Consider the Source

July 16, 2013 at 3:33 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/taste/214371511.html?page=1

Chris from Sterling Cross Communications was recently quoted in the Star Tribune.

Crowdsourced reviews can put local restaurateurs on the defensive

  • Article by: BILL WARD , Star Tribune 
  • Updated: July 6, 2013 – 2:11 PM

Serving great food is only half the battle. Now local restaurants have to win over DIY reviewers on social media sites.

Every month, the managers of Parasole Restaurant Group’s 10 restaurants meet with their bosses. At the outset, they get a report card — not for sales or profits, but an algorithm-based assessment of how their operations are faring on social media. It includes a letter grade.

“I can guarantee you,” said Kip Clayton, Parasole’s vice president of marketing, “you don’t want to have an F.”

So on top of all their other responsibilities — monitoring food prep, making sure the wine list is up to date and that there’s enough Diet Coke syrup on hand — the folks at the helm of Manny’s, Salut, Burger Jones and other Parasole holdings listen and react to every tweet, post and comment they get online.

Especially on Yelp, which has supplanted not only Zagat but the Yellow Pages as the go-to restaurant guide. Since it was introduced less than a decade ago, the user ratings site has grown to 102 million unique visitors per month, with about 20 percent of its traffic going to restaurant pages. 

The popularity of Yelp, along with Urban Spoon, Foursquare, Open Table and others, has created a tightrope walk for restaurateurs: They can now engage with their customers 24/7, but they have very little control over the conversation. In a business that lives and dies by reputation, they have to use caution when defending themselves against regular attacks.

User favorites ranging from Minneapolis’ Bar La Grassa and Tilia to St. Paul’s The Nook have hundreds of Yelp reviews apiece. And while those restaurants all have earned 4.5 out of 5 stars overall, some of the critiques are soaked in the snarky salvos so prevalent on the Internet.

“I wish there was a way to say ‘Let’s be decent, folks,’ ” said Stewart Woodman, chef and owner of Heidi’s in Minneapolis. “You really have to have thick skin in this business.”

He’s right, said Christopher Lower, social media director at Sterling Cross Communication. In fact, Lower compares Yelp to “TMZ [because] people go there for the trashy comments.”

Still, he considers Yelp and other such sites “a necessary evil for restaurants,” and he says the biggest challenge for restaurants is “learning how to deliver customer service online.”

A matter of engagement

Many local restaurateurs have already figured out that ignoring the DIY reviews is not an option.

“Our whole philosophy on social media is that if you’re a bar or restaurant, the world is talking about you day and night,” said Clayton. “You can listen, or you can be stupid and ignore it — and it comes back to haunt you.”

While some restaurants have hired consultants to find every mention of them on the Internet, others try to do it themselves.

Frederico Navarro, owner of George & the Dragon, said he and wife, Stacy, reach out to every Yelp commenter.

“If a guest takes the time to give us feedback, we will always take the time to send them a message back,” he said via (of course) e-mail. “We try to use Yelp to connect with our guests and either thank them for coming in or let them know that their feedback is being heard and we would see what we could do to improve.”

Avid Yelp user Mahesh Kothamangalam got that kind of personal response. The Roseville resident recently wrote a favorable review of a restaurant he had visited. In the review, however, he mentioned that the tea was a little cold. “And the owner actually apologized and said the next tea’s on him,” said Kothamangalam.

But what’s happening online may have to take a back seat to what’s happening in the kitchen.

Stephanie Shimp, co-owner of Blue Plate Restaurant Co., said she and her managers monitor as many sites as they can, including Yelp, Urban Spoon, Instagram and their own eClub database. She added that at Blue Plate, which owns seven restaurants including Edina Grill and Three Squares, “we balance that with what’s most important … and that is who is sitting at our tables right now.”

Sorting through reviews

Woodman has had his share of run-ins online, including an anti-Semitic post on Yelp that he ultimately enlisted the Anti-Defamation League to have removed. And he admits that his wife and business partner, Heidi, has “had to stop me” from responding in kind to nasty comments on Yelp. But he’s devised a way to make the site work for him.

“We’re kind of gleaning it, to learn how to be better, and also to build some relationships,” he said.

Users, too, have to learn how best to use Yelp.

Because it’s so popular, sorting through all the reviews can be daunting. That’s why Annie D’Souza, the site’s Twin Cities community manager, said she and other experienced Yelpers study the reviewers.

