October 13, 2017
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AOL is shutting down Instant Messenger -- Two decades ago, it revolutionized online communication: You could actually chat with someone else without using email. Twenty years later, AOL is permanently closing AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). The takeaway: The mourning of AIM's passing is mostly nostalgic, but you have to wonder why AOL didn't evolve the tool as it became clear that messaging would come to dominate mobile communication. It could have been Messenger or Snapchat if anybody at AOL had an ounce of vision. Read more
Dove's apology for ad isn't quelling the outrage -- Unilever is in full crisis mode over growing accusations of racism over a 3-second clip that appeared on Dove's Facebook page in the U.S. The storm of criticism continues after Unilever apologized for the ad, which showed a black woman removing her top to reveal a white woman, reminiscent of advertisements from a century ago showing people of color using soap in an effort to become white. Calls for a boycott are growing louder. The ad "was intended to convey that Dove body was is for every woman and be a celebration of diversity, but we got it wrong," according to the statement. Takeaway: I have no doubt the ad was well-intentioned. Unilever has been stepping up its values game in a big way, and even the black model who appeared in the ad is standing up for the company, arguing it has been misinterpreted. Still, it shouldn't have been too hard to figure out in the concept stage that the opportunity for misinterpretation was huge. A simple fix would have been to have the white model appear first, revealing the black woman. Or scrap the concept as a good idea that would ultimately cause grief for the company. Everything needs to be reviewed through the lens of heightened cultural sensitivities. Read more
Zuck is sorry for that awful VR tour of Puerto Rico -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Rachel Franklin (Facebook's social virtual reality chief) took what they labeled a "magical" tour of hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico with their cartoonish 3D avatars serving as tour guides. The idea was to show how your avatars can connect in a virtual space and "get the feeling that you' are really in a place," Zuckberger said. Social media was highly critical of the demonstration, given the humanitarian crisis that continues to unfold in Puerto Rico, leading Zuck to apologize, noting one of his goals was to share news of Facebook's partnership with the Red Cross to assist in Puerto Rico's recovery. "I'm sorry to anyone this offended," he wrote. Takeaway: As I continue to advise, add this step to your planning for just about anything: Project yourself into the future, after the demo has been presented, the product launched, or the plan implemented. Assume it failed. Ask, "What went wrong?" This simple step can prevent predictable disasters like this (and Dove's ad in the item above). One more thing: Apologies should never, ever, refer to "anyone this offended." That assumes the problem was with those who were offended, not the fact that the content was offensive and often leads to a second apology. Read more
Flipboard is poised to become the next big news distribution channel -- Flipboard has opened a new site for publishers to manage their feeds on the Flipboard app, letting any publisher reach the app's audience of 100 million monthly active users. Flipboard is the fourth most common referrer for mobile users; its traffic almost doubled between January and August. It must be an appealing offer, since The New York Times, which abandoned Facebook's Instant Articles program, still curates magazines on Flipboard. The company, meanwhile, is not reducing its emphasis on curation. The takeaway: Flipboard is on a roll and as mainstream news outlets begin publishing through this new feature, it could get a huge boost. It's worth exploring for company content. (I have one active magazine of my own on Flipboard, dedicated to content that addresses the shift to a values-driven marketplace. With virtually no promotion, I have attracted 132 followers. Imagine what you could do with the visibility of a brand by simply curating company content -- or just adding an RSS feed -- for a Flipboard magazine focused on a narrow topic. It's quick and easy exposure for your content.) Read more
Fearless Girl company fined $5 million for underpaying women -- The Fearless Girl statue on Wall Street (facing down the famous Wall Street bull) has earned a boatload of accolades, including a couple Cannes Lion awards. That's pretty serious irony in light of the $5 million fine the company behind it, State Street Corp., is paying after a U.S. Department of Labor investigation found that the company underpaid female and black executives. The fine will be paid to 300 women who worked for the company. Takeaway: This goes to the heart of the values conversation. The idea for the statue (executed by the ad agency McCann) was terrific, but if the public-facing campaign is at odds with your real values, it'll come back to bite you. Read more
