Final Project in Laravel, Graduation, and Onwards preview

*Whew* this last and final semester was a doozy! I apologize to all who might have wondered if I fell off the face of the planet, but I was taking a full course load (4 classes), and the Capstone class was surely the most time-consuming class I’ve ever had–more like a job. Our Capstone Project was to design a database-driven site in PHP and SQL that had an Admin role, a Member role, and a Visitor view, with each role (visitor being “guest”) showing a bit more depending on hierarchy.


For my Capstone project I chose to do a cookbook, as I’ve been accumulating recipes I’ve made on little pieces of paper in a huge stack in a bookshelf in my kitchen. I took the plunge and coded my project in PHP using the artisan framework Laravel. Laravel for PHP is like JQuery for Javascript–it’s not a language, per se, but a complex library of functions that one can hook into to create applications more quickly and securely–Laravel does some heavy lifting, but has a large learning curve, especially as it is all object-oriented. I could (and probably should) devote a whole blog to Laravel–suffice it to say, learning and coding using Laravel has shifted how I code. It’s cleaner, more elegant, and beautiful, from a code standpoint. You can see my code for the project as well as other documentation like the Style Guide for the site, image sources, SQL code for generating the database (even though I used migrations) at my Github page.

I’m also proud to say that my Capstone site is fully responsive, and I can view it (and even enter recipe directions by voice through the microphone!) on my phone. ¬†Responsiveness was not a requirement, but I felt it was important, being first and foremost a designer, to make it responsive, which, all-in-all, WAS a lot of extra work, as I spent nearly as much time on CSS as I did on PHP (or at least it felt like it, anyways–I could tally it up in my timesheets and find out exactly what the breakdown was). I came up with the design in about 3-4 hours, doing comps in Adobe CC Illustrator and Photoshop, using fonts from Adobe Typekit. I chose purple for the mystical, and the rich golden brown is the same color as cookies just out of the oven ūüėČ

diplomaSo finally, graduation! After three years of hard work, attending college full time (taking a segue from Culinary Arts into Web Technologies towards the beginning), I’ve graduated with an A.A.S. in Web Technologies, able to do development and not just design.

My own portfolio site, however, is woefully out-of-date, being first designed in 2005–ten years ago! Even one year seems ancient in web terms, so ten years is unheard-of, especially for someone purporting to do web design. While I am busy busy trying to catch up on delayed freelance (mostly web design!), I am working on a local install of WordPress on a Mamp server to completely redo my portfolio site from scratch, pulling more recent examples of work, as well as focusing more on web & other skills (i.e. ArcGIS for mapping & geolocation, SEO, and social media) than just on print design.

new Bishop Design logo sneak previewBesides redesigning my site, I am revamping my image as well, having done a logo redesign (see sneak preview at left) and completely changing the color scheme.

For the launch of my new site, I intend to roll this technical blog into my site (though I will keep it here, mirrored, for a while, as well). For my Social Media Marketing class, my final project was to come up with a social media launch to introduce my rebranded site to the world! But first, of course, I have to actually get it up there, which I hope to do within the next couple of weeks (juggling everything else as well, naturally).

I am still adding recipes to my Capstone project site, and also have plans to expand that as well, adding a way for Subscribers (my “Member” view) to access and update their accounts, reset their password, etc. I would also like to redo how recipes on the All Recipes displays using Javascript instead of a simple PHP foreach loop–I simply ran out of time, and need to focus on freelance and my own site, now, but I do want to keep going with the cookbook site, and also transition it into Laravel 5 (instead of 4.2).

The summer is nearly upon us, and I hope to continue using my new skills to practice practice practice, including delving into the more commercial aspect of WordPress, having spent a couple of days troubleshooting a friend’s complicated WooCommerce themed site that someone customized for her in a very convoluted and not-well-documented way. The more I work cleaning up someone else’s code, the more I appreciate good commenting…

Onwards and Upwards!

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Adding APIs to your website


API stands for Application Programming¬†Interface and is a set of protocols and functionality, implemented on an internet connected system, which allows other software (usually apps) to request information and calculations from it. Essentially, APIs help build applications, and function similarly to plugins or widgets for WordPress–they add functionality, but without having to be in a CMS framework. you can plug code right into html–with some javascript and jquery to help, to install APIs into your website or application. They are often the go-betweens in the communication between people and services.


