We Are Communication Architects

Building brand awareness through content creation and community engagement.

September 30th, 2015

Rumor: Twitter Mulling Dropping 140 Character Limit

A report/rumor surfaced yesterday on Recode that forces within Twitter – particularly interim CEO Jack Dorsey – are considering dropping the 140 character limit that has always been in place on the network. This is…interesting. There have already been countless hot-takes (many on Medium, which is basically Twitter for long-form posts anyway) about this, with many of those saying that doing so is the only way Twitter survives, an opinion that seems to come from solely looking at success as being defined by user numbers.

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Now the Recode report says Twitter “is building a new product” so it’s not clear whether or not the core Twitter service would change or if this would be something that’s tacked on to Twitter as an ancillary service. It could be something that allows you to add a block quote of text. People are already using screenshots of text uploaded as images – colloquially called “screenshorts” – as a work around. It could be an option that allows only Verified accounts to publish longer tweets. It could be…well…anything.

If it’s just a simple expanding of the character could it would, most obviously, eliminate the need for you to keep eliminating words. So Twitter would suddenly become much more friendly to adverbs and adjectives, which are usually (at least in my experience) the first casualties when copy is over 140 characters. Even if they made a minor change and stopped counting links or photos against the 140 character limit that would free up quite a bit of space.

The problems Twitter would face if they do something more are actually fairly significant and would, I think, do more to damage the brand than they would to help it reach a larger audience.

The entire Twitter ecosystem is built for short updates. Longer posts would break how Tweetdeck, Hootsuite and other apps look. The workaround here would be a “Read more” link to expand a longer post but Twitter is mostly about scrolling through and seeing quick updates. And everything Twitter has done over the last couple years has been about bringing more information into the feed – Cards, auto-loading videos and photos, etc – not trying to hide content. This would go against everything Twitter has done to make consuming and engaging with content more of a lean-back experience.

Again, longer posts that are published to a network of friends and other connections already exists in Medium, which just landed a sizable funding round. So it makes much more sense for Twitter to create more ties between it and Medium than it does to build something new for long-form.

Going long-form would also mean it’s expanding the range of sites/apps/networks it’s competing against and that means it would have to substantially change user behavior. It’s the same struggle Facebook Notes, which relaunched to be more of a blogging platform, faces. So it would go up against Facebook Notes, LinkedIn and Tumblr. Probably not WordPress since those are power users, but those are certainly the platforms Medium is competing against so Twitter would face the same challenges.

How exactly this will play out obviously remains to be seen. But it has to be asked if Twitter without the 140 character limit is still Twitter? Yes, they’ve made that a fuzzy line recently with Quote Retweets, no character limit in DMS and other moves but it still stands as a core principle, even if the technical aspects make that more murky. However it plays out it will be important for content marketers to be on the forefront of these changes and make sure they’re adjusting their and their client’s strategies accordingly.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Publishing Programs, Social Networks

September 29th, 2015

Voce Student Essential Reading 9/29: Facebook Instant Articles, the Volkswagen Crisis & More

Article or ad pic2 Image via Re/Code

Social Media

The Top 7 Social Media Marketing Trends That Will Dominate 2016

“Social media marketing has always been a peculiar animal. Since its early days, where platforms were finicky and critics insisted that social marketing was not a viable marketing strategy, we’re now witnesses to an era with rock-solid platforms, useful advertising options, and plenty of free opportunities to make our content public.”

Voce Insight – Bring these predictions to the table and plan how your clients can get ahead of the game with social strategy now rather than later.

Facebook Ramps Up Its Instant Articles, and the Washington Post Is All In

“Last spring Facebook started hosting stories from the New York Times, BuzzFeed and other publishers directly on its iPhone app — a move that generated much chatter and hand-wringing about the Future of Media.”

Voce Insight – Many people were already getting news on Facebook and now they’re going to get it faster. If publishers benefit remains to be seen, and something to continue wondering as Instant Articles gets a broader rollout.

Public Relations

Crisis of the Week: Volkswagen Scandal Pollutes Carmaker’s Reputation

“Typical automotive scandals are usually the result of incompetence aggravated by a bungled cover-up. VW’s problem appears to be the result of a premeditated design decision, making apologies entirely insufficient.”

