Smileys are dead, literally ☠️

Happy Friday! Based on the OOO replies last week, it must be August. So that means you’re either on vacation or covering for folks who are. So let’s get right into it…

Let’s Book a Virtual Conference Room for This Meeting: Would you do your next meeting today in VR? 😎 Facebook has plans to make that a reality. A virtual reality. And despite your initial skepticism of that idea, avatar-based chat, and collaborative software is now decades old. This week they introduced Horizon Workrooms, a VR app for users of its Oculus Quest 2 headset that lets you feel like you’re sitting in a conference room with your coworkers to talk, collaborate, and…work!

In what Mark Zuckerberg says is his first-ever interview in VR, CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King interviewed him through the platform as part of the announcement. Despite knee-jerk pushback, thoughtful pushback, and thankfulness for big innovation moves in a nascent office tech category, the metaverse is coming. Facebook has 10,000 employees working to make it a reality, and just last week the company shared a prototype that displays your real eyes in VR, a stepping stone to what could be a more natural way to communicate in VR. Horizon Workrooms are another signal of where VR could have as much utility as entertainment value in the coming future. Watch the demo here.

Google Assistant Helping with IRL or Virtual School: The folks at Google have added a number of features to their products to help with back-to-school or school-at-home. With Family Bell, you can add bell reminders throughout the day that announce when it’s time to get on the bus, start an online class, take a break, settle in for reading time, have a snack, or even for bedtime. To get started, simply say “Hey Google, create a Family Bell.” Read about other new features here.

Innovations in Smart and Dumb Phones to Watch: Recent reports indicate that although the next-generation iPhone will look and function pretty much the same as current models, it will include new camera and video capabilities perfectly suited for our photo and content-obsessed culture.

The new phones may include an “AI-driven filter system that stylizes photos and a higher-quality video-recording format. The filters will let users adjust the color temperature, shadows and contrast more precisely than with traditional software app methods, while the video offerings will enable more editing flexibility and the ability to change the amount of background blurring afterward.”

Meanwhile, companies are still developing and selling “feature phones” that cost <$400, don’t have a camera, and can’t access the internet or play games – on purpose! Here’s an unlocked Zoolander-esque tiny feature phone for $30. In the age of smartphones, “dumbphones” can seem extremely attractive, but what would you do with all that free time if you didn’t waste every second of your free time on your phone?

Are You Using the Smiley Emoji Incorrectly? If you’re over 30, you probably are. Gen Z and young millennials are once again shaping slang’s ever-changing culture by evolving the smiley to communicate sarcasm.

Key quote from The Guardian: “A smiley face emoji at the end of a message is a patronizing pat on the head from somebody who wishes you nothing but ill fortune.” What to use instead if you’re really happy? A skull and crossbones, which means “I’m dead.”☠️ But in a good way. 😊

Reads of the Week: 1)Intoxicated online shopping is soberingly big business. 2) Bringing your AI coworker up to speed. 3) How a man with a meme account raised over $5 million to fund rescue missions in Afghanistan. 4) Bella Poarch can wear the ‘TikTok pop star’ badge with pride. 5) Taliban Ramp Up on Social Media, Defying Bans by the Platforms.

Quick Hits:

See you on the internet!

If you like this, click and “LIKE” it. And share it. Or don’t. Be that way.

Pandemic Social Media Habits Have Changed Real Estate Forever


Happy Friday, and welcome to all the new subscribers this week. This week I spoke at Digital Summit in Minneapolis – my first time speaking to a live audience in 18 months. I’ve spoken at that event multiple times in multiple markets, but it was not the same to speak to a silent, socially distanced crowd wearing masks (especially after lunch). And thus…

5 IRL Conference Experiences I Didn’t Realize I Had Missed: 

  1. The venue’s wifi was overloaded and crashed.
  2. The person sitting next to me during the morning keynote had a spreadsheet open and was immersed in work email instead of listening.
  3. Someone’s phone ringer went off in a session, and it somehow took them three rings before they got it silenced.
  4. I had to leave a session to take a work call and put out a fire.
  5. No matter what food you set out during breaks, it is delicious and I will eat it. 

So basically, pretty much a normal conference experience. Kudos to Digital Summit for pulling off an in-person event amidst a pandemic and kudos to all the speakers for getting back out there. (Note: ever since we worked out the history of kudos, I can’t stop giving kudos). It was great to dust off some of those networking skills and find opportunities to meet new people in real life. Looking forward to the next one. 

