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A blog can be many things to many people.  For the reader it can be a resource, an inspiration or a window to a world you wish you were a part of.  For the author it can be a way to share your thoughts and feelings, promote yourself or to simply to let off steam.

What about for a company?  What does a blog represent to them?

1) A way to connect directly with your audience.

Unlike with traditional media coverage, your message goes directly from your keyboard to your reader without any publicists or journalists getting in the way.  And equally important, you can read through comments to determine how your audience feels about a topic and how well you are connecting with them.  Tap that audience for some User Generated Content and you take your blogging to a whole new level.

Canucks.com incorporated user comments and tweets to remember our favourite on-ice moments of Markus Naslund. By simply asking their fans for their input, they were able to create a blog post that better captures the admiration and respect that Vancouver has for it’s one-time Captain.

2) A way to share the details that make you special.

In business there are a lot of things that happen on a day-to-day basis that are noteworthy and special, but that don’t warrant a major announcement or marketing campaign to promote them. I’m talking about everything from program updates that solve minor glitches to the company baseball team winning their league championships. A blog can be a great way to recognize minor accomplishments that may be of interest to your fans.
Check out this post on Strategic Shaving at the 1-800-Got-Junk blog to mark the end of Movember. Newsworthy? Not really. But special and blogworthy to be sure.

3) A way to stay top of mind.

Not every company is offering a product or service that someone needs to use on a daily or weekly basis. A blog is a great way to keep the conversation with your audience alive, even if they may not need you at that time.  Eventually they will be ready to take action and your company will be top of mind because of all the interesting and useful information you’ve been providing in your blog.
Grouse Mountain is gearing up for another ski season, but in the mean time they’ve used their blog to update us on the hibernation plans of their two bears. By using their blog to stay in touch with Vancouverites, they are able to bridge the gap between their summer hiking season and their winter skiing season.

You’ll notice that “A way to make more money” didn’t make my list.  Not that blogging isn’t an important business activity, just that in most cases it is part of the brand building aspect of your business. Use your company blog for what its good for – interaction, communication and providing consistency.  Embrace what blogs are good at. Don’t try to make it into something its not.

It’s a conversation. It’s a journey.  It’s an adventure.

Enjoy it.

As I said in my intro – we all blog for different reasons.  Why do you blog?

Dear Adobe Indesign (c/o Facebook),

How do I love thee, let me count the ways.  I love how you allow me to create templates for the designs I do over and over again. I love how you let me place multiple photos at one time or change all but summer greens to fall browns with your swatches. I love that I can create multi-page documents (My ex, Illustrator, never let me duplex!) and that all your fonts remain vector (Photoshop could learn a few things from you!). And I love your happy pink logo.

So pink. So happy.

 

I spend most of my day working with you and yet it never occurred to me to try to become your friend on Facebook…until now. Of course you are on Facebook!  You appeal to tech savvy creative folks like myself who seem to spend our lives online and are involved with designing for social media, as well as traditional web and print.

I know we can’t really be friends on Facebook, I can only “Like” you and join your social network of adoring followers. I have to accept that I must share you with the 88,257 other people who Like you (although thank you for reminding me that I can also follow you on Twitter @InDesign where I only need to share you with 5,068 followers).  Your Favourite Pages tell me that you want to share my affections with your 5 friends – Creative Suite Design (9,151), Adobe Digital Publishing (3,213), Adobe Flash Catalyst (7,445), Adobe Photoshop (1,350,515) and Adobe Illustrator (211,575) – but I Like you the best and don’t want to split my devotion just yet.

Since I must admire you from afar, I appreciate how frequently you update your status (Several times a day! You keep me checking in.) and how you vary it from topical questions to very specific news articles, events and program tips:

ADOBE INDESIGN:Are you spending this Black Friday shopping? Or still recovering from a great Thanksgiving meal?
ME:I’m Canadian so I’m at work and had Thai for dinner instead of turkey, but thanks for asking!

ADOBE INDESIGN:Amazon has released a free plug-in (Kindle for Adobe InDesign (beta)) that allows InDesign users to export documents and books to Kindle format.
ME:Cool. That could be useful…file that info away for later.

 

So blue. Yet you work so well together.

