social media

Tech Thursday: Splitsville

In this week’s episode: Foursquare splits into two apps, Google+ splits up different kinds of content, businesses we know try to do too much. When to add on, when to split, and when you should keep doing what’s working!

Plus, some really fun plant-related analogies and Kassie is really excited about the new Mad Max.

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:

picktheperpscreenshot

 

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

rootbeerfloat

 

whodranktherootbeer

 

Who drank the root beer float?

What: Home cooked meat, potatoes, and salad

healthyeating

whoatemeatandpotatoes

 

What: Chocolate cake

chocolatecake

 

whoatethechocolatecake

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. ūüôā 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.

sadcake

 

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).

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.

tweetsinchef

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)

The Temptation To Automation

I was having a conversation the other day with another business person. “You know, I’m trying to get better with systems.” I told her. “Ugh, systems, that’s such a 2015 obsession!” she lamented. And she’s right.

We’re all obsessed with doing things better, more efficiently. I have heard more systems consultants on podcasts and read more blog posts on systems in the past six months than I have for my entire life before that.

Oftentimes, systems are automation. Like automating putting money in a retirement account for example versus someone having to think about making the funds transfer once a week or month.

One place to go with automation is social media marketing. I will say I think it’s one thing to schedule some updates while you travel or are going to be in meetings. It’s another thing to never log in and do a live update. Or to never log in and respond to comments. Or to never repost someone else’s great idea or otherwise engage with them.



Someone once asked me in a seminar if they could bulk schedule tweets… for a year. Talk about missing the point of being on a social network.

But in this age of systems, we’re all getting access to tools that basically suggest we do something like this, something I call automation. What I mean by ‘automation’ is ‘set it and forget it’ marketing. It can look like scheduling tweets for a year. Or writing all your blog entries for six months and scheduling them to publish ahead of time.

Automation does take some work (clearly) but it suggests a one sidedness: you say the things… and you either aren’t ready or willing to respond to what other people are saying.

We may schedule some ‘pushes’ for our clients but was also make sure to log in and interact with people. And here is why this seemingly tedious and definitely time consuming process is worth it to me.

Nautomation

Different networks, different purposes, different content.

Every time someone asks me to make it so everything they say on Facebook goes to Twitter and LinkedIn automatically, I try to talk them out of it. But if they insist, I do it. But I will say here I think this is a terrible idea.

If you follow us on our social networks, you may see 5% of what we post being repeated. Maybe.

But for the most part, we treat different networks differently. I post different kinds of content on Google+ (where I mainly follow tech nerds and journalists) than I do on LinkedIn, where people are more concerned about business and marketing best practices.

I’ll just say what everyone is thinking: people can tell when you’re automating stuff (ie phoning it in). And if you think people on a social network you treat as mediocre at best are open to your message and excited to hear from you when you have something actually important to say, I’m here to say they are not.



Being flexible.

You know when something amazing happens and you are right in the middle of it? Well, if every Facebook status we write has to go through a committee for Company A before we post, it means we can’t be participating in real time on behalf of Company A.

It’s one thing to have something ‘in the can’ as an idea… and it’s another thing to have a better idea and be able to go with it. Automation would keep us from these moments of creativity and community.

Avoiding awfulness.

The best part of checking in regularly for the networks we update? Avoiding disasters.

The one that comes to mind (and one John gets full credit for) is a tweet we had planned about Robin Williams for a substance abuse counselor client. The tweets get composed ahead of time (it’s always easier to write blocks of content) and had we just a ‘set it and forget it’ mentality, this tweet would have gone online two days after he died… and it would have made our client look pretty insensitive.

John not only remembered (because he was checking in and retweeting for them regularly) but stopped the issue before it even happened.

Can we measure avoided awkwardness or awfulness? Not really but there is certainly more than one time when a human brain looking at something in a timely way not only made a client look good… but kept them (and us) from looking bad.

If you don’t systematize your friendships offline, why would you do it online?

Do you accept only every third party invitation you get? Do you only email your friend the third Friday of every month? It’s one thing to make sure you are regularly updating people about next week’s important event but it’s another thing to not be genuinely interested in who is sharing those social networks with you: your family, friends, and customers.

So let me just go on record. I am anti-automation. And let me clarify:

Repeating social media updates is fine, since not everyone sees a particular update… especially on ‘noisier’ networks like Twitter.

