Here at HubSpot, some of the most awe-inspiring moments take place when we get to take new products and features for a test drive. We transform, if it’s even imaginable, into even bigger geeks than we normally are, squealing with the excitement typically reserved for iPhone launches and new seasons of Netflix series.
But alas — this glee is caused by software we use every day at work, and will eventually get to share with other marketers.
Many B2B marketers have seen B2C content at least once and asked, “Why do they get to have all the fun?” But the moments like the one we described above are the ones that remind us: B2B companies are just as passionate about their products as B2C companies are. And for every B2B product, there are even more B2B users out there looking for information, inspiration, and knowledge to provide them with solutions.
The point? No marketing, including content, is uninteresting if you look at it certain ways.
Done right, B2B content marketing can certainly match — and sometimes, maybe even rival — the creativity and appeal of the best B2C ones. And we want to recognize the brands that are breaking that mold and creating great content that grows fervent, dedicated audiences.
Below, you’ll find a few of our favorites, all with their own B2B marketing strategies that you can take with you.
10 Exceptional B2B Content Marketing Examples
1. CB Insights: Newsletter
What It Does Well
There are two things I love about the CB Insights newsletter. First, it’s surprisingly funny (the subject lines alone make it worth it). Second, you learn a lot just by reading the newsletter, no need to click through a bunch of links.”
– Janessa Lantz, HubSpot Senior Marketing Manager
We love how this newsletter illustrates the willingness of CB Insights to not take itself too seriously. Yes, it shares some of the finest insights on technology, venture capital (VC), and emerging businesses, but it does so with fun images that ultimately relate back to the subject — e.g., the above photo of Oprah that’s been adapted as a meme, since, well, that was the topic of the newsletter.
But the messaging remains relevant, even among the hint of silliness. After all, CB Insights designs technology for people in the VC space, so it’s tasked with creating content that will appeal to a broad audience: customers, prospective customers, tech enthusiasts, and investors. And so, under such subject lines as “so sad: tough to have a VC dad,” it includes relevant data. Yes, gifs are hilarious — but in some contexts, they’re also worth $147 million.
Takeaway for Marketers: Remember Your Buyer’s Goals
When you’re dying to create truly unique, cutting-edge content, it’s easy to stray from your organization’s mission and focus.
So, while it’s great to think outside of the box, use clever subject lines, or even write every email with an overarching humorous tone — keep it relevant and include the information that the people reading it signed up to receive in the first place. Then, keep it human.
2. Mattermark: Raise the Bar
What It Does Well
Raise the Bar rounds up the best stories about a variety of different industries, giving me a great snapshot of trends to watch and news stories to follow without having to search for them myself.”
– Sophia Bernazzani, Editor, HubSpot Customer Success Blog
One of the best things about well-curated content — especially the kind that pertains to your line of work — is that it eliminates a lot of work. Keeping up with news and trends is never easy when you’ve already got a full plate, so when someone else is able to hand-pick the things you need to know, it can feel like you’ve struck gold.
That’s what Raise the Bar does, by compiling a “daily digest of timely, must-read posts on sales, marketing and growth engineering.” And, that was the intent all along. In a 2016 blog post announcing the launch of the newsletter, Mattermark’s Co-founder and CEO, Danielle Morrill, wrote, “We’re turning our focus toward sifting through the mountains of content out there around sales, marketing, and growth to help the community of DOERS who grow companies.”
Takeaway for Marketers: Educate Your Buyers
Think about the problems that your product or service already aims to solve for customers. Then, turn that into relevant content that’s going to both save time for and inform your audience — and make it easy for them to access it.
3. MYOB: Tax Time
What It Does Well
MYOB, a provider of business management solutions in Australia and New Zealand, helps companies manage their finances, in part by connecting them with bookkeepers and financial services professionals. It has two main buyer personas:
- Small businesses that are just learning the ropes
- More established companies that need greater insight into all facets of their operations.
Each audience has its own set of concerns and corresponding hub of information on MYOB.com — and MYOB has built a B2B content marketing strategy for each one that shows how much it understands its customers.
