January 2015






…means being ready for whatever might happen. In this month’s Case Study, we compare how two brands handled being part of something that unexpectedly “went viral.” Our Feature compares mobile apps and responsive sites, with advice on which options work best in different scenarios. We share a Guide to several tools for managing content workflow, and we speak to PN’s data nerd extraordinaire James O’Malley about how he gets things done. All this plus stats, the latest news in social media and digital advertising, and more.

Cover and Welcome photos: 3D printed candy from 3D Systems at CES

Social Stats
Social Networking Stats

 What’s Trending

Instagram is Now Bigger Than Twitter
“Instagram now has a bigger active user fan base than Twitter, according to a blog post written by CEO Kevin Systrom. The photo and video sharing platform has over 300 million active users, more than Twitter’s 284 million but a far cry behind parent company Facebook’s 1.3 billion. Systrom also says that those users are uploading more than 70 million photos and videos per day. Not only does Instagram now have more users, it’s also growing at a faster rate than Twitter.”
Source: The Verge

Instagram’s rapid growth over the past year underscores the increasing popularity of specialized mobile social experiences and highlights a unified focus on video, coming less than two years after the platform added video functionality. As more social networks restructure to embrace this growth area — such as Facebook changing its news feed to highlight video content and Twitter building a native video player for its timeline — brands should prepare to incorporate more short videos in their social strategy.

Global Trend

Social Network Website Use Dips In U.K. And U.S.
“The use of social networking websites such as Facebook has dipped in the U.S. and U.K., according to research conducted by U.K. telcoms regulator, Ofcom. Visits to ‘traditional’ social networks also fell in Japan and China between September 2013 and October 2014, it found… In most of the other countries surveyed by Ofcom, in Europe and also Australia, social network website use grew over the period, with usage in Italy seeing the biggest jump — rising from 69 per cent to 75 per cent.”
Source: TechCrunch

Visits to “traditional” social networking websites may have decreased due to the explosion in popularity of messaging apps during 2014. Services such as Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, LINE, WeChat, Viber and Tango have diverted users’ attention from traditional networks by connecting them with friends on a more intimate level. In fact, the study goes on to say that social networking is “the most popular mobile Internet activity for the majority of surveyed countries.”

Daily Active Users: 864,000,000
Daily Mobile Active Users: 703,000,000
Monthly Active Users: 1,350,000,000
Monthly Mobile Active Users: 1,120,000,000

Monthly U.S. Active Users: 54,000,000
Monthly Active Users: 284,000,000

Monthly U.S. Visitors: 47,800,000
Monthly Global Visitors: 140,000,000
Registered U.S. Members: 107,000,000
Registered Members: 332,000,000

Monthly Active Users: 300,000,000
Monthly U.S. Visitors: 39,370,000

Blogs: 212,500,000
Monthly U.S. Visitors: 150,000,000
Monthly Global Visitors: 400,000,000

Monthly Active Users: 70,000,000
Monthly U.S. Visitors: 58,900,000

Monthly U.S. Visitors: 8,100,000
Monthly Unique Visitors: 60,000,000

Monthly U.S. Visitors: 166,600,000
Monthly Unique Users: 1,000,000,000

Monthly Active Users: 360,000,000

Monthly Active Users: 700,000,000

Registered Users: 287,135,000
Daily Active Users: 62,000,000

Users: 65,300,000
Monthly Active Users: 41,100,000

Users: 36,000,000

Registered Users: 219,000,000
Monthly Active Users: 44,000,000

Registered Users: 290,000,000
Monthly Users: 167,000,000

Monthly Active Users: 629,100,000
QQ IM Monthly Active Users: 820,000,000

Monthly Active Users: 468,000,000

Monthly Active Smartphone Users: 6,950,000
Registered Users: 20,000,000

Registered Users: 560,000,000
Active Users: 171,000,000

Revenge of '90s Internet

“Of course Facebook is the new AOL. Facebook is the beginning and the end of the internet for a huge number of normal people, a combination of primary service provider (user profiles, messaging, photo sharing) and ’90s-style portal to the wider web.”

