HC+T Update: I Love Social Media! I Hate Social Media!

From: "HC+T Update" <shel@holtz.com>
Subject: HC+T Update: I Love Social Media! I Hate Social Media!
Date: January 12th 2018

The stories I have chosen to include here are drawn from those I saved to my link blog, which you are welcome to follow.


Facebook News Feed will focus even more on friends and family -- Like it's not hard enough getting your company's posts to appear in a Facebook user's News Feed, the company is introducing "sweeping changes" to what its members see, prioritizing posts and comments from friends and families "while de-emphasizing content from publishers and brands." Takeaway: Later in this update, you'll read that Facebook is the overwhelming preference for people who share their life's moments, and social media is the preferred channel, more than texts, the phone, or face-to-face. You cannot ignore Facebook, but increasingly, you must either make your page or group a destination or pay to be seen.Read more

LinkedIn's newest challenger: tinder -- The group that owns hookup app tinder is taking on LinkedIn with a new professional networking app called Ripple. "With a familiar swiping action and the focus on the person's photo (something LinkedIn has always shrunken down so small you wonder if you're connecting with the right John Smith sometimes), Ripple feels more like a messaging app than LinkedIn as you set up and start using your account. It's linked to your phone number, then your personal profile first and foremost. Only later does your CV come into it, something LinkedIn started with." Takeaway: LinkedIn has held domain over professional networking for years and Microsoft's acquisition of LinkedIn seemed only to solidify that lead. Maybe it's time for a competitor, though Ripple faces huge challenges (the network is only as good as the number of users it has). I'll give it a try, though. Read more

Users aren't happy with Snapchat redesign -- The changes Snapchat promised last year are rolling out and users are complaining that the redesign has made the app more confusing. "One of the biggest criticisms surrounds the redesign of the old Stories page, which you used to be able to access by swiping left on the main camera screen." Takeaway: Snapchat's stock has already earned some terrible ratings from analysts even as some features continue to prove valuable for brands. The NBC News show on Snapchat's Discovery is attracting a healthy number of views, for example. Still, Snapchat is in trouble and the woes it's racking up will continue to outpace its wins. Read more

Facebook testing local news section -- Facebook is testing a section of its mobile app called "Today In," which will be filled with local news, events, and announcements. The company is employing machine learning to identify content for the section, with local news publishers whose content appears in the feed will be approved and vetted by the Facebook News Partnerships team. Takeaway: If this takes off, the new media relations hack will be pitching news that meets the algorithm's criteria for making it into the section. Read more

The politics of geography can bite you in the ass -- The Chinese government punished Marriott International by shutting down access to its website for a week after the chain listed Tibet and Taiwan as separate countries in a customer questionnaire. Takeaway: I was doing work with an Asian company and found a generic map of Asia to use as a background for a PowerPoint deck. It showed Taiwan as a separate country, and I was called on it. It hadn't even occurred to me to look. If you're working internationally, these kinds of issues should be top of mind. If you're doing business in China, awareness of the political sensitivities around Taiwan and Tibet should never come as a surprise. Read more

A look at secret Snapchat data -- Snapchat keeps most of its data secret, but The Daily Beast has gotten its hands on five months of Daily Active User numbers and the picture isn't pretty. Snapchat is used mostly as a chat app, with the features Snapchat touts (like Snap Maps) failing to get significant uptake; only 11% of the app's DAU base -- 19 million users -- checks Snap Maps daily. Only 20% consumed content from a Discover Edition (where publishers like NBC News post updates) every day. Takeaway: Snapchat's share price reflects disappointment with the app's ability to attract and retain a sizable audience. I'd still recommend some kind of presence if your audience is millennial or Gen Z aged, but really, the outlook is grim. Read more


