investment. As PR grows more accepting of paying to boost messages, knowing the measurement capabilities of each platform employed will grow increasingly important. Read more

Fake recruiter network on LinkedIn leads to proliferation of malware—A hacking crew thought to be operating out of Iran has employed an elaborate phishing scheme on LinkedIn designed to infect systems with surveillance malware. The scheme targeted people working in telecoms, government agencies, and defense contractors. The hackers created at least 25 fake but convincing LinkedIn profiles with richly-detailed work histories and some 500 contacts. “Supporter personas help bolster the leaders’ endorsements and credibility,” according to a ZDNet report. “The bogus recruiters on LinkedIn build on the group’s previously reported recruitment ruse to infect and phish details from targets.” A resume submission system that claimed to send resumes to Teledyne was the method used to introduce the malware. The takeaway: While we await better mechanisms for determining trust, you should approach anybody you don’t know with a healthy degree of skepticism. At the very least, look into their backgrounds before opening yourself to potential risk. Read more

Facebook begins tests on its “dislike” button—Ireland and Spain are test markets where Facebook users are now able to add a reaction sticker instead of the like button. Users press and hold the like button to reveal a variety of emoji-like emotions, including love, laughing, shocked, crying, and angry. “Finally we have a way to actually express emotion, rather than “liking” even the sad posts that show in our feeds,” writes TNW’s Owen Williams. The takeaway: Some people scoff at emojis, but being able to quickly express an overarching emotion will hae a powerful impact on how people react to posts—including those brands share to their pages. Read more

Where have all the Peeple gone, my honey?—Hey, the opportunity to use a lyric from a Grateful Dead song doesn’t happen often here in the Wrap. By now you’ve surely heard of Peeple, the much-maligned app that will (if it’s ever released) let people rate other people like you now rate a restaurant or bar on Yelp. After word of the app produced a firestorm of hate, the website and social media pages for Peeple have vanished. In a BBC interview, co-founder Julia Cordray said the app is “still on track for a November release.” The takeaway: Are the founders reacting badly to the negativity the app has produced, or is it all part of a carefully orchestrated plan? I just hope it fades quietly into the trash heap of bad ideas that never see the light of day. Read more

Six-second video pre-rolls coming to Twitter—A new ad service from Twitter allows video producers to upload their content and select categories of videos they want to target ads to, after which the ad is automatically inserted into the most relevant clips on Twitter. Among early users of the service: Fox, MTV, FX, WWE, Funny or Die, USA Today, BuzzFeed, and Time. Twitter takes only a 30% cut of the revenue these ads earn; the content creators keep 70%, a better deal than creators can get on Facebook or YouTube. The takeaway: Expect a surge of videos on Twitter as creators take advantage of the favorable revenue share. Both advertisers and creators will have to consider the pros and cons of each service. YouTube, for instance, still produces the greatest lift for older videos users tend to see after they’ve watched a new one. Read more

Medium gets a facelift—Medium has introduced “Medium 2.0,” an upgrade to the publishing site’s look and feel. Included in the update is a new read-friendly font, adjustments to font sizes, weights, and shortened lengths, along with the ability for authors to add drop caps. Other changes include notification when a user is mentioned with the “@” in front of their names, and the public can engage with a user in a new tool called “Responses” (which are public) and “Notes” (which send a private message to the writer). Medium is also updating its iOS and Android apps, making it easier to create content on a mobile device. The takeaway: Medium, with a fresh injection of capital, continues to become an important source of longer-form content. try cross-posting thought leadership pieces from your brand blog to Medium and see what happens. Read more


“Grotesque” service places ads on sites without permission—With Sniply, advertisers can place ads on any sites they like without paying the site owner or even getting their permission. “The only way I would now this ad is on my site is if I happen by chance to click on a Sniply-related link,” writes Mark Schaffer. “When another company sets an ad on my site, I don’t get any notification about it at all.” Unethical? Absolutely. Illegal? Maybe. An anti-Sniply plugin is available to block ads that, according to the service, are being used by the likes of Deloitte, Hubspot, and Salesforce. The takeaway: With ad-blockers eating into the ROI of traditional online advertising, it’s not surprising to see services like this one popping up. What’s surprising is the reputable brands that are using it. Don’t be one of them. There are better ways to advertise effectively online that just take a little extra effort but will earn you praise rather than condemnation. Read more

