Friday Wrap #177: Everyone’s verified, blockchain copyright, Medium migration, emoji overload

Friday Wrap #177I thought a category dedicated to Pokémon Go would be one-and-done but alas, the smartphone game continues to produce stories with direct relevance for communicators. The special category is back in this edition of the Friday Wrap, 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. If you want to make sure you never miss an edition of the Wrap, along with extra material only for subscribers, sign up for my weekly email briefing.

News

You, too, can now be Twitter verified—You used to have to be somebody to have that Twitter “verified” icon appear on your account. But now us common folk can be verified, too, as Twitter has opened up an application to request verification. The takeaway: I have applied. No word yet on whether I’ve been accepted. But as people become thought and opinion leaders without existing name recognition, the ability to be verified could be important. Meanwhile, those whose egos were stoked because they were verified will need to find another way to feel exclusive. Read more

Copyright protection courtesy of the blockchain—There’s no requirement to register with the U.S. Copyright Office in order to protect your copyright, but there’s confusion about alternatives. (I used to mail a copy of a document to myself, leaving the envelope sealed and the stamp cancellation serving as the date of the copyright.) Blockai wants to provide a simple and sound alternative by employing the blockchain, which timestamps your work and identifies anybody trying to infringe upon it. Users get a copyright certificate bearing a timestamp that verifies the time it was registered. The takeaway: The practical uses of the blockchain are going to come at us in a steady and growing stream, which will help demystify it as it proves to be the most disruptive technology since the Internet. Read more

ThinkProgress to publish exclusively via Medium—The liberal website ThinkProgress is abandoning its website in favor of Medium, the digital publishing site created by Twitter co-founder Ev Williams. Editor-in-chief Judd Legum said the move allows the publication to focus its resources on editorial and let Medium worry about the technology. Medium currently attracts 30 million monthly visits. The takeaway: Medium is quietly becoming a publishing powerhouse. Several publications have embraced its platform, including startups like Chatbot Magazine, while noteworthy figures from business leaders to politicians have posted there. With an established brand like ThinkProgress shifting to Medium, it’s likely more publications that don’t want to have to deal with website maintenance will also consider the move. Read more

Twitter permanently suspends writer’s account—It is possible to go too far with your tweets, even if you’re a well-known commentator. Conservative commentator Milio Yiannopoulos crossed that line, earning a lifetime ban from Twitter after he incited his followers to assault Leslie Jones, one of the stars of the new Ghostbusters movie, with racist and demeaning tweets. “No one deserves to be subjected to targeted abuse online, and our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others,” according to a statement from a Twitter spokesperson. Yiannopoulos has been subjected to temporary bans in the past, but targeting Jones crossed a line. Twitter insists the ban is based on Yiannopoulos behavior rather than being a free-speech matter. The takeaway: The Twitter mob can turn ugly in a heartbeat, especially when incited. Knowing this should produce a new dimension of crisis planning for many organizations. Read more

FT gets creative in fight against ad blockers—The Financial Times is blocking some of the words in its articles, the percentage of blocked words symbolizing the percentage of the FT’s revenue earned through advertising. Readers seeing the blocked words are registered desktop computer visitors who aren’t paying for a subscription. Some of those in the test group using ad-blockers will be asked to whitelist the FT’s ads, some will see articles blanked out unless they whitelist the site, some will be blocked without whitelisting, and some won’t see any change. After about a month, the FT will evaluate the results to determine the best approach for broader implementation. The takeaway: As communicators who use paid media, we should monitor the ad-blocking wars, which can help us determine the best approaches and publications for online advertising. Read more

Now you can watch Facebook videos offline—An update to Facebook for Android lets users save videos to watch when they’re offline. You have to use the app to access the videos when you’re not connected rather than play them in another video app on your smartphone or tablet. The takeaway: Facebook is the first company to enable offline viewing but more will follow as the importance of video is no longer just a trend but a simple reality. Read more

Bitmoji comes to Snapchat—Bitmojis let users share emoji versions of themselves. Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel announced his engagement to former Victoria’s Secret model Miranda Kerr with a bitmoji distributed via Instagram. But now users of Spiegel’s messaging app can add Bitmoji, opening new vistas for marketers. Brands will be able to create unique Bitmojis, then publish Snaps to their stories containing the images. The takeaway: It’s hard to keep up, I know, I haven’t used Bitmojis yet at all. But their popularity is undeniable and Snapchat’s continuous stream of updates makes it more and more enticing for companies despite its lack of metrics to help assess the effectiveness of your efforts. I can easily imagine that the employees who takeover the We Are Cisco Snapchat account, designed to enhance the company’s employer brand, will be all over this. Read more

