HC+T Update: The Low Value of a Like

From: "HC+T Update" <shel@holtz.com>
Subject: HC+T Update: The Low Value of a Like
Date: March 10th 2017

On the Calendar

  • I'm presenting a two-day workshop on social media for representatives of the Asian Development Bank in Manila, The Philippines, on March 23 and 24.
  • I'll deliver a presentation at the annual Ragan Social Media Summit at Walt Disney World on March 27.
  • On March 28, I'll deliver a keynote on virtual, augmented, and mixed reality at the Ragan Social Media Summit.
  • On March 29, I'm delivering a presentation to communicators at to the Cooperative Credit Union Association about how to communicate to employees who may sit on opposite ends of the political divide.
  • I will present my full-day workshop on how to take advantage of the latest developments across the top social networks in New York on May 4. Registration details are forthcoming.
  • For something like the 20th consecutive year, I have been selected as a speaker at the IABC World Conference, taking place in early June in Washington, D.C. Unlike all of my previous talks -- which have focused on a fast-emerging technology that will affect communicators, my 2017 talk will introduce a new model for internal communications.
  • I'm giving multiple presentations at the Professional Speechwriter's Association on how speechwriters can use social and digital media. It's set for Washington, D.C. on October 16.

March 10, 2017
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JetBlue is the top social airline, but number two will shock you -- The 2017 ranking of airlines using social media found JetBlue in first place, no surprise for an airline that has always been an upstart and has been effective in the social space. United Airlines took the second spot and ranked first as the most loved brand among 60 some-odd global carriers. American Airlines was third in the social ranking, followed by KLM and Southwest Airlines. The report assesses the volume of conversation, awareness (based on earned impressions), reach (a measure of owned impressions), net sentiment, and brand impression. The takeaway: If United's ranking as the most intensely loved airline doesn't convince you that engaging effectively in social media can alter the public's perception after your reputation has been dragged through the mud for years, nothing will. Read more

Google will overtake Microsoft as top platform for getting online -- It was once unthinkable, but Android is poised to overtake Windows as the primary operating system people use to access the Internet. Windows currently has 38.6% of the market for Internet usage; Google is breathing down Microsoft's neck with 37.4%. As mobile adoption continues, it won't be long before Android is the main tool for getting online. (In case you're wondering, Apple's iOS represents a little less than 10% of the market.) The takeaway: Plan your communication channels accordingly. Mobile is beating desktop. Read more

Is Amazon introducing a Twitter competitor? -- Twitch, Amazon's game-centric streaming media site, has introduced Pulse, "a place where streamers can post and engage with all of their followers and the greater Twitch community right on the front page." Using Pulse, streamers "can post to their friends and followers with a mix of text, links, images, and videos" that will appear in a reverse-chronological stream. A lot of commentators think that, if Pulse succeeds on Twitch, it could be expanded to take on Twitter, which is extremely vulnerable. The takeaway: There were early competitors to Twitter with names like Plurk, Jaiku, Identi.ca, and Pownce, but Twitter owned the market. Now that Twitter is struggling, somebody doing it better could potentially steal a lot of dissatisfied Twitter users. Stay tuned. Read more

Facebook rolls out fake news solution -- Not much fanfare has been associated with Facebook's introduction of a response to fake news distributed through its network. "The tool identifies links to sites known to produce misinformation," according to Mashable. "The tool cites third-party fact-checking organizations like Snopes and Politifact. The takeaway: Seeing that a source is disputed by Snopes and Politifact may be a reason for Trump supporters to embrace it, since they are already under fire from some corners as liberal-leaning media. For most people, though, knowing the facts of the article someone is sharing are in dispute may help at least raise questions. I like the approach. Read more

Twitter testing warning about profiles with sensitive content -- While Facebook is focused on questionable news sources with its fake-news solution, Twitter is testing a feature that points to users' profiles that might include sensitive content. If you click on one of these profiles from a link on Twitter, or if you visit the profile's page directly, you won't be immediately shown the user's tweets. Instead, a warning message displays, reading 'Caution:" This profile may include sensitive content.'" The takeaway: So far there is some confusion about how these profiles are identified, since some that produced the pop-up didn't reveal anything particularly sensitive. Still, Twitter needs to try everything it can to reduce the amount of vile and hateful content that fills a lot of user's streams, since that's one big reason people abandon the platform. Read more