Types of APIs

‚ÄĘ Device specific (iOS, Android, Windows)

‚ÄĘ Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr)

‚ÄĘ Corporate (Google, General Motors, Citrix)

‚ÄĘ Public: (weather, federal job opportunities, US census bureau, Smithsonian)

API by functionality

Chances are, if you need some functionality on your website or application, then someone else before you has too, and has already created a solution. That’s why it’s better to search for an api by functionality first, to see if someone has created and made it available. In many cases, in order to use the api, you will need to go through a few hoops of signing up for an api developer key, but you won’t need to pay for anything (unless your application gets over 10K -25K requests per day through the api), and there are some publicly accessible apis that you can use, also, such as Google Maps through the jquery plugin “goMap.”


To find an api by functionality, simply go to’s search engine and type in what functionality you’re looking for, such as “distance calculator” and “api,” but you might get a bunch of forum results. You can target specific types of websites by including “sites:gov” in your search, but another approach is to search using “sdk” instead of “api.” SDK stands for “Software Development Kit” and is also referred to as “devkit.” This can bring up more specifically software development-oriented query results.


Social Media APIs

Many of the Social Media platforms, in order to make it as easy to connect to their content as possible, offer a lot of functionality through API support. With Facebook APIs, for example, you can log in, process payments, place advertisements, utilize a gaming interface–all facilitating integration, marketing, monetization, and distribution of content. You have to register as a developer with most social media platforms, but again, it’s free, and the documentation for most of them is quite thorough.


Coding support for APIs

‚ÄĘ Facebook: iOS, Android, JavaScript, PHP, Unity

‚ÄĘ Twitter: REST API; Java for Streaming API

‚ÄĘ Flickr: REST API


“Sharing is Caring”

Share ButtonThe most prevalent use of APIs in social media, however, is sharing content, which we’ll get to in a moment through using a third party set of APIs through AddThis. In fact, besides sharing content, through various APIs you can also get content as well as edit content. For instance, you could create a gallery in Flickr and stream that into your web application, formatting the presentation through javascript, utilizing meta data (it photo title, date taken, etc.) for each photo. Placing a map on your webpage using goMap to draw in public data is another way to “get” content, from Google itself, as well as include functionality, making the map detail scalable, draggable, change the map style (satellite instead of street view, for instance), add a marker with details, etc.


AddThis APIs

AddThis offers a free set of APIs for some basic functionality, and more bells & whistles for a subscription (“Go Pro”). You can sign up at their website to get an api key, and they will walk you through where to put the code in your web application. You have to make sure that you work in a browser that does not have the plugin Adblock installed, however, as the AddThis dashboard may show up completely blank, and will also not likely see any of the results of inputting the code, either. As soon as you sign up and access your dashboard, you will see a code pop up to put in your header to link to AddThis for the APIs.


The¬†dashboard has two tabs, one that shows Analytics for the past two weeks,¬†and a Tool Gallery on the other (which is usually what pops up first, because when you first sign up, there are no analytics to show). These tools fall into four categories, Share, Follow, Recommended Content, and Conversion. While some of them will display on a plain html page not hosted on a site, many of them (such as the free conversion tool that pops up a “welcome header” on landing on the site) require that the website be hosted and associated with a domain. It is through the AddThis¬†>¬†Dashboard > Tool Gallery that you actually configure your tools, so the tools will be consistent throughout your site, but you can choose where you place them.addthis_sharing_btns

Naturally, there is a lot of documentation available, and in the Default Code example, you just need to know what your api code–or profile id code in this case–to plug in.


The Actual Code

Once you configure a tool, a dialog box will pop up with specific instructions of what to put in the head, and what to put in the body. Basically, you link to your profile in the header, while putting an empty div with an id in the body where you want it to go in your page. Here is the code placed in the header (with the id blurred):


And here it is in the body–the rectangles delineate which code goes with which set of sharing tools. The Vertical Sharing takes much more code because it is configuring for the individual links.


The resulting web page (I know, it’s really simple!) then looks like this:


You would be able to get more functionality into a hosted page, naturally, as this is a free-standing html document that’s just done for an exercise. Enjoy!


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Facebook’s Business Pages Analytics

Using Facebook for Business


I know, I know, you probably don’t want your employees on Facebook during working hours, and certainly, if you are an employee, you don’t want your boss catching you on Facebook! But, let’s face it, Facebook is tremendously popular, having over 1 billion users and 55% global penetration rate as of mid 2013.1 With that exposure and audience, your business can’t afford NOT to be on Facebook, if only to increase brand awareness in a popular medium. There are nearly 700 million users on Facebook every day, with an average of 645 million weekly local business page views. Once you build an audience, your impact increases.