Voce Insight – This reminds me of a quote that I personally love “How about don’t do anything you need to apologize for?” Since time can’t be rewound, these guys stack up what it will take for VW to bring back customer trust.

A quick primer on hyphens

“Hyphenation can be tricky. There’s widespread confusion, it seems, about when and how the tiny line segments should and shouldn’t be used. With so many instances in which people guess wrong, covering all the misuses would take acres of the Internet. I’ll try to be concise, yet thorough.”

Voce Insight – Don’t be a screw-up. Take this article as an opportunity for a hyphenation checkup. You don’t have to be a novelist when writing in PR, but you do have to be prolific. Knowing the finer points will make writing releases, blog posts and even emails that much quicker.


Taking a New Perspective on the Creative Process

We all have creative minds, I don’t care who you are or what you do. Face it, you’re a creative person.”

Voce Insight – Dust off the spider webs and turn on your creative brain! Try a different approach that may seem unconventional but will most likely lead to a different, and hopefully better, work result.

The Companies That Give The Best Job Interviews

“This year for the first time Glassdoor has tallied up information from its 30 million users and put out a list of companies in 46 industries, from accounting firms to insurance carriers to toy and hobby stores, where Glassdoor users have reported the most positive interview experiences.”

Voce Insight – This may not be an exhaustive list, but it pushes the point that an interview is a two-way street. Just as you prepared to be grilled on your resume, you should expect your interviewer to answer the questions that will let you know if the job will be a fit for both parties.

Filed in Career Development

September 28th, 2015

The Stars Have Emerged, And Here’s What They Have to Say

This past Tuesday through Thursday, Omnicom held its annual Emerging Stars program in San Francisco. The event included 42 of Omnicom’s best employees who are given an exclusive opportunity to see agency presentations, participate in workshops and compete in a final pitching event to be held in October. The attendees are chosen from each Omnicom agency based off the individual’s quality of work, skill set and how well they encompass and exemplify the agency’s culture.

This year, Client Executive Alex Alias and myself were nominated and selected to represent Voce Communications/Porter Novelli San Francisco. To recap and share just a small portion of the expansive amount of lessons learned from Emerging Stars, we’ve assembled the four tips below. Agency folks of any discipline could benefit from:

  1. Integrated Campaigns: As we sit at our desks each day, we are so focused on the action items we currently have in front of us sometimes we lose sight of the bigger picture. This workshop was an inspirational reminder that PR isn’t the only spoke on the communications wheel. It’s just one of many that all work together to create, share and continuously reinforce a brand’s message. The next time an opportunity for a big idea presents itself, consider collaborating with another agency to take the idea to the next level and really “wow” your clients.
  2. Tracking Campaign Effectiveness: A continuous challenge we, PR and communication professionals, face is showing the results of our efforts. Some clients want numbers and charts; others want a more wordy, descriptive summary of key points. Regardless, to be able to show the effectiveness of your campaign there first needs to be a metric of measurement put into place to stack your work against. By doing this, and reviewing it often, you will keep the clients’ end goals top of mind and hopefully be able to better meet (or exceed) them.
  3. Getting “Dirty”: We’re fortunate to work in a time where stiff company, product and service descriptions are no longer acceptable. Fun, not facts, is the new trend. Consumers, and businesses, want the partners they work with or buy from to be human and relatable. Push your team and your clients to think outside of the box on the next product announcement or social campaign. Get your hands dirty!
    1. Side Tip – How to get your clients to say “yes” to an outrageous idea: Feed it to them slowly by sharing the thought process that led your team to the idea you have and why the plan will be effective. Not even clients can argue with logic.
  4. New Business Pitch Casting: Typically, pitch teams are assembled based on experience with presentations and knowledge of the potential client’s industry, such as Healthcare IT. This is a smart approach, however you can make a pitch team more persuasive by assigning different personalities types to the team. This will reduce the chances of losing new business just because a client panel didn’t like the way information was presented.

In short, this was truly an amazing experience that Alex and I are both honored and thankful to have been a part of. Hopefully these tips can be of use to the PR community and make everyone a star at their agencies!


