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25 Jul. 2016 | Comments (0)

By Shel Holtz, Communication Strategist, Public Speaker, Author, Trainer, and Advisory Board Member, Society for New Communications Research of The Conference Board (SNCR) Each week, I develop an overview of news stories, posts, studies, and reports designed to help organizational communicators stay current on the trends and technology that affect their jobs. This post is an overview of all the stories that have caught my eye this week. You can read the full version here. News ThinkProgress to publish exclusively via Medium—The liberal website ThinkProgress is abandoning its website in favor of Medium, the digital publishing site created by Twitter co-founder Ev Williams. Editor-in-chief Judd Legum said the move allows the publication to focus its resources on editorial and let Medium worry about the technology. Medium currently attracts 30 million monthly visits. The takeaway: Medium is quietly becoming a publishing powerhouse. Several publications have embraced its platform, including startups like Chatbot Magazine, while noteworthy figures from business leaders to politicians have posted there. With an established brand like ThinkProgress shifting to Medium, it’s likely more publications that don’t want to have to deal with website maintenance will also consider the move. Read more FT gets creative in fight against ad blockers—The Financial Times is blocking some of the words in its articles, the percentage of blocked words symbolizing the percentage of the FT’s revenue earned through advertising. Readers seeing the blocked words are registered desktop computer visitors who aren’t paying for a subscription. Some of those in the test group using ad-blockers will be asked to whitelist the FT’s ads, some will see articles blanked out unless they whitelist the site, some will be blocked without whitelisting, and some won’t see any change. After about a month, the FT will evaluate the results to determine the best approach for broader implementation. The takeaway: As communicators who use paid media, we should monitor the ad-blocking wars, which can help us determine the best approaches and publications for online advertising. Read more Now you can watch Facebook videos offline—An update to Facebook for Android lets users save videos to watch when they’re offline. You have to use the app to access the videos when you’re not connected rather than play them in another video app on your smartphone or tablet. The takeaway: Facebook is the first company to enable offline viewing but more will follow as the importance of video is no longer just a trend but a simple reality. Read more Bitmoji comes to Snapchat—Bitmojis let users share emoji versions of themselves. Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel announced his engagement to former Victoria’s Secret model Miranda Kerr with a bitmoji distributed via Instagram. But now users of Spiegel’s messaging app can add Bitmoji, opening new vistas for marketers. Brands will be able to create unique Bitmojis, then publish Snaps to their stories containing the images. The takeaway: It’s hard to keep up, I know, I haven’t used Bitmojis yet at all. But their popularity is undeniable and Snapchat’s continuous stream of updates makes it more and more enticing for companies despite its lack of metrics to help assess the effectiveness of your efforts. I can easily imagine that the employees who take over the We Are Cisco Snapchat account, designed to enhance the company’s employer brand, will be all over this. Read more Live Streaming Video Facebook ups Live streaming limit—As Facebook Live continues to heat up, Facebook has increased the maximum length of a single broadcast from two to four hours. Other enhancements: Viewers can watch in full-screen and video-only modes (you don’t have to see reactions and comments). The takeaway: Live has serious competitors in Twitter’s Periscope and YouTube’s new live mobile streaming option, but it seems to have taken a commanding lead. One reason is the built-in audience (1.3 billion more users than Twitter). The immediacy of seeing a broadcast in your stream and the ability to see where broadcasts are happening on the Live Map also contribute to its popularity. Then there’s the unintended free publicity generated when news events get traction on Live. The steady stream of enhancements doesn’t hurt, either. Read more Embedded tweets will play Periscope streams on any webpage—The ability to embed a tweet on a webpage—just as you can embed a YouTube video—has been a Twitter feature for some time, but if you embedded a tweet containing a Periscope stream, you were out of luck. No more. Now you can embed a tweet that includes a Periscope stream and the tweet will access the stream in real time. Another enhancement for the Twitter’s Android app: streams will play automatically as you thumb through your feed with the sound off, as any video does on Facebook. “Highlights” is one more new feature, which produces a trailer for each Periscope broadcast. The takeaway: As people use Periscope to live-stream breaking news, those watching—including media outlets—will be able to embed the tweet containing the stream on any web page, dramatically increasing the audience for the news. Read more Facebook Live broadcasters can restrict audiences—Some Facebook Live broadcasts can now restrict audiences for their streams based on region, cities, and ZIP codes. Broadcasters can also set a minimum and maximum age. You have to be using Facebook’s API to broadcast (mostly media companies, professional creators, and brands that stream video from professional cameras or screencasting tools). The takeaway: The ability to target broadcasts is another great feature that should drive more marketers to Live. Read more Trends The video shift to Facebook continues—YouTube may have a virtual monopoly on video delivery, but Facebook continues to chip away as some publishers are cooling on YouTube for distribution of their videos. Some publishers find their videos getting far more views on Facebook than YouTube, largely because the nature of the social network encourages sharing as new videos are posted. While some people label YouTube a social network (you can subscribe to channels and comment on videos), in fact it is more a repository for finding videos that lacks the immediacy of publishing on Facebook. Personality-driven channels (e.g., Pewdie Pie) do well because their fans await new content, but media executives have pointed out that they aren’t adept at “creating this type of personality-driven content, and young people don’t necessarily turn to YouTube seeking professionally produced videos from big media brands.” The takeaway: For now, I advise publishing videos across multiple platforms, but be sure your Facebook videos are reconfigured to accommodate the platform in order to generate the most views, shares, likes, and comments—all forms of engagement—possible. Read more Brands get personal—Personalization is one of the key practices that could overcome ad-blocking, getting consumers to opt-in. One brand