– Nilay Patel on the “Revenge of ’90s Internet” in The Verge

Advertising Trends


Facebook Experiments with How Ads
Spur Donations

“Facebook conducted two experiments with Democratic Senate campaigns this year to see if advertisements on its site encouraged people to make political contributions… They found that sending Facebook advertisements to people who had already given the campaigns their email addresses resulted in more money when the campaigns later asked them via email to donate.”
Source: The New York Times

Facebook is working on proving that even when an ad itself doesn’t generate a lot of revenue, its impressions can create a “spillover effect” that leads to more revenue coming in through other channels. While we should consider the results with a grain of salt — Facebook has a vested interest in selling its ads, after all — this is a valuable reminder that social ads can have value beyond their immediate revenue.



Google: 56% of Digital Ads Served Are Never Seen

“‘With the advancement of new technologies we now know that many display ads that are served never actually have the opportunity to be seen by a user,’ said Google group product manager Sanaz Ahari in a blog post. Those ads appear outside the viewable area of a browser window. Once you factor in bots, even fewer ads are seen by people advertisers are paying to reach.”
Source: Ad Age

Between this and recent findings that bots account for 11% of display ad impressions, brands should remember not to take impressions numbers at face value, especially when details on data breakdowns or display methods are unavailable. Focus on more active metrics like click-through rates and revenue generated to get a clearer picture of how well your ads are performing.

Twitter Plans to Sell Ads on Other
Companies’ Apps and Sites

“The social media company is planning to sell ads within streams of tweets on other publishers’ apps and websites… The social media company recently spoke to investors about just how big the audience is for Twitter content outside of the company’s large registered user base… The company wants to be able to eventually make the claim that it delivers the ‘largest daily audience online.'”
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Twitter’s latest ploy in its scramble to impress investors will take advantage of the millions of people who see embedded tweets all over the Web but don’t use Twitter itself. It’s a new approach to circumventing the network’s biggest challenge, which is convincing new users to stay active over time. The fact that Twitter will share profits from embedded tweets with the publishers embedding them adds an incentive for the publishers, too.


Noteworthy News


How Chat Apps Are Becoming As Important As Social Media For Brands

“Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney released a surprise collaboration with Kanye West on New Year’s Eve and I was particularly intrigued to observe how the British musician’s team promoted it online… His Facebook Page is closing in on 6.2 million likes, he has 2.17 million Twitter followers and (just) 187,000 followers on Instagram. But top billing is reserved for Line — where he has more than 10 million followers…”
Source: TechCrunch

This announcement is a great case study on how the efficacy of chat apps stacks up against that of social networks. TechCrunch breaks down engagement data for McCartney’s posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Line. The findings: While it may appear Line’s impact was low, the fact that McCartney was able to privately message each one of his 10 million Line followers — generating a push notification on the mobile devices of each — has an impact the other networks can’t beat.


Time Inc. Tries New Digital Strategy with
Curated DIY Site

“The new site, called ‘The Snug,’ is aimed at millennials and is part of a Time Inc. strategy to publish digital-only sites that pull in content from a variety of sources… Snug staff repackage articles from other Time Inc. titles to better appeal to young readers… Time Inc. has brought on Ikea as the site’s exclusive sponsor for the first six months. A mix of banner ads and native ads – including a digital video series that takes viewers on home tours – appear on The Snug.”
Source: Ad Age

As the article notes, this isn’t the first attempt at a Time Inc. curated site or a DIY publication for millennials, but the time may be ripe for The Snug to succeed. Users are becoming accustomed to seeing “sponsored content,” and sites that do nothing but curate content from other sites (e.g. Upworthy) are surging in popularity. If The Snug takes off, Time Inc. will have found a way to tap into a previously unreached demographic simply by repackaging pre-existing content.