Consumer privacy on the ropes -- Internet Service Providers (ISPs) could soon legally be allowed to sell customers' browsing data and other private data to advertisers and other third parties. The resolution was introduced to the U.S. Senate with 24 Republican co-sponsors on board. The bill would overturn current rules requiring ISPs to obtain customer permission to share their information. Critics say the bill leaves no agency with clear authority over how ISPs protect data privacy and security. The takeaway: If the bill passes, it could take a while before consumers become aware that their data is being used to pitch them items they don't want in ways they don't want to be reached. Just because advertisers now have access to this data doesn't mean they should use it, though it will be harder to obtain data customers have given their permission to use. Read more

Well, that's one way to deal with a comments section -- Norway's public broadcaster has introduced a tool that tests readers on whether they actually read a story before allowing them to comment on it. They're attributing the feature to a more civil tone in its comments section. The takeaway: I agree with the author of this story that adopting the approach in the U.S. would only provoke rage conveyed on Twitter and elsewhere. But it gets an A for effort. Read more

Google splits Hangouts in two to compete with Slack -- Google has separated its Hangouts tool into two separate apps, one for group messaging and one for video conferencing. Meet is the app for video-conferencing. Chats is the dedicated messaging app for teams that is designed to take on Slack. The takeaway: Because a lot of companies have gone all in with Google business tools, Chats may get some solid adoption. The number of messaging tools from Google, though, is a hot mess (with Messenger, Allo, Voice, and Duo all still available. It's a problem that Google needs to clean up soon. Read more

Pinterest acquires Jelly -- I bet you've never heard of Jelly, but I've been a user since the day it debuted. Launched by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Jelly is a Q&A platform that started as an app, went dark for a while, and re-emerged recently with web integration. (I have been getting questions from Jelly users the system thinks I'm equipped to answer. Sometimes it's even right.) While I enjoyed thumbing through the questions and answers, Jelly was a flop. Now Pinterest has acquired it. Some suspect this was an "acqui-hire," a way to buy Jelly's talent. There's no word yet on how Pinterest will use the platform. Biz Stone will work part-time at Pinterest while his partner, Ben Finkel, will become a full-time Pinterest employee. The takeaway: Yes, I enjoyed Jelly, especially when I could provide a good answer (and even more when the questioner let me know the answer was a good one). On the other hand, it was never a go-to tool and I won't miss it. Read more


Likes aren't worth much -- An acquaintance once unfriended me on Facebook because I didn't like his posts often enough. We argued about the value of a like, with me asserting they were pointless, before hit that unfriend link. Now I have vindication. Researchers from Tulane and Harvard found that liking a brand on Facebook produces no change in behavior or uptick in purchasing -- that is, a like does not produce engagement. "he mere act of endorsing a brand does not affect a customer's behavior or lead to increased purchasing, nor does it spur purchasing by friends," the researchers wrote. However, paying to boost a post does convert likes into meaningful behaviors. The takeaway: Years ago, my friend Katie Paine called likes the digital equivalent of grunts: effortless and meaningless. There's also research that shows the people who like Facebook pages and post tend to click the like button for everything. If you're measuring likes, you may want to rethink your measurement strategy. Read more

Ecommerce no longer a one-device activity -- Almost one-third of ecommerce transactions involve two or more devices, with conversion rates 1.4 times higher for multi-device engagements than ones that happen on a single device. One problem: Retailers are having trouble attributing multi-device engagements; they see the final transaction and record it as having occurred on just that one device. That can lead retailers (according to the study's author) "to misunderstand, undervalue, and ultimately underinvest in users." The takeaway: Knowing where users are frustrated or stymied in a multi-device transaction can make it easier to remove those obstacles. Further, if more than one device is being used a third of the time for transactions, what are the parallels in other online activities? Read more

Women's trust in brands plummets -- We know from Edelman's annual Trust Barometer that trust is reaching all-time lows. Another study from a SheSpeaks -- an influencer company for women -- found that 80% of American women distrust ads. The primary cause of distrust in brands is that they don't live up to the promises they make, according to 61% of the women surveyed. However, "women are convinced that social media keeps brands honest, as it has emboldened consumers to speak their minds about brands. 88% of women believe that companies can't get away with as much as they would like to these days because of it." The takeaway: The biggest data point for me was the fact that 79% of respondents said that the demonstrated commitment by brands to doing the right thing drives a brand's trustworthiness. That's further evidence that we're headed into a values-driven marketplace, and that social media is a key channel for demonstration a company's commitment to its values. Read more

