Change the Way We Communicate, Not the Way We Think

So far, our group has done a good job of brainstorming new ideas for the Savor South Madison campaign, researching target demographics and coming up with effective social media strategies. But, after reading Kanter ad Fine, it became pretty obvious to me that our campaign is missing the most essential piece of the puzzle: communication.

Since Savor South Madison was already established last semester, our goal for this semester was to develop new ideas and expand the campaign to another level. We have laid the groundwork to do so, but according to Kanter and Fine, we are only at the beginning stages. From the article:

“Shifting the culture of an organization is not just about having new ideas or working with new tools; it means actually thinking about the work and organization fundamentally differently. Organizations need to practice being social and engaging with the outside world.”

In order to launch our campaign, we need to bring our ideas and new tools to life by communicating with our audiences and engaging them with what we’re doing. We can execute this by using “usual suspect” media, such as Facebook and Twitter. We are really lacking the use of social media in general, but once we start posting and tweeting, Kanter and Fine suggest that we should be doing so with the purpose of engaging two-way conversations about the work our organization plans to do.  We should engage people inside and outside of our organization to create a sense of community among our followers and Savor South Madison. With this sort of approach, using Facebook and Twitter, we will be able to gain feedback from multiple different perspectives. This will also engage our audience without requiring much involvement or effort on their part.

According to Kanter and Fine, in order to build strong relationships online, we must open ourselves to network input and assistance, which will help to alter and improve our plans. They mention three key factors for an organization’s social media use: listening, engaging and relationship building.

It is important that we listen to what other people have to say about our organization. This will help us improve our campaign and meet people’s needs more effectively. It is also important that we engage our audience in a way that promotes conversation and information sharing. Finally, our listening and engagement with our audience will lead to relationship building, which we can use to communicate an effective call-to-action and reward important members in our audience.

When I think of “cutting edge” social media uses to promote engagement from our audience for Savor South Madison, I think Google+ could be very effective. While it is still a fairly new social media tool and is very similar to Facebook, it has much more social capabilities than Facebook. One feature that separates it from many other social media sites is the Google+ Hangout feature, which allows users to face-to-face video chat with multiple people at one time. This could be a great way for us to build relationships with people from different areas. We could have weekly Google+ Hangout sessions with Savor South Madison members and the South Madison community, which would allow us to meet more frequently with lower involvement.

Ultimately, the point is to use social media, whether it is the “usual suspects” like Facebook and Twitter or the “cutting edge” like Google+, to promote engagement with our audience. This will help us gain feedback and involve our audience members in the process. Savor South Madison is a community project that involvement more than just our class. The whole community of South Madison should be a part of the development process. By using social media to facilitate conversation, they can have a hand in what we are doing.

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We’re People. With Personality.

The recurrent theme throughout this week’s readings was “personality.” One asset that our class is currently underutilizing is ourselves, integrating our own personalities into our project. A main objective of this project is to “bridge” the campus community to South Madison. Are we not college students that could make the first steps across this divide? Using the established social media platforms of Twitter and Facebook, our class could post a weekly “about us” piece that features a classmate’s favorite ethnic restaurant in the South Madison community and their favorite ethnic recipe. Not only does this begin to establish a “personality” for our project, it helps to make us more recognizable to the community members. When members of the class visited establishments in the South Madison community, many owners were hesitant to interact with us because they were unsure of who we were. If upon visiting our website, after being directed there by the fabulous flyer the platform team drafted, the South Madisonian was greeted by pictures of faces they could recognize and information that shows our commitment to our project and our interest in their business and community, how reassuring would that be? In addition, it provides an inside glimpse into our personalities that will serve as a first step towards “bridging” the students of the campus community with the South Madisonians.

To complement weekly “about us” pieces posted to the Facebook and Twitter feeds, I think incorporating videos of class collaboration on the project would be beneficial to further establishing our “personality.” Showing clips of the research team’s findings that were presented to the class last week, a brainstorm for a cool promotion, or a trip to South Madison, for example, would accomplish all of the objectives of the “about us” posts. It would exhibit personality, establish credibility, and get people excited about our project.

