Friday Wrap #155: Melcrum merges, Google flags sites, Twitter tests GIF library, war rooms fade

Posted on February 5, 2016 11:00 am by | Virtual and Augmented Reality | Content | Visual Communication | Advertising | Brands | Business | Ethics | Facebook | Legal | Marketing | Media | Mobile | Politics | PR | Publishing | Research | Social Media | Social networks | Technology | Twitter | Video

Friday Wrap #185The 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, subscribe to my weekly email newsletter.


Another change to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm—The latest change to the algorithm that picks the content you see in your News Feed is designed to surface material you want to see first and that you’re most likely to engage with. According to a blog post by two software engineers, research found that users had a better experience when the stories that showed up at the top of the feed are those that you’re likely to rate highly and take some kind of action with. They add that the update shouldn’t affect reach or referral traffic for most pages. The takeaway: Some marketers will undoubtedly be upset by the change, but Facebook’s obligation is to its users, to make the experience as compelling as possible. My answer to marketers: Create content people would rate highly and want to engage with. Duh. Read more

Melcrum merges with CEB—Melcrum, which has been an important source of research and content for internal communicators, is merging with CEB, a best-practices advisory organization. According to Melcrum (the name is a mashup of the last names of the two founders, Victoria Mellor and Robin Crumby), the merger gives both organizations “the opportunity to provide unparalleled expertise and support in both internal and Corporate Communication.” Melcrum will eventually become part of CEB’s Communications practice, also known as CEB Communications. Until then, Melcrum will be “Melcrum, a CEB Company.” The takeaway: Consolidation is inevitable, but I’m sad to see Melcrum go. They have done outstanding work, and have stood apart from other internal-focused organizations by providing some important in-depth research. We’ll have to see if CEB maintains that effort. Read more

Google really doesn’t like deceptive ads—Google’s Safe Browsing technology will target legitimate websites that host deceptive ads and display a huge red screen that requires users to acknowledge the presence of the ad by clicking a link before proceeding to the site. The ads Google wants to warn people away from are those that “present messages such as a system warning, or bogus security alert for Chrome and third-party media players.” The takeaway: Look at it as a new kind of ad blocker. How many people will continue to a site when they’ve been warned away from it with so blatant a notice? Publishers should be far more discriminating in the kinds of ads they accept, while advertisers will need to be more transparent in the nature of the ads they try to place. Read more

Twitter tests a GIF button—People increasingly are using GIFs to enhance a message, similar to emojis: They help get across an emotion or response faster than words. Twitter gets that, leading to a test of a button that lets users pick a GIF from a collection of ready-made images. One user who found the button on his Twitter page said the available GIFs are trending or fall into particular categories of moods. The takeaway: While the prospect of a Twitter feed bursting with GIFs may not exactly be exciting, it does speak to the increasing importance of visuals as a means of conveying ideas and moods. Images are increasingly woven into language online, a trend worth paying attention to, especially on services where time or character counts are limited. Read more

Soon you’ll be able to stream live 360-degree videos on YouTube—You’ve undoubtedly seen 360-degree videos on YouTube and Facebook, the ones you can control with your mouse (or finger on a mobile device), panning around to see what’s behind you, to your left, to your right. (You can also watch them wearing a VR headset for a more immersive experience.) YouTube is developing the means to livestream this kind of video, which could add a new dimension to events. YouTube, keep in mind, is owned by Google, which has taken a lead in VR with its Cardboard product and other investments; it recently established a VR business unit. The takeaway: While these videos will be accessible via the YouTube site or app, it’s the ability to watch using a headset that is truly exciting. Imagine employees who couldn’t be at the town hall meeting feeling just like they’re in the room; ditto shareholders at the annual meeting. Read more

Twitter shares custom emoji analytics with brands—Brands like Bud Light and Pepsi have spent a small fortune on Twitter’s custom emojis. It would be nice if those brands knew what they were getting for that capital outlay. Ad agencies are saying that Twitter has started providing clients with analytics to let them know how often those emojis were used, mentioned and seen. The takeaway: I won’t predict that emojis will still be a big deal in 10 years. They are, however, a big deal now and will be for the foreseeable future. Keep in mind that an emoji was the OED’s word of the year in 2015. Read more

Would you let a computer select the influencers for your next campaign?—Automaker Kia did, turning to IBM’s Watson to identify the social media influencers who would best spread the reach of its 60-second Super Bowl commercial. Watson is able to “parse through the language used on social media to determine which influencers exhibit the personality traits desired by Kia.” The takeaway: Relationships and but instinct are important, but if you are not embracing digital transformation, you’re missing a boat. Tools like Watson can be used for solving big problems, but it can also help at the consumer level. Read more

