Engaging Customers Through Social Media


Social media has become a necessary outlet for retailers and organizations alike to communicating with consumers.  Through trail and error, the company I work for has honed in on 3 fundamental and relatively cost effective rules for engaging consumes through the use of social media.  I refrained from referencing the specific product my company offers to allow for easy adaptability across all industries and product categories.


Consumers are demanding it.  If you are seeking to engage your consumers the first step is communication.  Assign this task to a single person or group.  Once you’ve established ownership, dedicate time each day to respond to consumer questions and/or proactively respond to consumer comments on Facebook, Twitter, blogs or whichever social media platform your company participates in.  Customers like to feel as though they are being heard.  After making this connection with consumers be sure to keep up the momentum with frequent communication.  Consistency is key here.  Fans will notice if you are not paying attention.  Additionally, keep your communication relevant.  “Off-topic” information will clutter your page and dilute your purpose.

Rule #2 – Don’t get STALE! 

Supporters will get bored of seeing the same type of content over-and-over again.  Keep them guessing by posting unexpected content.  Think of new ways to keep followers interested in what you are saying and make them want more.  One way to achieve this is by using surprise promotions.  For example, our marketing team recently surprised our fans by posting a coupon for free product.  It took consumers off guard and immediately went viral.  We posted a link to a landing page that allowed participants to download a voucher/coupon for free product.  Follow this link for the details of this promotion.

Rule #3 – ASK and you shall receive!

Go beyond the question and answer format.  Solicit fans to interact with your brand with creative contests.  Fans will be more than willing to provide feedback, especially when a prize is at stake.  For example, in the past we held a recipe contest where we asked consumers to submit an innovative recipe using our product.  The winner had their recipe featured on our website along with accolades from the contest.  The selected recipe also came with a year’s supply of product.  The benefits of this are twofold.  Not only does it engage consumers, it also provides very useful information to our company.  Through this contest we found out just how consumers were using our product in the kitchen.  Helpful hint: establish the questions you would like answered before determining the parameters of the contest.  This will ensure the information you receive from consumers is useful.

As you can see, these aren’t groundbreaking concepts, however, they are simple to execute and highly effective in providing opportunities for fans, followers, and supporters to engage with your brand.  During the process you might also gain some useful consumer information while potentially attracting new customers.  I hope your company can also benefit.


Mudslinging: Negative Political Campaigning


I don’t know about anyone else but I am at the end of my rope with all the negative political campaigning.  I have received multiple phone calls, listened to radio spots, television commercials, received emails, and bombarded with materials sent through the mail and left on my doorstep.  The frequency coupled with the severity of the ads has me believing they have gone too far this election.

My grandfather always told me “if you want to see someone’s true colors, see how they treat the waiter or waitress.”  To me, negative advertisements are nothing but a negative reflection on the person “approving this message.”  However, if mudslinging didn’t work or produce positive results for the “slinger” candidates and their parties wouldn’t focus on them.

Rick Farmer, PhD, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Akron found that negative ads are more memorable than positive ads when they reinforce a preexisting belief and are relevant to the central issues of a campaign.  The most effective form of negative advertising is attacking an opponent’s personality, record, or opinion.

Negative campaigning makes it nearly impossible to watch the debates.  The candidates rattle off statistics in which the opposing candidate disagrees with leaving the viewer utterly confused as to what is truth and what is embellished.  The candidates are too busy deflecting attacks from their opponents to address the issues at hand, which become lost by the end.  Instead of using the valuable time in front of the American people to promote themselves they turn to discrediting their opponents.

I think negative advertising should be illegal.  To me it’s already unethical, however, it should be against the law to negatively portray the opposing party while not violating the Freedom of Speech Act of course.  If this were to occur, maybe Americans would have more faith in our government and its politicians.  I apologize if this sounds like an Andy Rooney rant but luckily the elections will be over soon.

