Tuesday Afternoon Quarterback: August 23, 2016

The Olympics are over, though the second-guessing and grumping about NBC’s coverage continues. The New York Times buys an experiential agency. And despite the assurances from Millennial-courting writers and brands seeking their But Really, We ARE Cool – Trust Us! Badge, a majority of marketers don’t think emojis are appropriate in business settings. Here we are with your guide to the important marketing, content, and digital stories of the past week or so: Tuesday Afternoon Quarterback.

Rio Olympics: The Brand Winners And Losers (Digiday, 8/19)

Not surprisingly, the big loser out of the Rio games was Ryan Lochte, the swimming bro-tool who decided that Rio provided him an excellent platform to hone his storytelling skills. (Sarcastic note to content marketers: while I am a big proponent of storytelling, your storytelling has to basically involved truth in order to be effective.) But I didn’t see any positive discussion about NBC’s coverage of the Games – and true to observation, NBC are listed among Rio’s big losers in this piece. To an extent, covering the Games in the US is a thankless gig;  a lot of people go into the Olympics gunning to bark about the coverage. Still, NBC gave the critics ammunition – between its demeaning coverage of female athletes, its emphasis on pre-packaging the Olympics as a collection of soap opera stories, and its failure to fully adjust to digital reality. (I wrote last week about how to change Olympic coverage for the better.)

It will be interesting to see if the increased visibility and online engagement for the brands listed as “winners” will reap ongoing benefit; will Kellogg’s see sales of Special K Red Berries increase? Did Coca-Cola experience a sales spike during the Rio Games? The two other brands listed as “winners” won not through mentions or share of voice, but via tactics. GE continues to lead just about every big brand in how it successfully adopts digital technologies to tell stories and make itself relevant even in storylines where their involvement is not readily apparent to a general audience.

But to me, the trailblazer may well have been Under Armour. The apparel company might just have given brands a playbook on how to best capitalize on the Olympics without getting caught up in the IOC’s draconian Rule 40 regulations or paying through the nose to the IOC for sponsorship:

Continue reading “Tuesday Afternoon Quarterback: August 23, 2016”

On Gawker’s Demise

In case you missed it… Gawker.com is ceasing operations this week.

The news has generated a lot of commentary online — much of it warning of the dangers presented to journalism as a result of this case. Some are even painting Gawker as victims in this case of a mean old Mr. Potter-like billionaire, Peter Thiel (the PayPal founder whom Gawker had outed as gay in 2007). The warnings have gone up about the influence wealthy individuals can have on the process of journalism, and the influence of money on justice when journalistic rights are concerned.

Well, I’ll say it, because not everyone’s been willing to: Gawker editorial leadership were horrible people who made the profession of journalism look awful. They made involuntarily outing people for sport and clicks their stock and trade, and they didn’t care whose lives they ruined in the process. Far too often and on most days, Gawker leadership and the editors of its publications badly confused snark for wit, and mistook jerkishness for “hard-nosed journalism.”  As all the pieces mourning Gawker’s demise and warning of chill effects get published, let’s not lose sight of something: Gawker’s raison d’etre was humiliating people for fun and profit.

Even the cases that would eventually cost them their existence were based on trying to humiliate and embarrass another human being — be it outing Peter Theil a decade ago, or the publishing of Hulk Hogan’s private sex tape. Gawker didn’t care about the impact they had on anyone’s life, so long as it generated clicks. Gawker justified its reporters’ behavior under a weak and phony rationale that no one (except Nick Denton, apparently) is entitled to secrets or a private life; everything is a matter of public interest if a self-proclaimed “journalist” says it is, in the Gawker world.

That justification is a lousy and unaccepted excuse. Gawker’s leadership and editorial staff were bullies of the worst order, pure and simple. They hid their behavior behind the shield of the First Amendment, justifying their conduct and vindictiveness like the schoolyard bully who says his wedgies, threats, and mockery were “just a joke.” Many of Gawker’s vendettas and crusades against their targets had nothing to do with the public interest journalism is supposed to serve; the modus operandi was simply to generate traffic through salaciousness, no matter the cost to the individuals placed in the Gawker spotlight. I am not mourning the loss of Gawker.com; I have a healthy case of schadenfreude about seeing its leadership suffer.

And yet…

There is something admittedly disconcerting about the way Gawker went down. Peter Thiel demonstrated the Trump principle: if tie your adversaries up in court for so long that they can’t afford to continue the fight, you win. And while no one — and I do mean, no one — should mourn the demise of Gawker.com itself, you have to be concerned about the dynamic that was demonstrated in this case. As USA Today put it, “Money talks. Sometimes louder than speech.”

