Friday Wrap #184: VR film wins an Emmy, hashtags come to LinkedIn, Twitter use falls, Gen Z research

Posted on September 9, 2016 11:20 am by | Virtual and Augmented Reality | The Workplace Experience | Content | Instagram | Advertising | Augmented Reality | Blogging | Brands | Business | Channels | Crisis Communication | Ethics | Facebook | Marketing | Measurement | Media | Mobile | Podcasting | PR | Research | Social Media | Twitter | Video

Friday Wrap #184I 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.


ExxonMobil still reeling from climate revelations—Investigations by the Los Angeles Times and InsideClimate News found that ExxonMobil’s scientists had concluded in the 1970s that “the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing global climate change is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels.” Once leadership was informed of the findings, according to the investigations, they worked hard to bury them. The PR impact might not have been long-lived if politicians hadn’t seen an opportunity. The #ExxonKnew hashtag has taken root and earnings have suffered as a result. Now, as ExxonMobil sputters through a highly defensive response to the revelations, the company may face charges from the New York Attorney General, who has issued subpoenas to company officials. The takeaway: ExxonMobil’s response is a textbook example of how not to handle a crisis. Nobody in power now had a hand in decisions made 40 years ago. There were better ways to address this than attacking the science and the journalists who reported it. Read more

Twitter’s share of US users is falling—As takeover rumors swirl, Twitter continues to suffer where it matters: its user base. eMarketer forecasts growth in American monthly active users will grow 2% by the end of the year, a significant drop from its earlier prediction of 8% growth. The takeaway: Twitter has become the primary communication channel for politicians and it’s a key resource for news, but if people aren’t using it, it will be harder to sell ads. The latest news reports suggest there is no white knight considering buying Twitter, but if it can’t make a value case to consumers, I doubt it can continue much longer as a standalone entity. Read mmore

You can now search hashtags on LinkedIn—LinkedIn has trailed other social networks by not making hashtags searchable. Now, you can not only search for uses of a hashtag, you can tap a hashtag to get the search results. LinkedIn users can change their settings to make hashtags visible only to their connections. The takeaway: I’ll be using hashtags experimentally. Hashtags are already a common small business tactic, so their utility on LinkedIn could be greater than on Twitter or other services. Read more

Clients demand agencies meet diversity quotas—If you work for a PR, marketing, or advertising agency, you could find some of your client engagements at risk if your company doesn’t meet diversity goals set by the client. General Mills and Hewlett-Packard are among the companies that have announced they will accept pitches from agencies whose creative staffs are composed of 50% women and 20% of people of color. Some agencies have praised the move, others think it’s a bad idea. For example, just satisfying quotas won’t produce better work, they say, and women don’t want to be added to a team just so the team can have the right mix to be able to make a pitch, they say. The takeaway: With little movement in agency diversity despite long-standing awareness of the problem, you have to give these companies credit for taking a stand. It is now incumbent upon agencies to do more than shore up numbers, ensuring that the mix of talent boosts creativity. In other words, it’s time for agency recruiters to step up. Read more

Are sex and weed the best way to win back customers?—Sales at Chipotle haven’t returned to pre-crisis levels, leading the burrito chain to try some edgy marketing to draw its Millennial-heavy customer base back into its stores. A recent tweet featured a poll that asked, “How many burritos?” The choices were 69 and 420, fairly blatant references to sex and marijuana. The tweet earned a lot of blowback (e.g., “Did you hire high schoolers to tweet this?”). On the other hand, nearly 91,000 people voted in the poll that was retweeted nearly 7,000 times and liked nearly 5,000 times. (420 won in a landslide.) The takeaway: Ultimately you have to ask if it will drive anyone into a store for a burrito. My guess: Not likely. Read more

Beware who Facebook recommends you friend—A psychiatrist figured out that Facebook was recommending her patients friend one another. “All (her) patients likely have (her) number in their phones, so an algorithm analyzing this network of phone contacts might reasonably assume all these people are connected.” While this was not intentional, it represents a serious privacy issue Facebook will have to address. It’ll get worse now that WhatsApp and Facebook are sharing data, and WhatsApp accounts are based on phone numbers. Read more

IAB issues podcast advertising guidelines—They’ll be tough to enforce, but the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Tech Lab has issued a set of podcast ad metrics guidelines. The document defines such things as “unique file requests” and “complete file downloads.” Ads will be considered “client-confirmed” when it “was able to prompt a tracking beacon from the client when the file was played.” The takeaway: I run ads on my podcast, but I have no idea what a tracking beacon is in this sense. These guidelines reflect the growth of podcasting as a mainstream channel, but the nature of podcasting also enables small, independent producers like me to play. As a result, the adoption of these standards will be wildly inconsistent. It will be up to advertisers to know what kind of podcast they’re getting into bed with. Read more