Live Streaming Video

Facebook ups Live streaming limit—As Facebook Live continues to heat up, Facebook has increased the maximum length of a single broadcast from 2 to 4 hours. Other enhancements: Viewers can watch in full-screen and video-only modes (you don’t have to see reactions and comments). The takeaway—Live has serious competitors in Twitter’s Periscope and YouTube’s new live mobile streaming option, but it seems to have taken a commanding lead. One reason is the built-in audience (1.3 billion more users than Twitter). The immediacy of seeing a broadcast in your stream and the ability to see where broadcasts are happening on the Live Map also contribute to its popularity. Then there’s the unintended free publicity generated when news events get traction on Live. The steady stream of enhancements doesn’t hurt, either. Read more

Embedded tweets will play Periscope streams on any webpage—The ability to embed a tweet on a webpage—just as you can embed a YouTube video—has been a Twitter feature for some time, but if you embedded a tweet containing a Periscope stream, you were out of luck. No more. Now you can embed a tweet that includes a Periscope stream and the tweet will access the stream in real time. Another enhancement for the Twitter’s Android app: streams will play automatically as you thumb through your feed with the sound off, as any video does on Facebook. “Highlights” is one more new feature, which produces a trailer for each Periscope broadcast. The takeaway: As people use Periscope to live-stream breaking news, those watching—including media outlets—will be able to embed the tweet containing the stream on any web page, dramatically increasing the audience for the news. Read more

Facebook Live broadcasters can restrict audiences—Some Facebook Live broadcasts can now restrict audiences for their streams based on region, cities, and ZIP codes. Broadcasters can also set a minimum and maximum age. You have to be using Facebook’s API to broadcast (mostly media companies, professional creators, and brands that stream video from professional cameras or screencasting tools). The takeaway: The ability to target broadcasts is another great feature that should drive more marketers to Live. Read more

Trends

Is it all over for business cards?—Ad executives and creatives have lost their love for business cards, having determined that LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram are better for making a connection or introduction. The takeaway: Well, it depends. I give out a lot of business cards at conferences and use the ones I collect for follow-up. The back of my business card is configured for people to make notes about where we met and what we talked about. It wouldn’t be reasonable to expect people to remember who I was and look up my LinkedIn profile after getting back from a conference. You’ll need to assess the viability of business cards for your own situation and those of your staff. Yes, I could (and do) text my number to their cells as a first step in connecting later online, but not everyone I meet is inclined to connect that way. Read more

The video shift to Facebook continues—YouTube may have a virtual monopoly on video delivery, but Facebook continues to chip away as some publishers are cooling on YouTube for distribution of their videos. Some publishers find their videos getting far more views on Facebook than YouTube, largely because the nature of the social network encourages sharing as new videos are posted. While some people label YouTube a social network (you can subscribe to channels and comment on videos), in fact it is more a repository for finding videos that lacks the immediacy of publishing on Facebook. Personality-driven channels (e.g., Pewdie Pie) do well because their fans await new content, but media executives have pointed out that they aren’t adept at “creating this type of personality-driven content, and young people don’t necessarily turn to YouTube seeking professionally produced videos from big media brands.” The takeaway: For now, I advise publishing videos across multiple platforms, but be sure your Facebook videos are reconfigured to accommodate the platform in order to generate the most views, shares, likes, and comments—all forms of engagement—possible. Read more

Brands get personal—Personalization is one of the key practices that could overcome ad-blocking, getting consumers to opt-in. One brand is delivering a personalized video to consumers based on the photos they have shared on Instagram. Another get a custom report about their emotional state after they retweet Dove’s message, showing the percentage of positive and negative tweets in general and when it comes to beauty. A luxury bag retailer is tapping into IBM’s Watson to analyze social feeds and match a user with a designer based on their personality type. The takeaway: Some consumers may find this a bit creepy, but getting relevant, personal content when it’s done right can also increase a consumer’s affinity to a brand. Being able to deliver relevant content is the best use of all that data we keep talking about. Read more

Tinder’s influence makes its way into branded apps—“Swipe left” is part of the cultural zeitgeist, so why not leverage it for marketing purposes? Sephora’s mobile and desktop sites both now include “swipe-it, shop-it”. Tinder is the inspiration behind the feature, with users swiping left or right to make a purchase. The takeaway: Everybody gets it. Why not embrace it? Read more

Is influencer marketing’s cost too high—One of the benefits of influencer marketing, in addition to its effectiveness, has been its low cost. But now, popular influencers are demanding big paydays in exchange for their influence, calling the ROI of the practice into question. It’s important to measure the various results you get from a influencer campaign, including brand sentiment and media mentions. The takeaway: It’s equally important to pick work hard on identifying influencers who aren’t high-priced celebrities. The article notes one company paid $300,000 for a few photos to be shared by a celebrity whose fans included the CEO’s child. Look at influencer mapping utilities like Little Bird rather than succumb to the glow of someone famous. Read more

