Can Social Media Be a Piece of Pie?

 
Peachy Keen
Peach pie may not seem that scary to you, but it was a pastry that I regarded with fear. Just as many have fears about using Twitter or Google+. I love pie and I have very high standards when it comes to the crust. I would buy frozen tart shells or make a graham cracker crust to avoid trying my hand at creating a perfect flaky crust. Until one day, laden with a bushel of perfectly ripe peaches, I knew it was time to master a lattice crust. Grabbing a few trusted cookbooks, I researched what the pros said about pie. Armed with a scale for precise measurements and a can-do attitude, I rolled up my sleeves and got flour and fat under my fingernails. The resulting pie was better than I hoped it would be and I know it tasted that much sweeter because I’d faced my fear and come out on top with a pie!
Social media can seem daunting from a distance, but once you do your preparation and get some hands on experience you’ll see it’s just a matter of getting comfortable. Plus, the rewards can be rich. With traditional advertising losing people’s attention and respect, companies need to find new ways to engage consumers and expose them to their product or service.
Break It Down
The first step is to figure out your target market and find the networks that they like to engage in. Facebook is pretty much a no brainer at this point. Everybody and their grandmother is on Facebook and a business page is free and fairly low maintenance. Linked In is another low maintenance site that connects more with the business crowd, great for business to business services!  Twitter is becoming the method of choice for connecting with brands by individuals for expertise or customer service. If you’re targeting a female audience and your product or service has a visual appeal, Pinterest is the place to be. For bricks and mortar business, Foursquare is a great way to see who your most loyal customers are and what they are sharing about your business. Now, Google+ had a lot of buzz that hasn’t converted into a whole lotta love, but maybe it’s time to take a second look at some of their new features.
 Digg It
If you’ve read the linked articles about some of the top networks and want to get more info on Social Media options check out Digg, a site that compiles articles submitted by users. The more people who “Digg” an article, the more exposure it gets. Once your research is done, and you’ve picked the best place to start, embrace the experience and get the most out of it.
Even better than a piece of cake, Social Media can be a piece of pie: Worth the effort! So, where are you going to put your peaches?

Mama Meter

Social Media can seem like a limitless void that we toss useful information into and apparently get very little back. That is why it is so important to set goals for each media campaign and measure the results. Also, with the ever quickening pace at which new social networks are appearing great care must be taken when selecting the best channels to use when sharing the chosen message.

In honour of Mothers’ Day’s fast approach Meat of the Message will conduct a test of Facebook compared to Twitter at spreading the word about Campagnolo Restaurant’s brunch, Mothers’ Day being the biggest brunching day of the year. Campagnolo’s Facebook Page has 600 fans and the Twitter account has 2013 followers. I’ll be comparing Facebook “likes” vs. Twitter retweets (1 point each) and Facebook “shares” & comments vs. Twitter tweets and mentions (2 points each as these show greater engagement). I’ll update this post on Monday with the results.

Let the games begin and don’t forget to do something thoughtful for the Mothers in your life!

Update: Monday, May 14 2012

Well, we have a clear winner. Using Tweet Reach to assess the audience that received the tweet sent by @campagnolomain at 4:50 pm on May 10th : “Show your mama a little Itailan love for brunch, Sunday May 13, 11:30am – 2:30pm. Single stem flowers & Bar… http://fb.me/1QltmUrEW” it showed that there were no retweets, so the reach was 2017 accounts, which is the number of followers of Campagnolo’s Twitter handle. I also searched “@Campagnolomain”, “Campagnolo brunch” and “Campagnolo” on Twitter and couldn’t find any mentions.

Facebook Insights provided a few options to measure the interaction with the status update posted on Campagnolo’s Facebook Page May 10, 2012: “Show your mama a little Itailan love for brunch, Sunday May 13, 11:30am – 2:30pm. Single stem flowers & Bar Director Giovanni’s cocktails go a long way.” Right underneath the update, it’s clear that 6 people “liked” the update and one person shared it. Insights calculates that the reach as 208 unique people who have seen the update, the number of engaged users as 12 (number of unique people who have clicked on the post, so 6 who clicked “like” and 6 who clicked elsewhere), and the virality (percentage of people who created a story from the post) at 2.88%.

To calculate points for interactions: Twitter scored a big fat zero and Facebook scored 8 points. The conclusion I would make is that bigger is not always better, with more than three times the number of followers to fans, the Facebook post garnered much more attention and interaction. Also, Facebook posts have a longer shelf life of 22-24 hours, while tweets go stale after 1 hour! So, tweet, tweet again.

