Friday Wrap #118: More 9/11 abuse, corporate blogging declines, customer service as experience

Flickr image courtesy of Sean MacEntee
Welcome to the Friday Wrap, my weekly summary of stuff I’ve found in the last seven days that didn’t grab the big headlines but is still important, interesting, and/or worthwhile for communicators and marketers. I collect these on my link blog, which you’re welcome to follow.


It was 9/11, and marketers were idiots again—When will marketers finally figure out that brands aren’t people and 9/11 tributes won’t be received well? People will see marketing undercurrents in the most respectful messages, which is what happened when White Castle produced a non-salesy image that earned the reply in one tweet, “Why do fast food chains keep doing this? “Remember the dead. By the way, burgers.” But these were overwhelmed by brands that remembered those who lost their lives 13 years ago by offering discounts and coupons. For 24 hours, just turn it off. If your CEO or employees want to tweet something, that’s fine; they’re real people. But please resist the urge for the brand to take advantage of this particular newsjacking opportunity. Read more

In other newsjacking news, there was Apple’s event—Brands of all stripes took advantage of the Apple event on Tuesday to get their own messages out. Among the brands leveraging Apple’s buzz to their own advantage was MasterCard, which had a direct connection to the ApplePay product. Competitors chided Apple for introducing features to the iPhone they’ve offered for years. HTC, for instance, tweeted, “Bigger screen. Better performance. Elegant design. Welcome to the party.” For other brands, relevance was a stretch, including Zappos, which tried to link their mobile ready pants to the bigger iPhone; Applebees, which equated phone apps with appetizers; and Crest, which “didn’t reinvent the Apple, just the way we bite into it.” Read more

California law protects customer reviews—In an effort to keep consumers from posting negative reviews, some companies post non-disparagement clauses as part of the terms and conditions for buying a product. That is, if you buy our product, you’re agreeing not to say anything bad about us. That’s now illegal in California under a law signed Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown. According to the bill’s sponsor, “No consumer should ever face penalties for voicing their opinions on the services or products they have purchased, and California law is now clear that no company has the ability to silence consumers.” Read more

Yelp can change ratings, court rules—Speaking of reviews, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that Yelp’s manipulation of reviews to penalize businesses that didn’t buy ads doesn’t rise to the level of extortion. According to the court, businesses don’t have a right to positive reviews on Yelp and that the company is within its rights to seek payments for advertising. The case involved an animal hospital (among others) who claimed Yelp said it would hide negative reviews or move them lower on the page in exchange for advertising. I don’t know about you, but my trust in what I see on Yelp just took a huge nosedive. Read more

Google hosting meetings over European “right to be forgotten”—Google, which is at the center of the “right to be forgotten” ruling by the European court, is planning a number of meetings across the continent to discuss the ruling and how legislation can be balanced against privacy rights and freedom of information. Seven meetings in European capitals were planned: Madrid, Rome, Paris, Warsaw, Berlin, London, and Brussels. Data protection regulators were also to meet on September 15 to issue new guidelines for search engines affected by the ruling. Read more

Native ads go video—A company called Unruly has introduced a video ad format that adapts to the look and feel of any Web page in real time; athletic shoe company Adidas will pilot the format for its #predatorinstinct campaign. These native video ads are injected seamlessly into any website’s content stream. Commentators may be intensifying their attacks on native advertising, but the segment just continues to innovate and expand. Read more

RIP Twitpic—The iconic image of the US Airways flight in the Hudson River was shared by a passenger on a ferry from his iPhone via Twitpic, the first service to let you share an image via Twitter. That process has gotten easier—even Twitter lets you do it now—so most people didn’t notice the announcement that Twitpic is closing its doors on September 25 as a result of a trademark dispute with Twitter. Read more


Annual Fortune 500 study finds blogging on the decline—Three percent fewer of the Fortune 500 have public-facing corporate blogs than last year, according to research released by The Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. The annual study, led by Nora Ganim Barnes, PhD, found 157 companies have blogs, including two of the top five (WalMart and ExxonMobil). The other three—Chevron, Apple, and Berkshire Hathaway—go without. It’s the first decline since the study began in 2008, when 16% of the Fortune 500 had blogs. Seventy-eight percent of the Fortune 500 with blogs update them regularly, accept comments, have RSS feeds, and allow people to subscribe to the blogs. Other data from the study finds 83% of the Fortune 500 have Twitter accounts with a tweet in the last 30 days, up 6% from 2013. Eighty percent are on Facebook, up 10 points from last year. Sixty-seven percent are on YouTube, down 2 points from last year, and 97% have a presence on LinkedIn, the highest adoption rate of any social media platform. Read more

