Friday Wrap #183: More Twitter characters, new native ad guidelines,CEOs’ engagement failure

Posted on January 8, 2016 10:43 am by | Management | Sharing and Collaborating | Content | Advertising | Attention | Blogging | Brands | Business | Channels | Customer Service | Facebook | Internal | Legal | Marketing | Measurement | Media | Mobile | PR | Publishing | Research | Social Media | Social networks | Twitter

Friday Wrap #183Happy new year to Friday Wrap readers! In 2015, we had the uncommon experience of both Christmas and New Year’s falling on Fridays, so the Wrap took a break. I hope your break was rewarding and refreshing. As a result of the two-week break, this week’s Wrap is longer than usual, as my collection of items covers three weeks instead of just one. Also, I have noticed a lot of new subscribers to the Wrap; a very warm welcome to all of you! The 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, subscribe to my weekly email newsletter.

News

Twitter could increase character count from 140 to 10,000, sort of—The biggest non-CES buzz this week is word from Twitter that tweets could allow up to 10,000 characters, a massive increase from the current 140-character constraint. The CBC reports tweets will still display only 140 characters should it adopt the expanded character count; readers would have to click to read more. The takeaway: Twitter has to do something to make the service more compelling to users and advertisers. Right now, in order to show a lot of text, some are attaching screen captures of Word documents to short tweets. The expanded character count could fix that problem and attract more users. Could the ability to edit an already-sent tweet be next? Read more

FTC spells out guidance on native ads—The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has introduced new guidelines for websites that publish native ads, and the focus is on disclosure. The FTC says native ads (aka “sponsored content”) that deceive or mislead readers can bring the commission’s wrath upon both publishers and advertisers. The kicker in the new guidance is that “a disclosure of text may not remedy a misleading impression creating by a headline because reasonable consumers might glance only at the headline.” The takeaway: There’s much more to be aware of in the FTC’s guidelines. Pay close attention if your organization has anything to do with native advertising. Disclosure is the key. Be forthright and upfront about the nature of your content. If the content is great, making it clear it was paid for won’t hurt consumption. Read more

Politwoops is back on Twitter—Politwoops shares tweets public officials have shared and then deleted, but Twitter barred the service. Now it’s back, part of an agreement with The Sunlight Foundation and The Open State Foundation. Twitter released a statement saying, “We look forward to continuing our work with these important organizations, and using Twitter to bring more transparency to public dialogue.” The takeaway: It’s good to see Twitter doing the right thing. It’s even better to know that public officials can’t hide from their public statements just because they opt later to remove them. Twitter never should have barred Politwoops in the first place, but the right decision is welcome, even if it’s late. Read more

Employers can’t stop employees recording conversations or taking pictures—Here’s another change your company may need to make to its policies. The National Labor Relations Board (a U.S. agency) ruled that Whole Foods cannot forbid employees from recording conversations at work or taking pictures without a supervisor’s permission. The takeaway: The recording issue doesn’t strike me as a big deal; it’s not a frequent occurrence. But a lot of companies have policies forbidding the taking and sharing of photos on the premises. The NTSB said such photos are “essential” to documenting unsafe work conditions and other issues.Make sure your legal team is aware of the ruling and, if necessary, update policies and communicate the change clearly. It’s never good to run afoul of the NTSB. Read more

Please avoid the temptation of riding a meme’s coattails—Last week, a small U.K. marketing agency livestreamed a puddle outside its office, accompanied by the hashtag #Drummondpuddlewatch. It accumulated 20,000 viewers within a few hours. Of course, brands couldn’t resist leveraging the phenomenon for their own purposes. Domino’s Pizza, MTV, Electronic Arts, and Waterstone’s were among the companies that just had to create tweets that rode the live-stream’s coattails. Needless to say, once the brands showed up, the interest in the puddle evaporated. The takeaway: Unless you have something incredibly clever and relevant to share, resist the temptation. Consumers are completely over brand takeovers of cultural events like this. Read more