“I look at how much they’ve written, do they have a photo. I definitely follow a few people, some personal and others that I just trust,” she said. “We’re building a community of users.”

D’Souza downplays the effect a negative review can have, in part because of that community.

“While business owners tend to fixate on a less-than-glowing review, consumers look at the overall rating and read a number of reviews before making a decision.”

In the end, though, a pre-Internet business platitude rules: The customer is always right.

“When it comes down to engaging the guest,” Clayton said, “it’s better to apologize rather than get in an online argument. You’re going to lose that one every time.”

Bill Ward • 612-673-764

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Sterling Cross Principals appear on Business Forum Radio Show

June 5, 2013 at 3:03 pm (PR) (, , )

The Business Forum Show – Sterling Cross Communications 1 of 2 …
http://www.sterlingcrossgroup.com http://www.thebusinessforumshow.com http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdpugNw4b5Y

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Chris talking C-Suite social media

May 28, 2013 at 10:27 am (Uncategorized)

EXPERT ADVICE

Social media guru Christopher Lower , director of marketing and public relations for Sterling Cross Communications, shared some tips for local executives who are thinking about joining Twitter.

  • Don’t make the mistake of      thinking that Twitter isn’t relevant to your business or industry.
  • If you’re going to embark on it, make a commitment to do it on a regular basis.
    (It doesn’t have to be every day.)
  • Establish yourself as      an industry expert by providing useful resources.
  • Be authentic      and approachable.
  • Make sure your message      matches your brand.
  • Monitor what people are saying about you and your company.

http://www.bizjournals.com/twincities/print-edition/2013/05/10/few-tweets-from-the-c-suite.html?ana=twt_fsub1&b=1368123568%5E11671892&page=all

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Kudos from the Press

March 1, 2013 at 2:01 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

After spending two months planning all of the details of a panel discussion  I was tickled to see a member of the media I invited to the event not only attended and added greatly to the online live tweeting of the event, but wrote this great recap of the event.

http://www.foodservicenews.net/?p=4287

by
February 28, 2013
in BlogMarketing,Social Media

SOCIAL MEDIA’S IMPACT ON THE BUSINESS-MEDIA RELATIONSHIP

Yesterday I attended a social media discussion panel.

I can hear the groans through the Interwebs, folks.

But it was worth the effort, particularly as a business operator, for whom the panel was geared. Further, if Mary Lower of Sterling Cross Communications is in any way involved in organizing a social media discussion panel, you should simply shut up and sign up. What I like about the Sterling Cross gang is that they adhere to the same philosophy I attempt to follow with our Foodservice News events: Provide meaningful content, and don’t waste peoples’ time. Accomplish one of those, and you’ve usually accomplished the other.

But back to the panel, an event sponsored by the National Association of Women Business Owners’ Minnesota chapter. Titled “The Evolving Role of Social Platforms and Traditional Media” it touched on how business owners and the media use—and fail to use—social media to their advantage as promotional tools and story-gathering devices. Those two things go very much hand-in-hand, and apply to restaurants and other foodservice industry businesses as much as any other.

Moderated by John Vomhof (@MSPBJvomhof), business reporter for the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, the panel was a familiar group of media types who use social media: David Brauer of MinnPost (@dbrauer), WCCO’s Jason DeRusha (@DeRushaJ), Minnesota Public Radio Interactive Producer Julia Schrenkler (@juliaschrenkler) and the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ tech writer and uber web geek Julio Ojeda-Zapata (@ojezap).

The familiarity was not lost on the panelists; three of whom were on one of the first social media discussion panels assembled locally in 2008. The fact is, Brauer noted, the majority of those in “traditional” media do not use social media—the reason why they keep showing up on panels—although the number is growing. On the MinnPost staff, Brauer noted, where not long ago it was only him using Twitter, about 30 percent do now. That fact isn’t inherently bad, either, he added. “If we are only going through social media contacts (to source stories) we’re not doing our job.”

That said, DeRusha gathers ideas for stories via social media, including the popular “Good Question” on WCCO. Anyone who has attached themself to his Facebook feed can see for themselves how that works. Still, he added, “The business community is way ahead of the working media with social media usage.”

So what does that mean for you, the business owner, to know that the media doesn’t necessarily consult social media for stories?

In my humble opinion, not much. My guess is the ratio is about the same for the remaining population. We all know more than a few people who don’t do social media, or dabble a bit in Facebook but not at all in Twitter, or vice-versa.