Scheduling is a tool that allows us to not be chained to our computers. Definitely do that to save your sanity and make sure important information gets out.

Automating means you aren’t willing to put the time in to develop real friendships with your customers. It’ll look like you’re phoning it in because you are. And your customers won’t care because you clearly don’t.

So, if you’re tempted to make an automated social media system, I hope I’ve talked you out of it. By all means make a plan and feel free to structure 70% of what you want. But let that other 30% give your company the humanity it needs online to be truly successful.



Selling Stuff Online: Products

SellingShizOnlineLast week, we talked about some basics you needed to be ready to sell things online. The next few weeks is the fun part: what you actually sell!

The most normal thing to sell is physical products. Physical products being things that have dimensions, weight, and possibly variables for people to select from (sizes, colors, etc.)

Selecting a shopping cart software: part science, part art. 

We’ll get into selling other types of things next week but you don’t need me to tell you that buying a seat in a stadium for the next Britney Spears concert you are going to is different than buying a black t-shirt. So different cart software is built to sell different kinds of things. You may also want to ask yourself these questions as you start your research to find a cart you like:

1) What integration does my cart need to have? If your cart needs to interact with your POS system or Quickbooks, that’s a good way to cross off a lot of options up front. Note the word ‘need’ here, you may be smitten by some swoonworthy features but knowing what you need will keep your eyes on the prize.

2) What payment gateway do you want to use? Some software only works with one or two gateways, some work with lots more. If you don’t have passionate views on payment gateways like some of us do, enter into this research knowing you’ll be flexible.

3) What are you planning on selling? And how many? See concert tickets versus black t-shirt example above. Also some cart software charges you by the quantity of items you list. So get a clear idea of what you want to sell first to help you evaluate options.

Once you have your cart softwares narrowed down to two or three options, start reading online reviews and looking at examples of each. This will give you an idea of customer support and whether you like the way it looks. For example if a cart promises to be ‘responsive’ and looking at the 4-5 examples listed on the website none of them seem mobile friendly, you may want to ask yourself why. Or you could just hire some nerd to do this nerdy research project for you.¬†Seriously, there is a reason I can’t find a fun picture to go along with this.



Care about the little things.

The more information you give to customers, the better. Things like dimensions and weight not only help them figure out how that item will look in their living room but help you figure out how much to charge for shipping. When possible, fill out all available fields for each item in your cart software… and be consistent product to product.

Decide on shipping.

The below chart shows why you need to decide about shipping:

shipping-study

You have a few options when it comes to shipping: free, calculated, or flat rate. Rather than saying the same thing this article says, I’ll link to a nice blog post from Shopify about the differences between these three.¬†

In short, we’ve seen free shipping is quite motivating for a lot of people… and most consumers understand the idea of the minimum order amount to get it:

someecardfreeshipping



Cross-selling and Upselling: Helping People Buy More

So now you have what you’re going to sell, a cart you’re going to sell if from, and some idea of how you’ll handle shipping.

Now it seems a little sad we’re already thinking of how we can get your customer to spend MORE money with you but why wouldn’t we be? Your favorite brands cross-sell and upsell to you all the time.

Cross-selling: If you like X product, you may also like Y, Z, and A products. Or customers who bought X also bought… you get the idea. Many cart softwares will let you cross sell.

Up-selling: Getting someone to buy a higher priced version of what they were going to buy.

This is the best visual example for this I have ever seen. And the blog it comes from is super useful and you can go read it: http://blog.flowify.net/up-selling-and-cross-selling-how-to-increase-your-restaurants-revenue-using-resources-you-already-have/

UpsellingInfographics

 

Luring Them In With Bargains: The Allure of the Coupon Code

Now there may be points in the life of your online cart where you either need to move some inventory (to make way for new stuff) or you want to experiment with pricing. Coupon codes are something you can typically issue for either a dollar amount or percentage off either all the items in your cart or just certain items. For obvious reasons, they typically have an expiration date.

What coupon codes allow you to do is measure if/how purchases change while it is in effect. Most cart software will let you make them.

Then you distribute the codes (or perhaps different codes) via direct mail, email, social media, print and online ads, etc. to get them to your customers.

Old-Navy-THANKYOU-376x300

 

So I hope that is helpful as you sell physical products in your online store! Next week, we’ll talk about selling event tickets and things you may want to think about related to that. Stay tuned.



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