Friday Wrap #176: Pokémon Go, live-streaming struggles, emoji at work, growth in advocacy programs

Posted on July 15, 2016 11:12 am by | Sharing and Collaborating | Augmented Reality | Brands | Business | Channels | Ethics | Facebook | Location-based Services | Marketing | Measurement | Media | Mobile | PR | Research | Social Media | Twitter

Friday Wrap 176What a week! There was so much news related to Pokémon Go, it rated its own category here in 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.


Keeping up with Twitter backfires on Facebook—Facebook has been struggling to keep pace with Twitter when it comes to being a source of breaking news. Yesterday’s loathsome terror attack in Nice quickly consumed Twitter feeds, which led the editorial team behind Facebook’s Newswire page to share a gruesome Instagram video from the immediate aftermath of the attack. Newswire is intended to be a service for journalists, but it’s open to everyone and many of those who saw it were repulsed (and said so). Facebook removed the video. The takeaway: Two quick thoughts. First, Facebook has some work to do around editorial judgment and its connection with its users as it steps further into the journalism role. Second, haste is behind a lot of bad calls, and not just from Facebook. Stop and think before posting. Read more

Facebook updates guidelines for live videos—In the wake of the Philando Castile police shooting, the immediate aftermath of which was captured live by Castile’s girlfriend, Facebook removed the video for a while before reinstating it. Facebook also had to grapple with live video broadcast of the massacre in Dallas. Now, the social network has issued new guidelines for how it treats controversial live videos, declaring that “context and degree are everything.” When it comes to violence, “Facebook decides whether to remove a post depending on whether it seems to celebrate or glorify violence or whether it condemns it or bears witness to it to spread awareness.” The takeaway: Facebook faces a tough road in making these judgments, but defining its rules is important as the role of consumer-generated live video grows. Read more

Twitter opens audience API to all brands—After nine months of trial, Twitter’s Audience API is available to any organization, including some new features that deliver more insight into which Twitter users are interested in their products. “Brands are able to create audience segments in one of three ways,” writes VentureBeat’s Ken Yeung. “by those who follow a public Twitter handle; by people who have seen a brand’s organic tweets in the past 90 days and have engaged; and based on a list of external data such as email addresses, phone numbers, mobile advertising IDs, or if they’ve visited a brand’s website.” The takeaway: While brands won’t be able to identify individual users and are limited in the number of search results they can see, this data should help companies create more meaningful content. Read more

Another approach to corporate activism—I have reported here for the last few years the trend toward companies taking positions on societal issues, particularly those related to social justice. Hip ad agency Widen + Kennedy took a new approach, transforming its website into a black screen with white type conveying its support for Black Lives Matter. The note reportedly was originally an internal email written by a black W+K employee after Alton Sterling’s death in Louisiana but before Philando Castile’s in Minnesota or the mass murder of police officers in Dallas. The note not only replaced the home page; users couldn’t access any other pages at the website. The takeaway: Despite considerable risk, the trend toward corporate and CEO activism will continue to grow. Many consumers now expect companies to take sides rather than sit idly by. Read more

New law overrules JCOPE policy forcing PR agencies to register as lobbyists—PR agencies in New York, breathe easy. The New York Legislature passed Governor Andrew Cuomo’s ethics package that “explicitly excludes communications between public relations firms and the press from the definition of lobbying,” according to PRWeek. That’s good news for agencies who were unanimously opposed to an opinion from the New York Joint Committee on Public Ethics (JCOPE), which would have required any agency seeking to influence reporters and editorial boards to register as lobbyists and report each activity (even sending a press release). The takeaway: Thank goodness. The PR practice of seeking earned media is not lobbying. Read more

