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How I Tweeted My Summer Vacation: Top 4 Tips for Small Biz Entering the Tanks

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven on September 22, 2016

You probably know I’m obsessed with reality shows that focus on entrepreneurship and social media lessons. They’re such great crisis comm studies, especially for the unfortunate small biz folks who come off so very, very badly. So, this summer I’ve been following, tweeting, and exploring fandom’s wild webs…and how networks interact with those fans and generate viewer input and loyalty. (Scroll down for what I learned, by the numbers; first, more about the psychology and sociology about connections..)

It’s quite a convo, not even counting #Bachelorette shrieks. Oh, yeah…there are lots of failed Shark Tank pitches, but I’m talking about direct fan/network chats with networks live-tweeting fans who catch every flub. Spoilers: Swag possibilities, scroll to the end.

History: Remember Amy’s Baking Company’s maelstrom on Kitchen Nightmares? Billed as the first time Gordon Ramsey walked away, it was also one of the most noticed times a small biz tried to fight back against social media trolls. A disaster.

The summer of ’16 arrived with my latest case study: CNBC Prime, which is striking gold with variations of the Shark Tank model. (Trust me, the investors of newcomers #AdventureCapitalists and #Cleveland Hustles make Mr. Wonderful look like your tweed-jacket philosophy professor.)

FIRST rule of crisis communication: Be prepared. TheProfitCNBC has it going on. Constant tweets by staff and @MarcusLemonis enforce a strong message with humor. This includes Lemonis sometimes pushing back with NSFW rhetoric that further endears the fans. His break-it-down-for-the-rest-of-us graphics don’t hurt, either. (These strategies are even stronger with newcomer #AdventureCapitalists.)

SECOND: Respond immediately. And meaningfully. Think 240Sweet on The Profit, when Alexis and Sam seemingly stiff Lemonis for a tidy sum and exploited a cancer survivor. Even poor Cindy became meme material when, it turned out, she DID need a job. Things went from sweet to sour quickly. Lesson: Every time your episode airs, you’ll wake up to new trolls, so start off right with prepared, immediate responses and apologize. (The CEO of Farrell’s, for instance, came off stronger despite massive failings.And, when you know you’ll be on national television, don’t stiff people in the first place. The choice, like so many marshmallow flavors, is yours.

THIRD Be honest. Every eye roll, every finger point, every lie or blame game will be caught. People are watching and Tweeting, in real time. Moral of the story: If you’re going on a reality show, especially the hour-long personality feature that shines light everywhere, be prepared for the effect you reflect. For example, the dastardly damsels of 240sweet presented a false message of stronger values than they exhibited. In contrast, Akron Honey declined an offer during Cleveland Hustles, which was framed as a mark of integrity rather than a brush-off. Again, the choice is yours. At the same time, if you’re a host/investor promising to live-tweet during the airing, do so…two or three weird interjections don’t count.

FOURTH: Be realistic. When the owner of The Mule pitched his $999 backpack to the #AdventureCapitalists, it took awhile for him to disclose that he’s only sold 10 over 30 years. Yet it took him seconds to reject any advice or even investment from guru @Dhani Jones. In contrast, the Nube Hammock Shelter pivoted enough to stick to their brand and win the investment.

MORAL: Don’t be a 240sweet, with the taste of onions emanating from your dessert product. Speaking of desserts, be the CEO from Farrells, Mike Fleming, who admitted shortcomings, took tough love, and continues to boost his brand plus that of @MarcusLemonis and.


In addition to seeing patterns in how featured businesses use social media, I also wanted to gauge how@CNBCPrimeTV,, and interact with public tweets to embrace the new shows and develop new fan bases. Why I chose to study CNBC: Mid-August was a week of debuts for CNBC, with the fourth season of The Profit sandwiched between newcomers Cleveland Hustles and Adventure Capitalists.

