how-to-use-facebook-advertising-for-small-business

How to Use Facebook Advertising for Small Business

how-to-use-facebook-advertising-for-small-business

As a small business owner you’ve probably heard a million times that you need to be on Facebook.

It’s true: there are numerous benefits for small businesses to be on social media, including relationship marketing and promoting fun content to your local audience.

But changes to Facebook’s algorithm make it harder for your content to reach your fans (even those who have voluntarily liked your page!). It’s practically become a requirement for businesses to advertise on Facebook in order to get their content out there, despite doubts about how effective it  really is.

That being said, you cannot ignore Facebook. Know the realities and the restrictions in order to best plan how to use Facebook advertising for small business.

The 3 key elements to getting your marketing strategy right on Facebook are to 1. Know Your Audience, 2. Clearly Define Your Goals, and 3. Test, Test, Test!

1. Know Your Audience

As a small business owner, you know your audience better than anyone. They come into your storefront every day, and if you’ve installed Google Analytics on your website you’ll know a bit about your online visitors, too.

It’s no different on Facebook. Invite your customers to like your business on Facebook. Then, try out different content and offers on your page to learn what your fans enjoy, and what kind of media they like best (photos, links to articles, videos, etc.).

Knowing your audience and what gets them ticking is key for two reasons: knowing what to advertise on Facebook and knowing how to target your advertising.

2. Clearly Define Your Facebook Advertising Goals

As you surely know, your marketing goals need to tie into your overall business objectives. Before you start running any Facebook ads, know exactly what your goal for the ad is and how it’s going to contribute to your business objectives. This will help you determine your budget.

Facebook’s latest updates to its platform makes it easy to set your objective for your ad.

Your options include advertising for engagement, clicks to a website, website conversions (purchases, signups, etc.), event responses and more.

One great new option for small businesses is to advertise for offer claims. If your clients on Facebook respond well to promotions like 30% off for a day, then this is a great way to promote special offers or coupons.

Targeting Your Ad

Now is when targeting your ad correctly really becomes important. Facebook offers great targeting options by location, age, gender, interests and behaviors.

Since you’ve already done the exercise of getting to know your audience, you can easily set up targeting by location, age and gender. Interest targeting helps identify people in your area who have similar interest to your fans, and who may also be interested in your product.

Targeting by behaviors helps you find people who like to buy things online, or who post a lot of photos, for instance.

Be careful when narrowing your target audience: Facebook will let you know if your audience is too narrow or too broad. If it’s too narrow, you risk no one seeing your ad!

Track Your Ad’s Performance

In order to track how well your Facebook advertising is performing, read these Social Media Examiner tips for tracking return on investment (ROI) for your ad campaigns.

You can also create unique URLs for links to your website to help you measure how many clicks you’re getting on Google Analytics.

WARNING: Avoid Paying for Page Likes!

It’s not just this video that has put me off from paying Facebook to acquire page likes. In my experience, promoting your Facebook page in order to get more likes usually results in lower overall engagement on your Facebook posts.

Stay focused: promote individual posts, website conversions or something more concrete than just likes.

Besides, can you really say what a Facebook like is worth? Exactly.

3. Test, Test, Test!

The only way to make sure that you’re getting the best results from your campaigns is to constantly test your ads.

Using your tracking information, find out how your ads are performing. By setting up Ecommerce tracking in Google Analytics you can find out how much revenue each ad brings in.

Another way to test the performance of Facebook ads, according to Mashable, is to first optimize your ads for engagement. Based on the success of your ad’s engagement, you can then optimize the ad for reach (meaning, how many people see your ad).

Facebook Advertising is Evolving

What Facebook has on offer for small businesses and advertisers is constantly evolving. If you’re thinking seriously of investing in paid advertising on the platform, take time to read through the Facebook for Business page.

Other resources like Social Media Today can be helpful, and discussing with other small business owners can help you get an idea of their experiences and successes (or not).

In any case, it’s important to be on Facebook, but sadly this “free” platform is getting more and more expensive.

How-to-use-googleplus

Why You Need to be on GooglePlus

google-hummingbird

 

“There’s nothing happening on GooglePlus!”

I hear this all the time. It’s true, fewer of your friends and family are on GooglePlus and its interface is completely different from Facebook’s. But for businesses (even small ones!), brands, and anyone who wants to make a name for themselves on the web, GooglePlus is vital to your success. Here is why you need to be on GooglePlus.

