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Jim interviews Helen Todd, CEO and founder of Sociality Squared to talk Facebook, Pinterest, MySpace and Mobile trends – and pet peeves.

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Social Media Trends for 2013

Every once in awhile I record a podcast interview and am not sure how it turns out. You’d think I’d have this figured out after talking to around 70 people, but I had a few things working against me… it was late, I had just taught a class for 3 hours, and I was pretty tired. I felt like the show might have wandered a bit and was a bit too slow to my liking.

Fortunately, the person I was speaking with was Helen Todd, the CEO and founder of Sociality Squared, a social media agency proudly located in Manhattan, New York (more on that later).

For when I listened back and edited the interview a few days later, two things became apparent.

The first was that the pace of the show was actually great, and probably even a welcome change for my listeners when they get a Jim-Only rush of audible caffeine. Perhaps it was Helen’s direct and simple pace, and perhaps it was having a good friend on the show that made me kick back and relax as if it was a dinner conversation and not a radio-style interview, but I thought the back and forth banter really worked.

Second, we covered some really great nuggets of information in there. I think users will get a lot of great tips for social media trends moving forward, and hopefully a few laughs at our pet peeves. We also had a few great quotable moments, which I’ll put in bold.

As usual, I recommend listening to the whole interview on iTunes or pressing Play above, but here’s an overview of what we talked about.

From Tennessee to Entrepreneur

– Helen actually grew up in Dolly Parton’s home town in Tennessee, the daughter of two entrepreneurs.
– She knew she wanted to own her own business so early, it’s a quote in her yearbook
– She talks about her path from college in Boston to an agency to New York City
– More importantly, her eventual move from Queens to Manhattan (a running joke I’ve teased her on for years… do they have taxis in Queens? do you need a passport to get there?)
– Why did she start her own company?

“It was easier to start my own company than to do a job hunt… and I’ve never looked back.”


The social media giant actually had a really big year in 2012:
– Surpassed 1 billion users
– Went public (with plenty of skepticism for what will come next)
– As always, people are asking what is the future…
– Helen sees it as cyclical. They’ve weathered several storms: Going through privacy settings, then Diaspora and competitors, then timeline and other design changes. But they’re here to stay
– For 2013 – We’re going to see more ways that Facebook is going to test more revenue streams. For example, they’ve already reintroducing Facebook gifts (to Helen’s delight).

“They’ve always, always put user engagement first as the golden chalice”

– We’re seeing everything moving to mobile and devices
– Facebook has a lot of room for improvement for marketers using brand pages and running things like contests via mobile. The customization you once had for the desktop experience just isn’t there for mobile yet.
– The traditional marketing strategies that we had around Facebook in the past (for example, “like-gating” and directly rewarding users for liking a page) have gone away or gotten harder.

However, Helen has always been “news feed centric” and that has paid off. Many companies in the past were concerned with building out flashy tabs and landing pages, but unless you are using Facebook ads, few users will end up on those pages.

What marketers are doing now to address it
– Engaging with them within the news feed
– Sponsored stories
– Promoted posts
– Staying top of mind with users

“The majority of fans engage with brands on the desktop of mobile newsfeed… theoretically they never have to even go to the landing page, since they can like a brand from an ad or directly from the news feed.”


This is a more aspirational format, which is different from brands that users might already have and use on Facebook and other platforms. For example, the average person that likes the Levi’s page on Facebook probably owns a pair of Levi’s. But on Pinterest, they might pin more aspirational brands, such as a top of the line Mercedes or trip to Hawaii or a Louis Vuitton bag.

They’re still in early stages as a social media platform:
– They just opened up brand pages, which was much needed
– Developers and brands are still waiting on them to open up their API
– Their insights/analytics are still a work in progress and somewhat manual

The “social media steroids” that are really fueling Pinterest growth is Facebook connect. So users are flocking to Pinterest, interacting with their great design, and loving the product, but it’s the combination when they then broadcast their Pinterest items over Facebook’s network that really is fueling growth and awareness.

If you’re a social media manager, what is the best way to reach out to users using Pinterests?

The big disconnect right now is intent to buy. There is not a lot of data that can show how qualified a user is. So when Jim pins a $10,000 Carbon Fiber mountain bike on his board, the rep for Specialized bike can look at my bio, but has no idea if I’m the CEO of a million dollar media firm and I’m days away from buying the bike with money I found on the floorboards of my Ferrari, or if I’m a struggling blogger living with 3 roommates and riding a beat up Schwinn that I bought off CraigsList. This makes it difficult to focus resources, and we have no way of knowing…

“Does this mean Pinterest users going to put their money where their pins are?”