Facebook tests Twitterish feature—Facebook is testing a feature called “What friends are talking about” designed to draw you into conversations more frequently. The feature assembles selected recent posts from friends in a separate section atop your News Feed. If it reminds you of Twitter, where tweets from people with whom you regularly engage appear at the top, it’s probably because all of the social networks adapt what’s working among their competitors. The takeaway: The question is whether it will be effective at creating more personal conversations, which is top of mind for the social network. Since only a few users see the experiment, it may be a while before you can see what kind of impact it has on your conversational behavior. Read more

Snapchat shuts down geography-based Stories—Snapchat has shaken up its local story coverage strategy, dumping the city-based local stories in order to shift its focus on “live moments” such as major events and celebrations. The local curators who were assembling the stories were canned as part of the move. The takeaway: Don’t get too attached to any feature of any app. Read more

Instagram kills of Photo Map—It was cool. Instagram’s Photo Map let you find pictures shared by users in various locations. Not enough people were using it, though, so Instagram has shut it down. The takeaway: See The Takeaway above. Read more


Will blogging move to walled gardens?—My blog runs on software I installed on a server. It’s all mine. There are challenges in maintaining an individual blog. As social networks evolve into content hosting platforms (think about LinkedIn Publishing or the Notes feature on Facebook, both of which I use a lot), self-hosted blogs could become a relic of the past. The takeaway: While posting to a site someone else owns is easier—you don’t have to worry about software upgrades or file corruption, for example—you are always at risk of some capricious change to algorithms or a shift in business models. I will maintain my own site and cross-post to Facebook, LinkedIn, Medium, and other platforms. That way, no matter what happens in one of the walled gardens, the content still exists as I want it to on a site I own. Read more

Starbucks introduces branded multi-platform content series—The trend toward innovating content in order to continue attracting eyeballs is most recently exemplified by Starbucks, which is readying a new content series called “Upstanders.” The series highlights 10 “positive and inspiring tales from across the country,” which will be shared via video, text, and podcast. “This is storytelling in the public interest, but brought to you by a Fortune 500 company,” according to a Starbucks executive producer. The takeaway: While Starbucks spent millions on the campaign, there’s no reason a company with fewer resources can’t adopt a similar approach to content. You have to consider that much of Starbucks’ investment is in promotion, not production. Read more

Can you win a crisis by shutting up?—A New York Magazine piece notes that the National Football League has been able to survive some dire crises by saying nothing and riding it out. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, for example, has said nothing about the kerfuffle over presidential debates scheduled against NFL games. The takeaway: You can’t compare the NFL to anything else. Anything. If your CEO suggests, “It works for Roger Goodell, it can work for me,” you have to resist. The idea that people will continue to buy your product in the face of a crisis is not comparable to people continuing to watch their Patriots beat the crap out of the Eagles. Just as ExxonMobil (see the news item above), whose earnings are the worst in 17 years after revelations that they buried evidence of climate change. Read more

Who is Generation Z?—Enough with Millennials already. How about the generation following them? The oldest members of Generation Z are 20 years old and entering the workforce. (The youngest are 5 and entering kindergarten.) Marketers have made some wild generalizations about Millennials over the last several years, so why not do the same with Gen Z? So it begins: They are less trusting of brands, they are financially cautious, and they can be cutthroat in the job market but inclusive and tolerant of difference. the takeaway: There is some value in aggregating research about a generation, but we tend to make far too many decisions based on these generalities. If you must, use these as a starting point, but consider the mistakes marketers have made using generalities about Millennials (like this one: They don’t want to own homes, based on data showing they’re not buying homes. Actual Millennials will tell you it’s not because they don’t want to be tied to a mortgage; it’s because they can’t afford one). Read more

Here’s more Gen Z research: They crave human interaction at work—Generation Z—born between 1996 and 2011—are true digital natives, but 40% prefer communicating in person over digital means. Ditto Millennials, who were also included in the study. The takeaway: Never, ever underestimate the importance of face-to-face communication. Especially for internal communications, it is important to include face-to-face as part of the strategy as well as to influence a culture of in-person communication. At one company where I worked, the design of a new R&D building included walls made of material on which employees could use dry-mark pens to diagram ideas they had while chatting in the hallway; markers and erasers filled containers attached to the walls every 50 feet or so. Brilliant. Read more

It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it—Humanyze makes an employee badge with two built-in microphones that hangs from a lanyard and listens to you all day (except when you’re in the bathroom) and motion detectors that record your movements. You can see your personal data (think of it as a Fitbit for work) in order to assess how you were moving and talking when you did well or poorly so you could make corrections. Your employer can’t see your personal data but can aggregate information to see how teams perform (for example), then make changes to organizational structures or reward systems. The company swears it doesn’t record your words; just how you say them. Employees have to opt in. The takeaway: While the technology may be useful, companies would need a high level of trust among employees to get them to go along with this scheme (“thousands” have been sold). A single violation of that trust (acting on input from the badge the company told employees they wouldn’t monitor) and it will take years to rebuild it. Read more