  • Quick facts: On average, I tweeted 16 times per each 60-minute show for four weeks. While I occasionally liked another post or something by CNBC, my content was purely reactionary to show events, a passive stance not ideal for businesses who hope for true conversations and endorsements.
  • Dates of study: First tweet: Aug. 22 (first episode of #Adventure Capitalists); Last tweet: Sept. 19, when the show didn’t show up on Monday night (and was only questioned by 3 others.
  • NEW SHOW INVESTOR and @CNBCPrimeTV engagement: Adventure Capitalists frequently liked and retweeted my tweets, two of the three primary investors interacted with fans in real time, but consistency seemed shaky with only four episodes and a poorly planned conclusion that left viewers uncertain. Cleveland Hustles offered more value to fans, following me me before the show began, with one investor liking my tweets and the host frequently engaged. This was also a longer show with more traction, building to finale engagement.
  • RETURNING SHOW INVESTOR and @CNBCPrimeTV engagement: In contrast, The Profit returned at an all time peak of interest from viewers looking for a fresher Shark Tank-type experience and a fan base of thousands already tweeting directly to investor/host @MarcusLemonis. This was harder to crack into as a new fan and I went to real-life extremes, even visiting and tweeting pictures of a Farrell’s restaurant (supported by Lemonis in the first episode).   Interesting study of a small biz befoe their episode aired: I’d even contacted the Farrell’s Director of Marketing asking if I could support their efforts, with no response; however, the CEO (Mike Fleming) followed me and has kept up an enthusiastic, engaging conversation with fans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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9-11 Twitter Fail

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven on September 9, 2016

The gift that keeps on giving…untrained employees and social media.

miracle-mattress

Miracle Mattress posts 9/11 ad

Miracle Mattress in San Antonio recently posted an appalling  ‘9/11 Twin Towers Sale‘ ad with two employees knocking over two mattress stacks as a spokeswoman (identified by angry commenters as the owner’s daughter) asks, “What better way to remember 9/11 than with a Twin Tower sale?” Backlash was immediate, with the chain’s owner first issuing a letter of apology on Facebook.

But, as everybody knows, apologies won’t stop the fire. This company, and others, face deadly floods of Yelp reviews and posts that recycle every time a link or program is aired. (See Amy’s Baking Company and 240Sweet as examples of biz owners facing consequences.)

In this case, the buzz went global and the Miracle Mattress store is now closed indefinitely. Takeaway: Make sure ALL communication matches your core values. Monitor and measure your message consistency and audiences. And learn when to own up and walk away.

 

 

 

 

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Summer Student Tips

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven on July 13, 2016

If you’re interested in communication, media, and writing, subscribe to Poynter’s NewsU for free, self-directed tutorials, as well as Ragan Communications’ PR Daily.  And yes…use your real name to snag a Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media addy before somebody else does.  Your business card is simply a Google search, so manage your name and your brand. 

 

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Dumb and Dumber PR – IHOP Missteps

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven on November 2, 2015

Sometimes folks just try so hard to be so cool.  Take a deep breath and hide any giggles of horror:

Recent tweets from IHOP:

Flat but has a great personality IHOP

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Green Health, Global Strategies, and Tribal Voices

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven on September 29, 2015

It’s shifting, our global conversation about health and sustainability. While some scholars and activists continue to argue about semantics, actual climate change case studies are now inspiring public debates about everything from anti-meat agendas to how people can adapt to crushing impacts.

The latter topic will be a focal point at “Indigenous Peoples and Nations Consultation on Climate Change: Defending Our Rights and Food Sovereignty on the Road to Paris and Beyond.” Presented by the United Nations Development Programme and International Indian Treaty Council, this session at the fifth annual Native Food Sovereignty Summit will give final feedback  for an international, legally-binding agreement to curb the pace of climate change.

I will be honored to be there, at this historic occasion with traditional food producers and Tribal Nations. At previous Summits, we’ve heard about off-calendar salmon runs and widespread crop devastation; now, global ears are listening to indigenous voices about how traditional practices (such as Ojibwe rice-harvesting) can be solutions.

Green health is a work in progress, and I hope to learn more about how humans stay at the center. Let’s keep talking!

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For my students…

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven on December 13, 2014

Grades are in and you’re off to great adventures!  As promised, here are some take-aways:  

1.  Strengthen your resume! Employers want to know if you’re a good fit and have the necessary abilities to succeed, so list your hard and soft skills. For instance, hard skills are easily quantifiable (proficiency in content analysis and other research methods, etc.) while soft skills are less quantifiable “people” skills (time management, teamwork, collaboration, communication, feedback, etc.)  If you’ve successfully completed an online course, that’s a plus for independent working and time management.  The peer review process indicates virtual skills in collaboration and feedback.  Etc…think back to what you’ve learned and match those skills to what’s desired in job descriptions.

