Friday Wrap #173: Instagram’s half-billion users, Vine’s 140-second limit, Tumblr’s live video

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. 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

Instagram has half a billion users—Facebook-owned Instagram has passed the 500-million user mark with its growth continuing to accelerate. The latest 100 million users signed up faster than the previous 100 million. Daily active users have reached 300 million, about double the number for Snapchat and Twitter. The takeaway: Instagram is a key marketing channel for a lot of brands, and its growth reinforces not just Instagram’s value but the importance of visual communication. Read more

Vine expands six-second restriction—Twitter-owned Vine has been characterized since it was first introduced by its six-second time limit, which gave rise to a genre of six-second videos. Twitter has now expanded the time limit to 140 seconds (no doubt linked to its 140-character tweet limit). The takeaway: This move is baffling. There are plenty of places I get get two-plus-minute videos. The creativity involved in telling a six-second story was what gave Vine its edge. We’ll have to see if Vine creators stick with the platform or give up on it. Read more

Facebook Live to accommodate two-person broadcasting—An update to Facebook Live will let you stream a broadcast with two people in different locations. In other words, you’ll be able to interview someone remotely and you’ll both appear in the broadcast. Another new feature: waiting rooms, where users can wait for a broadcast to start. You can preschedule the time the broadcast will begin and send notifications to users so they’ll be ready and waiting when you’re ready to start streaming. The takeaway: Get ready for more enhancements, bells, and whistles in all the popular live-streaming tools as live streaming video gets more popular. Read more

Tumblr adds live video—Live streaming video is all the rage, and Facebook and Twitter are placing huge bets on its importance. So it’s no surprise that Yahoo-owned blogging platform Tumblr has added live video support. Rather than integrate its own tool, as Facebook and Twitter have, Tumblr users can host and share live streams from apps like YouTube, YouNow, Kanvas, and Upclose from within Tumblr. The platform is already popular with a lot of brands (Nescafe shifted all of its website to Tumblr last year), and celebrities use it as well. The takeaway: As noted in the Business Insider article, the support for multiple streaming services could make Tumblr “the go-to destination for hosting live streams (allowing) content creators (to) reach wider audiences than if they just streamed through one app.” Read more

FAA okays drone journalism—Starting in September, any newsroom in the U.S. will be legally able to practice drone journalism. Under the recently released Federal Aviation Agency’s rules, anyone at least 16 years old who understands English and has an operator’s certificate can be a drone journalist. There are restrictions, of course: you have to stay below 400 feet, you can’t fly at night, and you can’t fly over people, for instance. And there are restrictions on where you can fly your drone. The takeaway: There is nothing in the new regulation that excludes brand journalism. If aerial reporting makes sense, it’s time to start developing your drone piloting chops. Read more

Cannes-winning app exposed as a “fake”—Grey Singapore had an app that crowdsourced identification of refugees at sea. “I Sea” was designed to rescue these refugees in the Mediterranean, but even as it won an award at the Cannes Lions advertising awards, it was revealed by tech experts that old screenshots were being used to stand in for live images of the ocean. Grey Singapore responded by noting the app was in the midst of testing. In the meantime, Apple as pulled it from its app store. The takeaway: Disclose, disclose, disclose. If it’s true that the old images are just part of a beta period, Grey Singapore should have made that clear. Read more

Trends

Big brands are starting to target Reddit—Reddit’s efforts to attract advertisers is paying off with brands like Coca-Cola, eBay, and Procter & Gamble targeting the site. The passionate audiences in Reddit’s 70,000-plus active communities are desirable to marketers, as is the size, with traffic reaching over 51 million users last month. Reddit has built a team to staff an internal agency to work with brands and its sales staff has exploded. Reddit has also introduced a programmatic buying and search-based targeting tool, not unlike Google AdWords, that lets marketers use keywords to find where people are engaged in conversation. The takeaway: Fish where the fish are, right? But know what you’re getting into and learn the tricks and techniques that can help you avoid the kinds of blowback Reddit is known for. Read more

The Internet of Things will give rise to new content platforms—Not many communicators are excited about the Internet of Things, but some expect it to help media companies make content delivery easier. An Ernst & Young report says the potential for IoT in media “is expansive, enabling providers to create, deliver, and tailor content for new platforms and to measure the context of media consumption through analytics.” As one expert interviewed for this article noted, “Think about having news and information delivered on household appliances or video streaming in self-driving cars. We expect this will dramatically redefine consumer expectations in the near future.” The takeaway: It may not be the sexiest of technologies, but it will have an impact on PR and communication. Add it to your list of subjects that require some familiarization. Read more