While I will never argue that the First Amendment was intended to protect a bully’s right to torment people (as Nick Denton and his staff did regularly), I am concerned about the precedent. What happens if another moneyed billionaire — say, the Koch Brothers or George Soros — decides they don’t like what’s being published about them or causes dear to them? Did Peter Thiel just provide a playbook to billionaires on how to shut down unfavorable coverage or a journalistic outlet whose editorial outlook they find distasteful? Could we be entering an era in which the moneyed can’t just “buy coverage,” but can shut down and darken any spotlight that shines upon them, simply through superior financial firepower?

Is it important, as some have suggested, to take a stand here on behalf of journalism — even yellow journalism — so that the kill ’em-through-dragging-out-the-courts precedent isn’t set in stone?  Is this a case where we should invoke the famous Niemoller quotation, “First They Came…” and worry that if we don’t speak when “they” come for Gawker,  there will eventually be no one left to speak for the Washington Post, New York Times, or Wall Street Journal?

For me, the answer lies in a hard truth: It’s hard to defend Gawker.com. This is kind of like having to be vocal about opposing the death penalty when confronted with the case of a confessed serial killer who is on death row… does disdain for the subject of the case override one’s principles about the overarching issue?

In the end, I don’t think this case will have this kind of long-term, first-they-came impact. Gawker simply didn’t have enough allies; there were lots of people in the rest of the media and in corridors of power who were disgusted by its M.O. — the Washington Post ran a column last July titled “Gawker Is Keeping Its Sleaze Game In Shape,” just as one example — and no one really wanted to put money or their own reputation on the line to protect what Gawker represented to them, or to defend the posting of a sex tape with no actual news value.  Despite Nick Denton’s repeated attempts to paint himself as the bullied victim of a bad guy vindictive billionaire, too many people just really believed that Denton and Gawker had this coming. It seems to me that many people may have felt that Thiel was justified. I’m not the only one experiencing a little schadenfreude, this much seems clear.

But should a similar case ever arise against a more reputable, more decent bunch of people who practice journalism in the actual public interest? I think you’d see think tanks, journalism schools, interest groups and activists jumping into the fight, both financially and via the tone of their editorial coverage. I think if the Thiel playbook were implemented against actual journalism, the case would become such a cause celebre that a similar progression would be unlikely.  To me, anyway.

I’m certainly not a legal scholar, and I don’t claim any special expertise here. It’s just one guy’s opinion about one case, one publisher, and one editorial staff. I’d like to know your thoughts… if this case had involved an outlet that was easier to defend, do you think the result might have concerned more people?  And do you think the Thiel playbook sets a precedent that concerns you?

 

 

 

 

Wednesday Afternoon Quarterback: August 17, 2016

I’ve committed the cardinal digital publishing sin in the past few weeks: I haven’t been publishing regularly since about mid-July. I had a few personal commitments over the past few weeks and have been heads-down on some new business. And of course, people are busy with their own summer holidays in July and August, right? Yes, I know that this is not a good reason to stop posting for as long as I have – but it’s the only reason I have. Sorry to have been dark lately. Now, on with the show…

Meet Google Duo (Google Blog, 8/16)

Google has finally made its play in the one-to-one video calling space that has until now belonged to FaceTime and Skype. Working against Duo: proliferation of video calling features, audiences that have settled into their video calling habits, the fact that Duo is not an auto-install… and perhaps Google’s own unfortunately scattered history with apps and platforms that stray from its core competency. In its favor: the ability to switch seamlessly between WiFi and cellular connections without dropping the call, a less cluttered interface, better call quality (so Google claims), the ability to make video calls between Android and iOS devices (something FaceTime cannot do), and perhaps most intriguingly, a feature called “Knock Knock,” which allows you to see a caller before you pick up — perhaps allowing you to decide whether you want to answer them right now. Time will tell if Duo can make a dent in one-to-one video calling, but at least Google has gotten into the game.

The War Between Platforms And Adblockers Goes On…

(USAToday, 8/9; Business Insider, 8/11)

Red Sox vs. Yankees. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant.  Greasers vs. Socs. And lately, joining the classic list of antagonistic rivalries: Web information platforms vs. ad blockers. The war has been on for more than a year now. In the red corner: information providers — news outlets, even social media platforms — who argue that advertising allows them to publish ‘free’ to the web, and that ad blocking is nothing short of an armageddon that threatens the very existence of the free Web. In the blue corner, ad blocking software providers and users who consider advertising and marketing on the web to be at best an unwelcome intrusion, and who are determined to keep ads from being part of their experience.

