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9 (realistic) social content trends to keep your eye on in 2017

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to speak to 150 social media enthusiasts at Social Media Breakfast. My topic: Social media trends! Tis the season, right? But, I had a little different take on social media trends than you might think. You see, most trend posts are largely garbage–the trends are typically outdated or overblown and there’s usually very little depth to the advice or ideas the author is providing. Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about.

So, I aimed to take on these “trend du jours” and instead, talk about nine more realistic social media trends that I see emerging in 2017. For each, I provided specific examples, stats and advice for how people could take advantage of these trends in the year ahead.

Now, I’m no futurist. I’m not a “social media expert.” But, I do read an awful lot of PR/social media industry material. And, I often have opinions on this stuff since I work in the trenches each and every day. Obviously, the entire presentation with the voice-over is better, but if you missed Social Media Breakfast last week, this will have to do!

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The automation rebellion is coming

Earlier this month, I attended a local mastermind meeting I help run and the topic of automation came up–this time, the discussion focused on chatbots. One of the participants made what I believe to be an astute observation:

“Are we on the precipice of a huge rebellion when it comes to automation?”

What he meant was, will we start to see brands embrace more one-to-one and authentic communications in 2017 instead of trying to do everything “at scale”. Isn’t that what chatbots are all about? Automating communications that occur on a regular basis? In some cases, communications that people are used to getting from a real person?

I feel like the pendulum is about to swing WAY too far the other way–we’re on the verge of uber-automation.

We already see this in so many everyday experiences–customer service, specifically.

Everyone’s talking about chatbots and automation–but I tend to think we may see customers giving brands a serious stiff arm when it comes to automating communications in the year ahead.

Think about it. What’s one of the primary complaints we hear from consumers when it comes to brands and customer service and experience? “I want to talk to a real person!” Consumers are tired of phone trees. They’re sick of giving phones voice commands instead of talking to actual people.

They want to talk to a real person who understands their problems and can help solve them.

And more automation doesn’t fix that. It makes it worse.

I get that automation helps companies and their bottom lines. It helps streamline operations. It helps automate simple tasks that were once labor-intensive. It saves money.

I understand all that. And in some cases, it does make sense.

But here’s the thing: I don’t think consumers like it. And, in the age of the consumer, if they don’t like it, they will go elsewhere.

So, from a company perspective, all this automation stuff sounds great until you start think about the customer experience.

Then it starts to sound pretty awful.

That’s why I think we’re on the verge of a major consumer rebellion against automation.

I guess time will tell.

photo credit: @yojosemere Roxy & Lilliput Robots – 2016 via photopin (license)

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Talking Points Event Series: How fake news is already impacting the corporate and media worlds

Can fake news negatively impact your company’s reputation and stock price?

Can fake news negatively impact the reputations of your corporate executives?

And how is fake news impacting the media as trust levels among readers continues to erode?

These questions are on many PR,  corporate communications and media people’s minds in 2017. And, for good reason. Because the answer to the first two questions above is “yes” given what happened to PepsiCo CEO, Indra Nooyi late last year when she was the victim of “fake news” that claimed she told Trump supporters to “take their business elsewhere.”

In our next installment of the Talking Points Speaker Series, I’ll sit down with Mike Schaffer, vice president at Edelman in Washington, D.C. and Chris Ison, associate professor-journalism at the University of Minnesota to discuss the fake news “crisis” and how it’s already impacting the corporate and media worlds.

We’ll talk about pre-emptive steps companies can take to prepare and brace for a fake news crisis. And, we’ll discuss how fake news is impacting editors and reporters’ jobs, how it’s eroding reader trust in the media, and what it all means for the future of journalism and business.

You can sign up here. Remember, we limit attendance to the first 50 people who sign up in an effort to keep the event more intimate and discussion-based. Hope to see you on Feb. 8!


Date: Wed., Feb. 8

Time: 5:30-Registration/Networking; 6-7:15–Event

Location: University of Minnesota

Sign up today!

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8 job changes that re-shaped the PR/social market in Minnesota in 2016

2016 was a good year to be a job seeker. Specifically, for mid- to senior-level PR folks with a strong digital skill set. As a result, we saw a far amount of hopping industry-wide.

But, we also saw a number of key moves that I think will impact 2017.

These were almost (and I hate to use this word, but…) “seismic” moves that have the ability to change entire teams for agencies and departments on the client side.

As I thought about 2016, I landed on 8 moves that I believe will change the PR/social landscape in the year ahead:

Nathan Eide, director, test & learn, FRWD

Still not exactly sure what the title means, but I do know Nathan’s move from Bolin to FRWD in 2016 was a big one. I’m sure he’ll be adding to his team in 2017, and he’ll be attempting to build a digital consultancy within a creative agency (not always easy).

