The mostly official blog of the Hodges Partnership and Hodges Digital Strategies.
July 26, 2012 | by Tony Scida
Recently a Chick-fil-A executive made a statement that caused a bit of a stir in the media and, especially, online. Yesterday, Gizmodo reported that Chick-fil-A (or someone representing them) created fake Facebook accounts (complete with stock photo profile photos) just to defend the company online.
Chick-fil-A denies this charge, but it brings up a very important piece of advice for companies trying to navigate the digital landscape: Do not make fake accounts.
It’s awfully tempting for companies that see criticism online to want to jump in there and post in their own defense. And since an official response may not be taken at its word, some companies engage in what’s known as astroturfing (I’m sure much to the chagrin of the presumably fine people who make imitation grass sporting surfaces), which is meant to look like grassroots support, but falls short on closer examination.
What makes astroturfing even worse is that it’s often not even necessary. If CFA did indeed create these accounts, they’ve just made themselves worse. Their fans had already come to their defense, with Fox News correspondent (and former presidential candidate) Mike Huckabee already calling for a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.
In the best case, astroturfing just costs a lot of money and fools no-one. In the worst case, your brand could be tarnished long-term (but you won’t be around to see it, because you’ll be fired).0 commentsPosted in: Crisis Communications | Social Marketing | Social Media | The Hodges Partnership
March 23, 2012 | by Jon Newman
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.
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.
Please feel free to download, share, spread the gospel, etc.0 commentsPosted in: Social Marketing | Social Media
March 21, 2012 | by Jon Newman
Don't be nervous. Change is good.
That should be the Facebook brand statement.
Just when you get used to things, the mother of all social media platforms changes things up. No change in recent history has given more marketing folks heartburn as the coming change of Facebook Brands Pages to the Facebook Timeline format.
The change is official in just a few days (March 30) and Jim Belosic does a great job of helping marketing folks face this reality in this blog post on PR Daily.
We at THP and HDS have been spending lots of time getting clients ready for this change as well. In addition, I've been asked to speak to a PRSARVA group about those changes in April (don't worry I'll cover Pinterest too). For some reason I hear seats are going fast so you may want to register here.
I agree with all of Jim's points but folks really need to focus on:
- The use of the cover photo as a means to show your brand without being too "promotional."
- The increasing importance of custom apps and what they can do to improve the virality of your page.
- The need to use timeline to tell a creative story and move the conversation forward.
- The importance of pinning your posts and milestones.
Later this week in this space, we'll be making a Timeline for Brands "cheat sheet" of sorts available, so look for that by Friday.
Don't want to give away too many spoilers on my talk but the bottom line is you have about a week....are you ready?1 commentPosted in: Hodges Digital Strategies | Social Marketing | Social Media
February 29, 2012 | by Jon Newman
If you are a Facebook marketer like me, today is like Christmas (or for me Chanukah) in February.
At first blush (here's the THP page) it is pretty much what we expected with:
- The new cover photo offering great promotional opportunities
- The ability to highlight stories for greater impact
- The ability to minimize or totally edit past posts to tell your story better
But a deeper dive has marketers like me salivating because:
- Apps for landing pages, contests etc. now have a more prominent place directly under the cover photo and next to the new photos box. This will likely lead to greater engagement and interest
- For admins, the more streamlined admin panel give you additional tools to help you share the page with others including the ability to easily import emails from outside services like Outlook and LinkedIn.
Still to be answered is additional functionality like how this will impact landing pages, etc. But my first guess is they will still exist and have greater cross-promotional opportunities with the Timeline page.
So the race is on. If you haven't created a cover photo or photos, what the heck are you waiting for? Please share your initial thoughts in comments below. We'll have additional posts in the coming days.
Ready? Go!5 commentsPosted in: Branding | Social Marketing | Social Media
January 30, 2012 | by Jon Newman
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. 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 Tweetchat.com 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.)1 commentPosted in: Public Relations | Richmond | Social Marketing
March 24, 2011 | by Jon Newman
So of course I picked the worst two days in recent memory to be out of town on business (although the business partner and I did have plenty of bonding time listening to classic rock. My rendition of "Carry On, My Wayward Son" was especially poignant).
Congrats go out to the folks at Venture Richmond including Jack Berry, Lisa Simms and Lucy Meade for seizing the day and quickly organizing the Turning Basin rally last night. This is exactly what we needed and was the point of my Sunday night blog post.
This is a prime example of cool, smart people jumping on quickly and taking advantage of a one-in-a-generation event.
Congrats to all, and to all who helped them make it happen.
