HC+T Briefing: Please Don't Like Or Share This Briefing

From: "HC+T Update" <shel@holtz.com>
Subject: HC+T Briefing: Please Don't Like Or Share This Briefing
Date: December 22nd 2017

The Briefing will take a holiday break, returning on January 5. You're welcome to follow my link blog, which is where I collect the stories from which I choose the contents of the HC+T Briefing.


Facebook inks deal with Universal Music Group -- Facebook users will be able to upload videos that include music from Universal Music Group's vast library across Facebook, Instagram, and Oculus as a result of a deal the companies have signed. That'll put Facebook on somewhat equal footing with YouTube, which with has signed similar deals with Universal and Sony. Takeaway: Quite a difference from the days of Napster when the music industry dug in its heels and pretended digitization of music wasn't ever going to be a thing. The challenge for users will be knowing whether they're using Universal music or tunes from a competing other services like Sony Music Entertainment.Read more

IAB releases podcast measurement guidelines -- The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) has released the final version 2 of its Podcast Measurement Technical Guidelines, which (among other things) specify that measurement begins after the graphics/metadata and after a minute of audio has been delivered. "There's also the new specification that the same IP address and user agent...within a 24-hour period is considered the same person, even if they are seen more than once in that time period." Takeaway: The establishment of guidelines means better data for advertisers, who are spending $220 million adding their spots to podcasts. That number will grow as the mainstream adoption of podcasting continues on the same trajectory that we have seen for a decade. Read more

Bloomberg and Twitter launch round-the-clock news coverage -- TicToc is the name of a new streaming news service from Bloomberg offered through Twitter. "The first iteration of TicToc by Bloomberg will feature a mix of live video and reporting from its journalists around the world, as well as breaking news content from consumers, curated and verified by Bloomberg editors with a real-time distillation of the related conversation on Twitter." Takeaway: This is a compelling offering. There are times I'm astounded that, with hundreds of channels available to me via my cable provider, I can't find current news. (CNN has food shows or retrospectives of the 70s, the BBC has a panel discussion, and MSNBC shows prison reality shows, for example.) Knowing I can just open the TicToc account solves that problem. Read more

Facebook drops the hammer on posts that ask for likes and shares -- Facebook posts that solicit likes and shares -- the newest type of clickbait -- will find themselves demoted in the News Feed. "People have told us that they dislike spammy posts...that goad them into interacting with likes, shares, comments, and other actions," according to the Facebook blog. Takeaway: If you were using this dubious tactic, you'd better stop. Read more

Mozilla missteps with Firefox-based promotion -- Some Firefox users found that their browser had installed an add-on without permission. The description of "Looking Glass:" MY REALITY IS JUST DIFFERENT THAN YOURS. It wound up being a promotional tie-in for the TV series Mr. Robot which, ironically, is about vigilante hackers. The add-on was the foundation for an AR game that users can play if they opted in. The company released an update that explained the add-on's purpose and created a support page to further explain it and offered an apology. Takeaway: This is yet another reason to add a step to your communication plan: Close your eyes, project yourself into the post-launch future in which the idea has failed, and ask, "What went wrong?" Read more


  • Amazon filed trademark requests for the names "Amazon Tube" and "Open Tube," suggesting the company may be thinking about launching a new service for users to stream their videos in competition with YouTube. Read more
  • Snapchat is offering a new ad format, letting advertisers animate Sponsored Filters that users can apply to their photos and videos, then share with friends. The first brand to use the animated filter: Dunkin' Donuts. Read more
  • RIP Amazon MP3 locker -- It used to be the place to store your MP3 files in the cloud. These days, with the likes of Spotify and Google Play Music -- and even Amazon's own streaming music service -- storing MP3s isn't much of a need anymore, so Amazon is shutting down its Amazon Music Storage service. Read more
  • Create a rabid fan base and you can have a great time on a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything). Wendy's has a sparkling reputation for its snarky Twitter account, fans of which were kind and curious when the team (whose identities are a closely guarded secret) took to Reddit for an AMA. Some AMA hosts get blistered. Wendy's was asked about their all-time favorite McDonald's roast, all-time favorite tweet, and the tweet they didn't think got as much attention as it should. Answer: When someone suggested the square Wendy's burger was too artificial looking, the answer was, "Unlike the super natural circle shape that hamburgers come in when you pick them off the vine." Read more
  • Facebook is introducing a Snooze button that lets you shut people out of your feed for 30 days rather than taking the nuclear option of unfriending. The feature is currently being tested. Read more