1. Google is the king of search.

Google has become so ubiquitous when it comes to online search that “to google” is now a verb. That means that your brand, business, or whatever it is, needs to show up in Google search results.

According to a presentation by Google at Social Media Week in Los Angeles at the end of last year, they perceive GooglePlus as “the future of Google.” Meaning, content shared in GooglePlus will have a big influence on what shows up in search results.

Basically, instead of thinking of GooglePlus as a social media platform, think of it as a search engine.

With its release of Hummingbird (its new search algorithm), Google has increased the importance of producing quality content in order for businesses and brands (as well as individuals) to establish themselves as experts in their fields and show up in search results. That means: blog, blog, blog! (And Hangout, and YouTube, and, and, and…)

2. An Authorship link will increase your visibility in search results.

You’ve heard it a million times: businesses should blog! We know the supposed benefits, but GOOD LORD it is a time investment!

But you’ve got to do it. And you’re better off using your real name and personal identity when you do, and linking your GooglePlus profile to your blog with Google Authorship.

GooglePlus-in-search-results
Search results will incorporate more information from GooglePlus

The new search algorithm means that more quality content from individuals in your GooglePlus circles (or connected to your circles) will show up in search results. Between two excellent blog articles, a Google search will favor the one written by John Smith who is in 345 circles, rather than the article written by “The BusyBee Honey Blog.”

Why is this? Because Google knows the value of a thought leader; a trusted person who is seen as a credible authority. People are more likely to find value in information provided by people they know (or know through the internet) than a corporate blog.

3. Google demands quality content.

Okay, so you’re blogging, and you’ve learned how to use GooglePlus. You’ve created your profile or your company page, and you’re sharing all your articles. That should do the trick, right?

Wrong.

It’s not just enough to write stuff and put it out there. It’s got to be good. And it’s got to be relevant. Your content needs to answer the questions that people are asking when they do a Google search.

If you’re just writing company news or making heavily promotional videos, no one is going to see them. Sharing them on GooglePlus will get no reaction, and it could, in fact, hurt your SEO standing because you’re spamming up the internet with content no one cares about.

Answer your customers’ questions with your content. If you’re a pet grooming business and people are searching “how often should I groom my dog,” write an article or create a short video that answers that question.

4. Being active on GooglePlus will help establish credibility.

So now you have awesome content AND you’re sharing it on GooglePlus.

How-to-use-googleplus

Now’s when the social media side of GooglePlus kicks in. It’s not enough to just put your content out there. You’ve got to help people find your content by connecting with them and building relationships.

Start out by finding communities to join, commenting on posts, and sharing other people’s good content (giving credit, of course). Then start sharing your stuff, making sure it’s relevant to discussions.

Finally: Have fun!

Contrary to popular belief, GooglePlus is fun. Lots of savvy individuals, businesses and brands are active there, and you’ll find useful and entertaining information. I’ve “met” people on GooglePlus who have enriched my understanding of wider social media, and I’ve followed news sources and joined great communities that cater to my interests.

Invest a little time in GooglePlus and good content, and you’ll see the benefits for your online presence.

The Grinch Hates Noise

Oh the Marketing Noise, Noise, Noise, NOISE!

Sometimes, I feel like the Grinch from Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

The Grinch Hates Noise
“Oh the noise, noise, noise, NOISE!”

But in my case, I’m not griping about Whos in Whoville, but marketing noise in social media.

What Is Noise in Marketing?

“Noise” in marketing terms refers to material that distracts from an intended message.

“Good marketing,” according to one source, “engages and informs potential clients” with a “clear, compelling message.”

Bad marketing causes noise. And noise is obnoxious.

Boy, Tweeps Are Loud

As anyone who spends time online knows, advertising is becoming more and more pervasive in social media. You can’t scroll through your Facebook newsfeed or your Twitter feed without coming across an ad in the form of a promoted post or a promoted tweet.

Marketing Noise on Twitter
Pipe down!

Today, Josh Constine at TechCrunch.com wrote about decelerating Twitter user growth. The number of Twitter users is growing, but more slowly than historically. Constine partly attributes this to crowded and overwhelming Twitter feeds.

His article really rang true for me. Lately, I have found hanging out on Twitter more stressful than enjoyable. I follow 880 people and have never organized those people into lists.

