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SugarSpun: The White Space Conundrum (+ Homemade Ricotta Recipe)

We have a saying in our office. When someone is going above and beyond the normal creative effort to a Pinterest-type effort, we say they are “jenning” it. For those of you who don’t know our founder and president, Jennifer Evans Cario is amazingly creative, incredibly detail-oriented and very driven. When a project piques her attention, she will take it to the creative hilt and then some. If you’ve been on our Instagram page, you’ll see her creativity at work from the Lego cakes she has made or the American Girl party she had for her daughter. Not to mention her brainchild fundraiser for Bentworth Blessing, her nonprofit organization of choice. What an adventure that was!

When it comes to food, Jen will occasionally “jen” it there as well. The first time she made fully homemade lasagna,  it took 8 hours for her homemade noodles, ricotta and bolognese sauce. But, the masterpiece was worth it. While the takeaway from that singular experience is another blog post unto itself, the lesson had been learned and this time, when I helped make the lasagna, we didn’t “jen” it. The ricotta, however, had to be homemade because it’s simple, real and delicious. For the record, that isn’t “jenning” it – it’s just the way it should to be.

There was something calming about watching the creamy white liquid turn into ricotta cheese. I stood over the stove and stirred occasionally as the temperature slowly rose on the milk, buttermilk and cream. Maybe it was the repetitive motion of the stirring or maybe it was the heat, but for whatever reason, it reminded me of blogs and the battle for white space.

The White Space Battle

Not long ago, I was looking over websites for a client, gathering ideas for a new design and color. I was struck by how busy and full some blogs were, as if they were trying to cram every bit of information into a small space. Some of them genuinely hurt my brain. Part of it is a design issue and part of it is an unfortunate effect of too much advertising. Between that obnoxious, slow-rising box at the bottom suggesting another blog or a new car, the advertising that flashes on the right telling you what to buy, and the social media prompts that cover up parts of the writing on the left, I was so completely distracted by what Google ads wanted me to look at that I didn’t catch the article I was there to read in the first place! Let’s also not forget how quickly I, and therefore other visitors too, want to click away from a page that takes too long to load thanks to an overload of flashing products or pop-up ads.

White space as a design element is important for your incoming customers. As Human Factors cited, “Use of whitespace between paragraphs and in the left and right margins increased comprehension by almost 20%. (Lin, 2004).” It also gives the reader’s eye a breather. Plus, there’s the psychological factor. Another study that Human Factors mentioned focused on trust. “Design is a key determinant to building on-line trust with consumers. For motivated users of an information site, bad design (busy layout, small print, too much text) hurts more than good design helps. (Sillence, Briggs, Fishwick, and Harris, 2004).”

As someone with a journalist background, white space was drilled into my head. When it comes to layout, white space is invaluable not only because it doesn’t force the important elements to compete, but it also has a calming effect on the reader so they can focus on the biggest element – the content of your blog.

As designer and blogger Mark Boulton explains, “[I]f you don’t consider all your whitespace, that’s just bad design. Passive whitespace creates breathing room and balance.”

White Space Is More Than a Design Issue

White space doesn’t just apply to design. There’s also white space as it applies to writing. How you frame your words is just as important as the subject or the graphics you use to promote it. When writing, remember the ABCs – Accuracy, Brevity and Clarity. It’s for journalistic writing, but it can apply to all writing. Think of it as white space for the written word.

Accuracy – Be sure you have all the facts and can back them up with research if needed.

Brevity – Don’t beleaguer a point once you’ve made it. It’s far more classy to make your point concisely rather than meander down a rabbit hole or two to finally end up at your conclusion.

Clarity – This is where grammar comes in. Use words appropriate to your audience’s reading level, use proper grammar and edit ruthlessly – don’t be afraid to take out sentences that are superfluous. Have you ever heard the phrase “they bled all over my article?” Editors used to go over stories with a red pen, using specific editing shorthand to cut words, add punctuation or move things around. In other words,  “bleeding” on an article. As painful as some of those bloodletting edits are, it’s an important part of creating content that will have readers returning again and again.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line here is that white space in website design AND in writing is important for your readers because it builds trust, keeps them focused, and gives them a reason to return for more.

Sicilian Homemade Ricotta Cheese

(taken from Orcashottie on allrecipe.com)

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon whole milk

  • 1 quart buttermilk

  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 18-inch squares cheesecloth

Directions

  1. Line a large colander or sieve with 4 layers of cheesecloth. Set aside.
  2. Heat milk, buttermilk, heavy cream, and salt in a large, heavy, nonreactive saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally for the first 10 minutes. Continue heating, without stirring, until the temperature reaches 190 degrees F. Remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour. The mixture will be separated into white curds and clear whey.
  3. Using a slotted spoon, ladle approximately 1/4 of the curds into the cheesecloth-lined colander. Gather up the corners of the top cheesecloth and secure closed with a zip tie. Repeat with the rest of the curds, cheesecloth, and zip ties. Use the last zip tie to thread all of the cheeses together. Suspend the cheeses over a large wooden spoon over a large bowl, and let drain for 2 hours.
  4. Place the four cheeses, still in cloth, in a bowl in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, cut zip ties, and transfer cheese to an airtight container.