Here are 180,000 images you can now use for free—Some 180,000 digitized public-domain images have been made available online by the New York Public Library. The low-resolution images include manuscripts, maps, photos, sheet music, lithographs, postcards, and more. The library notes that no permission is required—“just go forth and reuse.” The takeaway: The release of these images has provided a lot of positive attention to the library and gives publishers a treasure trove of images to consider adding to their content. It’s one more source for companies looking for images to differentiate their content, but I’m more excited about the idea of businesses opening some of their images in their libraries to free public use. Here’s hoping the New York Public Library’s action is the beginning of a trend. Incidentally, this week’s Wrap image is from the Digital Collection. Read more

ESPN commentator tweets raise questions—A pair of ESPN commentators sent tweets on New Year’s Eve promoting Domino’s Pizza without indicating that Domino’s had sponsored the tweets. (They had.) The tweets “raised questions about whether media professionals should use their large personal followings to plug products when their fans might expect news,” according to The Wall Street Journal. The tweets definitely violated Federal Trade Commission guidance on advertising disclosure. The takeaway: It is incumbent on the advertiser, not just the celebrity, to ensure sponsored ads are disclosed. Don’t let your brand get caught up in the fallout of a failure to properly disclose. Read more

Here come the Messenger bots—Imagine asking a company a question via Facebook’s Messenger app and getting an instant answer. That’s the idea behind a Software Developer Kit (SDK) Facebook made available to a few developers that lets them build interactive bots. The Chat SDK will let companies create bots that “automatically respond to users’ text messages with information, images, location details, and Buy buttons.” The takeaway: This is not the only time I will make this point today: Get up to speed on messaging apps and their potential to ease the connection between your company and customers. This is definitely a communication issue, since somebody who knows what she’s doing will have to craft the messages users see after they’ve sent a query. Read more

Twitter launches Conversational Ads—How likely are you to share a sponsored tweet? Twitter is betting you’ll be more inclined to share a tweeted ad if it contains polls, custom hashtags, and rich media. Conversational Ads let brands ask questions with a choice of two answers, each of which has its own custom hashtag. The Barista Bar, for example, features a video along with the question, “Which coffee blend is right for you? Our #HouseBlend or our premium #DarkRoast? When you choose the answer, it tweets your choice to your followers. The tweet you send by answering is organic; advertisers pay only for the original Promoted Tweet. The takeaway: Getting people to share a Promoted Tweet has been a challenge. Conversational Ads could well be a great way to inspire that sharing. If you’re investing in sponsored content, these could be worth a try. Read more

Trends

Print doesn’t just live, it’s on the rebound—I know I’m harping on an old theme, but print is not dead. Not even close. The recent Boston Globe episode in which reporters and editors took to the streets to deliver print copies of the paper demonstrates that there is still an appetite for hard copy. According to the Pew Research Center, about half of newspaper readers only read their newspapers in print. (I get a daily print newspaper, but I wouldn’t be part of that group, since I also read a ton of news online. Print newspaper readers also tend to be print enthusiasts. The Pew study is just the tip of the iceberg. Independent bookstores are opening all over, e-readership is declining and print book readership is rising, and Amazon is opening its first physical bookstore. Digital reading isn’t going away, but it will be more evenly balanced with print readership, at least for the next decade or so. If you dropped print from your communication arsenal, maybe you should reconsider. Read more

Reaching many by targeting few—Coca-Cola generated huge buzz among the Danish population with a campaign that targeted just a few people: the colorblind. A message hidden in a graphic image led consumers in Denmark to wonder what the message was and seek out the answer from their colorblind friends, family, and colleagues. The takeaway: Yes, it’s harder to get your message to audiences because of the sheer volume of content out there, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Techniques like targeting the few to reach the many can be effective. Another example: Warby Parker’s practice of producing a video to answer customer questions. The answer is directed at one person but winds up being viewed by as many as several thousand. Read more

Edelman nears the end of its restructuring program—Edelman isn’t the only PR agency rethinking how it operates, but its multi-year restructuring has been one of the most visible. Dubbed the “Edelution” of the business, the process has grouped employees into four main areas: intelligence, creative/content, business management, and activation/specialty. The takeaway: The world in which PR agencies operate has changed. The way agencies function need to change with it. Edelman’s restructuring can serve as a model for other agencies, even if the outcome is different based on each organization’s unique characteristics. Read more