Since buying a new house in March, we’ve had a steady stream of service professionals to the house to fix things, and I’ve noticed a trend where they avoid using our Ring doorbell and knock on the door instead. It happens too often to be a coincidence. I completely understand not wanting to be filmed and recorded in the scope of doing one’s job. Am I an an a$$hole for having a smart doorbell? Have you experienced anything like this? I genuinely want to know.

The medium size Creators and Influencers (that sit between micro and macro-size) are so in-demand and busy that they are either unreachable or unresponsive. They don’t have contact info listed anywhere and when you find it and reach out, they don’t follow up with you even if you stalk them. Good for those folks in finally achieving some leverage over the brands and agencies, but it’s annoying. And seems to be getting worse.

My kids let me know that companies don’t care about people who identify as LGBTQ+ anymore now that it’s not Pride Month. They know that sentiment is a meme, but they also insist it’s true. It’s something for us to think about as marketers. Gen Z is watching those rainbow logos and in-store pop-ups disappear with nothing coming in their place.  

Countdowns of the Week:

  • Days until Black Friday: 105
  • Days until Christmas: 134
  • Days until 2022: 141
  • Days until Winter Olympic Games: 175
  • Days until Midterm Election Day: 452

Here’s what else I’m tracking this week…

Screenshots from the Playhouse Real Estate app

Pandemic Social Media Habits Have Changed Real Estate Forever: We spent thousands of hours in our homes during the lockdown and suddenly we all became obsessed with our living spaces – and those of others. “Zillow Surfing” became a primary form of escapism. Suddenly you had a friend who was VERY into interior design. You may have bought a new couch or even moved yourself.

Realtors already knew that dressing a home well and having a 3D walkthrough were table stakes. But increasingly, a standalone microsite, drone footage, and a vertical-first, hosted walkthrough video is becoming important to compete. A recent study found that 44% of agents said that they gained a new client from social media and social was only second to referrals for obtaining new listings last year.

Beyond referrals, listings are the real treasure for social media users these days. Social accounts like @ZillowGoneWild@ZillowGoneWildCelebrityHomes, and @TheCraftmansBlog gave us content to criticize or dream about in the daily scroll (while watching HGTV’s Fixer Upper or Flip or Flop, or maybe Selling Sunset on Netflix, of course). Nextdoor offers ad options specifically for real estate. And Playhouse is a new mobile app for browsing video listings of homes for sale in a scroll set to music similar to TikTok, but clickable and actionable similar to Zillow.

Now that everyone you know is an expert on buying, selling, and decorating a home thanks to social media, will we ever go back to a handful of photos on a static MLS listing? Don’t bet your house on it.

A photo dump from Bella Hadid

Instagram Content Culture is Changing Drastically: You’ve probably noticed the content on your Insta feed has shifted from perfectly created “success theater” into something that looks more like Facebook and MySpae these days. It may even feature mashups of content that don’t make sense, audio that hurts your ears, and inside jokes that you don’t get. Here are three trends worth watching.

  1. Photo Dumps are growing more popular, where users upload a carousel post of random pictures tied together by one nonchalant caption.

Key Quote: “Think of Instagram dumps as your aunt’s random Facebook albums: Many of the photos are unrelated to each other, from different times or places, and offer little to no explanation of why they were posted. Casual selfies are mixed in with pictures of food, sunsets, and candid shots to give you an overall “vibe.” Images included in a dump post are often unremarkable or unworthy of their own solo posts — which is exactly why we love them.”

  1. Text Memes and Sh*tposts, where users post low-quality images, videos, or comments often accompanied by humorous or confessional commentary, fueled by Instagram’s Create post feature.

Key Quote: “These pages have surged during the pandemic as young people have turned to Instagram to externalize their innermost id and seek connection… They’re very representative of teenagers having to spend the last year solely communicating through the internet… Gen Z is rediscovering the old internet and updating it.”

  1. And then there’s the rise of the Chaos Edit, which often shares stylistic qualities like sped-up audio, classic movie samples, role-play video game scenes, intentionally poor image or sound quality enhanced by watermarks or graininess, and disturbing or gross-out humor. And although many originate on TikTok, they tend to spread on Instagram meme accounts like @on_a_downward_spiral.