The result is, my feed is full of clutter. But rarely do I see a promoted tweet. No, I am talking about individual marketing noise.

Shameless Self-Promoters

We all know them. They look something like this:

Okay, to be fair Jeff Bullas does write some pretty good content. But check out his tweets. They are ALL. THE. SAME. When your Twitter feed is full of variations of the above, it can start to get, well, BORING.

Twitter is full of people, far less credible than Jeff Bullas, who are trying (like me, admittedly) to position themselves as social media gurus (#8 is totally me).

But do you know what? There are only so many “6 tips for this” or “10 ways to do that” articles with which the internet can put up.

How to NOT Make Marketing Noise

“But Jane!” you say, “Didn’t you recently write an article with 7 tips for first-time bloggers?” Well, yes. Yes I did. In my defense, writing this blog has been a learning process. That, however, is no excuse.

The truth is, though, that I can’t promise not to write more articles of the same ilk. Why? Because people do read them.

That said, the way to avoid contributing to social media overkill (especially on Twitter) is to:

Avoid being noise by being yourself

Yup! Interact on Twitter! Post a lame joke! Don’t just shamelessly self-promote. Show that there’s a reason you’re a social media guru. It’s because you are awesomesauce.

Be Yourself in Social Media
Being my goofy self at the Social Media Success Summit 2013 get-together on Twitter

So, can we all agree to stop posting “8 tips” and “3 ways” and “5 reasons” articles over and over again on Google+ and Twitter? We self-proclaimed gurus need to work to make social media a less noisy and more fun place to hang out.

7 First-Time Blogger Tips

7 First-Time Blogger Tips

7 First-Time Blogger Tips

Several people have contacted me with requests for tips on starting their own blog.

First of all, this is *HUGELY* flattering!  Thanks guys!  Starting this blog has been a real learning process, and I’m happy to share some tips that I’ve learned along the way.

So, without further ado, here are 7 tips I’ve learned for first-time bloggers:

1. Own Your URL

I wanted a specific URL, so I bought my domain name from GoDaddy and used WordPress to build my blog.

If you want to use your blog to build a portfolio, see if you can own your name as your domain (I couldn’t, as apparently there are 5,000 realtors named Jane Kennedy).

2. Get a Site Hosting Service

You can easily create a blog on any number of platforms like Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress or Blogspot.  Originally, I went with GoDaddy for my hosting services.  I was disappointed with how slow it was, though.  Upon a colleague’s recommendation, I switched to SiteGround, which is more expensive but much faster.

If you’re a first-time blogger, though, and you have no idea about designing a website or web hosting (and you don’t have an awesome pair of brothers who know all about this stuff like I do–thanks bros…), I highly recommend WordPress.com.  It’s a great platform and you can choose some great templates for your design.

For examples of blogs that use WordPress.com for hosting, check out my friend Anna’s, and my friend Caroline’s blogs.  My friend Laure uses Blogspot for hers.

3. Design Your Blog

Once you’ve got your URL and your hosting service, it’s time to design your first blog.

There’s an important rule here: Keep it simple.

You want to make it easy for people to read your articles.  You also want to strike a balance of space for your text and room for some interactive content in the right-hand column (or however you set up your blog).

The rule for the right-hand column content is simple: Make it relevant, interesting, and useful.  Make it easy for people to browse through your blog history, and to find your articles by title, topic and date, and connect with you on social media.  Always provide a search bar.

4. Start Writing!

Here’s the first rule: Write about what interests you.

Don’t waste everyone’s time by trying to write about stuff that you think people *want* to read.  If you write well about what you love, people will enjoy it and come back for more.  For a great example of a blog that focuses on a specific interest, see my friend Ysa Belh‘s blog.

Second rule?  Write a lot.

Be prolific!  Establish a ground base of good content and write, write, write!  It’s good practice, and you’ll find your voice.  When you get started with WordPress, they provide lots of great advice about getting started.  One tip I particularly retained was to practice by doing.

5. Some Search Engine Optimization Basics

SEO is the internet buzz word and it’s how you get your blog noticed.

Basically, it means filling your articles with frequently searched-for terms and keywords.  It also means installing plugins that help make your blog easy to find for people who are searching for stuff you’re writing about.