Employee well-being suffers with after-hours email—A study has found a link between company expectations employees will answer after-hours email and emotional exhaustion. The amount of time spent on answering emails isn’t the problem. Rather, it’s the expectation itself—the inability to detach from work and experience real work-life balance—that’s driving the the sense of exhaustion. Not being able to disengage from work can lead to chronic stress, according to the study’s authors. The takeaway: Sounds like an internal communication challenge to me. The company is always-on—there’s no way to change that—but setting reasonable expectations so employees can have some balance in their lives (at the levels that are appropriate for each employee) can help. The study notes that the stress levels rise most in those “who prefer highly segmented schedules.” Read more

Podcast advertising surges—Marketers and agencies are buying sponsorship spots on podcasts at a growing rate, according to research from Advertiser Perceptions and Westwood One. Twenty-one percent of ad/agency execs said they advertise on podcasts, a 6% bump from last year, and nearly 60% say they have looked into podcast advertising as a “potential media investment,” up from 41% a year ago. twenty-one percent plan to advertise on podcasts in the next six months, an 11% increase, and 28% will consider it, a 10% bump. The takeaway: While advertising on hit podcasts like Serial and Invisibilia can be pricey, niche podcasts that target specific audiences represent a real opportunity for smaller organizations to get into podcasts without having to produce and promote one. Read more

Organic or paid social? It’s either one or the other—On the Facebook page for my podcast, I often post something about an episode and then pay to boost the post so more PR people will see it. According to a new study, that’s not how most marketers work. While nearly 60% of marketers in both B2B and B2C companies find paid social media effective, more than half use only an organic approach. The takeaway: Marketers apply different objectives to paid and organic social media without recognizing that adding one to the other enhances the effort. Read more

Mobile and Wearables

Half of the time we spend on digital media is on our smartphones—I remember reading a post by an analyst who insisted tablets would overtake smartphones. Yeah, right. In July of this year, half the time we spent with digital media was on smartphones; tablets accounted for 11%. Desktops/laptops made up 32% of our digital media device time. The desktop still accounts for most online conversions, thanks largely to bad mobile experiences.The takeaway: Directly from the Marketing Land article: We live in a cross-platform world, but the user experience must be solid on each with emphasis placed on the smartphone experience. Read more

A billion downloads for Instagram app—You have to hand it to Facebook. Each of its core properties—Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, and now Instagram—has achieved the 1 billion download milestone. Instagram is only the 19th app to hit that mark in the Google Play Store. Instagram’s 300 million daily active users rivals Twitter’s 310 million. The takeaway: Instagram also accounts for more real engagement than Twitter, which is now largely used for news distribution. Because journalists use Twitter heavily, you can’t ignore it. Nor can you ignore Instagram, though. Read more

Virtual and Augmented Reality

Pokémon GO players want more AR experiences—The Pokémon GO craze seems to have run its course, but a survey found that half those who played the game would play similar games in which they interact with virtual characters in the real world (that is, they incorporate Augmented Reality). Nearly a quarter of players said playing outside was the best part of the game, 69% will play future versions of Pokémon GO. The takeaway: While the game itself may have peaked, it opened the eyes of millions of consumers to AR. Now companies will need to determine when AR would add value to a game, an app, or a tool. The potential has only barely been scratched. Read more

VR short wins an Emmy—I recently awarded a Ragan Communications competition award to a VR project (I judge several of Ragan’s contests) and wondered if that was a first. Now Oculus has won an Emmy for “Henry,” a short VR film that won in the Outstanding Original Interactive Program category. The takeaway: When VR films win Emmys, you know they’re going mainstream. Read more


Twitter adds pre-recorded video and graphics to Periscope—Live video streams via Twitter’s Periscope will soon incorporate previously-recorded video and graphics, an upgrade designed to keep pace with Facebook Live, which continues to dominate the live-streaming space. A test of the functionality was seen in a broadcast by Alex Pettitt, who added pre-recorded video and graphics to a live stream of the explosion of the SpaceX rocket on September 1. The takeaway: Twitter’s deals with the NFL and others to broadcast streams of live events make the addition of pre-recorded video and graphics more understandable. It’s a feature most businesses should be able to use, even if it’s not appealing to individuals streaming something they happen to see at the moment. Read more

Will live-streaming spell the end of broadcast TV?—The live stream shared by Philando Castile’s shooting by a policeman in Minnesota drew 5.7 million viewers—equal to the size of the CBS News audience. ABC reached 28 million viewers of political conventions through its Facebook Live account, and Twitter will broadcast NFL Thursday Night Football. Time Warner has bought a stake in Hulu. With these trends in force, how long can traditional broadcast video survive? The takeaway: For a while, since local news is still obtained mainly over local TV news stations. But make no mistake: The models are changing. Read more

Political candidates aren’t warming up to live streaming video—None of the mobile platforms that stream video have become major players in the key political campaigns currently underway. The takeaway: Campaigns need to figure out how to use these tools in ways that don’t simply duplicate what viewers can see on cable news networks. It’s also worth pointing to the fact that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are buying ads on Snapchat and have used customizable geotags for their rallies and other events. Read more

This week’s wrap image is courtesy of Geograph, whose mission is to “collect geographically representative photographs and information for every square kilomterte of Great Britain and Ireland.” This image is of a “town house under wraps, photographed by John Allan.

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