Facebook joined the fray a week ago, announcing that it would begin making it harder for ad blockers to work on the desktop version of its platform. While many ad blockers aren’t as effective on Facebook on mobile devices, the social network is obviously taking the threat to its greatest revenue source very seriously — even listing ad blocking as a risk during its most recent quarterly filing. Facebook’s tagging in to this fight signals the arrival of a potent ally to publishers aiming to protect their revenue sources.

But within two days, the ad blocking community had developed and implemented a workaround.  AdBlock Plus posted on its blog just 48 hours later that it had added a new filter that will tell its software to continue blocking ads on Facebook.

I think we’re all half-expecting someone to pull Zuck aside and say, “They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way!”

Twitter Expands Moments To Brands And Influencers (BrandChannel, 8/9)

Is this another anxious attempt by Twitter to generate ad revenue from brands? Is it an admission that Moments as currently constituted isn’t really working and therefore it might as well transition to being an ad platform? Is it just that storytelling or variations on it is the most effective way to communicate, and brands and Twitter have figured out that this is the best way to do this on Twitter’s platform? If you rep a brand that’s active on Twitter, this bears watching.

Twitter’s Share Of US Social Network Users Is Dropping (eMarketer, 8/15)

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I wish the news for Twitter was a little more encouraging; beating up on Twitter has taken on all the challenge of beating up Punch Out!s Glass Joe. But alas, eMarketer has revised its projections for 2016, suggesting only a 2% increase in active users for Twitter in the US. (eMarketer had previously projected an 8% increase.) eMarketer is also now projecting that Twitter will actually lose share of social network usage through 2020. Most concerning, perhaps, is the projection that Twitter usage within the 12-17 age group will remain stagnant through 2020 — so as users progress from adopting a platform, getting adept at it, and then eventually making it into the coveted buying demographic brands pay big bucks to target… they’re not really going on Twitter, which means they won’t be going on Twitter as 18-24 year olds either.  Meanwhile, upstart platforms like Snapchat and Instagram continue to gain users more quickly and add share. It’s possible that Twitter’s days as a mainstream platform (as opposed to a niche platform) might be drawing to a close. (I am not suggesting that Twitter is going away… only that it could be approaching the end of its lifecycle as a pop culture phenomenon.)

Inside Twitter’s 10 Year Failure To Stop Harassment (BuzzFeed, 8/11)

Of course, another contributing factor to Twitter’s decline is that for many users, Twitter is not a friendly destination nor a comfortable experience. Much has been written in the past about bullying and harassment that happens on Twitter — from the #Gamergate debacle, to racist and sexist tweets driving actress/comedian Leslie Jones off the platform in the aftermath of the release of the Ghostbusters re-do, to countless examples of Anonymous attacks and doxxing incidents. (Abuse always seems loudest and most violent and hateful when directed at women; the history of trolling, threats and misogyny on Twitter is long and painful.)

But perhaps never has there been as damning a look at Twitter’s failure to effectively combat — or even really try to stop — bullying and harassment on its platform as this week’s feature on BuzzFeed. The platform’s (largely male) founding core see themselves as defenders of a bastion of free speech, even when such speech is unpopular… but even when Twitter leadership recognizes that some conduct crosses the line, the organization is just not prepared to effectively respond or take steps to combat or end that conduct.

If you’re interested in a case study on how an organization can fail to respond to one of its biggest threats — or if you’re concerned about online bullying — this is an unfortunate must-read.

FTC To Crack Down On Paid Celebrity Posts That Aren’t Clear Ads (Bloomberg, 8/5)

For heaven’s sake, you’d think brands and their agencies would have gotten the message by now; the FTC’s only been warning us and harping on disclosure requirements since 2009. And yet, we in marketing never seem to learn. (To be fair, I’ve certainly run across my share of bloggers and influencers who didn’t want to clearly disclose that they were being compensated, because they thought it might “cost them credibility” with their audiences. Sigh.)

We in marketing can decide that we do not like the rule. We can argue that clearly labeling a celebrity’s post as an ad or making clear that they’ve been paid to post might make them seem less authentic or lessen their impact. But: a) the rules are the rules, whether we like them or not, and disliking a rule does not relieve us of our responsibility to follow it; b) if as advertisers or marketers we think that our work, if clearly labeled as our work, is not effective or authentic… we have a bigger problem requiring a deeper look in the mirror than just some FTC guidance. If our industry believes that the only way we can be impactful is to cloak our footprints or even to deceive audiences about the fact that we’re involved with something… it doesn’t say a lot about how we see our own work, much less how audiences see us. We can do better — and every poorly, unclearly, or deceptively disclosed compensated influencer post just discredits our industry further and exacerbates the very problem we’re trying to work around.