You can use tools like Google Adwords Keywords Tool (apparently this will only be available to non-paying users for a little while longer, so hop on it while you can).  This tool allows you to put in your article topic and see what similar search terms people are googling.  That’ll give you ideas for other keywords to seamlessly integrate into your content.  You can also find terms by starting a regular Google search and seeing what phrases Google suggests for autocomplete.

Basically, the rule about writing about what interests you applies here.  There’ll be other people on the internet interested in the same things, that’s for sure.  Hey, it takes all kinds, right?

6. Share What You’ve Written

Once you publish an article, don’t just sit back and expect people to stumble upon it and find it.

Share in social media, and shamelessly plug your new endeavor to your nearest and dearest (I love you, Mom and Dad!).  Don’t be obnoxious about it, but share your articles in context (this is especially easy if you’re writing about current, trending events).

7. Get on Google+

If you want Google to help people find your blog, create a Google+ profile and link it to your blog.  You can download a Google+ Author Link plugin which allows you to connect your blog to your Google+ profile.

Add your blog to your profile, and whenever you write something, publish a link to the article on Google+.

But don’t leave it at that.  Actually use Google+!  I say this for two reasons: Google likes it (yes, we are all slaves to the Google), and it’s also growing into a great, dynamic, informative and fun platform.

***

I could go on, but this article is long enough.  Later I’ll write about my favorite WordPress plugins.  Some are visible on my homepage and some are behind-the-scenes whizzes that make thebraininjane.com the magical place it is.  Hee!

My brothers were instrumental in making this website happen.  Visit my brother Austin’s website over at PaperScenery.net.

Andy Murray Wins Wimbledon

Andy Murray: Totally NOT the First Brit to Win Wimbledon in 77 Years

I owe Andy Murray an apology.

Once, a while back (perhaps a couple of years ago) I called him “whiny”.  I did this publicly on Twitter.  I apologize, Andy.  You are not whiny.  You are AWESOME!  CONGRATULATIONS!!

Andy Murray has gotten a lot more kick-butt lately.  He’s matured as a human being and as a tennis player, and that is why Virginia Wade and #Wimbledon2013 are this week’s Twitter hashtag of the week!

“Huh?! Who is Virginia Wade and what does she have to do with Andy Murray” you ask?  Lemme ‘splain.

According to Passnotes (“a humorous Q&A about a news issue of the day”) on the Guardian’s website, the Times, the Telegraph and the Daily Mail (major periodicals in the UK) all published headlines about Murray being the first Brit to win at Wimbledon in 77 years, since Fred Perry won it back in 1936.

WRONG!

Virginia Wade Wimbledon
Virginia Wade holding the Wimbledon trophy on July 1st, 1977

Virginia Wade was the last Brit to win at Wimbledon!  That’s right!  She did it back in 1977!

Perhaps we could give these publications the benefit of the doubt and say that they confused “1977” with “77”, but then their lines about “77-year wait” and “after 77 years” wouldn’t make sense anymore.

Well this is awkward.

Wade is now almost 68 years old (her birthday is coming up on July 10th!), but back in 1977 she was a tennis champion who had previously won the US and Australian Opens.

Not only that, but before her, Britain’s Dorothy Round Little won the women’s title at Wimbledon (1937), so did Angela Mortimer (1961) and Ann Haydon-Jones (1969).

But let us be clear: Because the men’s singles bring in more viewers, sponsors and cash, and because men’s tennis is so much more, well, legit (they actually play 5 whole sets, as opposed to the ladies), the fact that Andy Murray is the first British man to win at Wimbledon in 77 years is more important than Wade’s victory in 1977.

Andy Murray Wins Wimbledon
This is cool. But he’s not the first Brit in 77 years to do it.

Right?

Sadly, so it would seem.

Now, I want to be clear: I do not, in any way, want to diminish Murray’s victory.  He beat Djokovic in an INCREDIBLE final match, and he deserves to revel in his achievement.

But it does not follow that Wade’s victory 36 years ago should be passed over or forgotten merely for the sake of a dramatic headline.  It’s still pretty awesome that Murray is the first Brit to win at Wimbledon in 36 years!  Don’t you think that 36 years is a long enough dry spell?

Okay, okay, call me a feminazi if you want to.  Call me a parade-rainer, a party pooper, or whatever.  Honestly, I didn’t know about Virginia Wade myself until today.  I had heard, like everyone else, that Britain had not had a Wimbledon champion in many long years.

