The Official Hodges Facebook Timeline Cheatsheet

As a public service (as promised) and also because we’re really swell, here’s the official Hodges Digital “cheatsheet” for Facebook Timeline for Brands.

From the Hodges Digital FB Timeline Cheatsheet

This six-page PDF gives you more than enough information to be “dangerous” as you navigate next week’s official change to Timeline.

It includes advice, shortcuts and key points that everyone should know.

Click here to download the HDS Timeline Cheatsheet

Please feel free to download, share, spread the gospel, etc.

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.

Mobile site vs. Mobile App?

This post was fueled as many these days are by two things, a conversation with a client and our soon-to-be-announced new company.

The client conversation was focused on her initial interest in creating a mobile app (iPhone, Droid, etc.) to help promote her organization, what it does, etc.  Using this app would also help her consumers navigate her business.  After doing a great deal of research in her industry, the client and her team decided not to pursue the app strategy but to instead put their money into a mobile version of their website.  They discovered that based on their consumer, what they do and how they do it, the mobile version of the site would be more helpful and more cost-effective.

So that got me thinking, given the “cool factor” of apps these days (everyone wants one and HAS to have one, it reminds me at lot of websites in the late 90’s), is it better for a business or organization to invest in apps or to create a mobile site, a version of their existing website that is optimized for mobile devices.  Since our new venture will help clients design and develop both Mobile sites and Mobile apps, we really don’t have a “dog in this hunt” and we can look at this question objectively.

After a short conversation with Sonali Shetty, our partner in our new venture, here are some considerations to think about when weighing Mobile app vs. Mobile site:

  • Casual vs. hardcore:  Are you creating the mobile presence for a casual maybe one-time user or someone who you expect will come back often?  If casual, you might consider the mobile site, if hardcore you likely will want to focus on the app because of its “richer” experience.
  • Basic info vs. optimization:  Similarly if you want the information to mirror some of the basic functionality of your existing website, then the mobile site might be the way to go.  The mobile app by its very nature can and should be that richer experience with additional and enhanced functionality and information.  It can include exclusive, stand-alone features such as games, widgets, offers, etc.
  • Branding:  Just by the very nature and size of the medium you have a better opportunity to brand with the app than you do with the mobile site, although each have their pluses and minuses.
  • Cost:  In this world of Apple, Droid and Blackberry in many cases you’re not only building one app but you’re building two or three and there is little economy of scale.  The mobile site is just one element and since in most cases it is an extension of your existing website, it should cost less than the app.
  • Access:  The mobile site is available easily off the device’s web browser.  The app is available through a third-party like iTunes or Android market.  In those cases, you need to get it approved by those third-parties before being able to offer them to your consumers.

So if you in charge of making these decisions in your organization what do you do?  I would default to how you think most people are using their mobile devices.  In my case with my Droid or iPad (I go both ways :)), I tend browse first and app second and if you look at either of my devices, aside from Paper Toss HD (greatest game in the world), you will see apps that pertain to my business and things about which I’m MOST passionate.

My takeaway from that is that the Mobile site is more of a must have and the Mobile app is more of a luxury.

What do you think?

Is Tumblr for ya?

So we were in a client meeting last week discussing our social media proposal which focused mainly on Facebook and he said, “Did you see where Facebook is losing traction among teens, I just want to make sure we’re keeping an eye on what’s next.”

Then I read this article in The New York Times touting the sort of microblog Tumblr as Facebook and Twitter’s New Rival. The article points out that media companies and outlets like Newsweek and The Today Show are using Tumblr because of its ability in manner more “rich” than the other more famous platforms.  The thought here that might excite the younger set who are frustrated by the mainstreaming of Facebook and Twitter and the limitations both have in truly sharing rich media.

So what does a PR/social media guy do next?  He signs up for Tumblr.

My usual experience for new platforms is that I sign up, play with them for five minutes, get frustrated and dump them quickly only to come back to them later when others validate them (see Google Buzz…not).   Not so yet with Tumblr.

