March 2015




Picking a Platform

Sometimes in social media, choosing where to spread your message is just as challenging as figuring out what to say. In this month’s Feature, we assess the pros and cons of sharing a video natively on Twitter or Facebook rather than providing a link to YouTube. Our Digital Guide offers an intro to content recommendation engines, while our case study takes a look at how the TSA is succeeding on a surprising platform: Instagram. Porter Novelli’s own Anthony LaFauce shares his work style in this month’s On Workflow. All this plus stats, the latest news in social media and digital advertising, and more.

Cover photo: Astronauts return to Earth in the Soyuz TMA-14M,
after six months onboard the International Space Station.

Social Stats
Social Networking Stats

 What’s Trending

Twitter Reaches Deal to Show Tweets in Google Search Results
“In the first half of this year, tweets will start to be visible in Google’s search results as soon as they’re posted, thanks to a deal giving the Web company access to Twitter’s firehose, the stream of data generated by the microblogging service’s 284 million users… Google previously had to crawl Twitter’s site for the information, which will now be visible automatically.”
Source: Bloomberg

This deal is a win for both parties. Google gains access to real-time content, while Twitter is connected to Google’s huge user base and massive Web search market. With tweets expanding beyond the original service, Twitter could reach a bigger audience and drive user acquisition and growth, which have slowed considerably. Brands can take advantage of the increased exposure by enhancing tweets with calls to action or links that could generate more traffic to their websites.

Global Trend

Messaging App Line Releases Line@ App for Business Users
“Like many social media sites, brands or businesses using LINE@ create a home page to display business information and news. Updates can also be posted which will appear in the timelines of users who have friended your account.”
Source: ZDNet

Line@ is an enterprise-focused version of Japan’s explosively popular chat app Line, which now boasts 181 million monthly active users. The new app is integrated with the existing chat service and allows accounts to send mass messages to groups of users. With the added benefits of analytics and, potentially, access to improved Line Pay service, Line@ could be a hit for businesses in Asia where Line is already thriving.

Daily Active Users: 890,000,000
Daily Mobile Active Users: 745,000,000
Monthly Active Users: 1,390,000,000
Monthly Mobile Active Users: 1,190,000,000

Monthly Active Users: 288,000,000

Monthly U.S. Visitors: 38,500,000
Registered U.S. Members: 111,000,000
Registered Members: 347,000,000

Monthly Active Users: 300,000,000

Blogs: 225,900,000
Monthly U.S. Visitors: 34,946,000

Monthly U.S. Visitors: 50,501,000

Monthly U.S. Visitors: 9,088,000
Monthly Unique Visitors: 60,000,000

Monthly U.S. Visitors: 165,618,000
Monthly Unique Users: 1,000,000,000

Monthly Active Users: 360,000,000

Monthly Active Users: 700,000,000
Daily Messages Sent: 30,000,000,000

Registered Users: 292,980,000
Daily Active Users: 69,000,000

Monthly Active Users: 39,700,000

Registered Users: 219,000,000
Monthly Active Users: 44,000,000

Monthly Active Users: 167,000,000

Monthly Active Users: 629,000,000
Mobile Monthly Active Users: 506,000,000

Registered Users: 1,100,000,000
Monthly Active Users: 468,000,000

Monthly Active Users: 27,100,000

Registered Users: 560,000,000
Monthly Active Users: 181,000,000

Advertising Trends


Facebook Opens up Topic Data to Brands

“Facebook will start telling marketers the types of people who are talking about specific topics on the social network as well as the kinds of things they’re saying, through a partnership with social data firm DataSift… With this data in hand, marketers may be able to familiarize themselves with new customer groups, suss out which products they might want to stock up on or highlight in an upcoming campaign or do some recon on how people view their brands.”
Source: Ad Age

Previously, research on Facebook conversation around a topic has been anecdotal and spotty, due to limited search features and the high proportion of non-public content. Now, Facebook is giving marketers unprecedented insight into discussions happening on the platform, even in friends-only updates. While the raw conversation data will remain private, this kind of demographic information can allow for tailoring of ad spend to make ads more relevant and effective.