  • Google plans to review top-tier YouTube videos that it includes in bundles for big advertisers, part of an effort to improve brand safety. Read more
  • An emoji update could let you change the direction an emoji faces. Your car emoji, for instance, could face to the right instead of the left...or two dogs could face each other. Users have been wanting this change for some time. Read more
  • Twitter is verifying users again. There hasn't been much fanfare over the restart of the process, which was halted after some white nationalists were verified while others couldn't get the coveted blue mark. Read more
  • Google has bought a UK company that can turn your phone display into a speaker, eliminating the need for small speakers in tablets and smartphones. Read more


Bringing employees to the Customer Experience -- Too many companies that feel compelled to improve the Customer Experience (CX) are focused on website overhauls, app development, digital marketing, and other customer-facing initiatives. There's much, much more to CX, though, and employees play a big part in most of them. Yet employees are increasingly disengaged, which does more harm to CX efforts than all the predictive analytics in the world. According to one expert, "A business can no longer operate thinking its inner workings will not be exposed to the external world. Your consumers and customers can also easily look inside. They can see your people and how they feel; your processes and whether they are modern and fair; your values and whether you ‘walk the walk’; and your culture – the good, bad and ugly." It is time -- as Edelman CEO Richard Edelman said a year ago -- to put employees at the center of the model -- along with the customer. That is, start thinking in terms of a customer/employee-based integrated experience. Takeaway: Companies that focus on people -- customers and employees as part of an ecosystem -- will win.Read more

10 audio marketing trends -- Audio continues to find a new, higher level in the communication ecosystem. Some of the trends expected to gain traction in the months ahead include "earcons," audio icons that signal an event or relay other types of information. "While most people think of earcons as silly sound effects, they’re becoming an effective branding tool and a replacement for traditional sonic logos." Also: interactive audio, audio-based experiential brand activations, and playlist marketing. Takeaway: I still don't hear communicators talking much about audio, yet as I sit on a BART train at this moment, I see well over half of those on the train with me sporting earbuds or headphones. It's time for somebody to offer a class or conference session on audio that goes beyond podcasting. An audio marketing blog would also be a great idea for somebody to start. Read more

Airlines embrace social media for customer service -- The failure of business to adopt social media channels for customer service is a recurring theme here. Research makes it clear that people want it. Ignoring it is likely to harm your reputation and sales while advantaging your more savvy competitors. At least one industry is figuring it out, though. Given the number of viral videos emerging from airline incidents, airlines have taken to social media to head off fast-spreading hits to their reputations. JetBlue and Virgin America respond to complaints and queries on Twitter in under 5 minutes, Alaska Air in just a bit more than 5 minutes, and Southwest in about 6-1/2 minutes. A United spokesperson said, "We recognize that oftentimes social media is the most convenient way for customers to interact with us and we are continuing to work hard on a daily basis to improve our response time." United, whose response time is over an hour and a half, plans to grow its social media response team by 150%. Takeaway: Why the ubiquitous adoption of social media for rapid customer service response is taking so long to take root baffles me. Read more

Color me surprised -- Did you have any idea at all that adults are spending a growing number of hours coloring on their phones? Coloring apps -- like adult coloring books -- are getting more and more popular, leading brands like Kellogg's to create their own. Takeaway: There could be opportunity here. What does your company make that could be turned into another tool stressed out adults could use to relax? It doesn't have to be product. It could be locations, logos, and more. I wouldn't advise this as a marketing approach for, say, Deloitte, but right now I'm sitting on a BART train. Why not BART trains or the cities it serves? Read more


Do you love your social media channel or wish it would die? -- Social media channels like Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook have legions of fans. They also have legions of haters. A Harris Poll found that while only 11% of Americans are unfamiliar with Twitter, they're fairly evenly split over whether investment should be made in it to help it thrive (43%) or if it should be killed off (46%). Thirty-two percent of Americans harbor ill will for Facebook while 64% want to see it thrive. Takeaway: I talked about this poll with Sprinklr's Marshall Kirkpatrick for Monday's episode of "For Immediate Release." Be sure to listen in. Among other things, Marshall suggested that we, as a society, need to better understand how to use these tools, which would result in more affinity for them.Read more