Once again, a poorly conceived hashtag campaign fails—An advocacy group called Future Female Leaders launched a hashtag campaign called #ConservativeBecause that was meant to inspire people to share the rationale for their political views. Things looked good for a short time, but a counteroffensive from liberals soon overwhelmed the genuine messages. Tweets bearing the hashtag read “#ConservativeBecause you wish things had never progressed beyond segregation and women staying in the home” and “I’m #ConservativeBecause I’m not about to give up on trickle down economics after only 36 years.” The takeaway: It continues to surprise me that organizations can’t see the hashtag takeover coming. this is yet another instance where asking the question, “What could go wrong?” would help. Read more

Twitter to live-stream Bloomberg financial news—A deal between Twitter and Bloomberg Media will add three Bloomberg shows to the list of other content twitter is live-streaming (which includes NFL games). Twitter also live-streamed Wimbledon and will live-stream both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. The takeaway: When I visited Twitter headquarters a couple months ago, it was clear the company is going all-in with live-streaming video. It’s a pivot as Twitter—already losing out to Snapchat—struggles to break the barrier of 300 million monthly active users where it has been mired for some time. I have no doubt the demand for live streams will grow. After all, if you can’t be in front of a TV when a game or event is going on, why not be able to watch it on your phone? Read more

Asian Americans crowdsource a Black Lives Matter letter—After the Minnesota shooting of Philando Castile by an Asian American police officer, writer and ethnographer Christina Xu crowdsourced an open letter to help explain to older generations the concept behind Black Lives Matter. Using an open Google document, Xu left the letter up for 24 hours during which some 40 contributors edited it. Xu established goals and guidelines for the letter, which experienced little trolling or bad behavior. The takeaway: This is an exceptional example of crowdsourcing. Though it represents the dreaded loss of control, I can see companies taking this approach to positions on issues. I wonder when a company seeking to take a stand on a societal issue based on its values will crowdsource its position among its employees. Read more

Instant Articles come to Messenger—Instant Articles have been a hit on Facebook, so it’s little surprise that the company is rolling out Instant Articles for Messenger, initially adding support to Android, with iOS support coming shortly after. The takeaway: As more and more people get their news from both social channels and mobile devices, the instant opening of content becomes a key consideration. Since the Instant Article platform is available for any publisher, you might want to look into it now that it’ll work for Messenger’s 900 million users. Read more

Google adds video, drops SMS from Hangouts—If you use Google Hangouts as your app for SMS messages, prepare to be disrupted. Until the latest version of the Android app, you’ve been able to merge your Hangout and SMS messages. No more, mostly because it’s not heavily used. But Google has added video messaging, signaling that the introduction of two new chat apps don’t signal Hangouts’ demise. The takeaway: As a Google Voice user, I have used Hangouts for my SMS messages. Oh, well. Now I’ll have to use two apps. On the other hand, I won’t have to use a new app for video messages. Read more

New tool lets you geofence Facebook Live video streams—Levee is a new Facebook app that lets you stream Facebook Live posts using any commercially available streaming software to a specific geographic location. The takeaway: More flexibility is inevitable for live streaming. With this tool, any company could initiate a Facebook Live video from headquarters and target it to customers near one store on the other side of the country. Very cool. Read more

Pokémon Go

My new video series covers Pokémon Go—I have been planning to launch a new video series that takes a deeper dive into one of the stories I cover here in the Wrap. Knowing Pokémon Go would occupy a fair amount of space this week, I decided to introduce the series—Shrink-Wrap—with a review of the communication-related Pokémon Go stories. Watch the debut episode here.

Who owns your virtual space?—Pokémon Go’s virtual world overlaps the real world, creating a tension between owners of land and the fantasy world populated by cartoon creatures. As users flocked to the game, they found they could capture characters and collect objects in all kinds of places, including the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and Arlington National Cemetery, both of which have asked players to stay away. The Holocaust Museum in Los Angeles asked to be removed from the list of Pokéstops (a request that was granted in less than an hour). Other public locations have been overrun with gamers, making it hard for people to sleep over the noise that persists into the night. Even individual homes have been designated Pokémon Gyms (an important location category). The takeaway: As location-based gaming gets bigger (watch for brands to introduce their own games), intrusion into real-world space is going to be a bigger issue. Niantic evidently didn’t give this a lot of attention (see the next item), initially addressing only locations “that present immediate physical danger.” Games should give landowners the ability to opt out. Read more

