I write about digital strategies and communications — and their intersection with culture, politics, journalism and social activism.


Quick Guide: Four More Weeks of Disruption

Like the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey club, things on social keep being ripped apart and rebuilt (likely with greater success than my pitiful team). Four weeks have seen four disruptive moves that make social web watching so much fun . . and complex.


Launched in late February Meerkat is an iOS app available on iTunes for broadcasting live video on Twitter. As Techcrunch reports:

At any moment, you can start a broadcast of yourself on Meerkat, which trigger’s a tweet of the link to your stream and a notification to any of your Twitter followers who use its app. Anyone can tune in on the web or through Meerkat, and chime in with comments that are sent as Twitter @ replies. When you’re done, your video disappears unless you save it to your phone.

Its strengths? Linked to Twitter, Meerkat doesn't need you to build a new community and it is dead easy to use. The downsides? Will live video broadcasting catch on? 

Instagram Pimping Its Ride

You could spend all day ferreting out moves by social platforms to wring more ad revenue out of companies.

Instagram for one continues to snuggle up to advertisers through some slick changes to how they can snag eyeballs and engagement. It was only a few months ago that it added video ads. Now Instagram is offering Carousel ads. These let people viewing an ad "swipe left to see additional images and link to a website of the brand’s choice". This latter linking feature was a hurdle for many companies who didn't see the value in Instagram without an e-commerce functionality.


Nobody is saying Google+ is about to be scrubbed any time soon, but the troubled platform will soon be split into 'photo' and 'stream' services, with Hangouts moving outside the Google+ shell. In an interview, Google's Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of products, confirmed that "Hangouts will live on as a standalone product as the company reorganizes around photos and communications." What exactly 'reorganizes' means to the Google+ name or platform as we know it isn't so apparent.


As a non-user of the messaging app Snapchat, two recent changes don't mean a lot to me but may to you. (Being something of a cynic, I assume there is some kind of monetization play behind each.)

Snapchat now lets you record video while listening to music without interrupting it. Explains The Verge:

Snapchat has finally figured out how to integrate music with its service. Thanks to an update currently rolling out on iOS, Snapchat users can record video while still playing music on their phones. Previously when you pressed record, any music playing would automatically pause, an issue that still plagues Instagram, Vine, and even the default video camera on the iPhone. Snapchat's update will let you record music from any music app, and reduces the need for a second audio source to record music from.

It also launched Discover in January. Discover is like a snappy version of Flipboard. News and feature content including photos and videos are posted in an 'Edition'. You "tap to open an edition, swipe left to browse Snaps, or swipe up on a Snap for more. Each channel brings you something unique – a wonderful daily surprise!"

SXSW is coming up next week so expect another unruly month of dislocation and great leaps forward . . . although for the second year in a row I won't be there to see the disruption live. *Tears*


Catching up in the Social Sweepstakes

Noise to Signal Cartoon

With the exception of risk and crisis management, corporate communications has been the laggard cousin in using the social web as a strategy.

Marketers were quicker to recognize social's worth in touting products and services. But the branch of communications that is "dedicated to the dissemination of information to key constituencies, the execution of corporate strategy and the development of messages for a variety of purposes for inside and outside the organisation" (Financial Times) has dawdled or, generously, been deliberative. 

Yet an extensive review of corporate social media by the digital IR and corporate communications consultancy Investis finds that leading public companies are responding to social's potential. In fact, there is now "a gap in quality and performance " opening up between public companies in terms of how they use social for corporate communications goals.  

The Investis review covers more than 500 of the largest publicly listed companies in the U.S. and the U.K. Here are a few of the most eye-opening findings:

  1. Out of a score of 100, the poorest performing sectors in the use of social for corporate communications are basic resources (17) and equity/non-equity investments (8). The latter is not so shocking given privacy concerns: But the former is troublesome given the acknowledged advantages of social in engagement and driving traffic to websites and content hubs, both of which are (or should be) an aspect of a resource company's stakeholder strategy.
  2. Hardly surprising, Linkedin ranks as the most popular channel for corporate communications purposes, "with 93% of all companies actively maintaining a Linkedin account." Of note, Linkedin is the biggest source of referrals to corporate websites.
  3. 71% of companies in the U.S. post investor relations content on their social media platforms (although not so much on Facebook). In fact, "Twitter accounts with no IR content coverage average 4,921 followers. When IR content is included they average nearly 8,000."
  4. More Twitter facts—Twitter ranks second to Linkedin as the preferred platform, 93% of the companies in the study use hashtags, 90% retweet third party comments, and 59% respond to direct queries. 
  5. And how's Pinterest doing? Well, only 28% of companies use Pinterest for corporate marketing, with only 3.0% of the FTSE 350 doing so.
  6. Companies that respond to Facebook wall posts get an average of 52,544 likes compared to an average of only 3,137 for those who don't!

The Financial Times definition of corporate communications leans heavily on the idea that communications is about 'push'. Nothing about it implies interaction like discussion or consultation.

What the Investis findings conclude, however, is:

 (There is) hard evidence that those companies that genuinely engage with the social audience and that commit to regular, high-volume output are rewarded by higher views and greater engagement and interaction on their accounts and channels.

Now let's just get those investment and resource companies moving.