Trader Joe’s Kona Coffee Cookies Copycat Recipe: AKA Taste of Subtle in Social Media

Shortbread cookies are warm fuzzies to me. They speak of blue tins full of dress-up jewelry – the tasty companions to pretend tea parties or a deliciously buttery counterpoint to a simple cup of tea. For some unknown reason, however, I’ve never tried to duplicate the store bought version. It’s silliness, really, because the recipes are simple! While I hesitate to use the words fool-proof because I am quite good at what not to do in a recipe, they are extraordinarily easy. I’ve just never felt the urge to duplicate a recipe.

Until now.

It all started with a last minute trip to Trader Joe’s to grab desert for an impromptu get-together. We picked up the Kona Coffee shortbread cookies on a whim with a flurry of other goodies in our hands. That night, I discovered yet another snack to go on my Trader Joe’s crack list. (There are several on that list, by the way. Have you tried the dark chocolate mint creams? Absolute top of my list. Of all lists. Any list.) I became addicted to Kona cookies. But, a few months later, I moved away from the convenience of a Trader Joe’s just down the street. So what’s a girl to do?

Why, do a Pinterest search, of course!

I have a confession to make. In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I must tell you that I don’t like coffee. I quite honestly think it tastes like dirt. The only way I can drink it is when I have a little coffee with my cream and hot cocoa. Oddly enough, I like the taste of coffee in things like ice cream or cookies.

While I’d like to believe this little revelation adds credence to the deliciousness of the Kona Cookie recipe, it occurred to me that I like coffee in my cookies like I like sales on social media – a little goes a long way. In looking to find just the right recipe, I realized the right proportion of coffee in the recipe was important. No one wants to bite into coffee grounds, no matter how sugary it is, least of all me.

[editor’s note: What Tammy’s not telling you is that her first attempt at making the frosting for these cookies included a misinterpretation of the word “strong coffee” in the directions. Rather than brewing coffee and using it to make the frosting, she dumped the strong coffee grounds into the frosting. As such, we most definitely learned that NO ONE wants to bite into coffee grounds, no matter how much sugar you add.]

Social media was never meant to be a platform to push your company or your products. As strange as it may seem now, it’s a social platform where you get to make yourself – your brand – more personable. This is your chance to be more than just a company or a logo. You now have a voice that has potential to reach hundreds of thousands of people because you are human and relatable. Here, the bottom line isn’t money; the bottom line is building community.

I’ve seen far too many companies treat social media like just another place to advertise, another version of a TV commercial. Now I’m not here to tell you that you shouldn’t advertise or put your product out on different platforms. What I am saying is, like my coffee cookie recipe, too much sales at the wrong time in the wrong place can quickly turn things from sweet and enjoyable to outright bitter.

Here’s another way to say it.

As marketers, we sometimes catch ourselves getting caught up in a client’s desire to constantly tout how amazing the company is that we’re promoting. As a result, it’s easy to lose sight of the customer. We can forget that it’s not simply about what our clients want; it’s about who we’re talking to and what will reach them best. On social media, where people go to be informed, catch up on things around the world or to soak in the gamut of emotions created by photos and videos, constant in-your-face sales is the last thing they want to see. Consumers have become adept at tuning it out; something you are trying to avoid as a business owner investing time and money into social media.

The general guideline to follow is the 80/20 rule. 80 percent of the time, share information or relevant pieces that will engage your customers; and 20 percent of the time is for you to focus on your brand or a call to action. Build the relationship with your audience first so you can establish credibility. You need to earn the right to sell them your product.

There is a time and a place for everything. Just because you can sell, sell, sell doesn’t mean it’s wise to do so all the time. Thank goodness Trader Joe’s gets that concept with their coffee cookies.

DSC_0005
Recipe from Kris at Umami Holiday

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 c. powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 Tbsp. coarsely ground Kona coffee
  • ½ vanilla bean, split and scraped for seeds
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 c. AP flour, sifted
  • 1 c. powdered sugar (for the glaze)
  • 2 Tbsp. strong (brewed!) coffee
  • ½ tsp. instant espresso powder (optional)

Directions:

  1. Place the unsalted butter into a stand mixer and mix for 1-2 minutes on low, or until glossy and creamy.
  2. Add the powdered sugar, kosher salt, vanilla seeds and coarse coffee grounds and mix until uniform at low speed, then scrape the sides of the bowl and mix on medium for 4-5 minutes. The batter will lighten in color (the color will be similar to cookies n’creme bars).
  3. Add the sifted flour and mix until combined, then scrape the bowl and mix for another 1-2 minutes on low.
  4. Scrape the bowl to combine the dough into a ball in the center of the bowl. Place plastic wrap onto the counter, then put the dough ball onto the plastic wrap. (You won’t need to brush flour on your hands, as the dough will not stick to your fingers.)
  5. Place another sheet of plastic wrap on top of the dough ball, then flatten the dough into a 7 x 10 inch rectangle using either your hands or a rolling pin.
  6. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  7. When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350ºF.
  8. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.
  9. Take the dough from the fridge and remove the top layer of plastic wrap. Cut the dough into 1 x 2 inch rectangles.
  10. Place the rectangles on the parchment paper at least 2 inches apart.
  11. Bake for 14-16 minutes, turning the pan halfway through bake time (7 minutes). The cookies are done when the edges are golden-brown.
  12. Remove the cookie sheet and allow the cookies to cool on the pan for 10 minutes.
  13. Move the cookies to a cooling rack and let them cool completely.
  14. For the glaze: Mix the powdered sugar, strong coffee and espresso powder (if you have it) with a spoon until the glaze is a nice, caramel color.
  15. Spoon the glaze onto half of the cookie and spread evenly, then place on parchment paper to harden.
  16. Will keep for 4-5 days if left in an airtight container. (Good luck with that–mine disappeared before I could test the theory!)

SugarSpun Notes: The glaze was an adventure. I couldn’t get it on the cookies right without it pooling into one big glop. Hearing my cry of distress, Jen stepped in and performed her magic with glazing by drizzling in perfect lines. Some taste testers liked the cookies with the glaze, others liked it without. I recommend you experiment for yourself.

Is Pinterest Auto-Following Boards on Your Behalf?

Four years after launch, Pinterest is still as focused as ever on driving stronger user engagement, offering up new recipe search refinement options and even slipping their new “Recommended” pins into user’s news feeds. But is Pinterest pushing things a step further and deciding who you ought to follow based on your browsing history? It’s starting to look that way.

A few months back I started to notice an influx of content from boards I didn’t remember following. Mostly this content came from wedding boards. They were easy enough to write off considering my best friend was getting married and we were dealing with a wedding related client at the time. I assumed I’d followed boards without remembering and simply unfollowed them as I noticed content showing up in my feed.

Then I started to notice other types of content showing up. My feed suddenly had Paleo boards, despite the fact that I don’t follow a Paleo diet. It had bee keeping boards and caring for goat boards and other loosely related topics that I’d run searches for, but not actually followed. Once again, these boards were close enough to my interests that I could write it off, but not so close I remember following them. I ran a few searches to see if I could find anyone mentioning a new “auto-follow” feature on Pinterest, but nothing turned up.

Then, this morning, I finally caught it happening in real time.

I was working on a new Pinterest Webinar for Market Motive and was doing research on the Target/Popular Pinners pairings for their new spring product lines. In seeking out screen caps, I clicked on Target’s “Party with Pinners” board and then went on from there to visit the Pinterest account of Target collaborator Joy Cho.

Target is currently working with popular design blogger Joy Cho to design and launch a new Target party collection.

Not an hour later I went back into my account to snag another set of screen shots to showcase how Pinterest’s “related pins” feature works and immediately noticed a pin from Joy Cho showing up in my news feed.

Less than an hour after looking at her boards, I found myself "automatically" following two of Joy Cho's boards.

Clicking through to the board showed I was listed as a follower.

Rather than showing Joy Cho's recipes as "related posts," I discovered I was now following her recipe board.

I immediately clicked over to the profile page of Joy Cho’s account and noticed I was now following not one, but two of her boards. (Incidentally, the boards I was most likely to have followed based on my Pinterest activity.)

Visiting Joy Cho's profile page showed I was now following two of her boards.

Had it not been for the fact that these boards showed up in my account within an hour of my visiting her profile, I could have easily written it off to yet another “I don’t remember following that, but I must have” moment. (After all, I’d been having them for months.) The timing, however was too coincidental.

I took the post to Facebook to see if anyone else had noticed the same thing and the response was pretty consistent.

Several contacts within the online marketing and Pinterest marketing community confirmed they had also noticed this activity, but written it off.

Taking the conversation offline and digging deeper with Polymer Clay artist Katie Oskin, I found that she too had found concrete examples of accounts and boards she seemed to be following without ever making the selection herself.

Katie pointed to two different accounts that had shown up in her feeds without her actively following them.  Her accounts were for a Pinner named “Miranda Clay”

Oskin found herself following a user named Miranda Clay.

And another user known simply as “Clay.”

Oskin also found herself following a user named "Clay," whose content was a far cry from the polymer clay content she usually followed.

Keep in mind, Katie is a polymer CLAY artist. One who runs frequent searches on Pinterest for the word “clay.”

With a few more voices chiming in via email and private messaging, it seems like a pattern may be emerging. Ignitor Digital’s Carrie Hill pointed out that her “following” count seemed to be rising, even on the weeks she hadn’t chosen to follow anyone. Pole Position Marketing’s Kathy Boyle Gray is seeing similar issues with a large number of new accounts showing in her feeds as well.