Fake News and Hate Speech

Facebook finds a better way to deal with fake news -- Facebook has been adding "disputed" flags to articles people share that have been proven false, but it wasn't working well, so now the company will offer a better version of its related articles feature. Facebook is also demoting posts featuring fake news to the bottom of the feed, which leads to that post losing 80% of its traffic, which reduces the financial incentive to create it in the first place. Takeaway: The most the easy, quick fixes fail, the harder online services will work to find effective solutions. This will eventually get better as long as the purveyors of fake news don't find new ways to game the system.Read more

Google takes a step to stop fake news -- Sites that hide the country from which they originated will be blocked from appearing in Google search results. "By not including websites that mask their country of origin, Google is effectively burying fake news and reducing its chances of spreading." Takeaway: Good move, Google. It won't hurt anybody (except the wallets of those creating this content) if a Russian publication pretending to be a legitimate U.S. news site can't be discovered in a Google search. Read more

Twitter enforcing new rules -- New rules from Twitter address violence (taking into account offline activity), affiliation with organizations that promote violence, and the use of "hateful images or symbols" in user profiles or biographies, any of which can lead to permanent account suspension.

Twitter will explain why content was blocked -- If a tweet was blocked, twitter will display a message to let you know if compliance with local laws or court orders were the reasons. "Country Withheld Content" includes things like Nazi symbols in Germany, where they are banned. Similar messages will be shown on accounts that have been completely blocked. "All interstitials will link to information about Twitter's policies." Takeaway: Gradually, online services are addressing the content that not only adds a stink to the content they host but also keeps prospective new customers away. For an even more interesting retreat from completely open speech, see the next item. Read more

Twitter can't stand up for all speech -- In 2012, a Twitter executive described the company as "the free-speech wing of the free-speech party." Times have changed. Now another executive says it is "no longer possible to stand up for all speech." She told British politicians that "We do have to take steps to limit the visibility of hateful symbols, to ban people from the platform who affiliate with violent groups -- that's the journey we're on." Takeaway: Idealism is hard when faced with the harsh truths. As the exec said, the company hoped that society would improve as racism, homophobia, and extremism would be challenged through free speech. Any new public service to arise with a free-speech claim will run into the same issues. Read more


Customers want to get service via social media -- Consider this a non-trend among businesses. Despite the fact that nearly 70% of consumers said in 2013 that they have used social media to resolve customer service issues, and more recent research finds that 33% of people prefer to get in touch with brands via social media, and 64% of Millennials believe social media is an effective customer service channel, companies still aren't rising to the challenge. Twitter found that customer service conversations have increased by 250% in the past two years and that 60% of consumers expect brands to respond to queries within an hour. Despite all this, 60% of companies are not formally supporting social customer care. That's nuts, given that 88% of consumers are less likely to buy from companies who don't respond to social media complaints and a failure to respond can lead to a 15% increase in churn rate among existing customers. Let's go further: It costs $1 to respond to an interaction in a social channel, $6 via the phone and about from $2.50 to $5 for email. Takeaway: Looking for a competitive edge? Promote your social media customer support. Get testimonials from customers who have used it. And show how truly awful your competitors are at it.Read more

It's getting harder to find good free third-party content hosting services -- Storify's shutdown made my heart ache. It was a great service with a fantastic interface. It was used by journalists and regular folk alike. But as Stephen Waddington points out, its demise is emblematic of a larger problem: free (and even commercial) social media services as a place to host your content or curation is dicey. Others that have shut down include Posterous (which I also used), Orkut, Google Buzz, and FriendFeed. Takeaway: Stephen says it better than I can: Even though using third-party services is a requirement these days, "we stress the importance of owned channels at the heart of an organisation’s communication. Build your own website, blog, image platform and newsroom. Avoid using rented services for these critical functions and if you do, ensure that you have the ability to export your content and host it elsewhere." Read more

Employers are designing courses for employees -- Tuition reimbursement is a popular employee benefit, but increasingly companies are finding that schools and other education providers don't have the courses their employees need. Instead of waiting in hopes that they'll introduce those courses, companies are creating their own. "Microsoft, Linux and other employers have teamed up with edX, a collaboration started by Harvard and MIT to provide online education that is much easier than brick-and-mortar programs to keep up to date and to disseminate to vast numbers of students simultaneously." Other companies are bypassing schools altogether, working with education-focused companies "to offer training for technology jobs to prospective employees." Takeaway: This is an untapped opportunity for educators not affiliated with a school to create services that can rapidly provide learning opportunities with university-grade rigor that keeps up with technology. Read more