Facebook’s latest public awareness effort focuses in Zika virus—With a billion-and-a-half users, Facebook has become one of the primary means for generating awareness of important issues and events. The latest example is a public awareness campaign about the Zika virus aimed at women in Brazil and other Latin American countries. Facebook created the campaign in partnership with Brazil’s public health organization. The takeaway: Facebook is an increasingly vital source of news, and particularly valuable based on its ability to target content to specific audiences. Read more

It’s easier now to follow tweetstorms—A tweak to Twitter’s website lets users click a tweet to open a discrete window that will display replies for tweets that have one or more replies, making it a lot easier to follow a conversation or a tweetstorm. Twitter critics have long complained about the difficulty of following conversations. The takeaway: Twitter Moments was a dud, but adjustments like this that resolve some of the confusion many users experience are good moves. Less confusion should equal more engagement. Read more


Internal big data raises employee privacy concerns—Mondelez is employing a kind of internal version of programmatic marketing. Software looks at employees’ online activities to assess their healthcare interests, then delivers personalized messages designed to inspire workers to use better or less expensive healthcare providers and treatments. At its heart, the software is a sophisticated HR analytics tool. Similar applications could be used to identify top performers, find skill gaps (so the company can tweak its training offerings), and uncover ideal candidates for job openings. While these kinds of tools can produce great results for both the employee and the company, questions are being raised about a conflict with employees’ right to privacy. The takeaway: This is a brand new issue that screams for more study. In the meantime, disclosure is always the best approach. As a Mondelez spokesperson noted, disclosures to employees are very specific about hos the data gathered could be used. Read more

Good news for PR—With advertising being skipped on DVRs and blocked on websites and apps, PR’s role in delivering messages is being elevated. For example, at last month’s Consumer Electronics Show, Coldwell Banker relied on its PR department and an agency to get the word out about the impact smart home technology will have on the real estate market. Clients recognize the multichannel nature of marketing that supports a bigger role for PR. The takeaway: The article points out that PR’s growing relevance doesn’t mean companies understand what it means to earn media. It is incumbent on agencies to provide education to clients on how to get value from a PR engagement. Read more

War rooms are no longer necessary—It was all the rage in PR and marketing circles: a war room with staff monitoring event and cultural goings-on so brands could dash out clever tweets in real time in hopes of achieving Oreo-level fame. Today, however, with much of the action in paid media (which needs to be planned in advance) and the recognition that much of the real-time activity that gets attention can be handled virtually (an Arby’s tweet during the 2014 Grammys that earned 80,000 retweets and 45,000 favorites was written and sent by a social media manager from his living room), war rooms are “100% dead” according to one agency CEO. The takeaway: The war room model was expensive and its impact was overblown. Good riddance. Read more

Real-time shifts away from Twitter—While war rooms may become a relic of marketing’s past, real-time marketing isn’t going anywhere. More companies that are planning their real-time efforts with programmatic buying and automated marketing are focusing on Facebook, Google, and YouTube; Twitter is missing from their plans. Advertisers like are pairing real-time efforts with TV commercials, targeting their real-time efforts where the most eyeballs are. Twitter’s 300 million users represent about a fifth of Facebook’s. The takeaway: The nature of real-time marketing is changing and platforms like Facebook and Google are improving their ability to sync promotions to live events, which used to be one of Twitter’s unique value propositions. Read more

Remember when you salary was a secret?—As long as I can remember, employees didn’t share their salaries with their peers. In some organizations, sharing that information is simply not allowed. But employees are talking about pay issues inside and outside the company thanks to the dominance of Millennials in the workplace and their access to social media. Even some employers are making the information available (like Whole Foods, which lets employees see pay and bonus information for everyone from CEO John Mackey to the lowest-paid worker in the company). For employers who still want to maintain secrecy, and its competitors provide a forum for employees to share information anonymously. The takeaway: Transparency is the new order. There are no secrets, Adam Curry said, only information we don’t already have. Read more

Publishers form link-sharing pacts—An odd sort of publisher’s ecosystem is taking shape on Facebook, where publishers post articles from competitors on their Facebook pages, part of a trend called “social syndication” or “traffic exchange.” The idea is to build an audience (and, hence, traffic) by sharing content on another publisher’s site that has a similar audience. One publisher explained, “that feifdom-like thinking that ‘we own this audience and it’s ours only’ is very old media.” The takeaway: Declining organic reach is a big reason publishers have adopted this model. That same decline in organic reach has afflicted brand pages. Could a syndication agreement between brands with similar but not overlapping audiences be far behind? Read more