More are coming on board each day—and there’s more to join than just Facebook and Twitter. And you, as a business owner need to commit the initial time investment to get on board if you haven’t yet done so.

The six big takeaways from the day:

1. The consensus on the panel is that, as maddening as the evolution of Facebook has been from fun social and promotional tool to navel-gazing central for self-important blowhards (my words, not theirs), it is absolutely necessary as a business owner to use it.

2. While it’s not immensely popular at the moment, Ojeda-Zapata is an advocate for Google+ and sees huge potential for it. “Google+ is becoming a listing for businesses,” he said. “Google is the king of search, there’s nothing for you to lose. … in five years, it will be an important piece, especially for business.”

3. Don’t forget the power of e-mail. Schrenkler said it’s still a wildly effective tool at MPR. “Use e-mail as a social network,” she said. And that it is.

Here at Foodservice News, while I maintain the magazine’s social media outlets, we still get more traffic to our website when we use an e-mail blast to promote our events than any other tool (in part because the list is larger, but also because it’s regularly vetted). And, I would add, don’t forget direct mail where appropriate. We still communicate with many of our out-state subscribers with direct mail. Why? Because it works. And a mailing list is as much of a “social network” as your friends on Facebook. Think about it.

4. DeRusha suggested businesses join every social media tool out there: In addition to Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and more. Even if you don’t use them, you have at least claimed your business’ name out there.

5. Addressing the point above, Shrenkler said, “Choose your energies.”

To which Brauer added: “Go where your audience is.” For his day-to-day professional life, Brauer is a prolific Twitter user. For his volunteer gig working with a neighborhood farmers market, the audience there spends a lot of time on Pinterest—a photography social media outlet. “I have to learn Pinterest,” he said.

6. Use your staff as a promotional tool. “I tell business owners, whatever business is, you have collection of experts under your roof,” DeRusha said. “Use them.”

7. Be yourself. Social media is just that: social. “Sometimes personality is powerful content,” Brauer said. “Try being yourself—at least your better self.”

How do you know when social media is working for you? The moment you start generating feedback. It’s that simple.

Even if you’re not ready to divulge time to social media, back to DeRusha’s point, it’s vital that you claim your company name within the realm so someone else does not. And do your name, while you’re at it—that includes webstie domain names. It can be a surreal experience doing that; I felt like an egomaniac as I went about the task. It’s understandable why someone like DeRusha, who’s on television every night and has 18,000 Twitter followers needs to protect their name and reputation.

But me? I’m a “B”-list food and restaurant writer in these Twin Cities, at best (and some would argue further down the alphabet). “It’s still important,” DeRusha said as we discussed the topic after the panel. He brought up an incident of a writer who had their identity “stolen” in the form of a blog. Which also reminded me of Lenny Russo, the James Beard-nominated chef and owner of Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct and long-time Facebook holdout, who had a Facebook imposter for a time in 2008/09. Russo (the real person) eventually joined Facebook in August 2011, about nine months after he stuck his restaurant on the social media platform.

The thing about social media is you need to engage it to be effective. Further, as a business owner, you need to engage it because there’s likely a conversation going on about you—good, bad or both. It’s better that you (or your staff) engage that conversation, rather than not at all, or by letting an imposter do it for you.

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Christopher Lower talks to Christopher Gabriel about heart health on WDAY radio Fargo

October 15, 2012 at 10:42 am (Uncategorized)

http://cgabriel.com/2012/03/03/chris-lower-on-lvads-and-keeping-your-heart-happy-2-audio/

Chris Lower on LVAD’s and Keeping Your Heart Happy (audio)

 | Mar 03, 2012 | Comments 1

Chris Lower has been a good friend for a number of years now. A former football player, happily married, three beautiful children and wonderfully successful as the director of marketing, PR and social media for Minneapolis-based Sterling Cross Communications (he’s also co-owner). For as long as I’ve known him he’s been a high-energy, “all systems go” kind of guy.

And then in 2011, one teeny thing got in the way of that: His heart.

Hearts have a funny way of ruling our lives… literally. And we like to use ”heart” in any number of phrases: From the heart, heavy heart, with all my heart, know it by heart… but at the head of the food chain before we talk about it or write about it, the heart needs to work.

Last year, Chris’s nearly stopped working. That’s where our discussion began.