MYOB recognizes that many businesses are figuring out accounting and financial decisions as they grow, so it’s created content that positions the brand as a go-to resource to help those businesses navigate each stage of their development. The Tax Time center, for example, is angled to fit the needs of both customer groups, providing tips for those just starting out, and guides for breaking through new stages of development.
Takeaway for Marketers: Grow With Your Buyers
When you begin to brainstorm and map out ideas for content, ask yourself, “Do I really understand my audience?” If you have any doubts as to how the idea will benefit or be useful to your audience, the answer might be “no” — and that’s okay. Like everything else, audiences (and people) evolve, so it’s okay to go back to the drawing board in instances like these for a refresh.
4. Unbounce: Page Fights (R.I.P.)
What It Does Well
If you’ve ever seen a growth marketer on the heels of a successful optimization experiment, you know that her energy is electric. Unbounce, a landing page software company based in Vancouver, understands that excitement and decided to leverage it to create an engaging microsite, Page Fights, in collaboration with optimization company Conversion XL.
The project came to a close after one year, but during its existence, Page Fights contained live streams of marketing optimization expert panels who critiqued landing pages in real time. It was content that expanded far beyond the written word — and that was one thing that made it so great.
Sure, Unbounce has a successful blog, but it saw Page Fights as an opportunity to expand beyond that copy. It knew that the web — especially within marketing and web design — was becoming increasingly crowded with content. To address that, it diversified the format of its expertise, to keep its audience engaged and learning.
Takeaway for Marketers: Diversify Your Channels
The internet is only going to become more crowded. And as the human attention span dwindles, that makes it even more important to create content that engages and maintains your audience’s attention.
So while we don’t recommend abandoning blogs completely — after all, written content is still vital to SEO — we do emphasize the importance of diversifying content formats. Marketers who incorporate video into their content strategies, for example, have seen 49% faster revenue growth than those who don’t. And remember that tip to “keep it human” we mentioned earlier? That’s a great thing about live video in particular — it can help portray brands (and their people) as candid and genuine.
5. Deloitte Insights
What It Does Well
Deloitte is a professional services company specializing in consulting, tech, auditing, and more. It works with a massive cross-section of industries, from government agencies to life sciences — and that broad range of knowledge is a major selling point. That’s why creating informed, useful content for individual, specialized audiences is core to its marketing strategy.
But Deloitte has also used that wealth of knowledge to position itself as a resource for those who want to know what it knows. So, among its specialized hubs are educational content centers, including Deloitte Insights (formerly branded Deloitte University Press).
Much like some of the other remarkable B2B content we’ve come across, it curates not only different pieces of highly helpful content — but also a variety of content formats. From blog posts, to webcasts, to podcasts, Deloitte Insights has a bit of everything for those who want to learn about its specialties and the industries it works with.
Takeaway for Marketers: Separate Your Buyer Personas
Creating a content strategy to please a wide-scale audience like Deloitte’s is challenging. It can quickly become unfocused. But if your company has a number of specialties, creating content microsites for each of them is one way to keep that information organized, discoverable, and easy to navigate.
Plus, it can never hurt to establish your brand as a go-to resource. So, as you create these content hubs, consider adding a “knowledge center” among them that’s dedicated to teaching your audience the valuable things it wants to learn.
6. First Round Magazines
What It Does Well
Here’s another example of a brand that does a great job of leveraging different categories of knowledge. First Round, an early-stage VC company, recognized the knowledge among entrepreneurs and leaders that wasn’t being shared — knowledge that could be highly beneficial to their peers — and created the First Round Review as a place for it to be shared. It serves, reads the manifesto, to liberate the ideas and expertise that are “trapped in other people’s heads.”
But liberating that much-untapped knowledge can lead to the same problem we alluded to above — an unfocused mass of content that makes it difficult to discover exactly what you’re looking for. That’s why First Round organized the Review into a collection of nine online magazines, each specializing in a different aspect of building a business.