With Pinterest’s current focus on increasing user engagement, helping pinners find new content and looking for the ties between search activity and interest, I’m not surprised to see them testing this. What DOES surprise me is that it wasn’t announced as a beta test or as “suggested” boards. Perhaps this is part of the promoted post/accounts test Pinterest is running with select advertisers right now, or perhaps it’s something else entirely. Either way, I question how well received it’s been and I question how users will feel if they ultimately learn that Pinterest HAS been following people on their behalf.

Recipe for Business Success in 2014

 

Recipe for Success

What do you hope to accomplish in 2014? What do you want to differently? Are there things you’d like to repeat from 2013?

No doubt, these are some of the questions that are going through your mind as you plan out 2014. It’s an exciting time for businesses, but it also comes with uncertainty and challenges.  If only there was a secret formula for instant success, right? If this were the case, everyone would be rich and happy. Unfortunately, this isn’t how it works. However, as you embark on the New Year with new goals and objectives, here are a few ingredients to include into the mix:

Some Things Can Never Change

When you cook or bake, you know there are some things that cannot be substituted. For instance, if you’re making bread, it would be really difficult to do without flour. Most people even prefer a particular brand of flour. Now, there are trends that come up here and there, but 9 times out of 10, they are just that – they don’t stick. Take the cauliflower pizza crust for example. It works, but it will never replace flour-based pizza crusts.

The same concept is true in business. While it’s important to stay modern, do not compromise your business to be fashionable. This is true even when it comes to social media. The SugarSpun team is obviously very passionate about social media, but we never advise a business to jump onto every single social platform available. First of all, no business I know has time for this. And second and most important, a business doesn’t need to adopt a platform unless it provides some benefit in return. For example, it would be impressive if your local septic tank company could find a way to effectively utilize Pinterest. It’s possible, but it would not seem to be the most logical social media pair up.

New ideas are always welcome, but if they cause you to waver from what the core of your business is, then it is wise to question them.

Trust your instincts (Or your gut like Agent Gibbs, if you’re an NCIS fan)

You know your business better than anyone else. So, if you’re hesitant about something, then there’s likely a reason why. Whether it’s a new hire, a big investment, partnership or something similar, you need to trust yourself and your experience. This doesn’t always pertain to hesitancy either. If you have a good feeling about something and you see the benefits, go for it. Don’t listen to the naysayers.

It’s the same principle that applies to an experienced cook that knows what he or she and their families like. For example, I always add a bit more garlic, salt or butter because they are a few of my favorite things. 🙂 Without the additions, I know that I will think the dish tastes a little bland, so I just go ahead and include them in.

Add a little spice

Now, this doesn’t tip does not mean to throw out the others. You have to be consistent and act according to your business experience, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything new or try a different approach.

The amount of spice, however, should be based on your comfort level. Spice may involve some risk, but remember that risk was involved in starting your own business too. The spice could be something as big as adding a new product, or it could be testing out a new promotional tool. Take, for instance, Vine and Snapchat. Brands like Pepsi and Taco Bell have had tremendous success on these types of platforms. If your audience is there, maybe you should plan a campaign.

In a nutshell, you never want to become complacent in your business or your job. Even if business is great, there is always room for improvement and for keeping the momentum strong.

As you contemplate what ingredients you’ll need to keep your business on top in 2014, check out this delicious recipe for vodka cream pasta that involves some trusty resources as well as some new zing. It is actually Rachael Ray’s “You Won’t Be Single For Long Vodka Cream Pasta” recipe with just a few modifications.

"You Won't Be Single for Long" Pasta

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, once around the pan in a slow      stream
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (4 garlic cloves total – you can’t      have too much garlic, right?)
  • 2 shallots, minced (Or, 1 medium onion)
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounces of San Marzano      tomatoes)
  • Coarse salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 16 ounces pasta, such as penne rigate
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn (Or      more; you can’t have too much basil either)
  • ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese

To give it a little more pizazz, add a few shakes of cayenne pepper. This doesn’t make it hot, but it simply adds a rich, zesty flavor to the cream sauce.

Directions

Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic, and shallots. Gently saute shallots for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add vodka to the pan, 3 turns around the pan in a steady stream will equal about 1 cup. Reduce vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked to al dente (with a bite to it).

While pasta cooks, prepare your salad or other side dishes.

Suggested sides: Caesar salad and cheesy, garlicky Hasselback bread (You will have no regrets!)

Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with sauce, basil leaves and parmesan. Pass pasta with crusty bread.

So, there you have a quick, delicious dinner recipe with which you can discuss your recipe for your business over. Happy cooking!

Images courtesy of www.well-beingstrategy.com and www.foodnetwork.com respectively.

The Super Simple Guide to Using and Marketing Through Pinterest – Part Two

(If you are new to Pinterest and don’t already have an account, make sure to read part one in this series.)

Now that you’ve gotten youself up and running with a Pinterest account, it’s time to put it to use to start collecting ideas, links and pictures. Remember, Pinterest is a powerful online filing system that gives you visual access to the things you might wish to use down the road. Back in part one we talked about setting up some topical boards to sort the “pins” you find. Today we’re going to talk about how to find those pins.