Everything you write is something I’m interested in reading about.  If I post one of my designs to my Facebook I could Tag you and my design would appear in your Photos. You’ve posted 487 Links that appeal to me and you have a Discussion board where I can post questions to fellow admirers when we are having a fight about one issue or another (Why do you give me transparency issues? You know how I love to play with that effect but then you don’t co-operate.) How is it possible that I haven’t Like‘d you until now?!

 

But I don’t want you to get the wrong idea.  You do have some faults. That Discussion board is pretty quiet, why only 5 posts in November? And while I find you very informative, there is not a lot of personality radiating from your posts.  Also many followers seem to be using your Wall as a help desk but they are not getting responses from you or others (I know, maybe they should learn to use the Discussion board!) so there is very little interactivity going on there.  Hello out there InDesign, is anyone reading these Wall posts? I’m not so sure about that.

But I shouldn’t be too critical.  Your Facebook fan page is amazing and I’ve only been part of it for a little over an hour.  I’m sure as time passes I will develop a deeper understanding of your benefits and flaws. I look forward to developing this friendship in Facebook-land.

Until then,

Rosey

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What do you think fellow creative thinkers and doers?  Is Adobe on the right track with their Facebook page for InDesign and co? Or maybe you know why my InDesign program keeps losing Arial Bold ever since I’ve installed it onto Windows 7 at work – such a pain to be missing a standard font!  Post your thoughts in the comments.

Old Spice really hit the ball out of the social networking park with their The Man Your Man Could Smell Like campaign.  I think that it will go down as one of the great marketing campaigns of 2010.

Now it seems that everyone wants to be the next Old Spice.  I work with several professional printing companies in my job.  One of those printers is TPH –  aka The Printing House.  I recently received an email from them promoting the start of their new web series Your Printz has Come.  This series of YouTube videos was created by Toronto based Endeavour Marketing and introduces “The Printz”, a viking prince delivering TPH products and faced with understanding the mysteries of the modern workplace.

The first episode, entitled “Smokers” is an amusing look at one of my own personal pet peeves, The Frequent Smoke Break (although there are so few smokers left in Vancouver this is hardly an issue out here – perhaps a bit of Toronto-bias to this campaign, that’s where the smoke break got under my skin too).

It’s a cute concept and I’ll admit to looking forward to receiving Episode 2 in my inbox in the next few weeks. I regularly receive emails from TPH but this is the first time I’ve clicked to read or watch the link they sent.  If mobilizing me was their goal, then this video has been successful.

The character and content are amusing, and the production quality is professional. I could do without the obvious product placement of the TPH mugs and print products. There’s a fine line between a web series and a commercial and this feels like they are trying to do both while succeeding at neither one.  I regularly visit their website and place orders anyway. I don’t know that The Printz will make me do any more business, but I supposed the web series will help keep them top of mind when I’m sending out my next print job.

What has not been done well is incorporating The Printz character into a full social media campaign.  To me it has the potential, but instead of creating a YouTube channel for The Printz, the video is housed off the agency’s endeavourmarketing1 YouTube channel.  Weak.  Also comments for the video have been disabled. In my mind that basically says ‘we’re not interested in what you have to say’ and goes against the fundamentals of social media.  There is also no web page, Twitter or Facebook for The Printz. [UPDATE – After my blog post they added a Twitter account for the character @the_printz and they also posted video #2 on their own TPHCanada YouTube channel.  I feel so powerful!]

TPH has an active Twitter feed where they have posted the video. I’m part of their social network and appreciate the thoughtful commentary and links they post which are related to graphic design and print production. I feel like a secondary Twitter feed for The Printz is a missed opportunity of expanding this campaign. Surely a chunk of money was spent creating the episodes, but I would hope they have other plans that will integrate with the videos.  And if they are simply expecting the episodes to go viral, then they need to lay off the sales pitch.

There are so many printers for me to choose from. The Printz is just one more way for TPH to engage with a clientele that has endless choice.  I think it has potential to help them but they need to embrace him fully.

Testing is an important part of any social media campaign, but particularly when you are the sole proprietor of your own business and faced with many other challenges for your valuable time.

Buttercup Cake Design

Buttercup Cake Design

Buttercup Cake Design is a new pastry business established by my long time friend Amanda Goats. A fellow SFU Communication grad, and now a professionally trained Pastry Chef, Amanda recently left her position crafting deserts for two Vancouver’s hotspots to strike out on her own.