Takeaway for Marketers: Work With Thought Leaders
If you’ve ever wondered how to leverage the wealth of knowledge outside of your organization — and inside your professional network — here’s a great example.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to the entrepreneurs and leaders you’ve met, or simply just admire, to figure out how they can work with you to create content with teachable experiences that your audience will value. Sharing useful, relatable first-hand accounts conveys empathy, which helps to invoke trust among readers.
7. NextView Ventures: Better Everyday
What It Does Well
We absolutely love stumbling across B2B companies with an active presence on Medium. A great example is VC firm NextView Ventures’ Better Everyday, a Medium publication that focuses on “stories, analyses & resources to help seed-stage founders redesign the everyday.”
But why would NextView want to create an entirely separate blog that isn’t even on its website? Well, it’s an exercise in creating off-site content: the material you own but doesn’t live on your website. When executed correctly, it can give publishers a huge boost in discoverability, variety, and quality, especially when making use of a highly popular platform like Medium.
Because Better Everyday isn’t attached to the company’s main URL, it provides an opportunity for NextView to experiment with different tones, voices, and stories — all from a variety of experts that might already be using Medium to discover and contribute unique content. Plus, with Medium’s built-in ability for people to recommend, highlight, and search internally for relevant content, it makes the work published there that much more shareable.
Takeaway for Marketers: Publish Off-Domain Content
Take advantage of the availability of off-site content platforms. As my colleague, Sam Mallikarjunan, writes in “Why Medium Works,” it can take up to six months of consistent publishing on your company’s blog before it gains significant traction. (And we’re not discouraging that — stick with it, and find ways to supplement those efforts.) But off-site content diversifies your audience by engaging readers who might not have otherwise found your website.
Medium, for example, connects your content with the people most likely to read it. Plus, you’re creating a publication on a platform that comes with a built-in audience of at least 6.3 million users.
8. Wistia: Instagram
What It Does Well
At risk of sounding like a broken record, we can’t emphasize enough the importance of B2B brands maintaining a human element. That’s why we like it when companies use social media channels to give audiences a “look inside” at the people who make the great products and services they love.
Wistia, a video hosting platform, does that particularly well by sharing visual content on Instagram that lifts the curtain on its people — and dogs. It not only aligns with its brand — after all, the company does provide technology to businesses that want hosting solutions for their visual content — but it’s also just smart. Among its other advantages, visual content can help boost a viewer’s retention of things like brand information.
Takeaway for Marketers: Incorporate Visual Content
Please, please, please don’t neglect to incorporate visuals into your content strategy. Of course, having a presence on visually-focused channels like Instagram and YouTube is vital — but when it comes to your written content, don’t afraid to use visuals there, as well. After all, articles with an image once every 75-100 words got double the number of social shares than articles with fewer images.
But if you can also create content that aligns with the core of your product or service, that’s also great. As we mentioned before, Wistia creates visual content technology — so it makes sense that it would have unique visual content. Identify what your business does particularly well, and then make the most use of the channel that best aligns with your strengths.
9. Zendesk Engineering
What It Does Well
Yes — more offsite content. This time, it’s from Zendesk, a maker of customer service software that’s done something unique with its Medium publication, Zendesk Engineering.
Zendesk might be an expert in the solutions provided by its product, but behind that product is a chorus of highly skilled experts — the people who build and engineer the software. The company realized that there’s an audience to be tapped that’s seeking insights and expertise on the technical side of the product, so it used that to build an entirely independent content property.
Takeaway for Marketers: Tell Your Brand Story
Dig beneath the surface of the solutions your company provides. You offer solutions — but what is your process? What have you learned that makes you do what you do so well, and how did you get there?
Sure, topics like engineering might be traditionally “unsexy.” But when leveraged and communicated in a storytelling manner, they can make for remarkable content.
10. Hexagon: Annual Report
Image via App Annie
What It Does Well
Who says written content needs to be two-dimensional?
For Hexagon, an industrial IT solutions provider, “AR” doesn’t just stand for annual report. With that in mind, the company recently “augmented” a presentation to its investors in a creative way.
Hexagon used augmented reality (AR) to spruce up their written company report, giving investors a more interactive experience when learning the latest updates on the company. How does it work? A mobile app, based on technology from Samsung and zSpace, displays a virtual demonstration of a product when readers hold their mobile device over a “trigger image” of that product within the report.