Game is a child safety nightmare—The UK’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has published an open letter from its CEO to Peter Wanless, the president of Nintendo UK, raising “fundamental child safety concerns.” The game has led children into “dangerous situations…in one instance it is reported that armed robbers lured teenagers to a particular spot using your game and in another that players are taken to a sex shop.” Safety concerns seem to have been overlooked in the development of the game, and children’s welfare “must be a standard consideration when developing products that companies know children will use.” The takeaway: While the game is, without doubt, a massive success, reports of children harmed will sully Nintendo’s and Niantic’s reputation in the long term. If somebody had simply asked, “What could go wrong?” the companies could have figured out a way to prevent such incidents. Anticipating failure should be a standard step in any strategic planning process. Read more

Small businesses take advantage of Lure Modules—Those Lure Modules that some ne’er-do-wells are using for nefarious purposes are also providing a way for small businesses to attract business. A Chinese restaurant in Australia, for example, is activated Lure Modules during lunch and dinner hours to attract gamers to the location. The takeaway: The Lure Modules aren’t expensive and could be a great way to bring people together, assuming you don’t mind getting a broad mix of people, since a diverse set of demographics characterize the game’s users. I’m waiting for the first great enterprise use of Lure Modules for HR or employee communication purposes. Read more

Brands unsurprisingly newsjack the game—Ho hum. Another cultural sensation, another round of oh-so-predictable newsjacking. Some of it’s good (The Philadelphia 76ers cobbled together a video that substitutes a poke ball for a basketball), some as awful as you’d expect.  The takeaway: Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. If you can make a clever or relevant connection between your product and service and whatever the hot trending topic is, and you can execute well, by all means, you have nothing to lose. If not? In the words of Archie Bunker, “Stifle.” Read more

Sponsored locations are coming—As if Pokémon Go isn’t making enough money, Nintendo is planning to partner with large brands to create “sponsored locations,” with McDonald’s reportedly the first to be introduced. Niantic had previously telegraphed that sponsored locations were in the works, though nobody’s quite sure yet what they will entail. The takeaway: Companies with physical locations seeking to attract customers have an opportunity to do something innovative with the game. Some will. Some will fail dismally. Media reports of winners and losers are undoubtedly forthcoming. Read more

AR gets a boost from Pokémon Go—Pokémon Go isn’t the first AR smartphone app. Layar, Junaio, Blippar, Wikitude, and even Yelp employ Augmented Reality. But before Pokémon Go launched, less than 40% of companies were familiar with the technology. Now, as ZDNet puts it, “AR is going to become a household acronym as the buzz-o-meter goes crazy.” Now, developers will be able to more easily explain their ideas while the cost of training employees about AR will plummet. The takeaway: AR was going to be red-hot anyway given its practical applications; it has far more potential than VR. But the launch of Microsoft’s HoloLens and whatever Magic Leap is working on are years away. Interest is bound to intensify with Pokémon Go’s popularity. A side note: The game should also serve to lift the prospects of location-based marketing. Read more


When facts fail and people don’t trust the media, they believe their own truths—The Guardian offers a long but intriguing look at the impact of social media and self-publishing and the threat to fact-based journalism. “This year as made very clear,” Katherine Viner writes, “that we cannot agree on what (the truth is), and when there is no consensus about the truth and no way to achieve it, chaos soon follows.” Things were so much simpler when everyone got their news from the same limited number of journalistic sources. The takeaway: I highly recommend this essay to media relations and PR professionals, who must grapple with this new reality in the context of their efforts to inject company news and commentary into the media mix. Read more

