Social Media

Dude’s Guide To Pinterest: Part 1

dudesguidetopinterestPinterest is one of those wildly popular websites we find ourselves explaining to people. Most people think it’s for women only so we thought we’d have our token male, John, look at the site and report back. For the next few weeks, John will delve deeper and deeper into Pinterest in an attempt to explain it to everyone but in particular a certain half of the population. Starting this week, Breaking Even Communications takes a look at social media through a guy’s perspective in this blog series.

Manterest: Part 1

“I’m the Dude. So that’s what you call me. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.” — The Dude, The Big Lebowski

I’m a pretty standard-issue guy. I like a lot of guy things, including fried meat, the outdoors, Quentin Tarantino, and violent hockey games.  I’ve used a nail gun once. But I don’t change my own oil, and I’ve never had to kill a water buffalo with my bare hands in order to shelter in its body cavity.

So on the scale of manliness, with Teddy Roosevelt as most manly and Ryan Seacrest being the least, I’m somewhere in the middle. Maybe I’m Toby McGuire.


I’m sure I’m not the only man who doesn’t get Pinterest, the wildly popular virtual pinboard that I assume is run by a midwestern HR manager named Karen whose other interests include inspirational posters, sweatshirts embroidered with teddy bears, and that God-awful Greek yogurt (seriously, what is up with Greek yogurt—it’s like a mildly flavored kindergarten paste you can eat, but probably shouldn’t).

I understand Pinterest as much as I understand scrapbooking, which is to say, not at all.

However, a lot of people, unlike me, do seem to get it. And I mean, a lot.

According to Pew Research Center, a whopping 28 percent of adult internet users are whiling away the hour re-pinning organic pomegranate smoothie recipes, how-to guides on how to bedazzle your kitten, and photos of places they’ll visit if Karen from HR ever gets back to them with their vacation request.

Take a look at Pinterest’s demographics, and maybe this explains why I feel the same way looking at a Pinterest page as I do when I’m trapped in a Hobby Lobby or a Payless.

Pew tells us that in 2014, 42 percent of Pinterest users were female, compared to 13 percent that are men (and that’s a substantial jump from just 8 percent a year before). Other stats:

  • 32 percent are white, non-Hispanic
  • 34 percent are aged 18-29
  • 30 percent live in rural area

What was most surprising to me, though was this stat: The largest percentile, 34 percent, reported an annual income of more than $75,000.

So if you’re a rich, white, female millennial, you’ve found your online neighborhood. Welcome to Pinterest. But guess what? I’m crashing your party.

To truly understand Pinterest, you must become Pinterest. Or rather, you have to sign up, which is rather easy. You just need an email address or a Facebook account. Pinterest asks for your first and last name and your age. I gave them my first name, and let them know that I’m way too old to be doing this.

Then I got this screen:


Fair enough. I dig creative ideas.

Next, I get a screen to help me generate “ideas,” and I was a bit surprised by Pinterest’s bot’s suggestions, because Pinterest went full-on Teddy Roosevelt. Woodworking, fishing, Harleys, industrial design, survival skills and … beards? Well, they can’t all be winners.

So, I picked four out of five suggestions:

  • Pranks (I have a childish sense of humor, derp);
  • Parenting (because I am one);
  • Astronomy, (because space is the amaz-o-craz);
  • Photography (because that’s a thing I used to do).

I also saw a lot of suggestions which confused me and made me feel a little uneasy, like when you bite into a slice of pizza that you didn’t know had onion on it. Pokemon, Beyonce, and something called “Adriana Lima.” None of these things interest me. (Well, maybe Beyonce does a little.)

I picked a couple for myself: Electric and custom guitars (guitars are plain awesome; everyone like guitars).

I also chose Ford Mustang. I’ve owned two Mustangs, and I have a soft spot for my first one. (I called her Ol’ Blue, and may she be riding upon Heaven’s open road as I write this. God, I miss her.)

I set up my first pin board, and my first pinned image—a beautiful Fender Telecaster with a charcoal transparent finish, Maple Fretboard, and a somewhat unusual selection of pickups (humbuckers on the bridge! a strat middle pickup!).

And then I promptly forgot I had a Pinterest account for two weeks.

(Next week, will John remember he has a Pinterest account? Spoiler: Yes and no.)

Who’s Eating This?

Kassie was recently telling me about the website that seems to no longer exist called “Pick the Perp”. You pick who you think was charged with a particular crime. Here’s an example:



Now in some cases, it seems obvious… until a little old lady is charged with being a serial killer.