Adoption of Ad Blocking Tech Grows

“Ad blocking technology presents a growing threat to digital publishers and ad-tech companies — and they’re starting to pay close attention. Ad blocking technology removes ads from the internet via a browser extension. There are a number of such extensions — the two most notable being Adblock and Adblock Plus — and they are being installed in droves.”
Source: Ad Age

Research indicates that ad blockers are cutting off roughly 9% of online ad impressions. In response, expect to see the distinctions between “advertising” and “content” continue to blur, with a growing focus on tactics like branded blogs and native advertising. The Internet is a crowded space, and users will always find ways to ignore and avoid content that isn’t actively useful to them.
How Facebook Targets Ads Globally
Based on Users’ Phones

“This week, Facebook launched a program for the top worldwide agencies to learn about advertising in less developed areas — it’s called the Creative Accelerator… The creative program includes agencies like McCann, Publicis and Omnicom, working with brands like Durex, Samsung and Axe to build campaigns that can run no matter what device a consumer is using or at what speed.”
Source: Adweek

While Facebook is limiting this initiative to major global brands, its insights are applicable to anyone targeting markets in emerging countries. It’s important to remember that globally, many consumers are using flip phones or low-end smartphones and accessing the Internet at slower speeds. Social content targeted at these users needs to look good and perform well even under low-bandwidth conditions.


Noteworthy News


Twitter Considers Creating “Daily Edition”

“Twitter chief financial officer Anthony Noto recently revealed that the social network is thinking about creating a new feature called the Twitter Daily Edition to curate and share the best tweets of each day… A daily summary of Twitter… would break away from its core function as a platform for real-time communication, but it could help widen its appeal to a broader audience that’s yet to see Twitter’s value.”
Source: Quartz

Twitter’s perennial dilemma: How do you get people to engage with tweets they didn’t see? It looks like this daily summary will be the next attempt at a solution, perhaps in email newsletter form. Not only would this give Twitter a second chance to surface overlooked tweets, it might also give brands a chance to pay for a premium spot in the roundup.


USA Today Tests SMS Sharing Buttons

“USA Today sports blog For The Win has found that its mobile readers don’t share much through Twitter… It’s actually so negligible that FTW, which is solely focused on social media distribution, dropped Twitter sharing buttons from its mobile stories in late 2014 in favor of SMS-sharing buttons. The early results have been staggering: the SMS button has been used three to four more times more often than the Twitter button ever was, according to FTW’s editorial director Jamie Mottram.”
Source: Digiday

This is a great reminder that metrics are helpful in evaluating not just content, but sharing habits, too. USA Today found that its Tweet button wasn’t offering much value and took a gamble that an alternative would be more useful, and the experiment paid off. (Incidentally, Nieman Labs research has indicated declining use of “Tweet” buttons across the Web.) If some aspect of your publishing program isn’t working, don’t be afraid to discard it entirely and try something totally new.

Google Begins Boosting Mobile-Friendly Sites
in Search Results

“Google today announced two notable changes that will affect the rankings of search results for users accessing Google search on mobile devices. It will now take into consideration a site’s mobile-friendliness as one of its ranking signals, and information from indexed mobile applications will also begin to influence ranking for signed-in users who have the app installed on their smartphone.”
Source: TechCrunch

The era of asking users to muddle through desktop-optimized sites on their phone screens is over. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, now is a good time to start thinking about responsive design. Apps that use “deep linking” technology — links that point to specific pages within an app — are also getting a boost, as Google will begin indexing these apps in the same way it does websites.


How Cards Are Transforming The Web

“Our dependency on mobile devices for information has forced the design of the web to change… Cards, a technology that collapses online content into digital containers for fast and easy consumption, was born out of this shift and has begun a transformation across the web that will be crowning new winners and losers throughout 2015.”
Source: TechCrunch

Cards are succeeding because they provide users with precisely the information they want, embedded in the page they’re already on — whether that’s a preview of a link in a tweet or a drink recipe right at the top of your Google search results. A key aspect of providing a good user experience is making sure that users don’t have to do too much work to find what they’re looking for. If your online experience is overly complex, users won’t stick around.

“It’s easy to forget that without captivating content to wrap itself around, advertising is like opening a present … only to find an empty box. Ads best find their home near content that serves the needs, passions and curiosities of consumers, which in turn should inspire advertisers to find ways to elevate their own conversations with consumers.”

– Randall Rothenberg for Adweek: “Publishers, Agencies Must Shift Their Focus From Big Data to Big Content”


Native Videos on Social Networks:
Pros and Cons

Right now, social networks are clamoring to own more and more of the media experience. Facebook in particular wants not just to distribute links and updates, but to serve as a place where visitors consume media without leaving its ecosystem. Video is at the center of this trend. Networks are encouraging publishers to upload videos on-platform, rather than sharing links to YouTube or other video sites. As enticement, native video uploads promise higher levels of engagement, greater prominence within the Newsfeed and other advantages over embedded YouTube links.

Many industry observers have noted that this development is good for social networks. And it is: By hosting the media experience, networks get to capture more audience attention and own the audience data that comes with it. But native video on Facebook and Twitter is also good for the brands and other publishers taking advantage of it.

