Our #PRSARVA presentation

Thanks again from both me and Sonali Shetty for our warm welcome at PRSA Richmond.

We had a great time presenting our thoughts on the social media and digital landscape.

For those who missed it, here’s our Hodges Digital Strategies slide presentation…

The highlights of our POV include:

  • PR is “winning” the social media battle (pandering to the audience, I know) because PR is used to be the leaders in content creation.
  • The days of just creating a Facebook page and seeing people flock to it is over.  You need custom landing pages and ways to engage with your audience.  You also need to cross promote using a combination of traditional advertising, PR, online, email, direct and Facebook marketing/advertising.  This is what drives community growth and engagement.
  • You need to be everywhere since everyone is somewhere.  We call this mulitchanneling.  You need to provide consistently branded messaging across the platform spectrum ranging from media relations across to mobile apps.
  • Mobile is growing so think about mobile-optimized websites and apps.  Also don’t try to be all things to all people as you create your apps.  Thing of the “must haves” and add-on only a few bells and whistles at least at the beginning.
  • Video creation and conferencing will explode with the anticipated arrival of iPad 2 and companies like Cisco creating home versions of video conference hardware.
  • This year will be “tipping point” years for platforms like Twitter and FourSquare especially for business and brand applications, while “deals” and coupon platforms will be the ones to watch.
  • There are a number of “flavors of the month,” like Quora that bear watching.
  • New growing trends include Visual Search and E and F-Commerce that will become more available online and on mobile devices.
  • Think about the difference of B2B and B2C and how you should prioritize your social media presence depending on which you represent.

A lot of stuff to cover, I know so thanks again for all you came, asked questions and participated.

Feel free you use and share the slides, which are available here and on slideshare.net.


Two years, and the wild ride continues.

First, apologies for not writing as much lately.  Frankly, I’ve been busy both personal and professional and I just haven’t had a great deal of value to say.

It is humbling to have conversations with many folks and have them tell me they are regular readers of this blog.  We’re approaching the blog’s second birthday and when it began I didn’t know where it would take us all.  I’m also spending a great deal of time thinking about where things are going.  The topic is coming up in client meetings and will also be the topic of a talk that my Hodges Digital partner-in-crime Sonali Shetty and I will be giving next month at the PRSA Richmond luncheon.

Some here are some reflections and musings in no particular order.

  • Two years ago, we were pulling our clients into the world of social media, now if you don’t bring it up in a meeting or presentation they will.  People aren’t thinking in the terms of social media any more, they are thinking in terms of communications.
  • I am more convinced than ever that the marriage of social and mobile is the future.  Brands need to make an impact on social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube and that presence needs to be carried through onto smartphones and tablets.  New stat that I saw yesterday, the number of tablet sales are expected to quadruple in 2011.
  • The ability to “share” using social and mobile is critical and a tipping point for success.  It is why people love Groupon, where they can share and save socially.  (Interesting Andrew Mason interview with Matt Lauer today, btw).
  • Geolocation is a 50/50 proposition with a split between the folks that believe and the folks that respect their privacy.  The jury is still out in my mind on the long-term business benefits.  Facebook Places will be the ultimate bell weather of success.  Best new geolocation tool I’ve seen is where Untappd, people can connect over the beers they drink.
  • Content and engagement is still king and they run hand in hand.  Branding through custom landing pages and tabs are now engagement points.  Clients that incorporate those elements see their Facebook engagement numbers increase dramatically.  If not all they have is a wall between them and their fans.  Literally.
  • Twitter is losing on my personal “attention scale” as I find myself forcing it rather than enjoying it.  I’m not adding to my personal community as much as I used to, but I do communicate with my existing friends and folks that share similar likes and dislikes.
  • I’m willing to revisit LinkedIn given some recent conversations, but the recent changes to Facebook Profiles is a warning shot across the bow as it marries LinkedIn’s profile information and Facebook’s search and marketing capabilities.

Generally, we as a group are finding that our decision to marry our public relations experience, social media and mobile/digital is paying off.  Clients now expect to have all those conversations at the same time and in a perfect world with the same people.  They also value a strategic partner that can work across this spectrum.  We are also seeing clients and prospects who are less inclined to “silo” specific aspects of communications and work with fewer partners who can bring all these services to the table at one time.  They just have less time to manage multiple partners and value smart thinking, speed and the ability to deliver.

If you told me two years ago that two years into a blog about my journey as a traditional PR guy into the world of social media that I’d actually be a partner in a digital agency I would have told you that you were “smoking crack.”

The communications world has come a long way in two years and for us at THP and now HDS it has and continues to be a wild ride.

This blog will continue to chronicle that ride.  I thank all the readers, clients and friends who help me make it happen.

I promise to try to be more “regular” in the new year.  If you have suggestions on topics and direction please send it along.

For now, the ride continues.

The birth of Hodges Digital Strategies

This is a blog post that is more than two years in the making.