Examples of Negative Campaigning throughout American History:

  • The Coffin Handbills used by supporters of John Quincy Adams against Andrew Jackson in the 1828 presidential campaign. Jackson’s mother was called a prostitute, and his wife an adulteress.
  • The first radio advertising using negative campaigning came from the Republican Party in 1936.
  • The Daisy ad used by Lyndon Johnson against Barry Goldwater in the United States presidential election, 1964.
  • “Black baby of John McCain” slur in the George W. Bush primary campaign.
  • Willie Horton and Revolving Door ads used by in the 1988 presidential campaign against Michael Dukakis.
  • The “Convention Ad” run by Richard Nixon against Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 presidential election.
  • Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion Comment by Reverend Samuel Burchard in the 1884 presidential election.
  • Attacks against George W. Bush’s military record in the 2004 presidential election, and attacks against John Kerry’s Vietnam service record by some Navy Swift Boat veterans of the Vietnam War.
  • 1993: “Harry and Louise” ads attacking President Bill Clinton’s health-care reform proposals.
  • 2005: Jerry Kilgore’s pro-death penalty attack ad against his opponent, Tim Kaine, in the 2005 Virginia gubernatorial campaign. The ad, particularly its invocation of Hitler, contributed to Kilgore’s defeat by Kaine.
  • 2008: Hillary Clinton’s “3 a.m. phone call” ad questioning the crisis management abilities of her opponent, Barack Obama.
  • 2008: Elizabeth Dole’s ad against Democratic challenger Kay Hagan in her 2008 Senate re-election campaign, where Hagan was said to be “Godless”. The ad backfired, as it sharply reduced support for Dole. Dole was defeated by Hagan in the election.



A Virgo, the Bed, and a Windshield

If you haven’t figured it out already I am a Virgo.  I’m not one of those crazy horoscope people who live their lives according to what the moon, stars, and planets tell us and no offense to those who do.  However, I do fit perfectly into my stereotypical astrological sign.

According to horoscope.com the following keywords describes a Virgo’s personality:                                                            Virgo Strengths:  Analytical, Observant, Helpful, Reliable, Precise, Modest, Meticulous, Practical, Diligent                            Virgo Weaknesses:  Skeptical, Fussy, Inflexible, Overcritical, Harsh, Perfectionist, Conservative

A Virgo is easy to spot, they are people who keep their home and car well cared for.  Just as they are meticulous in personal care and style, Virgos enjoy a visually pleasing and orderly environment.  In a restaurant you will see them cleaning off their fork before eating.

Now that you get the sense of what a Virgo is like I can tell you about a few of my Virgo idiosyncrasies.  I have a “small” obsession with my bed.  It is impossible for me to leave my house without the bed being made.  It doesn’t matter if I take a nap and at 5pm I still feel the need to make the bed although I’ll be crawling back in later that evening.  I can’t get into an unmade bed.  Now, “making” the bed doesn’t mean just throwing the covers on top and calling it a day either.  There is a full process to making the bed.  From straightening out the mattress pad to tightening the fitted sheets, re-tucking the top sheet, arranging the comforter in a wrinkle free manner, and finishing by fluffing, straightening, positioning the sleeping pillow, top pillows, and decorative pillows.  If you identify with any of this, chances are you’re a Virgo.  If you don’t identify here is a link to a video on how-to-make-a-bed.

Another dimension of my Virgo personality is pet-peeves.  There are certain things people do that drive me absolutely crazy.  I’m not sure why these things drive me up the wall as they don’t impact me directly, just irritate me.  With that being said, my biggest pet-peeve is people who scrape the ice of off their windshield in the shape of a little hole instead of scraping off all the ice from their entire windshield.  How can they possibly see everything they need in order to drive safely without killing someone?  Needless to say I stay clear of these people on the road.  I may drive by and honk my horn.  I’m just saying!  If you don’t know how to safely scrape ice off your windshield, please read the article in the link.  You could save a life or at the very least avoid me beeping at you!


Why does Good Chocolate taste SO good?!?!


Growing up, I was never much of a “sweet-eater.”  Given the choice of a chocolate bar and a bag of chips I would go the savory route each time.  After my brother and I would return from trick-or-treating we would sit down for our post barter and swap session where I would proceed to sweet-talk him out of all his salty treats.  I loved anything with peanuts so the first round always included Peanut M&Ms, Snickers, and Almond Joys.  With these treats the chocolate was always a mean to an end.  I didn’t dislike the chocolate I just knew there was a pot of salt at the end of the rainbow.  My love for chocolate came much later.