Live video streaming is on the rise—One study has shown nearly 70% of marketing, sales, and business professionals have used video marketing. Another found 44% of executives have held a live streaming event. In particular, Blab.fm is gaining traction, a live video broadcasting platform for hosting, watching, and joining conversations. Blab could have a huge impact on business, which could u se it for everything from new product reveals, live demonstrations, group coaching, Q&A sessions, and more. The takeaway: I haven’t seen much business uptake of Blab, but it is getting more and more popular. Whether Blab becomes a go-to live video resource (some businesses have already embraced Google+ Hangouts on Air), there’s no question that live streaming video is going to catch fire even more than it already has. Have you explored potential uses in your organization? Read more

Social media is eroding awareness of news brands and individual journalists—We have seen numerous studies revealing that consumers increasingly rely on “distributed news”—links to articles shared in social media instead of a newspaper’s website. As a result, their awareness of a newspaper brand (such as The Washington Post or the Cleveland Plain Dealer) is eroding, along with awareness of individual journalists. The new normal for news consumption is altering the way readers “understand what news is and how it is produced,” reports the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. Only 52% of American survey respondents notice news brands on social media and only 49% on aggregators (like Google News). The report also bolsters the idea that social media is encouraging conversation and debate about the news, but it is also limiting the stories that have been shared with them based on an algorithm that tries to deliver content based on their preferences. The takeaway: The value of getting your story on the front page of any given publication is declining. Being seen is more important than being seen in The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times. Read more

More older Americans are working now than ever before—Americans age 65 and older are working at higher rates than ever and spending more time on the job than their peers did in the past. According to the Pew Research Center, 18.8% of Americans 65 and older—close to 9 million people—reported they were full- or part-time workers. The takeaway: While there are marketing considerations here, it’s especially important data for internal communicators who may be turning their attention to Millennials, who dominate the workplace. Be aware of the kinds of jobs they are likely to have, which include management and sales positions. Read more

Marketers experiment with audio in videos—As marketers have learned to produce video without sound—the default setting in Facebook—there’s a new surge of videos for social channels that take advantage of audio, especially as Snapchat reveals that two-thirds of its 10 billion daily video views are watched with the audio on. (Audio in is Snapchat’s default setting.) A number of agencies are now experimenting with captions and voiceovers in tandem within the first three seconds of a clip. The takeaway: Snapchat’s default is audio on. Facebook’s is audio off. This is just another indicator of the need to produce content that is crafted with the channel over which it will be deployed in mind. I noted a few weeks ago that we’re starting to see companies and agencies hire channel experts, a practice that will become more common. At the very least, know your channels so you can deliver content that works in each channel you use. Read more

How private is that private Slack channel?—Any employee can create a group on Slack, and a lot of employees have taken advantage of it to create a digital “safe place,” somewhere you can connect with people for the kinds of interaction that have always characterized the workplace. The belief that a private channel is private, though, may be misplaced. According to a Slack spokesperson, “It is important to remember that it is still business software and anything you communicate on a workplace device using a workplace network may ultimately belong to your employer.” The takeaway: Slack and other enterprise messaging tools are great, but if the company has deployed the tool, there should be clear disclosure about the policies that govern its use. Read more

Research

Social media is becoming routine in the workplace—Social media is playing a role in American workers’ lives, according to a new Pew Research Center study. Among the most common uses: taking a mental break from work, a practice several studies have shown increases productivity by allowing workers to reset their concentration. While a lot of workers connect with friends and family from their jobs using social media, others make or support professional connections, get information that helps them solve work problems, build or strengthen personal relationships with coworkers, learn about someone they work with, and ask work-related questions of people both inside and outside the company. The study also found that companies with social media policies tend to inhibit employees’ use of the tools. For example, 9% fewer employees get information to solve work problems via social media when their employer has policies that restrict its use. The takeaway: Most policies are characterized by restrictions rather than guardrails that encourage its use. If you have a “don’t” policy, perhaps it’s time to revisit it. Read more

Younger workers use social media to boost productivity—Forrester’s Business Technographics survey data reveals that younger employees turn to social media at least once a day based on their belief that it bolsters productivity. Most use tablets, though smartphones and computers also factor into the mix. According to Forrester’s Anjali Lai, “Even more than providing an opportunity for engagement, social networking at work allows employers to get smarter about their employees.” The takeaway: See above. Start building a culture that encourages smart use of social media that ultimately improves company performance. In any case, if your company still blocks access, don’t expect the organization to be around much longer. Your more savvy competitors will eat your lunch. Read more

A third of young social media users are influencers—Some 25.5 million U.S. social media users between the ages of 16 and 34 is a “social creator” or social influencer. A study from Yahoo, Deep Focus, Shareablee, and Ipsos found that 4.6 million are well-established influencers, 15.5 million are “rising stars,” and 4.3 million are “newbies.” The established influencers—dubbed “socialites” by Yahoo—have an average of 1,784 followers. The takeaway: Get to know the benefits and pitfalls of influencer marketing, since you will most likely be employing it at some point. And don’t ignore the potential for influencers as an internal communication channel. It’s worth exploring the power of the internal influence younger users might bring to bear. Read more