Interestingly, I found out that Campagnolo’s Mothers’ Day Brunch was not nearly as successful as last years. Though looking back, a very similar Facebook update (no likes or shares) and tweet (no retweets) were sent out. There are obviously other factors affecting the popularity of Mama’s brunching at Campagnolo than social media coverage. I definitely believe that by using social media channels more effectively that the brunch could have been more successful. It’s encouraging that the Facebook fans are becoming more engaged and if only a bit more effort is spent on social media it seems that Facebook would be the place to start as Twitter needs to hear things over and over. Most Mamas can relate to that!

Best Face Forward

I recently changed the profile picture that I use across the Social Media spectrum. Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and WordPress are now all showing the same photo. I did this to make my social media persona more consistent. So, if somebody follows me on Twitter and I re-pin one of their favourite things on Pinterest, it will help them  realize its the same person just with different online accounts. Having a clear current picture also makes it easier to place a person when you meet them in the flesh. I recently attended my first Tweet Up (a meet up for Twitter users) and I met some online acquaintances for the very first time. It was fascinating to compare their online personalities to their in person actuality . Some were shorter than I had imagined, but they were all as nice as I had hoped.

The Tweet Up was to benefit our local food bank and I think that symbolized the one thing we all had in common, caring about our community. Community is why I work at a Credit Union, it’s why my son goes to a school that we can walk to together and why we always run into our friends and neighbours at the grocery store or neighbourhood park. It’s all about connection. That’s why I want to support and encourage small independent businesses to take to the online world, to create and strengthen the real world relationship with their customers. We can’t always meet face to face, but with the Social Media tools available we can always see eye to eye.

The best way to connect online is by being your interesting self. Share what inspires you, what frustrates you and respond to others who do the same. While my picture and my persona are in sync in the online world, I find that each network reflects a slightly different image based on its role and place in the scheme of Social Media. Sometimes my Apple product enthusiast side comes through on Youtube, other times my fashion obsession comes to light on Pinterest, my daily food fix is revealed through Instagram, then my finical acumen pops up on LinkedIn, finally my Starbucks addiction is exposed by FourSquare, but the one thing that always comes through is my fascination with Social Media. I also like to think that my peculiar sense of humour and positive outlook pervades all these profiles as well.

It was a real life connection in a BCIT class that really solidified my understanding of online and offline personalities. In my Public Speaking course at the Burnaby campus a couple of years back I listened to classmate, Olivia Lovenmark, speak about her passion for blogging. She talked about her blog, Stylestruck, and the opportunities it had created for her and the people that she has connected with on Twitter. Her restaurant background and her immersion into the world of Social Media resonated with me and her willingness to put herself out there in the online world was very inspiring. As I grow my own online presence and help others to take that step, I use Olivia as an example of someone who has created a successful career, including appearing on Breakfast Television, and promoting H&M, based on putting her best face forward.

Seeing Through Transparency

By making the facts transparent and easy to find we do each other and ourselves a service and good service is the foundation of good sales. I was reading a post on the blog Reality Burst about a search for transparency in restaurant’s pricing and menu options. As Eugene wandered around looking for menus posted in windows of restaurants I had the sense that he was looking for his expectations to be met. He expected to find a restaurant that served food he found appetizing and that fit within his budget. If he randomly walked in, sat down and opened a menu to find nothing he wanted to order, or higher prices than he wanted to pay (or worse, both) he would be disappointed and then have to choose to get up and leave or spend more than he wanted on food he wasn’t interested in eating. He was trying not to waste his time, money and caloric intake. I think most of us can relate to at least one of those desires.

The purpose of transparency in business is to avoid disappointment. When we feel that people, advertising, menus and websites are not being straight with us, we are forced to read between the lines. When fast food franchises advertise their newest product, we know it will never look as good on the tray as it does on the TV. Maybe we believed it as kids, but experience has brought our expectations down to a reasonable level. But, we trust the transparency in their pricing. The dollar figure is always prominently featured next to the burger or drink and we know that the price will be the same at all their locations. Look how well we have been trained!

So, how do you want to train the people you interact with through social media? Do you want to set their expectations at a reasonable level and then be able to exceed them? Do you want them to trust you and believe in what you say and do? Well, my friend, transparency can do all these things for you and more! What does it cost, you ask? Why it’s free! No shipping and handling fees or hidden charges ever! (This is any example of how not to create a sense of transparency, this sounds like there is a catch)

The path to transparency begins with you, be yourself. Build on that. If you are honest about who you are people will begin to trust you. If you have a dorky sense of humour, own it (I do!). People appreciate somebody who accepts themselves and respects others. Transparency can’t be something you turn off and on. The first thing I think when a person asks me, “Can I be honest with you?” is haven’t they been doing that all along?

In all my years of working with people at banks and credit unions I have tried offer everyone the same level of respect and honesty, regardless of their circumstances. I always tell people what I can do for them, rather than focussing on what I can’t. By taking the time to explain how the banking world works behind the scenes, they can see what the options and consequences are. Some people have been trying to fix a problem for long time and have run into so many dead ends and brick walls (neither of which are transparent) that they are frustrated beyond belief and then I somehow end up in front of them and by listening, hatching a plan and arming them with knowledge we work together to create a solution. That is the kind of service I strive for every day.

