Friday Wrap #182: Employees can gripe, zoo shutters social media, YouTube plans to go beyond video

Friday Wrap #182I 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.


Employees are free to tweet their complaints—The National Labor Relations Board has finalized a decision initially rendered in March that beleaguered restaurant chain Chipotle was wrong for firing an employee who tweeted complaints about the company, forcing Chipotle to revise its policies. The NLRB is signaling that “freedom os speech is protected for employees who want to criticize their employers on Twitter.” The takeaway: This ruling is consistent with several others from the NLRB. U.S. companies must revisit their social media policies to ensure there are no provisions that violate the law. Read more

Cincinnati Zoo vanishes from social media—The shooting of Harambe the gorilla by Cincinnati Zoo workers has resulted in social media backlash that has led the zoo to delete its Twitter and Facebook accounts. The takeaway: How to handle the memes that continue following the May incident is a complicated matter, but eliminating the channels for two-way communication isn’t the best approach. Read more

Pinterest acquires Instapaper—Instapaper lets users save web content for viewing later, even if they’re offline. Pinterest has acquired the company in order to take advantage of the company’s technology so users will be able to discover and save Pinterest content. Instapaper will continue as an independent app. The takeaway: I use Pocket instead of Instapaper (same idea), which is great for reading articles on planes without needing to pay exorbitant in-flight WiFi fees. I’m sure I’d do the same with pins. I’m sure a lot of other people would, too. If saving takes off after Instapaper’s technology is introduced on Pinterest, I expect other content sites will figure out ways to encourage article-saving, too. Read more

Pokemon Go is finding its place in the zeitgeist—The popularity of Pokemon Go is fading from the 40 million daily active users it enjoyed at its peak. The app no longer appears among the top 10 free apps downloaded in the US. That’s partly because everyone inclined to play already has it, but play time is also down as the novelty wears off and capturing the elusive critters becomes harder. Game play won’t drop to zero, but nor will it occupy headlines the way it did when it was a bona fide phenomenon. The takeaway: SHIFT’s Todd Defren posted on Facebook this morning, “Remember when we were all talking about Pokemon Go? Good times.” That about says it all. But the game has paved the way for faster adoption of Augmented Reality apps. Read more

Facebook releases Snapchat-competing app—Lifestage is a new video-focused app (currently for iOS only) designed to attract high school-aged users enamored of Snapchat. The takeaway: The app, developed by a 19-year-old Facebook staffer, has some smart features, like the ability to take pictures that show what you like and dislike. Whether teens will gravitate to it remains to be seen, but if they do, it will likely be as a supplement to Snapchat, not a replacement, especially since a lot of the features Snapchatters like (e.g., filters, lenses) aren’t part of Lifestage. Read more

New Twitter button lets customers contact you from your website—While most companies are awful at responding to customers’ queries via social media, some crave that one-on-one contact. Twitter is introducing a button companies can add to their sites that customers can click to direct-message the business. Facebook launched links that let people contact businesses through the Messenger app four months ago. The takeaway: Social media is fast becoming the preferred channel for consumer queries. Beefing up your company’s response mechanisms is now just table stakes. Need proof? Read the next item. Read more

Brands embrace Instagram button for customer service—Facebook-owned Instagram’s “contact” button companies can add to their web pages has been added to the sites of companies like Nordstrom, Benefit, Delta, and Denny’s. The takeaway: Like I said: table stakes. Read more

Singapore to block government workers’ Web access—No, it’s not because they’re worried about employees wasting time online. Rather, it’s a security precaution designed to reduce the risk of hackers infiltrating networks. While critics see the move as excessive, others note than organizations in Southeast Asia re 80% more prone to cyberattacks. The takeaway: I hope this doesn’t inspire organizations to take the same baby-with-the-bathwater approach. Security is vital, but so is the ability of workers to use online resources to do their jobs. Read more