A new “cutting-edge” technology that I believe will be useful to our class in further establishing a sense of community is Pinterest. A great example of the potential of Pinterest is the Louisiana Restaurant Associations page, http://pinterest.com/larestassoc/. I love the diversity of the Association’s pages. They showcase pictures of “Beautiful Louisiana” alongside pictures of the “NOLA Cocktail Culture” and “Louisiana Culinary Landmarks.” We could easily include pictures of “Beautiful South Madison” alongside pictures of South Madisonians practicing cultural traditions. It would serve to showcase the community to visitors while also displaying the personality and traditions of the different ethnic groups of South Madison.

Though social media provide ample opportunities to build community, one point in the Kanter & Fine piece can not be overlooked. In the article the authors state, “Social media tools can not create friendships. Only people do that through their communications and connections.” We must supplement our social media interactions and efforts with opportunities for face-to-face interaction. Our website cannot serve as an end in itself, but a means to an end.


Going Social for Savor South Madison

Last Thursday, I sent my first personal tweet about Savor South Madison. The message was intended to start generating interest in both our social media and our website, while clearly showing what Savor South Madison was all about.

It read: “if you like food and/or Madison, follow @SavorSouthMad for news and events on S. Madison -based ethnic food. #jschoolprojects”

I didn’t expect the message to gain much traction and obviously the hashtag has room for improvement. But within a half hour retweeted four times. Twice by two other members of this class, but once from another Madison foodie and one Madison television producer.

I’m understanding this to illustrate both interest in and a good start for a campaign, but also how foundational social media giants like Facebook and Twitter are for nonprofits. These “usual suspect” social medias are beginning to play a role in Savor South Madison’s campaign, and I’m hoping will play a much larger role in encouraging both bridging and bonding in Madison.

As Mansfield says in her article on Twitter, social media makes it easy for people who care about similar things to find each other, as well as make an impact in their local communities both online and off.

Our class can also benefit from Mansfield’s recommendation to have a personality on social media. While we should ensure our messages stay as consistent as possible to our overall message, having the Facebook and Twitter platforms change hands between classes is not necessarily a bad thing when you consider each person who tweets can bring their won perspective to what’s going on at the
moment. Followers also get bored with too much of the same information too often, so switching up the social media content can help keep them on their toes and interested in what’s new on the Savor South Madison website.

For non-profits specifically, Mansfield recommends retweeting often as a way to illustrate your generosity and respectfulness. Specifically for Savor South Madison, this process can be both simple and helpful by catering more towards “foodies,” who post recipes, pictures and blog about their own creations or restaurants.

As others have also pointed out, social media is a conversation and interacting more with our followers can benefit both them and us. As they learn more about their communities and perhaps are inspired to be more involved in them, we can help encourage others to interact with each other both online and off.

As for a “cutting-edge” social media technology, a website such as Living Social, which allows users to share deals they find on local restaurants and stores to Facebook and Twitter, could benefit Savor South Madison. Like Jackie Pecquex noted, people can be more easily persuaded to try something new if there’s a deal that goes along with it. If they also have the option to show how adventurous they are to their friends on Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare, this form of social media has the advantage of connecting people through their similar interests and in the process raising awareness of new restaurants.

Overall, Mansfield’s article shows how nonprofits can successfully use social media like Twitter to communicate their honesty and generosity. By incorporating this thought into Savor South Madison’s overall campaign, I think we can make both our website and the South Madison restaurants more relatable and personable.


Twit-pon

If you didn’t already guess, I couldn’t come up with a unique name for this post so I just combined the names of the two technologies I’m talking about. SPOILER ALERT!

One “usual suspect” tool we can use for Savor South Madison is Twitter. Twitter has become almost as popular as Facebook, and it’s becoming known as a credible source for information and news. Mansfield lists a few ways to run a stellar business account on Twitter, and I’d like to bring up a few of those points tailored to SSM.
1) Having personality & building community. It’s important to share opinions and contribute to discussions. One way of doing this is if we follow certain hashtags (or create our own, which was discussed), we can easily contribute to the conversations on Twitter. We can converse with Madison-dwellers and foodies alike.
2) Don’t tweet only your own content. This is so important. Most of us (those that have run social media for an internship/job) have been on both sides of Twitter and know that it gets really boring for followers to see you’re using Twitter purely to market your brand or product. It’s much better to include a mixture of both, also providing relevant information similar to your brand/product. SSM can provide information about events around Madison or healthy recipes, etc.
3) Retweet and reply often. Social media is a conversation – we’re not in the mass comm age anymore! We need to interact with our followers by replying and let them know we value their opinions by retweeting.
4) Tweet 4-6 times per day. I actually disagreed with this guideline. If I follow a brand that tweets this often, I will usually unfollow. I think more along the lines of 1-3 tweets per day, but I’d like to hear others’ input on this.