2. Establish your online presence by building a website (<—check out the easy instructions and add hyperlinks to your resume with samples of your work) plus working on your personal identity and branding with active words.

3. Lining up an interview?  Here are the usual questions and how to answer them.

4.  Finally, if you need a letter of recommendation, contact me.  I’ll send you a template that you’ll tailor to the job description and we’ll talk more about how to best highlight your skills!

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It’s On! MEDIA LITERACY

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven on September 7, 2014

A colleague recently asked about media literacy in corporations. Smugly, I thought this discussion was a piece of cake; after all, in the midst of all the CSR trumpet-blowing, aren’t today’s corporations much more sensitive about the need to educate citizens rather than consumers? Well, I’ve been wrestling with this sticky question for a week now, with no end in sight to unravel this hidden mess of ethics and skills.

Who, exactly, should take the lead in educating everybody about how to decipher messages, motives, and senders? While the Knight Commission issued a 2010 report calling for public and private networks to take on the mantle, existing scholarship doesn’t seem to address much besides how media literacy extends democracy and how the media industry itself shines a light on media literacy. And, while it’s admirable for the mainstream producer of messages to deconstruct its processes, we’re missing a huge piece of the pie.

And there’s the rub. In this age of transparency, we’d expect organizations to self-police issues of power, audiences, and mediated information. My students this semester are starting with a reading (“Principles for a New Media Literacy”) and video (EPIC 2015) to ground our first conversation. It’s going to be a heated debate – especially the need for journalists to critique their own involvement in the waning of the Fourth Estate – and we’d love to have you join us . . .

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#MMIW

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven on February 11, 2014

“I dance for our people, not for causes defined by others. On February 14th, I stand with the memorial marches, and honor the missing and murdered Indigenous women.”


##MMIWThe 14th is five days away, for more information and to find a time and location for a march near you, please click here.  

If you are in the U.S. please consider organizing and participating in a solidarity event. You can also make a last minute donation to the Downtown East Side (Vancouver) march fund here — withGenevieve GrowingThunder.

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Random Musing: Climbing the (Fire) Wall

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven on January 13, 2014

We can’t always get what we want.  From intermittent media pay walls and mandatory log-ins to the Great Firewall in China, it’s often a cat-and-mouse game to see what true riches we can pluck from Interwebs.

As we, as students and social activists, continue to broadcast in a narrowcast world, it’s fascinating to see barriers crumble (such as Chinese users jumping that wall to check out censored cites) and blossom (the First Nations Development Institute’s required enrollment before allowing access to its Knowledge Center of reports and publications).

The latter example illustrates a measurement technique that’s especially valuable in gauging what content is needed by which audiences.  I readily logged into the Institute to prepare for the Food Sovereignty Summit and discovered a new series of fact sheets about Native American Food and Health; however, I also stumbled into a section about how to strengthen Native American Nonprofits that will greatly help our work with Global Spark.

My tangent is about how we painstakingly craft social media policies while unflinchingly creating log-ins and other leaps that create Big Data with large user bases.  Some of my tech-ier friends see this as an issue of connectivity — How many times are you asked to login with LinkedIn and Facebook?  Amidst worries about privacy and integration, it’s worth looking before you leap (over fire)… speak (via Google Voice) or cough up cash…

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Big News for Student Research!

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven on November 24, 2013

Students in the Fall AIS 230A course at the University of Washington are studying American Indian tribes and casinos, relying on a research framework from the Sycuan Institute on Tribal Gaming at San Diego State University.  Including ideas from cultural theorists such as American Indian author/activist Vine Deloria, Jr., each student researched one unique tribe and also created team projects about casino-related economic development, culture, and politics.  (Individual papers will be posted here after the quarter ends.)

BIG NEWS!  This research will be part of larger presentations at the American Indian Workshop at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands from May 21-25, 2014.  Here are the shortened descriptions.

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