  • Snapchat is still the network of choice for teens in the U.S., with 79% of 13-to-18-year olds maintaining a Snapchat account. 73% have an Instagram account and only 57% say they're on Facebook. If they were stranded on a deserted island, 44% said they'd prefer to have Snapchat with them compared to 24% who picked Instagram. Teens still use the app mainly for messaging, suggesting Stories are more popular with older users. Read more
  • The Henn-Na Hotel in Nagasaki, Japan, is staffed almost completely by robots. It's a vision of what you'll find in most hotels (well, maybe without velocioraptor bellhops) in the future. Automation includes the vacuum cleaners and gardeners, eye-recognition technology instead of room keys, a bedside table butler, and robot-controlled light switches "which track your movements...before clicking on and off and when you need them). Read more


It's almost Christmas, yet you're reading this -- That makes you part of the 22% of workers who plan to take a vacation during the holidays but stay connected with work via email and other means, according to Gallup. Or you're part of the 57% that isn't taking any vacation. Takeaway: The compulsion to stay in touch even when away may be troubling, but it's also an opportunity for communicators to craft messages that make it quicker and easier for employees to touch base...or encourage employees to log off.Read more

Email isn't going anywhere anytime soon -- A study finds that email continues to be essential, important, and entrenched in our daily lives, with 74% of people surveyed choosing email as their preferred communication method for companies or brands to interact with them. And if you think it's just older users who prefer email, consider that 83% of Generation Z respondents believe their email usage will either stay the same or increase in the next five years. The same is true for a majority of Millennials and Gen X respondents. Email is also the overwhelming preference for B2C interactions. Takeaway: Can you hear me sighing? There are more efficient means of communication. We have even made fewer phone calls as texting has become more efficient. But email just. Won't. Die. I have to come to terms with this and figure out how to use it better on the job. Read more

Not much news makes it into your Facebook News Feed -- Half of a group surveyed about their News Feeds saw no news at all in their first 10 posts, not even celebrity gossip of sports scores. Another 23% saw just one news item in those first 10 posts. "Of the 384 total news-related posts that surfaced in my sample, half were shared by someone other than the original publisher, whether by friends or a non-news page (e.g., by a friend in a Deplorables Facebook group, or by a Buffalo Bills fan page). Only 4 percent of the news posts in our sample came directly from publishers, though the range of publishers represented was pretty wide." Takeaway: This is bad news for news organizations but also for companies and agencies still relying primarily on traditional earned media. We know from other research that people increasingly get their news through their feeds. Even someone interested in your organization is unlikely to get stories about you through their feeds. Earned media is still important, but it's time to expand the scope of where you earn that coverage. Getting ambassadors and influencers to share your content, for example, is just a new form of earned media. Read more

Brands are nuts for not delivering customer service via social media -- This CustomerThink article is a wealth of data that should convince the most resistant leaders that social media should be employed for customer service. Just a few data points from the piece: As long ago as 2013, 67% of consumers were using social media for their customer service issues. Nielson found that 33% of customers prefer to contact brands via social media over the phone or email. Microsoft’s 2016 State of Global Customer Service Report found that 64% percent of millennials believe social media is an effective customer service channel. Twitter says customer service conversations had increased by 2.5x in the past two years. Still, most brands don't offer customer service via social media, a decision with consequences. Conversocial research found that 88% of consumers are less likely to buy from companies who leave complaints unattended and Gartner found that failure to respond via social channels can lead to a 15% increase in churn rate for existing customers. But wait! There's more! Gartner also found that dealing with a customer service issue on social media costs less than $1 per interaction, versus $6 per phone call and $2.50-$5 for email. Takeaway: Resistance is futile. If there is any case that can be made for social media, it is for its use as a customer service channel. Read more

Influencer marketing gets complicated -- Millennial trust in influencers is on the wane. Influencer marketing platform Dealspotr also found the demographic is getting more sophisticated in their evaluation of influencers, paying virtually no attention to how many followers the influencer has. Still, they rely more "than ever on lifestyle influencers for fashion ideas and inspiration," more than friends and family. Takeaway: If follower counts helped determine the influencers you targeted, you'll have to get more nuanced. It's not that follower counts don't help identify influencers; you'll just have to go further to identify those who wield genuine influence. Read more