Oh and by the way, Dickie V, "Eat Crow, baby!"3 commentsPosted in: Richmond | Social Marketing
January 18, 2011 | by Jon Newman
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
- 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.3 commentsPosted in: Marketing | Public Relations | Social Marketing | Social Media
December 10, 2010 | by Jon Newman
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.2 commentsPosted in: Hodges Digital Strategies | Marketing | Social Marketing | Social Media | The Hodges Partnership
October 12, 2010 | by Jon Newman
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.2 commentsPosted in: Hodges Digital Strategies | Social Marketing | Social Media
September 17, 2010 | by Jon Newman
Viral videos, they are the bane of the PR firm’s (yes and/or ad agencies, I admit it) existence.
In this age of YouTube, Upstream, Justin.tv, etc. everyone wants to create an online video and send it into the vast viral universe. They dream that it will magically be blessed by the viral/social media gods and gain favor. They dream that each time they hit the “refresh” button the viewer numbers will be higher than the last.
Then they wake up.
Because the truth is for every online video that makes the YouTube hall of fame, there are thousands of others that get cast into the online ocean never to be seen or heard from again. In fact according to this from Slate.com, you have better odds in winning the lottery than having viral video success on YouTube.
We work on a great collaborative team that includes Steve Cummings, Emily Duke, Julia Webster and others at THP, my old boss from The Martin Agency Joe Slay (Joe’s not old…he’s just an old boss of mine…you know what I mean) and a former colleague of mine, Steve Mullen of EndGame PR. Joe is the team's quarterback (a dollar in the till for a sports analogy, sorry) and Steve oversees the website and social media presence. Our collective client is Dan Schecter of Richmond’s Carpenter Co. Carpenter makes pillows, mattress toppers, foam products, just about anything you buy for your bed. They sell those products to retailers and you buy them, with many of them carrying the SleepBetter.org logo. The SleepBetter.org website is Dan’s baby and part of our team’s job is to drive traffic to the website thereby keeping Dan happy.
We had a lot of fun working with Dan. Dan is a great strategic thinker who wants to have fun with his customer base while both educating them about the benefits of Carpenter's products, and showing those customers how those products can improve their health and daily lives.
Last year the team took over a small Texas town and did a concert with the singer, Jewel. Earlier this year, we did a cool Bedtime Stories campaign and worked with Betty White at the high of her recent new-found popularity.
But Dan has always wanted to do a cool, fun, successful online video featuring pillows….lots of pillows.
Our collective mission: To create a fun, cool online video with tons of pillows and related products, get hundreds of thousands of people to watch it, and have it drive unprecedented traffic to SleepBetter.org.
The bad news is that we didn’t get hundreds of thousands of people to watch it. The good news is in four days we got more than a million people to watch it….and counting. As of Friday, September 17, 2010: 1.4 million viewers.
Here it is….
So given all the odds against us (and all other teams facing the online video challenge) how did we succeed where others do not?
Here’s what we did:
- Make them compete to create your video: Our team researched about ten troupes from all over the world before landing on four groups and getting initial treatments. We gave them a creative brief with parameters and make sure they were true to the products and the client’s goal. For a number of reasons we decided to work with Rhett and Link, who as you just saw if you watched the video, are extremely talented and make outstanding videos.
- Work with the professionals: Because they have these large communities they understand what makes them tick, what excites them, what gets them to watch and share. This is the initial spark of viewers that most online videos lack. You can’t go viral without a host, can you? These communities serve as the host. Rhett and Link has an active community of 500,000 people online.
- You get what you pay for: Online videos are not cheap but they don’t need to be expensive either. You are working with the professionals to help ensure success. You can spend a lot of money on cool looking videos, push them with tons of marketing and have nothing to show for it. Our money was well spent, it had somewhat of a built-in audience and now we are spending our time and money merchandising success instead begging people to watch.
- Remember the ultimate goal: The tendency is to get lost in the “coolness” of it all. Our goals were to celebrate the product, communicate certain points including some of the health issues related to keeping one’s pillow for too long, and to get large numbers of people exposed to the brand and then drive as many people as possible to the SleepBetter.org website.
- Think strategically: Why do most online videos fail? Because they rely on external forces to create an audience. They require celebrities, ad campaigns, website seeding, influencer pitching, etc. But what if you could almost count on success by tapping into an existing online video market? The answer is, you can.
So way beyond 1.5 million views in four days, tons of YouTube awards, and tens of thousands of hits to the website later, we’re happy and most importantly Dan is happy.
There’s more to come, however, this first video has set the scene for a second one currently in production here in Richmond by a local group. We’ve taken some of the lessons we’ve learned from Rhett and Link and inserted some secret ingredients into the video (we’d tell you but we’d have to kill you) that will hopefully help it take off. Plus, they’ve agreed to help us give it a boost as well.
The ultimate lesson here is consistent with all things online and social. You can bang your head against the wall and try to force things to happen, or you can research, listen and search out the communities that already exist and give them what they want.
And if you do it in a way that is fun, informative, entertaining and not too commercial you might be able to achieve your marketing goals as well.7 commentsPosted in: Social Marketing | Social Media