HC+T Update: RIP Storify

From: "HC+T Update" <shel@holtz.com>
Subject: HC+T Update: RIP Storify
Date: December 15th 2017

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Storify is shutting down -- Storify, the curation tool that made it drop-dead easy to curate content around breaking news or issues, will shut down permanently on May 16. Users can still access Storify 2 if they pay for a Livefyre license. Takeaway: While I haven't used it in a while, Storify was my main curation tool for a couple years. It never took off the way it should have (though it was front-and-center in a couple breaking news situations), but its purchase by Livefyre was followed by Livefyre's acquisition by Adobe. In addition to lamenting Storify's demise, its shutdown is yet another object lesson in relying on a technology you don't own.Read more

Facebook pushes back against allegations it's destroying society -- An early Facebook executive claimed "the short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we've created are destroying how society works." Facebook's PR department pushed back noting the time that has passed since the exec left the company. "Facebook was a very different company back then, and as we have grown, we have realized how our responsibilities have grown too. We take our role very seriously and we are working hard to improve." Takeaway: It is interesting that Facebook is not denying any of the former executive's allegations and the executive in question later claimed he was talking about "the long-term effects of social media in general," not just Facebook. Read more

Twitter launches "threads" for posting tweetstorms -- Twitter's iOS and Android apps now include "threads," which lets you tap a plus ("+") button to enter the next section of your tweetstorm. You can include up to 280 characters in each segment and add the same amount and type of media (images, videos, etc.) to any tweet in the thread. You can also go back and edit any tweet in the thread. When you're done, tap "Tweet all" at the top. You can also add new tweets to the thread later. The current limit: 25 entries in a thread. Takeaway: Making it easier to send tweetstorms should encourage more people to create them. Expect a lot of fun twists on tweetstorms, especially from clever brands. Read more

Instagram adds ability to follow hashtags -- Now you can follow a hashtag on Instagram; it'll show up along with the posts and Stories in your feed. Advertisers won't have access to the hashtag-following feature for now, but Instagram "could sell brands on paying to have their posts inserted into a hashtag's feed or Story." Brands might also be able to create hashtags people could opt to follow. Hashtag hijacking could also become an issue, although Instagram is adding a "Don't Show for This Hashtag" option you can use if you find irrelevant or inappropriate hashtag-related content. Takeaway: Letting people find content by topic rather than person makes great sense to me. Brands don't have to sponsor a hashtag if they adopt one that pulls great content not just from their own feed but from others sharing similarly-themed posts. Whether brands use it or not, a lot of people are likely to follow hashtags related to topics they care about, which means brands should start paying attention to those hashtags people are following and add related content. Read more

Apple introduces new podcast analytics -- iTunes is still the top podcast source and to accommodate desire for better analytics as podcasts become mainstream, Apple has rolled out a beta of its new podcast analytics service. The tool lets podcasters "track unique devices and playback metrics for their podcasts, including when listeners drop off in the middle of a show." Takeaway: As podcasting becomes big business, better analytics are in demand for setting advertising rates and determining whether a show should be renewed, among other decisions. Read more

Ephemeral storytelling comes to Imgur -- The wildly popular photo and GIF-sharing site is "the latest to board the ephemeral storytelling train." Instagram was the first to copy the Snapchat feature, which has since become a staple on multiple apps and sites. Imgur's take -- called "Snacks" -- is available on Imgur's mobile app -- lets users watch a steady stream of GIFs. "The result is something that is similar to Vine." Takeaway: Stories are eating the world. Imgur's version is created by Imgur, not users, which further opens the door to brands adopting a similar feature on their apps and possibly even websites. Read more

Reddit gets friendlier with brands -- "Brands can now use Sprinklr to publish comments to Reddit's topic- based forums, or 'subreddits,' as well as to manage the private messages they receive from Reddit's users." Takeaway: Parts of Reddit are a cesspool, but the community is large and diverse. Reddit is also a bellwether for what could explode on the net, making it an appealing venue for companies to engage with people participating in very specific subreddits. If you use Sprinklr as your social media management system, you might want to take a closer look. Read more