Content marketing pays off for Best Buy—Some pundits wrote off Best Buy, just another brick-and-mortar electronics retailer to add to the heap along with Circuit City, Good Guys, and Computers USA. But a strategic content marketing plan has driven a million in-store visits. Buying guides and video tutorials geared for mobile were designed to answer consumer questions, while localized mobile ads on Google (where people search for answers) let people know how close they were to a store. The strategy was driven by a recognition that technology is advancing quickly, leading consumers to ask more complicated questions more often. The takeaway: Best Buy’s strategy exemplifies the best content marketing, which focuses on helping people when they go looking for answers. Read more

$2 billion in investment for VR and AR—Venture capitalists and other investors have found a new place to sink their money. Augmented and Virtual Reality companies have closed funding rounds of $2 billion in the year ending June 30. Much of the investment targeted headset hardware, including more than $793 million invested by an Alibaba-led fund in Magic Leap, the secretive AR startup. The takeaway: If investment trends continue, we should see an AR/VR bubble. But we’ll also see a lot of new products hit the market, which should amplify consumer interest. Read more


Do emoji have a place in workplace messaging?—More than half of workers responded to a survey admitting they have used emoji to communicate on the job. More managers than workers approve of the practice, which indicates “that small, playful icons serve a surprisingly serious purpose in managing the emotional tone at work.” Managers employ emoji to “soften the imperious tone of requests, in turn making themselves seem ‘less authoritative’ and more familiar with employees.” Emoji make it easier for recipients to interpret the intent of a manager’s message. The takeaway: There is little doubt but that emoji have entered the mainstream. It wouldn’t hurt to offer training on how to use them for older, less clued-in staff. As emoji find their way into messages, perhaps it’s time to figure out how best to incorporate them into formal employee communications. Read more

Email newsletter open rates have been inaccurately reported—The recent popularity of email newsletters is a significant trend, but it could hit a snag as reports emerge that the open rates reported by email distribution companies may not be accurate. One newsletter launched with 70% open rates, but when they started adding GIFS and Instagram embeds, the open rate plummeted. The decline had nothing to do with whether readers were opening the emails, but rather with MailChimp’s method of determining whether an email has been opened, “which relies on a ‘tiny, transparent image’ that is loaded when an email has been opened,” according to AdAge’s Jeremy Barr. The image appears at the bottom of the email, which means it won’t be seen by readers who don’t click the “View entire message” link for longer newsletters. The takeaway: Don’t let this dissuade you from considering an email newsletter, which readers are embracing, but look into how data is reported by whatever service you’re using and consider other metrics beyond open rates to assess performance. Read more

Adoption of employee advocacy programs grows—Not every company yet has an employee advocacy program—research by JEM Consulting & Advisory Services found 56% of its sample of 134 companies have a program in place—but 24% of those that didn’t plan to launch one this year. Adoption is highest in the US, and large organizations lead the pack for implementing a program. Convincing employees to participate and measuring results are the biggest challenges companies face when introducing an advocacy effort. The takeaway: If you don’t have an employee advocacy program, start one. Front-line employees and internal technical experts are more credible than anyone else in the company and their social networks barely overlap the brand’s social media accounts. Employees also have more social connections than companies do. Read more

Centered logos hurt navigation—Most websites feature company logos in the top left corner, which turns out to be a good idea from a navigation standpoint. Logos that appear at the top center of the screen are gaining ground, “perhaps due to the increasing adoption of responsive and ‘mobile-first’ designs,” writes Kathryn Whitenton of the Nielsen Norman Group. But research by Nielsen Norman found 24% of users failed to navigate home in one click on those sites, while only 4% experienced the same problem with top-left logos. The takeaway: Being able to find your way back to the home page is a key navigation issue. If you feel your mobile page needs a top-center design, you’ll need two separate versions. Don’t inhibit navigation on your website just to accommodate mobile. Read more

This week’s wrap image of shrink-wrapped ticket vending machines is courtesy of the Flickr account of the Long Island Metropolitan Transit Authority.

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