  • Part 1

  • Part 2

illustration credit: Thoratec Corporation and Chris Lower

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Sterling Cross on Online Reputation Management

April 2, 2012 at 9:19 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

My business partner (and husband) Christopher Lower was featured in the Sunday’s Star Tribune recently.  Its a thrill to sometimes be in front of the camera when traditionally we work hard to get our client press coverage!

http://www.startribune.com/local/143063926.html

Whistleblower: A Q&A with Mr. Fixit for online badmouthing

  • Updated: March 17, 2012 – 6:15 PM

An online reputation management specialist explains what his firm does to help businesses deal with negative comments on the Web.

hide

Christopher Lower helps restaurants, hotels and nonprofits monitor and respond to what’s said about them online.

Photo: Tom Wallace, Star Tribune

Consumer complaints about businesses are migrating from the watercooler to the Web.

From Facebook and Twitter to Yelp and FourSquare, consumers can sound off about a company to hundreds of friends and followers with a click of a button.

That’s where online reputation management experts such as Christopher Lower come in. He and his wife own Maple Grove-based Sterling Cross Communications, helping Twin Cities restaurants, hotels and nonprofits monitor what’s being said about them 24/7 and respond within minutes. Lower spoke with Whistleblower last week about this emerging trend.

Why do companies need help from experts such as yourself; can’t they monitor sites themselves?

A Personally, yes. But do they have enough time to watch it 24/7? No. There’s still a perception that, if I see it online nobody is going to see it, and I still have plenty of time to get my ducks in a row. Realize that 24 hours is an eternity online. They have to react right away and typically also on the platform or social media format where the comment was made.

What prompts a business to contact you?

A Sometimes they’re facing a crisis, and so that will prompt them to call, which is OK, but there is always a sense of urgency. … Case in point, we had one client who had a former contractor, very disgruntled, go on over 300 different sites and make negative comments about their business. One of his major clients called him up and said, “Have you seen what’s being said about you out there — what’s the deal, do we need to pull our account?” He was going to start losing business because his reputation was so poor.

What’s the worst thing you’ve seen happen to a business that was trashed online?

They’ve closed … because they think there’s no way they can get out from under it. Some have to completely redo their brand and rebuild — and that’s a long-term process.

How has a business you’ve worked with benefited from online reviews?

A We work a lot with the hotel industry and, fortunately or unfortunately, nobody calls 1-800-Marriott anymore to book a room. It’s all through Travelocity or Orbitz. And our hotel clients know, to the point where, if they are a three-and-a-half-star not a four-star, how much money they’re losing to four-star hotels that are the same size and equivalent price range. It actually benefits them to have us come in and clean up the negative and build the positive. We’ve been able to move up a hotel to a full star rating.

The Internet has opened it up so people can say anything about a company. Do you think there should be limits on what people can say about businesses online?

A Actually, the courts will take care of that. The former contractor that made 300 negative reviews, we were able get 297 of them removed [working with sites] and the last three will come out, but we had to go to court and win a defamation case. … [But] it can also help businesses get better. Case in point, we had a restaurant client that was actually opening restaurants in a different city and they went in and replaced a beloved location. They weren’t really considering their audience and demographic. There were a bunch of food bloggers that didn’t like them and kept complaining about them online. Finally, we invited all the complainers to the table, figuratively and literally, to come into the restaurant and change the menu. That was a positive outcome.

So where do you see this emerging presence of online sites and reviews going in the future?

A lot of it’s going to be micro-sites or niche. There’s always going to be Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, and now Pinterest. But now you’re starting to see small niche places like Untappd, a great site for beer and beer lovers. … Just in the food and restaurant industry alone, there’s probably 144 different social media sites or platforms people need to consider.

Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141 • Twitter: @kellystrib

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A local technol…

March 2, 2012 at 2:55 pm (Uncategorized)

A local technology writer from one of the daily newspapers in the Twin Cities put a call out to all his Pintrest followers as to why they use this social media platform.  I’m thrilled to be included in his blog that was the background for the article that ran on the front page of the Sunday paper (see previous post). 

About fell off my chair when I saw my headshot in his blog – it is a very odd feeling to be included in the story after being behind the story for so many years!

http://blogs.twincities.com/yourtechweblog/2012/02/24/whats-the-deal-with-pinning-anyway-pinterest-users-tell-me/

Go Home

  A lifelong journalist, Julio Ojeda-Zapata is the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ consumer-technology writer. His Tech Test Drive column appears in the Sunday Pioneer Press and at twincities.com/techtestdrive. He has written two books, ‘iPad Means Business‘ and ‘Twitter Means Business.’ Contact him at jojeda@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-5467. Visit his home page at ojezap.com. Julio’s avatar is by Nitrozac of geekculture.com. The header graphic is adapted from a photograph
Untitled

(Note: This post is part of extensive Pinterest coverage this weekend. I wrote a Tech Test Drive column about it, along with a feature story about local Pinterest users. I also created a Pinterest board showcasing items pinned by the people quoted in my article.)