  • Apple has acquired Shazam, the app that tells you what song you're listening to and gives you options for buying it. There could be several reason Apple is interested in Shazam, including a competitive edge for iTunes in its battle with the likes of Spotify and Google Play Music. Read more
  • Facebook is testing a privacy setting that lets you write a reply to a thread that can be seen only by pre- approved individuals. Read more
  • Google is "appsperimenting" with new ways to use its smartphone camera. Three free apps offer different ways to use images. The apps include a photo booth with pose-detecting powers (Selfissimo!), a way to remix videos like a DJ (Scrubbies), and a tool for turning any mundane adventure into a comic book panel (Storyboard). The apps are available for Android only. Read more
  • If you like metrics, you'll like the new Twitter feature that lets you see how many views a video on Twitter has received. Read more
  • Facebook has released " exclusive audio tracks and sound effects that can be used for videos uploaded to the network. They're all free and cleared for sharing only on Facebook and Instagram (read: not YouTube)." Read more
  • WhatsApp could introduce a standalone business app to make it easier for brands to communicate with customers. The app will also feature tools that let users control the experience, block business accounts, and report spam. I'm interested to see how they'll make the app and appealing download for consumers. Read more
  • Facebook is adding six-second pre-roll ads to dedicated video tabs, like Watch, but not to videos appearing in your News Feed. However, in another change, Facebook's algorithm is getting an update that will push videos from "publishers and creators that people actively want to watch" to the top of the News Feed. Read more


Twitter's 280-character count is a hit -- Twitter's decision to double the character count for a tweet has taken a lot of criticism but the data suggests the critics are just a bunch of whiners. A study of 30,000 tweets found longer tweets were retweeted and liked more than those 140 characters or less. Takeaway: we may or may not be attention-challenged, but we like longer tweets. As long as you're not padding a tweet just to make it longer, having something to say with a little more substance could earn you higher levels of engagement.Read more

Journalists challenged by social media requirements -- New research from the Public Relations Global Network found that half of journalists worldwide say they have to produce video and create content for Facebook and Twitter in addition to doing their traditional jobs. Takeaway: For those of you working in media relations, this is useful knowledge. If your pitch can include the offer of ready-made video and Facebook/Twitter content, you may increase the likelihood of the reporter taking you up on the story. Read more

Distrust is costly -- Poor personalization and lack of trust in companies by consumers cost U.S. enterprises $756 billion last year, according to an analysis by Accenture, which also reported that 41% of consumers switched companies. Takeaway: Building trust with consumers should be a key objective of any reputation strategy. And study of the Edelman Trust Barometer should become a requirement. Read more

Google Analytics delivers more insights into customers -- Google Analytics is one of the best free measurement resources available for analyzing web activity. Google has announced four new features that deliver greater ability to measure the customer journey. Standard reporting will include "Users" instead of just "Sessions," reframing the data for ongoing engagement focus, "especially for instances where users visit multiple times, as opposed to just a total number of sessions." User Explorer lets you view the lifetime metrics and dimensions at the user level. Audience reporting lets you see a cross-channel view of audiences, just as you can create and publish Audiences to other platforms (like AdWords). Conversion Probability looks at data from past transactions to determine the likelihood that a user will convert in the future. Takeaway: Analytics just gets better and better, and Google offers outstanding free resources for you to get trained (and even certified) with Analytics. As communication becomes more data-driven, it would be worth your while to take the course. (I'm about halfway through it.) Read more


The return of sneakernet -- It's not a trend yet but it will be a big one if the FCC's vote repealing net neutrality is upheld (lawsuits to challenge it are no doubt being prepared). The ambiguity over the kind of traffic users will be permitted across provider networks will lead many to return to the days before the modern internet when we passed content around on discs. Imagine if you pay Netflix for a subscription but also have to pay AT&T or Comcast to deliver it. Prepare for everyone to figure out how to use VPNs, WiFi meshes, supernodes, and intelligent distributed cloud services. Just one example: "Imagine, for example, that you have an Amazon Fire TV, Roku, or Apple TV box in your living room. Instead of it being a strictly streaming device, it or your internet gateway device (router, etc) could have a large flash drive. That flash drive might not be able to store all of Amazon's, Apple's or Netflix's content, but it could easily cache the top 5 or 10 percent of it. And if you were to group a hundred or a thousand households together, virtually all of the content could be distributed across the nodes. You would simply need a cloud service to actually keep track of where the bits are located -- just as the way BitTorrent works. Data could be transmitted within the provider network without jumping onto the internet at all, and it could be done during off-hours, such as late at night when network utilization is low to make the use of network resources most effectively. Takeaway: None of this will happen overnight and there is still a chance the courts could continue to mandate net neutrality. If not, the internet as we know it will slowly vanish. It's not too soon to begin unpacking the consequences for the way your organization delivers content and consider alternatives.Read more