Point is, we have a stereotype in our heads of who is our customer but sometimes it pays to do actual research on who our customer is.

We decided to bring back this game, if only very briefly about a much less controversial topic: food. So we went on Instagram, grabbed a photo and you guess who took it.

What: Root Beer Float





Who drank the root beer float?

What: Home cooked meat, potatoes, and salad




What: Chocolate cake




So here are the answers:

Root Beer Float: A

Meat and Potatoes: C

Chocolate Cake: A

Now besides being a silly exercise, can this teach us anything?

1) Context helps. So the meat and potatoes on a glass coffee table? That may have pointed us to the fashion blogger looking person. 🙂 Understanding the context people are in (friendships, where they live, what kind of coffee table they have) helps us understand when our customers choose us. Important to understand context because it can help us pick out future customers… or maybe even working with another company on a cross promotional opportunity if we have the same customers.

2) Look at clues… but only if they are helpful. In one of the examples above, I kept the hashtags. (To be fair, not sure how easy it is to read them.) In two of them, I kept in the handles in. You had the most information in example one (root beer float) and the least in chocolate cake. Was the one with more information easier to guess? If you thrive on information and it helps you make better choices, use it. If it paralyzes you, don’t.

3) Don’t assume. I’m betting you got one of these wrong (I would have if I hadn’t created it). We can make assumptions: that overweight woman isn’t interested in clean eating, that older man wouldn’t attend our computer class, etc. But sometimes our assumptions can keep us from truly reaching our potential with our businesses… and helping people we could be helping.

Anyway, we thought this would be a fun exercise. Can you pick out your customers from a lineup? What helps you do so? What are you assuming wrong that you want to correct?

Sad Cheeseburger: A Few Tips on Food Photography

impossibleburgerstandardsThis is one of my favorite spoof ads.

For those who market for restaurants or food chains, the clear choice for burger “modeling” is the burger to the left. Sure, it’s had some work done (the nature of this work is the meat of this post), but it’s more likely to appeal to people’s appetites and get them in the door. On the other hand, the right-side burger is a sad cheeseburger. People won’t clamor to your tables shoving fistfuls of cash at you for a chance at that burger. In fact, they’ll probably lose their appetite (sorry, sad cheeseburger).

Food photography can be tricky, but if you market food (for a restaurant, a baking blog, your own Instagram…) it’s a priceless tool to possess. Your sandwiches do not have to be supermodels, but you don’t want them to appear sub-par (hehe) on your website or social media. I’m also going to assume that you don’t have the disposable income required for hiring a food stylist (which sounds like a pretty cool job, right?).

As this article from Huffington Post says, “optimistic restaurant owners” are often well-intentioned when it comes to food photography, but they don’t always have the skill to reach the desired outcome. Here are a few basics on food photography that will get the camera loving your food.

Lighting. This means the elements of photography like exposure, saturation, and flash. Oftentimes, doing a photo-shoot inside a restaurant is hard. The lighting is usually dim or fluorescent, neither of which are conducive to good photos. What’s a photographer to do? In this case, you can do a few things. Set up a mini photo-shoot area and adjust the lighting there (it’s easier to fiddle with a small area than the lighting of the whole restaurant). Another option is working with the lighting you currently have and editing later (the only issue here is making sure you have photo editing software available).

These guys are sad.

These guys are sad.

These guys are happy!

These guys are happy!

Personally, I know very little about optimal lighting and camera settings, but this blog post goes into greater detail about lighting (including things like depth of field and ISO).

Temperature. Hot food should look hot, cold food should look cold. A pot roast is not going to look appetizing if the gravy has congealed (ew). No one looks at a picture of a melted ice cream cone and thinks “Yes, THAT is what I want!” An interesting fact I learned while writing this post: fake ice is a real thing that people pay money for. Restaurants that offer a lot of drink specials don’t use real ice in photos, since it often melts under lighting, so they simply whip out the fake ice cubes and all is well.

This is not an ice cream I want in my life.

This is not an ice cream I want in my life. And that’s a strong statement, folks.

Background. Food stylists recommend using white plates to showcase meals. Colors and definition are more apparent. That way, the food colors don’t blend in with the plate colors and leave you with an image of a meal that looks like an unappetizing amorphous blob. If you aren’t using a faux setup for your photo shoot, always keep your background in mind.