Anyway, the takeaway here is that the FTC puts the onus on brands and agencies to make sure the clear disclosures are happening — either through the content we draft for the influencer or in the follow-up we do with an influencer writing on their own.

Facebook’s Changing The News Feed Again To Make It More “Informative” (Marketingland, 8/11)

Three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and Facebook News Feed algorithm changes. This time, the changes are intended to make your news feed more informative — the hope is that the change means you’ll see more news stories or how-to pieces in your feed, and fewer videos of cats that look unhappy or the latest sad Keanu face. As a user, this should make you happier. As a brand manager who’s responsible for trying to get your brand’s content in front of more Facebook fans and users? Well, if you’re already focused on producing quality, smart content, this algorithm change shouldn’t impact you too greatly; informative, solid, intelligent content should in theory be boosted by this algorithm change. On the other hand, if your strategy is built around “real-time marketing” and hitching your brand to whatever meme or trending topic seems most open to brandjacking, you might be in for a rough patch. (Of course, if that’s your strategy, you probably weren’t hitting many of your actual business objectives anyway, but that’s another story.)

Blab Is Dead… Long Live Blab (Blab Medium, 8/13)

The fact that a podcasting/livestreaming platform has shut down isn’t necessarily the big takeaway from this story – although the rapid decline of Blab does indicate how quickly fortunes can turn in this volatile space. But Blab founder Shaan Puri was constructively candid about what went wrong, and one of his top conclusions is informative and instructive for brands looking to build out live streamed content.

“#1: Most Livestreams Suck.

Of the 3.9 million total users, only 10% (~400,000) came back on a regular basisWhy?

Because most live streams aren’t interesting enough to justify stopping what they are doing to watch your broadcast.”

This candid assessment of why his livestream platform failed is mighty helpful to brands, especially those trying to ramp up a livestreaming program. Just like any reputable digital expert has been telling you for a long time, success is all about the content. New platforms can offer us opportunities to develop new kinds of content, and they certainly adjust how we deliver that content… but at the end of the day, what you publish has to be good.  It has to engage your audience, tell a story that is relevant to the audience’s needs or interests rather than your own messaging, has to help the audience do something they already wanted to do, or achieve something they need to achieve. Being first to a hot new platform doesn’t do you any good unless you’re producing quality content on that platform. Stop worrying so much about whether you’re on the coolest, latest platform and trying so hard to get first-mover advantage; instead, focus on producing solid, useful, relevant content.

As it relates to livestreaming: Think about your story lines first. What are you sharing with a live audience? Is it important, useful, or interesting enough to get them to drop what they’re doing, stop their day, and watch your broadcast? What will they get out of it for having invested their time? And maybe most importantly:

If you didn’t work there… would you stop your day to watch this live broadcast?

When you can answer those questions, then it’s time to turn to livestreaming.

 

 

 

An Olympic-sized Challenge: The Future Of The Olympic Content Model

Olympic fever has gripped… well, a few of us, anyway. NBC’s television ratings for the Olympics are down about 15.5% from 2012 in London. NBC is averaging about 27.9 million viewers per night for the Rio games, as compared to an average of more than 34 .2 million per night for the Beijing games.

There are a number of reasons NBC cites for this drop, some of which are quite valid. Among the most prominent: Viewing habits have changed — people aren’t just accessing Olympic events across all of Comcast NBC Universal’s cable networks, but importantly, they’re streaming events live online rather than waiting for primetime coverage or needing to be in front of a television. This is certainly no surprise; it reflects the same shifts in viewing habits that have impacted entertainment and informational content consumption across the board.

Where this might be truly impactful: advertising. Advertisers spent $1.2 billion on television advertising for the Rio games. With ratings being down — and down 30% amongst the coveted 18-34 demographic — NBC may find it difficult to incite similar levels of spending for the 2020 Games in Tokyo, much less the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. With the half-a-day time delays in the US from Asian host sites, we can anticipate that livestreaming will be the even more greatly preferred viewing option for more of those watching those Olympics — especially as Millennials and Generation Z become an even bigger part of the viewing demographic. What will this do to advertising rates for television networks?

Perhaps even more interestingly and importantly, will the IOC respond effectively to these shifts, embrace the new viewing patterns, or innovate new models for either distributing Olympic content or monetizing their product? Given the IOC’s clumsy handling of social media for the 2016 Games, that seems unfortunately unlikely.

