Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Social Media -- It's in the Eye of the Beholder


Doesn't it seem like we've been hit over the head with all that for the last year, year and a half? Especially for those of us in the marketing world, every other word that falls out our mouths has been about this or that related to social media. Sometimes, I get tired of it myself. Social media -- both creating it and monitoring it -- are exhausting to take on. And as much as its importance is stressed, small businesses who operate with just a few employees are finding it difficult to engage in the social media stream.

Time and time again, I hear the same comment at seminars and discussions: "I want to get involved in the social media world. But I only have so many hours to devote to a new project like that. What's the *one* platform I can use to get my message across?" And whoever is speaking uses the same line: "Whatever fits your business best." While the speaker is right, this answer is also frustrating to whoever is asking the question. In this blog, I'm going to try and explain as best I can what each social media medium offers and which businesses are best suited to each.

I think it's safe to say that Facebook is the current king of social media. And despite frustrations over privacy settings and almost constant layout changes, it's still the place where millions of people log in to connect with family, friends, and causes. It's a classic marketing strategy to place your message in a place where people are gathered, and to ignore a gathering of millions of people worldwide is short-sighted. Businesses can establish a Page for themselves where you can keep your fans updated on upcoming events/sales, current deals or promotions, or anything newsworthy. A Facebook Page is a great way to maintain an online presence if you can't afford a website of your own. It's also ideal for brick-and-mortar businesses who want to connect with their customers in an online format. BEST FOR: Restaurants, Retailers, Small Businesses without Websites

What can you say about your business in 140 characters? Not a lot, right? So don't. Twitter can be great for sharing information and news with your followers, but constantly touting your bar's happy hour specials or today's lunch menu comes across as a broadcast channel. This will lead to your messages either being tuned out, or an increase in your "Unfollows." What Twitter excels at is relationship building with your clients or customers. If you're a travel agency, tweet about an article that offers tips for packing suitcases or the most beautiful destinations in the world. If someone complains about the service at your restaurant on Twitter, you can immediately see it and contact them to try and make it right. One of my favorite tweeps is @BoulderParking, the parking services in Boulder. They'll send out a message like "1 FREE Hour of parking at 15th/Pearl garage today. Just say....rain, rain go away" on a rainy day. The other thing they do right is engage in the conversation downtown businesses are having on Twitter. They'll spread the word about a shoe store's sale or a new business opening with the same enthusiasm as they talk about their own services. BEST FOR: Conversations with other businesses and customers (current, past, or future)

Blogging is more time consuming than either of the first two social media platforms we've discussed so far, so if you're looking for something quick and easy, a blog may not be best for your business. But blogs are incredibly useful when it comes to boosting your website's search engine optimization (SEO) because they are so rich in content. While you can blog about anything (and believe me, people do!), blogging about your business can become a struggle if you can't get creative with it. Variety is the key. In this blog, I have written posts about the Boulderado's history (both the people and the place), upcoming events at the hotel and in downtown Boulder, and even one about the uses of baking soda. It doesn't necessarily matter what you write, but that you're writing and linking. The linking possibilities are another reason blogs are fantastic for SEO -- all those inbound links means your rating with Google goes up. You can link back to your business' website to drive the traffic there, or to other blog posts to keep people interested in what you have to say. If you also use a Facebook Page, you can set it up so that your blog posts will be pulled through the the page automatically. If you tweet, tweet when you have a new blog post up! (See how it starts to become a web?) BEST FOR: SEO, ongoing relevant content, people with time on their hands

Think Facebook, but in a professional setting. LinkedIn is great for building relationships with people you already know and getting your foot in the door with the people you might not. The concept of the "Business Introduction" is used a lot on this site, where person A can ask their friend, B, to introduce them to C. If you yourself are the business, LinkedIn is where it's at for you. BEST FOR: Real Estate Agents, Networking Gurus, anyone that is self-employed

With mobile devices on the rise, geolocation is allegedly the next big thing. You can get your business on the map (literally) with FourSquare. It's essentially a way for people away from their computers to say "Here I am!" when they check-in at different locations. Some businesses offer FourSquare exclusive specials, with an extra goody for their current "Mayor" (FourSquare lingo for whoever has checked in the most times with a specific location). BEST FOR: Brick-and-mortar businesses, scavenger hunts

Ultimately, the most important thing to do when making your social media strategy is to commit to whatever platform you decide on, but commit smartly. If you want to publicize 40% off last season's snow tires, don't write a blog post -- send a tweet or special on Foursquare. Likewise, if you want to chronicle the life and times of your grandfather who started the business, don't do it in 140 characters -- leave a note on Facebook or blog about it. With the variety of platforms available, there's surely one best suited to your needs and your message. It's up to you to decide what that is.

Monday, May 10, 2010

April Winner ~ Tell Us Your Boulderado Story

One of the components of the Boulderado's 100 year anniversary is the Tell Us Your Boulderado Story campagn, which is a collection of memories and narratives from the last century about the Hotel Boulderado. Our goal is to collect 100 stories which will be compiled into a coffee table book. The Boulderado selects a monthly favorite, and May's winner is Karen Berger. Enjoy her story, "We'll Always Have the Boulderado."