Fast-forward fifteen years; I took a job with a premium chocolate company as a Product Development Manager.  Contrary to my job title I’m not involved in the development of the actual chocolate or new flavor profiles, however I am involved in the creation of the packaging that holds the chocolate.  I will never forget how the smell of chocolate engulfed me as I stepped out of the car for my interview.  This was the beginning.

As I started working for the chocolate company I knew it was only a matter of time before I would start to slowly sample the many different types of chocolate.  This was easy…as chocolate can be found in the warehouse, the factory, the break room, cafeteria, conference rooms, and desks sprinkled throughout the company.   It’s EVERYWHERE!  Its accessibility makes it easy to reward oneself even after the simplest of tasks.  One day I forgot to bring the lunch I had packed and found this as an easy excuse to substitute with chocolate.  The more chocolate I ate and the more I learned about the art of chocolate making I naturally started to truly appreciating premium chocolate.

As you can imagine, I slowly put on fifteen pounds over the next two years.  Portion control was the only answer, as I would not consider giving up chocolate completely.  I no longer could substitute meals and snacks with chocolate.  This became easier the longer I was around it.  Eventually, the chocolate itself became an object I was working with and not a treat.

After acquiring a taste for premium chocolate it became much easier to distinguish between “everyday” chocolate like Hershey and Mars and good chocolate.  Everyday chocolate doesn’t satisfy the craving.  If I’m going to splurge at this point it’s going to be well worth it.  It’s going to be chocolate covered potato chips…as yes, I still crave salt!  And no, unfortunately, my company doesn’t produce these.

Are Our Kids Socially Awkward?


As a thirty-eight year old, gone are the days where if we needed to get a hold of someone we had to pick up the phone (if no other family member was using it) and call them.  If you didn’t have their number memorized you had to flip through an address book or look it up in the phonebook.  If the line was open on their end you got to speak to the person you were calling or keep redialing the number until it was.  And then there was the occasion interruption where another family member would pick up another line in the house and just start dialing not realizing you were in the middle of a conversation.  And there’s always my favorite when my mother would pick up the line to tell me things like “dinner’s ready” or “the clothes needed to be folder,” thanks Mom!  When Monday rolled around at school you actually had to ask everyone what they did over the weekend.  This WAS how me communicated in the late 80’s/early 90’s and before.  Our social network consisted of who we hung out with at school, in our neighborhood, and who we invited to our birthday party.

Today is a much different landscape.  With the explosion of the World Wide Web technology has forever changed communication and how we interact on a daily basis.  If we want to see what our friends are up to by the minute we go to Facebook.  If we want search and upload videos we use YouTube.  For short quick blurbs we tweet.  To keep up with business contacts and job searching we logon to Linkedin.  To share and browse photos we login to Flickr or Tumblr.  There’s no shortage of platforms to browse, communicate, and share our interests, our feelings, and our lives.

To go from one extreme to the other makes me wonder how this will change adolescence for the new generations growing up with social media.  At first it would appear our children could only benefit from the endless opportunities to learn, connect, and share with people making new friends at each website they visit as children are no longer limited to the pool of people from their school or neighborhood but kids across the entire planet!  However, are kids getting true social “interaction?”  Sitting behind a computer, tablet, or smart phone doesn’t teach kids how to develop socially or prepare them for social situations they will face in the real world.  In fact, it’s doing just the opposite.  It’s enabling children to communicate behind a facade that may or may not be who they really are.  Online, children can create their own persona.

The truth is we need to prepare our children for the real world.  Although social media is current it is not the real world.  As the next generation matures and enters the real world they will most likely have a job interview, where they will have to interact with another person face-to-face, get a job where they will need to interact with multiple people face-to-face.  Most often advancement within the work place is hinged on how well we interact with others face-to-face.  Face-to-face will never be lost in the real world.  If we don’t expose our children to social situations how will they ever develop these real world survival skills?