Relationships Drive Business

Strengthening Customer Engagement to Propel Your Business

Distinctive Gardens’ Facebook Big Break from American Express OPEN July 5, 2011

The big city camera crew is freaked out by the grain bin behind them.


If you follow SocialPie at all, by now you probably know an my buddy Lisa and her hubby, Bud, are finalists in AmExOpen’s Big Break for Small Business contest. Big Break’s  final winners (there will be 5 of them) are determined by online voting.  (You can watch their video here and vote for them to win!)


The garden center is owned by Lisa’s husband Bud and Jim Brown, in tiny Dixon, IL. Lisa and I have been friends forever. We met in 4th grade at John Glenn Elementary School in Donahue, Iowa.  Donahue is super-tiny town of 298.


Lisa now lives about 90 minutes from Donahue in Dixon, IL; and I’m outside of Philadelphia.  We reconnected at our class reunion and keep in touch through Facebook.  Mostly through posts on SocialPie’s page, and Facebook Messages.


The adventure that Big Break has brought to Distinctive Gardens has been great. It’s been fun to watch from behind the scene’s with her going through the process, watching them stretch their business in the process. And not surprisingly, Dixon, Il is the tiniest of all the finalists hometowns.


Today’s post captures the timeline of how Distinctive Gardens came to be finalists for AmEx Open’s Big Break.


April 21 ~ “SocialPie” facebook page posts a link to the Big Break competition. Lisa saw the post.


It all started with a SocialPie Facebook post.

April 23 ~ Distinctive Gardens enters the first phase of competition with a written submission answering three questions:

1.Tell us about your business. What makes you excited to come to work every day?

2. How do you envision Facebook impacting your business?

3. How could a Big Break help your business and your customers?

May 25 ~ A call comes informing Distinctive Gardens is a top 40 semi-finalist from over 11,000 entries across the country. Later that night a phone interview is conducted. Both the written and oral submissions then go to a panel of three judges who decide the top 10.

Lisa found out she was a finalist!

June 2 ~ A call comes from Digitas in NYC, informing Distinctive Gardens they are one of the top 10 finalists.

June 10 ~ The Big Break camera crew of  from Boston, NYC, LA, and Chicago converge on Distinctive Gardens and spend an entire day shooting and interviewing to make a 90 second video for the competition. (Vote HERE 🙂  The crew:  Jon,Jerry, Kristyna, Casey and Leif parachute (not really)  into on Dixon IL and eat mounds of homemade cookies.

July 5 ~ Facebook and American Express OPEN launch public voting on the top 10 videos to determine the top 5 winners.


The Prize:  American Express Open has teamed up with Facebook to give 5 small businesses a Facebook business makeover and $25,000 to grow their business. Wish Lisa luck, and go vote (and tell your friends, too) for Distinctive Gardens!



One Wild Year April 29, 2011


Tomorrow, April 30, 2011, is SocialPie’s anniversary. Thanks to all of you for coming along for the ride.

Lots has happened in the last year. Not just with SocialPie, but in every part of life. Here’s a look at handful of milestones:

1. I’ve written 52 newsletters and 142 blog posts.
2. I’ve built 29 Facebook Pages, given 8 speeches and tweeted a bazillion times.
3. SocialPie was hired by real customers to write social media strategies, and I love doing it.
4. I became a Great Aunt.
5. My husband got a job after 18 months of unemployment. He loves it, despite the commute.
6. Our dear friends,Jay and Doreen celebrated their 20st Anniversary. The pic above is from the surprise party we threw them.

Share your story. What happened to you in the last 12 months?




Homeland Security: Your Facebook Friend April 23, 2011

Terrorist threats will now be posted to Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes. When appropriate.

The Department of Homeland Security has announced that one way they will inform the public of terror alerts is by using social media. They will only bother with the biggies – Facebook and Twitter.

Take the word to the people, where the people spend their time. What do you think? Read more from the Associated Press article here.

Personally, I have a lot of questions.

Overall, I think it is potentially a good idea. AND it needs to be carefully planned. Otherwise it will nuts. Or invisible.

First question:  How? Here’s what I mean. On Facebook I get updates from friends in my newsfeed. Do I need to be a friend of Homeland Security to get that update? (I’d hope they would consider me a friend without my opting in.)

Maybe there will be an update window pop open as soon as I log into Facebook:

“Please read this important message from the Dept. of Homeland Security:  Terror Alert Elevated. Travelers through U.S. airports are asked to be extra vigilant from May 5-6. Click here to tell your friends.”

Do you suppose it will pop up on my phone when I open my Facebook mobile app? Hmm…

Now Twitter. Do I need to follow @HomelandSecurity so I get the tweet? Problem #1 – That user name doesn’t exist. People use it; they just type it in. But it isn’t anyone’s account.

@DHSJournal exists, and it is a verified account for Department of Homeland Security. The account has 32,698 followers. But honestly, if I saw a tweet like “@DHSJournal Travelers be cautious in US airports May 2-4” I don’t think it would register with me as a terror alert. Maybe they could let @LadyGaga know. She has 9,489,232 followers. That way her people could talk to the people.

The other thing is, we’ve seen hoaxes on Twitter. Big ones. Remember the boy who supposedly floated away in a homemade aircraft. The one that looked like a Jiffy Pop pan? I sure hope Twitter execs are in on how this is going to work.

So far I haven’t seen any details about how it will work. I’ve got my fingers crossed they are working on that.

Do you have any ideas on how to do this in an effective way?  Drop me a note in the comments section.