If you’re not using emojis, you’re pretty much alone—More than 90% of consumers are using emojis, according to research from Emogi, a real-time emotional intelligence platform. According to Emogi CEO and founder Travis Montaque, “Not only do emojis capture nuanced feeling that may not be apparent from simple text, but it is an easier way for consumers to give advertisers feedback so that they can leverage it to improve their marketing initiatives.” Millennials aren’t the only frequent users of emojis, with 62.3% of those over 35 reporting they use emojis frequently. 68% of consumers say they choose a positive emoji to describe an add because it’s relevant to them. The takeaway: This isn’t the first time I’ve said it, nor will it be the last: You may think emojis are silly, juvenile, and won’t last. You are mistaken. Do the research and figure out how to effectively incorporate emojis into your communication. Read more

Hotels invest in upgrades based on social media posts—U.S. hotels have invested a record $6.4 billion in upgrades and beautification projects based in large part on complaints and compliments from review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. In some cases, hoteliers have made improvements based on positive online reviews about their competitors. Takeaway: This is co-creation at its finest. How seriously are you taking what your customers say about you and your competitors in social channels? Be aware that co-creation is increasingly a customer expectation. Read more

Walmart used game-based training to improve safety—Games and gamification are finding more utility in the enterprise, as evidenced by a report that Walmart was able to reduce workplace injury through a gamification-infused training program. The three-minute games offered safety information along with multiple-choice questions on safety procedures. “The games work because repeated instructions in short intervals, such as a three-minute game, are retained better than instructions offered in webinars or other long-form content,” according to gamification startup Axonify. During the Walmart pilot, the company experienced a 54% decrease in incidents at the eight distribution centers where the training was tested. Why three minutes? that’s how long it takes to recharge a forklift battery, so a forklift operator can play the game while waiting. The takeaway: We haven’t heard much about gamification lately, but it’s adoption is continuing apace. Read more


The lines get even blurrier between content creators, distributors, and brands—Consumers trust content creators, distributors, and brands about equally when it comes to content that entertains, according to Edelman’s ninth annual entertainment study. 72% of study participants trust traditional cable networks, 73% trust traditional broadcast networks, 74% trust online video streaming platforms, and 75% trust companies whose products they buy. Gail Becker, president of strategic partnerships and global integrations at Edelman, is quoted in a news release saying, “The blurring perception of entertainment companies, combined with the adoption of big data and predictive technologies, is building a unique opportunity for brands—giving them full license to create content and build relations with consumers.” Edelman is calling the phenomenon “networked entertainment.” The takeaway: Brands that haven’t typically worked hard at making content entertaining may want to revisit that decision based on the nature of their target audience. Even B2B companies can create new relationships with entertaining (yet still relevant) content. Read more

Green purchasing surges—Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)—and sustainability efforts in particular—have become core to consumers’ purchase decisions. A whopping 78% of American consumers say they purchase sustainable products and services, up 3 points from the 2014 survey. The Tork Green Business Survey also found that 26% of American consumers claim they know how to determine if a brand’s claim that it’s environmentally conscious is true or not. “There is a groundswell of Americans who do not consider sustainability to be a fad, but rather a new paradigm of purchasing,” according to Mike Kapalko, sustainability marketing manager for SCA, which makes the Tork brand of away-from-home hygiene products. The takeaway: “Greenwashing” not only won’t cut it any more, it could actually harm sales. Companies need to move beyond traditional CSR activities to convince consumers they’re sincere about the environment and that the actions they’re taking are significant. Read more

Message frequency increases app engagement—A retailer sent messages to app users encouraging them to use app features while also announcing holiday-focused promotions. Five control groups each received the messages at varying frequencies. Those receiving more messages engaged more with the app, a finding that flies in the face of conventional wisdom that says customers see such messages as invasive and spammy, leading them to disengage with the app. Users who received heavy messaging followed a call to action more often than those who received light messaging. The takeaway: Another reason to ignore conventional wisdom, as long as the content of your messages prove useful to the user (e.g., helping them figure out on which aisle they can find a product). Read more