That’s why I’m writing this article, and it’s why I hope you will share.  Because it’s important to remember Virginia Wade, and to celebrate the ladies like the Williams sisters, Sharapova, Bartoli and all the other amazing lady tennis players out there.

Cheers, ladies!

How to Get a Celebrity to Answer You on Twitter

As anyone who has ever been retweeted, favorited or answered by a celebrity on Twitter knows, it’s an amazing feeling.

Andrew WK Follows Me!
The day Andrew WK followed me I rejoiced.

What is more validating than a famous person answering your tweet?  The thought of a celebrity being amused by what you have to say, or chuckling to him or herself at your pithy quip is delightful.  It makes you feel good.  As a social media professional, I feel qualified to give some tips on how to get a celebrity to answer you on Twitter.

This involves some Dos and Don’ts.

DON’T:

  • Beg.  For the love of Pete, keep your dignity! “@justinbieber OMG PLZ FOLLOW ME I LUV U SOOOOO MUCH XXXX” is just sad.
  • Be sarcastic.  You may think your sarcasm is witty and clever, but it is rarely well understood when written, so don’t try to catch a celebrity’s attention with sarcasm.
  • Be insincere.  Though sarcasm can be hard to spot, insincerity is easily identifiable in 140 characters. “@jtimberlake I looooooved you in ‘Bad Teacher,’ I totally thought it was oscar-worthy. Please follow!” Well that combines insincerity (because please, no one thought “Bad Teacher” was a good movie) and begging, so it’s a double no-no.
  • NEVER LIE.  Related to insincerity, lying will get you nowhere and will most likely get you into trouble later.  That’s not really about getting retweeted by a celebrity, but just Twitter advice in general.
  • Promote yourself.  “@BrunoMars My band is playing covers of your song at our concert. Can I get a RT?”  No.
  • Be irrelevant. Tweeting at a celebrity about a topic in which they are likely to have absolutely no interest is simply not going to get you anywhere.

Twitter LogoNow, a disclaimer: I’m about to list some Dos, but you should note that lots of celebrities don’t have their @ setting enabled (they don’t get notifications when they’re tweeted at), so they won’t see your tweet.  Also, if you’re tweeting at someone who has millions of followers, your tweet is likely to be missed.  That said, here are some ways to get yourself noticed and tweeted back.

DO:

  • Follow interesting people.  Follow people who tweet things that are relevant and interesting to you. Don’t follow people just because they’re celebrities.
  • Tweet interesting things. Foster your Twitter presence by tweeting frequently (without being a spam nuisance) and by sharing interesting content.  Link to good articles, retweet fun things, make pertinent, clever and smart observations.  It is possible to be eloquent and interesting in 140 characters, and you don’t want to fill your Twitter history with inanities.
  • Get to know the celebrity.  If you spend enough time on Twitter, you’ll get to know the kinds of things that celebrities retweet, mention or comment on.  If Kevin Bacon tends to tweet about his musical activities and his movies, then tweet at him about seeing him in a show or a movie.  Get to know celebrities’ interests, then share in them.
  • If you’re really desperate, identify the softies.  Russell Crowe’s heart will absolutely melt if you tell him it’s your birthday, you’ve been a fan for a long time, you’re running a race today and you’d really appreciate a retweet.  Bingo.  Cesar Millan will swoon if you tell him you just went out and got your son a rescue pit bull pup for his birthday and can you get a shout out (n.b. include a photo in this one).  Figure out who the celebrities are who like to make people feel good by answering their tweets.  There you go.  Sorted.  (But remember what I said about insincerity!  Don’t do it!)
  • Be yourself.  Just tweet about what you like.  If you’re having a whale of a time on Twitter, then people (including celebrities you mention) will notice.
Celebrity Interaction
Brendan Kelly is a local Montreal radio personality who apparently also likes the Rolling Stones!

Interactions with celebrities on Twitter are great.  But they are not the whole point of the platform.  The best way to get noticed, get mentions, retweets and gain followers, is to put out fun and good content.  Essentially, have a good time on Twitter and Twitter will have a good time with you.

Simples.

Guerrilla Marketing: You’re Doing it Right

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have seen one of the many hilarious GIFs floating around the internet.  Like this one of Jennifer Lawrence at the Met Gala a few weeks ago.

JenniferLawrence
Seriously, can we be best friends??