The platform is a “major mash” of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogging with elements of Flipboard (the new hot iPad APP) sprinkled in.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Once you set up your page you can customize the background and info similar to Twitter.
  • You can post just about anything in a more rich way.  For example, photos are BIG as are videos, you can do full blog posts or random thoughts similar to Tweets.  You can link to anything and bring in your own feeds.
  • Just as with Facebook and Twitter you can follow people or outlets that are searchable through categories.  Once you follow them, their posts will populate your dashboard.  They can also follow you and you are notified of that follow by email.
  • You can “reblog” their posts as a way to show your interest in a manner similar to a retweet.  This of course will help people find each other as common courtesy usually has a follow following a reblog.

Since I’m just starting on Tumblr I’m likely missing about 90 percent of its capabilities.  So I’d love some direction from fellow “Tumblrs” who can steer me in the right direction.

The question over time is whether we can fit a third (or more) social media platform into our daily social media routine.  Tumblr does allow for easy cross-pollination between itself Facebook and Twitter although I hate overdoing that.

But my initial feedback is positive and I will continue my Tumblr experiment and report back soon.

What’s your feedback?

Facebook landing pages: Pros and cons

National Harbor's Facebook landing page

Over the first half of this year we’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of clients as they expand their presence and communities on Facebook.  In some cases, we have designed fun contests with viral elements.  In others we have created customized landing pages for designed to inform, driving traffic, increase community and extend the client’s brand.

After some learning, I’m comfortable enough with our own experience to share those experiences and talk about what has worked and things to keep our eyes on.

Two examples that we have direct experience with are landing pages for AMF Bowling and National Harbor.  In both cases, people who discover these brands on Facebook but who aren’t yet “likers” will land first on the branded landing page and not the clients “wall.”

As you can see, the landing page mirrors the look and feel of the client’s brand and website, provides links to the website, provides direct links to events and information, and is easily updated.  Once you “like” either brand, the landing page is accessible as one of the tabs on the wall and can be easily accessed.  The client provides a wall update to drive “likers” back to the tab to get new information.

While we have not worked directly with our client Kroger on its page, we do like the simplicity, how they encourage folks to “like” them, and how you can get information, updates, offers and coupons through the page.  Kroger also has a separate “promotions” tab that is more coupon oriented, thus reinforcing those offers for customers.

So what have we learned so far?:

  • These pages, also teamed with offers and contests, are great ways to grow community in a relatively short period of time.  Those growth rates vary from client to client and should be supported with Facebook advertising if possible.
  • People who are on Facebook like to stay on Facebook in most cases so giving them the ability to get information ON Facebook and not drive them elsewhere is important.
  • That being said, these pages are great “drivers” to linked information and websites.  In some cases, like National Harbor, the Facebook pages drives significant traffic to additional information on the website.
  • More “big brands” are using these pages and everything they have to offer.  Ford launched their new Explorer with an entire day’s worth of activities including taped and live streaming video on one of these pages.  Look for others to follow.
  • They are quickly being converted into “social commerce” portals where you can sell directly to consumers.
  • They are great ways to extend and reinforce the brand and to differentiate the brand from all others on Facebook.  This is similar to ten years ago when folks were doing the same thing with websites.

There are a couple of cons:

  • For some this might be overkill.  This is not necessarily the forum to create your brand, but to extend it.  I’m not sure I’d want to launch a company’s look and feel on a landing page.
  • For some the investment might be too expensive.  It does not and should not cost the same as launching a solid website, but it does cost money for design and FBML development, as well as the ongoing analytics to make sure your investment is paying off.  So it is not for everyone.

For sure you can grow your Facebook communities without these additional bells and whistles but we may be quickly be getting to the point where this could become the additional “cost of admission” to separate your brand from others.

If not your brand may literally “against the wall” with little to differentiate it from its competition.

Would love to hear your thoughts and insights.

The Boss brand

Most people who know me know when I refer to “The Boss” I’m usually referring to the E-Street Band variety.  But growing up in the New York City area in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s you could hardly avoid exposure to another “Boss” who passed away today.

