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.

#PRSARVA, what do you want to hear?

It wasn’t an easy call to make, especially at 6 in the morning.

I had to call Jennifer Pounders and tell her “you know that PRSARVA professional development session that I’m supposed to be leading in a hour?  Well, THAT’s not going to happen…”  She handled the curve ball with her usual grace and proceeded to call all the folks who had registered.  Thanks, Jen.

Long story short, I found out after a doctors visit that I had walking pneumonia and it was probably a good thing that I passed on speaking as I would have infected about 70 of Richmond’s stellar PR and marketing community.

So what do you want to hear???

So the session has been rescheduled for May 18 (two weeks of antibiotics later and I’m as good as new) and from what I understand the number of attendees has now risen.  There are a few slots left and you can register here.

I’m still planning to cover Facebook Timeline for Brands, the growing social media platform Pinterest, and touch on mobile.

But the main reason for this post is to solicit any other ideas or things that you’d like to hear about or want be to cover.

So please take a minute if you’re planning to attend ( and even if you aren’t) and comment below to help me add a topic or two to the session.

Thanks so much.

#PRRVACHAT this Wednesday

Just a quick reminder about the first #PRRVACHAT on Twitter this Wednesday night at 8pm on Twitter.

Some of the discussion topics will include:

  • Komen and the long-term PR damage.
  • What is the true PR value of Super Bowl advertising?
  • Are we seeing a shift away from Facebook to Twitter and other social platforms especially by younger users?

The chat will last an hour and is a great way to discuss these topics and network online.  Each topic will be discussed for about ten minutes and can be followed through by using the #PRRVACHAT hashtag.  Tweetdeck, Hootsuite and other platform users can follow be creating the corresponding search column or you can use a third-part Twitter chat site like TweetChat.

We invite you to add to the conversation by suggesting discussion topics in the comment section on this blog.

Thanks, and we’re looking forward to it.

#PRRVACHAT, Richmond PR folks, let’s chat!

One of the most underrated ways to take advantage of all Twitter has to offer is through one of its many regular chat sessions.  These are regularly scheduled sessions related to specific topics that are facilitated by using one of Twitter’s famous hashtags.Image

One of my favorite chats is the regular #PR20CHAT which has PR pros around the country responding to specific questions or trends that are posed by facilitators.

So it got me thinking why not try this on a local #RVA level.  We have a great PR community led by our local PRSA chapter and including great agencies, corporate pros, government PR people and solo practitioners.  We also have lots of folks looking to network and break into the business.

The national version has allowed me to:

  • Share ideas with PR people from around the country
  • Meet them on Twitter and follow them for future conversations
  • Meet some up and coming PR pros looking to network and break into the business
  • Even find some new business along the way
  • Make some great friends as we talk PR

So I’m proposed a local Richmond version with the hashtag #PRRVACHAT.  The first session will be on Wednesday night, February 8 at 8:00 and go for about an hour.  I will be promoting on Twitter and Facebook so please pass the word, RT the tweets, etc.  I will likely send out some proposed topics, etc.

I great way to follow and participate in the conversation is by using a third-party platform like TweetDeck or Hootsuite and use the #PRRVACHAT hashtag or by using a web-based app like and follow the directions.

I’m really excited about this because of how much fun I’ve had on similar chats and I hope you will participate and share your thoughts and ideas.  If you have a suggested topic for questions, etc., please comment below.

(Also looking for a co-facilitator to help me with this as well so if you’re interested please contact below.)

Quick hits: Pinterest, Twitter and what is Carnival thinking???

Some quick hitters for a Tuesday:

We (Britt Farrah @saidlikefarrah) and I started our second semester teaching social media at VCU yesterday some interesting observations from questions we asked our predominantly PR majors…

  • Most of them preferred Twitter over Facebook and other social media platforms.  In the couple of years that I’ve been asking college students this question, this is the first time ever that they selected Twitter.  In fact, this is the first time that most of the class even was “on” Twitter.  Maybe this is because the class is made up of PR majors but maybe this is a change in social media course.  We shall see….
  • I asked if they ever heard of Pinterest (my new social media obsession) and not a surprise but most of the women raised their hands.  The “pinning” platform is all the rage of the female set.  What was surprising is how some of the women expressed an almost obsessive relationship with the platform, spending hours pinning.  I for one am waiting for my Gentlemint invite to come in the email.

Finally, not related to the class but to PR in general, is Carnival Cruise lines smoking crack or what?

All I got on a Tuesday….you?

Is Facebook getting way to complicated?

Great time yesterday presenting for our client, Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, at two marketing/communications seminars about the current state of social media.  These sessions, which the FCEDA provides to anyone, are a great way for businesses and organizations large and small to learn the latest about advertising, PR, social media, etc.

Because of the wide range of businesses and groups represented it’s hard to cover all the bases on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogging, etc. but our main focus for this group was Facebook.  Mainly because of the sheer numbers of Facebook members and the fact that’s where most marketers start to develop their social media communities.