YouTube plans to add photos, polls and text—Video consumption on Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter is growing and observers have noted that the trend comes at YouTube’s expense. To fend off that competition, YouTube is creating Backstage, a feature that lets users share “photos, polls, links, text posts, and videos with their subscribers,” according to VentureBeat. You’ll be able to see Backstage—which will appear beside the Home and Video tabs—on select popular accounts by year-end. In addition to the non-video elements, Backstage will also let users share Backstage-only videos, “possibly creating an opportunity for more intimate, or even ephemeral, video sharing.” The takeaway: Competition among social sites is increasingly characterized by adding features popular on other sites. Consider Instagram’s addition of Stories, designed to keep users from defecting to Snapchat. As these services become more alike, brands will need to figure out what differentiates the services in order to best take advantage of them to engage with customers. Read more

Google to demote mobile sites with pop-ups—If your mobile website includes pop-ups, they’ll soon rank lower in search results, Google announced. Sites to be demoted are those with interstitials that occupy an entire screen or cover all the content on the screen, along with ads designed to fool users into thinking it’s part of the content. The takeaway: Punishment for bad ad behavior is only going to get worse. It’s in publishers’ best interests to wear the white hat when it comes to ads. Read more


Insta-communities have short lifespans—On Instagram, communities form around shared ideas; these communities last only as long as the ideas are engaging. Marketers can tap into these communities, but only by “understanding what brought them together in the first place or what ideas would galvanize them,” according to Instagram’s global head of business and brand development. Some brands have created campaign toolkits for consumers; one—for the #ThisGirlCan campaign, was used by 8,000 supporters, resulting in an active community of half a million people. The takeaway: You can’t just pitch one-way to these Insta-communities or treat them like another demographic. As this article notes, “The keys to engaging with these new communities are openness and a willingness to embrace their aesthetics and their spirit. Read more

Snapchat’s popularity is just getting started—A report from market researcher eMarketer says Snapchat is about to experience a huge surge of growth. eMarketer says Snapchat’s user base will grow 27.2% in 2016 and 13.6% in 2017, with growth levelling off in 2018. Much of that growth will come from older users. Snapchat currently has 150 million daily active users. The takeaway: With Instagram’s addition of Stories, some marketers have shrugged off Snapchat. If eMarketer’s numbers are accurate (they usually are), that’s a mistake. At the very least, pay attention to how other brands are using the app—and what kind of results they’re getting. Read more

Neuromarketing heats up—Marketers are among the professions trying to figure out how to read consumers based on how they think and feel, determined by examining eye and face activity, skin response, and other neurological signals. Among the companies taking neuromarketing seriously are Coca-Cola, Frito-Lay, Gillette, P&G, and Hyundai. The takeaway: Limiting research to demographic similarities and surveys and focus groups is too limiting these days when personalization and relevance have become vital factors in marketing. Right now, neuromarketing is a pricey proposition and probably applicable only to large enterprises, but getting familiar with it will help you take advantage of it when it becomes more commonplace and agencies more routinely offer related services. Read more

Brands find ways to take advantage of Instagram Events—Instagram has copied another Snapchat feature, rolling out a live events video channel dubbed Events that resides under the Explore tab. While advertising and sponsored events aren’t allowed, brands are still finding ways to take advantage of Events. They can, for example, “inject themselves when they have a sponsorship with (an) event or some sort of tie with (an) event,” according to one marketer. The takeaway: There’s no guarantee your photos will get curated into Events, but if you’re going to be sharing pictures from an event on Instagram anyway, studying what finds its way into Events can help you share images that stand a better chance of getting into users’ feeds. Read more