is delivering a personalized video to consumers based on the photos they have shared on Instagram. Another get a custom report about their emotional state after they retweet Dove’s message, showing the percentage of positive and negative tweets in general and when it comes to beauty. A luxury bag retailer is tapping into IBM’s Watson to analyze social feeds and match a user with a designer based on their personality type. The takeaway: Some consumers may find this a bit creepy, but getting relevant, personal content when it’s done right can also increase a consumer’s affinity to a brand. Being able to deliver relevant content is the best use of all that data we keep talking about. Read more Tinder’s influence makes its way into branded apps—“Swipe left” is part of the cultural zeitgeist, so why not leverage it for marketing purposes? Sephora’s mobile and desktop sites both now include “swipe-it, shop-it”. Tinder is the inspiration behind the feature, with users swiping left or right to make a purchase. The takeaway: Everybody gets it. Why not embrace it? Read more Is influencer marketing’s cost too high—One of the benefits of influencer marketing, in addition to its effectiveness, has been its low cost. But now, popular influencers are demanding big paydays in exchange for their influence, calling the ROI of the practice into question. It’s important to measure the various results you get from an influencer campaign, including brand sentiment and media mentions. The takeaway: It’s equally important to pick and work hard on identifying influencers who aren’t high-priced celebrities. The article notes one company paid $300,000 for a few photos to be shared by a celebrity whose fans included the CEO’s child. Look at influencer mapping utilities like Little Bird rather than succumb to the glow of someone famous. Read more Let’s dial back the emojis in marketing—The use of emojis in marketing has surged an incredible 557 percent in the last year. While marketers are enamored of them, consumers—who do have a positive view of emojis in general—aren’t so thrilled with the brands that use them. The takeaway: Know your audience and have a good reason to use emojis. Too many campaigns add them because they can, not because they enhance the message. Read more The C-Suite expects to be blindsided by digital disruption—Executives know that the march toward a digital world is gaining momentum and headed for them, but they’re still not ready for it. A report from Juniper networks finds a disconnect between IT and the C-suite is growing. More than half of the respondents to the survey—which included IT decision makers and business decision-makers) expect a new disruptive technology, product, or service will collide with their industry within two years, but IT departments don’t feel ready, noting their staffs won’t have the skills needed to manage the change. Nearly 90 percent of respondents think their organization’s would be better prepared if executives were more tech-savvy. The takeaway: The relationship between the C-suite and IT is a communication issue that communicators can help address. In some organizations (PepsiCo comes to mind), communicators also have taken responsibility for bringing executives up to speed, given their ability to connect the technology with tangible business practices. Don’t sit idly by while the gap widens. Innovate channels and processes that help the company prepare. Read more Chatbots Pizza Hut buys into chatbot commerce—Pizza Hut is working on a social ordering platform that is launched with chatbots in Facebook Messenger and Twitter DMs. Available in August, the chatbots will help consumers order and get brand information. The goal is increased convenience for consumers. The pizza chain will add functionality for voice ordering on Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant after it has assessed the success of the Messenger and Twitter bots. The takeaway: Convenience is the name of the game and trumps concerns about authenticity, especially when applied specifically to make the customer’s life easier, not just reduce mundane tasks for the company. Read more Virtual and Augmented Reality VR a hit with consumers—Hesitancy in embracing VR for marketing and communications has been cautioned by many who argue that it hasn’t spread far enough into the marketplace yet, but a study found consumers feel overwhelmingly positive about it. Fifty-two percent of those surveyed agreed that they’re anxious to be associated with a brand that has delivered VR content and 71 percent said that brands sponsoring VR events are “forward-thinking and modern.” Sixty-two percent said VR content from sponsors makes them feel engaged with the brand, 53 percent said they would be inclined to buy from a brand that sponsors a VR experience, and 91 percent said they have positive feelings when they watch informational videos in VR. The takeaway: Consumer adoption will snowball, with most users trying out the lower-cost options like the Samsung Gear VR and the various Google Cardboard offerings (like the under-$30 Viewmaster from Mattel) while interest in pricier headsets will also gain momentum. It’s time to assess the possible alignment between your communication goals and the role VR can play in helping you achieve them. Read more United taps VR to introduce new business class—United Airlines and Boeing are working on an upscale business class called Polaris for United’s 777 fleet. United planned on introducing the cabin this summer but Boeing won’t deliver new aircraft until December. United decided to show off the cabin using Virtual Reality. You can view the VR video tour on YouTube or, if you happen to be at the Barclays PGA golf tournament in August or the New York City Marathon in November, you’ll be able to view it through a more sophisticated headset. The takeaway: This example—and the next one—both speak to the utility of VR for getting customers as close to the real experience as possible in order to entice them to check out the real thing. This is a viable marketing application of VR that will survive well beyond VR’s initial hype cycle. Read more VR is auto marketing’s “sleeping giant”—Automakers are jumping on the VR bandwagon in droves. Brands including Volvo, BMW, Audio, and Infiniti are delivering virtual test drives, which they hope will give car shoppers the extra push needed to get them into the showroom for a real test drive. (Eighty-eight percent of car buyers require a test drive before making a purchase decision.) As with the United example above, the idea that you can almost be there in order to get a sense of which car you’d like to take out on a real road is something that will transcend VR’s early novelty. Read more 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.
  • About the Author:Shel Holtz

    Shel Holtz

    Shel Holtz, ABC (Accredited Business Communicator), is Director of Internal Communications of Webcor, a San Francisco-based general contractor. He was previously principal of Holtz Communication + Tec…

    Full Bio | More from Shel Holtz


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