GoFundMe is redefining disaster relief -- Disaster victims have typically relied on the government, Red Cross, and insurance to deal with the immediate impact and long-term challenges of a disaster, such as the recent fires and hurricanes. GoFundMe has emerged as an alternative. "In the two months following Hurricane Harvey, GoFundMe and its sister site, CrowdRise, managed to funnel $65 million to victims and charities. (The Red Cross, by way of comparison, authorized $190 million in direct financial assistance over roughly the same time frame.)" Takeaway: Crowdsourcing has been around as an online activity about as long as social media but hasn't gotten the same attention. If it can change the face of disaster relief, though, where else could it be used to change the current way of doing things? Read more

Web design trends for 2018 -- If you're planning on launching or redesigning a website this coming year, it's worth your while to look at the trends Design Shack anticipates will infuse sites. These include asymmetrical grids (splitting visual elements with a more asymmetrical grid pattern), more bright color, bottom sticky elements (the tiny ads at the bottom of apps will show up at the bottom of web pages), voice and natural language search, fluid shapes, subtle animation, the adoption of SVG images, split-screen design patterns, scrolling animations, and white space without minimalism. Takeaway: As always, avoid employing any of these just because it showed up on a list. Some could be single-year trends. But as you explore approaches for your site, keep these in mind should any of them serve your goals. Read more

Video chats on Messenger take off -- The number of video chats conducted on Facebook's Messenger app doubled to 17 billion in 2017. Emoji and GIF use also surged (with 500 billion emojis and 18 billion GIFs shared) and group chats have gone mainstream. Takeaway: Have you started cobbling together a messaging strategy? If these numbers don't convince you that messaging adoption is no fluke or short-term trend, nothing will. Read more

Sounds of airplanes affect the taste of food -- More industries and companies are coming to terms with the importance of audio. It's not as sexy as AR, chatbots, or Alexa skills, but it matters. The latest to figure this out: the airline industry. Research found that blistering decibels of noise on airplanes dulls certain tastes, such as sweetness. But oddly, they discovered that umami, the savory taste, didn't just seem to be immune to heightened noise levels. Umami flavor may be enhanced by loud background noises. It's perhaps why tomato juice constitutes 27% of all drink orders on airplanes; people crave the umami-rich beverage on flights despite not drinking it elsewhere." Takeaway: It seems counterintuitive to wonder about the impact audio could have on your business, but it could be a worthwhile exercise. Read more

Artificial Intelligence, Smart Audio, and Chatbots

Nearly half of us use digital voice assistants -- Forty-six percent of U.S. adults say they are using voice-controlled digital assistants to interact with smartphones and other appliances (like the Amazon Alexa suite of products). The smartphone is the most common way Americans use these tools; 42% said they use them this way. Eight percent use voice assistants on a stand-alone device like the Amazon Echo or Google Home. The main reason people use these tools? "These applications allow them to interact with their devices without using their hands." Takeaway: Voice will be the new interface to everything. As I noted in a webinar panel yesterday, I fear communicators will, once again, be the last to adopt this technology. Marketers and advertisers are already working to figure out where it fits for them.Read more

Mall of America launches chatbot, Alexa skill for the holidays -- Malls are dying everywhere, but the iconic Mall of America could attract business through a couple AI-driven technologies designed to help shoppers plan a visit. The chatbot works across multiple platforms, including the mall's website, mobile app, and Facebook page. The bot is also accessible through the family of Amazon Echo products so you can interact by voice instead of keypad. Takeaway: People will be far more inclined to simply ask a question than to search a website for an answer. The fact that Mall of America integrated the bot into an Alexa skill -- rather than create a separate, discrete skill -- is smart, providing access to conversation-driven information across multiple platforms. Read more

Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality

Mozilla launches AR app -- The iOS WebXR Viewer from the folks behind the Firefox browser includes several programs; you can also use it to view content your create for using the WebXR standard, "which is yet to take root in the web development community." Takeaway: The more platforms, the better, since they will compete to make it easier "to build browser-based AR experiences, which would see them shift to the desktop from the smartphone." Anyone skilled in JavaScript with the Firefox browser on their PC could create their own AR apps.Read more

Facebook opens AR platform to developers -- Facebook is letting any developer to build AR experiences for Facebook Camera that parallel the Snapchat experience. The offering includes "World Effects," similar to Snapchat's World Lenses, which augment scenes beyond selfies. Takeaway: Given the larger population of Facebook users, this could give a lift to AR, especially if developers come up with some nifty augmentations. It's free, so if you have access to a developer, you might want to try an experiment or two. Read more

Snapchat rolls out Lens Studio -- As Facebook opened up its AR platform, Snapchat also unveiled the ability for anyone to create AR Lenses. Lens Studio is a downloadable tool that lets creative types develop AR apps. Takeaway: See the takeaway above. Ditto. Read more

Google introduces AR Stickers (for Pixel Phone only) -- This looks truly cool. With AR Stickers, you choose from the stickers available (they are characters and objects from popular culture, like Star Wars and Stranger Things), put them on the camera screen where you want them to appear, then take the picture. The resulting photo looks like the object actually exists in that space. The Stickers aren't a discrete app; they're built into the Pixel and Pixel 2 camera app. Takeaway: Should these take off (and expand to other phones), it's easy to see how marketers beyond those working in movies and TV could take advantage of it. Just imagine adding Chester Cheetah to a photo you're taking, for example. You'd share that, wouldn't you? Read more


Blockchain as a human rights tool -- Denmark is exploring blockchain as a tool for use in humanitarian aid that could be used to move funds via cryptocurrencies. As a donor country, Denmark is looking at transferring money faster to areas where it's needed, eliminating middlemen and fees. Legal papers that are part of the process can be digitized "to combat corruption and ensure a more effective development aid and better protection of the rights of marginalized groups." Takeaway: With the number of blockchain startups that emerged in 2017, expect 2018 to bring us a surge of adoption. Ensuring aid money goes where it's supposed to is one outstanding use. I expect the World Bank, the International Monetary Funds, and other such organizations are considering blockchain as a way to ensure money goes to projects and not into the pockets of politicians.Read more

December 15, 2017
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The latest from the FIR Podcast Network

  • Doug Haslam and Ike Pigott joined me for this week's FIR podcast to talk about a study that finds most employees don't think their real-world job experience matches their employers' brands; a small craft brewer called a new beer Dilly Dilly and got a special cease-and-desist from Bud Light; LinkedIn is letting Slideshare fall into obscurity, YouTube's algorithm for finding objectionable content is sweeping up innocent creators; and brands are secretly buying their way into posts on sites that use contributor networks. Dan York reports on a Mars Edit update, a keyboard data breach, Apple's latest acquisition, and a blockchain-based encyclopedia. Listen
  • On the latest episode of Inside PR, Gini Dietrich, Joseph Thornley and Martin Waxman talk about the dominance of Facebook and Google, their centrality as media platforms and the importance of maintaining the threat of legislative and regulatory action to ensure that they operate in the interest of the public as well as their shareholders. Listen
  • Paul and David see numerous surveys, especially at this time of year. Many are just deleted because they aren't newsworthy or have one or more serious flaws. So we put together this quick podcast that can help you craft better surveys and hopefully get the media's attention for next year's roundups. It's on episode #86 of FIR B2B. Listen
  • In the latest episode of Young PR Pros, the hosts discuss the benefits of big data and uncover when is the best time to use data, and when is the best time to trust your gut. Listen
  • In this week's Digital India, Suresh had three gentlemen from Nagpur on the podcast to discuss their journey to Digital Marketing.Listen

On the Calendar

  • I'm delivering the closing keynote talk at Ragan's 2018 Internal Communications and Culture Conference in Chicago on March 8.
  • On March 14, I'll speak at Ragan's annual social media conference in Orlando.
  • My proposal to speak at the 2018 IABC World Conference has been accepted. As usual, I'll talk about the communication implications of a new, emerging technology. The date isn't set yet, but the conference will run from June 3-6 in Montreal.
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.

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