Millennial PR practitioners unprepared to address ethics -- A study by the Arthur W. Page Center and the PRSA Board of Ethics & Professional Standards found that one-third respondents -- all of whom are members of PRSA's New Professionals section -- don't feel prepared to provide ethics counsel to clients. Only 41% said they were familiar with PRSA's Code of Ethics (despite the fact that they're members) and less than half said they were likely to consult the Code. The study also highlighted the role of mentors, as those respondents who felt comfortable talking about ethics with a mentor were more likely to raise ethical concerns. The takeaway: While PRSA suggests the problem could be attributable to new members who weren't members of PRSSA, the student group, but I find the results troubling, especially given PR's position in the post-truth era. Are ethics not being taught in university communication courses? I'm already bothered by the failure of schools to teach critical thinking. Read more


Blockchain poised to disrupt bigly -- Like the Internet, blockchain will have a massive impact that extends far beyond its initial disruption of the financial system. As adoption continues and startups take shape, blockchain will "support a variety of other applications, including smart contracts, asset registries, and many types of transactions that will go beyond financial and legal uses," according to a Harvard Business Review piece penned by MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito and two other MIT researchers. The takeaway: If you think of blockchain as the foundation for Bitcoin, consider that "the primary use and even the values of the people using new technologies and infrastructure tend to change drastically as these technologies mature." Blockchain is important for communicators less because it will change the way they communicate (though it might) and more because it will be the subject of a lot of our communication sooner than you may expect as you explain its effect on your business to customers, partners, employees, and other stakeholders. Read more

Maersk Line experiments with blockchain to track cargo -- The world's largest container shipping company, Maersk Line, is testing IBM's Watson-powered blockchain service in an effort to virtually eliminate paperwork. It takes up to 30 people and over 200 interactions, creating a mountain of paperwork, to move a single container from East Africa to Europe. Maersk Line hopes blockchain can eliminate the paperwork and simplify the process. A customs official uploads a signed document approving a container to the blockchain, which is then visible for everybody else involved could check. IBM has signed up some 400 clients for its service, including Walmart. The takeaway: Customers and others accustomed to laborious processes will be delighted by this change, but it will also need to be communicated to them. For that to happen, companies will need to have communicators on board (or in agencies) who understand how the technology works. Read more

Blockchains can help build trust in supply chains -- That's the headline in a bit of native advertising from IBM, but the point is well-taken. Blockchains "create a permanent and shared record of every transaction associated with an asset (and therefore) create an unbroken chain of trust." The takeaway: Given the decline in trust, companies would be well served to explore blockchain as one remedy. Read more

Mobile and Wearables

Companies will be able to chat directly with customers via WhatsApp -- Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp is testing the ability to allow businesses to engage directly with users. Ultimately, WhatsApp will charge for the privilege. The company will avoid enabling businesses to spam users. WhatsApp is also surveying users about how much they use the app to talk to businesses. The takeaway: With behavior shifting away from people using multiple apps to engagement through a single chat app, companies need to figure out how to reach people who won't be opening their app. It's also an opportunity for more direct, one-to-one engagement if companies can figure out how to make that worthwhile for the customer. Read more

Messenger tests reaction emojis, including "dislike" -- Messenger users included in the test of reaction emojis can reply to messages with one of seven icons, more than are available on Facebook (which owns Messenger). One of these is a "dislike" emoji -- thumbs-down -- which means you can respond with a single tap to a message without going into narrative detail. The takeaway: It may sound trivial and silly, but as a metric for assessing consumer response to a message, it could be pure gold. Read more

Facebook tests secondary News Feed -- Facebook has been testing a secondary News Feed in the beta version of its Android app. You'll see your News Feed where it always has been, but new "Explore" tab will show you a mix of photos, videos, and articles customized based on your interests (especially based on pages you have not liked or followed). Mashable notes that "the Explore tab seems to be a way for users to engage with pages they haven't liked or followed yet." The takeaway: If users tap the tab, marketers could feel pressured to take steps for their content to find its way into the secondary feed. Read more