Continue reading “An Olympic-sized Challenge: The Future Of The Olympic Content Model”

The Obligatory Social Media Guru Pokemon Go Post

It’s been virtually impossible to miss this week’s top story — the meteoric, runaway success of Pokemon Go. Released less than a week ago in the United States, the game is already approaching (and preparing to pass) Twitter for numbers of daily users (going on 300 million), even though it hasn’t launched globally and is only currently available in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. The craze is impossible to miss; if you’re not reading any of the myriad articles online about it, you’ve seen the parade of people — not just kids! — in virtually every public place with their faces buried in their smartphones, paying more attention to whether their is a Pokemon near them than where they actually are.  By any measure, the game is a runaway success.

But there’s a darker side to the game’s viral adoption. As many outlets from The Guardian to The Huffington Post to industry experts like RedOwl’s Adam Reeve  are now reporting, Pokemon Go is riddled with security concerns. The standard line now resonating from security experts and industry observers is that by playing Pokemon Go, you have handed the developer, Niantic, the keys to your Gmail account and your life on Google, from your search history to your location data. (Note: Niantic has issued several statements and taken action to address the most disturbing of the concerns.)

Up next: I predict a backlash to the backlash, with pundits accusing the naysayers of overblowing the concerns, engaging in hyperbole or scare tactics, and generally accusing them of being cranky old people with no sense of fun in their lives.

But when all the hype is stripped away and we take a reasoned look at the Pokemon Go phenomenon, what’s really happening?

1. Augmented reality just hit the mainstream. As the New York Times has pointed out, Pokemon Go is more than just a game; this week represents the moment in which a technology — augmented reality — just evolved from being a toy and interest of only technophiles, early adopters and those in touch with their inner geek, and hit the mainstream in a very big way. In that sense, Pokemon Go may ultimately prove as significant as Pac-Man or the Netscape browser in terms of bringing an emerging technology permanently into the consciousness and experience of “everyday people.”

2. The mainstream (or at least the mainstream media) is waking up to the fact that no one pays attention to privacy policies. Forget the occasional stupid meme floating around that Mark Zuckerberg now owns not only everything you’ve ever posted on Facebook, but controls your webcam, has the copyright on everything written on your hard drive, and has naming rights to your children — but how you can prevent all this by pasting this status update.  The otherwise inexplicable resurrection of those memes every so often may well have clued us in to a lesson that has been driven home in spades this week by the Pokemon Go: Very, very few people actually read the privacy policies for the online apps or platforms they participate in.

Part of the concern with the access granted to Pokemon Go — intentionally or erroneously, as Niantic and Nintendo have claimed — is the idea that so few of its players (many of them kids and teenagers) don’t have any idea what they’ve just signed on for or the information they’ve allowed Niantic and Nintendo to accumulate on them — or how that data can be used. By the terms of their privacy policy that anyone who downloads the game agrees to by virtue of playing the game, Niantic can turn personally identifiable information over to law enforcement agencies, sell it off to any marketer or advertiser or share it with any third party they wish,  and even store it in foreign countries with lax privacy legislation. The fact that outside sources might well have access now or in the future to all that information, and the questions about what they might do with it, probably haven’t occurred to the strong majority of the people playing Pokemon Go right now.

And even if we take Niantic at its word and trust the marketing, advertising, and sales industries not to use this information in ways that violate people’s trust (like, say, we have with the telemarketing industry and the ways to get around the Do Not Call list), there is always the disturbing possibility of a hack. (I have to think that the unscrupulous among the hacker community have to be licking their chops at the idea of going after Niantic servers and data right now, as the Daily Beast has pointed out.)

This isn’t new; security and privacy experts have routinely sounded alarms about online privacy and apps. But the meteoric rise of Pokemon Go thrusts the issue into the mainstream spotlight in ways that nothing before it really ever has. (While illegal breaches have garnered lots of media attention, there’s nothing illegal about what Niantic is collecting… this is probably the biggest ‘what you voluntarily share’ story we’ve seen.)

What Happens Next?

So what’s going to come of all this? What does the future hold?

It’s only one guy’s educated guess, but I have a hard time seeing something that got this hot this fast staying this hot. Pokemon Go itself will always have dedicated players and fans, but I think there are a lot of casual fans playing because it’s currently the hot new thing — and much like Draw Something or Angry Birds, the bloom will come off the rose for many of these casual players as soon as the next hot game comes along. I’m not proclaiming Pokemon Go dead by any measure, but I do think the adoption curve will look more like a bell than an S. My advice to Niantic is to enjoy it and monetize it while they can, but keep working on the next app; much like the Macarena or the Whip and Nae Nae, there’s probably an expiration date on Pokemon Go’s ubiquity and wild popularity. It won’t go away completely, but it isn’t going to be this big forever.