Let’s dial back the emojis in marketing—The use of emojis in marketing has surged an incredible 557% in the last year. While marketers are enamored of them, consumers—who do have a positive view of emojis in general—aren’t so thrilled with the brands that use them. The takeaway: Know your audience and have a good reason to use emojis. Too many campaigns add them because they can, not because they enhance the message. Read more

The C-Suite expects to be blindsided by digital disruption—Executives know that the march toward a digital world is gaining momentum and headed for them, but they’re still not ready for it. A report from Juniper networks finds a disconnect between IT and the C-suite is growing. More than half of the respondents to the survey—which included IT decision makers and business decision-makers) expect a new disruptive technology, product, or service will collide with their industry within two years, but IT departments don’t feel ready, noting their staffs won’t have the skills needed to manage the change. Nearly 90% of respondents think their organization’s would be better prepared if executives were more tech-savvy. The takeaway: The relationship between the C-suite and IT is a communication issue that communicators can help address. In some organizations (PepsiCo comes to mind), communicators also have taken responsibility for bringing executives up to speed, given their ability to connect the technology with tangible business practices. Don’t sit idly by while the gap widens. Innovate channels and processes that help the company prepare. Read more

Chatbots

Chatbots’ utility for small business questioned—The amount of effort required to develop and maintain a chatbot is beyond the reach of most small businesses, according to Tech.co’s Cameron Glover, who says they also lack authenticity, a trait that benefits small businesses. The takeaway: I understand Glover’s point, but disagree with the conclusion. Chatbots need to be adopted strategically. What problem can they solve? A customer wanting to get a quick answer to a question—especially after hours or during busy times—will increasingly be inclined to send a question via text and get a fast answer. There’s no authenticity required to find out from a nursery, for example, the best season for planting roses and what kinds are in stock. Consumers will be more appreciative of the instant answer than knowing they were interacting with a real person. Integrating chatbots with real people means the chatbot can hand off the conversation to an employee when it deems the question is complex enough to warrant human involvement or the opportunity exists to connect the customer with a person and establish that authenticity. Read more

CNN brings its chatbot to Kik—CNN was among the first news organizations to launch a bot (one I subscribe to on Facebook Messenger). Seeking to expand the audience of its bot-delivered news, CNN has added the bot to the Kik Bot Shop. CNN’s bot employs Artificial Intelligence, learning what kinds of news stories you like and delivering more of them. The takeaway: Chatbots could wind up becoming an important news delivery channel. CNN’s decision to expand to the Kik Bot Shop is recognition of Kik’s growing global popularity and points to the need to consider multiple bot channels, just as you consider multiple distribution channels for video and images. Read more

Pizza Hut buys into chatbot commerce—Pizza Hut is working on a social ordering platform that is launched with chatbots in Facebook Messenger and Twitter DMs. Available in August, the chatbots will help consumers order and get brand information. The goal is increased convenience for consumers. The pizza chain will add functionality for voice ordering on Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant after it has assessed the success of the Messenger and Twitter bots. The takeaway: Convenience is the name of the game and trumps concerns about authenticity, especially when applied specifically to make the customer’s life easier, not just reduce mundane tasks for the company. Read more

Chatbots deliver new entertainment and education opportunities—News Corp Australia has introduced a Facebook Messenger chatbot that lets users converse with a World War I soldier as he fights on the Western Front. The chatbot, launched by the media organization to mark the anniversary of historic battles, supports one-on-one conversations and delivers updates from the frontline. Built on an Artificial Intelligence platform, the bot’s responses will get better the more it engages with people. The responses are taken from the real soldier’s journal. The takeaway: I hope this chatbot example sparks your imagination. Would customers like to chat with your long-dead company founder? The inventor of a pivotal product? One-to-one engagement is a holy grail of marketing and communication, and one-to-one is exactly how chatbots work. Read more

Virtual and Augmented Reality

VR a hit with consumers—Hesitancy in embracing VR for marketing and communications has been cautioned by many who argue that it hasn’t spread far enough into the marketplace yet, but a study found consumers feel overwhelmingly positive about it. Fifty-two percent of those surveyed agreed that they’re anxious to be associated with a brand that has delivered VR content and 71% said that brands sponsoring VR events are “forward-thinking and modern.” Sixty-two percent said VR content from sponsors makes them feel engaged with the brand, 53% said they would be inclined to buy from a brand that sponsors a VR experience, and 91% said they have positive feelings when they watch informational videos in VR. The takeaway: Consumer adoption will snowball, with most users trying out the lower-cost options like the Samsung Gear VR and the various Google Cardboard offerings (like the under-$30 Viewmaster from Mattel) while interest in pricier headsets will also gain momentum. It’s time to assess the possible alignment between your communication goals and the role VR can play in helping you achieve them. Read more