You have to go back to the days of my youth in the late 60’s and early 70’s to remember a time when the Yankees sucked.  As a Mets fan, it happily dovetailed with the Mets heyday.  For many sports fans however, there was never a time when the Yankees were not synonymous with winning.  The winning Yankee brand can be traced directly to the day George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees.

Since this is a PR/marketing blog let’s take a quick look at some of the lessons we can learn from “The Boss.”

  • No publicity is bad publicity:  Under George, the Yankees ruled the famous “back pages” of the New York tabloid sports sections.  It wasn’t always pretty as George feuded with managers like Billy Martin and players like Dave Winfield but it worked as he made the Yankees relevant 365 days of the year.
  • A successful brand starts from the inside:  George wanted his players clean-shaved.  He wanted them dressing well on the road.  He spearheaded the renovation of the old Yankee Stadium and the building of the new one.  He built the winning brand from within and then bought, sold and traded for the pieces to make winning a reality.
  • Be innovative:  He was among the first to see the that the real money-making opportunity for his team was connected to television, specifically the growing “cable” variety.  First, selling broadcast rights to MSG Network, then later creating the Yankees-own YES Network.  Television exposure is one of the main reasons for the Yankees exponential growth as a franchise that is now worth in excess of one billion dollars.
  • Give back:  While not seeking publicity for it, Steinbrenner was known for being one of the Tampa area’s leading philanthropists, giving money to literally hundreds of charities.
  • Become part of popular culture:  To explain this you only have to look as far as this compilation of Steinbrenner/Seinfeld “appearances.”

Sure he was far from perfect.  He slugged his way from controversy to controversy before getting “banned” from baseball for three years in the early 90’s.  But Steinbrenner is responsible for all the Yankees are today.  As a Mets fan, you hate him but you respect what he accomplished and secretly you wish your team could learn from the lessons outlined above.

If that’s not the ultimate compliment, I don’t know what is.

The PR social media crystal ball

First off, thanks again to the PRSA for asking me to present to their Thursday breakfast meeting.  It was a great group of familiar and new faces and hopefully what I talked about was helpful.

For those who couldn’t attend, I thought I’d recap here.  I will also share my presentation though Slideshare, just click here and you can view and download although you may need to become a Slidshare member to do it.

For the presentation I was asked to share my thoughts on “what’s next” for social media.  Anyone who truly knows the answer that question is much smarter than me and likely lying but I took a shot and here’s what I came up with.

  1. Conversing and not broadcasting:  Now that you have gathered friends and followers (and want to increase those numbers) you need to truly engage them, not just throw things at them — in short you need to provide value.  Share good information, teach them.  On Facebook use custom landing pages–here’s the one THP and Compleo did for National Harbor (now that Facebook will once again let you do that), offer games and contests with cool prizes (here’s our current contest for, do ticket giveaways on your wall.  Have fun.  But most importantly…START A BLOG.  The blog is the best way to engage, share your                       expertise and opinion and begin a conversation.
  2. Geolocation: Foursquare, Yelp, Gowalla, if you are not familiar with them you should be.  On those platforms, people tell other people where they are and what they are doing.  And in some weird social media peer pressure twist of fate through check-in, badges and reviews people are driven to the places and businesses frequented by their friends.  Retailers and businesses are offering real world rewards to encourage more traffic and check-ins as a way to drive more traffic and PRESTO, a new social phenomenon is born.
  3. Privacy: What the head of Facebook publicly states he doesn’t believe in privacy, we’re all in trouble.  For companies and organizations the blur between personal and professional on social media means new rules for them and their employees.  In the social media world we are all ambassadors of all organizations we represent, we don’t have the luxuries that we used to have to say the things online that we’d like to.
  4. Online vs. Mobile: In this day of limited marketing budgets and an increasing number of online devices, where should companies spend their money?  The answer is where their customers or member are the most.  In the new world that may not be on the computer but on their tablet or on their phone.  This may force companies and organizations to make choices between their websites and their mobile APPs.  If you could only afford one, which one would you choose?  And oh, don’t forget about QR codes.
  5. Measurement: Apologies to my friends at social media measurement companies but I still think you have a way to go.  There is no simple solution in this space.  There is no industry standard.  We still have to rely on the old standards of “what is my goal?” and “how can I use social media to reach that goal?”  You also must create your own cadre of online tools to review and manage your organization’s reputation.  The companies are making strides here, but are not there quite yet.
  6. Live “U”casting: We have live blogged, live tweeted, and podcasted but have we really taken advantage of services like Ustream or  What I can broadcast live video directly from my Droid online for all the world to see as I can now, the PR implications are frightening.
  7. It’s not social media, it’s just marketing: Just like direct and online before it, social media is not an add-on anymore, it is official a key part of the marketing mix, the sooner we treat it that way, the better for all of us and our clients.