GIF stands for “Graphics Interchange Format” and it’s what makes animated images.  Invented in 1987 by Steve Wilhite, both the GIF and its inventor were honored this week at the Webby Awards.  Wilhite’s 5-word acceptance speech (delivered as a GIF) sparked a debate all over the internet.

“It’s pronounced ‘Jif’. NOT ‘GIF’.” -Steve Wilhite

Cue: OUTRAGE!!  “But we’ve been pronouncing it ‘gif’ this whole time!”  “Bah, you fools, everyone knows it’s pronounced ‘jif’!”

This is where the guerrilla marketing comes in.  Like Oreos did so brilliantly at the Superbowl, the folks over at Jif peanut butter had a marketing creative on hand who was struck with a genius idea.

And, of course, that link takes you to this:

 

It's Pronounced Jif

 

Don’t stare too long, you might have a seizure.

GENIUS!!  Timely, apt, clever and très à propos!

This tweet got nearly 2,000 retweets and garnered new followers for Jif on Twitter.  They still don’t have an enormous following, but if they continue to engage in awesome guerrilla marketing tactics like this, it won’t take long for their fan base to grow.

This and the Oreo ad from the Superbowl show the value of having a connected and empowered social media team.  When brands invest in social media monitoring and allow their social media managers to take action (within guidelines, of course), they open the door to these moments of creativity that give their brand visibility and popularity.

Build social media strategies, give employees free reign to come up with engaging content, and your brand will come out a winner.

Well done, Jif.  Next time I’m in the market for some peanut butter, you will certainly get my dollar!

Amy’s Baking Company Goes Ballistic UPDATED

If you’ve been on Facebook (or the internet, for that matter) today, you probably heard about Amy’s Baking Company in Scottsdale, Arizona and how they went absolutely bat-shit crazy on social media.  They were featured on Gordon Ramsey’s American version of his show: Kitchen Nightmares, and boy was it EVER a nightmare.  Read on to learn why the internet exploded with fascinated delight at the train wreck, as Amy’s Baking Company went ballistic.

Amy's Baking Company
Owners Samy & Amy

It started back in 2010 when a local food lover decided to give “ABC” a go on a Saturday.  He wrote a review of his experience on Yelp, and let’s just say it wasn’t glowing.  I linked to Yelp just there, but because of the enormous volume of reviews that have been posted since this fiasco began, here is where you can read the original 2010 review that sparked Amy’s first tirade.

Yeah, if you read it, Amy Bouzaglo actually did call her reviewer “ugly” and a “moron”.  But if you think that’s bad…

Gordon RamseyEnter Gordon Ramsey.

Known for his foul-mouthed straight-talking, Ramsey is famous for telling failing restaurant owners exactly what’s wrong.  He does not mince words.  Considering her track record of receiving criticism somewhat poorly (to put it mildly), it’s amazing Bouzaglo invited Ramsey in in the first place.

If you watched even a glimpse of the video clip linked to above, you can imagine that things turn sour mighty quick.  The entire show was a fiasco, and for the first time in one of his television programs, (SPOILER ALERT) Ramsey actually gave up and walked out on a restaurant.

The show aired on Friday, 10 May.  Cue: The it-shay itting-hay the an-fay.

It began with a post to their Facebook wall protesting the accusation that they withhold employees’ tips.  If you visit their Facebook page now, you won’t see everything else that went on, because it has all been deleted.  BuzzFeed does a pretty good job of summing it up (and those are real screen shots of posts they actually made – I saw them myself earlier today).

Facebook RantWhat went on?  Ranting, raving, LOTS OF ALL CAPS, invocations of God’s support, defensive responses (in once choice response they called the commenter a “slut”), and sheer madness.  They blew up at Yelp and at Reddit (thread now taken down).  Kelly Clay at Forbes very helpfully drew some social media lessons for brands out of the whole experience.

But I would argue that another lesson could be drawn from this: This is sheer GENIUS!

Amy’s Baking Company has gone viral.  People who have never set foot in Arizona are writing reviews on Yelp.  They reached an enormous TV audience with the show, not to mention they set Reddit alight.  Some commenters and reviewers are even saying they actually want to go eat at the place to see if the owners are really as insane as they seem.

And that’s why this is genius.  They say no publicity is bad publicity, and if these people are smart (that’s a big if) they’ll recognize this as a golden opportunity.  I’ve heard of restaurants that are known for an “act”: a tyrannical manager, perhaps, who entertains the guests with his belligerence, or (more banal) singing wait staff.