Key quote: “If you’ve been on the internet long enough, you’ll know that we’ve been writing trend pieces about why the next generation of online young people are really into nihilistic surrealism and meaningless humor forever… Perhaps it’s a pushback against the tyranny of Instagram perfection; perhaps it’s simply the logical endpoint of mass availability of video editing software. Perhaps it’s because chaos alone can encapsulate what a chronically online brain looks and feels like… It’s because they’re sort of cool and alt, and when you publicly share a chaos edit or a sh*tpost, you get to feel superior to other people who might not fully “get it.””

Reads of the Week: 1) Facebook is rebuilding its ads to know a lot less about you. 2) It’s a boom time for publisher paywalls. 3) Niantic Founder Calls Metaverse a ‘Dystopian Nightmare.’; 4) Why Stores Send You So Many Emails. 4) The Privacy Battle That Apple Isn’t Fighting; 5) How Discord is Luring Brands. 6) ‘Being too aspirational is repellent now’ – the rise of the ‘genuinfluencers’

Quick Hits:

See you on the internet!

If you like this, click and “LIKE” it. And share it. Or don’t. Be that way.


Acronyms Destroy Culture and Alienate Customers


Acronyms – an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word – suck. Acronyms destroy culture and alienate customers.

Elon Musk famously sent an email to that effect back in 2010…

Excessive use of made up acronyms is a significant impediment to communication and keeping communication good as we grow is incredibly important. Individually, a few acronyms here and there may not seem so bad, but if a thousand people are making these up, over time the result will be a huge glossary that we have to issue to new employees. No one can actually remember all these acronyms and people don’t want to seem dumb in a meeting, so they just sit there in ignorance. This is particularly tough on new employees. – Acronyms Seriously Suck, Elon Musk (2010)

No matter how you feel about Elon, it’s hard to argue that there’s a level of human capital put into establishing acronyms and initialisms that makes it hard for new people at your company to learn what the hell you’re talking about. And certainly, it can make it challenging for your customers to understand WTF you’re talking about on the outside.

When I worked on the U.S. Army marketing business, we had an entire spreadsheet of acronyms and initialisms we had to learn just to communicate with our clients, who used acronyms as a primary communication device.

I’m going to need to see the BLUF on the TO for AAB before we send the AAR to USAREC ASAP” is legitimately an email I have sent to my teammates before. And I’m ashamed of it. The onboarding process was intense for my new team members. And we all filled our heads with those trivial definitions we no longer need years later.

Many of us have experienced stress and confusion with acronyms at our companies and increasingly, in day-to-day business transactions where you will have a company refer to an acronym or a process named by an acronym that you don’t understand. Maybe you’re like me and you feign understanding – but there’s no way you understood. Maybe you asked for clarification. But no matter what, that little shortcut for a few words added up to more problems than it solved.

This consumer-facing acronym confusion happened to me this week dropping my car off at my auto dealer for an appointment. When I called to check on its status the next day, I was told they didn’t have a record of my service time. They said I must have made the appointment with the BCD and instead should have called the APD. Of course, the dealer had called us to set up the time and sent an email confirmation, but that sentiment of “well, you shouldn’t have called the BCD” was incredibly confusing and frustrating.

*NOTE: It’s important to note, I’m not actually sure he even said BCD or APD. I have no idea what the actual letters were. And I do not care to know. When your customers are spending big bucks, don’t make them learn your vernacular. Speak theirs.

If you’ve bought a house or used the healthcare system recently, there’s a chance you ran into a lot of internal acronyms and initialisms tossed out in everyday language and communications. Consumers find themselves needing to learn the shortcuts to navigate the culture of home-buying or receiving medical care, only to find they never need to know those acronyms ever again. It’s a lot of wasted brain space and can be taxing for consumers.

You would be shocked how much time it doesn’t save to just spell out the words you mean

Sometimes it can be fun and even a sport to learn the taxonomy of a company’s inner workings for a consumer, like the diner lingo at your favorite breakfast joint (e.g., “a stack of Vermont”). Or the secret menu at In-N-Out Burger. Or a custom order at your favorite coffee shop. But when you try to force your internal cultural lingo on external audiences, you are eroding their trust, creating purposeful confusion, and testing their loyalty.

On the agency side, I’ve noticed any time we have a new business pitch suddenly that company is immediately abbreviated into an acronym for all file names, Teams channels, server folders, and job codes. That’s fine at first or for a few clients. But once you have a new team member show up after years of internal shorthand, it creates a massive barrier to catching up.

When it comes to general and long-used marketing terms like ROI, KPI, NPS, SEO, and SEM, we can give those a pass. They are worth learning and have come to encapsulate more than their spelled out definitions. But we’re all guilty of encapsulating internal terms with unnecessary internal acronyms and initialisms, and it needs to stop. You would be shocked how much time it doesn’t save to just spell out the words you mean.