Tumblr Adds “Buy,” “Pledge,” and
“Get Involved” Buttons

“Tumblr…has today announced a test of a new feature that will give it more interactivity, and more of a social commerce spin. Users that post links from a selection of sites — Etsy, Artsy, Kickstarter and Do Something — will now automatically see action buttons appear in the top right corner of the posts for people to ‘buy’, ‘browse’, ‘pledge’, or ‘do something.’ For now, the actions are limited to these four sites.”
Source: TechCrunch

Like Twitter, Tumblr is beginning to make its calls to action more literal, with buttons that directly invite a user to take action on a linked site. Assuming this feature eventually expands to include all sites, Tumblr will become a more powerful ecommerce tool, on par with Pinterest — another network that traffics in users who get sucked into long average times on site thanks to endless scrolling and media-rich layouts.


Attention-Seeking Brands

“When all you do is earn people’s attention, without trying to earn their respect or trust, they can turn on you on a dime. Today’s viral hit is tomorrow’s laughingstock.”

– Umair Haque in Harvard Business Review on why brands’ digital strategies should seek more than just attention


Apps vs. Responsive Sites

When it comes to building content for mobile browsing, brands have three options: They can build an app for users to download, they can build a mobile-specific version of their website, or they can create a responsive website that adjusts to the size of a device’s browser. (Read more about responsive sites in this previous Digital Essentials Feature.)

These days, separate mobile-specific versions of websites are usually inadvisable. These scaled-down sites confuse the user experience and force the host to maintain two websites instead of one. Often, they withhold valuable content and functionality from mobile users. So in fact, there are two viable options: a responsive site or a mobile app. Here’s PNConnect’s take on how to make the decision:

Responsive Sites

In most cases, a responsive website will be a better solution than a native app, thanks to a number of key benefits:

  • No barrier to entry: Users immediately get to the site without having to find it in an app store and wait to download it.
  • Broader reach: A mobile site is accessible across all platforms and search engines and can easily be shared.
  • One code base, with easier updates: While apps require a different codebase for each mobile platform (e.g. iOS, Android, Windows), responsive websites work everywhere with the same code. This makes bug fixes or feature additions much quicker and easier to execute. Additionally, users don’t have to continually download a new version of a responsive site, as they would for app updates.
  • Cheaper development and maintenance: Again, when you’re not duplicating a product for multiple platforms, initial builds are usually cheaper.
  • No third-party regulations: Launching an app means getting through each app store’s review and regulation steps, while mobile site functionality is completely up to the publisher.
  • Findability: Since a mobile site can be indexed by search engines, it’s easier to find — especially by those not necessarily looking for it directly.
  • Growing capabilities: HTML5 is quickly closing the gap between websites and native apps when it comes to interaction. Many things you could previously only do in an app are becoming possible with websites. For example, access to the smartphone camera is now possible with HTML5, and browser-based barcode scanning is in the works.

Mobile Apps

So when are native apps the right solution? A native app is still the better option for certain situations:

  • Accessing the smartphone’s contacts, uploading photos, using GPS, etc.
  • Physical interactivity and tracking, as in health and fitness applications
  • Storing large amounts of information to offline: HTML5 has some storage capabilities, but it doesn’t work well with large amounts of complex data.
  • Breaking out one major feature from a site

If any of these capabilities are vital to your strategy, then a native app may be better at the moment. But that’s only “at the moment,” because HTML5 is constantly innovating and adding more functionalities.

In Practice

Responsive sites

These days, almost every website PNConnect develops is responsive. From corporate websites (, to media-rich, high traffic sites (, providing a quality user experience for any device is a top priority. The goal is simple: make it easy for people to find what they’re looking for no matter what device they’re using.
Mobile apps

Still, we have a few favorite apps that illustrate how sometimes responsive sites just don’t cut it. For example: The MapMyRun app is a good fit for a native mobile solution. The primary feature relies on your phone’s GPS. It shares the data with the website so you can access your routes and add new ones from your phone. The app makes the core features of the site quickly and easily accessible.

To learn more about building an app or website with PNConnect, visit or email PNConnect.

On Workflow: James O’Malley

By (and Beyond) the Numbers

In our continuing “On Workflow” series, we hear how Connectors and clients tackle their day and get things done. This month, we interview James O’Malley, Porter Novelli’s VP of Strategic Planning, Analytics & Research.

When are you the most productive?