Takeaway for Marketers: Challenge Your Buyers
It’s easy to feel limited by your medium as you create content — especially for a business audience who you’ve all agreed is comfortable with that medium.
But in order for content to convert readers and incite growth, it needs to occasionally disrupt its audience’s point of view. A company doesn’t work for its content; content works for its company. If you need to say something that a blog alone can’t, the business demands that you make it work — whether that means starting a YouTube channel or seeing how you can integrate an AR tool into your next ebook.
And the List Goes On
We’re optimistic that the digital realm is full of strong B2B content marketing efforts — and, we want to hear about them. But even more than that, we want to hear how these examples inspire you. As they show, there’s a world of content opportunities out there, just waiting for creative B2B marketers to take on.
Source: New feed
Source: New feed
You might know your Instagram content is good, but imagine how much better it will seem if it looks like 10,000 people agree.
Whether you’re trying to become a social media celebrity or simply looking to spread brand awareness on Instagram, it can seem tempting to pay for your first couple thousand followers.
There are plenty of services available that allow you to buy 1,000 followers for the price of a small Starbucks latte. But of course, if it really was that cheap and easy, everyone would be doing it. So what’s the catch? Is buying Instagram followers legal and safe for your business? Is it a worthwhile investment?
Here, we’ve gone ahead and covered all the questions you might have about buying Instagram followers to give you a better idea of how it actually works. We’ve also explored the pros and cons, so you can decide for yourself if it’s a good move for your brand.
Can you buy Instagram followers?
Yes, you can. There are plenty of cheap services available that allow you to buy 1,000 followers for as little as $10 USD. But you’re only paying for a number: many of those followers are either bots or inactive accounts, which means they’ll never engage with your posts.
As a quick Google search will reveal, there are many cheap services you can use to buy Instagram followers. For about $6 USD, you can get 500 followers, and for about $10 USD, you can get 1,000 followers.
The vast majority of these purchasable followers, however, are either bots or inactive accounts.
When you buy Instagram followers, you’re paying for a number alone. Engagement is not guaranteed, or even likely.
In addition to buying followers directly, you can also pay services to strategically follow other accounts on your behalf based on your preferences (location, hashtag usage, account type, and gender). Ideally, those followed accounts will then follow you back.
With this option, your followers are more likely to be real people, but engagement is still unlikely. Since you can’t even guarantee these accounts will follow you back, it’s a risky investment. Most accounts won’t follow you back, and even if they do, they probably aren’t going to be long-term, loyal, or active followers.
If your priority is simply to have a big follower count, than these services can definitely help you. When your number of organic followers dips, these services even replenish your pool with other followers.
But remember the risks: these followers will probably never like or comment on a post, and if you’re caught with a ton of fake followers, you could ruin your credibility with your real audience.
Think of it this way: would you keep following an account if you saw that most of their “loyal audience” were inactive accounts or bots? I’m guessing not. It could seem deceitful, and lead you to believe the brand couldn’t get authentic followers through content alone.
Should you buy Instagram followers?
It’s not a good idea to buy Instagram followers. The purchased followers are likely bots or inactive accounts, so they won’t engage with your posts. This means your posts won’t show up on Explore Pages, or on your real audience’s newsfeeds. It will also make it hard to measure metrics.
And how helpful, really, are 10,000 followers that don’t engage with you? Engagement is key to how Instagram’s algorithm displays posts to users. Without likes or comments, your post probably won’t show up on your audience’s newsfeeds, and it also won’t show up on any Explore Pages.
Having a lot of followers could convince users to follow you organically, but it’s not a guarantee.
Users might notice you don’t have a ton of engagement on your posts, which could deter them from following you. If you have 10,000 followers but only four likes per post, it won’t take people long to realize something is up.
Without real followers to engage with your content, your posts are essentially hidden from everyone except your unauthentic audience. Plus, your fake followers won’t share your post on any of their channels. And they won’t discuss your brand in real life with friends or family, because, well … they don’t exist in real life (no offense, bots).