The downside of workplace collaboration—Workplace collaboration is a trend. Not just the adoption of collaboration software like Yammer, Chatter, and Slack, but face-to-face and other forms of collaboration are exploding in popularity. Three business school professors reported in the Harvard Business Review that people are spending too much time in collaborative activities, leading top workers to burn out, slow things down, and check out. They advise that “Leaders must learn to recognize, promote, and efficiently distribute the right kinds of collaborative work, or their teams and top talent will bear the costs of too much demand for too little supply.” The takeaway: Collaboration tools are great, but they must be implemented strategically so they really do produce more productivity rather than decrease it. Read more

Facebook achieving messaging dominance—Facebook’s Messenger app has attracted 800 million monthly users, up 100 million from September, representing about 11% of the world’s population. WhatsApp—also a Facebook property—is used by 900 million. If there were no overlap in the user bases of the two apps, users of Facebook’s messaging apps would represent 23% of the global population. Facebook has big plans for Messenger in 2016, including expanded trials of “M,” its human-trained virtual assistant that currently can book a restaurant and send flowers, for example. The takeaway: Most companies continue to consider messaging apps an afterthought, but they clearly represent a huge part of the future of mobile engagement. Get up to speed. Read more

Marketers are figuring out sensors—They may not be on your radar yet, but sensors are going to be a big deal and some marketers are already figuring out how to use them to collect useful data. Fitbits and other wearables provide data that marketers find valuable, sensors in clothing are coming, and beacons let marketers know when a customer walks into a store (for example). There’s much more to come (which you know if you’ve been paying attention to the flood of coverage of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show). The takeaway: Sensors are another technology marketers are buzzing about but corporate communicators are blissfully unaware of. Yet the potential uses of sensors—a key part of the Internet of Things—are massive. The sooner you get to know the technology, the sooner you’ll innovate great communication applications for them. Read more

More marketers rely on bribes to get people to watch their ads—Marketers are increasingly offering incentives to consumers in exchange for viewing their ads. The use of “incentivized ads” is growing especially within mobile games, where marketers can (for instance) offer additional lives or weapons in the game, or reward points for gift cards, in exchange for a minute of their time. Among companies employing the technique: Microsoft, Chevrolet, and Purina. The takeaway: If attention is at a premium, offering something tangible in exchange for it is entirely reasonable. Read more

Now you have to choose between responsive design and AMP—Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is an HTML variant Google is championing to ensure mobile web users see pages load at lightning speed. Most companies have employed responsive design to deliver the right version of a web page to the right device, but the focus is on ensuring the page looks right whether it’s viewed on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. There is nothing about responsive design that guarantees a fast load. AMP is all about fast load times, but is not meant to accommodate full-featured websites with forms and other complex elements. However, there is no need to redo web pages using the AMP standard; they can be added to existing websites without a site redesign. The takeaway: Yes, AMP is geeky stuff with a lot of Javascript elements, but research clearly shows a low tolerance for slow-loading pages on mobile devices. Especially for articles, blog posts, and content-heavy pages, consider talking to your IT people about employing AMP. Read more

Research

Here’s one big reason more employees aren’t engaged—The percentage of engaged employees in the U.S. has barely budged in the last three years, despite thousands of companies conducting engagement surveys. Research from Notivosity offers insight into one big reason: Fewer than 2% of CEOs even look at those survey results. The takeaway: Having HR implement programs won’t fix a toxic culture; nor will financial success. Leadership is required; it cannot be delegated. Read more

Consumers can’t distinguish native ads from editorial content—Grady College in Georgia published a study last month showing that consumers have a hard time telling native advertising from editorial content. In one experiment, only 17 out of 242 subjects (less than 8%) were able to point to native advertising as paid messages. In another, using eye-tracking technology, only 18.3% identified native ads as paid, even when they saw the label disclosing its provenance. The takeaway: We must fix this problem. Native advertising is a boon both to communicators and publishers, but it won’t last if it continues to confuse and deceive. Read more