Amanda’s communication background gives her an advantage over other new business owners. She recognizes that a strong visual identity and professional marketing materials could be the difference between making a living and realizing her goal of designing high-end desserts. So just a few months into being her own boss, Amanda is already juggling baking with blogging. I’ve designed this test to help her examine her social media activities and figure out what style of photos engage her audience the most.

Balancing baking and blogging

Balancing baking and blogging

THE TEST
What type of images generate the most comments on the Buttercup Cake Design Facebook Page
1) Pictures of deserts
2) Pictures of people with deserts

WHY FACEBOOK?
Facebook is a sharing platform and works well with photos and events. Amanda is already successful in promoting interactivity and commenting among the people who follow her page (36 as of Oct 10, 2010 – majority are friends and past clients). Now she needs to expand that base.

SAMPLE GROUP
The target audience are young professionals, people who are active in both social media and socially in hosting event, but who may not have the skills or time to produce beautiful deserts for their special occasions. For the purpose of the test, she should use her existing network of clients and their web of Facebook friends.

THEORY & OBJECTIVE
By tagging people such as the bridge and groom, along with their wedding cake, Buttercup Cake Design will appear in many more people’s news feeds. The objective is to increase the number of people viewing the page and the pictures, encouraging them to comment and spread the word.

METHOD
Amanda has already uploaded images of the deserts she produced for the 2010 summer wedding season and attracted a number of comments. She should make note of her number of visits and comments as a baseline before executing stage 2.

Next she could ask the brides for a photo of them cutting their cake and upload those pictures to her Facebook page, tagging the bride and groom in the photo. She should monitor the visits and comments in the week following the new photos and compare with previous time periods.

REVIEW
If Amanda finds that photos with people increase her site visits, she could begin to capture more people-friendly photos at events in the future.

OTHER SUGGESTIONS
Amanda is currently participating at  The Bakers Market this fall.  She could run a similar test with images from the market each week.  Do photos of her baked goods encourage site visits?  Or do tagged photos of people buying her baked goods encourage more visits on Facebook?  Can she encourage people who visit her at the Bakers Market to join her Facebook group  and download photos of themselves? Can posting pictures before the market encourage people to drive down and buy that week’s specialty items?  The real-time nature of social media provides a number of testing opportunity for the small business owner and can help figure out what will attract the most attention to your products.

Buttercup Cake Design
Website: www.buttercupcakedesign.com
Facebook: Buttercup Cake Design
Twitter: @ButtercupCakeBC

Interested in trying some of Amanda’s amazing treats?  Visit her every Saturday at The Bakers Market in South Vancouver.

A quick follow up post on TheBrandBuilder’s adventures in positivity (see my previous post here) through his #StepfordTBB experiment.

When I started this #StepfordTBB experiment several days ago (the premise being “what would happen if I actually adopted the Social Media bull$hit I have been warning you about?”), little did I know that all of this stuff would actually work.” TheBrandBuilder blog, Oct 6, 2010

TheBrandBuilder graph of awesomeness aka traffic

What can a pink pony do for your business?

Olivier Blanchard, aka TheBrandBuilder, saw an incredible 305% increase in traffic to his blog the day after he adopted his My Little Pony profile pic and started spreading Social Media bull$hit. The next day it went up to 356%.  Those are some pretty amazing numbers for a campaign based on tweeting sweet nothings to followers of a cynical marketing professional.

It appears Olivier could only take his own sweetness for a few days and has already reverted back to his old twitter avatar, but the experiment continues to facinate me.  While I’m sure his site visits will level out in the coming weeks, I’m confident that others like myself are now adding the TheBrandBuilder blog to their regular sites to visit.  Which begs the question…

What can a pink pony do for your business?

The BrandBuilder Pony

The BrandBuilder Pony

This past Follow Friday (#FF in the Twitterverse) I signed up to follow Olivier Blanchard, aka thebrandbuilder. Branding and Marketing are right up my alley and we had several following/followers in common so it seemed like a good move.  2 days in and I’m very confused, yet very intrigued by his tweets. Case in point – he just switched his photo from handsome creative-type guy with glasses to a pink my little pony.  It’s all part of his new #StepfordTBB campaign.