It’s also practically impossible to measure how well your target audience is connecting with your brand if a high percentage of that audience isn’t real. How will you measure posts that do well with your real audience if those bots and inactive accounts skew the ratio?
If you don’t know how well your posts are doing or what your real audience thinks, you’ll never convert your Instagram followers into real customers. And isn’t that the point?
Ultimately, if you pay for Instagram followers, you aren’t paying for quality, real-life followers. You’re paying for a blank number. And since Instagram’s algorithm is largely tied to engagement, not followers, buying followers isn’t a long-term solution. In fact, it isn’t really a solution at all.
Take the time, energy, and money that you would’ve dedicated to buying followers, and focus instead on building genuine relationships with a real audience. If your content is engaging and authentic, your loyal followers will spread the word and engage with your brand without needing any bribes.
Source: New feed
In my last internship, my manager told me a funny story about her 18 year-old brother after he visited the office one day. And it made me realize I officially don’t understand the teenage mind anymore.
After meeting me for a mere two minutes, he wanted to add me — the only other person around who looked like they could’ve just graduated high school — on Snapchat, so we could start a Snapstreak.
I knew what Snapstreaks were, but I didn’t get why he wanted to add a random guy on Snapchat just to start one. I mean, it was cool he seemed to identify with me. But why do today’s teenagers value Snapstreaks so much that they’d add any fellow Gen-Zer to their most personal social network and commit to messaging them everyday?
Let’s back up before we delve too deeply into philosophical questions about Gen Z’s social media habits. If you’re above the age of 25, you might not know what a Snapstreak even is.
What is a Snapstreak?
A Snapstreak occurs when two people have sent each other Snapchats back and forth for more than three consecutive days. When you start a Snapstreak with someone, you’ll see a fire emoji next to their name in the app. The number next to the fire emoji indicates how long the Snapstreak has been going.
Snapchat will notify you when one of your Snapstreaks is about to end by putting an hourglass emoji by that friend’s name. And if one of your Snapstreaks ends, but you know you and your friend snapped each other back and forth within the 24-hour window, you can report the error to Snapchat.
You might think it’s silly that falsely expired Snapstreaks have sparked so much user backlash that Snapchat needs a customer support team for the issue. But, for some teenagers, a fire emoji next to someone’s name is an extremely meaningful indicator of friendship.
Snapstreaks Indicate Friendship
A long Snapstreak is concrete evidence for a close friendship. It proves the two friends are committed to talking to each other everyday. So if someone claims they’re close with someone, then their Snapstreak with that person should be long. Some teenagers even bring up their Snapstreaks in conversation with peers to prove the quality of these friendships.
But teens don’t just value the length of their Snapstreaks. They also value the quantity of their Snapstreaks. Having a lot of Snapstreaks is impressive because it means you talk to a lot of people. And the more people you talk to, the more popular you must be. Along these lines, the number of Snapstreaks you have is like a popularity score.
When teenagers accidentally end Snapstreaks, it can ruffle some feathers, especially if the streak spans over a year. Since both friends invested a portion of their day for an entire year to maintain the Snapstreak, unintentionally ending it can make them feel like all that time and effort went to waste. The pain can sting so bad that teens will even Snap each other in the middle of the night to save their Snapstreak from expiring.
Snapstreaks might just seem like a game or a superficial way to prove popularity, but a lot of teens realize it’s an excuse to connect with their friends everyday. Teenagers value Snapstreaks more than any other Snapchat metric like story views or Snapchat score because they know starting a streak with someone can lead to actual conversation. By using Snapstreaks as a reason to talk everyday, they can strengthen their friendships.
Source: New feed
The definition of a whitepaper varies heavily from industry to industry, which can be a little confusing for marketers looking to create one for their business.
The old-school definition comes from politics, where it means a legislative document explaining and supporting a particular political solution.
In tech, a whitepaper usually describes a theory behind a new piece of technology. Even a business whitepaper can serve a variety of uses and audiences — some more product-focused than others. And although it is put together like an ebook, the two are written quite differently.
