November 2015




Sound Architecture…

… has long been the foundation for a successful online user experience. But how do you handle architecture you can tailor to each visitor’s specific needs? In this month’s Feature, we examine the opportunities and pitfalls of digital content personalization. Our Digital Guide offers an introduction to Snapchat, the increasingly hot ephemeral messaging platform, and in On Workflow, we speak to Tamar Anitai, PNConnect’s Senior Vice President, Content Strategy. Plus we have the latest social media news, curated from PNConnect Weekly Reading.


Cover and welcome photos: Parisian architecture, photographed by Joe deSousa — the Church of Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis and the ceiling of the Abbot’s Chapel, in the Museum of the Middle Ages.

Noteworthy News

Curated from PNCONNECT Weekly Reading


PNCONNECT — A few tips to keep in mind: 1) Be conscious of copyright law, as you would with any asset you share. 2) Reserve the GIF treatment for your most visually compelling assets. 3) If you need to convey a complicated concept that can’t be captured in a static image, consider whether a creative GIF can help you get the message across.

Source: MarketingLand

PNCONNECT — The key takeaway from this article isn’t the push for greater engagement. It’s this: “That doesn’t mean overall social media marketing success is as easy as creating compelling videos and infographics to share. Half of marketing professionals surveyed said the inability to measure ROI was a leading obstacle.” In other words, driving views or awareness or engagement is only half the battle. Always keep in mind what your eventual goal is: what action do you want people to take upon seeing your content? Are they doing it? That’s your ultimate measure of ROI. Views and impressions are just the icing on that cake.

Source: eMarketer


PNCONNECT — Twitter wants to own more and more of the analytics experience, a far cry from the not-too-distant past when it offered no native metrics. It’s always good to have additional data on engagement and audience, and these stats, for those who can access them (primarily advertisers at the moment), should prove valuable in refining a content marketing program cadence. Read more on the Voce Nation blog.

Source: Twitter Blog

PNCONNECT — This video substitute will play in place of video when connection speeds are slow. This is a smart play by Facebook for future ad growth; the platform reports that more than half its revenue comes from non-North American markets, and its ad model should reflect conditions in its growth regions.

Source: MarketingLand

PNCONNECT — Not only is this huge news for WordPress and its community, it’s good news for the continued health of the open web. While Facebook and other players try to swallow the internet and take all the traffic and engagement for themselves, WordPress is committed to an open-source, open web where all tools play together and links rule all. And it’s done all this through word-of-mouth and fostering a passionate community, not through relentless podcast advertising.

Source: VentureBeat

PNCONNECT — If you’re not actively exploring how to integrate Buy buttons into your social content marketing efforts, you could be missing a huge opportunity. For more and more people, social networks are most, if not all, of the online experience. If you’re not bringing your product to consumers where they are, they may not make the effort to go looking for it.

Source: eMarketer

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“Great products happen when people build a product for themselves. Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin] created Google for themselves.”

— Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Alphabet (and former chairman and CEO of Google), in conversation with LinkedIn CEO Reid Hoffman


The Dawn of Personalized Web Content

Targeting technology has made the Web an increasingly individualized experience, for better or worse. We each see a different set of ads as we jump from site to site, based on our location and browsing history (those of us with looser privacy settings, anyway). And on Amazon and many other ecommerce sites, nearly every aspect of the homepage is tailored to your specific interests, based on shopping history. Social networks can serve up targeted posts, too, based on demographic data, and search engines have been tailoring results based on user data for years.

Yet most core site content is still one-size-fits-all, leaving each visitor to find what’s most relevant to them — ideally, with the help of solid information architecture and interaction design. This may change soon. Adobe, HubSpot, and others are all touting their content management systems’ personalization features, and other services, such as Get Smart Content and Marketo, offer solutions that work across platforms. These tools open up exciting, potentially revolutionary possibilities for brand publishers. And like most powerful tools, they can do a lot of damage when used recklessly.