As far as I can tell – being a new follower and all – he used to call it like he saw it with the good, the bad and the ugly of Social Media.  He offers criticism and strong opinions on Social Media marketing in hopes of driving the medium forward.  Over at his blog The BrandBuilder Blog he says it is a “blog about building strong brands through passion, innovation, creativity and common sense.” Smartly written with just enough pop culture to make the strategy go down easy, this is an admittedly funnier version of what I imagine my blog will become.

What Olivier is now doing over at his Twitter Account is, starting this afternoon, nothing less that a complete 180.  Fed up with taking flack for his opinionated tweets he has changed his tune.  “It’s going to be so awesome being 100% positive all the time. I’ve been doing this all wrong, seeing snake oil where there wasn’t any. His posts are coming fast and furious tonight, but are made of rainbows and unicorns, definitely no snake oil or (snake) bite to them.  He changed his Twitter bio to read “I used to call out BS. Now, I just agree with everyone.”  Looking at his Twitter feed I can see I’m not the only one confused yet intrigued by his new attitude. He’s doing an admirable job of interacting with his followers, replying to their frantic questions while staying in character.

How long this #StepfordTBB will continue is hard to say.  But just a few hours in, Olivier has managed to grab my attention from my crowded Twitter feed, make me Google to find his blog, check out where he’s based (South Carolina – I could have sworn he was a Vancouverite based on our shared contacts!!) and finally locate his company site The BrandBuilder Marketing. If I’m any indication, this sounds like a solid evening of work. Bravo Olivier!

My Goal: Less Season 1 Pam, more Season 4 Pam.

My Goal: Less Season 1 Pam, more Season 4 Pam.

And here he is, staring in my latest post for my Social Media Class at BCIT.  My social media persona is opinionated  – more so that I am in real life – which lead to a minor meltdown earlier this week as I questioned if I should be sharing these opinions with the world wide web.  What if someone I know finds this blog?  What if someone I work with reads this blog? But I have opinions on marketing-communications and creative campaigns and this seems like a “safe” place to share those opinions.  I’m using it as a training ground so that I’ll be more willing and able to speak up when I’m called upon to offer my expert opinion in the workplace. Clients and coworkers expect me to guide them. They trust me.  I need to learn to trust myself.

After his work today, I would definitely trust Olivier to take my brand to the next level.  I’d love to see what he could come up with.

"I'm Sorry Taylor" -@KanyeWest Even jerks like Kanye West realize the power of saying they're sorry through social media.

You know the old saying, it takes a real man to say he’s sorry.  Same goes for companies operating in the world of social media. When there’s a problem – whether it be a technical glitch or an inappropriate comment – you can’t hide it. The best and worst part of social media is the fact that messages travel instantly and once out there they can be linked, forwarded or retweeted a million times over. The leaders of the social media game know enough to admit when they’re wrong, apologize and move on.

Mario Sundar, social media expert for LinkedIn, wrote a great post about the Top 5 Corporate Blog Apologies. My personal fav is Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg “We really messed this one up.”.

What’s great about all the apologies Mario selected is that they sound real. They sound like what your boyfriend or best friend would write. They embrace the casual, real nature of social media and don’t try to dance around the issue with corporate speak. This quote from the Hugh Macleod at the 2010 Online Marketing Summit sums it up nicely:  “If you talk to people in social media the way advertising talked to people they’d punch you in the face.”

Transparency is important to organizations when using social media because you are speaking to your followers on what should feel like a personal level and, if they sense you are lying, they will cut you from their social network. Companies should be injecting some personality into their posts, and with personality comes the risk of saying something that could be misunderstood. But without risk there is no reward so speak freely to your followers and build that interaction. If every social media comment has to be approved by a committee then you’ll never say anything.

Are there limits to transparency during a crisis? Sure, but you just need to be smart about it. Don’t share information that will put you at a competitive disadvantage or violate privacy agreements. Don’t allude to things that are still in the idea stage and don’t name names.  Look professional, take responsibility as a company and promise to do better in the future. You don’t have to admit the scale of the mistake or go into details of your business strategy.  In most cases a simple apology will be sufficient. Unless you’re Kanye.

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