The benefit of building up a network of YouTube subscribers has always been questionable. While YouTube has a strong social networking component, distribution and awareness are weak points. YouTube’s two big upsides are (1) the ability to embed its videos just about anywhere and (2) its advantages for search both within the YouTube ecosystem and on Google as a whole. But because YouTube videos are so easily shared, they’re also easily disassociated from the brand/publisher who uploads them. Native social videos change that equation.

Increased reach: Yes, native videos rank higher in the Facebook Newsfeed than YouTube embeds do. A number of recent studies have demonstrated this. Similarly, early results on Twitter’s native video offering show higher levels of engagement, which imply increased reach as well. More retweets for a video cause more people to see it.

Closer ties to publisher profile: If someone wants to share a video that’s posted to Facebook, they must do so through Facebook’s Share feature. That increases potential reach not just for the video itself, but for the profile as a whole, which is included in the Share as the source of the video. Even if the video update is embedded outside Facebook or Twitter, it’s still linked to the original publisher.

Of course, Facebook’s recent changes to discourage “overly promotional” brand posts have put a big dent in organic reach, and it’s unwise for a brand to put all its eggs in the Facebook basket. (For that matter, brands should always focus their content on owned platforms rather than off-domain social networks, where rules and reach can change without warning.) And certainly, brands have to consider Facebook’s Newsfeed filtering and content decay rate when weighing the platform’s pros and cons. With those caveats, consider these factors when sharing video:

  1. How will the content be shared? Does the platform allow for easy linking, embedding and other sharing behaviors?
  2. What’s the impact on search? Does the platform have its own search functionality? How open is content on that platform to general search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing? This matters for both external and internal audiences, as these videos may need to be re-surfaced later.
  3. How timely is the video? Is it of fleeting relevance (e.g. a breaking news item or a take on a trendy meme) or will it have long-term importance?
  4. How can different networks be used in a unified campaign? The best route may be to create unique videos for each platform in the service of a common goal. That means you produce one video for Facebook, one for Twitter, one for Instagram and one for Vine, each making a different appeal based on audience differentiation and platform best practices. In some cases it can make sense to upload the same video across multiple platforms, but it also erodes each network’s unique value proposition. Ultimately, the decision should be based on a balance between the audience’s preferences and the publisher’s goals.

When it comes to video sharing, there is no one correct answer; each approach has its advantages. So instead of placing one large bet (going all-in on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube), try to place a number of small bets. Leverage each platform’s unique strengths. While this tactic requires more effort, it also ensures that you maximize the value of the time invested in creating a quality video.




A/B testing is when you expose users to two versions of a design to see which one performs better. It’s a favorite tool of Google, who first used the method back in 2000 to determine how many search results to put on a page… Facebook [also] tests changes to its news feed by showing users different content, and seeing what performs better.”

– Fast Company, 4 Animated GIFs That Reveal The Secret To Great UX Testing. Click through to see the rest.

On Workflow:
Anthony LaFauce

Wired Up and Working Hard

In our continuing “On Workflow” series, we hear how Connectors and clients tackle their day and get things done. For this edition, we talk to Anthony LaFauce, Vice President Digital Communications Group at Porter Novelli.

Tell us about your desk setup.

I run dual monitors and I have a charging station for my Moto 360 smart watch. It’s pretty messy with my tablet, a couple water bottles, some empty Red Bull cans, a lamp…

How do you like owning
a smartwatch?

I used to be an avionics technician in the navy, so I like being out of the Apple ecosystem because it’s less friendly for that kind of tinkering. I also love being able to send text messages while I’m riding my bike to and from work.

What are your essential apps?

I’m a huge Evernote user. I keep daily and weekly to-do lists for short- and medium-term tasks. I use Excel to track budgets and time. Every Monday, I take the projects I’m working on and drop them into Excel, and it auto-calculates how much money I’ve spent and the time remaining.

How do you get started with a
new client?

I am a huge fan of having a deep-dive onboarding session. I believe my role as account lead is to be the advocate for the client while pulling resources together, so I try to get myself to the point where I’m as knowledgeable as the internal employees through heavy immersion – lots and lots of reading.

How do you take notes?

I take handwritten notes on my Galaxy Note and store them in Evernote, where they’re converted to searchable text.

How do you track industry news?

I run custom RSS feeds into Pocket with If This Then That – filtering for verticals like tech and health. I’m the poster child for self-selecting news. I tag articles I want to read in Pocket and they get uploaded to Evernote, where I read them later. On the side I’m a college professor at American University, which also forces me to stay on top of industry developments. I teach a graduate-level course on digital media for PR professionals: everything from paid advertising to video production to website production and more.

