Friday Wrap #185: A growing social media skills gap, lower engagement in bigger companies, and more

Posted on January 22, 2016 10:38 am by | Virtual and Augmented Reality | Management | The Workplace Experience | Content | Visual Communication | Audio | Augmented Reality | Brands | Business | Channels | Facebook | Marketing | Media | Mobile | Podcasting | PR | Social Media | Trust

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.


Facebook’s live sports feed is a glimpse into media’s future—The second screen is hardly a new concept. Watching a game on TV, sports fans often have their phones or tablets out to follow commentary and engage in conversation on venues like ESPN and Twitter. Facebook is introducing a new live feed called Sports Stadium that “combines what people already check Twitter and ESPN for during the games but shifts that second-screen experience from those properties to Facebook.” Checking the feed during a game will bring you what your friends are saying along with experts, professional athletes, and celebrities; you can also monitor live scores and stats and follow every play. The takeaway: Sports Stadium will be ad-free for now, but brands should pay attention anyway. Being able to inject relevant content into a feed will be a new form of media relations (that is, getting your content in front of people within the content they’re consuming). The real-time aggregation is a serious trend (consider Snapchat’s Live Stories and Twitter’s Moments). Read more

IBM acquires UStream—Before there was Blab, before there was Meerkat, before there was Periscope, there was UStream, a live video streaming tool that let anybody broadcast video via their phones. UStream channels were used by a broad spectrum of individuals and organizations; NASA even used it to broadcast space launches. The service is now part of a new cloud video services unit at IBM that also includes ClearLeap video management, the Cleversafe video storage service, and file-transfer tool Aspera, all of which are IBM acquisitions. The takeaway: I once used UStream to broadcast a talk at a conference, but those days are over. Now there’s just a 30-day free trial and monthly plans beginning a $99. But the move by IBM signals that live streaming video is only going to get bigger. Read more

Nielsen ratings will factor in social chatter—Social Content Ratings is a new Nielsen metric that will include social media conversations about TV shows, part of an effort to more accurately identify the true audience for shows. The metric will enable Nielsen to provide measurement for programs on streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. The conversations will be tracked on Facebook and Twitter. The takeaway: Nielsen metrics will be based, in part, on social media monitoring. Any doubt that social media is having an impact on traditional activities has been swept away. Read more

Rite-Aid now has the largest retail beacon installation—Macy’s has turned its crown over to Rite-Aid, which now has proximity beacons in every one of its 4,500-plus U.S. stores. The beacons “give brick-and-mortar retailers the personalization and retargeting capabilities used in e-commerce.” If you work in retail, you will eventually be working with beacons. Read more


The social media skills gap is growing—With a third of the world’s population using social media, there is tremendous value to be earned. The workforce is not equipped to help companies unlock that value, however. Employees in general aren’t well-trained in social media even as companies introduce advocacy programs that ask employees to help spread the company’s message. Gaps in competency exist even among the staff tasked with implementing it on behalf of the organization. The takeaway: Every employee needs to be up to speed on social media and kept there as the landscape continues to change and evolve. Companies also need to make sure the staff responsible for official social media efforts have the skills required to execute against the company’s plan. Read more

Employee engagement is worst in big companies—The bigger the company, the lower employee engagement is likely to be. Gallup reports that those who work for companies with more than 1,000 employees have lower levels of engagement than smaller firms, and those with more than 5,000 workers record lower engagement levels are in even worse shape. The analysis finds that “the 1,000-employee mark seems to be the tipping point for declining engagement within a company.” In these companies, there’s a significant drop in the number of employees who report that they are able to do what they do best every day and that the company’s mission or purpose makes them feel their job is important. Slightly more than half of American workers are employed by companies with more than 1,000 employees. The takeaway: The larger the company, the greater the likelihood employees are getting more job opportunities along with better pay and benefits. The data reinforces the notion that paying people well doesn’t engage them, and engagement correlates with productivity and profitability. The kinds of programs companies have implemented to improve engagement aren’t having much of an effect. It’s time for a new approach to engaging employees by delivering the same kind of lifetime experience at work that we aim to give customers. Read more

Brands and publishers are engaging customers via Facebook Messenger—The messaging app from Facebook is evolving into a platform for brands to provide customer service and publishers looking for broader content distribution. Hyatt, for example, sees Messenger as “a way to have meaningful conversations with guests that were, best of all, private.” The takeaway: Messaging apps will, without question, become the dominant means by which people engage one another. If your organization is still 100% focused on Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, you’re falling behind. Start exploring how your competitors are using messaging to create greater bonds with customers. Read more

