Social media is a tremendously beneficial new technology that will forever change many aspects of our business and personal lives. But few people really understand how it works. Here’s a simple way to understand its power and influence.

Say you want to take a swim, but have no pool and only one litre of water. Here’s how you do it without social media:

You begin by shopping around. You search all over web, look in the yellow pages and make telephone calls, ask your friends for referrals and drive around visiting a number of different suppliers. Since this is such a significant purchase, you devote weeks of your time, money and energy searching until you finally find the one you like and can afford.

Now it needs to be delivered.

You arrange for delivery of the pool. A truck drives from the supplier to your home and drops off the materials.

Now it needs to be installed.

Depending on the style of pool, your installers must have a certain level of expertise to complete the job. This process can take a few days or a few weeks, and is not cheap. But they come everyday and finish the job and now you have your pool.

Now it needs to be filled.

You could fill it yourself with a hose, but that would probably be a strain on your water resources. It could mean running the well dry, or putting a lot of strain on your municipal water supply (and a lot of strain on your wallet). You could also have the water delivered, which though more convenient, would nonetheless not be cheap. You decide what’s best for you, get the pool filled, and you’re ready to swim.

Hopefully you know how to swim. If not, you have to learn, which involves time, lessons, driving, scheduling, etc…

Now you have to maintain the pool and water.

You have to buy kits to make sure the PH is balanced, purchase chemicals, do testing, keep it clean, etc. You may have to hire cleaners and testers if you can’t do it yourself. More cost. More hassle. Less time doing what you wanted to do in the first place: swim.

Here’s a better solution, courtesy of social media:

You sign up with a community of 10,000 other people just like you who have only one litre of water but want to swim. This community provides for you a pool already built and filled, and experts who perform all the maintenance and upkeep. The only catch is that everyone in the group has to contribute their one litre of water to the pool, and pay a small service fee to those who built and maintain the pool (which, because so many people are involved, is very low).

This is a great solution because now everybody gets to swim without any lost time, hassle, running around and expenses! Not only that, but the expert swimmers help out the intermediate swimmers, and the intermediate ones help out the beginners.

It’s the power of collaboration. It’s social media, and it works.

Courtesy of BC Fresh

2 lbs. BCfresh Red Nugget Potatoes 1 kg
1 BC red bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced into julienne strips
4 whole BC green onions, diagonally sliced
1 stalk BC celery, thinly diagonally sliced

Dressing:
1/2 cup buttermilk 125 g
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh chives 15 mL
1/4 tsp. finely grated lemon peel 1 mL
1 tsp. Dijon mustard 5 mL
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground white pepper

Optional:
6.5 oz. chunk light tuna packed in water, drained 184 g

Instructions

Scrub unpeeled potatoes, cutting larger ones into halves. Place in a large saucepan with 1/2″ (1 cm) water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and gently steam for about 15 minutes or until potatoes are almost tender when pierced with a fork. Strain, return to the burner and shake briefly to dry. Set aside to briefly cool.

Meanwhile, prepare dressing combining ingredients in a large serving dish. Stir to blend. Add partially cooled potatoes along with red pepper strips, green onions and celery. Toss together to evenly coat with dressing. Refrigerate to completely cool. Add chunks of drained, chunk light tuna and additional gratings of fresh pepper before serving, if you wish.

Makes 4 servings.

Beet & Pear Salad

April 2, 2009

Courtesy of BC Fresh

8 medium BCfresh BEETS, cooked and peeled
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt 125 mL
2 Tbsp. liquid honey 30 mL
1 tsp. Dijon mustard 5 mL
1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg .5 mL
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint 30 mL
Grated rind and juice from 1 orange
Salt and pepper
8 large BC LEAF LETTUCE leaves
2 BC BARTLET or ANJOU PEARS
Watercress sprigs

Instructions

In large bowl, combine yogurt, honey, mustard, nutmeg, mint, orange rind and juice and salt and pepper to taste. Stir beets into yogurt dressing.

Arrange 1 lettuce leaf on each of 8 salad plates. Spoon beet mixture onto the top of the lettuce. Thinly slice pears. Arrange pear slices and watercress sprigs on top of beet mixture.

Makes 6 servings.

Just got alerted by a Facebook friend from Austin, Texas that the Georgia Straight online reported BC liquor prices have risen by $1 on 750-millitre bottles of hard liquor.  Here’s how she let me know:

“Dammit, Ed!  The province raised liquor prices! What the hell!  you already have to sell your first born child to get a fifth of Jameson, what is it now? Two unborn children?”

You see, in the States, liquor is about 30% less expensive than it is in Canada, so I think that reference point contributes to her frustration.

I should point out that beer and wine prices remain unchanged, though for some this is little consolation.

US beer is generally more watery and the alcohol affects you less than it does in Canada.  For example, drinking 24 US Pabst Blue Ribbons, which would cost you about $18.00, affects you about the same as drinking 18 Canadian Pabst Blue Ribbons, which  would cost $25.00.

While these numbers are not referenced from any official data, they are based on personal independent studies I conducted while at University.

In some ways, it’s good that the province controls liquor prices, but as the Georgia Straight article sites, some politicians believe it’s part of a bigger scheme of “gouging consumers in the province of B.C.”

Next on the list:  Hashing out the liquor service policy in Vancouver.  Stay tuned…

It’s amazing how food has become one of the most engaging topics in media, especially on the internet. Food is a bonafide media darling. It’s more popular than Oprah, Paris Hilton and Barack Obama, combined. Nutritional importance aside, if just our interest in food could be harnessed as energy it would power every home on Earth. I bet there’s a new food blog created every hour of every day.