Browsing Your Friends’ Pins and Repinning

The absolute easiest way to find pins (and the way most people get started) is by looking though the feed produced for you by your friends’ activity and “repinning” their pins. A repin is the Pinterest equivalent of a Twitter retweet or a Facebook share. When you log in to Pinterest, your friends’ activity feed is the first thing that pops up.

You can scroll through these listings to see if anything strikes your fancy. If it does, you have one of two options.

The first is to hover your mouse over it and wait for the Repin, Like and Comment options to pop up. Clicking the like button will add your vote to the mix right there on the page. Clicking the comment button will add a comment window to the bottom of the listing and clicking the Repin button will pop up a screen designed to let you pin the item to your own boards. It’s important to note you can also check the Facebook and Twitter boxes in this window to automatically share your pin there as well.

You can select the category you wish to pin it to from the drop down menu or create a new one right there in the menu. You can also choose to pin it with the existing description, or write your own. Once you’ve hit submit, the pin will be added to your category and will show up in the streams of users who follow you.

Your other option when you see a pin you are interested in is to click on the image itself. This will take you to the actual pin listing page, which looks like this:

Apart from getting a larger picture and a full description plus comments on this page, you also get some interesting information to help you dig deeper with your Pinning habits. At the bottom of the listing, you’ll notice three key areas. “Pinned onto the board,” “Originally Pinned by,” and “Pinned from.”

The first one tells you what board the person who pinned it placed it in. The thinking here is that if you like this pin, you may like the other pins they’ve collected on that topic. It will also give you some thumbnail snapshots of other pins from that board to check out. Below that, you’ll find a link to the person who originally found the post and added it to Pinterest. Again, chances are high you may want to consider following this person as well, since you like the content they added. Finally, the “pinned from” section will give you a full page showing the other pins that have been added from that site.

This can be an excellent way to find a new site to visit and even more ideas to pin.

Finding Pins by Topic

One of my favorite ways to use Pinterest is to browse the pins being added by all members to specific categories. If you look at the top of the page when you are logged in to Pinterest, you’ll notice a link that reads “Everything.”

Click on this link and you’ll get a drop down menu that allows you to select a category. Select your category and you’ll be taken to a real time feed of the most recent pins added to that category. (There are also links to view the latest video pins, the most popular pins and a breakdown of product pins by price.)

This is one of the things that makes Pinterest such an addictive time killer and that keeps people on the site for so long. In fact, the average time on site for a Pinterest user in the month of November last year was 88 minutes. Making it the third most “sticky” social media site behind Facebook (394 minutes) and Tumblr (141.7 minutes), according to Billboard.

Finding Pins by Searching

The absolute most useful thing about Pinterest, in my opinion, is the search feature. Take a gander at the top left side of the Pinterest home page and you’ll spot the search box.

Type in almost anything you can think of and you’ll be treated a vast array of ideas gathered and archived by millions of Pinterest users. It’s one of they key features I use when I need a specific answer or idea. Trying to figure out how to create an indoor herb garden for my kitchen? I ask Pinterest:

Looking for some color palette ideas for a new web site design or for a home decorating project? Yep, you can ask Pinterest.

But it’s not just about using the content that is already on the site.

Pinning Content Using the “Pin It” Button

Another common way to pin items to your board is to make use of the “Pin it” social sharing buttons that have started to pop up on web sites across the web. For the most part, this button is still rare, showing up mostly on wedding, recipe and craft related sites, but as more and more Internet users discover the benefits of visual bookmarking, it’s beginning to spread.

When you visit a blog post or product page, just look for the red “Pin it” icon that often shows up along side the +1, Like and Tweet buttons at the top or bottom of a post.

Clicking the button will launch a pop up window much like the Pin it option within the Pinterest site. Use the drop down menu to select your category, edit the description to something of your choosing and decide whether or not to share to Facebook and Twitter before hitting “Pin it” and sending the image to your board. Pinterest will take care of linking the image to the proper page.

Pinning Content Using the “Pin It” Bookmarklet

Since so few sites have added Pin it buttons to the mix, most Pinterest users rely on the Pinterest Bookmarklet. To install it, go to the Pinterest Goodies page click on the Pin it button and drag it to your tool bar. This will create a handy little bookmark on your tool bar that you can simply click on any time you are on a page you’d like to pin.

The nice thing about using the bookmarklet is that it gives you a choice of what image to use for your pin. (The other options select the picture automatically.) Clicking the bookmarklet while on the blog post shown above will take you to a page like this:

Simply browse through the images from the page and click the one you’d like to feature. This will launch a pop-up window like the one seen before, allowing you to select a category, add a description and publish it to other social networks.

Coming up in Part Three

Ok, so maybe you are sold on the idea of using Pinterest as an image based bookmark solution, but you’re asking what it does in terms of marketing. In other words, can you use it to drive traffic to your site? The answer is a definite yes, but hinges on the concept that most traffic campaigns do…high quality original content. We’ll talk more about this coming up in part three.