We’re here to arm you with the best definition of a whitepaper in the context of business, and offer two examples for how one might use a whitepaper in their marketing strategy.
What Is a Whitepaper?
A whitepaper is a persuasive, authoritative, in-depth report on a specific topic that presents a problem and provides a solution.
Marketers create whitepapers to educate their audience about a particular issue, or explain and promote a particular methodology. They’re advanced problem-solving guides. Typically, whitepapers require at least an email address for download (usually they require information more than that), making them great for capturing leads.
What Is a Whitepaper Not?
A product pitch.
Although Investopedia defines a whitepaper as “an informational document issued by a company to promote or highlight the features of a solution, product, or service,” be warned that overtly shilling your own stuff could turn off your readers.
The goal of a whitepaper is to inform and persuade based on facts and evidence, not tell the world why people need to buy your product right now.
How Are They Different From Blog Posts and Ebooks?
Speaking of what a whitepaper isn’t … if you’re looking for a quick and interactive way to present your value to the industry, a whitepaper is not your only option. There are also ebooks and blog posts — both of which have various differences from a whitepaper.
What really set these products apart are the size, appearance, and time commitment of each one. Whereas writing blog posts and ebooks can take anywhere between a few hours and a few weeks, a good whitepaper can take between a few weeks and a few months to write and polish. They’re less flashy, much more serious in tone, and more heavily researched than blog posts and ebooks.
Let me show you a comparison. The set below is one of our own ebook templates (which you can get for free here). It’s a thorough but simple read:
Now, here is a whitepaper based on our latest research on emerging tech for small to mid-sized businesses (a great report — see the web version here). You can see how much detail whitepapers can go into, both in text and in its images:
Images via HubSpot Research [PDF]
Ebooks and whitepapers can start on the same template. But ultimately, whitepapers are the academic papers of marketing content. Readers expect a high degree of expertise backed by solid research that is fully documented by references.
Ebooks, on the other hand, are often extensions of a subject you cover regularly on a blog. They can come out of diligent research, but they appeal to a wider audience when unpacking a business subject.
You can imagine this makes them kind of boring in comparison — truthfully, most people don’t actually want to read whitepapers, but they do it anyway to build their knowledge of an operation they need more insight on before making their next move.
For this reason, they tend to be particularly detailed and informative, authoritative, and written by industry experts. And these qualities can make some decision makers feel better about a future purchase.
How Do You Make a Whitepaper?
Technically, there are no minimum requirements for whitepapers. Anyone can call anything a whitepaper — this doesn’t mean you should, though. Without some boundaries on what is and what isn’t a whitepaper, we risk confusing our audience and losing credibility. Here’s what an A+ whitepaper looks like:
- Length: No fewer than six pages, including illustrations, charts, and references. Can be upwards of 50 if the topic requires that much detail. (Chances are, it won’t.)
- Structure: There is usually a title page, table of contents, short executive summary (optional but helpful), introduction, several pages educating the reader about the problem, several pages hypothesizing a solution, several pages offering an example of a company that used that solution to achieve results, and a conclusion.
- Density: Denser than an ebook. Whitepapers aren’t usually easy to skim — in fact, readers usually need to read them over more than once to get every morsel of information out of it.
- Format: PDF in portrait orientation (8.5″ by 11″).
- Style: Professional, serious, well written, and well edited. I’d recommend hiring a graphic designer to design page layout, images, fonts, and colors as well.
Whitepaper Examples for Lead Generation
So, if whitepapers are so boring, why do marketers create them? Well, they’re a great resource for your prospects and sales team, and they help you build credibility and trust with your readers. Also, people who choose to download whitepapers often are further into the customer buying cycle.
With that in mind, here are two use cases for a whitepaper:
A Technical Case Study
It’s been said that case studies, like ebooks, are very different from whitepapers. However, some case studies are long enough that they’re best packaged as whitepapers themselves.
A case study is essentially the story of a customer’s success reaching a goal as a result of their partnership with another party. This success is best conveyed through certain metrics the customer has agreed to be measured on. And depending on how technical or complex the service is that they received, the more research and detail other potential customers will want to see as they continue their buyer’s journey.