But augmented reality has crossed a Rubicon, in my opinion. Now that something featuring A.R. has reached the consciousness of so many people, you can count on two things. First, take it to the bank that a whole bunch of developers will try to copycat or piggyback on Pokemon Go’s success and will come up with a next generation of A.R. games to tempt the players who burn out on Pokemon Go or are scared off by privacy concerns. Pokemon Go is just the first mass adoption A.R. game; there will be lots of others.

Second, the appetite for A.R. has now been whetted. Gaming, driven by casual gamers now aware of the possibilities, will be first to demand more and better A.R. options. But now that the average Joe or Jane “get it,” I can see A.R. being increasingly adapted for retail use (imagine “capturing” a coupon or deal for Starbucks or Banana Republic, or even an automaker offering swag or points toward free or discounted accessories via an A.R. application). I also see applications in tourism — if you’ve ever had your kid play the Phineas & Ferb World Showcase Adventure at Epcot, you know how fun and enticing a ‘scavenger hunt’ type application can be; I could also see art museums and galleries or history museums hiding easter eggs within their walls, or national parks or monuments using A.R. to share ‘secret’ tidbits with visitors. In this sense, I think Pokemon Go will prove historically significant even after downloads have dropped off and user numbers have flattened.

Expect a rise in articles and anecdotes about how people have become so wrapped up in A.R. games that they tune out the world around them — walking into light poles, other people, or even into oncoming traffic, not to mention playing while they drive. And just like distracted driving/hands-free calling and the campaign to get people to stop texting while they drive, I would expect we’ll see public service and safety campaigns about the dangers of playing A.R. too intently; I can see something like “Play Out There But Stay Aware” being Gen Z’s crying Native American or “this is your brain on drugs… any questions?”

As location and GPS become a bigger part of A.R. and digital and mobile gaming, I would anticipate that at some point Congress will get involved, holding hearings about possible misuses or breaches of data collected by A.R. apps and possibly legislating about how location-based personally-identifiable information can be collected or used. They’ll present it as an issue of safety and protecting minors in particular. Some citizens and media will agree and position the industry (and the marketers and advertisers hoping to leverage the collected data) as predatory or unscrupulous. Others will be alarmed at what they see as government interference in private enterprise, and will warn of a chill effect on technological development. It ought to be an interesting debate, that’s for sure.

Finally — I can only hope! — the rise of Pokemon Go and the rapid backlash and raising of concerns about the data it collects will increase both public awareness about the data we share, and developers’ sensitivities to that awareness and possible concerns. If a few more parents are having discussions this week with their kids about exercising caution about the private information they’re sharing in order to be part of a game or app, or if a few more developers are thinking about security and privacy of users as they develop their apps and games, then Pokemon Go is invariably a good thing.

That’s one guy’s take. What are your thoughts about Pokemon Go and A.R. in general?

 

 

 

Tuesday Afternoon Quarterback, July 5, 2016

Happy Belated, America! If you were making merry during the USA’s birthday celebration and missed some of the stories that hit the digital or media world, here’s some that caught my eye.

Snapchat’s Teen Fans Wince As App Catches On With Their Folks (Wall Street Journal, 7/4)

Don’t we do this every time a social media platform approaches mainstream adoption and maturity? Someone writes a “sky is the kids are uncomfortable here because their parents are on it now” post, and everyone starts fervently looking for the “next” platform the kids will embrace while proclaiming the end of the old platform’s “cool” factor. Of course, this mindset overlooks the very real issue that in order to monetize and maximize their value, platforms pretty much have to add older users. This is the vicious circle of social media: the kids make it hot, but the adults make it money… and thus begins the uneasy balance of trying to attract older users without losing the newer ones.

Meanwhile, the last time we listened to this storyline was in 2013 or so when many proclaimed that too many parents were hanging out on Facebook, and all the kids were going to leave Facebook. All Facebook has done since then is add about 350 million users and make $3.7 in profit last year alone. So, take this bevy of stories with a grain of salt before you conclude that the kids are all about to bail on Snapchat.

For brands, the story here isn’t that the kids are weirded out that their parents have started getting on Snapchat (don’t worry kids, very few people over the age of 35, at least in my sample set, can actually figure out that hideous UI long enough to see anything you snap anyway!). The story here is that fully 14% of Snapchat’s user base is now over the age of 35. If you’re a brand manager and you’re still dismissing Snapchat as a playground for teenagers using silly filters to send photos of themselves with rainbows streaming out of their mouths, you’re not seeing the whole picture.