They’ve already got the publicity, now they just need to milk it.  If they embrace the crazy and really go whole hog, they may actually carve a niche for themselves – but only if the quality of the food makes up for the terrible dining experience.

I say go for it, Amy and Samy.  If it was all an act: well done, keep it up!  If it was real: God help you, but don’t change.  You’ve dug Amy’s Baking Company into a hole and you’re so far in you might as well just keep digging.

 

Update, Friday 17 May 2013

If you head over to ABC’s Facebook page, you’ll see that they’ve announced a grand re-opening on Tuesday, 21 May at which they plan to tell their side of the story.  I get the feeling that things are just going from bad to worse.  Have fun digging to China!

Charles Ramsey is the Hero of the Day

Yesterday, three women, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, were rescued by pure chance after 10 years of imprisonment. Charles Ramsey was the neighbor who heard Amanda Berry’s screams and helped her break out of the house where she and the other women were imprisoned.  Charles Ramsey is the hero of the day, and this week’s Twitter #Hashtag of the Week.

As you can see in his interview, Mr. Ramsey’s actions were the result of what, to him, were perfectly natural reactions to a call for help.  Twitter is abuzz with talk about Mr. Ramsey for two reasons: First, though he assumed he was overhearing a case of domestic abuse, he refused to ignore a call for help.  Second, his concluding comments in the interview above have sparked some conversations about race in the United States.

Amanda Berry and Gina Dejesus
Amanda Berry (left) and Gina DeJesus, two of the kidnapping victims.

Domestic abuse is a tough issue for a stranger, sometimes even friends, to address.  Social delicacy often dictates that we turn a blind eye, or that we only breach the topic when friends bring it up.  We see what happens between two people in a relationship as none of anyone else’s business, which sometimes means that we pretend not to see, or refuse to see, violence or other kinds of abuse happening in front of us.  Governments and police departments around the world are encouraging people to break the silence and report cases of domestic abuse.

Mr. Ramsey, it would seem, did not even stop to think about whether or not he should assist what he assumed was a victim of domestic violence.  Instead of pretending not to hear the screaming behind the wall, Mr. Ramsey went to Amanda Berry’s aid, and helped her break open a door that her captor (or captors, as there are three suspects in custody) had rigged to stay shut.

McDonald's Tweet to Charles Ramsey
McDonald’s tweets about the rescue, becomes the official restaurant of every day heroes everywhere (right?).

His immediate and unhesitating reaction is exemplary.  Mr. Ramsey’s actions were heroic precisely because he had no thought of their being so.  From his perspective, he simply responded to a call for help.

The other cause of Mr. Ramsey’s celebrity, and one that makes us feel less warm and fuzzy inside than his bravery, are the comments he made at the end of his now-famous TV interview.

In response to a question from the reporter about the girls’ reactions when they got out of the house, Mr. Ramsey said, “Bro, I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl ran into a black man’s arms.  Something is wrong here.  Dead giveaway.”

That drew awkward laughter from the crowd surrounding him and prompted the reporter to end the interview in a hurry.

Tweet from Sarah Kendzior
A reaction to the reaction to Charles Ramsey on Twitter.

I have no doubt that Mr. Ramsey’s comments came from the heart.  As to whether he was meaning to lighten the mood and insert a joke, or trying to bring up the topic of racism in the United States, only he can say.

But the result of his comments is twofold: the conversation is moving away from the disturbing reality that three women were held prisoners for ten years (and apparently one was made a mother, though that is yet unconfirmed); and Charles Ramsey is now being made into an internet meme, which sadly dehumanizes him and puts him into the entertainment category.  As Gene Demby over at NPR’s Code Switch notes, Mr. Ramsey has now joined Ted Williams, Antoine Dodson and others in sudden, and arguably condescending, internet celebrity.

While Mr. Ramsey should absolutely be lauded, thanked and recognized for his good deed, we do well to remember that he is a man.  He is not a superhero, and he does not need to be made into a flash celebrity who we worship for a brief time and then rip apart when we find that he is less perfect (as are we all) than we want him to be.  His privacy is just as important as that of the women he rescued.

