Babbling B’s Blog

Despite all this talk about goals and the New Year, running hasn’t been at the top of my list. I have a lot going on, and running’s often the first thing to slide (not to mention I’m a fair-weather runner and despise treadmills:) ).

Yesterday I ran across another reason to love Nike+. I decided to end my 3-month running hiatus and start incorporate running into my workout routine again. My first run was slow, but it felt great!

Of course, I took my trusty iPod Nano and logged my run with the Nike+ system.  I returned from the run and immediately plugged my iPod into my computer so I could let all my Facebook and Twitter friends see what I’d done. Then I went to the Nike+ website to review my run.

I didn’t expect what I saw: there was a screen congratulating me on great 2009! It had a list of my accomplishments and stats:

  • I ran a total of 173 miles
  • I burned 12,834 calories
  • My average pace was 8:43/mi
  • Most of my runs were ‘Awesome’
  • I ran the most on Mondays
  • I usually ran in the mornings

How cool is that? Share on Facebook? Why yes, yes I will! I would’ve never known these accomplishments if I hadn’t had Nike+.

My new motivation? I have to beat my 2009 numbers!

My 2009 Running Rundown

About six months ago, we launched a social media strategy at my company. It’s been an interesting process that I’ve been dying to share with everyone. I’m no expert, but I think there’s a lot of value in sharing my process. Twitter has been the most interesting, so we’ll start there.

Step 1: Define Strategy
This is the part where you have to prove: Why Twitter? Twitter was a good fit for our company for a few major reasons: Our competitors were active, our customers were present and talking about us, and it would be a good channel to expand communication and participate in the conversation.  Twitter can be used for communications, customer support, thought leadership or promotions. If you’re not 100% sure which strategy will work best, don’t worry.  Your community will drive you to what they want.

Step 2: Monitor
Through the initial research for strategy, I set up searches in Twitter so I could keep an eye on what people were saying. I found industry leaders and key customers on Twitter so I could see what they were talking about and what they were saying about us. I monitored what the competition did and what people were saying about them. I truly think this is one of the most important parts of social media, and proving active communities piques management’s interest.

Step 3: Educate
Start spreading the news! Oftentimes, you’ll have to present, explain and evangelize Twitter – it’s not always easy for your company’s stakeholders to understand. I really did Steps 1-3 simultaneously, leading to…

Step 4: Gain Buy-in and Write the Plan
When I knew things were catching on, I started tying together the monitoring and strategy into a formal plan, addressing the concerns you’ve come across in the process. Make sure you have everything in Step 5 and 6 outlined so that it’s easy to implement once you have signoff!

Step 5: Build an Editorial Calendar and Crisis Plan
Once you’ve brought everything together and gained the buy-in, make sure you have developed a crisis plan to tackle negative comments. For us, it was making sure I had a chain of command with backups so I could quickly address questions that I may not be able to answer myself. I also built a 90-day editorial calendar to prove we had enough content to provide value, keep the content fresh and slowly generate conversation.

Step 6: Build Your Profile
Now comes the fun part! You should have everything specified for your profile, including your profile name, webpage you plan to link to, a short bio and a background to pretty up your page!

Step 7: Posting and Profile Management
Start posting! You’ll probably want to find a tool to use to manage your account and track your posting. One that I use is Hootsuite. It has a built-in URL shortener, it’s easy to track clicks on your URLs and very easy to set up your monitoring  – so everything is in one spot!

Step 8: Promote
Emails, press releases, websites, email signatures… include Twitter in everything so you build your network! You can also use lots of widgets to cross-post your Twitter content to your websites, blogs, Facebook pages, etc.

Step 9: Engage
Now that you’ve posted, start engaging. Begin responding to those that are posting about your company – both good and bad. You’ll be surprised how quickly the negative comments are turned around!

Step 10: Repeat
Start over. Reassess and continue to tweak processes. Continue to engage. Your customers will let you know what information they want from you. This isn’t a one-time deal – this is an ongoing investment in your customer community.

The new year is always an interesting time. It’s a time of reflection on the past year, and a time of inspiration for what you can accomplish in the new year.

I’m not one for resolutions, but I am a planner. I’m always looking ahead, always planning. However, this year’s a little strange. No milestone birthdays. No big life events.

When I look back on the year, I’ve accomplished so much. I’m nearly halfway done with graduate school. I’m an active participant and volunteer for great professional groups (Chicago American Marketing Association and Chicago Social Media Club). I’ve immersed myself in social media and I love it. On a personal note, I got engaged to the man who I think is the best guy in the world.

So what do I do? Do I coast?

I spent a lot of time thinking, and I don’t think so. I think 2010 is my year to push the limits. I’m setting the bar a little higher. Care to join me?

Image from the Huffington Post

I’ve only been engaged for about 3 months now, but I’ve done a TON of research online. Since I’m planning a Florida wedding from Chicago, I have lots to research so I can capitalize on my few trips to Florida between now and our April 30, 2011 wedding.

Planning from afar can be tough and you have to make a lot of judgments by photos and email correspondence alone. However, I have figured out some ways to cut through the clutter and I figured I’d share my findings, along with specific examples (most are going to be in the Pensacola/Panama City area, but you’ll get the idea).