The Basics

Different tools offer various capabilities, but the prevailing method is to create a list of “if / then” rules for which content will display based on visitor data. As a simple example, a retail chain might create rules to spotlight local store information on the homepage based on each visitor’s location. If the visitor’s IP address indicates they live in Sarasota, then highlight Sarasota store information on the homepage.

Personalized content can key off a range of data:

  • Device (laptop, phone, tablet, Mac, PC)
  • Location
  • Browsing history, both on the site and elsewhere on the web
  • What referral site, post, or ad brought the visitor to your site
  • What search term brought the visitor to your site
  • Information the visitor has provided directly, such as through a lead generation form

Personalized variations can include everything from switching out a call-out box on the homepage to offering a completely different site experience.

Variations include everything from custom call-outs to completely different site experiences.

Things gets really interesting when you personalize content based on audience personas.

Putting it to Work

Straight-forward variations like localized content can be valuable for many brands, but things gets really interesting (and potentially head-spinning) when you personalize content based on audience personas.

A core pillar of a successful content strategy is meeting your audience needs, which begins with personas. Personas specify the goals, topics of interest, content preferences, and online habits of each audience segment — ideally based on in-depth research. Content personalization gives brands an opportunity to tailor the site experience to each persona’s needs by connecting persona characteristics to available visitor data and then serving up appropriate content.

On a B2B site, for example, you might lead with a different message on the homepage depending on where a visitor is in the customer journey. On a first visit, when a visitor is likely in the awareness stage, the focus might be introducing the company and highlighting useful how-to content, in order to establish a relationship. On a second and third visit, when a visitor may be in the consideration phase, it would make sense to highlight key product benefits. And if you know the visitor is already a customer, then you may want to direct them to content that helps them use products more effectively, or that helps them share knowledge with others.

Getting Started

Content personalization has its downsides. Maintaining multiple site experiences adds new complexity to your publishing efforts, and can increase your workload. Personalization has the potential of complicating the audience’s experience as well. If the system misidentifies a visitor’s persona, then the tailored content it serves up may not be relevant at all.

To mitigate these risks, start with a light touch and test the waters. Most importantly, make it simple for visitors to move past your personalization, in case you miss the mark.

For example:

  • Try alternative welcome messages: Experiment with different focuses on the site homepage, to suggest the best starting place for different personas.
  • Include a personalized content recommendation sidebar: On content pages within the site, promote the content you think will most appeal to each site visitor.
  • Provide complete site navigation and hierarchy to everyone. Follow Amazon’s example, surfacing intelligent recommendations but making it easy for visitors to ignore the suggestions and still find what they want.
  • Don’t be creepy: Steer clear of stalker-like content specificity, even if you know a lot about the visitor from their browsing history. Save highly personalized content for site visitors who have opted in to customization — by creating a site login and filling out a form, for example.
  • Measure the results: As with all publishing efforts, test how well your approach is accomplishing your goals. Try personalizing one piece of the site experience, and see if there’s a rise or drop in engagement. Continually review and refine to improve steadily.

Make it simple for visitors to move past your personalization, in case you miss the mark.

Think of how a good barber handles customers. A barber may make some assumptions about what sort of haircut a customer wants and what sort of chit chat he or she likes, based on age, gender, and the customer’s initial comments. But the barber doesn’t hide any services from the customer, or just start cutting hair without a conversation, or stick stubbornly to discussing football when the customer doesn’t seem interested. The initial personalization is only a light adaptation to make the customer feel comfortable, until the barber really understands the customer’s needs and interests.

“Instant Articles is just too good to resist, and I think the penalty for resisting will be too high. And then we all, Facebook and the media sector alike, will have to deal with the consequences — whether the comparisons to feudalism are correct or not.”

— Robinson Meyer for The Atlantic

On Workflow: Tamar Anitai


In our continuing “On Workflow” series, we hear how Connectors and clients go about their days and get things done. This month, we speak to Tamar Anitai, Senior Vice President, Content Strategy at Porter Novelli.

What’s a sticking point in your workflow? How do you address it?