Companies, employees unprepared for the robotics revolution—By 2025, 7 percent of U.S. jobs will be replaced by robots, artificial intelligence, and other cognitive technologies, with office and administrative staff most likely to be targeted. The impact would be larger, except companies aren’t prepared to make the transition. Ultimately, Forrester Research believes 16% of jobs will be replaced, but 9% of those will be balanced by the creation of new jobs such as robot monitoring, data science, automation specialists, and content curators. The takeaway: Communicators, fear not. Not only will automation tools be unable to replace you, you’ll be needed to explain the transition and the fact that “customers will need human advice more than ever.” Read more

Mobile and Wearables

Email is now a mobile activity—Nearly 90% of emails are read on a mobile device, according to the Kahuna Mobile Marketing Index, which looked at more than 400 million anonymous user profiles across 15 industry verticals during the first quarter. Mobile click-to-open rates are growing, too, besting desktop rates by at least 3%. The study also found that consumers are 15% less inclined to uninstall a mobile app if they received a personalized message through the app. The takeaway: When crafting emails, whether personal or for marketing purposes, keep in mind that the odds are great the recipient will be viewing it on a smartphone. Needless to say, the study also reinforces the undeniable shift to mobile. Read more

There’s a new app grabbing teens’ attention—It’s called Yubl (pronounced yuh-bul) and it has been downloaded more than 50,000 times from Google Play and been in the top 20 social apps in the iTunes store. That’s enough for brands to start paying attention. Yubl is like Instagram, allowing users to scroll through a feed of images from the accounts they follow. It also lets you chat in private. The difference: interactive buttons that let users vote, view a location, or follow a link. Red Bull is among the brands that have verified Yubl pages. The takeaway: I haven’t been able to try it—apparently my Galaxy S6 Edge isn’t compatible—but any app that allows for interactivity is one worth experimenting with, especially if your audience is gravitating toward it. Read more

Consumers look for accuracy first in wearables—Accuracy is the top priority for consumers considering wearable devices. More than half who don’t already own a wearable would consider buying one if they were confident of its accuracy. The survey found more than 42% of respondents own or have owned a wearable device with 63% ranking accuracy as the top feature of the wearable they owned. Eighty percent of wearable owners felt it had a positive impact on their health. Seventy-four percent of those who never owned one would consider buying a wearable if it were accurate enough to help them better manage their health. Of those who own a wearable, 52% have a wristband device, 36% have earbuds and $32% have a smartwatch. The takeaway: The novelty of wearables wasn’t much of a draw for most people, but if a wearable can deliver real value, people will consider them. Read more

Virtual and Augmented Reality

Does Net Neutrality apply to the VR world?—Yes, it does, according to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who said, “Virtually reality shouldn’t have gatekeepers. It starts with an Internet that is fast, fair, and open.” There is still potential for regulation, though, since VR can, for example, track your “every tiny movement,” enabling organizations to track people across multiple online games. “That information is powerful, and it’s potentially something the FCC could attempt to regulate,” according to VentureBeat’s Jeff Grubb. The takeaway: Grubb says it best, noting that Wheeler has a proactive attitude toward VR. “A living, breathing, and engaged FCC chairman is the start of ensuring we gas as much of the good from this new technology with the fewest of its drawbacks.” Read more

Agencies get suite of AR tools—Augmented Reality (AR) may be a ways off when it comes to headsets like those being planned by Magic Leap and Microsoft, but it has been around for a while on smartphones. AR app Blippar is one of the longtime players, and the company has now released a set of tools just for digital and creative agencies to make it easier to take advantage of the nascent technology. Agencies can join the beta launch, which include a new version of the Blipperbuilder platform that lets users create AR content “with no code or technical know-how required.” The takeaway: AR has more practical potential than VR and will ultimately get more uptake, but it has not seen tremendous smartphone adoption. Unless you have something truly spectacular in mind, developing a smartphone AR campaign could be a tremendous waste of time and energy. Read more

Awareness of VR is almost non-existent—For those paying attention, it seems the world is abuzz with talk about Virtual Reality, but Google’s VP of VR, Clay Bavor, calls the number of people “who have used or even know about VR at this point” a “rounding error. It’s approximately zero percent of the world.” The push VR needs to move into mainstream consciousness may be Daydream, a VR platform that will be built into Android devices. In the meantime, Google is boosting VR’s potential, such as “a family sitting down to breakfast, and reliving those moments through VR technology some 10 or 20 years later when all the children have grown up.” Nevertheless, Bavor says, As much energy and talk and hype as there is around VR right now, it’s going to be a slower ramp than people appreciate.” The takeaway: Consumer VR and enterprise VR are different things. Awareness in your organization is what you make it. Consider the practical applications of VR internally and the potential for marketing (such as the uses to which the travel industry has been putting it). Read more

This week’s wrap image comes courtesy of Stephen Edmonds’ Flickr account.