Facebook Pages will be able to publish Stories -- Facebook Stories is coming to Pages, so Page admins can use filters and effects to entice visits and engagement on the Page. On the timeline of any Page, just click (or tap) the "Create Story" button. Takeaway: There's no denying the appeal of stories on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. The idea of a Story specific to the theme of a Page is intriguing. I may have to give it a try on my podcast page on Facebook. Read more
Twitter delivers tweets about nearby events and topics -- "Happening Now" will appear at the top of Twitter users' timelines, showing users events and current topics Twitter determines you're interested in. During its rollout, "Happening Now" features only sports, but its scope will expand over the next several months. "Beside each event or topic, there will be a down arrow icon. Tapping on this will allow you to see more information on the event. Tapping on the photo will allow you to see the conversation around the event." Takeaway: Now this is useful. Context is vitally important and learning about or getting caught up on things happening near you can be a compelling use case for Twitter. For local businesses, it's also an opportunity to create the kinds of experiences that get people talking so your event shows up in the "Happening Now" collection. Consider it a non-code type of search optimization. Read more
Slack partners with Oracle -- Slack, the enterprise messaging tool known for its bots that integrate tools from a variety of services, will weave Oracle's enterprise software products into the app. From directly within Slack, users will be able to access Oracle's sales, HR, and business software by simply asking questions like, "How many vacation days do I have left this year?" An Oracle exec called this "The next browser," which echoes Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's proclamations that "bots are the new apps." Integrating software functionality into simple conversational interfaces is where everything is headed. I'm just waiting for Slack to announce voice functionality. You just know it's coming. Read more
- An "i" button is now appearing on links in News Feeds that opens a card with information about the publisher drawn from Wikipedia. Displaying information about the source of the linked article is another effort to combat fake news. Read more
- Snapchat has introduced "context cards" which let users page an Uber ride or make a restaurant reservation from within the app. The cards are accessed through contextual location-based search. While viewing stories, users will swipe up to see information about a business (like reviews, directions, and contact information). Early partners include TripAdvisor, Foursquare, Michelin, and OpenTable. Read more
- As noted above, a study finds that 47% of teens prefer Snapchat; only 24% like Instagram, 9% picked Facebook, 7% chose Twitter, and only 1% opt for Pinterest as their go-to social app. Read more
- Twitter is developing a bookmarking tool that will let users save a tweet for later when they have time to dive into links or conversations. The feature is being developed after Twitter was swamped with requests. Development began during the company's annual Hack Week activity. Read more
App makes proxy voting a Tinder-like experience -- Do you return the proxy vote that comes in the mail for companies in which you invest? A lot of people don't. An online investment advisor, OpenInvest, wants to make that mundane task into something easy and fun. By downloading its app, investors will be able to vote on policies and leadership at the companies they invest in with a swipe. Takeaway: This innovation is the kind of thinking that taps into the underlying benefits of mobile and could be transformative by bringing more shareholders into the corporate decision-making process. Read more
Brands need to merge online experiences and social media efforts -- Live, in-person experiences -- known as experiential marketing -- has become a very big deal, especially as a growing number of consumers signal their interest in participating in everything from music festivals to branded events. Brand experience builds loyalty, according to one CMO. But ignoring the social media element of an offline event can generate online engagement. Consider hashtags, dynamic retargeting, and trackable links. Takeaway: I was surprised that somebody had to write about the mashup of online and offline experiences. Marketers aren't already doing this? It seems a no-brainer to me, and the opportunities extend way beyond the ideas listed in the article. I'm presenting a pre-conference session next Monday in D.C. on how to extend a speech into the social media space using everything from crowdsourcing for information to sharing short video clips and Instagram quotes afterward. Always be thinking about how you can get more value out of a real-time, in-person activity through social media. Read more