The level of trust that you can develop with people by being honest and consistent always amazes me. You don’t have to be a superhero and perform spectacular feats, you just have to let people see who you are and tell it like it is.

Is the Social Media Carousel For You?

I don’t believe that every company should heedlessly integrate social media tools as part of their marketing. To be done successfully there is a certain level of expertise and a continuous commitment to create content that could take away from other, possibly more important, activities. If a small business with limited resources has enough work with their current clients and already has sufficient means of contact and interaction with their publics, it would probably be best to not to jump on the social media merry-go-round of creating content.

For large companies with strong brands I would say it is essential , at the very least, to monitor social media networks for negative conversations about their product or brand. An example of brand bashing was the Twitter rant of Heather Armstrong of dooce.com about her Maytag washing machine that wouldn’t work and the company refused to fix despite the service plan that she had purchased. On a side note, Heather’s original claim to fame was getting fired for work related posts on her personal blog, which has now become her full-time employment.

Companies working to strengthen their brand or individuals attempting to establish themselves as experts would benefit most from the interactive nature of social media and should make it a high priority and dedicate the necessary resources.

The best place to begin for any business that is unsure would be a SWOT Analysis to create a clear picture of the Pros and Cons of investing the time and effort into a social media presence.

Strengths – What internal advantages do you have? Expert personnel? Smart phones?

Weaknesses – What internal disadvantages exist? Staff resistance? Out dated equipment?

Opportunities – What externally could improve profits? Potential clients on Twitter? Customers asking if you have a Facebook page?

Threats – What externally could cause trouble for the company? Parody account on Twitter? Competition already has a strong presence?

After looking at social media as a whole and determining what type of priority it is and how much time and money can be put behind it, then it must be broken down into the different networks (Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Yelp, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc) and they must be prioritized as well. It’s also necessary to regularly reevaluate these networks as things can quickly change, just ask MySpace.

A sound and well thought out plan will be a map to start a strong positive presence in the online world which needs to translate to positive associations and connections in the offline world. That is why it is essential to create specific measurable goals as part of the plan.

Do your research, put your money on the right horse and you might come in a winner, but don’t spread your resources too thin: Know Your Limit, Stay Within It!

Reflected Glory

Helping my husband realize his dream of opening his own restaurant was one of the most gratifying achievements of my life. For years we talked, imagined and sketched out what our restaurant would be like. The food, the room, the staff, the menus, we discussed and detailed every little item. Eating at restaurants became an exercise in what we would and wouldn’t do. But once the restaurant was a reality, it was his day-to-day place of employment and I was still at my credit union job. I realized that I didn’t want to work in a restaurant, I just wanted to create them and make them successful.

I found my new role was helping him imagine new restaurant concepts and turning those into bricks and mortar. As I took Communications and Public Relations courses through BCIT’s Marketing Management program, I discovered another way that I could support him and his ventures. Rather than spending money on traditional restaurant advertising, my husband and his business partner invested in a Public Relations Manager. She brought food writers into the restaurants and found opportunities for editorial promotions. I pushed the restaurants into the world of social media by setting up Facebook pages and helping the managers to generate content.

One of the most exciting challenges I set up for myself was a confectionary tasting for Vancouver’s premiere food bloggers. I invited, organized, hosted and live Tweeted the event and met some fascinating food lovers in the process. I created the website, set up and ran the Facebook and Twitter pages and did all the photography for the company. Unfortunately, the pastry chef moved back to his home province and the confections are no more.

But what I took away from these experiences was the understanding that I am not really meant to be the star in the spotlight, I’ll be the one directing the spotlight on the deserving talent and enjoy the occasional flash of their reflected glory.

Twitter Sitters and Facebook Fiends

I’ve been talking a lot about Twitter lately. Not on Twitter, but In Real Life. The people I’ve been talking to are Facebook Fiends (and friends), but Twitter Sitters. Meaning they are constantly interacting on Facebook and they have a Twitter account, but just sit on it rather than participate.

I’ve been trying to explain the draw of Twitter and what they can get out of it. It wasn’t until I got around to reading an article by Jacob Weisberg on Twitter in the March issue of Vogue (with a sultry Adele on the cover) called FAST COMPANY that I finally understood what I wanted to really say: Facebook is an extension of your real life social circle, while Twitter can actually extend your online and real life social circle.

I first joined Facebook when I was leaving my previous place of employment and everyone kept asking how we would keep in touch, which was followed by, “Are you on Facebook?” So to keep a social circle that would have otherwise fallen by the wayside, I signed up and collected friends both past and present. But, I keep my privacy settings on high alert and I don’t friend anyone that I haven’t actually met face to face. I message through Facebook and have organized events and groups, all with people that I have personal connections with in the real world.