PBS'”Live” Fireworks Aren’t, And The Network Hears It From Viewers (7/5, NBC News)

Huawei Implied This Pic Was Shot By A P9 Phone, But It Was Actually A $4,500 Canon Combo (CNet, 7/4)

Heavy sigh. You’d think by now that publishers and brands would have recognized by now that disingenuousness or falsehood is quickly sniffed out, exposed, and is rightly demeaned or belittled on social networks. You can’t get away with faking something or trying to mislead the audience anymore; it was always bad practice by people in the media/PR/advertising business, but it’s especially inadvisable in today’s environment. PBS and Huawei are just the latest publishers/brands to learn that this lesson the hard way.

No matter the motivation (in the PBS case, cloud cover made the National Mall fireworks less than optimal viewing, so PBS interspersed footage from previous years’ fireworks into their broadcast), deceptive or misleading content is always a bad idea. Whether you’re working for a media outlet, a brand publisher, or a non-profit organization, if anyone in your work circles ever suggests deliberately deceptive or inaccurate content, shoot the idea down in less time than it would take for someone on social media to figure out that you did it. And in cases where misconceptions are even possible, take pains to be absolutely clear and candid with your audience (looking at you, Huawei).

9 Mistakes You Might Be Making With Your Content Marketing Strategy (7/5, Content Marketing World)

Neil Patel offers some wisdom for content marketers (and would-be content marketers) as to what you might be doing wrong. Obviously, since I am sharing this piece I agree with its points and premises, but the mistakes he identifies that resonated most with me (read: the ones I see happening most often) are #2 (“Your content isn’t useful” #3 (“You’re selling instead of teaching”), #5 (“You don’t know what you want your content to achieve”), and #7 (“Your content isn’t ideal for your audience”).

Three of these four mistakes involve the fact that brand publishers still far too often create content that primarily focuses on their product, services, or branding rather than trying to create relatable content that an audience is going to watch. (Remember, you’re not the hero; the audience member is the hero, and you are the sidekick. Build your content with the audience’s interests, needs, and problems front of mind, and work backward to fit your brand into it, with your brand or product’s role being to support the audience member in achieving their quest or desire. No one goes on Facebook or Instagram to be sold to.

Why People Unfollow Brands On Social Media (Digital Marketing Institute)

This isn’t a “new” infographic or survey; it’s been floating around since March 2015. Yet it’s not a horrible thing that it still occasionally resurfaces.  Most commonly cited reasons to unfollow a brand: boring or repetitive content, posting too frequently (more than 6x per day), especially on Facebook; lack of engagement or slow response times. Take care to try and avoid these annoyances to users by building a strong, user-centric content plan, avoiding spamming your followers, and being sure to build in some time to actually interact with people who ask you a question.

Telling, Not Selling: A Peek Inside Jack Daniels’ Social Media Playbook (Digiday, 7/1)

It’s always useful to see what other brands are doing with their social media programs. IN Jack Daniels’ case, success has involved developing a brand voice (and the content to match) that celebrates and embraces the brand’s heritage and history, as well as giving fans an inside look into the artisanal distilling process and making fans feel part of that heritage. Good case study worth spending a few minutes with.

Nearly One Third Of The World Will Use Social Networks Regularly This Year (eMarketer, 6/30)

First of all, it is remarkable to think that just a decade ago, we were talking about 12 million people on Facebook (almost all of them in the US), and that most of the other platforms that today constitute “social networks” — and in 2016 we are talking about 2.34 billion people around the world. For better or worse, social platforms have been an absolutely transformational technological and experiential development in human history. But beyond the hyperbole, the important note here is that the growth opportunities — at least for adding new users — are very much in the developing world: Asia-Pacific, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa. For global companies, this is a significant thing to note: your efforts in these developing markets over the next few years had really ought to include a social network and messaging strategy.

How Fortune 500 Brands Use Instagram: Top Filters, Best Times And Days To Post (Marketing Profs, 7/5)

While every brand is different and no one should adopt a posting or social media strategy just because “everyone else does it this way,” there are some interesting tidbits in this observation. Among them:

  • 99% of interactions on Instagram for the Fortune 500 are likes, not comments; if you’re looking to set engagement metrics, you probably should weight yours heavily in favor of likes.
  • 89% of Fortune 500 Instagram posts use no filter; when filters are used, the most effective at driving higher engagement seem to be Mayfair, Hefe, and Ludwig.
  • “88% of Fortune 500 Instagram photos are posted between 9 AM and 9PM ET. Photos posted outside this timeframe, between 10 PM and 3 AM ET, have the highest impact scores, on average.” Frankly, this one shocked me. While most of us have long recognized that posting outside of regular business hours is effective and better leverages the times most users access social networks, I don’t think I saw it coming that posting late at night (ET) could have such an impact.

This survey is worth your review.