1) Standard Wedding Planning Websites: Of course, TheKnot.com is a favorite and always recommended. I spent a ton of time on here to begin with, but soon became a little bored with the site. Since I’m interested in doing as much DIY as possible, I’ve really became a huge fan of MarthaStewartWeddings.com – plus their budget tool is the best one I’ve tried so far.

2) Photography/Event Planner blogs: This is my biggest finding and what I’ve been telling all my friends to check out (FYI I have TEN weddings to attend in 2010…). Photography and Event Planner blogs are great for ideas and getting a feel for what kind of wedding and photographers you want. It’s the perfect way for these businesses to showcase what they can do, and it’s a great way to get a taste of their style – not to mention you almost feel like you’re getting to know them by reading their blog posts. Personally, I’ve found that I definitely want a casual, intimate beach wedding, and I’ve learned I’m looking for a more photojournalistic photography style. No need for too many posed shots as far as I’m concerned – bring on the candids at our fun beach party!
Faves: CookImages.comMeg Baisden Photography, Pure 7 Studios, Shelby Peaden EventsBliss Event Group

3) Wedding Communities/Blogs: I’ve joined two wedding communities AND these communities happen to have awesome blogs as well: StyleMePretty.com and Marry Me at the Beach (just starting up). I would definitely recommend finding communities that fit your needs – these ones combine basic forums with photos and profiles to make it more of a dynamic experience to find brides with similar interests to you.

Next Time: Twitter. I haven’t gotten to a point where I’ve really built up my Twitter Wedding network yet, but that’s next on my list. Any suggestions?

Painting the Blue Moon Mural!

That's me... Painting the Blue Moon Mural!

Do brands ever do something that really catch your eye? Make you notice them? Actually engage you? It doesn’t happen often, so I was impressed when Blue Moon caught my attention not once, but twice.

Long ago (this past fall), in a place far, far away (Milwaukee), I was given a paintbrush and told I’d be painting a masterpiece. Right there at the Milwaukee Wine Festival, as I drank a Blue Moon Belgian White Ale in the Blue Moon Brewing Company booth, I hand-painted the billboard they’d be putting up somewhere in Milwaukee. I thought it was so cool I even asked my sister to take a photo. I signed my name on the artist block, and I thought that was it.

Then, as I was watching TV a few weeks ago, their first-ever television commercial came on. You may recognize the new ad (video below). The commercial instantly brought back my memory of painting, and I thought it did such an interesting job of carrying that feeling through the theme and bringing the artistry to the masses. I jumped up, ran to the fridge, and grabbed a Blue Moon.

Ok, so I didn’t do that (though I DO have Blue Moon in the refrigerator right now). The Blue Moon Art Project is a uniquely interactive campaign. As I’ve looked into it further, it builds upon their 2007-2008 contest that called for Blue Moon-inspired art.

I love this interactivity. I challenge Blue Moon Brewing Company to keep it up and embrace the digital art world. There are so many untapped avenues they can take to continue to be Artfully Crafted.

What’s the last marketing campaign that inspired you?

Will you marry me?

How the proposal happened!

I got engaged.

Afterwards, we spent a lot of time calling everyone special in our lives. It took a while. The funny thing: one of the first questions a friend asked me was: Did you Tweet about the engagement yet?

Yes, I guess my friends know me – I love social media. I had friends congratulating me on my engagement before I even posted anything—and when I did post it, the response was overwhelming! But my focus has shifted from spending hours on social media to spending that time checking out various wedding websites, gathering ideas and trying to figure out how we envision our ‘big day.’ The time I used to spend reading my favorite blogs, brushing up on the latest social media trends, and connecting with everyone on my social networks has decreased significantly.

Last night, I got a bright idea – why not mix these two activities? Why not use these social networks to help get ideas, references and advice on all things wedding? And so it begins…

What’s your favorite online wedding planning resource?
Anyone have any ideas on creating a low budget, casual beach wedding?
Where can I find great beach house rentals in Florida? (I want a beach wedding…☺)

Social Media CupcakesI have a presentation for my company tomorrow on Social Media. It’s a Lunch and Learn, so I figured I could at least provide dessert. Behold, social media cupcakes!

I came up with this idea initially and wasn’t sure if it would actually come to fruition. Some may call it being bored, but I call it being inspired by awesome social media entrepreneurs like @foiledcupcakes. I decided to spend my Thursday night baking up a storm and creating banana and chocolate fudge cupcakes topped with Twitter, Facebook and Yammer icons made out of Lorna Doone cookies and icing.

I decided to share my masterpiece with you – enjoy!

Ingredients: Cake Mix + ingredients, white icing, Lorna Doone 100 Cal packs, blue cookie icing.

How-to: Bake the cupcakes per the cake mix package directions. Put blue cookie icing on the backside of the mini Lorna Doone Cookies and let set. Put a spoonful of white icing into a ziplock bag and poke a very small hole in one of the corners. I practiced creating the letters for a while before I actually started to pipe them onto the cookies. Lastly, I iced each cupcake with the white icing and put an iced cookie on top. Voila!

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Creating the icons

Creating the Icons

Assembling the Cupcakes

Assembling the Cupcakes

Yummy Social Media Cupcakes!

Yummy Social Media Cupcakes!

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