The Super Simple Guide to Using and Marketing Through Pinterest – Part One

Pinterest is a virtual pin board that allows you to collect images and links to things you like on the web. If you’ve ever seen someone pull out a scrapbook filled with recipe clippings or a binder full of wedding or home remodel ideas, you’ve got the general idea. The difference with Pinterest is the fact that it all takes place online in an environment where you can share your collection with your friends and vice versa. To put it in the simplest of terms, Pinterest is an image based version of bookmarks.

Pinterest is Growing Rapidly

A few months ago, I would have forgiven you if you hadn’t heard of Pinterest. It was like a sneaky, lovable cat. The kind that curls up in your lap and gives you the warm fuzzies while you pet it, but that remains quietly invisible to anyone not already in the know. The past month or so though, it’s all begun to change. Pinterest has finally reached it’s tipping point and the masses are starting to pour into the site to explore what it has to offer. If you are a marketer, a blogger, or a business owner, it’s time to invest some effort into learning whether or not Pinterest needs to be part of your marketing strategy.

I first heard Pinterest mentioned last summer by a friend who is a professional photographer. She mentioned it as a great place to stash your collection of ideas and inspiration. It sounded intriguing, but not enough so to actually visit the site. (Since I was sort of busy with an out of state move and planning a wedding of my own.) I found my way back to the site last fall while hunting for some Christmas ideas online. Every other crafting site I ran across had a “Pin it” button showing up as part of the blog post. Within ten minutes of finally visiting the site, I was hooked.

Since then, I’ve been a daily Pinterest addict. It’s my new time killer when I’m waiting in line or killing a few minutes of boredom. It’s my source (and storage) for inspiration on food, my home, and a huge portion of the things I do in my every day life.

Intrigued yet? You should be.

Let me give you a tour.

When you head over to Pinterest, you’re going to see a bunch of random picture with commentary and some numbered tallies underneath them.

There’s no rhyme or reason to it because when you first log in, you’re just going to see the current most popular posts. At this point, if you click on an image, you’re going to get a notice to sign up for an account.

When you fill out the request for an invite, don’t fret. Most folks seem to get their invite within 12-48 hours these days. You’ll be up and running in no time. Of course if you have a friend using the service already, they can send you an invite which you’ll receive almost immediately.

Once you get your invite, click the link in the email to get started. It will take you to this page.

You’ll have the choice to link your account to either Twitter or Facebook. It’s a personal preference that doesn’t hold a LOT of weight because Pinterest will only share your pins via those networks if you ask it to. For the purpose of this article, we’ll go with Facebook. Clicking on it will take you to your Facebook sign-in page.

Once you’re signed in, you’ll need to approve the app to work in Facebook.

To note, if you haven’t already upgraded to Facebook Timeline, you’ll need to do it to get Pinterest synched up. Consider whether you want to leave things set to display to all your friends or if you want narrow the friend group, then click through to move along. From there, it’s onto finally setting up your Pinterest account.

Once you’ve finished this step, Pinterest will try to get you started with some people to follow.

My suggestion? Refrain from picking categories you like unless you want Pinterest to fill up your boards with people you don’t know. For the sake of this article, I set up an account for my husband and it set him up with a dozen people to follow. I had to then go unfollow them all. It will also look to see which of your Facebook friends are on Pinterest and will follow them as well, so plan to edit people out accordingly.

Your next step in the process is to create some boards. Boards are Pinterest’s version of visual filing cabinets. They are usually topical and give you a chance to categorize your pins for easy access. Take a minute to set one or two up, but realize you can add more at any time.

Once you’ve set up your starter categories, you’re ready to get going. At this point, you’ll be able to view your Pinterest stream. In this case, that stream looks like this:

Of course chances are high you’ll see a lot of things you aren’t interested in. Just because you’re friends with someone on Facebook doesn’t mean you’re interested in every little thing they want to save in their scrapbooks. There are two different ways to work around this. The first is to delete people totally. To do this, click on the username that shows up under the photo. This will take you to their Pinterest page where you can find the greyed out “unfollow” button under their avatar. Click this button and you’ll remove them from your stream.

Now, let’s say you’ve got someone in your stream that you want to follow, but who posts WAY more content than you are interested in, or things you simply don’t care about. Say, for instance you have a friend who has great taste in food, but also has a love for polymer clay and crafting that is flooding your stream. Find one of their posts, click the username and go to their page the same way you did when you planned to unfollow someone. Click the unfollow button again. At this point, each of the “boards” (categories) the Pinterest user has created will have a follow button associated with them. Scan through their list and follow any of the boards you think you might be interested in. This will segment their feed and serve up only a portion for you. (One of Pinterest’s strongest features, in my opinion.)

Once you’ve done this, you’ll find your feed has cleared out a bit and feature more post you are interested in.

Now that you’ve gotten everything set up, you can begin using Pinterest. There are three primary ways to do this. You can browse the overall database of pins you can browse your individual feed or you can go looking for new things to add to Pinterest.