And why not? We have an insatiable appetite for this stuff! We know all the celebrity chefs by name. We support the countless number of food websites out there, scouring the web for recipes, news and information. Even the most casual among us enjoy watching The Food Network from time to time (and we’re even starting to admit it, too).

Food is our obsession. We want to experience it with all our senses, swoon over it with our friends, follow it around with our cameras, write it love notes, canonize its artists, and build great houses of worship in its honour. We consume food like, well, food. It really isn’t just something we eat, anymore.

Ok, we get it. Everyone’s talking about it. Now what?

Well, the first thing to do is find out what people are saying, and who they’re talking about. Television, radio, newspapers and the internet are where we normally get our information. These are great advertising outlets for big businesses with big marketing budgets, but small businesses need people talking about them, too.

One 30-second Super Bowl commercial alone costs $3 million to air! And why is it so expensive? Because millions of people will see the message, and this is very important for business.

Since very few businesses this much to spend on advertising and other resources, there has to be a better way – and there is! You can reach millions of people just like Pepsi and Budweiser, and do it by spending hardly any money at all.

Social Media Saves You Time and Money

With social media, you contribute a little, and receive lots in return. Here’s how it works:

Say you want to take a swim, but have no pool and only one litre of water. What do you do? Well, you collect 10,000 other people just like you who have only one litre of water but want to swim, and let a social media platform like Industry Blender serve as your pool. If everyone contributes their litre of water to the pool, then everybody gets to swim! All you’re paying for is the cost of the pool which, because of the volume of users, is very low.

The Power of Collaboration – Imagine the Impossible!

If you operate a bakery, for example, social media platforms are helpful because they allow you to link with other bakeries in your area quite easily. Before you know it, there are 100 bakeries in your group.

You talk to each other about the challenges you face, share stories, recommend, give advice, and team up. You provide each other with easy-to-access information and resources, which means no more searching all over to find what you need. Over time, the sum becomes much bigger than the whole of its parts.

Know your Competitors

Wouldn’t this group make things too competitive, you ask?

Not really. A large group of bakeries will get much more attention than a single one here and there, and attracting bakery customers is your primary goal. You can also use social media to keep up with what other businesses are doing. Watch what successful companies do and try to emulate those strategies. Social media gives you detailed access to this information, and makes it really easy to find.

Understand your Unique Advantages and Let your Customers Know About Them

On the other hand, since no two bakeries are alike, you can celebrate your differences and market to different types of customers. One bakery may specialize in custom wedding cakes, while another is set up for mass production. The great thing about social media is you can have an actual conversation with your customers, which puts a face to your business that people require these days before they will buy. Cultivate relationships, reinforce your brand, and take control of what is being said about you.

Market to Millions of People on a Small Budget

The ultimate goal is to be highly visible to people searching for bakeries, and from there you develop niches and set yourself apart. This large union of bakeries is very noticeable to customers, and now you’re a force which demands attention. Now that you’re getting noticed, other bakeries will want to join your group, and soon you’re a powerhouse of bakeries. You continue to pool your resources, become more and more visible to potential customers, and everyone does better business in the end.

Harnessing the Power and Speed of the Internet to Stay Competitive

Things happen very fast, so you must be able to converse quickly. If you have lobsters or other inventory that hasn’t been selling that you need to get rid of immediately, you can’t wait to announce a special in the paper, or count on a sign being seen on your restaurant or around town.

The best method is to post your information where other seafood lovers go for the latest information, just like how Craigslist works for people with classifieds. Advertising online is instant; there’s no need to wait for the “next issue,” or worry if you have missed a deadline date

Word of Mouth Advertising

One reality emerging is that people trust word of mouth more than advertising. This is why customer referrals are so important.

People love commenting about restaurants, movies, etc…, so use their opinions as free advertising. Post referrals you’ve received on your website and use them in your other marketing, as well. Information that comes from unbiased members of the general public is most powerful in influencing the decisions of others.

Encourage comments about your business because, on the internet, they spread fast or “go viral.” You’re probably worried about negative feedback, and, yes these spread faster than positive comments, in fact. But not everyone is going to be happy, so luckily social media is very defensible. You can quickly put out fires before they spread because you’re always conversing with your customers.

Most social media sites like IndustryBlender.com allow customers to comment directly about the goods and services they received. These comments are set in stone, so if you’re a business that takes care of its patrons and provides an excellent service, you will be rewarded.

Apple Cream Pie

March 31, 2009

Makes 8 Servings

1 unbaked pie shell
3 cups (750 mL) apples, peeled and sliced
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) cinnamon
1/3 cup (80 mL) granulated sugar
2 eggs
3 Tbsp (45 mL) butter, divided
4 oz (125g) light cream cheese
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
3 Tbsp (45 mL) brown sugar
1/4 cup (60 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped, toasted nuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180° C).
2. Place apples in pie shell and sprinkle with cinnamon.
3. In mixing bowl, combine granulated sugar, eggs and 2 Tbsp (30 mL) of the butter until creamy.
4. Add cream cheese and vanilla and blend until smooth. Pour over apples.
5. Combine brown sugar, flour, remaining 1 Tbsp (15 mL) butter and nuts, if using. Sprinkle over pie and bake for 1 hour.

Courtesy of BC Tree (http://www.bctree.com/recipes/index.php)

Per serving:
Calories: 312
Carbohydrate: 25 g (41%)
Protein: 4 g (8%)
Fat: 10.5 g (46%)
Fibre: 1.7 g
Sodium: 142 mg

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