Is marketing’s future all about shared media?—That’s the argument made by Katherine Hays, founder and CEO us Vivoom, a user-generated marketing platform. While it’s in Hays’ self-interest to make the case, it’s also worth paying attention to her underlying argument that shared media—that which is created by users that promotes a brand—is more watched and trusted than traditional ads. As I noted in the Insta-communities item above, brands deployed tools that let users create content to share on Instagram around the idea that brought those communities together. Hays argues that shared media is a phenomenon that should lead companies to offer tools to their fans that lets them create and share branded content. Snapchat filters are another example. The takeaway: I would revise Hays’ argument to say that shared content is a future, not the future. Pinning your entire marketing effort on fans can backfire if an issue arises that changes the conversation. Read more


Hotels find YouTube the best video platform—While video features on Snapchat, Facebook, and other social media platforms are eating into YouTube’s popularity, hoteliers are finding YouTube is the best platform for telling stories that promote the brand while communicating a company’s culture and ability to personalize an experience. “When you’ve got a polished story to tell and you’ve got engaging and fun characters to tell it with, YouTube is the best channel,” according to Wyndham hotel Group’s SVP of loyalty and engagement. The takeaway: Shifting video to Facebook because the data says it’s where more people are viewing videos is hardly being strategic. Use each channel based on what they do best. Video that tells a polished story on YouTube can be repurposed into shorter videos on Facebook, for example. Read more

Facebook video publishers are getting paranoid—Video publishers are getting paid by advertisers to create Facebook videos, which are increasingly popular. As a result, publishers are worrying that Facebook will eat into those revenues by extracting a fee for sponsored videos. Facebook currently doesn’t take a cut of those earnings or allow pre-rolls, as YouTube does. Publishers also worry that an algorithm change (which Facebook is famous for) could eat into the views those videos get. Facebook has tried reassuring publishers that videos identified as sponsored aren’t penalized by the algorithm and adds that it doesn’t plan to extract fees from branded content producers. The takeaway: Doing deals with video producers to create Facebook content is a smart move right now, but it should be part of a multi-channel approach. Read more

Why, Facebook, why?—Facebook is experimenting with user reaction to autoplay videos with the sound on by default. The trial only affects users in Australia, who will see a pop-up message letting them know how to use the audio controls, including the ability to make sure the sound is always off. Facebook says the goal is to improve the video experience. The takeaway: The user experience with audio off is enhanced by producers creating videos that accommodate that setting. Personally, I hate it when videos I haven’t deliberately loaded begin playing audio. Don’t you? Read more


Employees give higher ratings to lower-paid CEOs—The more a CEO is paid, the higher the expectations employees have for the job she does. A survey from Glassdoor finds that highly paid CEOs get dramatically lower approval ratings from employees than CEOs who get lower pay. According to the study, the average CEO-to-worker ratio at S&P 500 companies is 204:1. However, disapproval is less marked when overall employee satisfaction is high and when the CEO is also a founder. Gender and tenure had no impact on employee perceptions. The takeaway: Companies need to be transparent with employees about CEO pay, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio, and the rationale for compensation. Read more

Brands seek specific content marketing skills—Trying to figure out what kind of training you need to be more marketable? According to Fraktl and consistent with findings from LinkedIn research), the technical skills most in demand are SEO, HTML, Google Analytics, CSS, and programming, while the artistic skills are writing, marketing strategy, content strategy, though leadership, and brand development. The takeaway: Most companies aren’t hiring content marketers or communicators based on specific competencies, yet those competencies become important in development and execution of strategies. If you haven’t inventoried the competencies of your staff and mapped them against your content strategies, it’s something to consider. Where you find gaps, you can fill them through training, hiring, or outsourcing. Read more

The 30 elements of value—A given in marketing is that you have to demonstrate a product’s value, since that’s what consumers weigh against the product’s price. Bain & Company researchers have identified 30 elements of value and organized them in a Maslow-like hierarchy, with functional value at the base of the pyramid (e.g., it saves time, reduces risk, or provides sensory appeal), followed by emotional (e.g., lowers anxiety, delivers nostalgia, is entertaining), life-changing (e.g., provides hope or motivates the customer to do something), and social impact (self-transcendence). The hierarchy makes it easier to delve into customers’ statements about a product’s value. “For example,” the researchers write, “when someone says her bank account is “convenient,” its value derives from some combination of the functional elements saves time, avoids hassle, simplifies, and reduces effort. The takeaway: This is a long article, but worth the time for establishing a framework for determining the value propositions to focus on in your communications about a product or service. Read more