Business gets busy on Messenger -- Two billion messages are being sent each month between businesses and consumers on Facebook's Messenger app. "Businesses are particularly popular with Messenger users in the US, Brazil, Thailand, Mexico, and Vietnam, and Messenger is most popular with businesses in the professional services, retail, local entertainment, public good and media industries." There are currently more than 200,000 chatbots on Messenger, double the number from April (which was when Messenger launched its Discover tab to make it easier for people to find bots and businesses). Takeaway: It has gotten to the point that is irresponsible to not offer customer service via social media and messaging apps are fast becoming the preferred means of accessing social media for most people. Bots are becoming a common way to address some of those inquiries. Read more

Artificial Intelligence, Smart Audio, and Chatbots

Alexa could make meetings better -- It's all just speculation at this point, but with Amazon introducing Alexa for Business, the day could come when participants in a meeting trying to schedule their next meeting could simply say, "Alexa, when is the next time that the four of us can meet for 30 minutes?" The same could happen with Google Home or any of the voice-enabled smart assistants. Such functionality could also eliminate the need for people to bring laptops to meetings, making those meetings more productive. Takeaway: It goes further than this article suggests. Smart audio appliances will eventually eliminate the need for phones and even much of what we rely on intranets to deliver. An employee could say, "Alexa, how many vacation days do I have left?" or "Alexa, what's the top company news today?" Imagine employee communication departments recording a flash news briefing just like NPR, available whenever an employee asks for it. Mark my words: Smart audio is going to be huge in the workplace. Read more

Facebook AI will find you in untagged photos -- Your handsome or lovely mug could be in photos all over Facebook, but you'd never know if someone didn't share it with you. Now, Facebook will use the same AI technology that suggests friends you may want to tag in images you upload to find you in photos even if you haven't been tagged in them. Photo Review won't notify you unless you're in the "intended audience" of the photo. Takeaway: Visual recognition is a growing AI application that could have utility in several businesses that haven't yet given it any thought. How could your business or its customer benefit from being able to find something in particular in a broad range of images? Read more

Get ready for a flood of smart speakers -- Amazon has priced its Echo Dot at $30 (it used to be $50). The pricing made it the best-selling product on Amazon.com over Thanksgiving weekend, but it's also pressuring the competition to lower their prices, too. Takeaway: People who avoided nearly $200 for an Echo are much more inclined to give smart audio a try at $30, which means more people will get accustomed to using them. Ubiquity will be on us soon. Read more


  • Campbell's Soup is refining its ad targeting through IBM Watson, delivering ads with soup recipe recommendations between 3-5 p.m. (when people are considering what to have for dinner) based not only on the weather but the location. Dips in temperature in warmer climates prompt interest in soup, but it takes a snowstorm in typically colder places to "put people in a soup mood." Watson also gets to know the user. If, for instance, someone only looks at vegetarian soups, Watson will start offering only vegetarian recipes. Read more
  • Here's a partnership I didn't see coming for a use I hadn't considered: Microsoft is using AI to improve search results from Bing smarter but is also partnering with Reddit to surface results from the site more effectively. Read more
  • AI-driven smart assistants are mostly used on smartphones, according to Pew Research Center data. Forty-two percent of those who use a virtual assistant do it on a smartphone. Desktops and laptops come in second at 14% and smart audio devices like the Amazon Echo are third at 8%. Read more

Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality

Google kills Tango -- Google has been active in the VR space for some time with its Project Tango. In response to Apple's ARKit, though, Google introduce ARCore. The focus on ARCore has led the company to end support for Tango on March 1. Takeaway: Too bad, since Tango had greater functionality, using your phone's camera "to map out a 3D approximation for an area to create a game world based on your real confines." that's so much cooler than the AR stickers you get out of ARCore (so far).Read more

Magic Leap has an actual product, sort of -- Magic Leap, the AR startup that has attracted more than $1.5 billion in funding, has offered a first look at the Magic Leap One headset, a developer version with no price or release date yet. Its features are not unlike those found in Microsoft's HoloLens, though it is cooler looking (sort of futuristic steampunk). "The device promises to bring new ways to game in your immediate physical space, the ability to fill your surroundings with displays, remote connection with others through hologram-like avatars, new ways to create, etc. But much of the Magic Leap One’s success at doing any of those things will depend on what developers cook up when they finally get there hands on an actual device." Takeaway: With the hype around Magic Leap and a development kit promised for early 2018, Microsoft will want to accelerate its HoloLens efforts. Shrinking the size of the headset would be a good place to start, given the much more compact size of the Magic Leap One. In any case, Mixed Reality is on its way. Read more