Forbes is the latest to crib from Snapchat -- Business publisher Forbes' new app features an interface that looks for all the world like Snapchat Stories, something the company freely admitted in introducing the app. Forbes calls the format Cards, but lets readers swipe through stories that are displayed using a large image and headline. Cards can also contain video, infographics, and quizzes. Users swipe up to view the full content. The takeaway: Someday we'll say, "Remember Snapchat? They innovated the Stories format that everybody uses today. I wonder whatever happened to them?" Unless they can innovate something else that is harder for others to copy. Snap Inc.'s shares are trading today at $22.78, down considerably from a high of $27.09 last Friday, reflecting the fact that I'm not the only skeptic. Read more

Snap is losing social influencers -- After feeling that Snap has neglected them, people who create content and wield influence on the platform are leaving and taking their work and fans to other apps, notably Instagram. The takeaway: I am not yet advising anyone to abandon Snapchat, which is still attracting new users -- especially older demographics -- as well as new paid content partners from the media world. But I'm keeping a wary eye on it. The signs are not encouraging. Read more

Enterprise mobile apps are useful but boring, workers say -- A study found only 12% of employees actually use the enterprise mobile apps their companies roll out for everything from benefits and timekeeping to communications. According to the report from ArcTouch, "While respondents overwhelmingly agree that apps help their productivity and efficiency, they are generally underwhelmed by their experience with enterprise mobile apps -- indicating that enterprise apps are not satisfying employee demands for their apps." 85% of respondents said their most-used enterprise app saves them time while 83% said it makes them more productive, but 70% don't consider that most-used app to be intuitive and only 13% said it was elegant. The takeaway: The takeaway: In 2015, Gartner projected that by the end of this year, demand for enterprise mobile apps would grow five times faster than the ability of internal IT organizations to produce them. I'm laughing at everyone who is spending all their time on a desktop-based intranet that is only mobile thanks to responsive design. The world is going mobile and that includes your employees. A desktop-first intranet solution is a dead platform walking. Read more


Start measuring video view-through rates -- There are all kinds of ways to measure whether your online video hit the mark, most of which can be deceiving. According to one source, you should be watching the "view-through rate," also known as "average percent viewed." It reports the average amount of your video viewers watched before leaving. "This will give you an indication of not only how long your video is keeping people's attention for, but how you can best adapt your messaging to how they are interacting with video." For example, if you don't get to your key message until the 16-second mark but people are bailing at an average of 11 seconds, nobody's getting your campaign message. The takeaway: With video expected to account for 74% of all Internet traffic -- accelerated by social media -- employing the right metrics becomes vitally important. Read more

Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality

Facebook introduces 360 photo and video app for Samsung Gear VR -- Since Facebook introduced 360-degree videos and photos, some 25 million immersive photos and 1 million videos have been shared on the social network. To make it easier to access and enjoy them in a fully immersive environment, Facebook has introduced an app available on the Samsung Gear VR headset. Facebook could deploy similar apps for other VR platforms. (Remember, Facebook owns Oculus.) The takeaway: The Gear VR is far and away the most successful VR headset, having sold 2.3 million units by the end of last year, compared to the next-most successful, PlayStation VR, which sold 745,000. Still, that's lower than expected. It's possible that people sharing their Gear VR to look at user-generated 360 images and videos could inspire others to get ahold of a headset, but consumer enthusiasm for VR just hasn't exploded yet. Read more

Shazam unveils AR platform -- You know Shazam, the app that listens to music and tells you the name of the song and artist? The company has introduced an Augmented Reality (AR) platform that will be pitched to advertisers. Users will open their Shazam app to scan codes in order to see AR content on their smartphones. The first campaign, for the Sauza and Hornitas tequila brands, is coming in April in a lead-up to Cinco de Mayo. Scanning an in-store code will trigger a co-branded interactive memory game. The technology -- from London-based Zappar -- can also deliver "AR-enabled product visualizations, 360 videos, 3D animations, and mini-games." The takeaway: The potential for AR is far greater than VR since no headset is required. The question I have is how long the novelty will inspire customers to whip out their phones and open their Shazam app before they dismiss it as just more advertising. It's up to marketers to make the content compelling. Read more