Filed in Career Development, Voce Culture, Voce People

September 23rd, 2015

Instagram and Pinterest Keep Growing, But Does Size Matter?

instagram-logoThis past week Pinterest finally gave people what they had long been waiting for, official acknowledgement of user numbers. Turns out there are 100 million people who are visiting the site for recipes, fashion tips and more.

Then yesterday Instagram announced that the odometer had ticked over and 400 million people now used the app, 75% of which (or about 300 million…that’s math even I can do) were from outside the United States.

Both are important numbers, to be sure. It’s good for content marketers to see the scale that the social networks we rely on are achieving. We don’t want to hitch our or our clients’ wagons to a network that doesn’t have legs and is going to be shut down in the next six months. So when we see a network growing it either justifies our decision to get involved there. And when we see it shrinking we feel justified for having ignored it. Or, in either situation, we wish we had jumped in earlier or feel like we need to explain why this has gone south on us.

pinterest logoBut looking at the big picture scale is actually fairly limiting. Pinterest is relatively small with its paltry 100m users compared to Facebook or Twitter. But look at that audience, which is super-engaged and highly sought-after by just by just about anyone.

Focusing on overall user numbers doesn’t tell the whole story. What’s more important is finding whether or not the right audience is on these networks. Instagram has 400m users, but if the right 250,000 who are going to reliably engage with and get something out of your posts isn’t, then it’s a largely wasted effort. Conversely, an app could have 200,000 users, half of whom are right in your target audience, so it makes sense to get involved now and not wait for it to be “big enough” for people to feel comfortable with.

Scale is great to track, but while large numbers get headlines and appease investors, for content marketers it’s the finer slices of that number that relate to our specific programs that matters much more since that is what we’ll be judged on.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Social Networks

September 22nd, 2015

Burberry Embraces Snapchat for Fashion Week Preview

In my last post about Snapchat, I talked about the social channels’ newest features including Discover, Our Story and Ghost QR Codes and how brands could make the most of these latest additions. Since then, brands have embraced these new features and continue to find unique and innovative ways to market themselves on this channel.

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The British luxury fashion brand Burberry recently came up with an idea that would allow Snapchat followers to see its new 2016 collection a day before it premiered at its show during London Fashion Week. Here are some best practices we saw in play for the collection’s Snapchat debut.

  • A behind-the-scenes experience: Followers love to feel like they are “VIP,” and creating that feeling doesn’t have to cost you. Burberry took readers inside the hectic days before their collection released; they showed invitations being delivered, makeup being tested, stylists frantically putting finishing touches on their pieces, and even what the stylists were eating for breakfast. This was an inside look that Snapchat followers couldn’t get anywhere else. It not only made them feel like a part of the show’s preparation, it also got them excited for their exclusive look at the 2016 collection.

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  • It’s all in the details: Burberry brought their collection up close to followers and showed off the details of their pieces. Snapchat offered a perspective that not even those viewing the collection on the runway could experience. Seeing the pieces up close made the collection more tangible to followers who could potentially be buyers.

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  • Branch out: Typically, press, buyers and celebrities are among the few that attend London Fashion Week. Snapchat made it possible for Burberry fans to get the same opportunity (if not better) right on their phones. As always, the first step is researching your brand’s demographics and learning which social channels they’re active on. From Snapchat to Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Vine or Instagram, there are a variety of ways to connect with your fans and build up brand loyalty. Meet consumers where they are.

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  • Utilize the platform to the fullest: While Burberry used the “Our Story” feature to give followers a sneak peek at their new collection, on the day of their fashion show in London they utilized Snapchat’s “Live Story” feature, which allows for anyone at the show to contribute video and photos they take, giving followers more behind-the-scenes footage from the live show. Aside from all the free coverage that Burberry received, the “Live Story” also features paid ads. Since the hype on Snapchat surrounding the new collection was at an all-time high following the pre-show debut, getting that ad space on Burberry’s “Live Story” was much more valuable to advertisers.

Fashionable and smart. Bravo, Burberry!

Filed in Social Networks

September 21st, 2015

Exercise Caution When Using Audience Photos in Your Content Marketing

“User generated content” has been a buzzword for a long time, originally used to somewhat derisively refer to anything that wasn’t created by a legacy media organization. Only slightly younger than that is the concept of a company using UCG in their marketing, the idea being that this sort of material holds some sort of authenticity and genuineness that formal marketing photo shoots or other content might not.