5 Things Marketers Need To Know About Gen Z (The Content Strategist, 6/30)

I know, I know… you have just gotten used to Millennials’ expectations in the marketplace and you’re starting to feel comfortable working with and marketing to them. Pat yourself on the back, but then get back to work — because here comes Gen Z.

Born between 1996 and 2008 (or so… darn generational tags are hard to pin down when it comes to start and end dates!), Gen Z are even more digitally native than the Millennials who proceeded them. For Gen Z, there has never not been a Facebook or Instagram; the oversharing we all worried about in Gen X is just what Gen Z has always known and always done. (I would argue that as younger Millennials and Gen Z hit the workforce in force and older Millennials move into positions of hiring authority, the dreaded “what you’ve posted on social media” will stop being as automatic of a career killer. Racism and hate speech will still cost people jobs, but that embarrassing photo of you throwing up in Mexico for spring break will not matter as much. But I digress.)

By 2020, according to some estimates, Gen Z may make up as much as 40% of all consumers. (Gosh, I am aging fast! Poor Gen X.) This piece gives you some insight as to what Gen Z wants from marketers. Hint: if you put authenticity and realism at the center of your marketing and content, and you make audience participation a big part of the experience you offer, you’re probably going to be okay. This is a really fascinating article and a really interesting look at a generation we’re all going to have to learn how to engage with really soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Facebook’s News Feed Changes Mean To You

Businesses and brand marketers could be forgiven for thinking that Facebook really, really doesn’t like them. It likes your money, of course — so much so that it wants to force you to spend much more of it to reach the audiences you’ve spent years acquiring (and that Facebook loudly touts while trying to convince you to spend that money).  But there have got to be at least a few brand marketing reps this afternoon doing a Captain Picard.

Picard.gif

In case you missed it, Facebook has announced yet another change to its News Feed algorithm that greatly favors friends and family within a user’s network, at the significant expense of brands and publishers that maintain pages.  Essentially, the changes mean that content posted by a user’s friends and family will be given higher ranking in their feed while Pages content is de-emphasized; Facebook is operating under the assumption (perhaps justified, if we’re being truthful with ourselves) that people don’t really want to see a brand’s new commercial, someone’s native advertising via a publisher, or the latest self-serving brand post.

(Facebook also published what it calls  its News Feed Values, opening the kimono for the first time in any kind of detail about how the News Feed works; this transparency may well be in response to the [manufactured] controversy last month about how its Trending Topics lists are compiled.)

To be fair to Facebook, they’re under a lot of pressure. Personal posts are down by double-digits in the past year or so, whether attributable to the rise of personal sharing tools like Snapchat, disenchantment with the plethora of branded and sponsored content, or some other combination of factors. To stem the tide, Facebook may feel it has to take steps to make its platform more of the friends-and-family network that it began life as.  And let’s face it, many users — including many of us when we’re using Facebook personally and not professionally — will probably be happier with the resulting shifts to their News Feed.

This is going to be little comfort, though, to brand marketers and community managers who now more than ever basically have to pay to reach even the audiences that have chosen to follow their brand. It’s true that publishers will see an even more severe impact than brand pages, but even so, the frustration was evident in today’s marketing and digital industry coverage of the news.

So what does this mean for you, if you manage either a brand’s Facebook page itself or the budget that supports its activity?

  1. You need to publish more video. As many industry observers and digerati have noted (including me), Facebook is really pushing Live and natively uploaded video. We’ve all talked at length about the importance of video to success on any digital platform in the current and emerging environment; this algorithm change makes it even more important to you. Why? Because if Facebook really, really wants video and your brand gives it lots of video, it increases your chances of breaking through the algorithm and the clutter and still finding your content in users’ feeds.
  2. Keep your eye on the sharable content ball. This sounds silly; of course we all create content hoping it will be shared. But this is where many brands fail at Facebook: we create content that keeps our C-suite happy because it has all our messaging in it, but we don’t really think about what our target audience is truly interested in, will find relevant, or will find either compelling enough or clever enough to share. Given that our own pages will appear less frequently in News Feed, we’re really counting on users choosing to share our content with their family and friends. So it becomes all the more important to be customer-centric with our Facebook content. Have we told a relatable story that our followers can see themselves in? Have we provided information that, instead of providing our latest message or announcement, gives people information that they can actually use or apply in their real life? The more we focus on our consumers’ needs or interests instead of our own, the more likely our content is to be shared. The onus is on us to be creative enough to find ways to work our desired information into this kind of content, rather than continuing to push out brand-centric content that will too easily be ignored.

Even with some changes like this, your brand should still expect to see a decline in both reach and referral traffic in the coming weeks.