It took me a while to “get” Pinterest.

I was well aware of its runaway popularity but, as with many up-and-coming social networks, I was unable to see its appeal or relevance to my own existence.

 I had set up an account and amassed a list of Pinterest friends, though, so I reached out to them with a question (not exactly in these words): “So what the frack is the deal here?”

Several of them responded via e-mail with lengthy and spellbinding analyses that helped me grasp the awesomeness that is Pinterest. Since then, a switch has flipped in my cerebral cortex and I’m pinning like a crazy person.

So if you’re confused about or skeptical of Pinterest, read on. These users might make you a believer.

Note that the name of each person is hyperlinked to his or her Pinterest account, while the description of each person links to his or her home, professional or bio page.

 IMG 2387

Arik Hanson, PR-agency principle

I like…

 1) The ability to go in, even for just a few minutes, and scan to see what people are pinning, and find new images that might interest me. A friend described it as “visual snacking.” I think that sums it up well.

 2) The creative freedom. I love how you can create and curate boards for just about anything. I have one for Men of PR fashion. Another for Bad Ass Shoes. Yes another labeled “Oh, the Places I’ll Go” (travel destinations)

 What I don’t like: It’s currently tough to identify other users you might want to follow. There have been some lists published by Pinterest power users lately, but the tool needs to make this easier.

I’ve blogged about Pinterest here and here.

 1465 edited pop websmall1

Mary Lower, PR-agency principle

 I’m on for three main reasons:

 1) I like the beauty shots of faraway lands and beautiful sunsets. By taking a few minutes out of my day to surf the Pinterest boards, I can have a mini-retreat to some wonderful far way place as a goal of where we will travel, or a reminder of places visited in the past.

 2) I like some of the kid-friendly tips and food ideas. I saw a Mater (as in the movie “Cars,” a movie my 3-year-old son has seen a million times) sandwich face that I will attempt to replicate this weekend. I found some fruit and veggie tips that will get some play soon in our kitchen.

 3) Lastly, I love some of the quotes.  Though Twitter and Facebook is lousy with people re-quoting famous people or passing along funny thoughts. But, being a visual person, sometimes the impact of the thought/notion is realized in the font or visual impact of how it’s presented. I take 5-minute breaks throughout the day to look at Pinterest as a breath of fresh air or to have a laugh.

 At the end of the day, my husband and our 9-year-old daughter look at things for his “Star Wars” board or other funny visuals. Luckily, by controlling the pinners we follow, we can have a relatively G-rated experience, something that is becoming harder to do elsewhere.

 Also – visually – I see Pinterest as the digital file of all the cool magazine pictures I used to rip out and save for “one day.” Now its all organized in one spot that I can access any time.

 As an interesting side effect, it is a little voyeuristic to see the style choices and trends that are out there. I’m learning more about my 19-year-old niece’s (who lives in Washington DC and I only get to see once a year) taste and style preference in a quick/easy way! She loves silver rings as much as I do – all those gifts I’ve given to her have paid off!

My husband, Christopher, blogged about Pinterest here.

 Bethany Gladhill, independent nonprofit consultant

 Quick thoughts:

 I like what I learn about my friend’s interests. Conversely, I don’t like that it’s not very intuitive to turn off specific boards (I have no need to see a friend’s vast collection of bird pictures).

 I like that I can find crafty ideas without having to go to a million craft-mom blogs. I have a million good ideas now. My friend Mandy often creates or cooks off of Pinterest and I would like to do more.

 I like being able to search for ideas, or images, or recipes, etc.

 I worry about pinning things up, and wondering if they are “safe” and “stored.” I worry I will have link loss later.

 I am interested in how people are starting to use it beyond the obvious. I like seeing “Restaurants to Try” and “Books to Read” boards, and I am interested in how it is becoming a visual notebook.

 In terms of professional vs. private, do my clients really need to see all my chocolate recipes? That will take some management.

 Tim Elliott, marketer and blogger

 Likes:

 1) Beautiful interface; good for discovery 2) Facebook integration 3) Simple settings (love those cool sliders) 4) Pin-it button for browsers and websites 5) Posting process is very simple

 Dislikes:

 1) The default notifications; too much bacn 2) The invite system to get into beta; not everyone I know is on it yet. 3) Would like to see ratings integrated since the best application for the service are products.