Blockchain gains steam—Around 1991, the web was a source of confusion and mystery for companies and communicators. We’re in the same place now with blockchain, a technology poised to be as disruptive—if not more—than the web. Blockchain is the distributed technology that made Bitcoin work, but its potential extends far beyond the struggling cryptocurrency. Eleven major banks have tested it as a trading platform, big tech companies (like Microsoft and Cisco Systems) are building a robust platform for it, and credit card companies exploring it. When it takes off, companies that make products won’t need to sell them through retailers like Amazon; they’ll be able to “bypass intermediaries in order to deal directly with end customers.” The takeaway: Get yourself acquainted with blockchain now. The level of disruption it will create in the next couple years could be epic, and the chances are slim that your company won’t be affected. I’m working on a blog post about it. Read more

Podcasts are innovating ads people listen to (more than once)—I have a TiVo, and I routinely use it to fast-forward through commercials. On a growing number of podcasts, people not only listen to the ads despite the ability to fast-forward; they sometimes rewind and listen again. Using storytelling techniques with the podcast host interviewing advertiser employees or customers, an ad also serves as compelling content. The takeaway: Podcasts are becoming a highly desirable venue for advertisers and marketers. Just don’t force the podcaster to run a legacy-type radio ad; take advantage of the technique that is working. Read more

New rules for death and tragedy—No psychics were required to anticipate the flood of brand tweets paying tribute to the late David Bowie. Public reaction was also easy to predict: These tweets and other tributes were crassly commercial and inappropriate. Convince and Convert’s Jay Baer offers three new rules for brands when these kinds of events occur: Stay silent during a tragedy, only tribute your own (as Apple did in the wake of Steve Jobs’ passing), and if you absolutely must post something, don’t commercialize it. The takeaway: I’ve been saying this for years, and Jay quotes the same Peter Shankman statement I’ve been citing: No company ever went broke because they shut up for 24 hours. Please resist the temptation, even if your motives are pure. Read more

Using likes to fight terrorism—Recently German Facebook users poured onto the page of the neo-Nazi party after “liking” it, posting positive messages that undermined the party’s objectives for hosting the page. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg called it “a ‘like’ attack…What was a page filled with hatred and intolerance was then tolerance and messages of hope.” The same approach can help defeat ISIS, she said at the World Economic Forum: “Counter-speech to the speech that is perpetuating hate we think by far is the best answer.” The takeaway: ISIS and other terrorist organizations are using social media to recruit. Coordinated like-attacks by real people could have a profound impact on those who might be visiting the page because they have succumbed to such recruitment efforts. I do, however, worry that the same approach could be employed by organizations in a form of astroturfing to achieve other more commercial objectives. Read more

Cinemagraphs are getting popular—Cinemagraphs are still images with movement in isolated parts of the photo. For example, a forest scene is completely still except for the waterfall. Thanks to Facebook’s autoplay, Instagram’s looping videos, and Pinterest’s cinematic pins, brands like Heineken, Toyota, Coca-Cola, and Stuart Wetizman have been able to take greater advantage of cinegraphs. The takeaway: They certainly do grab your attention, and they’re easy to create. Their growing popularity is a good reason to experiment. Read more


2016 Trust Barometer finds trust inequality on the rise—The latest version of Edelman’s Trust Barometer, one of the most exhaustive and useful studies on how publics perceive organizations, reveals a “trust gap driven by income inequality and diverging expectations.” We can now identify two distinct publics: the informed public (where trust levels are highest they have been in 16 years) and the mass population where trust has dipped below 50% There’s a 12-point gap between the informed public and the mass population—the biggest ever recorded—and CEO Richard Edelman believes this has led to “the rise of populist politicians, the blocking of innovation and the onset of protectionism and nativism.” Trust in business is higher than it is in government and NGOs. Search engines continue to be the most trusted source for general news and information, and internal subject matter experts and front-line employees are still more credible than CEOs and paid spokespersons. The takeaway: It is much harder to deliver a great customer experience to someone who inherently does not trust the organization. Building trust needs to be at the heart of any communication strategy. Doing that involves some fundamental business changes, including less emphasis on quarterly earnings and more focus on long-term goals. Read more

