November 3, 2017
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One thing I didn't consider when leaving my consulting practice to join Webcor as director of internal communications is that HC+T -- Holtz Communication + Technology -- doesn't exist anymore. As of December, therefore, I will rename this update The Holtz Report. (Original, isn't it?) I'll repeat this announcement every week until then to make sure you don't delete The Holtz Report when it shows up in your inbox.
Microsoft integrates LinkedIn with Outlook -- Outlook users can view insights, profile pictures, work history, and other information from LinkedIn profiles without leaving their inbox. Takeaway: If the LinkedIn acquisition didn't make sense before, it should now. Expect that this is just the opening salvo; more integrations that make both services more valuable are sure to be coming. Read more
Top of mind for Google's CEO: the hamburger emoji -- Google CEO Sundar Pichai noticed that Google's hamburger emoji has the cheese under the patty and promised in a tweet to "drop everything" to address it. Takeaway: Lest you think this is a frivolous issue for a CEO to tackle, look at the interest it has drawn and the press it has resulted in. Having a little fun (at the right time and about the right thing) never hurt anyone -- not even a CEO -- and can pay off in making the leader more human, authentic, and approachable. And besides, does anyone ever put the cheese under the burger?? Read more
Google stops using country domains -- Google will no longer use the country code related to the Google page from which users conduct a search in order to determine which results to serve up. Users will get one set of results based on where Google's system believes the user is located. As a result, an Australian traveling to New Zealand will get results for New Zealand while she's in the country, then return to seeing Australian results when she gets back home. Takeaway: This makes sense to me. When I was on hotel WiFi in Manila, I got The Philippines' Google page. It was a hassle to get back to regular old Google, which I wanted. Anybody engaging in SEO based on country pages needs to rethink that strategy. Read more
Diversity in GIFs -- Giphy's culture editor is working to ensure diversity is represented in the GIFs that surface during a search. The response from Giphy fans has been positive. Takeaway: Diversity is good for business. For further proof, check out the first item in the "Research" section. Read more
- Instagram tests a stop-motion camera for Stories -- Instagram's Stop Motion camera tool "lets you take a long series of photos, which Instagram stitches up into a GIF that you can post in your story." Read more
- Facebook sneaks updated numbers into earnings statement -- Did they think nobody would notice? In its third-quarter earnings statement, the company updated its estimate of duplicate accounts from 6% to 10%. The number of fake accounts not associated with a genuine account was revised from 1% to 2-3%. Given the impressive earnings -- beating analyst expectations and posting its biggest gain ever -- maybe nobody but Business Insider noticed. Read more
Is gender stereotyping the best strategy for marketers? -- Many marketers assume it is, especially given the ability to target the right stereotype to the right person based on the data available about that individual. A survey, however, found that "Fifty percent of men and 68% of women said they would likely be affected by advertisements that break gender stereotypes. Thirty-six percent of total respondents said they like brands that break gender stereotypes in ads. Fifty-five percent of respondents said they sometimes prefer to buy products made for their gender, while 42% said they sometimes prefer products made for a gender other than their own. Thirty-seven percent of overall respondents agreed the advertising industry has a social responsibility not to promote gender stereotypes." Takeaway: This is a genuine trend. Breaking gender stereotypes will get you some positive attention. Read more
Longer videos = higher engagement -- Videos longer than 90 seconds are shared 78.8% more and get 74.6% more views than videos of other lengths, even though they account for only 19.5% of videos shared on social platforms. Takeaway: Pay attention to these kinds of statistics. It's easy to fall prey to conventional wisdom that isn't borne out by the data. Of course, it's just a data point. You know your audience, your industry, and other unique factors that will ultimately shape your approach to online video. Read more
What is the future of social collaboration? -- Social technologies are more integrated into daily work than ever before, according to research from McKinsey and Company. While executives view them as mainly supplemental, workers 45% of workers say they're very or extremely integrated into day-to-day work, up from one-third in last year's study. Companies with the most advanced tools are spending less time with email and the phone. Employees using message-based platforms are more likely than executives to communicate with their peers via these new technologies. Employees with message-based platforms also use social tools more frequently than the phone to communicate across business units. "Eighty-five percent of all respondents say their companies use social technologies for internal purposes, up from 80% in 2015 and 69% in 2014." Also, message-based platforms help companies communicate better and self-organize. Takeaway: The keys are to choose the right tools and bake the way they should be used into the culture. These are not for sharing of recipes or telling jokes (though that can happen, too). When employees know that these platforms make work easier, improve their own efficiencies, save them time, and give them more autonomy, they'll adopt them. If collaboration or messaging systems are just introduced without a strategy, they won't do anybody any good. Read more