Setting up a Business Page on Facebook

With Facebook, you actually have to have a personal account before you can set up a business account. You can set the privacy of your personal account to be quite private, however, whereas business pages are public by default, and will not be obviously associated with your private personal account. Once you create a business page, however, you can use Facebook’s Business Manager to add other associates from your business into the administration of the business page you’ve created.


To set up a Business Page, go to the Home page of your personal account,¬†under ‚ÄúPages‚ÄĚ on the left hand side, choose ‚ÄúCreate Page.‚Ä̬†From there Facebook will step you through your new page, give you a tour of how to put the cover image (large background image) and profile image (small thumbnail), just as with Personal pages.

Thereafter, any time you come to your business page, you will get popups about your business page analytics. There are four tabs in the upper left that show you your Page, Activity, Insights (the main analytic page), and Settings.

Facebook Insights

Insights has a series of sub tabs: Overview, Likes, Reach, Visits, Posts, and People. Each subtab page present information in graphs, which you can mouse over for more information. On the overview, if you click for more information, you will be taken to the appropriate subpage (ie. Reach) for more in-depth information.


In the upper right are some helpful tabs such as Export, Build Audience, and Help. Export will let you export insights data for the page you are on, which would be very useful for building a presentation of how a media campaign is doing. Build Audience gives a dropdown of several different ways to get page likes, such as inviting your friends to like your page, importing contacts, or signing up for ads for your Facebook page or your business website.

The subpages Posts and People each have their own subtabs for how to filter information, such as by post type, when fans are online, and top posts, as well as your fans’ demographics, people reached, etc.


Post Reach: Total reach is the number of unique people who have seen any content associated with your page during the last 7 days. You can mouse over the graph and see how many are ‚Äúorganic‚ÄĚ or paid. Organic reach is the total number of unique people who were shown your post through unpaid distribution. Paid reach is the total number of unique people who were shown your post as a result of ads.


Engagement: People Engaged is the number of unique people who have clicked, liked, commented on or shared your posts during the last 7 days. Likes, Comments, Shares and Post Clicks show the totals for these actions during the last 7 days.


Page Likes: Total Pages Likes is number of unique people who like your Page. New Page Likes shows the number of new likes your Page received during the last 7 days, compared with the previous 7-day period.

Monthly fan size growth: Record the number of fans you have on the first of every month to see what your growth looks like.

Unlikes and attrition rate: Daily Unlikes / Daily Fan Count. Will tell you how many fans are leaving your site (or that you’re not reaching). Good to correlate the activity of your page with the amount of people leaving your site.

Demographics: The gender of your fans, their ages and where they are from

Page Views: Distinguishes between returning page views (people coming back to your site) from unique page vies and shows this on a graph over a 7 day period.

Mentions: Number of times someone tags you in their post

Tab views: If you have multiple tabs on your page it will tell you which tab gets what percentage of traffic.

Referrers: Tells you were the traffic to your page comes from. You want to increase exposure to your page on the sites that bring you the most traffic.

Impressions: If your page is over 10,000 fans, you will see the number of times your post was viewed = impressions. This metric is not exact since every time someone’s page refreshes, it counts as an impression. This number is usually a little overblown, but can show you how many times your post has been seen.

Facebook Business Manager


If you have a larger business, you’ll probably want to use Facebook Business Manager to have multiple employees administering your Facebook business page. Business Manager is only tied to a business page, NOT to a personal page. To set up Facebook Business Manager, to to, scroll down, and click “Get Started.”


From there you’ll be guided through a series of steps and prompted to provide¬†more specific information about your business.


1. Why Facebook? (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2014, from

Walter, E. (2010, September 3). A Beginner’s Guide to Facebook Insights. Retrieved October 21, 2014, from

Van Grove, J. (2010, July 7). Facebook Launches New Analytics for “Like” Data. Retrieved October 21, 2014, from

About Page Insights. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2014, from

Business Manager FAQ. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2014, from

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How to Engage Your Customers Through Social Media

How to Engage Your Customers Through Social Media


What does it take to start a conversation?

Face it, social media can feel like a bit of a blind date¬†sometimes–there’s no guarantee that you’ll get a response, or what the response will be, positive or negative. But, rather than be discouraged, or stop before you start, consider that honing your message will help a great deal–putting goals in place before you start for what type of exposure, engagement, and interest you’d like to create, and defining measurable metrics that coincide with your business goals.