Past posts have alluded to growth at The Hodges Partnership, mainly focusing on the new two-story addition to the back of our Shockoe Bottom home.  But I have hinted at something more, and here it is.

Today I’d like to announce the creation of a second business under the Hodges umbrella, Hodges Digital Strategies.

HDS is the product of a two-year journey we’re taken with a number of folks including our new business partner in the venture, Sonali Shetty and a number of clients who have jumped into this new digital and social world with us with both feet.  Some of those clients include AMF Bowling, SnagAJob.com, Carpenter, Virginia Farm Bureau Insurance, ChildFund International and CarMax, all of whom at varying levels are exploring way to reach audiences online, create community and broaden their communications strategies to include digital, social and mobile platforms and everything in between.

As I have written before, I am a big believer that PR firms are well positioned to guide clients through this newer world because we have a great history of content creation for communications programs. Some PR firms have struggled because while they know what should be done to communication on platforms as diverse as Facebook, Twitter, websites, and iPhones, they lack the design and technological development capabilities to handle the entire assignment for clients.  This is where we hope to succeed with HDS by marrying the power of public relations and technology and providing seamless strategies under one umbrella.

Through our communications, design and development capabilities we can create “digital outposts” for a brand with strategies born out of our public relations experience, delivered across all online and digital platforms.

Specifically HDS will:

  • Build custom websites and web applications
  • Build custom experiences on social media platforms, like branded custom landing pages on Facebook and use contests, games, etc. to leverage its viral nature.  Among our team is one of the first third-party Facebook developers so we have the experience needed to deliver.
  • Build iPhone, iPad and Droid apps for smartphones.  We’re in the beginning stages of building an iPhone/iPad app for Rutgers University athletics.
  • Provide analytics to see how successful your program is.
  • Counsel on social media strategy including everything from initial listening programs, to ongoing monitoring for reputation management issues, to providing advice on how to grow and interact with communities and consumers including social commerce and geo-location programs with Foursquare, etc.
  • Provide strategy and counsel on online video projects.

The combination of all these specialties will help a client leverage their potential audience and engage and interact with them wherever they are.

This coupled with The Hodges Partnership (no the traditional PR side is not going away by a long shot), will allow clients to reach consumers through traditional media (media relations/communications), online (through media relations/communications, social media platforms and web development) and on their mobile devices (through media relations, social media platforms and mobile sites and apps).

All under one Hodges umbrella, which provides one consistent communications strategy and of course, lower overhead and costs.

Speaking of which, we are also offering a small business/non-profit product for Facebook based on feedback we’ve received from a number of folks as well.

So there’s the news.  I know it was a little “salesy” but we’ve been holding this in for so long we wanted to make sure we told our story effectively because as we tell our clients, “you only have one time to launch, so you better communicate effectively.”

We’re very excited about this and we’re happy to answer any questions or provide initial consultation.

Again, we think that PR is perfectly positioned to lead in the digital world, and we’re putting our money where our opinion is.

Thanks for all your support these past eight years and we hope the Hodges brand of companies is around for a whole lot more.

Facebook Places #fail?

So you rush to meet your friends at your favorite coffee hangout and you feverishly look for your favorite mobile appendage so you can click on Facebook and check in with Facebook Places to tell them where you are so they can meet you at the table in the corner.


Wait, you’re not doing that?

Apparently you’re not alone.

An interesting article article from a business site out of San Francisco details all the reasons why younger folks are not using FB Places in big numbers.

And they are not alone.  In a very unscientific survey of friends and co-workers most can count on less than one hand the number of their friends who are checking in using places.

Most cite the issues detailed in the article, lack of availability, favoring other geo-location sites like Foursquare, and the more than perceived continuing nagging privacy issues that continue to dog Facebook all across the board.

So while, Facebook continues to roll the service out around the world (this week it launches in the UK), the initial reaction here that began with great excitement, seems to have cooled to a yawn.

I’m wondering if the launch of this service has finally put the social media darling in its place (s)?

Let me know if you and you friends are using Places.  Why? Why not?

Facebook…the Foursquare killer?

The folks over at Foursquare and other geo-location applications are holding their collective breath today.

It has been widely reported that tomorrow is the day that Facebook will officially announce that it will be getting into the geo-location business as well. This has been teased for months but the hope is further specific details will be released.

So today is speculation day and here are some of the questions:

  • Aside from being able to “check-in” on their mobile Facebook APPS, how will Facebook bring this to life for its 500 million+ members?
  • How will developers be able to use Facebook’s geo-location and incorporate into third-party APPS?
  • How does this tie into the redesign of custom landing pages?  Does it at all?
  • Will Facebook incorporate marketers’ ads, coupons and special offers into the new service and will developers be able to design them as easily as they can currently design and target existing Facebook ads?
  • How will Foursquare, Yelp, Gowalla and others fend off the 500-million pound gorilla?

Would love to hear from you in the hours leading up to the announcement.  Please opine and comment.

I know one thing.  If I’m Foursquare, I’d be a tad nervous.

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