Okay, so that’s my best shot.  If you disagree please comment, if you think I’m missing something I’d love to hear it.

The only certainty is the second we feel comfortable Facebook or someone else will pull the rug out from us so be flexible and be ready for the next big thing.  It is likely right around the corner.

To share or not too…

Is it my imagination or has Facebook recently made it a lot easier to share things, pages, etc.

First, if you scroll down a Fan/Like page and look down the left side, they all have “Share” buttons.  Don’t remember that, maybe I’m wrong.

Second, in the past when you tried to share you first had to select individuals to share with.  Now, the first option is to share it with all your friends in your stream all at once.  Again, I might be late to this party.

You can still send the “Share” as a message to individual friends, but if you’re a marketer trying to reach larger audiences, encouraging your fans/likers to share to all their friends in this new way is another Facebook hat tip in your direction.

Is this too much potential sharing for you?  Let me know.

The next step for “social communities”

Please forgive the lack of posts in the coming days, with spring break coming up there’s a great deal to do.

This one will be longer and reflective.  It revolves around communities.  In most cases we people in social media talk about communities, they primarily mean those attached to a product or organization or cause.  In this post, when considering “community” I’m talking about an IRL (in real life) region.  In my case, Richmond.

In the past few weeks THP as a company and me personally have been giving a great deal of thought to how far we’ve all come over the past couple of years in the world of social media.  In the coming weeks, we’ll likely be making some announcements about what direction that will take us as a company.

But I’ve also seen signs that Richmond is becoming a more mature “socially.”

My conclusion?  Richmond is ready to take the next step.  Here are some of the signs:

  • An active and vibrant social media club that brings in national-level speakers to appreciative people who soak in what those speakers have to say.
  • No longer are clients coming to us asking “what’s Twitter?,” or “how do I get on to Facebook?.” they want to know how best to leverage their existing fans and followers.
  • Businesses are beginning to get let serious about just gathering those followers and more serious about building two-way conversations with “communities.”
  • Organizations are beginning to give people the freedom to use social networks at work for business AND pleasure.  They are realizing the power of building brands from within and with the concept of employees as ambassadors.  They are also wondering the implications of what that means to privacy and HR practices.

Don’t get me wrong, we still have a long way to go.  This is just the beginning.

Last week I was at a conference for non-profits and social media and my old pal Erika Gay of Venture Richmond was at my table for a discussion of social media and communications.  Always about to point her finger on the pulse, Erika made a great point that has stuck with me all week.  She said, while it’s great that we’re all experiencing these social platforms, we’re experiencing them within our usual comfort zones.

At first I thought, that makes sense in social media like in all communications, people seek out people like them to talk about things they like.  She pointed out that just like in real life, in Richmond social media the West End folks hang out with their friends, the Southside folks have their groups, and so on and so on.  And tragically, there are countless groups, organizations and individuals that because of their organizational and  personal situations have no access at all.

So as we take the next step and as a community by asking Google for a “giga” we should also challenge ourselves to break down the barriers as only social communicators can.  Consider:

  • Making social connections out of your comfort zone.  The river that divides us should not exist online.
  • Working to make sure that non-profits and poor neighborhoods can gain access as well.
  • Reaching out to social groups representing minority groups.
  • Teaching high school and college students how to use these tools not just to connect with friends but to connect with the community.

Can Richmond be a "social community?"

One suggestion that I threw out was a Richmond “social media summit” open not only to marketers or focusing not only on non-profits groups, but an event where we as community intentionally bring together people who can use social media to break down geographic, social and race barriers.