We’ll explore those options coming up in part two of this series on Pinterest.

Want to learn even more about Pinterest and how to use it to market your business or drive traffic to your web site? Join Jennifer Cario for a FREE Market Motive workshop on Pinterest next Thursday, February 9th at 12:30pm EST. Registration is required.

Google Search Plus Your World Launches…and Changes Search Up


Oh me oh my. Google sure does know how to get the buzz going. Their launch of the new “Search Plus Your World” update has the entire Internet marketing world in a tizzy. (Mashable has coverage of the launch if you’re just catching up.) If you missed the news, the basic idea is that Google will now offer real time Google Plus results and postings as part of their search results. Looking for music? They’ll point you to some musical artists you can follow on Google Plus, want to know how to make tiramisu, they’ll scan for recipe postings from within your circle.

They plug it all in a new ad:

As you can imagine, there’s a lot of mixed emotion on this one. Sure, it’s great to have access to data influenced by people you trust, but let’s also be realistic and remember that Google Plus isn’t exactly the major player in this field. (There are literally hundreds of Facebook users for every ONE active Google Plus user.) Google did include real time Twitter results in it’s search listings at one point in time, but that deal expired earlier this year.

Danny Sullivan has a good take on it over at Search Engine Land where he reminds people that Search Engines are supposed to send people to the BEST place to find what they need…without prioritizing their own content. He writes:

“That’s how search engines are supposed to be. They’re supposed to send you away to the best information, even if they don’t have their own in stock.”

and goes on to say:

“Today is different. Today’s change is one of the few times where I’m thinking “What the hell are you doing, Google?”

While it’s not uncommon to find the search and marketing pundits weighing in with thoughts, Google’s latest move even has Twitter issuing statements of complaint.

For years, people have relied on Google to deliver the most relevant results anytime they wanted to find something on the Internet.

Often, they want to know more about world events and breaking news. Twitter has emerged as a vital source of this real-time information, with more than 100 million users sending 250 million Tweets every day on virtually every topic. As we’ve seen time and time again, news breaks first on Twitter; as a result, Twitter accounts and Tweets are often the most relevant results.

We’re concerned that as a result of Google’s changes, finding this information will be much harder for everyone. We think that’s bad for people, publishers, news organizations and Twitter users.

While it’s easy to argue that Twitter has its own vested interest in making sure its results are listed, the reality is that it goes well beyond Twitter. (Don’t forget, Google did once carry Twitter’s results as part of real time search, until Twitter ended the agreement.)There are hundreds and thousands of social networks being used by people around the world to stay connected and share information. For some people, it’s Twitter, for others its Facebook, or Tumblr or Pinterest or Orkut or…the list goes on and on.

Now, it’s not like Google OWES a listing to other web sites. However, it seems a little disingenuous to sell your update as something earth shattering if it’s only going to affect a small portion of the social media user base of the web.

Looking at this from the social media marketing perspective, I’ve got a few thoughts of my own.

It seems like a good way to push business into Google Plus if they hadn’t already bitten. When I work with clients, my top priority is getting them the most bang for their buck. That means we rarely focus on up and coming networks UNLESS there is already a significantly active population of their target audience. If I was marketing to marketers, or young professional techies…Google Plus would be high on my list. If I’m marketing an online toy store or a local restaurant chain, it’s not even going to ding on our radar. It’s just not worth the investment for most small to mid size businesses until the consumers show up.

And the consumers just aren’t showing up. Sure, they flocked there in droves to give it a look, but then they headed back to Facebook to continue their social networking like always. If Google can’t convince the consumers to join, the next best option is to force business owners to come and set up shop in the hopes consumers will follow. Dangle the threat of lost ranking opportunities and you’ll get the business owners. After all, no matter how popular social media gets, search is always going to be core to the online customer acquisition process.

While this move isn’t enough to make me start telling people to get their Google Plus accounts up and running for their business just yet, it is enough to prompt a closer look at how the new integration will impact search results and how that impact might require us to change our strategies down the road.

I’m sure more news and commentary will pour forth this week as well. In the meantime, I’d also recommend Lee Odden’s post on the topic. He has some great commentary from both the user perspective and the marketer perspective over at Top Rank Blog.

Double Berry Shortcake Sliders

berry slidersThere’s a challenge that comes with putting great ideas into play when you have limited resources. It’s a challenge we face constantly when working with our smaller clients. It doesn’t matter how great the idea is, if you don’t have the resources, you aren’t going to be able to put the idea to work for you.

Any good cook knows this scenario all too well. You’re looking to make something tasty and you realize you’re missing a key ingredient. Sure, you can take time out of your day, head to the store and invest more money into getting just the right ingredient…but that’s not always the best route. They say necessity is the mother of invention and when it comes to both baking and marketing, invention can be a good thing.