Texting culture has only furthered our adoption of acronyms, abbreviations, initialisms, and shortcuts. Older generations love creating “translation keys” for text slang and talk about it as a foreign language, then eventually adopt it. Born out of message boards and chat apps like ICQ and AIM (which are acronyms, btw), the fascination with shifting slang online through acronyms is a nostalgia sport for memes and media at this point.

But back on the company culture side, I highly suggest we all try to avoid acronyms in our internal teams and at our companies. I was ranting to my friends about Elon Musk’s take on acronyms eroding culture earlier this week AND THEN Instagram’s Jon Youshaei brought it up at his Digital Summit keynote yesterday. Maybe there’s a chance as we revisit our work style of 2021 and 2022 we can reduce confusion for all.

So that’s my rant on acronyms. I’m Greg. I’m a recovering-acronym user and doing my best to spend the extra few seconds to type out full words. Will you join me? -Greg

Here’s what else I’m tracking this week…

TikTok, the Only Social Media Platform Without Stories, Is Testing Stories: One of the biggest outcomes of the invention of Snapchat was the realization that “Stories” – short form content that disappears after 24 hours – is highly prized and valued in a social media world where everything you post lasts forever.

So it’s not a surprise that Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, and even LinkedIn have introduced similar types of Stories-inspired content vehicles. It’s with that knowledge and understanding that we shouldn’t be shocked whatsoever that TikTok is testing Stories in multiple countries. Will it stick? Will it launch and then be quickly killed, liked Twitter’s Fleets? We’ll keep a close watch to see.

FYPM, The Glassdoor for Influencers:FYPM (short for F**k You Pay Me) is a platform where influencers can anonymously share their experiences collaborating with different brands and search crowdsourced compensation data, making it easier to figure out what price to charge for their services. It’s like Glassdoor, but purpose-built for the needs of the influencer community. The aim: to have creators be paid more equitably.

As the NYT reported this week, “It’s part of a shift where creators are increasingly trying to assert themselves in their business dealings with brands and gain a more level playing field. Among the tools that have proliferated is Collabstr, a marketing platform that lets creators post brief biographies about themselves and list their pay rates. Social media pages like Brands Behaving BadlyWe Don’t Work for Free and Influencer Pay Gap call attention to bad deals and potentially exploitative brands.”

The Best Snapchat Filter of 2021: Last week Snapchat launched Magic Karaoke, an AR-app that transforms your face – or any photo from your camera roll – into a deepfake singing video experience that has to be experienced to be understood. It even works on statues, pets, anything that resembles a face. Snapchat has continued to push augmented reality into the mainstream at an unrivaled pace, and now they are wading into the deepfake space with this filter that is hilarious, shareable, and pretty dang accurate. Try it here.

Would You Pay With Your Palm Print? Amazon has expanded its biometric scanning technology to stores across the U.S., including New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Texas – paying users $10 in promotional credit if you enroll your palm prints in its checkout-free stores and link it to your Amazon account. Amazon says its palm scanning software “captures the minute characteristics of your palm — both surface-area details like lines and ridges as well as subcutaneous features such as vein patterns — to create your palm signature,” which is then stored in the cloud and used to confirm your identity when you’re in one of its stores.

Picture Phones and Flying Cars in the Twin Cities: I have a favorite Gates quote that says, “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.” It’s both a practical and philosophical insight that works with emerging technology, cultural adaptation, and modern marketing. So it was fun to read What Minneapolitans in the 1920s thought the Twin Cities would be like in 1980, and imagine their disappointment in today, with no monorails sliding along the lakes, no double-decker highways, no atomic-powered flying cars flitting between Minneapolis heliports, and more.

Key quote: “For by 1980 there will undoubtedly be a device whereby two persons talking over the telephone may be able to see each other in mirrors suspended over the instruments.” The article ended with the suggestion that such a thing might not be popular.

Reads of the Week: 1) How TikTok’s Algorithm Figures Out Your Deepest Desires; 2) How Hate “Clusters” Spread Disinformation Across Social Media; 3) An interview with @PetFinderNames; 4) Why Bored Ape Avatars Are Taking Over Twitter; 5) American Shoppers Are a Nightmare.havingavisceralreaction

Quick Hits:

See you on the internet!

If you like this, click and “LIKE” it. And share it. Or don’t. Be that way.