As usual we got lots of questions based on the changes Facebook has made in the last year: Timeline, Ticker, EdgeRank, changes to advertising and privacy.  Frankly after each of the two-hour sessions it was amazing that we didn’t see more heads literally spinning out of the room.

And then last night Facebook launched Facebook Actions, which will add more action verbs to the Facebook experience, making “like” look tame in comparison.

It all got me thinking this morning, is Facebook becoming too complicated for its own good?

I know the end game is about monetizing the platform but by focusing on ways to make money off the big brands will Facebook make it too difficult for the little guy to market to his or her customers?  In addition will all these new walls, tickers, apps and buttons make it too difficult for the core Facebook user, use Facebook period?

One on side, we seem to complain about Facebook changes, get used to them after a while, and then six months later wonder why we even complained in the first place.  But one the other side, when does too much really become too much?

I’d love for you to answer that question in the comment section below.  I’m going to be watching this one pretty carefully in the coming months.

PR story of the day: One fifth of grandparents use social networks

Interesting story on Mashable about a study in the UK that says 20 percent or so of grandparents use social networks.

Click here to read.

If the Newman household is a case study I would say that’s pretty true.  My daughter is spending the week with her grandparents and I’ve be FaceTime-ing with her and in the background I can see my mother-in-law playing on her iPad.  She hasn’t graduated to Facebook or Twitter yet but some of our aunt and uncles who are also grandparents have.

Now from experience I will tell you that trying to talk them through how to download an APP is a totally different experience and definitely not for the faint of heart. 🙂

PR story of the day: TwitPic causing McDonald’s heartburn.

Given the number of super-hero movies out there, I’m reminded about the line heard in many of them that usually goes something like this, “You can use your power for good or evil.”

The same goes for the power of social media as exhibited by the latest PR issue faced by McDonald’s.

This very realistic looking online hoax fueled by a TwitPic on Twitter is making things very difficult for the folks at the Golden Arches.

If you were advising them, how would you help them fight the hoax?

When staying on message makes you look like a schmuck

Okay, crisis communications 101, or really even media relations 101, the first rules we teach students or clients is….create your key messages and whatever you do stay on message.

Unless of course, the act of staying on message makes you look like a schmuck.

Case in point, New York congressman Rep. Anthony Weiner, who for two days now has taken the art of staying on message and is riding it into his own political grave.  The background story is someone tweeted a picture of a man in his underwear from Weiner’s Twitter account to a female college student in Seattle.  Weiner denies he sent it and claims it was likely a Twitter hack.  But here is how it handled an Capitol Hill news briefing to address the “scandal.”


“If I was giving a speech in front of 45,000 people….and someone threw a pie….”  Please.

So in seven minutes plus, he tried to tell that story three times, more than antagonized the media that covers him daily, and still didn’t answer the question.

The punchline is because of those seven minutes, Weiner had to spend the whole day the following day doing one-on-one interviews with the media to do damage control.

Sometimes as PR folks we need to learn that standing behind the written word, in this case, the Congressman’s office had first put out statements, is all you can do until you are able to fully answer a question.  Stay you’re doing an investigation, do it, release the results, if he’s clean you’re done, if he’s not you’ve got a bigger problem.

By trotting him out with the “pie throwing story” and telling him to stay on message, you extended the story by three days and made him look awful.

Throwing Weiner to the wolves with an analogy and a prayer didn’t do him or his political career any good.

Would love to hear your thoughts on how they are handing this “crisis.”


Two great upcoming #RVA events

It’s been awhile since the last post but things have been busy at work and with spring break  (Hogwarts was very fun). I welcome you all back with news of two fun events on the horizon.

Amber Naslund

The first is an honor to be a part of, as we’re sponsoring the event.  She may not know this but there are few people who have influenced me and in turn the direction of our business, than Amber Naslund (@ambernaslund).  Almost three years ago when I dove into the world of social media, Amber was there.  With her blog Altitude Branding, now Brass Tack Thinking, her availability and advice on Twitter, and her welcoming friendship when we met face to face at Blog Potomac, Amber was and is a teacher and mentor on the topics of social media, social business, online civility and fun in general.   In her position at Radian 6, she is a nationally recognized voice in social business.

She is speaking in Richmond at this Thursday’s Social Media Club meeting promoting “The Now Revolution,” the book she co-authored with another personal fav of mine, Jay Baer.  If there is one event to go to this year, it is this Social Media Club event.  Period.

Second, for those who didn’t receive a Facebook or email invite, consider yourselves invited to “Opening Day” at The Hodges Partnership and Hodges Digital Strategies next Tuesday, May 10 at our Shockoe Bottom HQ from 12noon-5pm.  This open house celebrates the renovation and expansion of our physical space.

We will celebrate in true baseball style with hot dogs, popcorn, giveaways and a “first pitch” for clients at 1:05pm.  BTW, we’re still looking for someone to sing the National Anthem so if you can sing it and sing it well, please comment below.

Please RSVP on this Facebook event page or leave a comment below, as we need to know how many hot dogs to order. 🙂

Looking forward to seeing all of you at both events.

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