Facebook is piecing together an enterprise strategy -- Facebook's @Workplace, the enterprise collaboration/communication version of its consumer interface, is gaining traction in a big way. Messenger could be adapted for the enterprise to take on Slack, Hipchat, and Microsoft's Teams. Oculus could be introduced to the enterprise based on business uses for VR. All of these could come together, along with some other elements, in a unified enterprise offering. Takeaway: If they work in an integrated fashion -- just as Facebook, Messenger, and Facebook's VR Spaces do -- it could be a compelling combination, especially for existing @Workplace customers. Read more
Decision-making comes to blockchain -- One company plans to use blockchain technology "to provide unprecedented trust with their decision-making platform in the form of a secure digital ballot box that cannot be hacked, results cannot be altered, and voter identities are protected." Takeaway: The uses of blockchain continue to explode as various players recognize the value of digital permanence, built-in trust, and user-controlled identity. Read more
Study underscores need for brands to address social issues -- Edelman's 2017 Earned Brand study found that 57% of consumers buy or boycott brands based on the brand's position on a social or political issue and 65% of "belief-driven" buyers will not buy a brand when it stays silent on an issue they believe the company is obligated to address. Thirty percent of consumers worldwide fit the "belief-driven" mold, making more belief-driven purchases than they did three years ago. Most Millennials are in the category, as are more than half of Gen Z and Gen X. The top quartile of earners over-index as belief-driven buyers. They are most active in China (73%) and India (65%) and about half of consumers in established markets like France and the U.S. Twenty-three percent of belief-driven buyers will pay a 25% premium for a brand that supports their position; 48% will advocate for your brand, defend it, and criticize your competitors if you speak up vs. staying silent, 51% will be loyal buyers, and 67% will buy your brand for the first time based solely on your position on a controversial subject. Takeaway: The mountain of evidence is undergoing seismic growth these days: Staying silent is dangerous while taking positions on political and social issues -- especially those aligned with your products or your values -- pays dividends. Read more
It's up to brands to break gender stereotypes -- Brands are responsible for playing a part in breaking gender stereotypes in digital ads, according to a survey. Thirty-six percent of respondents show an affinity for brands when its ads break stereotypes, with 25% indicating they're more likely to buy from that brand. Consumers perceive a connection between colors, fonts, images, words, and phrasing and the reinforcement of gender stereotypes. Takeaway: This study not only further reinforces the fact that consumers expect companies to play a part in addressing social issues but gets into the weeds with some of the subtle ways (e.g., fonts) in which brands can influence the public's perception of their contribution to the solution. Read more
Bad use of English correlates with poor stock performance -- Lovers of language, rejoice! There's a reason to persist in your policing of grammar. An S&P Global Market Intelligence Quantamental Research study on natural language processing found that leaders mangling the English language has a direct impact on share price. Seagate's CEO, for example, offered a tortured explanation of his business in an April 26 earnings call, leading to a plummet in share price. Of course, abuse of the language cannot solely lead to lower stock prices, but it's a factor. One reason: "“Academic research shows when management is trying to hide bad news, they use language that is not easily understood. In so doing, they eat up time, so there is less time for the Q&A with the analysts on the call," one of the researchers explained. Takeaway: Imagine that: Speaking well is important. Organizational communicators have a fundamental role to play in addressing issues like jargon and what Josh Bernoff calls "weasel words," among other ways executives abuse English, and they now have data to make a fiduciary case for it. Read more
Journalists lack technology skills -- The forces pressuring journalism including several grounded in technology, including fake news, digital security, and competition for audience attention. Yet journalists are not equipped with the skills they need and management isn't making it easy to acquire those skills, which include cybersecurity and data journalism. Management is focused more on real-time reporting, production and distribution stories across platforms, and mobile and "backpack" journalism. Seventy-one percent of journalists use social media to find new story ideas but only 11% employ social media verification tools. The study, from the International Center for Journalists, finds that "journalists are simply not keeping pace with the transformations sweeping the industry." Takeaway: There's a huge opportunity here for media relations practitioners struggling to get journalists to pay attention to their pitches. The more you can help a journalist (for example, by pitching a data journalism-grounded story), the more likely they are to give you the time of day. Read more