More Good Content, Less “Selling”

Content is still King. While “ROI” (Return On Investment) means “King” in French, it’s Content that will attract an audience. “What you put out, is what you get back” plays out in a very literal sense when it comes to social media, and people have been sold to, advertised to so much that they’re fed up with it. They don’t want to be preached to, treated as “consumers” (rather a dehumanizing word, really), bombarded with ads all the time. At the same time, people have needs that need filling, issues that need to be resolved, and it could be that your business could help them–without being overbearingly. Engage, not enrage!

Catching Attention–Be Interesting

People¬†are more apt to pay attention to what they’re interested in. George Takei has a nearly 8 Million fans of his Facebook page (that’s a lot of influence!), and mostly what he posts is humor. In fact, I notice that most of what he posts, fans have posted on his wall and he reposts–so he’s reached a level of influence that content is even provided for him by eager fans (who’d like for their post to be noticed by¬†7,834,245 people, especially by Takei, himself). Good imagery is key, too, as well as interesting videos. And of course, relevant content with information that people can use is also key–for then people will be referencing your site.


The most interesting content seems to be the creative, out-of-the box content, that either cause people a shift in perspective, perhaps through being startling, or clever, or that which provokes an emotional response (laughter is the emotional response to humor). One thing to remember is, that while people are interacting with social media through computers, phones and tablets, it is still human beings on the receiving end–human nature still comes very much into play. And human nature has not changed that much in a few hundred years.

Respond Promptly To Comments

Once that conversation gets rolling, with participation, be sure to answer back promptly, whether it’s a comment on a blog your business has, or on a Facebook post, tweet, what have you–conversation is a two-way street, and even a complaint can lead to a converted, satisfied customer, provided you address their concerns in a timely and appropriate manner. Many businesses are now using social media for their customer care–it can be a very important touchpoint. While the expense of having teams of people monitoring various social media outlets to field issues (and they have to have access to operations to do this effectively, so internal communications have to be in place), it’s potentially less expensive than maintaining a call center to handle the same sorts of issues–without the annoying voicemail prompts for the customer.


Measuring Results

3d numbers explodedSo how do we measure customer engagement? Reach? Influence? Impact? How do we make sense of the senseless jumble of numbers of likes, shares, pins, tweets & retweets, etc? How do you quantify conversations? From a business standpoint, how does this translate into¬†money? Well, it doesn’t, at least not right away. But with “word of mouth” happening on a global scale, you can bet that eventually, it will. And you want to join in on that conversation, influence it when you can, because the whole conversation is out of your hands. The best you can do is take the wind that fills your sails, and steer.

Metrics Vs. Key Performance Indicators

Metrics are the details, the numbers, the “likes, tweets, posts, pins, followers, visits, views, comments,” etc. They are derived from analytics, and many social media platforms offer great ways to visually represent them over a period of time in graphs, so that you can observe trends.


Key Performance Indicators, on the other hand, is more like “the big picture”–metrics are the trees, but KPI is the forest, so you can step back and see what your data is telling you. How are people engaging? Who is engaging? (demographics) How often? Do they “bounce off” or click through to your blog or webpage? You can tell more from trends than you can the numbers themselves. If you set benchmarks for yourself–based on a starting baseline of where your business is at now, and where you’d like to be in 3-6 months, for instance, KPIs can be useful to pinpoint what needs more work, or what is working.



For instance, if your business is getting a lot of click throughs from a call-to-action from Facebook to your website, but those are quickly leaving your site (bounce-rate) without going further, it could be there’s an issue with your landing page, such as being unclear or has a frustrating¬†to a user.

Various Levels of KPIs

Just like the marketing funnel, there are funnels for social media and KPIs as well. One starts out with Exposure (Awareness), moves into Dialogue with customers, then Interaction, Support, Advocacy (when others are talking up your product or service and essentially selling you to their friends, and finally, Innovation.

KPI funnel



Reach is how far your message extends, how big your audience is (in George Takei’s case, for instance, that would be nearly 8 million just on Facebook). Velocity is the speed at which something travels over social media over time. “Viral,” for instance, has an exponential velocity. It’s a good idea to start promoting a product before it launches, to increase interest–a “teaser,” if you will, and that can spark velocity, as well. Share of voice is the percent¬†that your brand/business is mentioned through social channels. My last blog has some ideas on how to track this and other KPIs.