Here’s a list of the things you need to stop doing on social media—This could be the most valuable bit of research you see all week. Sprout Social has determined the actions brands take on social media that most annoy users. By far, the most annoying activity is posting too many promotions (57.5%). Nearly 20 points lower, at 38.4%, is using slang and jargon. Close behind are not having any personality on their accounts and trying to be funny (and failing). Weighing in at 24.7% is not replying to a customer query. The report also found that people make purchase decisions based on the brands they follow and the social posts they see and that message repetition can improve community receptivity. The takeaway: This is all fairly obvious, but evidently not obvious enough. The list should become guidelines for every social media marketer. Read more

Podcast audiences grow more diverse—Mostly white men between 25-44 listened to podcasts when Edison Research began studying podcasting in its early days. As the number of podcasts has exploded—along with the themes of those shows—the audience has grown more diverse. The number of white listeners decreased from 68% to 63% in the last five years as the percentage of African-American listeners has grown from 14% to 18%. The audiences of Hispanic listeners has also increased. The takeaway: Podcasting continues to be an increasingly important channel for reaching audiences on niche topics, both through producing your own shows and sponsoring existing shows. Read more

The Instagram filter you choose can reveal your mental health—It’s possible to analyze the filters Instagram users apply to photos in order to determine whether they suffer from depression. Researchers from Harvard and the University of Vermont determined that photos with decreased brightness, decreased saturation, and increased hue indicate depression correctly 70% of the time. Depressed users are most likely to use the Inkwell filter; Valencia was chosen most frequently by users who are not depressed. The takeaway: Add this to the research that helps understand behaviors by interpreting social media signals. Businesses like pharmaceutical companies, however, will need to resist the temptation to use this kind of data to target products to users. Read more

Virtual and Augmented Reality

Google’s Daydream to get push from Hulu, celebrities—Google’s VR service, Daydream, is expected to launch in the next few weeks. The service will include 350-degree videos from Hulu. Google is also tapping YouTube stars to promote the service, along with video game producers and sports leagues. Google wants Daydream to become “the dominant way people engage in virtual reality, much like Android is for smartphones.” An Android software update will support Daydream. The takeaway: With the Oculus Rift and other dedicated VR headsets still financially out of reach for most consumers, smartphone-enabled VR tools that use cheaper goggles will take off. Building a VR utility into Android is a brilliant move. Read more

VR tool simulates salary negotiations to close gender pay gap—Women earn 79% of what men make, but VR startup Variable Labs aims to close the gap with a VR tool that simulates salary negotiations. The goal is to make women more comfortable negotiating for pay that matches their value. The tool uses a “create-your-own-adventure” sort of branching experience so women can see the result of an approach they take. The takeaway: The immersive nature of VR is ideal for simulations like these. I expect training departments in companies to adopt these tools for all kinds of interactions that once were popular as computer programs. Read more

President Obama featured in National Parks immersive video—Oculus and National Geographic teamed up to produce a 360-degree film version of President Obama’s tour of national parks as part of the Centennial Year of the National Parks Service. “The experience allows viewers to explore scenic, sweeping views of Yosemite and observe President Obama and his family at moments during their trip.” The takeaway: We’re in the early days of finding opportunities for immersive video. Showing off the grandeur of national parks makes a ton of sense, especially when you have the added allure of a U.S. president in the mix. Read more

Today’s wrap image—a Sarawak wrap basket from the Sarawak State Museum in Malaysia—is courtesy of Thomas Quine’s Flickr account.