"As a single woman in her mid-twenties, my friends and I regularly enjoyed live music and drinks on the Mezzanine at the Boulderado on Fridays after work. On this particular Friday in early May after enjoying several days of gorgeous, warm weather along the Front Range, the fickle Miss Nature Colorado dumped about twelve inches of wet, heavy snow.

My good friend and object of my secret affection, Bill called me toward the end of my work day to ask me for a ride as he had bicycled to work in Boulder from Longmont that day wearing shorts and a tee-short and was now stranded in the snowy cold. Of course I got there as soon as I could to make the rescue. We decided to continue our F.A.C. tradition at the Mezzanine, rather than doing the sensible thing of returning home for warmer clothes. The rest of the gang didn't venture out that afternoon, so I was able to enjoy Irish coffee, great music, and the warmth of that lovely man's company all to myself!

Bill moved out of state to finish his master's degree as planned, and my attraction was never confessed, but we shared a special connection and I've often wondered, 'what if?' My friends and I began marrying and raising families, and the Boulderado visits faded to memories until . . .

After years of very infrequent correspondence, Bill visited Colorado at the tail end of 2009 and we spent an amazing evening dining and dancing at the Boulderado's superb New Year's Eve celebration. Who knows how this reunion will develop from here, but in any case . . . We'll always have the Boulderado!"

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Spruce Room (and Community in Boulder)

With CU's graduation this morning and seeing all the caps and gowns walking around town with their families, I started thinking about community in Boulder. It's always been a big deal in this town, but many people don't realize the significance of the Hotel Boulderado and the community we serve.

When local citizens decided in the early years of the 20th century that downtown Boulder needed a luxury hotel, they put their money where their mouths were and raised over $131,000 to build the Boulderado. For nearly forty years, Boulder's Chamber of Commerce was located in the Spruce Street storefront and within the Hotel Boulderado. Later, this space would be converted into what today is called the Spruce Room.

The Spruce Room is unique when it comes to function spaces at the Hotel Boulderado. First of all, it departs from the Victorian decor that the rest of the hotel is dressed in and adopts an art deco feel. The super-high ceilings and outdoor adjacent patio make it seem larger than the five hundred square feet that it is. Many graduation parties, small receptions and meetings, and other special events have been hosted in the Spruce Room, including the Oral History Luncheon from 2008.
Spruce Room Photos by Allison M. Fleetwood Jr.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Magic of . . . Baking Soda?

Over the weekend, I was contemplating what it means to be classic. I finally decided that whatever is being designated as a "classic" must be familiar, ever-present, yet relevant. I had this epiphany while tackling some spring cleaning tasks around my home -- more specifically, while my head was in the fridge, I caught a glimpse of my baking soda.

A ha, I thought. Baking soda, like the Hotel Boulderado, is a "classic."

(Stay with me on this one.)

Baking soda, or as it's known to chemists, sodium bicarbonate, has been utilized by humans since the ancient Egyptians figured out its usefulness as a cleaning agent. Our great-grandmothers and grandmothers relied on baking soda to help with laundry, housecleaning, and food preparation. Now, with the green movement, people are once again looking to baking soda because of its effectiveness and lack of toxic properties. Here's an incomplete list of things baking soda can be used for:
  • As an antacid. Take a teaspoon of baking soda, mix with one-half glass water, and drink. Or, to reduce the acidity in tomato-based recipes, add a pinch of baking soda.
  • As an ashtray buddy. By sprinkling it on ashtrays, you can cut down on bad odor and prevent smoldering.
  • As a cleanser. Add 1 cup to your toilet bowl, leave for one hour, and flush away dirt and odors. Sprinkle a handful on dirty clothes to boost your laundry detergent's cleaning power. Clean your garbage cans and refrigerator with a baking soda solution to keep smells away. If you have pans with burnt-on food, soak it in baking soda solution for 10 minutes before washing. Clean your drains by putting four tablespoons of baking soda in them weekly -- just flush it down with hot water.
  • As a decongestant. Add a teaspoon to your vaporizer to clear up stuffy noses.
  • As a deodorizer. Keep an open container of baking soda in the fridge and it will absorb odors. Sprinkle some inside boots, shoes, slippers, and socks to remove stinky foot odor.
  • As diaper rash reducer. Add two tablespoons of baking soda to your baby's bathwater.
  • As a digestive aid. Try soaking dried beans in a baking soda solution to make them easy to digest and cut down on gas.
  • As flower life-extender. You can keep freshly cut flowers longer if you add 1 teaspoon to the vase water.
  • As a gardening tool. Tomatoes will taste sweeter if you sprinkle some baking soda on the soil around the plants.
  • As a repellent. Wiping your car's windshield with baking soda will repel rain. Put some baking soda under your sinks and along basement windows to repel roaches and ants.
  • As relief from itchy bug bites, poison ivy irritation, bee stings, or painful sunburns.
  • As a skin softener. Add 1 cup to your bathwater when this dry air has your skin screaming for mercy.
  • As underarm deodorant. Apply using a powder puff.
Baking soda is one of the Hotel Boulderado's housekeeping departments favorite secret ingredients. We repeatedly receive compliments on how fresh our rooms smell, and how they don't have that "hotel smell." When asked about it, our housekeepers revealed that simple fresh air does the trick most of the time. For those stubborn odors, they recommend sprinkling some baking soda on the carpet, letting it sit for 10-15 minutes, and then vacuuming everything up.

Baking soda. So green! So historic! So very Boulderado!