Social media sharing varies by race—An Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll has found that the frequency of sharing social media content about their local communities is consistent across individuals of different racial backgrounds, but the topics they discuss varies significantly: “White respondents were most likely to have posted about events or entertainment, with 60% having done so. Black respondents, on the other hand, were most likely to have shared information about education or schools, at 67%. Hispanic respondents were most likely to have shared a post on crime or public safety, with 62% posting on this topic. On both the subjects of education or schools and crime or public safety, white respondents were significantly less likely than their non-white counterparts to have shared any information related to the topic.” The takeaway: Another demographic insight that can help target the kinds of messages you send to targeted audiences. Read more

Social media grows as a journalistic news source—Journalists and PR practitioners increasingly see social media as a reliable source of information, according to the annual Social Media Impact (#SMING15) Survey from financial services company ING. On average worldwide, journalists use social media for 1.7 hours every day, with Facebook the most used platform for both journalists and PR professionals. “Anglo-Saxon journalists are more progressive compared to their colleagues on the European mainland; they’re more actively engaged in social media to see what issues are topical and to initiate dialogue with the public,” the ING press release asserts. In the US, 80% of PR professionals view social media as a reliable source of information, In addition to using social media as a news source, journalists—particularly in the UK and the US—maintain blogs, as do US PR pros. Journalists increasingly use their blogs to collect information. The takeaway: A strong brand presence in social media is increasingly likely to catch the eye of journalists PR practitioners traditionally seek to reach. Employing a strategy that takes social media’s impact on journalism into account is likely to boost your earned media efforts. Read more

Facebook offers better reach than TV for Millennials and Hispanics—Data from Nielsen found that ads on Facebook reach more Millennials and Hispanics than ads that air on the 10 most watched TV networks combined. Advertising on TV and Facebook reaches an even bigger segment of both demographics. The takeaway: Millennials and Hispanics are both highly coveted demographics, with both likely to have families with kids. If you haven’t already re-examined your ad dollar allocations, there’s no better time to start digging into the venues that offer the best reach for your brand. Read more

Dependence on computers and search engines is eroding our memories—The practice of looking up information via Google and other search utilities “prevents the build-up of long-term memories,” according to Maria Wimber of the University of Birmingham, whose study looked at the memory habits of 6,000 adults in the UK and several European and Scandinavian countries. In the UK, half of the study participants search online for an answer before trying to remember it. We tend to forget information we got from the push of a button, which means a lot of people who can recall their phone numbers from childhood can’t remember their current work phone number or those of their family members. The takeaway: If something’s important, you may want to try recalling it before pushing that search button. Read more

Tweets get retweeted most in the evening on weekdays—A University of Maryland study found that people do most of their weekday retweeting during the evening after they get home from work or head out on the town. There’s also a surge of retweet activity after people first get to work in the morning, after which retweeting declines with an uptick occurring around 5 p.m. Then, a little later, retweeting skyrockets. Researchers suggest posting tweets in the evening hours on weekdays will produce the most retweeting. The takeaway: This kind of information is usually helpful for testing, but your mileage may vary. I have a friend who provides social media services for restaurants, and he finds his tweets get the most activity in the hour or two before mealtime, especially lunch when workers are wondering where they should eat. Start out using conventional wisdom but experiment to see where the sweet spot really is for your messages. Read more

13-year-olds heavily dependent on social media—They might even be addicted to it, according to a study CNN conducted on 13-year-olds and social media. “There’s a lot of anxiety about what’s going on online, when they’re not actually online, so that leads to compulsive checking,” according to Robert Faris, a sociologist who specializes in school bullying and youth aggression who co-authored the study. Mostly, they’re monitoring their own popularity status. The takeaway: There’s an opportunity for some brand out there to help parents learn how to help their teens avoid this narcissistic trend. At the very least, it’s worth knowing there’s some data to support parental concerns. Read more

New Pew report looks at a decade of social media—Pew Research started tracking social media behaviors in 2005, when 7% of Americans were using social networking sites. That number now stands at 65%. The takeaway: This report is chock-full of useful data on the changes in social media and Americans’ use of it in the last 10 years with too many compelling nuggets to focus on any one result. A key reason to digest the data in the report is to make it easier to refute perceptions based on 10-year-old data. Read more

This week’s wrap image of a London skyscraper is from the Flickr account of DncnH