- Americans spent 12 hours daily with media -- Adults in the U.S. will spend one minute more than half the day with major media this year, a lot of while multitasking due mainly to mobile devices, which will occupy more than a quarter of total media time. Read more
- The Pew Research Center is out with data on Americans' views and attitudes about automation technologies. College-educated Americans have experienced opportunities thanks to automation and all American adults expect stores and deliveries will be automated in 20 years. Read more
Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality
Snapchat is winning the AR race -- More than a third of Snapchat's daily users tap the app's Augmented Reality feature, putting it ahead of Facebook (whose AR features haven't been widely publicized) and Apple (which made a huge deal about AR in its iOS11 release). The addition of Snap App, the location sharing tool, has fueled the a 40% increase in Snap stories submissions. Currently, people are sharing 3 billion snaps per day. Daily active users open the app 20 times per day. Takeaway: Not too long ago, Snap was being written off. The company still has massive issues -- particularly around brand discovery and advertiser metrics, both of which are needed to generate revenues -- but the company is taking steps to ensure it has the user base. Another data point published this week notes that Snapchat is the most popular app among teens. Read more
Apple's hits pause on AR glasses -- Speculation has been high that Apple will market Augmented Reality glasses, especially in light of its commitment to AR as evidenced by the ARKit for mobile devices using iOS11. But CEO Tim Cook said the company hasn't found the technology to develop AR glasses "in a quality way." Takeaway: A lot of people have placed their bets on Apple, but Google is poised to be the big AR winner, especially after the rollout of AR in iOS11, which many (including tech journalist Robert Scoble, who had been touting it heavily) have considered a flop. Read more
Apple and Facebook have different views on VR -- While Apple CEO Tim Cook remains bullish on AR (despite the setbacks noted in the item above), he dismissed Virtual Reality, mainly because it isolates people. Facebook, meanwhile, continues to invest heavily and roll out new VR products, mainly through its Oculus unit. "Virtual Reality is about imagining the world as it could be," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told an audience. "Opening up more of those experiences to all of us is not isolating, it's freeing." Among the examples he shared: someone who used VR to help stimulate neural pathways to start restoring use of paralyzed legs. Takeaway: There are markets for both VR and AR and having companies focused on each will help grow those markets. Ultimately, though, Microsoft's Mixed Reality play stands the best chance for widespread adoption in the long term. Read more
Artificial Intelligence, Chatbots, Smart Audio, and the Internet of Things
Alexa now recognizes different voices -- Amazon's Alexa now recognizes different voices and can deliver personalized responses based on who in your household is talking to it. Google introduced the same capability for its Google Home appliance in April. The Alexa feature is available for calling and messaging, the customizable flash news briefing, shopping, and the Amazon Music Unlimited Family Plan. Takeaway: Recognizing different voices will become default functionality for smart audio devices, making them even more frictionless as the main way people access and interact with information. Read more
Unilever elevates the importance of voice search -- Adopting a focus on voice search will boost Unilever's "5Cs" strategy (consumers, connecting, content, commerce, and community). The company's global VP of digital transformation told an audience that platforms like Amazon's Alexa "are the perfect medium to help brands leverage the consumer's context to deliver what they need when they need it. 'In a couple of years' time, (Alexa) is going to be in every home more or less. The idea is a friction-free customer experience,'" he said. Takeaway: This week, I interviewed two Mayo Clinic content staffers -- one an M.D. -- who built a conversational First Aid guide for the Alexa platform. They believe voice interaction will become a primary means by which healthcare consumers get information, whether it's general (like First Aid guidance) or personal (compliance with an insulin routine). Mayo is structuring all of its existing data to accommodate voice search and exploring more uses for conversational Alexa skills. A lot of new technologies are on the table right now that will be hugely important. Voice will be the interface to all of them. (I will post the Mayo Clinic interview to the For Immediate Release podcast site next week.) Read more