What do you do that everybody else thinks is crazy?

I am incredibly process-oriented. Again, with my military background, I like to have a process for everything, which is unusual in PR. I take notes constantly. I also drink about five cups of coffee a day. After 1:00 I switch to Red Bull and have two or three of those.

How do you fight procrastination?

Having task windows open and staring at me as a constant reminder is pretty effective. Also, lots of caffeine.

Case Study

The TSA Takes to Instagram

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which works in more than 450 U.S. airports to screen passengers and maintain safety, is an unlikely candidate for success on the teen-dominated photo-sharing network Instagram. But thanks to an unexpected approach, the TSA is able to leverage the platform to connect with an impressive number of followers.

Bob Burns, the TSA’s head of social media, explains that the agency has three key goals for social content:

    1. Share details on what you can and can’t bring onto an aircraft, in either carry-on or checked luggage.
    2. Promote the work the TSA is doing, highlighting the volume of dangerous items they’re keeping off planes. Burns notes, “Some people are surprised when we tell them how many firearms our officers find, or [how many people try to] bring explosive devices onto the plane.”
    3. Offer travel tips — including advice on packing and getting through security more smoothly — in order to improve people’s experiences with air travel and the TSA.

So how does a government agency take an unsexy topic like airport security screenings and get people interested in learning more? After the TSA launched a blog to share travel tips and answer common questions like “Can I pack shaving razors in my carry-on luggage?”, the team found a breakout hit in its weekly posts recapping unusual items found in screenings. Inspired by the success of these posts, the TSA created an Instagram account unlike any other.

Every day, Burns receives a list of notable items confiscated by agents at TSA checkpoints, and requests photos of a few of the highlights. The most bizarre finds appear on Instagram, where they have no trouble generating conversation. “I could just post a regular picture of a pocketknife — we find those all day long, every day — and it’s not going to get much of a reaction,” Burns explains. “But if I post a picture of a sword or a nine-inch-long knife with brass-knuckle handles, that’s more likely to get more discussion going…”

Alongside the lipstick stun guns and replica grenades, the TSA continues to share tips and information about traveling with cats, pies, pills and more. All the while, the agency’s audience is growing rapidly. Since Adweek published its interview with Burns on March 3, the number of Instagram followers has increased from 235,000 to 252,000 and counting. Each photo posted to the account averages several thousand “likes.” The fact that Burns runs the program almost entirely on his own makes these levels of reach and engagement especially impressive.

The TSA has made social media work for them by being honest about what resources are available to them and figuring out the rest from there. With a small social media team, the agency opted to focus on building a large audience on one channel particularly well-suited to its content, rather than dividing its efforts among multiple platforms. The TSA also isn’t shy about capitalizing on its most entertaining content opportunities to draw in followers, who are then exposed to the more mundane, education-focused updates, too. It’s a great example of serving audience interests first, and using that content as the springboard for communicating brand messages.



“Twitter is worthless for the limited purpose of driving traffic to your website, because Twitter is not a portal for outbound links, but rather a homepage for self-contained pictures and observations.”

– Derek Thompson for The Atlantic

Twitter was never meant to be a traffic-driving platform. The network was created as a tool for on-site conversation, and its timeline isn’t built to drive link clicks. The unfiltered stream forces every update to compete for attention in the brief time before new tweets appear.

Still, Twitter does offer value to brand publishers, helping promote awareness and loyalty. If you want to gauge if your Twitter is succeeding, pay attention to follower engagement, not click-through rates.


If This Then That

IFTTT (“IF This, Then That”) is a free service for automating simple online processes. IFTTT’s If app for iPhone and Android lets you create personal automation “recipes” or browse existing recipe collections. Each recipe includes a trigger, like a rain forecast in your city for tomorrow, with an action, like sending you an email that it’s going to rain. Whenever the trigger occurs, IFTTT automatically initiates the action. The IFTTT Do Button app is similar, but the trigger is clicking a button on your mobile device.

Brand publishers may find IFTTT useful for making simple archives of published content — for example, automatically uploading your tweeted photos to Dropbox or dropping any tweets with a specific hashtag mention into a Google spreadsheet. IFTTT can also help you track industry news. For example, some recipes can create personalized email digests of news stories or Twitter activity related to specific subjects or keywords.

As an aside: IFTTT also includes a number of automated publishing recipes — for instance, instantly sharing every blog post on Facebook or uploading every Instagram photos as a native Twitter photo. But as tempting as this might sound, we don’t recommend automated publishing for brand channels. In addition to increasing the risk of accidental posts, it undercuts the personal touch and channel-by-channel attention that helps content stand out from the crowd.