For most companies, only if everything else is in place (overall strategy, Facebook and Twitter), should marketers try and use “tier 2” sites like Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram. It also depends where your users are. Are they even on Pinterest?


How Helen met Justin Timberlake at The Social Network premier and what Jim thinks she should have told him.

We’re a bit swept up in their teaser video. It’s going to be about execution, but Helen feels they could really give Tumblr and Pinterest a run for their money.

Jim loves the underdog story. Tim Ferriss has been promoting his book and pulling out the Mark Twain quote “”Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

So I love that Fox spent $580 million and decides it’s not going to work and Facebook comes along and crushes them and everyone hates on MySpace and traffic is way down and it’s become a joke.

The new Myspace from Myspace on Vimeo.

But someone like JT comes along and sees the value…
– Facebook replaced MySpace as a social network, but no site really replaced them as a place for bands to congregate
– Music is a fantastic niche and massive market
– Get back to their core audience and message
– You can use Facebook connect to log in and amplify the message
– He could buy the site at a massive discount

Furthermore, he can bring in smart people and borrow things from all the new social media sites and trends:
– Clean design and borrow from Pinterest, Tumblr, etc
– Focus on huge photos and bold images
– Come at it with a mobile-centric and optimized experience


“People are now designing their sites for mobile at the expense of the desktop”

Best example: Twitter. The new cover image for the desktop isn’t great…
– Doesn’t look good with the background
– Centered layout of the icon is awkward
– But works best for mobile

Jim says it is disruptive like Steve Jobs removing the floppy drive from his computers… Helen respectfully disagrees.

Key buzzword: Responsive design (designing your website so that it is optimized for all devices (desktop, tablet, phone, etc)

Don’t think device-specific… think accessibility.

Good example: Dropbox. Thinking about being accessible anywhere.


A trend for an increasingly seamless transaction between users and brands
– Companies like Uber (car service) and Cherry (the car wash that comes to you)
– Initiate the activity directly from your phone
– Experience the service seamlessly
– Payment is automated to your credit card – you never have to show it
– Receipt is automatically sent to your email, tip included

Pet Peeves and Rants

Companies have a desperate need for new revenue models, in both social media and mobile
– Pinterest’s automatic affiliate links was brilliant… seamless to the customer, no ads, didn’t affect the user experience, win-win for both sides… they just didn’t communicate it well

– Helen Pet Peeve: Hulu ads that interrupt the TV watching experience

– How can we solve oversaturation with ads and figure out a great experience with brands on mobile

– Jim suggests Foursquare for user-initiated coupons

– Old people: “Where are our flying cars?” vs. Millenials “Where is our ubiquitous high speed Wi-Fi internet? WiMax anyone?”

– Why is unlimited data not unlimited?

– Helen says, “Stop hating on Facebook!” She gets asked all the time… what’s next, where is it going, when is it going away.

– Helen doesn’t understand why brands are cheaping out on photos. Small, pixelated images are not acceptable anymore. Brands need to be thinking about beautiful, hi-res images. We’re beyond the point of having crappy pictures. We need to be professional and take it serious.

– Jim agrees… with megapixel $600 DSLRs, there is no excuse. His $109 lens makes him look like an amazing photographer, and his $20 wide angle makes him look like a style pro

Jim and Helen agree… brands need better, brighter photos. This was taken with a $600 camera and $109 lens

Entrepreneurial Speed Round

What is the biggest challenge for her small business
Not enough time in the day

What have you found to be the bests way to get customers for your business?
Word of mouth and focusing on doing the job well with current clients

What is your most vital piece of technology?
A strong Wi-Fi connection

Who had the biggest impact on your career?
Can’t pin to one person… a group effort

Describe yourself in 3 words
Living life large

How do you achieve work/life balance?
Setting expectations for myself and the people I work with

What has been your most interesting travel destination, and where do you want to go?
3 months in Beijing during the Olympics

What would you tell a newbie entrepreneur?
Don’t listen to all advice. Soak it all in, everyone has some advice, but be thoughtful in how you execute it

Connect with Helen: SocialitySquared.com | Twitter @Helenstravels | S2 on Facebook | S2 on Pinterest

Discover Sociality Squared from Sociality Squared on Vimeo.

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The difference is, you’re not procrastinating by going to the beach or watching TV or going shopping with friends, but rather, you’re answering email, doing online research, finishing up little projects, organizing your to-do lists, and cleaning up your apartment. It’s as if you’re continually getting ready to do the task but you’re not quite there. I feel this could be an entire blog post.

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