Mainstream media regains trust -- Trust in social media news stories has fallen. Fifty-eight percent of respondents to a survey said they have less trust in social media news stories about politics or elections. Mainstream media, however, fared better, with only 24% saying they don't trust their coverage of politics and elections. The research firm concluded from the results that attempts to brand mainstream news as "fake news" have mostly failed. Takeaway: Politics aside, media relations efforts to earn coverage through mainstream news outlets should continue apace since most news consumers trust what they read or see from these sources. Read more
Companies are investing in society -- CSR research finds the world's biggest companies "are emphasizing strategy and outcomes more than ever." Sixty percent of these companies are designated more resources to social programs aligned with their social cause areas. The median total giving among companies grew by 2.3% between 2014 and 2016; the top 25% of companies gave at least $53 million in 2016, representing 1.7% of pre-tax profit. Rather than spreading the money among a lot of organizations, companies are looking for deeper relationships with fewer cause-related partners. Takeaway: Remember, consumers, prospects, and investors increasingly look to companies that invest in making the world a better place. There's a reason increased giving with sharper focus is a trend. Read more
Affluencers are the newest subset of influencers -- According to research from Ipsos, Affluencers are wealthy influencers who influence the shopping and buying behaviors of others. Seventy-one percent of all affluents are affluencers, according to the report. According to the Ipsos press release, "While most marketers have understood that the affluent audience is important due to their buying power and purchase behaviors especially in luxury and high-ticket categories, we've found that their influence is felt in nearly every category." Takeaway: This group is "sought after for their advice and purchasing input," which makes them a desirable influencer group to target for a variety of marketing efforts. They also are unlikely to be bought cheaply. Do your homework to find out what motivates them to influence on a brand's behalf. Read more
Guests can communicate with Four Seasons staff via messaging -- Already available in more than Four Seasons hotels as part of a pilot, guests' ability to send questions and requests to on-site staff via messaging will roll out to all of the brand's hotels next year. Guests can use the app of their choice -- the Four Seasons app, Messenger, We Chat, and SMS. During the pilot, half of guests sent an average of six messages during their stay. Guests can use the service for room service, ordering drinks at the pool, getting directions, requesting towels or turndown service, pretty much anything you could do by phone. In fact, messages are being treated with the same urgency as phone calls. Takeaway: The fact that guests message more times than they actually call or otherwise engage with staff is significant. More direct engagement and instant response improve the experience. The service handles translation from 100 languages in real time and the hotel responds to every message within two minutes. Read more
Hilton queues up tech for 2018 -- Four Seasons isn't the only hotel brand looking to tech to wow guests and fill rooms. Hilton is preparing to introduce a mobile-centric Internet of Things "connected room." With an app, guests "will be able to seamlessly control their room's lighting, HVAC [heating, ventilation, and air conditioning], and entertainment options including pre-loaded and streaming content." Takeaway: Any business that serves customers on-site needs to start considering how messaging, smart (IoT) objects, and other technologies can improve the customer experience. Read more
- Twitter growth offset by defections -- Twitter is losing nearly as many users as it adds, averaging just 3 million new users per quarter. Read more
Artificial Intelligence, Chatbots, and Smart Audio
Why digital assistants are hot -- I have been talking about digital assistants -- especially the smart audio variety -- for some time. They're hot (with 1.6 billion active users expected by 2020) because they offer a natural language interface, your interactions with them are highly personalized, the knowledge they can share is diverse and deep ("everything from data insights that are readily available on Google to field-specific content stored in integrated databases), they connect with the Internet of Things, and they make us more productive. Takeaway: AI/digital assistant uptake will blow away Augmented and Mixed Reality (not that these aren't going to be big). Are you structuring your online content to be usable in the digital-assistant world? Read more
Maybe we should call smart audio VUI -- That's for Voice User Interface (pronounced voo-ee). VUI will flourish "wherever your hands are otherwise occupied...An estimated 50% of online searches will be performed using voice by 2020, with reports showing 40% of connected adults are already using voice search at least once a day." Yet no ad formats exist for VUI platforms; in fact, Amazon has banned ads on Alexa. Still, ad formats are inevitable and will stand on the shoulders of radio advertising, "playing our 10-second spots between lines of a recipe, or delivering our jingles to top and tail weather reports." Takeaway: If this is what advertising on smart audio is to become, I can live with it, though I hope brands will be more creative than that, delivering value rather than pitches and jingles. Nobody with an Alexa or Google Home appliance wants to hear advertising in response to a query. Read more
Alexa now responds to custom phrases -- Among new capabilities Amazon has added to its Alexa platform, the VUI (hey, I used it!) now includes "Routines," which let you create customized phrases that will trigger responses. You could, for instance, create a set of actions Alexa performs when you say "Alexa, I'm leaving," including turning on a light, locking doors, and turning off the TV. Routines also let you schedule actions daily, weekly, or on weekends. Takeaway: In the first item in this section, I noted that one reason digital assistants are hot is that they are personalized. Routines is an example of VUI personalization. Read more
Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality
The end of the murder tour? -- Murder tours are a staple in big cities. My family enjoyed the hell out of London's murder tour. Augmented Reality could put an end to these -- at least the kind that involves paying a tour guide. The digital agency Firstborn launched an AR app, "Gruesome Gotham," a map of murders across New York. When you're nearby the scene of one of these crimes, your phone will present a narrated AR scene of the event. Disappointingly, it's for iPhone only. Takeaway: I haven't heard tour guides listed among the jobs threatened by technology, but this is AR, not AI, which has been the focus of most job-disruption worries. What else might AR replace? Read more
Google opens free 3D object library -- Google has opened Poly, a platform where people can find and share 3D objects. These objects can be used in development kits including Apple's ARKit and Google's ARCore. Once you find an object you want to use, you can download it or pull it directly into a VR or AR environment for editing. And it's free. Takeaway: What nice guys! Of course, making it easier for developers to create content for an emerging technology on which Google has bet big is really just reinforcing the ecosystem. Read more
- Amazon app adds AR feature -- IKEA's app lets you see how a piece of furniture will look in your house. Amazon has entered the space with its own AR app that lets you see not only furniture, but electronics, home office products, toys, and games. Read more
- Try a plant before you buy it -- If you think AR's retail utility is limited to clothes and furniture, take a look at Plant Life Balance, which lets you try before you buy, then create a list of plants you decide are right for your home to take to your local nursery. Read more
- HoloLens is certified protective eyewear -- Microsoft's Mixed Reality goggles have been certified for use as basic protective eyewear, earning an IP50 rating "for dust protection in construction zones, for example." Given the broad applications to which HoloLens can be put in the enterprise, this came as very good news for Microsoft, which has demoed an MR headset with a built-in hard hat. Takeaway: It won't be long before HoloLens will fit into the safety glasses most production workers use today, nice and small. Getting data and seeing images related to work while you work will become the de facto way of doing things. Read more
How can marketers use blockchain? Let me count the ways -- Twenty-seven, that's how many, at least according to this AdAge summary. They include verifying ad delivery, verifying engagement or performance of an ad, preventing the same ad from being overused, make payments, reward consumers for data and give them a transparent look at how their data has been used, and verify influencers are who they say they are. Takeaway: When AdAge starts writing about blockchain, you know it's a thing. Yet I still get blank stares when I talk about it. Maybe the next item helps explain that. Read more
Most Americans have no clue about blockchain -- While 78.6% of Americans are aware of Bitcoin, what they know doesn't go much beyond what they hear in the news. Only 31.6% were aware of Ethereum, the blockchain (and related cryptocurrency) adopted by a lot of businesses. Three-quarters have never heard of an initial coin offering (ICO). Takeaway: Be honest. Have you heard of an initial coin offering? Blockchain is going to shake your world. Bone up. Read more
- This piece claims to offer a plain-English guide to blockchain in 3,500 words -- and mostly makes good on that promise. Read more
Also Of Interest
- Snapchat has remained free of fake news and political ads from dubious sources. The secret is a more old-fashioned approach to advertising than Facebook, Google, and Twitter take, along with hands-on, human intervention. Read more
- If you're a font geek, stop reading this bulletin and download WhatTheFont. With this app, you'll be able to take a picture of a font and the app will tell you what font it is. I am not making this up. It's Shazam for fonts. And it's available for both iOS 11 and Android. Yes, I already have it. Read more
- Instagram Stories and WhatsApp Status (which is, of course, just like Stories) have each reached 300 million daily active users. Snapchat has only 173 million daily active users (and that's for the entire app, not just the Stories feature). Snapchat has had some good news lately, but without user growth, ultimately it won't matter much. Read more
How to use a chatbot in a podcast
I heard a podcast in which the host offered listeners the opportunity to send a text using a keyword in order to get visual content associated with what she was talking about at various points during the episode. It's completely optional, of course; those who want to lean back and listen don't lose anything by not texting. Those who do, though, now engage with a podcast as a lean-forward experience. Read more
The latest from the FIR Podcast Network
- Serena Ehrlich and Kathy Klotz-Guest joined me for conversations about the #metoo hashtag that is becoming a movement (and its implications for companies), a mission-based nonprofit organization’s use of data to target a company for action; the rise of LinkedIn as a serious alternative social network; Facebook's test of a separate News Feed for content from Pages; KFC’s brilliant guerilla marketing effort around its secret 11 herbs and spices; and look at future trends in news from a journalism-focused futurist. Dan York reports on multiple Facebook stories, Instagram opening its live video "Add a Friend" feature to everyone, and Vimeo/Livestream’s acquisition of the Mevo camera. Listen
- In this week's "Digital India," Suresh and friends talk about Google’s Next Billion ambition in India. We discussed about Google products in India, its next billion ambition, board meetings, and India-specific roducts (such as Tez, YouTube Offline, YouTube Go, and Rail Wire). Listen
On the Calendar
- On November 9, I'll deliver a virtual presentation to the Bose employee communciation 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.
Shel Holtz is director of Internal Communications at Webcor in San Francisco. For 21 years, he was principal of Holtz Communication + Technology. He has also held communication leadership positions in two Fortune 400 companies and spend five years working in the communication practices of two global human resources consulting firms. He blogs at blog.holtz.com.