Could 60% of the global population be on Facebook by 2030?—That’s Mark Zuckerberg’s goal: 5 billion people on Facebook in 14 years. That will require even greater effort to get the third world online. The takeaway: It’s ambitious but not inconceivable. As much as some people doubt Zuck’s motives, he has an altruistic vision of the good that can come from having most of the world connected to each other. Read more

Mobile and wearables

Watch a thriller 15 seconds at a time—Ultimately, it’s a “movie” that lasts 7 minutes, but it’s made up of 28 parts that run 15 seconds each—the maximum length of a Snapchat video. The messaging app is touting “Shield 5” as “A diamond heist, a police pursuit, a suspect on the run.” The flick is directed by an experienced movie director and is expected to give users one more reason to spend more time on Snapchat (or join the service in the first place), while opening the door to a new avenue for experimentation for filmmakers. The takeaway: Watching a movie 15 seconds at a time may seem silly, but when YouTube was new, who ever imagined a whole universe of stars would emerge by creating short videos that never, ever found their way to television? Brands should pay attention considering the popularity of GE’s fictional podcast, The Message, which became the #1 iTunes podcast. If this format catches fire, there are opportunities for brands to create their own must-watch serials. Read more

WhatsApp reaches 1 billion user milestone—WhatsApp’s user base has doubled since Facebook bought it two years ago for $19 billion, reaching the lofty heights of a billion users. While Facebook has shied away from advertising or games as a revenue source, CEO Mark Zuckerberg told investors the app has the potential to produce income from discussions between people and businesses. The takeaway: As younger demographics switch from the public commons of Facebook and Twitter to the more private communities on messaging apps, brands need to figure out how to use these apps to reach them. Keep an eye on Facebook’s moves to make WhatsApp a desirable platform for interacting with companies. Read more

It’s not Facebook kids don’t like, it’s social media in general—Students may have Facebook accounts for other reasons, but it’s not for messaging. Increasingly, they’re also not using Instagram or Pinterest, which also are social networks. They’re using Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, or other messaging applications. They may tap into Twitter or Instagram if they have extra spare time, but when it comes to engaging with their friends, they want more intimate options than the public commons. New data reinforces the transition young people are making from broadcast tools to narrowcast tools. One study found nearly half of smartphone owners between 18 and 29 use messaging apps and 41% use apps that automatically delete messages. The takeaway: Reaching younger users will require companies to embrace messaging apps. In my experience, most companies are still dismissing them, which will wind up costing them in the long run. Read more

Hotels are figuring out mobile messaging—I have been pounding on how important it is for companies to figure out mobile messaging, which is beginning to replace traditional social media as the platform of choice, particularly among younger consumers. Hotels, it seems, get it, using messaging apps like Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat to engage guests. Holiday Inn Express and Aloft are among those experimenting with messenger apps to engage guests and deliver on-site services. The takeaway: Successful use of messaging apps in the hospitality business will lead to its adoption elsewhere. Airports, for instance, could make great use of apps to connect with travelers. Can restaurants be far behind? Read more


Social media is the #2 source for election news—According to research from the Pew Research Center, 91% of U.S. adults got news or information about the election during a recent one-week period from one of 11 types of news sources. Cable TV news topped the list at 24%, but social media and local TV tied for second place at 14%. Radio was next at 11%, and network nightly news programs got 10% Nothing else—including local and national newspapers—grabbed more than 3%. The takeaway: The trend is clear: People increasingly get their news from tweets and posts shared by people they follow. In the 18-29 demographic, social media is the top source, at 35%. Getting your news into these feeds should inform your distribution strategy. It should also tell you something about the direction intranets are going: down. Read more

Mobile users process information faster—Separate research from Facebook and twitter have found that people process and absorb more information faster when we use mobile devices. Analysis of the two independent studies reached a common conclusion: “Content consumption in mobile feeds is inherently different from content consumption on other platforms…and even different than on mobile apps and sites that aren’t feed-based. Understanding this new medium is critical for advertisers, publishers, and people trying to make great video. The takeaway: There is no understating the importance of the feed in both external and internal communication. If you think the home page of the intranet is still the most important means of getting information to employees, for example, you’re going to lose out on absorption and understanding of content. Read more

This week’s Wrap image is courtesy of Marco‘s Flickr page.

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