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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Power of Social Media in Building an Online Business and Salmon Burgers with Hoisin Ketchup and Ginger Garlic Coleslaw

I wanted to talk a little bit about how Social Media can be used to build an online business. Most people in my age group, who didn't grow up with it (I'm 44)  have a general inkling that it is effective, but a lot of people, myself included, do not fully understand how it works and what its full power to promote your business actually is. I wanted to share with you a bit of what I have learned through my brief three months of experience and observations over my lifetime.

Advertising in the print, TV and radio media has historically always been a very expensive numbers game. I don't know what the exact historical conversion rates (i.e. the number of people that hear or see an ad and act on it to buy the product or service) are for an advertising campaign in the past would have been. But I would be very surprised if it was more than 0.01% for a general untargeted campaign. Before Facebook, targeting was only possible through the findings of market research conducted by market research firms. This was very time consuming and costly. Most ads are not effective because people don't generally like to be solicited. However, airtime and column inches were historically far too expensive for companies to engage in informational marketing where they would educate the potential buyer and not directly ask them to buy the product.

The internet, and companies like Youtube, Blogger and Facebook have removed the cost barrier of on-line publishing as you can write a blog for free. Your Facebook profile is free and you can post videos to Youtube for free. So the ability to develop and publish value added content at no cost now exists for everyone. Facebook has every member's personal information in the form of their interests and it it is estimated that 1/5th of the world's population uses Facebook. Then there is Alibaba, which I understand is just as large. Effectively, this is the largest ever gathering of consumers in human history. You can now pay Facebook to send advertising directly to users who fir a certain profile. The cost of these ads is infinitesimal compared to what advertising used to cost.

But there is a huge caveat: human nature hasn't changed, even though technology has. So what you will see online are a lot of people and companies making the mistake of hard selling their product by trying to advertise directly to people on Facebook or other social media sites. While the success rates with this type of advertising is a bit higher than historical media, I don't get the sense that it is significantly more effective. One of the problems is that a typical Facebook user gets a lot of items posted to their newsfeed every day, and they may simply not see your ad.

Where I think social media is invaluable is in conducting indirect, informational marketing. This is where you demonstrate your value proposition by giving something of ongoing value to your target customer base. You develop content that your potential customers would be interested to read, as most online like to learn or be entertained. Your target audience reads your articles, views your Pinterest boards and watches your videos. and if they like them, they start to return to your blog, your boards or your channel, looking for more content. If you are consistent, and you make a commitment to stick to posting items on a regular basis, eventually, you will gain credibility as someone who is knowledgeable and trustworthy. Eventually, once your target customers know you and are comfortable with you, then, they may decide to go to your website and actually check out your product.

This is where I see most most people getting it wrong. Because everything is so instant now people expect instant results and it social media simply doesn't work that way, or the results don't come in the form that you think they will, so you ignore them. For example, I have now made $475 of sales to 2 customers that I know for a fact came from social media. For all I know, that total could be higher because I don't know how many of my E-bay came from people who visited my store because of what they read in one of my stamp blogs or saw on one of my Pinterest boards. I can analyze this data if I want to and I may eventually, but I'm far too busy for that. In both instances though, the sales came about indirectly. The first customer commented on a post I shared with a stamp group on Facebook. I engaged him in a conversation that led eventually to him ordering all the Canadian year sets between 1947 and 1985. The second customer also contacted me on Facebook asking me how to get into a group he had tried to join that I was a member of. He happened to ask me to let him know if I came across any King George VI commemoratives from Great Britain. It turns out that I have some commemoratives from Morocco Agencies which were simply the GB stamps with Morocco Agencies overprints across them. So rather than tell him, "Yeah, sorry, I don't sell GB", I asked him if he collected the Morocco Agencies issues. He said he had been considering starting and could I please send him scans of what I had to sell. I did right away and the next day I sold half the items I showed him.

The moral of all this is, and this is what all the social media gurus say, is that for social media to work for you, you have to genuinely want to help people. You can't really fake that. It is your consistency that demonstrates your level of commitment to people in this regard. So how do you stay consistent?

Well, I think one way is to not be too concerned with the metrics, at least not for a while. Numbers of followers, and number of pageviews are not by themselves necessarily indicative of how well received your content is. This is especially true if your audience is specialized, as mine is. What I look at is the number of likes, shares and comments I get on Facebook with content I have shared there. As long as I get at least 1 like, then I know that at least 1 person has read my content and has liked what I had to say. Not only that, but when someone likes my post, all of their friends will see it on their newsfeeds. What I do is each day after I write a blog post, I share it to my timeline, which is seen by all my friends and then I will share it with each Facebook group that I have joined that is potentially interested in what I have written. Most of these groups detest spam and will eject members who post spam. But because my posts are almost exclusively information only, most members don't see it as spam. This usually results in several likes, shares and comments a day. Eventually, I started to notice that the same people are engaging. Some of those people could become customers, but most won't and that is perfectly OK. What is happening is that I am creating on online reputation over time - another facet of the Long Game that I wrote about in an earlier post.

My feeling is that once I have the reputation established, then I can start spending some money on the targeted advertising and experience some success. But I think that the free organic stuff is going to prove to be quite sufficient for the growth of the business.

Now to switch gears, I wanted to share a recipe that I tried and varied for salmon burgers with hoisin ketchup with ginger garlic coleslaw. This was a fairly quick meal that took no more than 30 minutes to make, is very healthy and delicious.

For 4 burgers you will need:

2 salmon fillets large enough to cut into 2 burger size portions.
hamburger buns
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic finely grated
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar

For the coleslaw you will need

1/8 cup of pickled sushi ginger
2 garlic cloves finely grated
1/2 head of green cabbage finely shredded
1/4 head of purple cabbage finely shredded
1/4 cup of rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons of toasted sesame oil

The first step is to make the hoisin ketchup. To do this fry the onions and garlic over high heat in 2 tablespoons of oil until soft, which should be about 2 min. Then add all the remaining liquid ingredients. I like to combine them in a cup first and whisk together as it just makes adding them easier when the time comes. Then boil the sauce for 10 minutes of so, reducing the heat to medium. When it has heated through and thickened, pour it into 2 small bowls to cool. Reserve one bowl for the dinner table and one for brushing on the salmon as it cooks on the BBQ.

Then to make the burgers, I just cut the salmon into burger sized pieces. The recipe I was looking at had you actually mince the salmon, but I can't see how the patties would stay together unless you used an egg to bind them. Plus the natural layering of the salmon meat gives you an easy way to tell if the salmon is cooked: the flesh should separate easily with a fork and the juices should run clear. Remove the skin and cook the salmon pieces on high heat, brushing generously with the hoisin ketchup as they cook.

To make the coleslaw, fry the ginger and garlic in about 3 tablespoons of oil for 2-3 min and then add the cabbage and fry until just wilted, which should be 2-3 min. Then turn off the heat and add, the sugar, the vinegar and the sesame oil and toss to combine and then serve!

I found that the burger did not need any condiments other than the hoisin ketchup. So all in all a very healthy, quick and tasty meal.

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