Most world governments are on social media (which means, mainly, Facebook)—World governments are communicating via Facebook—not just casual posts, but important messaging. Burson-Marstellar’s report finds 87% of the 193 United Nations member countries have an official Facebook presence that have a combined 230.5 million likes. The social network is used for everything from personal messages from leaders to town hall-like discussions to the release of official news. The takeaway: Businesses would do well to observe how world leaders engage with constituents to find better ways for company leaders to engage audience from customers to employees. Government communicators need to explore best practices and adopt them as appropriate, as well. Read more

Food eVangelists are a growing force—A study from Ketchum on food (yes, food) finds that food eVangelists—an influential group that wants to affect food production, packaging, and sales—is looking less like an influencer audience and more like mainstream consumers. They now represent nearly a quarter of the general population. According to a Ketchum spokesperson, “While Food eVangelists have a desire to influence others, it’s important to remember that they don’t promote a specific agenda. Rather they seek information from multiple sources, listen to varying opinions, and make their own decisions.” The takeaway: If you work in any of the food-related industries, recognizing that this group is mainstreaming should help develop strategies that address their preferences. Read more

Mobile and Wearables

Zcast is Blab for audio—Much of the hype over the new iOS-only app ZCast calls it a podcasting tool, but since you can’t save a session or leet people subscribe to hear it on demand, that’s not accurate (though a feature to save a recording may come later, along with an Android version). ZCast is more like Blab for audio, enabling several people to engage in a conversation that anyone can listen to in real time. Listeners can comment. The app is tightly integrated with Twitter. The takeaway: There are other real-time audio broadcasting tools out there that haven’t caught fire the way video broadcasting has with Periscope, Blab, and Meerkat. But the bandwidth requirements for video streaming are high, so ZCast offers a means of broadcasting with a lower barrier to entry. It also brings social elements to the table, so it’ll be interesting to see if it gets some uptake. Read more

Mobile is greater than the sum of its parts; it’s a hub—It’s a rare marketer who doesn’t understand the impact of mobile technology, but most still think of smartphones and tablets in terms of apps. In fact, it’s a commerce platform, a PC replacement, a media player, an authentication device, and the control panel for the Internet of Things. “The smartphone is taking over as the new hub for everything,” writes Neustar Mobile Technology Leader Rajiv Maheshwari, and it deserves a dedicated strategy. The takeaway: Yep. Read more

New app could end fake videos and photos—Did you read the item about blockchain above? If not, go back and read it, because Uproov, a new app for iOS and Android, uses it to ensure the authenticity of photos, videos, and audio recordings. With the app, you can not only ensure any photo, video, or voice recording you make with your phone is recorded in the blockchain, proving its authenticity and provenance. The drop-dead easy-to-use app has a huge number of potential uses. Have you ever returned a rental car only to be accused of causing damage that was there before you got the car? Take a picture of the scratch when you rent the car; the record of the photo in the blockchain will prove that you took it before you drove off the lot. The takeaway: We’re only beginning to scratch the surface of the uses to which blockchain can be put. As I said earlier, get to know this technology. Read more

Facebook’s app adds online anonymity—The Tor network is the best tool online for maintaining anonymity. Tor is mostly known as “the dark web” where criminals are able to engage in illegal behavior with impunity. But Facebook is adding Tor to its Android app, allowing people to connect to Facebook without being detected. That could bring users in from China and Iran, which block Facebook, though the social network insists that’s not the reason they’ve added the function. A spokesperson says the goal is just to make the experience better for people who are already connecting to Facebook via Tor. The takeaway: Here come new markets for brands using Facebook to connect with consumers. Read more

Virtual and Augmented Reality

Microsoft testing Augmented Reality for phone calls—If you want a face-to-face phone call today, you use Skype (or the video calling features of some of the top messaging apps). Microsoft thinks Augmented Reality could be a better alternative. Microsoft (which owns Skype) is testing Room2Room, which puts “a life-size virtual copy of the person you’re talking to on a video call with you in the room.” The takeaway: This is probably a ways off, but think of a Star Trek-like holodeck where people who aren’t actually there appear to be with you in the room. The possibilities for meetings, training, and other uses are mind-bending. Read more

This week’s wrap image—of the recently renovated parking lot at the Folsom Trail—features signs and collection boxes still wrapped in plastic. The Creative Commons-licensed photo comes courtesy of Folsom Natural.

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