Is it time to stop pitching TV news? -- When prioritizing whom you'll pitch in hopes of securing earned media coverage, you may want to drop TV news a little further down your list. Pew Research reports that just half of Americans get their news regularly through TV news, down a whopping 7% from a year ago. The biggest drop came in the local TV category (as opposed to national or cable), but local TV news still commands the largest audience. Takeaway: Behaviors are changing rapidly and traditional TV will continue to suffer. It won't vanish, but it needs to find its level. Consider NBC News, which now produces a twice-daily show just for Snapchat's Discover section. Read more

The choice for sharing life's milestone moments: social media -- A survey found that 79% of U.S. consumers prefer to share their life milestone events on social media, while 75% like text and 71% like phones. "Facebook is the platform they use to share these milestones, with 94% of respondents saying it was their preferred platform. Almost all social Americans prefer to share their life updates via social than face-to-face." Takeaway: The opportunities to engage with consumers on a personal, one-on-one level is huge in light of this data, especially if someone mentions your brand (or a similar one) in their post, which about 20% do. Read more

Measuring employee performance works (when done right) -- "Employees who strongly agree that their manager holds them accountable for their performance are 2.5 times more likely to be engaged in their job, according to Gallup research. And employees who feel adequately recognized are half as likely as those who don't to say they'll quit in the next year." If managers do it wrong, though, employees focus on whether their manager can be trusted and is able to assess their performance. Takeaway: Recognition for performance is a vital form of communication and managers are always touted as one of the most critical communication channels in the organization. Getting performance measurement right is important and employee communicators can help. Read more

More evidence supporting the values-driven marketplace -- Two-thirds of consumers want brands to use their influence to shape social and political discussions, with 58% indicating they're most receptive to companies using social media for these conversations. More liberals than conservatives support the idea that brands are credible when they take political stands, but still, nearly half of conservatives agreed with the notion. Nearly 30% of respondents say they applaud brands publicly when they take a stand that aligns with their personal beliefs. Takeaway: If anyone has seen data that supports a counter narrative, please send me a link. This is just the latest in what amounts to dozens, if not hundreds, of data points that create a mandate for companies to stand up for what's they believe is right for society. Read more

Artificial Intelligence, Smart Audio, and Chatbots

You'll read what we want you to read-- An AI-based attack has been developed that targets speech-to-text systems, producing text that says whatever the attacker wants it to regardless of what the audio input was. Takeaway: Don't worry just yet. The attack was created by UC Berkeley computer scientists. But it's another item to add to the AI "worry" column.Read more

Smart speakers now in one out of every six homes -- One in six Americans own a smart speaker, according to updated research from NPR and Edison Research, up 128% from a year ago. Eleven percent own an Amazon Alexa device while 4% own a Google Home product. Sixty-six percent of smart speaker owners use their devices for entertainment, but it's what the devices are replacing that is particularly interesting. Thirty percent of owners say the device is replacing time spent with TV, 34% say it's replacing time spent with a smartphone, and 39% say it's replacing time spent with traditional AM and FM radio. More than half of respondents are using it more than they did during the first month of ownership. Takeaway: Edison has the best research on this subject and the data are compelling. Based on the very few communicators I talk to who are exploring how to use these devices, I plan to continue harping on it. Once again, we are falling behind and will be playing catch-up later while non-communicators start doing this work instead of us. Read more

Facebook introduces Amazon Echo Show competitor -- Facebook is readying a video chat device called "Portal" designed to go head-to-head with Amazon's flagship Alexa video device, "Show." Like the Show, Portal will be controlled with voice commands. It will be Facebook's first hardware device. Takeaway: Whether Facebook can eat into Amazon's commanding voice-appliance lead is an open question, but the fact that Facebook sees a future in voice-controlled devices rather than desktops, laptops, and smartphones is revealing. Read more

