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.

Will digital platforms learn in their old age?

In the past week, I’ve done four speaking engagements, some with my colleagues at THP.  Included in the audiences were students, journalists, PR professionals, small business owners, folks from non-profits, consultants from all walks of life.  A pretty good mix of people.

Some of the focus was on journalism and public relations but in all cases social media was in the forefront.

In all cases though, the message back to me is clear.  We are now in the “mature” phase of the social/digital/online thing we’re living though.

Some observations:

  • We asked a room of small business/non-profits/consultants of they were managing their organization’s Facebook presence.  Last year less than half would have said yes.  This year they ALL raised their hands.
  • We asked the same question about Twitter.  Last year maybe two or three would have raised their hands.  This year ALL of them did.
  • ALL of them where active on LinkedIn
  • Some were managing their organization’s YouTube and Flickr accounts.  Last year most of them couldn’t have even spelled Flickr.
  • Journalists are using Twitter to break stories (not a surprise but always interesting to hear)
  • College students have a much higher level of understanding not only about the platforms and technology but only about their importance to the student’s future and vocation.

All very exciting.  But also the beginning of a cautionary tale.  I know I’ve been beating this drum a little.  Make way because the banging is about to get louder.

More than one person on the business side told us stories about how it used to be easy to get fans on Facebook and get folks to comment.  But now after reaching a certain level that feedback has stopped.  The same on Twitter.  They are finding it harder to start and maintain blogs.

In past posts I’ve talked about the need to ramp up cross-promotion across all marketing platforms to kick start your engagement levels.  I’ve also mentioned that it’s time to increase posts to your Facebook wall because of the increase in speed on most people’s personal walls.  If they blink, they will miss your post so frequency, once a nuisance, is now more important.

In addition, Facebook ads are becoming a necessary tools to grow a “like” base.  Again, social isn’t viral anymore.

All these platforms, Facebook, FourSquare and Twitter in particular, had better listen closely.

They need to make it easier for all customers, not just the big brands, to create ads that grow fan bases, create landing pages that engage, create identities that break through the clutter.  If they don’t they will lose this increasingly frustrated marketing common man who will then go searching for the next big thing.

They will become TV advertising, only catering to those who can afford it and not reaching an ever-growing number of folks who just decide to fast-forward through it.

It isn’t too late but the time is fast approaching.  It is our job as communications pros to help clients navigate these platforms and help them build communities.  Our job is more exciting this year compared to last, but it also challenging and it will also take more time and resources (money) to break through the increased clutter.  We also need the people behind the platforms to create ways to make it easier for all of us.

Would love your thoughts and comments.

So, what’s next? We want to know.

A quick post here to preview a talk that Sonali and I are giving next Wednesday to PRSA Richmond.

They tell me that more than 100 folks have signed up so seats are going fast (more than veiled attempt here to jam the room.)  Here’s a link to sign up.

Even though Hodges Digital Strategies is still in its first year, our learning over the course of the last year or so has been exponential.  I peeked back at a similar presentation I gave last year and it looked prehistoric in comparison.  That being said, we are not experts and don’t have all the answers so some of this will be nothing more than our opinion based on what we’ve learned so far.

First and foremost, our presentation is still in the formative stages so if you’re coming (and even if you’re not) and there’s something you’d like us to touch on please comment below and we will try to cover it.

Some of the topics we are going to discuss include:

  • Public relations and its leadership role in social media
  • The maturing of social media platforms and what they means for brands
  • How to promote and grow your social media presence
  • “multi-channeling”
  • The current status of Twitter, Foursquare and others
  • The “next” platforms and trends
  • Mobile, mobile and did we mention mobile
  • And a takeaway for B2C and B2B and social/digital

Lots of stuff to cover in a short period of time.  If we’re missing anything please let us know.  If you have a comment please do so.

We will post the presentation next week after we give it.

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