Dialogue is where the conversations start to happen, with audience engagement, posts, sharing, linking back, etc. Conversation volume can be measured by the unique visitors exposed to a brand across various social media channels. Interaction gets sparked from here, Support picks up the pieces if any get broken along the way, and Advocacy will keep your brand alive, by sharing and feeding back into exposure, contributing to conversations–just keep them happy, at all costs! Find your advocates and nurture them, if possible. If they blog, and like your product, send them more, so that they can write up about your company and then their fan base may tack on to your fan base. Advocates can help your impact in the social media market most of all, and impact is what leads to sales, which is, after all, the bottom line. And they don’t do it through “selling”–that’s the best part, but by simply liking and sharing.


Lovett, John N. “Embracing Social Analytics” & “Using the Social Analytics Framework.” Social Media Metrics Secrets Do What You Never Thought Possible with Social Media Metrics. Indianapolis, Ind.: Wiley Pub., 2011. Print.

Evans, Dave D. “Objectives, Metrics, and ROI.” Social Media Marketing an Hour a Day 2nd Edition. 2nd ed. Indianapolis, IN: Wiley, 2012. Print.

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Social Media Campaigns

An overview of a Whole Foods media campaign


A month ago, Whole Foods, in an effort to counter their image as over-priced, expensive food for elite people who could afford it, invited several food bloggers to take their “Whole Foods Hacks Challenge” and create a menu with 14 meals to feed a family of four on $125 a week.

Bloggers who participated:

Happy Strong Home 

Sodium Girl 

Just A Taste

Big Girls Small Kitchen

Trying to do away with the stigma

Whole Foods was largely established by John Mackey, CEO and co-founder, mainly because he was passionate about food and eating healthy, and wanted to offer healthy eating choices to people, for he, himself, had grown up largely on TV dinners. Now, that’s a great personal perspective to come from, and usually he would be a great proponent of his own store, except that when you combine his “hippie demeanor” with extreme, right-wing libertarianism (Ayn Rand is one of his role models) you have a complete disconnect with many of the potential market who would shop at Whole Foods, which has a largely liberal, left-wing customer base.

Combine this disconnect with outspoken missives, and you have a PR nightmare. John Mackey has been described by Gary Hirshberg, the C.E.O. of Stonyfield, ‚ÄúHe is Whole Foods management‚Äôs greatest asset but also, at times, its greatest challenge.‚ÄĚ It didn’t help when Mackey compared Obamacare to “fascism” and said that people who couldn’t afford healthcare should eat at Whole Foods, instead. (I thought that I’d read once that he even claimed only people who could afford to shop at Whole Foods deserved to have decent food, but I cannot find the reference now).

This right-wing, outspoken, self-serving banter by the co-founder and C.E.O., paired with Whole Foods’ tendency to buy out the competition and then jack up prices, (many items rose by 15-20% after they absorbed Wild Oats), has earned Whole Foods the reputation of elitist health food, only affordable by a few. Many health food stores sell higher quality merchandise, hence, more expensive, but Whole Foods is often called (at least by my sister-in-law) as “Whole Paycheck.” (Similarly, another local health food chain here, Earth Fare, used to be called “Dinner for the Earth,” but was called “Dinner for the Rich” by the locals, until they changed their name). The extreme Corporate culture (embraced by Mackey, who believes in Capitalism whole-heartedly) only exacerbates the divide between “affordable, healthy food” and libertarian, “only those with money deserve to have good food”, corporate elitism.

How to overcome the negative image?

Well, Whole Foods DOES have some good deals. Particularly on Friday. And the bloggers who participated were quick to point out how to utilize specials, coupons, buy-outs, etc. Of these, Julie of Happy Strong Home¬† surpassed the goal of creating 14 meals by creating 18 delicious-looking meals and was very enthusiastic about the whole campaign. Her passion was to eat healthy food, and several years ago, they’d switched to all organic and whole foods and at first they were in a bit of “sticker shock.”

I’m sure that in participating in the challenge, she was essentially gifted with that $125/wk grocery expenditure. I hope so, anyway. $500 per blogger is not a large expenditure for a large, profitable corporation like Whole Foods, and the repairing the image can be priceless. Bloggers also received Whole Foods Gift cards to give away on their sites, so it was truly a win-win situation.

Did it work?

We can examine the impact of the campaign by looking at several social media “listening” tools. But let’s start first at the blogger’s site itself, which has a handy “social media icon sharing” toolbar, with numbers referencing how many times people have interacted with this site to actively share this article with their friends.