Caution Otters!

The rules around doing so have always been, for better or worse, nebulous. But the issue seems to be back in the conversation thanks to this New York Times story, which talks about how some companies are trolling Instagram in particular for beauty shots of people actually wearing the clothes being sold or what have you. In many of those cases people’s photos are being used without their knowledge or permission, sometimes to the pleasure of the person who originally took it and sometimes to their consternation.

There are a few issues raised in the story by individuals and corporate spokespeople that bear commenting on:

  • The difference between me posting it and a company using it: I may choose to share a picture on my social profiles, but that mens I want to show it off to the people I’ve connected with on a network. A company using it without my permission not only changes the scale but also implies an endorsement I may not be comfortable with. Not everything that’s bought or shown off on social media is based on  it being the best thing ever. Sometimes it’s just what was convenient or on sale, with no larger brand loyalty behind it.
  • Getting consent: If your “best practices” don’t include getting permission to use someone’s photo in your marketing then you need to reevaluate what those best practices are. Even if there aren’t the same legal implications (yet), this needs to be the same process as getting an image from the AP or Getter; Get permission, then use.
  • Know the difference between the individual and others: A selfie that just has the taker in the picture and a caption “I love my new infinity scarf from (insert company name)” should be a much different consideration than a picture of under-age children, groups of people and so on. If you can’t see that then you need to familiarize yourself with basic privacy considerations involving consent, intent and more. That’s the difference between Retweeting someone saying that was the best movie they’ve ever seen and reposting a picture someone took of their kid and five others at a birthday party.

What’s interesting to me is that this is a problem that used to be solved but got broken. Flickr, which used to be the preeminent photo-sharing site on the web, used to and still does allow you to publish your picture with or without some sort of Creative Commons license. Some of those CC options allowed you to say, essentially, “sure, you can use this for marketing purposes as long as you provide appropriate attribution.” But those kinds of options haven’t made it over to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. And they probably need to.

For now, marketers of all stripes need to familiarize themselves not only with what the FTC’s privacy guidelines are but also on what general privacy best practices are, hopefully before they  are subject to legal action resulting from using the wrong person’s Instagram photo to show off their footwear. While social networks may say that posting a photo puts it under their ownership, there are still plenty of rights the person who posted it still retains. Act accordingly.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Marketing, Social Networks

September 17th, 2015

Periscope Introduces Web Profiles

periscope-logoPeriscope, the popular live-streaming app, has finally introduced web profiles for both individual and brand accounts.

The profiles aren’t exactly feature-rich. There’s no ability to follow someone on Periscope from the web profile and you can only view videos that are still within the 24-hour replay window the app enforces. While it shows a follower count, these people aren’t unique, new individuals; They’re a subset of your Twitter followers who have also connected with you on Periscope. So don’t count this as network growth, you are already figuring these people into your network size.

This does, though, give you something you can use in your promotions for Periscope activity. You can now include a link to the profile when you share on Twitter or Facebook that you’re going to be live-streaming there at X time. And you can have a persistent link to the profile on-domain in the same way you do for Twitter and other networks.

Again, though, keep in mind what the user experience will be when they get there. There’s not much for them to do on the profile page, particularly if you haven’t posted a new video in the last 24 hours. Still, it’s a safe bet these profiles will be fleshed out with more functionality in the near future so working it into your promotions now can’t hurt.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Mobile, Video

September 17th, 2015

Blogging Enabled People to Catch Up with Media. Now Media are Catching Up with Independent Podcasts

Modified Podcast Logo with My Headphones Photoshopped OnThe original promise of blog software was that it democratized access to publishing tools, giving everyone a voice in the emerging online conversation in a public way, that last point being the key value proposition over the chat rooms and forums that existed up to that point. A few years after that people began producing these weird audio programs that were kind of sort of like radio, but they were delivered via RSS to software that would “catch” them and let you listen to them on demand. You know them as podcasts.

The news that Vogue was now launching its own podcast, though, made me think that we’re now seeing this process in reverse.