Honda introduces 360 Video with spatial audio -- The ad, touting the new Honda CR-V, allows you to watch different scenes, but it's the spatial audio, which shifts with the movement of the camera's perspective, so it sounds like you're actually there, "hearing a sound coming from a particular direction as you turned your head." The takeaway: Spatial audio will be a common feature as VR technology evolves. I think I'll pop on my Samsung Gear VR headset and see if the video is available in Facebook's new 360 app. Read more

Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots

Are brands cooling on chatbots? -- Facebook says it's refocusing its use of AI after it found bots could only get to 30% of requests without human intervention (that's a 70% bot failure rate). A lot of brands are dropping their bots because they didn't do what they were built to do. Fashion retailer Everlane, for instance, dropped its bot in favor of its traditional email. The takeaway: This doesn't surprise me. A lot of brands rushed bots into the mix that didn't meet a real need or weren't well-conceived. But bots are behind conversation-based engagements which will, mark my words, become the primary interface to everything. A good bot takes a lot of work, not just in the programming and scripting, but in understanding what problem it's designed to solve. Many of the bots that are succeeding are about transacting, not marketing. Read more

Who needs people? Bot-to-bot marketing is coming -- With conversation becoming the primary interface for interactions, a new sub-channel is emerging with bots interacting with other bots in order to fulfill a human's request. For example, when someone asks a bot "to find a hotel room under $450 in Chicago near the loop, (the agent) searches the web" to produce its result. The takeaway: The situation is even more disruptive than this article suggests. Voice appliances like the Echo and Google Home will produce one answer, a single source of truth, severely restricted a company's opportunity to be the provider of that answer. It's no longer good enough for SEO to get you on the first page of results. You need to be the top result. That requires, among other things, a sterling reputation for delivering great information. Read more

Amazon launches program to nurture AI ideas, talent in universities -- Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and a host of others are investing heavily in Artificial Intelligence. Amazon was an early entrant with its Alexa platform. Now the company has launched a program to help university-level students build capabilities into Alexa, a move designed to nurture ideas and talent in AI research. Amazon told Reuters it is paying for a year-long doctoral fellowship at four universities. The Alexa Fund Fellows "will help students tackle complex technology problems in class on Alexa, like how to convert text to speech or process conversation." The takeaway: The war for talent is going to heat up. If you have a college-bound tech-inclined child, you could do worse than steer them toward cognitive computing, machine learning, and other AI-based disciplines. The number of jobs in that field is going to explode. Read more

The latest from the FIR Podcast Network

  • Phil Gomes and Sherrilynne Starkie join Shel Holtz for this week's episode of For Immediate Release, discussing Snap Inc.'s IPO, whether blockchain can help companies rebuild trust with consumers and other stakeholders, and publishers are far more effective on social media than brands. Shel also explains the "30" signoff he uses at the end of each episode. Dan York reports on the Amazon Web Services outage. Listen
  • In the newest FIR Interview, CrowdCompanies founder Jeremiah Owyang joined me for an interview about his new research report on how companies are addressing the need to innovate. Listen
  • On the latest YouTubular Conversations, Harry Hawk discussed YouTube's plans to offer live streaming TV. This lets them go head to head with Cable TV networks. YouTube are offering this service on a regional basis so it doesn’t sound like it will be universally available. An account costs $35 a month, and includes unlimited DVR storage for 6 different family members. Listen
  • On episode 92 of Digital India: Local businesses are optimizing for words like "near me," "nearest" and "nearby." Which is challenging and difficult to incorporate meaningfully. But according to an article on Search Engine Watch from March 2016: "near me" searches doubled in 2015-16. Listen
  • A number of examples of when PR pros can make turn the most even-tempered reporter into a foul mood, such as with misunderstanding what "off the record" means, or badgering us with unneeded, unhelpful or self-serving emails, or do a lousy job with newsjacking. Get the story from Paul Gillin and David Strom on episode 68 of FIR B2B. Listen
  • On The Voice (by IABC Ottawa), two Hacking Health members share their remarkable progress over the last five years. Listen

If everybody's a communicator, everybody needs training

My two-day workshop for the Asian Development Bank in Manila later this month is for external relations officers from various missions working in missions throughout the region. They aren't social media experts, but social media is an increasingly important channel. My job is to help them figure out how to use it best to achieve the goals of their missions. I can do the same for your organization's staff who don't have a social media background. Let's talk.
HC+T provides a full range of services for large organizations, from speaking and training to communication audits and strategic plan development.

Visit us at Holtz.com.

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