 I think the success of Pinterest has mostly to do with how easy it is to post content, its beautiful design and its deep Facebook integration. Their viral spread via a controlled beta was also smart but that approach is beginning to look old as the service gets more popular.

 I didn’t “get it” at first but the more I use it, the more I see applications for it (like wine reviews).

 Becca Bijoch, public relations

 I actually found out about Pinterest a year ago from an intern while the site was mostly crafts,  and I asked for an invite but never received one. I was able to join about six months ago and have been in love ever since. Here’s why it’s so Pinteresting:

 1) Visually stimulating: even if you have no intention of planning a wedding, making a new recipe, or have any interest in online shopping or crafting, scrolling through Pinterest is a delightful way to spend time online.

 2) Creatively invigorating: I often check Pinterest in the evenings to get outfit ideas for the next day, or on weekends for decorating ideas for my house. I’ve executed many of those ideas. I hate cooking and am horrible at it, but I spent a whole Saturday making soup recipes I found on Pinterest.

 3) New resources: one of the big things I love about Pinterest is that the pins are connected to their source so I’m able to buy, buy, buy, find new blogs, read news stories, etc.

 4) Handy list: I use a pinboard to keep track of all of things I find online that I want to buy instead of having to create multiple bookmarks, notes, etc.

 20081106 s4xton

Aaron Landry, food-site producer

 I think one of the fascinating things about what makes Pinterest interesting compared to a lot of other competing services is that it’s centered around a basic principle: what you and your friends want.

 I think it creates a unique ecosystem online when all you’re seeing are the collective desires of your friends and then share the ones you desire too. It’s addictive for some.

 At the Heavy Table, we noticed an uptick of activity on Pinterest linking to our content out of the blue. We have a lot of tasty things on our site as well as recipes, and Pinterest is a natural place for people to share those things they want to eat or try in the kitchen.

 We decided to have a presence on Pinterest ourselves, lead by one of our photographers (who is also addicted to the service herself).

 On our board, we repin content of ours as well as pinning content from other sources as it relates to food and beverage in the Upper Midwest.

 We don’t see a ton of traffic to our site from Pinterest yet, but we are certainly noticing an upward trend so we’re keeping our eye on it closely.

 Craig Key, digital-marketing-agency media director

 Pinterest is a great example of works well in digital/social technologies: do one thing, but do it really well.

 It’s predecessors are social networks that manage to carve out their niches and get a little bit of sunlight despite Facebook’s massive shadow: Twitter, Instagram, and Foursquare to name a few. They don’t try to be the swiss-army knife of social networks (*cough* Google+), and they won’t win at that game any time soon because nobody is asking for another Facebook.

 But Pinterest saw their opportunity in that A) people love sharing great content, and B) a strong visual is a much more powerful driver than text (otherwise we would all still be using De.licio.us and wouldn’t need Pinterest to share and discover new content).

 They’ve also brilliantly translated something very analogue (a cork-board) into a digital format. A cork board where you can post inspiration, and what’s even better: you can invite friends to collaborate on your board which is going to be great for brands (we’re currently working on this for space150′s own social media).

 Designers at space150 tell me they have been into Pinterest for well over a year (back when it was way too small to show up on comScore or Google’s radar). At that time it seemed to be a little more of a tool for professional designers, photographers, or other creative folks (much like ffffound.com still is today).

 But Pinterest has now moved way past professional creatives, into regular Joes (or more accurately: Janes) who just love to be inspired. My wife doesn’t work in a creative field at all, but she got into Pinterest long before I did.

 One thing that may be leading to more adoption is the growth of people sharing about their “Pinterest projects” or “Pinterest recipes” which simply means a project or a recipe that was inspired by something they found on Pinterest. This is funny to me…because no one has ever talked about Google projects, or Facebook projects, but certainly those two sites have been used to discover new things to to create around the house.

 Vineeta Sawkar, TV-news anchor

 I really enjoy Pinterest. It is like a guilty pleasure. If I have a few minutes to kill, I check Pinterest for fun recipes or interesting decorating ideas. I have already utilized some ideas. We rearranged our back closet to better accommodate my kids’ hockey gear. I have made many delicious recipes from it. I often surprise my kids at the bus stop with creative Pinterest snack ideas.