Therefore, case study-based whitepapers can be a terrific way of demonstrating thought leadership on a dense concept through a real-world example of how this concept helped someone else succeed.
A Reference Guide
Imagine you work for a company that sells kitchen cleaning equipment to restaurants and you write a whitepaper about the maintenance and inspection of commercial kitchens.
That whitepaper is probably chock full of information about legal requirements for exhaust systems, cooking equipment, and cleanliness documentation that could put even the biggest kitchen maintenance enthusiast to sleep if read cover-to-cover.
But it also serves as an incredibly useful reference for restaurant owners who want to know how to maintain their kitchens to pass inspection. Once they know how clean they need to keep their kitchens, they’ll likely buy some expensive cleaning equipment from you because they see you as a helpful, detail-oriented, credible source.
Many people create whitepapers for this purpose — a resource that their leads can take with them to become better at their trade. Ideally, the better they become, the more qualified they are to work with the organization that gave them the whitepaper.
Whitepapers have a long history and their uses have continued to change. And sometimes, an ebook is the better way to share your in-depth content online. Find out why.
Source: New feed
Welcome to this week’s edition of “Unriddled”: the HubSpot Marketing Blog’s mid-week digest of the tech news you need to know.
This week, we’re coming to you live from South by Southwest (SXSW), a festival of interactive events where we’re positively drowning in a sea of bots, music, and some of the best tacos around.
But fear not: if recent current events have you scratching your head and wondering, “What just happened?”, we’ve got you covered.
It’s our Wednesday tech news roundup, and we’re breaking it down with Amanda’s dance move of the week: none other than The Robot.
Unriddled: The Tech News You Need
1. SXSW Kicks off With Mixed Sentiments on Tech
In Austin, TX, the annual SXSW celebration of tech, film, and music kicked off with mixed sentiment and messaging around tech.
Each year, SXSW polls attendees for the Trust Barometer: a measure of how much faith the crowd has in things like media, institutions, business, and technology. And despite the interactive presence at the event, this year’s survey found that attendees have quite a low level of trust in emerging technology.
Attendees seem to have the lowest level of trust in blockchain technology, coming in at only 27%. That’s followed by autonomous vehicles at 33%, and the same percentage of attendees reporting trust in virtual reality (VR) platforms.
The Trust Barometer results for technology echo an overall key change in an outlook of technology that’s been discussed in several sessions at SXSW. According to certain expert panels, it seems that users are generally looking to revisit a more human element in the technology they use, from social media to smart speakers and digital assistants.
In the realm of social media, for instance, some predict that the trend is moving toward a greater emphasis on communities.
“Sometimes, it’s easier to share more intimately in a group,” said Facebook Product Design Manager Tutti Taygerly during a panel discussion — suggesting a move toward “smaller, more intimate social networks.”
That suspected widespread need for more personal communication among consumers also came up during a panel discussion on the next wave of communication with technology like voice assistants and bots.
“What about emotional attachments?” asked moderator Shara Tibken, a senior reporter with CNET. “Do you see a day when these become our therapists, or our friends?”
“People do ask the bots if they’re a boy or a girl,” responded Dashbot co-founder and CEO Arte Merritt, adding that users also ask these technologies for their names, and whether or not they’re real.
People send images into these chatbots,” he continued. “It turns out people treated a weather bot like a person, and sent it pictures like it would to a friend.”
2. Twitter’s CEO Held a Live Broadcast to Discuss the Network’s Health
As we reported in February, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced in a series of tweets that the social network would be enlisting the help of outside experts to determine the relative health of Twitter. That decision, it seems, was largely a response to user demand for Twitter to resolve the use of its network to engage in negative, often hateful conversation on the platform.
Last week, Dorsey and other leaders at Twitter took a further step in those efforts when they hosted a live stream to answer questions about the social network’s health.
Admitting that Twitter has taken on serious issues it must resolve, Head of Product Health David Gasca remarked that the network has to overcome them and examine health “in such a way that is public and accountable,” but goes beyond such basic figures as retweets and followers.