Anna Squibb, director of digital and social media, Sleep Number

New position for Sleep Number. And, it’s probably been a long time coming. And, I think Anna is the right person for the job. Smart. Solid background (Mills, Caring Bridge, Target). Right demeanor. Yep, Sleep Number is in great hands.

Kirstie Foster, vice president, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota

After 15 years at General Mills in roles of increasing responsibility (she was director of brand and corp comms when she left), Kirstie landed at Blue Cross in May. Big “get” for the Blues. Big loss for Mills. And I’ve heard very good things from people who have worked for and with Kirstie at Mills. Blue Cross is lucky to have her.

Amy Von Walter, executive vice president-global communications and PR, Toys R Us

Now THAT’S a title! Huge move for Amy this year as she left Best Buy (where she had been for almost four years) for this gig at Toys R Us in New Jersey. This one was more about the void left at Best Buy (at least from a Minnesotan perspective), but I know they’re in good hands with people like Jeff Shelman involved.

Heather Rist Murphy, vice president of performance content and social media, Nina Hale.

Another impressive title (what exactly is “performance content” anyway?). Another impressive woman. After a year-and-a-half stint at Deluxe, Heather went to the agency side for a leadership role with Nina Hale.

Melissa Arrighi Wagner, marketing director, Greater Twin Cities United Way

After five-and-a-half years at General Mills, Melissa took her talents to the non-profit sector. And, GTCUW (former client) is lucky to have her. Already making great progress, judging from my work earlier in the year with this organization.

Breanna Welke, group account director, Bellmont Partners

After a relatively brief two-year stint at Marvin Windows & Doors, Breanna is back on the agency side with my friends over at Bellmont Partners. And, all reports I’ve heard is that things are working out pretty darn good. Happy to see another Warrior (Go Winona State) thriving!

Maggie Habashy, manager, corporate public relations, Sleep Number

Another great “get” by Sleep Number–that’s two on this list! I’ve had the pleasure of working with Maggie the last few months and could tell early on that she was going to be an invaluable add to the Sleep Number PR team. Bright future ahead for this young woman.


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True engagement is slowly dying on the internet

Take a peek at any corporate social media program and you will likely see “engagement” listed as a KPI in some way, shape or form.

Yet, the way the social web is going, that might be a foolish proposition.

Look no further than Twitter for just one example.

When was the last time you had an actual conversation with anybody on Twitter?

Heck, when was the last time ANYBODY has a productive conversation on Twitter?

Thanks to trolls, the 2016 Election, and a waning interest in even HAVING online conversations, Twitter, as we know it, is slowly dying (or, at the very least changing dramatically).

I’m not breaking news here, but it’s indicative of a larger trend:

Engagement is dying on the internet.

I have three proof points as to “why”:

Brands increasingly aren’t interested in engaging with fans

Sure, the big consumer brands are all about engaging on Twitter (read: recent Wendy’s tweets). But, what about everyone else? And, keep in mind, “everyone else” comprises a pretty big chunk of the accounts and brands on Twitter (small businesses and B2B specifically). Take JP Morgan, for example. 326,000 followers. Big huge financial brand. Yet, a quick glance at their Twitter stream and you see nary a response. They’re using Twitter purely as a broadcast channel.

Or, what about Accenture. Another big B2B brand. Another 300+K followers. Another brand who’s clearly not interested in engagement on Twitter. Just look at the stream.

Media is actually ignoring engagement altogether.

Just ask Vice. The growing media company recently shut down its comments section–which, in the recent past, has become somewhat en vogue among media companies as they make tough decisions on where to spend their time. I thought this quote from Jonathan Smith, editor in cheif at Vice: “(Vice does not have the) time or desire to continue monitoring that crap moving forward”. Because that’s what the comment sections of media sites have become: CRAP. And, increasingly, you could argue the same thing about social media sites, as many conversations on Facebook devolve into hyper-political debates, or worse yet, personal attacks. The media is saying they’ve had enough–they’re going to focus their time and attention elsewhere.

Comments/Shares getting tougher to come by

Anecdotally, I’ve noticed a big trend during the back-half of 2016 (and in the first two weeks of 2017): Comments and shares are getting tougher for brands to come by. And, really, do “likes” signify meaningful engagement in 2017? Because I would argue a hard “no” on that. Think about it. Likes are absolutely last on the totem pole of engagement, aren’t they? Comments bring meaningful input to the conversation. They spur conversation. They provide feedback. They are simply a much richer signal from an engagement standpoint. And shares provide the virality we all crave as marketers/communicators. The share is the Holy Grail of engagement. I don’t have any hard data to back this allegation up (outside of what I’m seeing with my clients), but if comments/shares dry up, brands are left with very little else.

photo credit: Mister G.C. Another feather in his cap. via photopin (license)

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