From there, we can head over first to¬†and type in the words “How I fed my family (of¬†4)¬†on @125 a week at Whole Foods”


strength-explainedMostly what comes up is links to where this phrase is mentioned, but in the upper left, we get an immediately-useful block of information, namely strength, sentiment, passion, and reach.

If you mouse over each one, you get an explanation of how that “score” is determined.

Another listening tool is by Google (of course), and while Google Analytics is awesome for tracking stats on your own site, Google Social Search is how you can track specific social platforms/channels for mention of the search phrase. As we can see, this campaign seems to be strongest on Facebook, with 2390 results as opposed to 56 for Twitter and 88 for Google+.


Going more in-depth

But what if we want more information? What if we want to see how our competitor’s sites are doing? What their demographic is? Hit count, bounce rate (times people have navigated to the site only to “bounce” immediately off without engaging), etc.?


In my quest for more information, I discovered Alexa, which provides a lot of information for free, and even more for sale. I could not find the specific social media campaign by the search phrase that I used for the other social listeners, above, but what Alexa DID do was find the most prominent of the blogger’s sites to profile, instead.


As you can see, we can tell a lot from just looking at the blog stats to see who is being exposed to this social media campaign–mostly women with some college, mostly browsing from home, and primarily in the US.


Scroll down and you get even more stats, such as where people are finding the blog, such as organic searches and social media platforms. It’s good to know, in a social media campaign, which platforms are performing well, and which ones could use improvement.

In Conclusion

In my mind, the jury’s still out on the effectiveness of this campaign. Looking through some of the comments on the Whole Foods Facebook page about it, some people are enthusiastic, while others are still saying it’s too expensive, and even $125 a week is out of their budget. But then, it looks to be a recent campaign, so it could pick up steam. At least the conversation has started, and there are some yummy new recipes to explore on a budget, so we all benefit.


Paumgarten, Nick. “Food Fighter – The New Yorker.” The New Yorker. 4 Jan. 2010. Web. 2¬†Oct. 2014. <>.

Tzimisce. “The View from a Former Whole Foods Employee (Updated).” The View from a Former Whole Foods Employee (Updated). 13 Aug. 2009. Web. 2 Oct. 2014. <>.

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The Marketer’s Dilemma

The Marketer’s Dilemma

social media icons as game pieces

Times have¬†changed, and the rise of the internet and interconnectivity of the World Wide Web has played a huge part in that change. The marketer’s¬†dilemma is to adapt to the changing world environment–that is, the rise of social media as an advertising platform.

What’s Different About Social Media?

Some companies have been resisting addition of¬†social media for marketing, but change is inexorable, and it is better to get ahead on the emergent paradigm than to rest on laurels–trust me, I’m a print designer. I know all about letting change and technology progressing and turning a blind eye until suddenly, the market has changed. It’s not pretty. “It’s easier to keep up than catch up” the old adage goes, and all of the old marketing dogs are busy learning new tricks to keep up with the business.

One to many versus many to many

The tables have turned–with the rise of Social Media and peer-to-peer (many-to-many) sharing of information, opinions, ideas, and experience, a large portion of the internet-connected population have now become self-empowered. Old sales ideas (one-to-many broadcast) just don’t work anymore.¬†People don’t want to be bludgeoned over the head with sales pitches every time they interact socially online.

How Intrusive Marketing Soured People to Aggressive Advertising

There has been an extreme push-back against aggressive online marketing, especially since the advent of SPAM emails flooding people’s inboxes, intrusive, of little to no value (entertainment or¬† information), and possibly shutting down servers, filling email inboxes (which had smaller limits in the early days), interrupting service, through server overload.¬†People like to think they have some control over what comes into their inbox (after all, in the early to mid 90s, often they were paying for bandwidth, and hence paying for everything that came into their inbox). It’s not the same as turning on the TV and taking the ads along with the programming (the advertising on TV, as well, has increased exponentially). Spam emails, as well as obnoxious ad pop-ups, interrupted work flow, and¬†really woke most people up to the fact that, hey, this is not okay, and wow, advertising is getting to be really annoying, especially when it’s constantly in one’s¬†face.