 I think Pinterest makes you imagine the life you could have… the great meals you could make… the wonderful, organized house you could have…the amazing fashions you could be wearing…

 It is like reading a magazine and instead of clipping recipes and cutting out interesting tidbits, you can pin it to your virtual bulletin board and refer back to it whenever you want…

 When I am grocery shopping, I get on my phone and check the Pinterest recipes I have pinned to get ideas for meals…

 I think my family is enjoying it because they are definitely benefiting from all of the ideas…

 I think sometimes we all need a little inspiration … Pinterest is that inspiration. I feel energized when I can use an idea I find to make life easier or to make my family smile.

 It is just a fun escape.

Posted By Julio Ojeda-Zapata

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The other side of the coin

March 2, 2012 at 2:36 pm (Uncategorized) ()

I was recently quoted in a story on Pintrest by the technology writer at Pioneer Press.  Here is the story.

It was a thrill to be in the story instead of being behind it for once!
www.twincities.com/ci_20040735

If you have an interest, you’ll find it on Pinterest

By Julio Ojeda-Zapata
jojeda@pioneerpress.com
Posted:   02/25/2012 12:01:00 AM CST
Updated:   02/26/2012 12:01:45 AM CST

 

Screen grab from reporter Julio Ojeda-Zapata’s Pinterest.com account.

Becca Bijoch of Minneapolis hates to cook. No, she loathes it.

“I’m horrible at it,” she confesses.

But she recently spent a Saturday whipping up one soup recipe after another. Her inspiration? The Pinterest bulletin board site.

This popular social network lets users “pin” photos and videos they find online to the virtual equivalents of corkboards. Such pinning has become a passion for millions of Pinterest users, each of whom can create a variety of boards aligned with their interests, beliefs and goals.

Bijoch, for instance, had the goal of making soup.

So, to give herself a boost, she found a variety of recipes online and pinned a picture from each recipe to one of her boards. When she was ready to get cooking, she needed only to click one of the photos to pull up the recipe on its original cooking site, such as bettycrocker.com orskinnytaste.com or shape.com.

But Bijoch uses Pinterest for much more than learning to cook.

In the evening, she’ll roam fashion boards created by other users to get outfit ideas for the next day. On weekends, she explores home-decorating boards to get project ideas for her home.

She also pins items she plans to purchase soon. She loves that these visual bookmarks link back to the original shopping sites “so I’m able to buy, buy, buy.”

Even those who “have no intention of planning a wedding, making a recipe,

 

crafting or shipping” can enjoy Pinterest, Bijoch said. “It is visually stimulating. Scrolling through it is a delightful way to spend time online.”

The 2-year-old site has seen explosive growth, especially in recent months. It grew to more than 11.7 million unique monthly users as of January, according to the ComScore online-tracking service, and doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.

“Pinterest’s traffic charts aren’t hockey sticks,” said business-tracking firm RJMetrics, in a reference to slow growth that suddenly spikes to resemble a hockey stick on a chart. “They’re rocket ships.”

This growth is being driven largely by women, who are using the site far more than men, according to ComScore. Pinterest users are a devoted bunch, spending on average nearly 16 minutes per visit on the site, the firm said.

“Pinterest is a great example of what works well in digital and social: Do one thing, but do it really well,” said Craig Key, associate media director at Minneapolis-based digital marketing agency space150.

Why has Pinterest caught on? Key has a few theories.

“People love sharing great content,” he said. “A strong visual is more powerful than text. Pinterest brilliantly translates something analog, a corkboard, into a digital format. It’s a corkboard where you can invite friends to collaborate.”

Mary Lower of Maple Grove uses Pinterest to post photos of faraway places she’d like to visit with her husband, Christopher; to clip items from magazine sites the way she does with physical magazines; and to get child-friendly recipe ideas for her three kids.

This weekend, she said, she’ll try to make a sandwich that looks like the Tow Mater character from the movie “Cars.”

She’s even learning about the style preferences of her 19-year-old niece, who lives in Washington, D.C.

“She loves silver rings as much as I do,” Lower has discovered. “All those gifts I’ve given her have paid off.”

KSTP-TV news anchor Vineeta Sawkar gets scads of home-improvement ideas on Pinterest, including how to “rearrange our back closet to better accommodate my kids’ hockey gear.”

While at the supermarket, she’ll fire up the Pinterest app on her iPhone to get cooking inspiration. “I often surprise my kids at the bus stop with creative Pinterest snack ideas.”