For years – the better part of a decade – podcasting was a sleeping giant. There were tons of people producing their own shows, but they only sporadically got support from big media companies. It never went anywhere, but it’s only been in the last year that it’s gotten serious attention from media companies, who can’t launch them fast enough to keep up with demand. In the wake of last year’s breakout hit Serial, podcasts are hot.

But now it’s media brands who are vying for the attention that’s been focused to date on individual shows. Sure, This American Life and others have been big for a long while now. But the democratic nature of podcasting means that individuals with no access to significant production budgets are already movers and shakers in this world, where Vogue and other media companies are in the position of playing catchup to Marc Maron, Chris Hardwick and other, smaller players.

Things may be decided on the same playing field they so often are: Discoverability. The guy running a podcast in his garage with cobbled-together equipment likely won’t be able to make it onto iTunes’ recommended list of shows unless a minor miracle occurs. Slate’s entire lineup of shows, in contrast, gets regular exposure in that field along with NPR, Panoply and other networks.

So it’s incumbent on those smaller fish to work harder to beat the drums of their shows. Stay active and engaged on social networks. Make hail-Mary passes when trying to book guests. You don’t have the inherent advantages of the big brands competing for people’s listening time. So work harder.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Media

September 16th, 2015

Randy’s Social Take: Community Feedback

So often in social we think of bringing people back to the website and measuring conversion to a particular goal. That is good in some cases but what gets left out is asking, listening and incorporating customer feedback into your products. Companies like Dell (IdeaStorm) or Starbucks (My Starbucks) do a good job of this and the two things that make it work from my perspective are:

  1. Ideas are reviewed and assigned priority by product management
  2. 360 degree feedback goes all the way back to the original submitter – the customer

How many times have you submitted comments into the online ether? Or have had to call a phone number and surrender your first born child in order to leave feedback? Companies need to not only accept the feedback but have an open, user-friendly policy.

Earlier this week, Mark Zuckerberg had a Town Hall Q&A where he invited actual Facebook users. It got a lot of press that the “dislike” button is coming, largely in response to long-standing user requests for a tool that would allow them to acknowledge bad or even tragic news with something more than the “Like,” which is awkward. So this was Facebook acknowledging user opinion that a key feature was missing and saying they were making moves to address that.

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But the underlying issue of gathering feedback for product updates on Facebook is still missing. Ideally, the Facebook product team should have a feedback/ideas mechanism on their website where anyone can submit ideas and the product managers have access to it. They shouldn’t be lost in Zuckerberg or anybody’s Facebook stream.

That’s my take on Zuckerberg’s latest announcement.  What’s your take? What companies do you follow that actually value and communicate effectively community feedback?  Comment below or tweet @djksar on Twitter.

About the Author
Randy Ksar works on the social media team at Voce. You can follow him at @djksar on Twitter.

Filed in Community

September 15th, 2015

Pay for (Re)play Coming to Snapchat

snapchat logoSnapchat announced today that it’s going to allow people to replay more than currently allowed one snap per day. But it’s going to cost you if you want the privilege.

According to a blog post, people will be able to purchase bundles of three replays for $.99, letting theme relive a moment they may have missed because their thumb slipped, they were distracted or some other perfectly legitimate reason. Right now users are limited to one replay of one video per day.

What’s most interesting about this (to me at least) isn’t so much functionality itself, it’s the payment model. For one thing it puts the payment onus on the recipient, essentially asking for micro-payments for a feature of the app itself.

That flips the model I would expect to be put in place. Other apps or networks might have similar structures – where you pay for additional functionality – but those are either one-time payments to upgrade to a premium tier or some sort of subscription model where for an additional $X per month you get those features the freeloading public doesn’t.

Alternatively, the payment for additional features is made by the publishing brand. So Brand X pays Snapchat to allow its followers to replay their snaps up to twice or something like that. Or it sponsors a batch of replays for an important campaign and lets everyone view a day’s worth of snaps multiple times.

This “the end user pays” model seems the least sustainable, but I may be wrong. Snapchat has defied a lot of expectations to get to this point and seems to be growing. But it remains to be seen whether the user base of the app – which is mostly younger people who may not have the disposable income to be buying loads or snap replays – will adopt this new feature and make it a sustainable source of revenue for the company.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Mobile

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