Monty Python "I don't like SPAM!" scene

If it’s that annoying and intrusive, who is really going to want to buy the product? The best marketing is simply to provide good value, something useful, interesting, necessary–give people a compelling reason to visit your site, your store, buy your product–without being overbearing about it. This aversion and overload caused a bit of push-back to even traditional advertising, causing advertisers to inject more interest & entertainment into their commercials, into their ad campaigns. (Think: Super Bowl commercials)

transparent piggy bank

New Marketing: Transparent & Honest

Not only does marketing have to be interesting, it needs transparency and honesty, too. Consumers are a lot more empowered and educated, as stated above, and have now lost their tolerance for being manipulated. There are a multitude of consumer watchdog groups,¬†and there are more and more online resources¬†available for people to do their own research. The days of people being spoon-fed information that they take at face value are over.¬†Increasingly, one¬†of the biggest red flags for people are studies about a product that are paid for by the industry selling the product. “Follow the Money” is a good way to gauge whether there is a conflict of interest involved, or if someone posing as a customer is actually a paid marketer/actor. When people find out they’ve been duped, and the company doesn’t admit it until forced to, it back-fires.

patent_medicineThe same thing about intrusive advertising applies to deceptive advertising–if you have to lie to sell your product, then why should people buy it?¬†Take Monsanto, for example.¬†Putting aside for the moment even the numerous allegations¬†that they tweak study results to reflect well on GMOs and sue small farmers for their seeds migrating into their fields and sprouting, isn’t it enough that Monsanto pours millions of dollars into initiatives aimed at keeping GMOs from being labeled? If they don’t have the transparency to let people even know¬†GMOs are in¬†products, then what does that show about GMOs? That’s one reason there’s been a huge push-back against Monsanto. They essentially have to trick people into eating their product.


Advantages of Social Media Marketing

Okay, so we’ve talked about some of the challenges and issues with marketing in an informed-consumer world, let’s talk about some of the advantages.

Big Data Makes Advertising Even More Tailored

In the old days of TV advertising, or even radio, ads were geared towards a target demographic of people most thought to watch the shows (such as laundry soap commercials aimed at bored housewives watching “Soap Operas” during the day). With the emergent “Big Data” phenomenon, and computing power, and people browsing on personal computers, phones and tablets, advertising can be tailored specifically based on what people have “liked” in the past, what they’ve bought in the past, or even looked at in the past.¬†Amazon uses this a lot to send out targeted emails to users at least once a week, if not more, and yes, even while that’s annoying, at least Amazon makes more intelligent guesses at what someone purchasing one item will want to accompany that item–based on other people buying the same thing, and then also buying other things to go with it (such as a cookbook for dried food with the purchase of a food dehydrator, for instance).

Minority Report scene from the Gap

A little annoying, and for some, creepy (that nothing seems to be private any more–in fact, the technology of advertising in Minority Report is starting to be implemented now), but, at the same time, potentially useful, making buying much easier online–and that, of course, is one goal of online marketing, to make the experience as smooth and seamless as possible. So now, with targeted ads based on past preferences (and analogous preferences of friends or people who have made similar purchases), at least the advertising is more relevant.

With Peer-to-Peer Marketing, Sources are Trusted

The thing is, with someone¬†endorsing something they’ve tried, their friends are more likely to try it too, because (unless their friend is a paid marketer for a company) it’s a disinterested source, not out for gain, and hey, they have things in common, so maybe that would be a good fit, who knows? “Word of mouth” is an age-old idea, actually. Remember the Clairol commercial from the 70s that went, “And they told two friends, and they told two friends” with the exponentially-growing number of photographs of women? So imagine that, with a global conversation going on. It’s mind-boggling. There really is a lot of potential.


It’s a Truly Global Community, Which Opens the Market Worldwide

I have friends on Facebook in other countries. I did meet them in real life (traveling through Europe, years ago), but it’s nice to be able to keep up with them, miles and years away. That’s what a social media platform does–it helps people to connect, no matter what the distance, as long as there’s internet. “Reach out and touch someone” (another ad slogan–recognize it?) is more true today than ever.¬†I’m starting to question whether it’s even as high as six degrees of separation connecting everyone on the planet. It’s a small world.