I’m like a Pavlovian dog in that I’m conditioned to check my email about 15,000 times per second. I try to set boundaries so I can focus on a task and block out distractions that’ll only send you down digital rabbit holes. If I need to get a piece of writing or research done, I leave my phone in another room and shut down social media and email. You’d be shocked at how much time you save in the long run when you’re not distracting yourself. I also try to set fake deadlines for myself so I can get work done and save free time for inevitable meetings, plus research and writing.

Tell us about your desk setup.

One word: “Plastics.” Just kidding. “Decks.” SO many decks and presentations and jumbo binder clips. I am proud of the three tiny air plants I’ve managed to keep alive since I got them a month ago. They’re a reminder of growth and living things and perhaps driven by guilt or environmental retribution for killing so many trees with all those deck and presentation printouts.
What’s your favorite productivity tool?

I don’t have any tattoos, but if I did, the first one I’d get would probably say “I ♥ Google Docs.”

What’s the secret to efficient, productive meetings?

Having a goal; designating someone to write down outcomes, next steps and assignments; and staying on track when the group starts to stray off-topic. (I love a good YouTube video as much as anyone, but it’s important to be respectful of people’s time.) I also try not to bring my phone or laptop to meetings. It helps me stay focused on the task at hand and be more present.

How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?

I try to work out at least three times a week. I build it into my mornings so I go to bed earlier the night before. Sleep is essential, and it’s where I’m a Viking. Having post-work plans gives you a hard stop to your day and forces you to take a step back from work so you don’t burn out. Unless, of course, you have a pitch or presentation due, in which case you’re eating at your desk or standing up, hovering above a multi-page print out in a conference room, and that’s life.

Who is someone whose work style you admire?

Alexander Hamilton, for his no-chill approach to writing. Except even though he was a genius, he was kind of a stubborn jerk, which got him killed. (I’m a little obsessed with the musical, so I’m trying to shoehorn references into as many situations as possible. See? I did it!) My husband is a writer, and he is able to Just. Sit. Down. And. Get. It. Done. When he’s got a difficult task or assignment he feels inclined to put off, he sets a timer and allocates a certain amount of time to it (no email, no social media, no phone and texts). It’s such an amazing kick in the pants. Though it’s not like he drafted 51 of the Federalist Papers, so whatever.


“There are one billion unique visitors and three million domains trust us. Which is a lot of different independent decisions putting their vote of confidence behind us for the product.”

— Twitter’s Director of Product for Syndication and Digits Michael Ducker, on why the company considers views of embedded tweets as important as the number of users

Digital Guide

Snapchat 101

Snapchat’s ephemeral messaging and lack of strong ties are a hit not just with users, but with publishers and advertisers too, making it one of the hottest apps around. The company recently signed Vox to its evolving list of Discover news partners, and it’s constantly adding advertising options as it seeks to monetize its hip young user base.

The Basics

Snapchat is aggressively not a social network. It’s a simple mobile messaging app optimized for sending photos or short videos — often with a short message scrawled on top — to others in a user’s network. These messages expire after a set amount of time, lending a sense of immediacy and privacy. The content components are fairly simple:

  • Snaps — Snaps can be an image or a short video (maximum 10 seconds), sent to selected users and/or shared in a “story.” A brief text caption or doodle can be added to the photo. Each Snap can only be viewed for a limited amount of time (10 seconds or less), set by the Snap creator. However, every Snapchat user is able to “replay” one expired Snap per day, and users can pay $0.99 for a bundle of three additional replays.
  • Stories — Stories are a sequential series of selected Snaps, viewable for 24 hours after each Snap is first shared. There is no limit to how many Snaps can be added to a story. Live Stories is an aggregation feature, with multiple users contributing Snaps related to a particular event or location. A new feature, Story Explorer, makes it possible to find additional user-generated material related to Snapchat-curated stories. Campus Stories are a special variety of Live Stories, accessible to users on specific college campuses.
  • Discover — Editorial teams at Snapchat and select partner publications can share their own bite-sized Stories on dedicated Channels. Each Channel publishes a Daily Edition of 5-10 curated stories, which expire after 24 hours. Viewers initially see a preview, and then can swipe down from the preview to dive deeper into the story. Publishers can include links that take viewers to an outside site. Users can also share a Discover story with their friends.
  • Chat — Snapchat also includes basic text and video chat functionality. By default, chat messages are cleared after each session, but users have the option to save specific messages, too.
  • Filters — Snapchat users can add graphical overlays, called filters, to their Snaps. Some filters include data like weather, time, or speed, and Geofilters are linked to specific locations. Snapchat users can submit Geofilter designs for consideration, and brands can create sponsored Geofilters.
  • Snapcodes — Each Snapchat profile has a unique QR code, to simplify how users add accounts to their lists of friends. Rather than searching for a username, a user can simply open Snapchat and point the in-app camera at another user’s QR code to add them to their friends list. These codes make it easier for brands to publicize their Snapchat accounts and encourage followers on other social media channels to connect on Snapchat, as well.


GE has had success experimenting with novel Snapchat content and campaigns, including sponsored Geofilters at airports and train stations, featuring users’ holiday travel information and transportation facts.

Michael Kors and other fashion brands use Snapchat to cover runway shows. The immediacy of the platform is well suited to sneak peeks and live events.

Best Practices

Community Growth:

  • The best way to grow your network is to follow new people.
  • Pick a relevant username that’s easily associated with your brand.
  • Use your Snapcode to promote your channel. Snapchat offers a way to customize Snapcodes to add some branding, without interfering with the code itself.

Content Creation:

  • Snapchat content should be unique. Don’t think of it as being just another outlet for the images or videos you would share on Instagram or Vine.
  • Be creative and a little silly. Half the fun of Snapchat is the doodles and captions that are added to photos.

Community Management:

  • Since one of the main purposes of Snapchat is to have a “conversation” via Snaps, engagement with followers is important. It’s crucial to designate someone not just for publishing content, but for responding to followers.

Who’s Using It?

A December 2014 comScore report showed that 45% of Snapchat’s user base was ages 18-24, with a full 70% under age 34. A May 2015 report stated Snapchat has 100 million daily users.

In addition to the brands advertising via Snapchat, many are using it organically. Most of those are lifestyle brands of some sort: sports teams, fashion magazines, consumer brands and basically anyone trying to reach that 18-24 audience.

Pros and Cons for Brands

The Pros

  • Snapchat has a highly sought-after audience of young and influential people. This group may not be on other established networks like Facebook and Twitter, and if they are, they’re likely less engaged there than on Snapchat.

The Cons

  • Snapchat is an engagement platform; it’s not designed for conversions to sales or sign-ups. There are workarounds — including a sale code in a caption, for instance — but there’s no way to insert a clickable link.
  • Right now, Snapchat offers no real metrics, largely because of the ephemeral nature of what’s shared there.


Food ordering service GrubHub, one of the first brands to adopt Snapchat, uses the ephemeral format for giveaways and contests, as well as funny stories, aimed at college students.

Looking for more advice on incorporating Snapchat into your content strategy?
Reach out to your PNConnect representative, or send us an email.

“Marketers have a variety of metrics to evaluate what they publish and produce, including page views, video views, length of viewing, social media shares, and on and on. Yet none of that will tell you whether you have communicated a clear promise and are delivering on it. Optimize for mission, not for metrics.”

— Greg Satell for Harvard Business Review


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 November contributors.

Tom Harris in Raleigh wrote this month’s Feature about content personalization. Chris Thilk in Chicago created our Guide to Snapchat, and Tamar Anitai in New York took the hot seat for On Workflow. Christopher Barger in Detroit and Chris Thilk compiled the PNConnect Weekly Reading stories and insights that appeared in Noteworthy News.

The cover and welcome photos were uploaded to Flickr by Joe deSousa. Some backgrounds courtesy of and

Thanks to Mary Gaulke, Tom Harris, and Chris Thilk for editorial oversight.

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