Definitely before 9 a.m. I try to get in between 7:30 and 9 every morning to get ahead of the crush of workday meetings.

Tell us about your desk setup.

We have an open floor plan in PN NY, so my space is somewhat limited. I have a stack of books about analytics and idea generation, such as Data Smart and Drinking from the Firehose. I also have a banned book, Imagine by Jonah Lehrer, and a collection of awards I’ve received — PR News Rising Star, PR Week Best Use of Analytics 2014 from our work with Timberland. And everyone on the analytics team has a big widescreen monitor, because we use Excel so much.

What are your favorite professional resources?

I follow a lot of analytics and big data thought leaders on Twitter like Avinash Kaushik, Jim Sterne and a variety of other vendors. We go to a lot of data and analytics meet-ups in NYC, too, hosted at places like Foursquare’s and Spotify’s offices.

What do you do that everyone else thinks is crazy?

I drink a ton of coffee. I don’t even need that much caffeine, it’s just like a prop for me to always have a beverage. I used to always wear a pen behind my ear, too; that was a habit I picked up in my days working on my high school paper.

(photo via a Meetup group for social media analysts in NYC)

Talk about something exciting you’re working on.

Right now, we’re really excited about how we’ve refined our process of creating dashboards for reports. It used to take 60 hours; now it takes an afternoon. We’ve also been increasingly empowering other teams and offices to pull their own reports rather than needing to go through us each time. This lets our team touch more clients, and it gives more of the analysis to those familiar with each individual account rather than analysts picking up account knowledge on the fly.

What are your essential apps?

I use Evernote a lot, for meeting notes, links, pretty much everything. For task management I use Todoist. DataSift is our data aggregator for pulling social and other data. Microsoft Office, of course. My Excel philosophy is “If you can automate it, you should.” One of our favorite interview questions is, “What is your favorite Excel function?” For business trips, I use Expensify to store copies of receipts digitally so I don’t have to keep track of the paper versions.

How do you handle email overload?

My team works for 30 clients, so there’s always a lot happening at once. I start sorting through things by prioritizing client work over administrative stuff. I have a 45-minute commute from the Upper East Side, so I get started on sorting and writing emails while I’m on the bus or train.

What do you always do at the beginning of a new project?

I find that it’s really important from the outset to confirm the parameters of the project — the hours, budget, business objectives, and specific request. I want to keep the focus on the client’s goal rather than get wrapped up in tactics and the day-to-day. It’s about results, not just PR.



“Twitter has kept us honest. There’s a democracy of feedback.”

– Activist DeRay Mckesson on the importance of social media in Ferguson-related protests

Case Study

Case Study

What to Do with
“Lightning in a Bottle”

When email provider MailChimp signed on to sponsor the podcast “Serial,” no one expected a massive success. But shortly after its debut, the “This American Life” spinoff rocketed to the #1 spot in iTunes and became enough of a cultural phenomenon to spawn an SNL sketch, a Reddit forum and a podcast about the podcast. Even more strangely, MailChimp’s ad went viral, too.

The MailChimp ad spans 20 seconds and airs at the top of every episode of Serial. MailChimp provided the initial copy for the ad, and then a Serial producer recorded various strangers on the street reading it. In the final edit, one girl mispronounces “MailChimp” as “MailKimp” — the moment of fate. As Serial’s popularity has skyrocketed, “MailKimp” has became a popular in-joke among fans. As of November 21, 1,300 tweets mentioned #MailKimp, while nearly 2,500 tweets mentioned Serial and MailChimp together. Mark DiCristina, MailChimp’s marketing director, compared the explosion to “lightning in a bottle” — impossible to predict or intentionally create.

Critically, MailChimp kept its response to its newfound infamy low-key. Apart from purchasing the domain, the company has barely acknowledged the joke. As DiCristina noted, “I feel like if we were to get involved and play along, it would spoil the fun a little bit.”