Digital Guide

Introduction to Content Recommendation Engines

Native advertising is the next step in the evolution of the “advertorial” — an article in a print publication that’s written by a sponsor rather than the publication’s in-house team. Native advertising brings advertorials to the digital space, making them more sophisticated and useful with finely tuned targeting capabilities. Recently, Netflix splurged on a particularly impressive example to promote the third season of “House of Cards”: a massive multimedia piece in The Atlantic on presidential couples, including the series’ fictional couple.

However, native advertising doesn’t always need to be quite so spectacular. Content recommendation engines offer much of the benefits of native advertising on a smaller scale.

What are content recommendation engines?

You’ve likely seen content recommendation engines at work with links to “related content” alongside articles on or The Huffington Post. Through services like Outbrain or Taboola, brands can surface their content according to detailed targeting criteria throughout an established network of online partners. If someone is reading an article that’s similar to the content you publish, there’s a good chance they’ll be interested in your content, too. Content recommendation engines are a uniquely agile way to reach those readers on the sites they’re already browsing.

When are they
a good fit for a campaign?

When promoting content through a content recommendation engine, you pay only when readers interact with your content (e.g. by clicking a headline), and you can easily scale your budget. Content recommendation engines also offer targeting capabilities so that links to your content appear only in certain geographic regions or alongside content about similar topics.

If you’re running a campaign with a bigger budget on a longer timeframe, consider scaling up to a direct partnership with a specific publication. Working directly with a publisher allows your content to make a bigger splash and gives you more control over how your content appears. However, this type of native advertising is also more expensive, and works best if you have up to three months to invest in A/B testing to find out which headlines and placements are most effective.

Tips for getting started

  • These aren’t regular ads. Provide real reader value, not just branding.
  • Start by spending the time making content that’s worth promoting. Don’t start with the ad; start with the destination, the meat of your content. If you create a “catchy” ad and then try to fill in the substance to back it up, there’s a good chance your content will end up tasting like spam.
  • Stay away from controversial topics. It’s tricky to control the context in which your content will show up, so you can’t know how touchy topics will be represented in the various places it appears.
  • Ideally, content for paid promotion should target a specific, niche group of people and have a clear conversion goal.
  • Your branding message is secondary; stay focused on what will be useful or entertaining to your audience. The content host — be it a specific publication or a content discovery service — is responsible for distinguishing your paid placement from the other on-domain content, so there’s no need to double up on the “advertising feel.” Your content should speak for itself and provide its own value, apart from your branding.

Headlines that turn heads

  • Action-centric statements — More “See how X did Y,” less “What do you think about X?”
  • Relate the headline as strongly as possible to the context based on your targeting criteria. Consider crafting multiple headlines for the same link based on different sets of criteria.
  • “Clickbait” tactics (e.g. “You’ll Never Believe What Happened…”) can be appropriate in moderation. The key is to make sure that readers who click through to your content don’t feel scammed or misled. Create content that’s as compelling as your headlines and all will be forgiven.

Interested in learning more? Reach out to your PNConnect representative or email PNConnect.


PNConnect is the global digital services offering from Porter Novelli. Our global team spans 60 countries and brings the combined digital resources of our social media marketing, creative production, paid promotions and web development capabilities together for one purpose — to help our clients share their story with the world.

For more information about our team and approach, or to learn how we can help your organization with digital strategy, development and measurement, please visit the PNConnect site.


Thank You


Many thanks to our March contributors.

Chris Thilk in Chicago wrote this month’s Feature about native video. Anthony LaFauce in Washington, D.C., created our Guide to content recommendation engines and took the On Workflow hot seat. Stephanie Pham and Mark Avera in Atlanta and Mary Gaulke in Sarasota contributed stories and insights for the Social Networking Stats, Noteworthy News, and Advertising Trends sections. Randy Ksar in San Francisco provided the recommendation for IFTTT, and Mary Gaulke shared the Case Study on the TSA and Instagram.

This month’s cover and welcome images are used courtesy of NASA. Filter Forge uploaded the On Workflow background to Flickr and Yuichi Kosio uploaded the Case Study background, some rights reserved. Some backgrounds courtesy of

Thanks to Jennifer Laker, Jeff Stieler, Mike Pretty, and Pete Schiebel from the Platforms team for providing design and development support, and to Mary Gaulke, Tom Harris and Chris Thilk for editorial oversight and proofing.

Drop Us a Line

We’re eager to hear your thoughts on this edition and your suggestions for future issues.