AND not OR*: How Mobile, Social and Web are converging

by Sonali Shetty of Hodges Digital Strategies

*For a refresher on Boolean algebra go here.

Are mobile, social and web three separate entities anymore? Not when you consider the following:

  • The number of smart-phone users, world-wide just crossed the 1 billion mark.  In the U.S., approximately 87 percent use their phones to access the web and other apps (25 percent of whom, primarily use their mobile devices to access the web).
  • More than half of Facebook’s 1 billion users access the platform through their mobile devices, while 18 percent of whom don’t even visit the website.

So, it’s no longer an option to pick a platform, businesses must be on all of them. At Hodges Digital Strategies, our most interesting challenges are design and development at these three intersections: mobile + web, mobile + social and web + social.

Mobile + Web

  • Side-by-side example of website on mobile (left) and mobile-optimized website (right)

    Mobile friendly sites (Sites that function on mobile devices.  These sites have no flash and small image sizes for relatively fast loading. Users may need to zoom in order to use the site.  Newer design and development capabilities are phasing out these kinds of sites in favor of mobile optimized and responsive sites.)

  • Mobile optimized sites (Sites designed to cater to mobile devices. Pared down functionality and navigation elements, large, touch friendly buttons and minimal data entry allow for mobile optimization.  Most mobile optimized sites give users the option to view the desktop version of their website.)
  • Responsive design (Sites that utilize responsive methodologies for web development. A full website that renders seamlessly on devices with various form-factors. Meaning, a separate mobile site is not required – a large three column site on your large screen monitor, with rich visuals and extensive menus, can step down to a single column in a series of steps, responding to various device sizes.)

As more people interact with the web, primarily through their mobile devices, mobile capabilities for your website are no longer optional. While there is no right answer on whether to choose mobile optimized or responsive, we are biased towards responsive design and are incorporating these techniques in pretty much every new site we build.

Mobile + Social

Of the main social platforms, Twitter and YouTube were the most mobile-centric from the beginning, however, the switch to Timeline impacted apps, as they’re not visible via Facebook’s mobile app. To mitigate this (and to aid in app discovery), Facebook announced App Center. Mobile friendly apps that are registered in App Center are now discoverable through Facebook’s search bar. From a development perspective, it does mean that each app needs to also include a mobile version (using any of the above methods). There is slightly more work on the backend, however, with more and more users coming in from mobile, this is the only way for the users to access apps on their devices.

Web + Social

Back in 2010, Facebook introduced Open Graph API (yes, that ubiquitous “Like” button is just a toddler). Social sharing by liking or sharing content on social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google +, has been deployed on millions of websites. Sharing also happens in the reverse direction by embedding activity streams from social media onto the web.  Single sign-on (signing up for a web-app via your Facebook or Twitter account) saves us from having to remember yet another user ID and password. However, balance that with the risk of allowing the 3rd party site access to your information and sometimes publish on your behalf. You can control third-party app access via privacy settings on your Facebook account.

This digital convergence is only going to accelerate further and include future platforms. Just think: Google Glass, the Nike+ FuelBand, your car’s dashboard…the fun has only just begun.

Things I learned during my blog’s summer vacation.

Okay…so it’s been a while.  Shoot me.

Rather than start things with a great PR or social media proclamation, let’s ease back into the swing of things with some random thoughts on things that have popped into my brain over the course of the last few weeks.

  • There will never be a plan for Shockoe Bottom.
  • Google+ is interesting but I’m still waiting to see the business applications for it.
  • You can only stave off your wife and kids wanting a new dog for so long.
  • There are members of Richmond’s social media community who really need to get over themselves.
  • It’s amazing how many people will help others find a job in our “creative” community if you ask them.
  • Alcohol tastes really good when drunk out of a mason jar.
  • The Mets have the amazing ability to keep my attention just long enough to get me to football season.
  • You can never have too much new business on the table.
  • Amber Naslund is a great social media leader and an even better human being.
  • College Football is about to change in a geometric way.
  • Bruce will never be able to replace the BigMan, but we need a tour any way.
  • Children will survive two weeks at sleep away camp.
  • Our Pig Pickin on October 15th will definitely “kick things up a notch” (you’re all invited, BTW).
  • My wife is wonderful and is making “The Year of Me” a year I will never forget.

This fall should be exciting with work stuff and teaching a social media course at VCU but I promise to gear up the blog again if for no other reason than to be an example for the students in our class.


With sponsored Tweets, will Twitter become more like Google?

With yesterday’s announcement of sponsored Tweets, Twitter is finally beginning to peel the money-making onion.

You have to make a living, right?

This first step in the monetization process is the inclusion of “sponsored Tweets” at the top of a Twitter search for specific keywords, thus pushing a brands key message to the top of the results list. 

For brands and organizations this appears to be an advantage since their key messages will bubble to the top and not get lost in the stream even when active searchers are looking for them.  So offers, coupons, brand messaging and reputation management Tweets will be easier to find and re-tweet (which will still be allowed and encouraged in this new sponsored-tweet world).

On the flip side, it appears to be a win for those following and search for those brands and organizations as they will receive the most important news and offers without having to go “deep” into the stream.

My only initial concern will this first step is that these sponsored Tweets will be seen in the same way that some folks see Google ads. 

While a good number of folks can’t tell the difference between Google’s “sponsored links” (ads) and link position earned by good SEO practices, others immediately mentally block out the sponsored links just like they zip through newspaper ads or fast forward through TV commercials on their DVRs.

It will be interesting to see if the value of sponsored Tweets will be lessened just by the nature of the fact that they are sponsored and have not earned the value of re-tweeting and trending status the old-fashioned way — by providing value to their audience.

Will some people tune out these Tweets like they tune out the Google ads?

What do you think?  Would love to hear your thoughts.

2010: PR’s year for mobile

Today’s announcement from Google on its entry into the cellphone market with the Nexus One only reinforces my recent thoughts about cell phones becoming the new laptops.

Over the holiday break I became the proud owner of a IPOD Touch (thanks again Hodgers), and a Motorola DROID.  Now instead of sitting at the desktop or laptop, I find myself in my favorite chair, curled up in a Snuggie, with both devices on the table sitting next to me.  I alternate using them to check email, Facebook, Twitter, the web and even watched NFL football on them through Directv.

So of course the mind now wanders.  What are the best ways to translate that into better public relations for clients?

  • Branded APPS:  I have already downloaded the branded New York Jets keyboard into my DROID.  Theme applications like these are great ways to expand brand loyalty.
  • Games:  See Branded APPS
  • Expanding social media presence across the board:  Now people are even less tied to their computers and with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Linkedin and others now included as almost standard issue, you MUST be in it to win it.  Also new fun social games like Foursquare make consumerism into a contest where your phone is your game piece.
  • Content:  The web is a key component because browser speed on these units are less of an issue.  PR folks are the content kings, we must look for ways to tailor that content even better for these devices.

With new devices on the horizon like the much-awaited Apple Tablet, this opening salvo is just the beginning.  These will be the “game changers” that will change the way we all consume media in the future and provide new PR, media relations and social media opportunities.

I’d love to hear your thoughts as well.

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