Best Buy, another brand caught up in the Serial frenzy, has proved this point. Serial’s first season, which concluded last month, investigates a 1999 murder in Baltimore, and Best Buy is a critical location in one version of the sequence of events. The company gave a nod to fans of the podcast in this tweet:

Given the somber nature of Serial’s subject matter, many Twitter users found it appalling that Best Buy would use the podcast as a promotional opportunity. Within an hour Best Buy had deleted the tweet and apologized for its insensitivity.

Meanwhile, MailChimp’s choice not to mess with a good thing has clearly been a wise one. The company will be back to sponsor Serial’s second season, but it’s not out to make another “MailKimp” moment. DiCristina explains, “If we go into it thinking, ‘OK, let’s do this again,’ we’re just going to fall on our face.”

Most social executives dream of the moment something related to their brand “goes viral,” and the temptation to capitalize on the moment is strong. Playing along with an Internet in-joke isn’t always a bad idea, but it’s important for brands to make sure they’re welcome to the conversation and can add value or amusement. The popularity of Serial gave both Best Buy and MailChimp unexpected exposure, but in this context, the smart choice was to let the joke proceed without spoiling the fun.

Digital Guide

Content Workflow Tools

When you have multiple contributors creating and editing content for a publishing program, keeping up with assignments, deadlines, approvals can be difficult. Over the past few years, several tools have cropped up to help digital publishing managers gather and keep track of all the content they need to run an active and well-organized program. Here’s a comparative feature checklist, as well as our analysis of which tools best suit which needs.

GatherContent is a clean and straightforward tool that keeps the focus on just that – gathering content. While it lacks any publishing or analytics capabilities, its content creation functions are robust. GatherContent permits you to extensively annotate each field to indicate what it should contain, set custom content statuses (e.g. “Awaiting John’s approval,” “Needs Sarah’s edits”) and more.


Spredfast Conversations is primarily a publishing and analytics tool, but it has useful workflow features as well. You can set items and folders to “draft,” designate someone to approve items for publication, and plan your content calendar from within the tool. Spredfast also lets you publish directly to Twitter, Facebook and several other networks, and offers an extensive suite of granular analytics to examine after the fact.

DivvyHQ, like GatherContent, keeps the focus on the workflow process itself. However, it’s also able to publish directly to Twitter and Facebook, rather than requiring you to export the content manually. This may not matter if you’re primarily sourcing blog or other long-form content, but if short social media updates are the majority of your content, it makes a big difference.


NewsCred comes with the heftiest price tag of the bunch, due to the level of included support. In addition to offering assistance with workflow governance, NewsCred employs its own staff of content creators who can provide help with curation, contribute original content on-demand, or source licensed or influencer-written content. Like Spredfast, NewsCred also includes built-in tools for analyzing the success of your content once you publish it.


PNConnect is the global digital services offering from Porter Novelli. Our global team spans 60 countries and brings the combined digital resources of our social media marketing, creative production, paid promotions and web development capabilities together for one purpose — to help our clients share their story with the world.

For more information about our team and approach, or to learn how we can help your organization with digital strategy, development and measurement, please visit the PNConnect site.


Thank You


Many thanks to our January contributors.

Pete Schiebel in Winter Haven, Florida, wrote this month’s Feature about apps and responsive websites, and Mary Gaulke in Sarasota created this month’s Guide to content workflow tools (with special thanks to Heather Brinckerhoff). Stephanie Pham and Mark Avera in Atlanta and Mary Gaulke contributed stories and insights for the Social Networking Stats, Noteworthy News, and Advertising Trends sections. Mary Gaulke penned the “Serial” case study, and Amanda Wu in New York City provided the latest stats. James O’Malley in New York City took the On Workflow hot seat.

3D Systems provided our cover and welcome photos of 3D-printed candy at CES. Jason Persse uploaded the AOL photo to Flickr, Anthony Quintano uploaded the Twitter NYSE photo, and Ted Eytan uploaded the Ferguson photo, some rights reserved. Some backgrounds courtesy of

Thanks to Jennifer Laker and Pete Schiebel from the Platforms team for providing design and development support, and to Mary Gaulke and Tom Harris for editorial oversight and proofing.

Drop Us a Line

We’re eager to hear your thoughts on this edition and your suggestions for future issues.