Twitter, ironically, is more of an open book than Facebook. It is a public forum where anyone can follow you and you can follow anyone, it doesn’t have to be a reciprocal relationship like Facebook friends (of course, I’m leaving out people who have protected tweets, they don’t count). The trick with Twitter is you need to be following the right people, many of whom you do not yet know and may never know. By following tweeps you are not asking to be their friend, you just want them to share something of interest.

At first, I had some trouble decoding tweets, I was confused by all the @’s, RT’s, MT’s #FF’s and all the other hashtags (funny, I thought it was a number sign). What did they mean? How did they work? I did my research, stuck with it and one day it became a second language. As I got comfortable and started interacting more I began to feel at home. I understood the humour in fake hashtags and enjoyed engaged in two way conversations with people known and unknown. But, I had to step outside my comfort zone and try some new things. I’ve certainly made mistakes and missteps on Twitter, but the tide of tweets just washes them away and I continue to learn and improve.

The Vogue article compared Facebook to a walled garden where anonymity and parody are not allowed by the powers that be, while “Twitter prides itself on openness and egalitarianism – innovation percolates up from users rather than being pushed out from headquarters.” In the world of Social Media, Facebook leans to the Social and Twitter smacks more of Media. While Facebook has been keeping me up to date on my friends and family, Twitter has been feeding me news about my community and interests at an amazing speed. Twitter users have filled me in on earthquakes, police investigations, fires, sales, community events and celebrity deaths (some prematurely announced) before traditional news sources can grab their press pass.

So, if you have all the friends and business connections you’ll ever need and you like getting your news a day late then be a Twitter Sitter and a Facebook Fiend, but if you want to expand your online world and be connected to your community then tweet away! As I look forward to my first Tweet Up (a meet up of local Twitter users) I’m excited to increase my social circle and maybe make a few more friends.

Video: Recap of Apple's New iPad Unveiling

Our Apple family has expanded with the addition of our (read: my) new iMac. It’s the basic model, but way fancier than my 5 year old MacBook Pro. The laptop is still alive, but it had reached the point where it could no longer upgrade to the newest operating system. It was stuck in Snow Leopard and I wanted to join the pride. Once I realized that I don’t take my laptop anywhere since I’ve had my iPad, it made sense to go with a desktop. Bigger, faster, better, more and all for less. So, I’ve been pretty Apple immersed and obsessed with the researching, shopping and setting up. The Apple mania reached its pinnacle today with the much-anticipated (in my house, at least) Apple announcement at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco.

The rumour mills have been churning overtime since Apple sent out invites for the unveiling of the new iPad last Tuesday. Would it lose the home button (nope)? Would it have Siri (kinda)? Would it have a retina display (yup)? This morning at 10am Pacific, the questions began to be answered in San Francisco. I followed along on wired.com‘s live updates, refreshing between sips of green tea latté at my local Starbucks relaying the hi-lights to my Apple loving son.

Watch the video for what stood out for me. Some pretty cool upgrades, but no “one more thing” to blow us away. Maybe next time…

Until then, check out the new Facebook Page for Meat of the Message. You can ‘like’ it right from this page!

we Message

Last Autumn I traded in my Blackberry for an iPhone 4S. There were a few things that led up to the decision: my husband had recently switched to an iPhone, my Blackberry was dying and I bought into the iPhone 5 hype. I was reading every rumour and myth online about the upcoming “rethink” and all the magical features that it should, could, would have.

The transition wasn’t without its hitches and blips (not unlike going from a PC to a Mac), but there is something to be said for being in sync (literally) with all your devices and for being on the same wavelength as the rest of your family. With the arrival of iOS 5, all our Apple units can wirelessly update and connect. My son texted me from his iPad at school on Valentine’s Day that he had forgotten the Valentines for his class. I ran them over before lunchtime.

I miss all the BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) contacts that I had amassed, but now I am filling up my contacts with iMessage peeps. I do prefer that it is integrated with text messaging, so I only have to go to one place, the speech bubbles format is also easier to read and review conversations. One thing that has made these iMessage chat-a-thons more fun is activating the built in emoticons. No need to download an app, all your smiley friends are already there! Just go to Settings, General, Keyboard, International Keyboards, Add New Keyboard…, Emoji. After all that, when your keyboard pops up there will be a little globe icon to the left of the space bar. Tap the globe and it will switch to hundreds of faces and icons and awesomeness. This works for iPads and iPod Touches as well. I have tested sending some of these with a Blackberry pal and all she got was black squares.

The latest thing to get even more excited about is the new upgrade for Mac’s will include Messages as well! This will make our world a little smaller and bring us all a bit closer and I’m all for that!