Google declares war on Alexa at CES -- The Consumer Electronics Show, by all accounts, was dominated by voice-activated devices. But no company was so gung-ho on the category as Google. In the company's first appearance at CES with a dedicated booth in several years, Google has also bought several large-scale ads around the city to promote its voice products, ranging from Google Assistant (on phones) to Google Home (its appliance), both of which are activated with the words, "Hey, Google." According to one report, "Even within my first six hours of being in Vegas, I saw AI assistants (like Google and Amazon Alexa) packed into what are normally dull household items like smoke alarms, bathroom mirrors, and shower heads." Takeaway: The tipping point for voice-activated devices will come with consumer adoption of these devices, not all of which will flourish. (Voice-activated toilets? Really?) But the tipping point is inevitable sooner rather than later. As the AI behind these systems improves, so will their utility. If you're not already planning communication through such devices, internally or externally, you're already behind the curve. Read more

Amazon introduces Alexa Mobile Accessory Kit -- The software package will make it easier for developers to add Alexa to smart watches, fitness trackers, headphones, and other wearables. "Devices that manufacturers build with the Alexa kit will connect directly to the Alexa Voice Service through the Alexa App for Android and iOS on the customer's mobile device." Developers can get their hands on the kit later this year. Takeaway: I wrote over a year ago that voice will be the interface to everything. This more or less seals that deal. Read more


  • Google has sold a Google Home device every second -- Since October 19, the day the Google Home Mini went on sale, Google says it has sold a Google Home device every second, or roughly 7.5 million devices. Google also announced that its voice-activated Google Assistant runs on some 400 million devices. Read more
  • Starting in the Spring, Microsoft will make an app available for Windows 10 machines that let users access Amazon's Alexa from their computers. The app will only work on computers with microphones that are capable of far-field voice recognition. HP and Lenovo are among those that will bring Alexa to their products. Read more
  • As I just said, you're behind the curve if you're not planning to produce content for voice devices. Fortunately, the Content Marketing Institute has published a short introductory guide. Read more


Kodak shares soar on blockchain announcement -- Kodak's value leapt nearly half a billion dollars on news that the iconic photography company would create a blockchain based service to give photographers more control over their photos. The distributed ledger will maintain records of ownership and let people pay for the rights to use those photos using KODAKCoin, a cryptocurrency Kodak will offer in partnership with WENN Digital. Takeaway: If you've been wondering how a communicator might use blockchain, here's a completely understandable application. Through a web-based front-end, you'll be able to browser photos and then pay for the one you want to use on your website with KODAKCoin (which you'll buy online and keep in a digital wallet), guaranteeing that the photographer gets the payment. This would eliminate the need for middleman services like Shutterstock and Dreamstime. (Kodak will also rent out coin mining rigs to people who want to make money helping maintain the distributed ledger, but they'll have to pay half their profits to Kodak for the privilege.)Read more

January 12, 2018
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The latest from the FIR Podcast Network

  • This is a landmark episode of “For Immediate Release.” It’s the first show of 2018, the beginning of our 14th year of podcasting, and the introduction of a new, faster-paced format with a shorter overall runtime. Joining host Shel Holtz for some quick conversation in addition to other stories are Gini Dietrich (on Snapchat’s new feature that lets you embed Snapchat Stories anywhere on the web), Paul Barton (on the increasing focus companies are placing on employee experience, or EX), and Olivier Blanchard (on just how much chatbots and smart audio will become part of our daily lives in 2019). Listen
  • On Inside PR: The limits we should apply to sponsored content, new models for journalism and the possibility that local journalism may be linked to a more traditional blue collar model than it is to the television-fueled celebrity salaries of recent years. Listen
  • Digital India begins the new year with its 135th episode: Vloggers – Not just Digital Marketing Vloggers but here are some of the Vloggers you might want to check out. In this week’s podcast Aman, Siddhi, Pooja, and Suresh shared some of the Vloggers you might have to follow. Listen
  • What’s ahead for B2B sales and marketing in 2018? Justin Shriber, Vice President of Marketing for LinkedIn Sales and Marketing Solutions, put together a series of predictions, and in this discussion he expands upon them and tells of the role that LinkedIn will play. It's all on FIR B2B episode 87. 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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