SoMe Inaugural Insights Event Features Stephen Strong, VP of Marketing at ParkWhiz

SoMe kicked off its Insight event series on Friday, May 31, with a talk from Stephen Strong, VP of marketing at ParkWhiz. Aalap Shah & Madhavi Rao, co-founders of SoMe Connect originally conceived SoMe Insights as an opportunity for the team to learn best practices and other meaningful tactics from companies and organizations that were successful on social media. However, as planning began and speakers were selected, both co-founders realized that there was an opportunity to create meaningful dialogue around social for the greater Chicago community and opened up the series to the public. The focus for the event now is to showcase successful companies and actionable insights on a monthly basis and providing a forum for the greater business community to ask questions and talk with these thought leaders.

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Strong and colleague, James Sims, ParkWhiz communications manager, discussed consumer advocacy and the integral role it plays in marketing a company. ParkWhiz, a Chicago-based company that allows you to reserve parking spots online, has an impressive online following with over 7,000 vocal and active Facebook fans. But a good company knows, Facebook ‘Likes’ are just the beginning, which is why Strong and Sims stressed the importance of giving a voice to your users.

One way ParkWhiz equips their users, is by providing a forum for them to review parking garages where they’ve reserved spots. ParkWhiz uses these reviews to collect information on consumer preferences, which helps them better understand their users. In addition, ParkWhiz reports their findings to parking garage staff, who are historically disconnected from their users.

When reviewing or creating a new online marketing plan for your business, consider how easy or hard it is for your users to express themselves. If you’re not getting much in the way of consumer feedback, dig deeper. Strong and Sims say they make a point to shout out all the parking garages they work with, especially the smaller ones. While these garages don’t have the biggest following, they’re often more receptive and vocal than their larger competitors. The takeaway: Your audience may be scattered across smaller networks and forums, but they should not be discounted. ParkWhiz has found success in pulling fan content from smaller sites and sharing it where they have their biggest online presence, Facebook.

SoMe Insight events will take place each month at Enerspace Co-Working conveniently located right off the Morgan Pink/Green lines. Need more motivation? Chicago food truck staples, Bombay Wraps and Flirty Cupcakes food, were on hand to feed the events 60+ attendees. Mark your calendars for our upcoming speakers! You do not want to miss this all-star lineup. Info on sign-up and topics to come soon.

July 26, 2013: David Gardner, ColorJar

August 23, 2013: Tim Bruno, Corporate Execute Board

September 27, 2013: Maria Katris, Built In Chicago

October 25, 2013: Mike McGee, Starter League

November 20, 2013: Ankur Thakkar, Chicago Mayor’s Office

Hashtags Make Their Way to Facebook

#YouCanDoThisOnFacebookNow

Just..do it smarter.

Last week, Facebook announced that they will begin to integrate clickable hashtags onto the social platform. In fact, according to ABC News, “When a hashtag is included in a post, clicking on it will pop out a feed that aggregates others posts that have been tagged with the same phrase.” – ABC.com

It seems to be more of an effort to understand discussions with Facebook users over polarizing pop culture figures, places, and events, and also to make it easier for Facebook users to connect with each other over shared interests.

If you think hashtags are overdone, you are probably right. However, hashtags are the common denominator among social sites like Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Vine, which makes it easier to continue conversations or Trending Topics once posted on Facebook, versus changing the method of participating in public conversations altogether.

Facebook Hashtags will also be searchable in the same way you search a friend, place, or brand page on the website. Hashtags however, will stay native to your laptop. Mobile posts with the pound sign will not be clickable. Seeing as how more than 80% of the internet is now accessed via Smartphones, Facebook better get a move on it.

One important thing to note for brands and users everywhere, Hashtags, like all Facebook posts, will have the privacy option. You will only be searchable if you’ve updated your settings to do so, and if not then this conversation will stay among #friends.

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For more updates on the hashtag integration into Facebook, check out “Facebook Hashtags: Why They Will Turbo Charge Your Reach” and “Facebook Hashtags: Time to Go Over Those Privacy Settings Again

Food Truck and Social Media: A Delicious Harmony of Marketing

A new industry is emerging in the world of eats—and it’s growing at an accelerated rate. Dubbed “the shooting stars of lunchtime” (shout out to Chicago Magazine) food trucks have become all the rage. Serving everything from cupcakes to grilled cheese, soup to tamales—and everything else in between—these meals on wheels are surefire crowd pleasers for any time of day.

The popularity of food trucks is fast moving, for sure, but when you’re never in the same place at the same time, how do you develop a dependable relationship with your customers? That’s where another newly emerging market comes in: social media. With similar reliance on speed and flexibility, social media and food trucks go together like peanut butter and jelly. I had the opportunity to talk with a number of food trucks to get the low-down on how they have utilized social media to bring their brand online.

One of the most popular uses for social media, it seems, is to be able to inform customers, especially about location and new product offerings. Since food trucks historically don’t have reliable brick and mortar addresses, it is important for companies to be able to quickly inform their customers of their whereabouts.

“Social media definitely allows us to be more flexible. With the industry being relatively new, a lot of times we have to be able to think on our feet. Most of the places we go are pre-vetted—but sometimes we have to switch locations at the drop of a dime, and we rely heavily on social media for that,” said Toasty Cheese Mobile Eatery Director of Parties & Events Gina Veneziano.

Owner and “Soupologist” of Soups in the Loop, Chugger Lupo, favors marketing his food truck over social media channels for the speed of information delivery.

“Instead of printing and mailing thousands of flyers, we are able to reach out to our customer base instantly with menu updates, daily deals and upcoming specials.

Food trucks also popularly use social media in order to create an ongoing dialogue with their customers, rather than solely hawking their products. Creating a relatable and engaging brand personality to foster relationships with customers is a valuable way to make connections and increase repeat customers. Visitors can quickly ‘tweet’ and ‘like’ their experiences, which results in solid word of mouth marketing, and creates buzz for the brand and product. However, this function does not come without complications.

“With social media being so real-time and easy to quickly talk about the products, it’s just as easy for people to complain. They could be posting right then and there on our Twitter, and it’s out there in front of everyone right away,” said Veneziano.

Overall, social media offers a direct line between companies looking to deliver information with both flexibility and speed to their customers and the industry. Although this all-access avenue can sometimes create complications, the benefits always outweigh the risks.

“The feedback we receive from our customers—whether it be constructive criticism or positive praise—helps us to become the best food truck, and standard in soup, on the streets of Chicago we can be,” said Lupo.

Follow both trucks on Twitter at @SoupsInTheLoop and @MyToastyCheese.