PR gets a C- in Marketwired surveyAre You A Content Machine? was a survey from Marketwired conducted just before the holidays. The results show PR and marketing professionals are increasing the number of content types in their efforts, with blog posts (55%), photos (29%) and news releases (24%) as the most-used content types. 61% of respondents are using influencers and brand advocates to increase the reach of their messages; those who aren’t cite budget and resource restrictions and the reason for not employing this tactic. Half of respondents use visuals at least weekly to support their content; 30% use visuals every day. 75% use Twitter to engage audiences, 73% use Facebook and 63% use LinkedIn to share visual content; Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest were also well represented.  However, even though earned media ranked highest in the PESO (paid, earned, social, owned) model, only 36% ranked it highest, with owned media getting 33% of the vote. Only 17% use paid media and 16% use shared. As for measurement, the survey results were disheartening: engagement and reach topped the survey results. The takeaway: On her Spin Sucks blog, Gini Dietrich said the low value shown for shared media is disappointing “considering pretty much everyone has at least one social network today.” She also notes that “measuring reach and engagement is not measurement…How are you measuring whether or not your content is driving qualified leads? How are you measuring whether or not it’s helping to convert those leads to sales?” Read more

Short video ads rule—A survey from Yahoo found consumers want video ads that last half a minute or less, especially on their smartphones, but it’s the most important factor for tablets and laptops, too, three times more important than relevance and vastly more important than contextual relevance, production quality, and interactivity. The takeaway: If it’s true about ads, it’s also likely true about other videos (except, of course, streaming content from Netflix and other entertainment resources). Consider adopting a short-video mentality for much of the video content you produce as part of your news or content-marketing efforts. Read more

What comes after Millennials and what do they want?—We haven’t settled on a label yet. Some call them Generation Z. Others call them Centennials. Whatever they are, the demographic born between 1995 and 2001 have grown up immersed in digital technology but also in war and terrorism, and they hold “a more mature appreciation for culture and ethics compared to their predecessors.” Research from PR firm Escapade shows Generation Z are turned off by celebrity culture and traditional media, “and are more tuned in to peer-to-peer recommendations and online influencers.” Social media is king with Facebook the top platform, though Snapchat comes in at number 2 with 42% of the audience checking it daily or more. And, according to the survey, you can assume that print really is all but dead for this audience. The takeaway: The oldest of Generation Z is hitting the workforce, reaching 21 years of age this year. It’s time to start paying some attention to what differentiates them from their predecessors. Read more

Mobile and Wearables

Video calling is imminent on WhatsApp for iOS and Android—The latest internal build of WhatsApp includes video calling, allowing users to start and receive video calls on both WiFi connections and using cellular data services. A movable preview window of the caller will appear on the screen. Users will be able to switch between front- and rear-facing cameras during a call. With 900 million users, WhatsApp can snag a lot of Skype users with this feature, since they use WhatsApp for so many other things but Skype is just for calls. Read more

App usage is up big-time—Use of mobile apps surged 58% last year with 40% of the growth coming from existing users. At the head of the app pack were “personalization” apps, led by the popularity of emoji keyboards. The takeaway: The massive adoption of apps comes at the expense of the mobile web. Apps load pages quickly; the mobile web takes forever. See the earlier item about Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) if you’re at all interested in getting people to view your content on the web instead of within an app. If you plan to introduce apps, consider how audiences can use them for personalized purposes. Read more

This week’s wrap image—of employees wrapping smoked meats sometime between 1860 and 1920, comes from the New York Public Library’s Digital Collections, which released some 180,000 images for free public use. The availability of these images is reported in the News section of this week’s Wrap.

 

Comments

  • 1.Hi Shel,
    I enjoy your Friday Wrap, and usually read it from the direct email you send. There does not seem to be a way to share it from there, or am I missing something?
    Sue

    Sue Horner | January 2016

  • 2.Hi, Sue. No, I haven't added any share utilities to the email newsletter, although (of course) it can be shared via email or copied and pasted. I'm planning to add share buttons soon, but I'm curious. Are you interested in sharing the whole thing or having the ability to share individual items?

    Shel Holtz | January 2016 | Concord, CA

  • 3.I would probably share the whole thing, and maybe highlight an item as one of the reasons for it. By "copied and pasted" I guess you mean clicking through to an individual item and copying that URL?

    Sue Horner | January 2016

  • 4.P.S. After looking at your Jan. 15 version, I would say add a line after "Want to unsubscribe from this newsletter? Click here." to say "Want to share this newsletter? Click here."

    Sue Horner | January 2016

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