Arrangement. Another cool fact: most of the food you see in advertisements is actually inedible. That ideal beauty burger from the beginning of this post? It might look good, but it also might kill you. In order to shape and support food, stylists will insert cardboard between layers of pancakes or sandwiches, stuff paper towel to add volume, or use aluminum foil to prop things a certain way (like in all those pictures of wavy bacon). If you are attempting to artistically stack your food, you can avoid creating a leaning tower of pancakes by using toothpicks or skewers to keep things in place.



The above image is from a really awesome blog post about working with what you’ve got in terms of food photography. Sometimes, there will be a frosting fail or a crumbly cake, but there’s always a workaround.

Freshness. This is probably a no-brainer, but examine the food you’re snapping pictures of beforehand, especially if it’s produce. Don’t use brown fruits and vegetables. If a dish you’re taking a picture of has an element that will turn brown quickly (say, apples), get those pictures first. Another cool trick is spritzing produce with water or oil to create a fresh look. Freshness also ties in with temperature- if a hot meal has gone cold and gets that gross crusty or congealed look…maybe try again.
To sum it up: don’t let your food photography be a sad cheeseburger (especially if said food photography is for promotional purposes).

The Great Like Drop of 2015

We recently had a client ask us about a Facebook issue. She had noticed she was well above 800 fans and suddenly, within a couple days, she was below that number again. Note the drop in the graph:


Today we began investigating. Turns out, there was no ‘unlikes’ on the page during that time:


So what is going on? Well, it could be a few things:

1) Facebook could have cleaned out a bunch of fake users around this time.

2) Some of their fans could have closed their Facebook accounts.

In both these cases, rather than ‘unliking’, the number of likes would simply drop since those users disappeared.

Or 3) There could have been a slight algorithm change within Facebook, in which case, we would see a drop on other pages.

So we went on ours:


Yup, there was a drop! We went to another client’s:


Also a drop. I went on 10 pages and saw this drop on most of them (one of them showed no changes but I do see the client was running a paid ad campaign at that time so maybe we just didn’t notice numbers going down since likes were being actively generated).

So I just wanted to let you know if you noticed your numbers drop, you aren’t crazy. It seems like it was a bit of a thing.

Did you notice this on your page?


#imkindofabigdeal: The Social Impact of a Hashtag

I have a confession. It’s actually not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, but here it goes: I’m careless when it comes to hashtag use (in my personal life, anyway). To be honest, I only use them when I’m in a goofy mood. Late one night last week, instead of sleeping I was scrolling through the internet, and came across an article regarding #givebenajob. It was the story of Ben, a young man with Downs Syndrome, who is looking for a job in the catering business but is having difficulty acquiring due to his mental disability. His stepmother created this hashtag in order help Ben with his search and, ultimately, get him a job (you can read the article here). This got me thinking about the different ways people use hashtags to connect with the world (besides my “this is totally hilarious in my head” method). Here are three general categories I came up with:


1) Promotion. My first awareness of using hashtags at an event came from my first ever WordCamp last fall, where I learned that you can search Twitter for a hashtag and it collects all those hashtags together for you. And yes, that is hashtag 101. Anyway, hashtags are common at conferences and gatherings (not just for computer nerd-esque conferences, either) because they allow attendees to communicate with one another and create an organic conversation that organizers don’t need to facilitate (think hands-off promotion).

Hashtags carry weight on a much larger scale. Think back to the ALS ice bucket challenge this summer. There were videos with hashtags going up all over the internet to promote the cause and raise money. In August, $168,000 had been raised. Even celebrities, politicians, and athletes joined in. Another popular example of a hashtag to promote an event is #givingtuesday. Giving Tuesday is a yearly event that occurs on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (this year, on December 1st). By using the hashtag, you’re letting people know that you’re participating and sharing how you, your family and/or business are giving back.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 1.43.06 PM

2) Solidarity. When tragedy shakes our world, hashtags become a way for people to band together across the globe. For instance, this past January after the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, people showed their support through the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie. In a 24 hour period, approximately 3.4 million tweets had gone out using this hashtag. It became one of the most popular hashtags in the history of all Twitter. The hashtag was being used by people all over the world as an effort to reach out and stand together in a virtual sense. There’s a theory (to be further discussed in the next bullet point) that this particular use of hashtag creates a sense of camaraderie and connectedness that wasn’t accessible to us before.