Cordless VR is coming -- Using Virtual Reality right now means snapping a smartphone into a headset (which cannot deliver the high-end, processing-intensive experience of more costly systems) or wearing a headset tethered to a computer. That could change as a company called Amimon, which has unveiled a video transmitting solution for Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality with nearly zero latency. While there are wireless solutions (including the recently-announced Oculus Go), this technology would enable the highest-end experiences without wires. Takeaway: One technology not mentioned in this article is Microsoft's Hololens, the headset for which is a Windows 10 computer built right into the hardware. The less complicated headsets get, the more adoption will accelerate. Also needed: lower prices and less cumbersome headsets. Read more

AR could be coming to a hospital near you -- Google Glass has now been used in 15 cardiac surgeries and has been proven feasible, safe, and it "does not interfere with the routine activities performed in the catheterization laboratory by operations." The risk of an adverse event (e.g., a heart attack) is unchanged whether or not Google Glass is used. The surgeon behind the procedure has been invited to speak at multiple conferences, where reaction from others is "curiosity and positivity." Takeaway: I have long maintained that AR will have its biggest initial surge in the workplace. I just never suspected it would be the long-chided Google Glass -- generally considered a failure -- that would make inroads in medicine. Read more


UPS bets big on blockchain -- UPS will join the Blockchain in Transport Alliance, "a forum for the development of blockchain technology standards and education for the freight industry." UPS "wants to be part of the revolution. They want to plan an instrumental role in developing the smart logistics network of the future. And they recognize that if they don't get their foot in the door, someone else will." Not a bad idea given the industry's "crumbling infrastructure prone to systematic inefficiencies and rampant fraud" and intermediaries who drive up the price of shipping. Blockchain "promises to deliver a cheaper and more efficient system of managing logistics." Takeaway: Seriously? UPS? If your organization isn't looking at blockchain, you'll end up being the one that suffers when "someone else" gets their foot in the door. Communicators must get up to speed as you'll be communicating the drastic change blockchain brings to both employees and customers.Read more

Concert ticket sales move to blockchain -- CEEK VR has been around since 2015, selling access to sold-out concerts through its live streaming VR platform. Now the company will offer CEEK tokens to fans so they can see their favorite artists, who will have "the ability to sell unlimited virtual tickets and digital merchandise, creating a...'decentralized VR entertainment Metaverse.'" Takeaway: You just new a mashup of VR and blockchain was inevitable, didn't you? Read more

December 22, 2017
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The latest from the FIR Podcast Network

  • Neville Hobson joined me for the monthly installment of “The Hobson & Holtz Report” to discuss a group of UK newspapers using robots to help write stories; research that found higher engagement for tweets that took advantage of the new 280 character count; Adobe’s announcement that Storify will shut down; how GoFundMe is changing the shape of disaster relief; the flooding of the FCC’s comment server with fake comments; and whether that Netflix was really all that creepy. Dan York reports on Twitter’s new tweetstorm tool, the new ability to follow hashtags on Instagram, and Facebook opening its AR studio to more people. Listen
  • On Passport episode #15: Interview with Leah Shah from Visit Houston and Melvin Tennant from Meet Minneapolis about the planning and execution that goes into hosting the Super Bowl. Houston hosted the Super Bowl in 2017 and Minneapolis will host the Super Bowl in 2018. Listen
  • Can Snapchat be fixed? And when isn’t an apology good enough? Find out on the latest episode of Inside PR. Listen
  • This week's Digital India Podcast had the staff of WMA engage in a discussion / debate about the relevance and importance of certifications. While we shared our thoughts and experiences about how certifications did or did not help us, we also discussed why certifications in digital marketing? Are they really important? Do they justify your skills? Should you take them? Listen
  • In the latest episode of Thought Leader Life, Mitchell and Teresa discuss how thought leaders can make this world a better place by thinking of new ideas and ways to do things. Not everyone is comfortable with change, which is why effective thought leaders need to constantly learn and develop themselves in order to be more influential in their space. Listen An EE Voice listener and friend Laura Field had a terrific suggestion: Pull our top guest tips into one podcast. So here it is. 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. Details
  • On March 14, I'll speak at Ragan's annual social media conference in Orlando. Details
  • I'll speak again at IABC's World Conference in June on the communication implications of an emerging technology. The conference is scheduled for Montreal from June 3-6. Details
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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