If a region can truly be “social” than Richmond is better positioned than most.  We already are more engaged on social media than most, we are not too big so size can’t get in the way, as I have detailed before we have more creativity per capita than any region our size.

And finally technology has given us the tools to bring it all together.  We just have to use it to break down the barriers.

Can we in Richmond can use social media to be one of the first true “social communities?”  Not one where we measure that by how many collective Twitter followers we have, but by how many people we can touch using all social platforms?

I think we’re ready for the next step, do you?  Whether you live here or not please share your thoughts, concerns and ideas.

Should creativity be #RVA’s “new” history

WARNING:  This blog post will be highly promotional in nature, contain excessive name dropping and probably piss off a lot of people.  Also I will likely forget to name people or agencies and for that I apologize.

The Martin Agency's John Adams and Mike Hughes (l to r)

It seems like once a week, our old friends and colleagues at The Martin Agency announce that they reeled in another big brand.  Today MorganStanley, last week Tylenol and Motrin, a couple of weeks ago Pizza Hut.  This on the heels of our “alma mater” being named Adweek’s agency of the year.

There is no question that TMA is on a roll in the ad world.  The big question is when will they be recognized as the core of  a jobs creation engine, an engine that many of us in the “creative” community needs to be celebrated and publicized?

For years the Richmond region has banked on its history as a driver for tourism and jobs creation.  While that has been effective, it is also a message that resonates more for the tourist and traveller and less for those who want to relocate their businesses here, or want to start one from scratch.

In that sense Richmond needs to celebrate its past but look to the future.  And its future is in creativity.

Powered by TMA, Richmond likely has spawned more marketing-related agencies and companies than almost any city its size in the United States.  We started The Hodges Partnership almost eight years with two people.  Our PR/social media shop just hired its 14th person, bought into a building in Shockoe Bottom and are renovating the building with an expansion planned for completion by the end of the year.  Our small contribution to economic development.

We are not alone.  Our friends (and sometimes competitors) at CRT-Tanaka have grown and bought like agencies in New York and Washington.  Established ad agencies like Siddall and Barber Martin Agency do national work for national clients.  Growing agencies like Elevation and Madison & Main do great work and are expanding their client base and their employee base.  Small agencies like our friend Maggie Backstoffer’s MBM Marketing do great work.  Agencies specialized in niche fields medical marketing (ND & P and Franklin Street Marketing) are recognized nationally.

Online and social media agencies like Compleo Apps are working for national clients.  Richmond’s social media club is among the largest and most active in the United States.

The VCU Brandcenter is the number-one ranked ad/branding program in the country, keeping some of the talent home and sending it to some of the most well-known agencies and companies in the world.

Despite the tough economy, this creative engine is creating jobs and opportunities.  In recent years, Richmond’s quality of life has improved to support this creative work force with more choices for arts, music and food to feed its collective hunger.

Is it easy to quantify the economic impact we have as a creative community?  No, it isn’t.  My guess is though that there is little room left at the inn at Shockoe Slip these days.  It is also hard even for us to keep track of the new marketing firms that spawning on a daily basis.  BTW, many of them including ourselves call Downtown Richmond home.  This is the center of the “creative hub.”

All those firms big and small have clients.  They travel to them, their clients come here.  They stay at hotels, eat in restaurants.  Big companies come here to think about relocating.  They love to know that some of the world’s most talented marketing minds are literally around the corner, down the block, or a short ride away.

This all doesn’t include the slew of support firms for media buying like Lewis Media, or production like Thoughtstream or the countless number of sole practitioners supported by groups like Ad Club AMA or PRSA.

The only thing missing in my opinion is a strategy to market Richmond as the best place to tap into this collective marketing power.  It isn’t easy.  You can touch, see and feel history.  Creativity is a little smushy.

You would think since we’re so creative we could figure this out?  We can.  We just need some focus, some direction and to be set loose to make it happen.

Richmond’s history is in its past.  But its present and future is in its creativity.  Others are recognizing us for this every day.  Now we have to seize on that and make sure the rest of the world knows.

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