Food Network's chatbot joins the foodie conversation -- The Food Network continues to update its Messenger chatbot based on what it learns from the way people interact with it. For example, a "Meal Match" feature that offers up dinner ideas was the result of noting that people weren't using the bot to get recipes, but rather were interested in a more "serendipitous experience...more entertaining content around food." The publisher's goal is to be less transactional and more conversational. Takeaway: The notion of being part of the texting/messaging conversation people are already having about food is a smart one. Building the Messenger audience for the app creates a one-on-one relationship between the Food Network and readers. Think about where those opportunities exist in the context of your relationship with customers or other stakeholders. Read more
Developers can apply for LG IoT partnership -- A new website from LG Electronics lets developers apply for access to the company's smart home API. LG's Internet of Things devices sync with its SmartThinkQ app, its AI smart audio appliance Smart Hub, and Smart Sensor products. Approved partners can add the "Works with SmartThinQ" branding to their products and services. Takeaway: Note the connection with a voice appliance. Controlling smart home devices and other IoT hardware is another reason voice is poised to become the interface to everything. Read more
The latest from the FIR Podcast Network
- Kami Huyse and Lee Odden joined me for conversations about the challenges of fake news and trolling during a crisis, the issues that arise when your public actions and your corporate behaviors don’t align, cause marketing and the rise of the “belief-driven buyer,” the slow adoption of technology by communicators, and the continuing benefits of business blogging. Dan York reports on another data breach (this time it’s Disqus); Yahoo's data breach, which affects all 3 billion accounts; AOL's decision to shut down AIM; and Tim O'Reilly’s new book, "WTF: What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us." Listen
- On Digital India #122: In today's world of information overload, how do we know which content to consume, which content to ignore, and where to find the right content? We have this FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), but with so much noise on the internet where everyone produces And wants to share their content, how does one decide what type of content should we consume? Listen
- According to its website, Diva Tech Talk "is a specialized communication channel highlighting women doing wonderful things in the technology arena by creating podcasts from interviews with successful female individuals in the field and covering various technology events. It was created to inform and inspire women of all ages to succeed in professional and life missions that are technology-driven." The podcast has also won Clarion Awards from the Association for Women in Communications in 2017 and 2016. In this FIR Interview, Shel Holtz spoke with Diva Tech Talk co-founder and host Nicole Scheffler about the show's origins, its goals, and life as a female engineer in a male-dominated industry (and what communicators can do to help change that). Listen
On the Calendar
- I'll present a pre-conference workshop on how speechwriters can employ social media to extend and improve their speeches before, during, and after the speech itself. It's at the Professional Speechwriters Association's annual conference in Washington, D.C. on Monday, October 16.
- On October 17, I'll moderate a panel at the Professional Speechwriters Association's annual conference in Washington, D.C., on how and why leaders should get more social.
- I will present a session on the future of work at Willis Towers Watson in Toronto on October 18.
- I'm speaking at the Social Media #Mashup at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, which will be held October 23-25.
- On November 1, I'll present a preconference session on the four key focus areas from my new employee communication model at the Great Places to Work conference at Genentech in South San Francisco.
- On November 9, I'll deliver a virtual presentation to the Bose employee communication department on my new model for employee communication.
- On November 16, I'll present the opening keynote address as well as a breakout session at the Library Marketing and Communication Conference in Dallas.
- On December 4, I'll be in Cambridge, MA, speaking at an Intranet Best Practices conferences at IBM's offices.
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