That drop in blogging may be a bad idea—Hubspot’s massive study on the state of inbound marketing has shown that blogging is a key to producing ROI. “Companies that are prioritizing blogging are 13 times more likely to be increasing ROI year-over-year,” according to report author Joe Chernov. According to the study, 82% of marketers are employing inbound tactics. Read more

Content drives donations—Among those who donate to a cause, 35% say they have been motivated to donate by compelling online content. Donors are most likely to respond to personal stories (35%) and statistics (32%). “Our survey suggests the right digital content can encourage greater generosity among repeat donors,” according to Kentico CEO and founder Petr Palas. “Non-profit sites need to combine the human and emotional elements along with the hard facts that show how widespread the problem might be.” Read more

I guess companies just don’t want to be more productive—In 2012, the McKinsey Global Institute determined that the adoption of social technologies could raise productivity by 25%, but the 2014 Social Business Global Executive Study and Research Project by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte found that just 17% of respondents believe their companies have mature social business practices (meaning that information from social media and collaboration tools is used to drive decisions, is seen as valuable to create powerful and positive change, and can play a role in innovation, talent management, and operations). The problem: a focus on deployment instead of adoption. Read more

Paid social ads convert more customers—Paid ads on social networks have better conversion rates than organic content. That’s the conclusion of research from Convertro and AOL Platforms conducted in the first quarter of 2014. It’s a 0.1% increase on Facebook, but on twitter, ads were more than twice as likely to convert users as organic tweets. On Pinterest, Convertro saw about a 25% increase in conversions with paid ads. An important finding, though, is that social media is usually a “middle touch” on the path to a purchase. Read more

Social media and B2B are made for each other—Seventy-nine percent of 115 senior business marketers polled for their views about budgets, activities, objectives, and challenges said social media was the most effective digital channel. Still only 15% of their budgets are dedicated to social media. Thirty-eight percent would spend more on social media if they had more dollars in their budgets. Read more

Business travelers depend on reviews—Negative reviews don’t necessarily dissuade business travelers from picking a hotel—they’re not as sensitive to price, but they do seek out and pay attention to reviews in order to assess the hotel’s amenities and learn other facts about the venue, making it important for hotels to generate reviews from their business guests. Read more


How to make customer service an experience—People share experiences. Great or terrible, it’s the experience that rates sharing. That’s why customer service experiences are so readily shared, and why providing customer service now must be viewed as delivering a great experience to a customer. If you want an example of a company that has that figured out, be sure to read the live chat between a customer and an Amazon rep. Avoiding the by-the-book responses and training and encouraging reps to be human can produce big payoffs. Read more

Tweets analyzed to produce list of best and worst airlines—Virgin America is tops among airlines and United is in the toilet, according to a natural language processing analysis of more than 157,000 tweets mentioning five different airlines. United’s ranking was the result of references to “delays/cancellations” and “luggage.” Is your brand analyzing tweets versus those referencing the competition? Identifying categories of language—as text analysis startup Luminoso did for the airline ranking—could be a smart move. Read more

Banks turn to hackathons for recruiting—Hackathons have become popular in some circles. Hackathons are events at which programmers and developers collaborate intensively on software projects. They’re traditionally run by technology organizations, but recently First National Bank of Omaha held a hackathon as a competition for 36 programmers looking to fill open tech jobs at the bank. The bank sees the hackathon as a means of getting closer to this corner of the workforce and give the bank some cred among techies. Read more

Facebook gaining ground on LinkedIn for recruiting—Research finds that 19.3% of recruiters are using Facebook to hunt for candidates, up a bit from 2013; the number of job-seekers using Facebook is also up. Although LinkedIn remains the dominant recruiting network, Facebook is the only social network through which there was an increase in job applications this year. Read more

Evian gets big buzz delivering water in response to tweets—For three days, if you were in a New York city park during a hot spell, you could tweet the hashtag #Evianbottleservice along with your location, and someone would bring you a cold bottle of Evian within seven minutes. The campaign earned the company 3.5 times more daily brand mentions compared to competitors. Engagement on tweets passed the benchmark for consumer packaged goods brands by 80%. The campaign earned 2.8 million impressions and 75,000 engagements on Twitter. Read more

The Collaborative Economy

Home cleaning joins the sharing economy—Homejoy pairs people looking to have their houses cleaned with people looking for the work, most likely for less than a housecleaning company would charge. The business was founded by a brother and sister who wanted their home cleaned and were frustrated at the options. There are drawbacks for the workers, though, who aren’t employees; Homejoy is just a marketplace for connecting cleaners with customers. Read more

Great Reading

A journalist read and replied to every PR email he got for a week—We in PR are quick on the trigger when it comes to blasting press releases out to lists of journalists. One of our targets, Newsweek’s Zach Schonfeld, decided to reply to every PR email he received for a week, regardless of the subject matter or sender. The review of what he received and how those interactions went is instructive—and entertaining. The comments are worth some time, too. Read more