Bethany Gladhill of St. Paul loves that she can “find crafty ideas without having to visit a million craft-mom sites. I have a million good ideas now.”

Gladhill, a consultant specializing in historic preservation, nonprofits and arts management, is even thinking about how Pinterest can add pizzazz to what she does on the job.

She is hardly alone. Pinterest’s popularity has prompted companies and organizations of all sorts to begin exploiting the social network as a visual way to spread their messages.

Brands on Pinterest range from the Gap and Whole Foods to the HGTV cable channel and the Mashable tech site.

Creative Kidstuff, the local chain of toy stores, was nudged onto Pinterest late last year by its Minneapolis-based public relations agency, Lola Red Public Relations.

Bijoch, who works on that Lola Red account when she isn’t at home cooking soup, said posting Creative Kidstuff gear on Pinterest “is driving traffic and sales to the website” while indirectly helping its Facebook and Twitter communities.

The firm now has a dozen boards ranging from “get crafty” and “too cute for words” to “Creative Kidstuff team favorites.”

The Twin Cities-based Heavy Table food site recently noticed “an uptick of activity on Pinterest linking to our content out of the blue,” said Aaron Landry, a site producer.

“We decided to have a presence on Pinterest, led by one of our photographers who is addicted to the service herself,” Landry said.

Though “we don’t see a ton of traffic to our site from Pinterest yet, we are certainly noticing an upward trend, so we’re keeping our eyes on it closely,” he said.

Key, of space150, said “Pinterest is on our radar, and that of every other marketer worth a shake.”

Julio Ojeda-Zapata Reach him: jojeda@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-5467. Follow him:ojezap.com/social.

 

PINTEREST

 

  • What is it? Think of Pinterest as a bulletin board site with the virtual equivalents of corkboards for posting, organizing and sharing content you find online.

 

  • How does it work? Create “boards” on the Pinterest site, and then “pin” interesting photos or videos to your boards from various websites. Think of it as visual bookmarking to save stuff you want to look at later. Items on a board typically link back to their sites of origin.

    You can create multiple boards, each focused on a topic that interests you, and rearrange your boards however you like. You can also browse boards created by others. Once there, you can like items, comment on them and “repin” them to your boards.

    Pinterest offers a directory organized by subject so you can zero in on boards you are bound to like. Once you find such boards, you can “follow” them to keep up with new items. You also can follow a Pinterest user and all of his or her boards.

 

  • Why should you care? Because of Pinterest’s popularity, it’s a good bet people you know are on it. This is a new and novel way to interact with them.

    Pinterest is also a good way to organize information – recipes, craft ideas, home-improvement strategies, books and movies to check out – for future reference.

 

MORE INFO

This week’s Tech Test Drive column by Julio Ojeda-Zapata reviews Pinterest and another hot social network, Path. Find it at twincities.com/techtestdrive.

On his Your Tech Weblog, Julio yields the floor to local Pinterest and Path fanatics so they can explain in their own words why they like the social networks. Go to yourtechweblog.com.

What interesting things are local Pinterest users pinning? Julio visits the boards of people quoted in his Pinterest pieces today, and repins some of their gems. Go topinterest.com/ojezap.

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Happy Social Media Day

June 30, 2010 at 6:32 am (PR) ()

I’m going to take some time over the July 4th weekend to come up with a better blogging strategy then posting every 4 months!  Stay tuned :)

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Not “social media gurus”—they just do successful work: Twin Cities Business Magazine’s Senior Editor Gene Rebeck blogs about Sterling Cross Communications re: PR & Social Media

February 15, 2010 at 10:01 am (PR) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

We met with and chatted with Gene Rebeck, the Senior Editor at Twin Cities Business Magazine, and he wrote a blog post based on our discussions. Here is the opening excerpt and a link to Gene’s blog:

Sterling Cross’s Social Studies

Chris and Mary Lower, the spouses and owners of Maple Grove-based social media and public relations agency Sterling Cross are highly regarded in the burgeoning Twin Cities social media scene. But don’t call them “social media gurus.”

It’s a term that makes them laugh and shake their heads. Such “experts” often are mid- to late-career marketing or PR types looking to latch on to the Next Big Thing. (Test the guru: Ask for case studies.)

Besides, as Chris notes, it’s not a field that you can be an expert in: It’s changing too fast and too continuously. “These experts say things like, ‘Make big money on Twitter!’” Chris says, chuckling.

The Lowers do know their social stuff. Go here to read the rest

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