February 8, 2012

Taste everything well before serving up your social media offerings

Chris AbrahamIf you want to succeed in running a kitchen for the homeless in Washington, DC, or have wildly successful social media marketing campaigns, it all comes down to one thing: do you respect and appreciate your guests? Do you cut-corners and just serve slop or do you prepare organic, healthy, and delicious meals with an obsession for presentation and taste?

I volunteer as sous chef at a Washington, DC, homeless kitchen. They serve fresh, organic dinners to folks who really need a healthy meal. Miriam’s Kitchen treats everyone who dines there as respected and honored guests. I have learned a lot about how to be a much better social media marketer as a direct result of working both in the kitchen as a sous chef and also as dining room captain. Can someone who isn’t in love with the taste of food be a top chef? You know what they say, “never trust a skinny chef.”

Well, it seems to me that there are quite a few PR and marketing companies that aren’t in love with social media. Even worse, they have downright contempt for the honest denizens of social media. Can you truly be effecting in social media marketing, digital PR, and SEO if you’re not completely in love with it? Can one ever trust a skinny social media maven?

And even if you’re not in love with social media, can you be truly effective if you don’t taste what you make? If you’re too “busy” or too “above” rolling up your sleeves and getting into the kitchen, can you actually create social media campaigns that are fashionable, timely, au courant? Are you serving campaigns that nobody’s ordering — and would you even know?

Too often, for too many traditional agencies, social is just another channel, another product to sell in order to be integrated and full-service — there’s very little passion — or respect — for online community. Much of this is not intentional, it’s just that “full-service” agencies, and their practitioners, are oftentimes spread too thin over too many media and too broad mission.

It reminds me of a recent experience I had at Miriam’s: I prepared enough sauce to feed one-hundred-and-fifty homeless men and women and forgot to even taste it. Seriously. I was so busy chopping onions, peeling and crushing tomatoes; browning the onion and garlic; and adding oregano, basil, olive oil, salt, and pepper in the too short amount of time I had that I never dipped in a plastic tasting spoon to see if it all worked together.

I looked at my watch: I was on time! However, I looked over at John Murphy, head dinner chef at Miriam’s Kitchen, and my boss.

“How does it taste?” he asked. I looked at him dumbfounded.

“We can’t feed our guests with food that doesn’t taste good,” John continued while dipping a clean plastic tasting spoon into the sauce and tasting it, “that you wouldn’t eat and enjoy yourself — you need to always monitor the food you’re cooking by both taste and presentation.”

“I know we’re in a rush but you must put yourself out there in the dining room and you must make sure what you serve isn’t just nutritious, organic and fresh but also appealing to the eye and palate.”

In my mad rush to deliver, I completely forgot that the food I was preparing didn’t just have to get done but also needed to be delicious, compelling, appealing, and well-seasoned. And, so I tasted. It was bland.

I doctored it up and the results were delicious — and so was the presentation, with fresh basil and rosemary adding green to a sea of red when it was finally served to the kitchen’s guests. So, what happens if you’re not willing to be an active participant in the flavor of the meals you serve.

Corporate folks used to call it “eating your own dog food,” right?

What I see in the social media marketing and PR space, however, are lots of folks who are cooking and cooking and cooking without ever taking an interest in tasting. What I mean in this case is that there are too many social media marketers who have zero interest in social media, social networks, technology, or online community.

And, even if you do taste-as-you-go, how’s your palette? Maybe you’re serving fast food but you have a foodie palate — are you able to connect with your guests cook to their unique taste in food? Are you able to produce meals that appeal to your guests or do you feel contempt for their lack of sophistication, always trying to force tastes and textures that might, in fact, disgust them and drive them away, never to return.

How well do you know the palette of your market online? How much of a died-in-the-wool social media consumer are you yourself? How engaged are you on Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube, Twitter, or Google+ yourself? — to say nothing of message boards, forums, or reddit.

You make think your know how to market to online denizens but just because you may understand how to market or promote using traditional tools to traditional markets doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to map those strategies directly to this new, vibrant, global online market — or, to map those recipes directly to your new restaurant.

Are you invested in social media? Are you a fanboy or fangirl of social networks? Do you spend too much time developing online relationships in online communities? Are you the first person rushing around to try to get an invite to Pinterest, for example? If not, do you really have the sort of passion and commitment to knowing your audience well enough to be able to cook for them?

Via BiznologyChris Abraham is a partner in Socialmedia.biz. Contact Chris via email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

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