And now, a “cutting-edge” technology we can use – Groupon. Although Groupon isn’t necessarily “cutting-edge,” it’s newer than Facebook and Twitter and I think it’s well suited to Savor South Madison. Many people are persuaded to try something new if there is a deal on it. By including restaurants (that want to be included, of course) in a South Madison Groupon, we’re encouraging Madison residents to go to the area and form an important first impression about the area which will make them want to come back. We can create a deal such as:
40% (or whatever percentage) off cuisine at the following South Madison restaurants. Or, if we want to encourage bonding we can create one like:
30% off food for a group of 4 or more at the following South Madison restaurants.
I’d be interested to hear your comments on this idea!


Socializing SMadison: Tools for Bridging and Bonding

As everyone knows, the major social media duo currently consists of Facebook and Twitter. Both are accessed daily by millions, both on computers and on mobile devices. Most businesses and organizations have a Twitter profile and a Facebook page through which they try to attract and interact with their target demographic. The problem is that they’re trying to shout over each other in an extremely crowded environment. And it’s only getting worse.

Which makes me think that as Savor South Madison, we need to work slightly outside the box in order to have our voices heard.

To do so, I thought about what SMadisonites wanted the most from a communication network. Seeing as the demographic largely consists of working professionals, they probably want mediums that are fast, cheap (preferably free), and easy to set-up. With this in mind, I believe Groupon and Google+ could prove to be helpful networks to bridge the SMadison community.

There is little that’s more attractive to consumers than saving a good chunk of change on a quality product. That being said, I believe we should talk with SMadison restaurant and ethnic business owners in regards to putting up deals on Groupon. It would be a win-win situation: SMadison business owners would be guaranteed a certain number of sales, and UW-Madison students would be encouraged to check out the district and bring their friends along. While I can’t speak for the entire UW-Madison population, I know a lot of my friends use Groupon often, and it leads them on fun adventures! Groupon is available on any web browser as well as on mobile technologies, and it’s incredibly easy to sign up for an account. I believe the best way to motivate our demographic (young, and craving adventure) to visit SMadison would be to brand the area as mysterious and exciting. Groupon could easily help us achieve that branding.

Google+ may prove to be more of a wildcard, but I still think it can help our mission. How, might you ask? You might not be aware of this change (especially if you do not have a Google+ account), but Google recently announced “Search, plus your World”. In brief, their new system pulls content from both the World Wide Web as well as your Google+ account when anyone tries to make a Google search. (Read more about it here: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/search-plus-your-world.html) Thus, if we were to emphasize Google+ integration with our target base, our content could potentially show up whenever they would try to search about a related concept! Imagine if our Google+ followers wanted to find somewhere to grab a bite to eat in Madison. They search “Madison food” or something like that on Google. Because we used a bit of SEO and chose specific words to label our Google+ post, our result could potentially show up on the TOP of their search results! It would help make content sharing more organic, because it would integrated within their existing digital social circles rather than a separate webpage.

Unfortunately, our greatest opportunity with Google+ is probably also our greatest weakness. It’s simply not a very popular medium. We will have to evaluate whether it is worth our time to create a Savor South Madison Google+ account and regularly post content on it. Or will we take it a step further and actively encourage our demographic to sign up for their own account to connect with us? We also could use the (FREE!) group video chat function on Google+ to have face-to-face conversations with our target. I’m not sure exactly how, but we could probably utilize it in some fashion. Hopefully we can discuss these ideas in class either tomorrow or Thursday.

Questions/comments/other ideas? Let me know what you think in the comments section! Thanks for reading!