One aspect of having a global community interacting is the rise of Open Source. Open Source software is free, is collaborated on by people around the world for the joy of improving an idea, a product, that is not out there for profit. There are Open Source solutions for a lot of paid software nowadays. Gimp is getting to be a very popular alternative to Photoshop for people who just want to edit photos for fun (it’s harder to take those photos to print–but they can easily be used online). I mention this because Open Source is the wave of the future–a model that does not depend on financial gain, (at least initially) but rather, the love of designing a solution for its own sake. I say, “initially,” because once an Open Source idea catches on, say, like WordPress, for instance, the blogging engine supporting this blog, then marketing opportunities get created for peripheral functionality (ie plugins) and in some cases documentation and support–there are a lot of web designers now making a healthy living designing WordPress sites. And that’s just one example. The point is, with Open Source, there are new potential markets opening up all the time, all over the world–the trick is knowing what people need, what will help people, and that is the idea/product that will catch on.

Speaking of catching on, there’s also the¬†new phenomenon¬†today called “Going Viral”–a marketer’s wet dream (unless, of course, it’s bad publicity…). Justin Bieber “made it” by having his videos go viral and hence he was discovered. It’s an interesting phenomenon to observe, however, and I wonder if there’ll be backlash agains it in the future. Memes were going viral for a while–it’s like a fad, but with worldwide and incredibly fast¬†consequences.

Marketing Just Got a Bit Less Expensive

So, while advertising still costs money, even on social media networks, interacting with people one-on-one is free.¬†They do, however, take manpower, and keeping on top of things, as well as savvy to have interactions go well. But for this reason, a lot of big companies will do a lot of customer service through Social Media.¬†It is enormously effective, if a company responds in a timely manner. I have been pleasantly-surprised at first to complain on a business Facebook page to have an answer within a couple of hours. Now, however, I start to expect it–so customer expectations are raised, but damage control without phone expense is really valuable. Because one good customer service scenario can win a customer back, and get them to talk about you to their friends. Failure to respond, on the other hand, can be fatal.


moving_targetIn closing, I would offer a couple of points. First of all, learn from your mistakes. This is still an experimental field, changing rapidly day by day with emerging new technologies. While some may claim to be (and may actually be) experts in the field, the social media scene is a moving target, with memes that come and go. Have fun with it!

Secondly,¬†provide value through a stream of content and creativity–entertainment value, educational value–make it worth people’s while to visit your social media sites. Give people something to talk about–start the conversation, and step back and let the brainstorming begin. This allows people to participate, which always encourages interaction. Participation is not limited–anyone with access to the internet (and the site is not blocked by the government) can interact, anywhere in the world.

Always say "to whom" -- never say "to who"

Screenshot from “Word Crimes” by Weird Al Yankovic on Vevo

For inspiration, I offer the story of Weird Al’s recent media launch of his new album, Mandatory Fun. Teaming up with Truscribe Whiteboard Videos, College Humor, and possibly some others, released, over the period of one week, one superbly-clever video a day during his initial album release, with a special price of $6.99 during the week release (I’m sorry I didn’t take advantage of it then!). Each video is¬†really well done, with a completely different style for each, and each is so clever, so entertaining, that I had to watch several of them repeatedly (in awe of some of the animation in Word Crimes), until the songs got stuck in my head. Ooops. And then I was sold. To have a song go through your head…well…that’s how old ad jingles got so popular in the first place. But the campaign certainly worked–Weird Al’s album debuted at the Number One spot on¬†Billboard’s Top 200–the first time a comedy album has EVER debuted at Number One, and the last time a ¬†comedy album even hit¬†Billboard’s Top 200 was in 1963, the year Kennedy was shot (Al Sherman’s album My Sun, the Nut). I present, therefore, Weird Al’s Mission Statement.¬†Enjoy.


Evans, Dave D. “Chapters 1 & 2.” Social Media Marketing an Hour a Day 2nd Edition. 2nd ed. Indianapolis, IN: Wiley, 2012. Print.

Lovett, John N. “Going Pro With Social Media.” Social Media Metrics Secrets Do What You Never Thought Possible with Social Media Metrics. Indianapolis, Ind.: Wiley Pub., 2011. Print.

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WordPress User Manual

I’m excited to offer this WordPress User Manual to my clients, to help them edit, add, and maintain content on their pages. It is geared towards the User role of “Editor” and not Admin, so is scaled down from what it takes to create a site–it is more geared towards helping customers keep up the content of the site.

It is a detailed, 14 page pdf, and the link to download it (hopefully!) is below:


What is in this Guide:

About this guide
Introduction to WordPress
Logging in
The Dashboard
Adding Content
Categories and Tags (Taxonomy organization)
Using the Editor
Visual Editor
Text Editor
Adding Media
Media Library
Editing photos in WordPress
Embedding video
Publishing Post & Pages
Moderating Comments

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