The live stream took place a day after Twitter issued a statement emphasizing that it would be taking measures to prevent cryptocurrency scams on its network, noting that it’s “aware of this form of manipulation.”
To address it, the statement said, Twitter will be able to detect certain “signals” that indicate an account might be engaging in this activity.
Both Facebook and Google (as of this morning) have completely banned any advertisements related to cryptocurrency — and while Twitter has not issued a complete ban on this type of promoted content, it seems trickier to enforce on that particular platform. For instance, the live stream coincided with the release of new research from MIT that found false news to be 70% more likely to be retweeted.
Dorsey noted that Twitter is likely to host future live streams on the topic. Check out our full coverage of this one here.
3. Messenger Could Be Issuing Updates to Emulate Snapchat (Again)
Over the weekend, messaging blog WABetaInfo released new information indicating that Facebook has plans for major changes to Messenger — which could include disappearing photos and videos.
According to the post, the rumored update not only includes an overall new design and features like auto-translate, but also may allow users to send disappearing — or ephemeral — visual content.
If true, this move would be the latest in a Facebook’s long history of attempting to emulate Snapchat’s features since its failed attempt to acquire the platform in 2013.
“The Facebook platform saturated the market with stories on its portfolio of products — Facebook, Instagram, Messenger,” said Connor Cirillo, HubSpot’s conversational marketing manager, when the story first broke. “And now, with its emphasis on things like video calls and filters, Messenger continues to push to be the way users build one-on-one relationships.”
The sentiment of Messenger being leveraged by individual consumers and brands alike has been echoed throughout SXSW during a number of conversations about the platform and how businesses are — and should be — using it.
“Over time,” said Niveus CEO and co-founder Tim Cutting during a panel discussion, bots should be built “so that it’s more of a dialogue back and forth.”
“Folks are letting this into their lives,” he continued. “It’s a train moving toward comfort, and feature, and benefit.”
4. Speaking of Snapchat …
Last week, it was reported that the somewhat troubled ephemeral content app would be cutting over 120 engineers from its staff.
According to Reuters, the app’s parent company, Snap Inc., has a staff meeting scheduled for today to discuss a reorganization, as well as answering lingering employee questions.
The announcement came after disappointing results and revenue a year after the company’s IPO.
For many, the sustainable value or monetization potential for an app like Snapchat remains unclear. While it was a pioneer in the realm of ephemeral content — and certainly attracted the attention of Facebook, as per above — it’s lingered behind other social networks in terms of providing tools for analytics and measuring ROI for marketers and brands.
Discussions at SXSW also implied that it even causes some confusion for best use cases among consumers.
“One core problem on Snapchat is deciding what should be shared just with friends and family, and what should be public,” Taygerly said. “What is the demarcation between those two worlds?”
5. YouTube Will Add Information From Wikipedia to Conspiracy Videos
At a Tuesday night SXSW panel, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said the video-sharing platform will be adding topical information to videos about conspiracies.
The goal of this move is to provide additional information around controversial topics — the soure of which will be Wikipedia.
“When there are videos that are focused around something that’s a conspiracy,” Wojcicki said, “we will show a companion unit of information from Wikipedia showing that here is information about the event.”
There’s an issue, however: Wikipedia is thought by many to be a less-than-reliable source of information.
Its content is crowdsourced, and much of the time, entries can be edited by anyone without requiring citations. That’s one reason why, for example, when I was in graduate school, Wikipedia was not a permitted source of information for research.
But as Wired reporter Louise Matsakis pointed out, floating Wikipedia as a source of information isn’t new for Google.
Information from the site is often used in featured snippets, or some of the highest-ranking pages in its search engine results. After all, here’s what a search for the query “moon landing” yielded:
It’s possible that YouTube could face a backlash from this move — but as for whether or not it will reconsider its sources of information for such content remains to be seen.
That’s all for today — but we’ll be at SXSW all week. While we’re here, feel free to weigh in on Twitter to ask us your tech news questions, or to let us know what kind of events and topics you’d like us to cover.
Source: New feed