#hashtag power and #checkingin

Though I’ll be the first to admit I spend way too much time on Twitter, I’ll never be embarrassed about it. So what I’m saying is, it’s not surprising that I think we can harass the little blue bird and use her for the good of South Madison. In particular, I think we can combine aspects of the Kanter & Fine and Mansfield pieces to connect effectively with the South Madison community. If we want to bridge and bond the community, we need to listen to what’s going on. At least to begin our social media our presence (or, in theory, continue it…), we have to find out what people are already tweeting in and about South Madison.

Enter: hashtags. Hashtags can help us discover the twitter community among South Madison residents and surrounding communities in the city. They are a way we can assess the level of South Madison engagement on Twitter and help us establish a jumping off point for our strategy. We want to see what people are already tweeting — these people are our primary target for twitter (existing users). Our strategy has to address the interests and topics already being discussed while also integrating our new content.

In brainstorming a less “traditional” social media approach, there was really no place I could go but to Mashable. I worship the social media ground Mashable tweets on and as I suspected, they had a case study for something that I was interested in: foursquare. If we want to increase the use of restaurants, grocery stores and community events, rewarding people for checking into foursquare is a great incentive. In particular, Mashable suggests giving away something small. When you offer an incentive, it rewards regular customers and attracts new ones. We can’t necessarily make this project a marketing campaign for eating at the different restaurants. However, we could use foursquare giveaways as a part of events we host. If we facilitate community meals or host the catered event on campus we discussed, a small giveaway could be the incentive we need to get people engaged.


Expressing Gratitude via Social Media

Multimedia social media tools like YouTube and Flicker have been around for a while now, but it’s amazing how underutilized they are in the nonprofit sector. Mansfield emphasized that the key to using these platforms successfully is a combination of creativity and self-motivation.  Furthermore, authenticity is move valuable than perfection, so fear of exposing yourself as an “amateur” is hardly grounds for not producing online content. So long as you’re excited about the raw materials you’ve gathered – video footage, photos, recordings, etc. – this energy will capture your viewers’ attention.  Of course, there are also some simple strategy tips that will also enhance your success. You need to hook your viewer’s attention within the first 10 seconds and should be mindful of their attention span, limiting the entire clip to 2-3 minutes.

Many of our team members have the advantage of video training and we’ve already decided that we’d like to expand our video content on the Savor South Madison website.  As the “second largest search engine in the world, only behind Google,” YouTube is the obvious choice for creating and sharing our videos (Mansfield, 123).  To repeat what has already been mentioned in class, we need to make these videos personable – to showcase the personalities and talents of the chefs and owners, as well as the sensory details of the produce and dishes.

Adding to this video “to do” list, I really liked the idea of creating thank you videos that recognize the good work of participants and foster a sense of communal appreciation.  In the spirit of brainstorming, I thought it could be fun and useful to put together some customer thank you montages in lieu of or in addition to written food reviews.  I imagine interviewing 10 customers who are currently dining (or have just finished dining), perhaps even introducing them to the chef, and asking them to express their reaction to the food and the person who prepared it.  Often times the cooks are not publically recognized, but this interaction between cooks and clients could be more engaging than an isolated profile video of a chef.  Mansfield mentioned the network/community building power of this type of video content. Compliments are flattering and can facilitate both bonding and bridging.

In the attempt to be a bit more innovative on the social media front, I see both Pinterest and Foursquare as viable options.  However, for the sake of exploration, I’d like to pose an alternative social media tool (I’m hoping someone else will flush out these tools in their post).  I am stuck on the concept of tying some element of charity into the Savor South Madison project.  A quick Google search led me to Swipegood.  This tool rounds up your total every time you make a credit or debit card transaction and the added change is donated to a charity.  However, individuals must choose to sign up with Swipegood on their own and they do not get to decide where their money is donated.  But what if business grocery story owners (who don’t depend on tips) could give their customers this option and ensure that it would benefit a local organization in South Madison? So while Swipegood may not best serve our purposes, I think there are elements of it we can look for in other charity-driven social medial tools, or offline charity campaigns that are powered by social media marketing.

While we need to take the socioeconomic demographic of South Madison into consideration, I don’t think it limits our ability to implement the idea of charity into our platform.  So long as this type of activity is compatible with our not-for-profit status, I see it as a great way to build a sense of community.  It’s not always about how much you can give; it’s more about the act of giving and making a personal sacrifice to help others that is fulfilling and empowering.

One other quick though – has anyone looked for a better translation application for the web site?