Playing to your strengths and working with what’s available can sometimes lead to simplest and yet most compelling campaigns we see. It doesn’t get much simpler than knowing Old Spice makes you “smell like a man.” Building off that simple foundation was enough to launch an absolute viral sensation. That’s why it’s so important to learn to turn your limitations into innovations.

That’s exactly how Double Berry Shortcake Sliders came about. I’d been holding on to a recipe for strawberry shortcakes sliders for months and when the time that I finally had a craving for them, I couldn’t find good strawberries in the stores. I’d just returned home from a trip to visit my family though and had returned with fresh blueberries and raspberries galore from the bushes in my parents back yard. Who says shortcake has to be made with strawberries?

A bit of lemon zest added to the whipped cream and a substitute berry combination later and we found ourselves enjoying little bite size bits of yumminess. Limited by those missing strawberries? No way..it was just a great reason to go a different direction and to discover a recipe that works.

Double Berry Shortcake Sliders
(Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes)

For the biscuits
2 c all purpose flour
2 T white sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 stick cold butter
7/8 c heavy whipping cream
1 large egg
1 t vanilla extract
Directions:

1. Whisk together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.

2. Use a pastry cutter or fork to cut small chunks of butter into dry ingredients

3. Whisk cream, egg and vanilla together in a small bowl

4. Mix liquid and dry ingredients until moist and well mixed

5. Turn dough out onto a counter and knead 8-10 turns to form a ball

6. Lightly flour a smoother surface and roll dough to 1/2″ thickness

7. Use a juice class or very small biscuit butter to make small rounds

8. Place rounds on an ungreased baking sheet

9. Chill for 10 minutes in fridge

10. Bake at 425 for 12 minutes or until lightly browned

11. Remove to racks to cool

For the Whipped Cream (don’t you dare use Cool Whip!)

1 c heavy whipping cream
1 T white sugar
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 t lemon zest

1. Start with cold cream and a chilled bow

2. Add whipping cream to bowl and whip at high speed with a whisk attachment until it begins to firm up

3. Sprinkle the sugar over the cream and add the vanilla

4. Continue to whip until cream is thick and holds it’s shape

5. Gentle fold in the lemon zest

To make the whipped cream, make sure you are starting with cream that is very cold. It helps to chill the bowl first too. Use a hand mixer (you can make whipped cream in a blender, but watch out; it’s easy to over-whip the cream in a blender) to whip the cream until it just begins to firm up. Sprinkle the sugar and vanilla over the cream. Continue to whip until it is thick and holds its shape.

For the Sliders

1. When the biscuits have cooled, gently split them in the middle

2. Spoon a tiny bit of whipped cream into bottom layer of biscuit

3. Pile with blueberries and raspberries

4. Add more whipped cream

5. Top slider off with other half of biscuit, adding more fruit and whipped topping if desired

Extraordinarily Well Done Chocolate Chip Cookies

Earlier this week I was talking to someone about what I do for a living and they made the comment that “anyone can be a marketer.” I laughed a little bit, because I knew what they meant, but I also pointed out that “marketing” and “marketing done very well” were two very different things.

In fact, marketing is a little like chocolate chip cookies. Everyone can make them and most everyone has, but few do it extraordinarily well. Some people use the recipe off the back of the Tollhouse bag, some pick up the break and bake variety. Those things will get the job done and they might even get it done well. But they won’t result in the type of chocolate chip cookies that makes people go “Whoa!.”

That’s what we’re looking for here at SugarSpun. Not just the standard recipe marketing or the out of the box solution…but the idea and the implementation that makes people go “whoa!” Real chocolate chip cookies take the right ingredients. You’ve got to use butter, not margarine, pure vanilla extract rather than imitation and you’ve got to use brown sugar in addition to white. The same goes for Social Media…you can’t just throw up the standard Facebook page and Twitter feed, you’ve got to have a real voice with a real purpose.

If you REALLY want those chocolate chip cookies to be good, you use both large and tiny chips to get the kind of melty, chocolaty mouthful of cookie goodness that makes your eyes roll back in your head and your belt loosen on its own, just to be supportive of the experience. You’ll also add (or leave out) the nuts based on who is going to be eating them. In our world, it’s all about getting to know your audience so we can help you offer up the tasty morsels of yummy goodness that get them to invite the neighbors over to share the joy.

Extraordinarily Well Done Chocolate Chip Cookies
(adapted from AllRecipes)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup salted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg + 1 yolk
1 3/4 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup of diced pecans, walnuts, or macadamia nuts (if your audience merits it)

1. Preheat oven to 325.

2. Lightly spray baking sheets with PAM

3. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt, set aside

4. Cream melted butter with the brown and white sugars.

5. Add eggs and vanilla to butter and sugar and mix thoroughly

6. Slowly add dry ingredients until fully mixed.

7. Add chocolate chips

8. Add nuts (optional)

9. Drop by 1/4 cup heaps onto cookie sheets, leaving at least 3 inches on all sides

10. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until edges are slightly brown, but centers are still soft.

11. Remove from oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing to wire racks

12. Pour a tall glass of milk and have yourself a little moment.