The Sea of Sameness January 21, 2011

Filed under: Ideas,Strategy — Carla Bobka @ 2:01 am
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Inside the Customer’s Head November 11, 2010

Wednesday comScore offered a web session reviewing e-commerce trends from Q3 2010 and covering trends emerging for the upcoming holiday shopping season.  The session promised to hit on “e-commerce highlights from the third quarter of 2010, and will include a preview of online holiday shopping trends and an early read on consumer sentiment heading into the busy shopping season.”

comScore, Inc. is a global leader in measuring the digital world. Learn more about them here.

I’m sharing my notes in hopes you can take away some nuggets to grow your business by responding to consumer trends. What’s any of it have with social media? It’s a look inside the head of the consumer. Gear your social media conversations toward the way consumers are thinking right now.

Within the context of the session e-commerce is defined as worldwide retail shopping done on US based sites, excluding travel, cars and auction purchases.


  • Q3 ecommerce was up 8% over 2009 (2009 was very soft); back to a positive growth pattern.
  • E-commerce is approaching 10% of overall spending.
  • During the height of the recession e-commerce spend went negative to the tune of 1-2%
  • Decline in overall spending during the recession dropped by nearly 10%; e-commerce lost less biz than brick and mortar spending.
  • Ecommerce spend rebound since the recession has surpassed pre-recession levels; brick & mortar spending has not rebounded as much.
  • Consumers #1 concern is unemployment; uniform across income levels and for both employed and unemployed. (see chart below)
  • Inflation is #2 concern
  • 58% of people believe the unemployment rate will begin to improve 12 or more months from now. Consumers get it, and they expect this to last a long time. Expect cautious spend until those 58% believe recovery is closer.
  • Upper income segment is more optimistic about unemployment ending. If this is your market you have a more promising outlook.
  • Consumers are compensating by changing spend in 3 ways:
    • Reducing gift spending (61%)
    • Choosing other brands than previously (57%)
    • Shopping different retailers to save money (31%).
  • Top 25 retailers are gaining market share over smaller competitors; they outspend them on marketing to gain share, and offering discounts to lure customers.
  • Retailers who only sell online are growing faster than those with both online and brick & mortar outposts.
  • Websites with visitor growth are either purely e-commerce, like Amazon; or those whose internet presence interacts with their brick & mortar locations. Like Apple where consumers search the web for classes held in brick & mortar locations. Or Best Buy where you can buy online and pick-up product in-store.
  • Hot trends – sales via Groupon and LivingSocial visit growth has been phenomenal.
    • Hard to tell if there is seasonality to either of them, not enough data yet.
    • See category trends in the chart below.
  • Mobile e-commerce is growing, but not quite there yet – marketers are still figuring out how to reach the mobile user w/ something to buy rather than just give them information on the go.

Now the hard part – What’s any of this mean for your business? How can you use it to grow your share?

As always, drop me a note if you’d like help sorting through ideas.

This recession's joblessness is much different than any other recession.

Consumer categories and expected growth.


Accomplish Something August 8, 2010

Filed under: Resources — Carla Bobka @ 12:29 pm
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Putting Video to Work
In the last couple weeks we’ve looked at tools for making video, and seen how much users love watching them. Video is a tool, not an objective. Now it’s time to explore what you’re trying to accomplish with video.
Like everything else you commit time to, having an objective is key to getting the outcome you want. It is the thing that your videos as a whole, accomplish for your business. Once you define that, the then the topics of your videos begin taking shape. Start by finishing this sentence, “I want our video collection to show people …?” For instance, I use videos to give people a better idea of what kinds of things I help clients with.
Here are some ideas of objectives for your videos:
  • A way to display your expertise.
  • A way to explain the benefits of your business’ solutions.
  • A way to give a face to your business.
  • A way to solve problems lots of customers have.
Ideas of video topics that fulfill the objectives above:
  • Tell the story of customer experience with your service.
  • Introduce a product line.
  • Highlight trends.
  • Simplify the complex.
  • Familiarize customers with a process, product or concept.
  • Tell the story of your community involvement.
  • Show results for customers.
Online video for it’s own sake won’t produce results. Videos made around an objective have a purpose and results follow.

Why Bother with Facebook May 21, 2010

Filed under: Resources — Carla Bobka @ 6:25 am
Tags: , , , ,
SocialPie newsletter | Facebook | May 21, 2010
Facebook is more popular than porn. If Facebook were a country it would be the world’s 3rd largest, after China and India. That’s a lot of eyeballs. Odds are pretty good a portion of those eyeballs belong to your target market. Using Facebook puts you in front of them.
Today we’ll start with an introduction to Facebook basics, personal vs. business pages. The next 4 weeks we’ll explore these Facebook topics:
  • Using Facebook for competitive advantage without being a member
  • Insights about those who “Like” your page
  • Facebook Ads
  • Customizing Facebook
Personal profiles & Business Pages
Every member of Facebook has a personal page. Personal pages are for people and that’s where YOU connect to your real friends. People with businesses can add a Business Page. And people can “Like” your business. (this recently changed from being Fan Pages).
  1. Facebook is free
  2. Businesses cannot use personal profiles to promote themselves. They must build a Business Page from their personal profile. Break the rule and Facebook may shut you down.
  3. People who “Like” your business do not have access to your personal page or your friends’ personal status updates.
  4. “Liker” is not a noun
  5. You can get a “Like Us on Facebook” box to add to your website; for free.
Facebook privacy settings for users have been a hot topic recently. On Tuesday, May 18, Facebook promised to introduce simpler privacy settings. Read more here.
I’m full. Next week: using Facebook for competitive advantage without becoming a member.