Consumers also spend more time with VR ads—Immersion into a VR environment inspires people to spend more time with VR ads. Consumers spend about 55 seconds looking at a VR ad, with most looking straight ahead and to the right. Consequently, StartApp VR Director Ariel Shimoni says, “We are more certain than ever that mobile VR will turn into an incredible platform for brand advertising.” The takeaway: Evidence mounts that VR is connecting with consumers. It won’t be a leading edge-only technology for long. Read more

United taps VR to introduce new business class—United Airlines and Boeing are working on an upscale business class called Polaris for United’s 777 fleet. United planned on introducing the cabin this summer but Boeing won’t deliver new aircraft until December. United decided to show off the cabin using Virtual Reality. You can view the VR video tour on YouTube or, if you happen to be at the Barclays PGA golf tournament in August or the New York City Marathon in November, you’ll be able to view it through a more sophisticated headset. The takeaway: This example—and the next one—both speak to the utility of VR for getting customers as close to the real experience as possible in order to entice them to check out the real thing. This is a viable marketing application of VR that will survive well beyond VR’s initial hype cycle. Read more

VR is auto marketing’s “sleeping giant”—Automakers are jumping on the VR bandwagon in droves. Brands including Volvo, BMW, Audio, and Infiniti are delivering virtual test drives, which they hope will give car shoppers the extra push needed to get them into the showroom for a real test drive. (Eighty-eight percent of car buyers require a test drive before making a purchase decision.) As with the United example above, the idea that you can almost be there in order to get a sense of which car you’d like to take out on a real road is something that will transcend VR’s early novelty. Read more

Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go is a hit with pretty much everyone—The fan base for Pokémon Go is so diverse it’s hard to identify a single demographic group (other than age) that has embraced the game. A survey found 34% had never played a Pokémon game before (the numbers are higher among African-American and Latino respondents.) A third of respondents were minorities. Nearly half of female players had never played Pokémon before. Most respondents were aged 18-34. The takeaway: The demographics are good news for marketers interested in tapping into the game’s success. Read more

Yelp introduces search by Pokéstop—The Pokéconomy is a thing. Yelp has introduced a new filter that lets users search for local Pokéstops. Just like you can search for bars, restaurants, dentists, and other kinds of business, you can now specify nearby Pokestops to find businesses near those places where the critters are available for capture. The feature comes as businesses are buying lures to attract business. Players can also alert Yelp to new locations that haven’t yet been registered. The takeaway: Local business owners can now strategize: Buy a lure and make sure your location is registered on Yelp. I’d love to see statistics on how much that boosts visits by players who wind up becoming paying customers. Read more

Pokémon Go can be dangerous, but this is ridiculous—Players of the ultra-popular game have wandered into places where they’re not welcome or shouldn’t go, but few are as dangerous as the minefields in Bosnia. A nonprofit devoted to eliminating mines in Bosnia felt compelled to post a warning on Facebook urging players to be cautious after reports of players pursuing the elusive characters in minefields. The takeaway: This is another situation Niantic and Nintendo should have foreseen. Always speculate about what could go wrong before launching a product or initiative. (This is the same lack of foresight that causes brands to launch ill-advised hashtag campaigns that are ripe for takeover by critics or competitors.) Read more

The first Pokémon Go dating service is here—Forget eHarmony and Match.com. You can find love through your Pokémon Go obsession. Pokédates is designed to help single players meet up at nearby Pokéstops and Pokégyms. Interested players answer a few questions that help the service’s matchmakers connect you with compatible dates. The downside: It costs $20 per date. The takeaway: PokéDates is an example of a trend that’s gaining steam: integration into popular tools. App integration in Slack is another example. Read more

Police are luring criminals with Pokémon Go—The Manchester, New Hampshire police department posted on its Facebook page that a rare Pokémon had shown up in its precinct booking area. The post went viral, including the note that the list of people invited to come capture the Charizard was limited—to criminals on the department’s most wanted list, though the post didn’t explain that. The department hasn’t said whether any criminals were caught, but this is just a high-tech version of other schemes law enforcement has used for years to lure criminals into the open. The takeaway: See the previous item. Yet another example of building business processes into a popular tool. Read more

This week’s wrap image—a worker wrapping soap at the Nablus Soap Factory circa 1940—comes courtesy of Edward Sweed’s Flickr account.