We can also show solidarity to certain causes, like #GiveBenAJob or #WearYellowForSeth (a 5 year old boy without an immune system has asked the internet to wear his favorite color, yellow, simply because it makes him happy, on March 27…which is today!). These issues are smaller scale in terms of the number of people affected, but they have the potential to turn someone’s day/life around, if you decide to participate.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 1.41.52 PM

3) Awareness. Social media as a whole has given us the ability to receive and process information from all over the world to our fingertips with ease. If nothing else, the use of hashtags grants us a new level of awareness about what’s going on, be it in the next town over or Hollywood or Tibet. In spite of the increased opportunity for connection, there is the argument that these connections are not real or significant. And, in the case of tragedy and horrific events, what does using a hashtag actually accomplish?

There’s a word for this sort of activism: “Slacktivism” (or, as this PBS article more graciously calls it, “hashtag activism”). This word draws on the example of issues such as Kony or #Bringbackourgirls, where it seems unclear what purpose the hashtag serves. In the earlier examples, the purpose is clear: raise money for ALS, expand the job search for Ben, wear yellow for Seth- all clear, all attainable. But, can using a hashtag for “Bring Back Our Girls” really save a group of schoolgirls kidnapped in a different country? Which leads to the ultimate question- does social media actually bring about significant change, or is it more like “a public relations stunt that accomplished next to nothing” (quote from this article, in reference to the 2012 Kony campaign).

Unfortunately, I don’t see a clear answer- just a ton of gray area. On the one hand, social media has helped create a “global village” and allowed for us to connect with other people in the world, making us more likely to empathize, care, and feel responsible for the well being of people we’ve never come in contact with. However, in spite of this awareness, our knowledge is still limited. We can only know what we’re told, after all. For instance, we have the basics for “Bring Back Our Girls,” but what about all the other things that are going on that are “horrifying and unhashtagable?” At the moment, all I can think is “hastags make me aware of how little I’m aware,” and it’s a vicious cycle, so for now, I’ll stay put in the vast expanse of gray area.

Hashtags carry quite a bit of weight. They have helped raise money and awareness. They’ve brought a smile to someone’s face.

No, a hashtag isn’t going to stop a warlord or arms dealers. It isn’t going to end war or hunger, cure cancer, or make sure everyone on the planet has consistent access to clean water. That is the work of people. A hashtag can, however, start a  conversation.

Chef: The Best Movie About Social Networking I’ve Seen

I’m one of those people who enjoys learning more about my topic when I am off the job. I read social media books and magazines… and have even tried to watch “Helvetica” (a movie about the font).

I just couldn’t do “Helvetica”… it was too cerebral for me. There are enough things in my life that make me feel dumb that I didn’t make myself watch this movie.

When I agreed to watch “Chef” on Saturday night with my friend Megan and her daughter, I thought I was watching a movie about a five star chef who ends up with a food truck. I wasn’t expecting so much of it to be about social networking. Here’s what I liked about it.

Chef Takeaway 1: It didn’t treat Twitter like Facebook’s ugly stepsister.

In this movie, Twitter plays a main role, some critics say it’s a ridiculously large role but I appreciated that this movie showed how Twitter works and why it’s powerful/cool. Bonus points for seeing the tweets being typed in and then having them turn into a bird an ‘tweet’ off into the world as they were sent.


Chef Takeaway 2: It touched on a bunch of social networks. 

Sometimes movies about blogging (I’m looking at you ‘Julie and Julia’) make the main character blogger sit at their computer for hours on end, tortured by the writing process.

Here’s the thing. Some of us are writers (I say us because I am literally typing this with a big smile on my face) and some are not. In this movie, we’re not only introduced to short form writing (tweets) but also other media like Youtube and Vine.

The range of what could be possible is enough to give the movie watcher a sense of what is possible but doesn’t go into the ‘how’ enough to overwhelm people.

Chef Takeaway 3: Your kid can do your social networking…kind of.

There’s always some extremely rude person who tells me after a presentation that their kid can do what I do. (Kind of insulting since I don’t walk up to THEM and tell them a kid could do their job but that’s besides the point.)

Here’s the thing about this movie: the kid is PASSIONATE about the business. That’s why he does a good job marketing it. It’s not that he’s young and up with technology (though that helps). I’m of the mindset that if you are open to learning and passionate about what you do, your business will do well on social media with you at the helm… though if you either a) don’t want to take care of it or b) need a little technical or other assistance, that’s what people like us are for.

So if you want to watch a movie that will make you want to tweet or eat a grilled cheese (I am still thinking about the grilled cheese in that movie), I recommend ‘Chef’. You won’t think hard necessarily or feel like you are in a social media marketing workshop but it’ll get you thinking… which, let’s face it, is pretty powerful.

Buy your copy of “Chef” on Amazon (this is an affiliate link)

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