We also do well to remember the reason for his sudden fame: He unwittingly liberated three women who had been all but given up for dead by investigators.  Questions about as to how that happened, how Michelle Knight’s case was so entirely overlooked, and how the three suspects were able to conceal their location for so long must be answered.  And so must Mr. Ramsey’s closing comments be addressed.  We have lots to do.

Movie Night: Easy A – UPDATED

Chico left town on Saturday night, so I decided to make a movie night of it and watch Easy A starring Emma Stone.

I had low expectations of this teen film.  Though Rotten Tomatoes gave it an 85% on the Tomatometer, I was still somewhat skeptical.

Aside  from the horrible quality of the Netflix Canada streaming, I have to admit that I was delighted!  I found myself thoroughly enjoying Emma Stone’s sassy, smart attitude, the clever re-interpretation of a classic, and the way it gets people thinking about a very serious, à propos topic.

Easy A
Emma Stone is Olive Penderghast

First, a quick summary.  Olive Penderghast is not popular at her California high school.  One Friday, when trying to get out of going camping with her best friend that weekend, she makes up a story about having a date.  On Monday (after a weekend of dancing around on her own in her bedroom), her lie spins out of control when her friend mistakenly thinks she lost her virginity to the non-existent date.

Tired of trying to convince her friend otherwise, Olive goes with the lie, which is overheard by the ringleader of the school’s fundamentalist Christian crowd.  It spreads like wildfire, and when Olive agrees to help out a fellow sufferer of unpopularity by pretending to have sex with him, rumors abound that she is having sex for money.  As the lies spiral out of control, Olive is defined by her schoolmates by a falsehood, and finds herself starting to believe it.

Emma Stone is (or arguably “was” before Jennifer Lawrence hit the scene), Hollywood’s “it” girl.  She first caught my notice when she starred in The Help in 2011.  What I liked so much about her in Easy A is that she comes across as intelligent, sassy and quick-tongued (almost à la Gilmore Girls but not that annoying), but she still shows so well the contrast between thinking she’s so knowledgable while being completely clueless.

The film is loosely based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, which, appropriately enough, Olive is studying in English class.  Like Hester Prynne, Olive is maligned as tales of her supposed promiscuity circulate around the school.  I thought the film successfully made the premise of a great work more accessible to a modern, young audience, much like other great teen versions of classics have done (10 Things I Hate About You and Clueless for example).

This film also brings to the fore an issue that is getting a lot of press lately.  The term “slut-shaming” came up in popular media only after Easy A came out.  It is used to describe the act of making a woman feel bad or guilty about her sexuality, and sometimes to describe the practice of blaming sexual assault on a woman’s clothing.  The term became popular after the SlutWalks which began in Toronto in 2011 following inappropriate comments from a Toronto police officer.

Rehtaeh Parsons
Rehtaeh Parsons’ heartbreaking story is in sad contrast to the happy conclusion of “Easy A.”

Recent events here in Canada, such as the suicides of teens Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd, demonstrate that slut-shaming (or whatever you want to call it) and bullying like those experienced by Olive in Easy A are huge problems.  Easy A was not a film to address these issues; it predates either of those sad stories.  For that reason, it paints what has become a very serious concern in a rosier, comedic light.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s not like the filmmakers could predict what was to come.

Easy A concludes with an important point.  Though rumors, gossip and (sadly) nasty bullying are accepted as part and parcel of high school life, that does not make these practices okay.  Olive Penderghast sparked the fire herself and remained largely in control of her situation.  However, in most cases acts that give girls such notoriety are not imagined, and are often documented, shared, transmitted and never forgotten (see an earlier post I wrote about how the internet never forgets).

So what is the conclusion of Easy A?  Without giving away too much of the story, I can tell you that one of Olive’s last lines is about potentially losing her virginity.  She says she doesn’t know when it will be, but, “the really amazing thing is: it’s nobody’s God-damned business.”

That’s easy to say, but for people to actually mind their own business (especially teenagers) is another thing entirely.  While Easy A may appeal to a teenage demographic, and one can hope the message gets through, more needs to be done to combat bullying.

If it’s an issue that has affected your home, or if the stories about the two teens I linked to above have touched you, find out how you can get involved in your community, and in your own family, to stop bullying.  Here in Montreal you can find resources and information at MontrealFamilies.ca.

In conclusion, Easy A is a great film because it’s cute, funny, poignant, and most importantly it gets you thinking.

***

Update: On TV this evening I saw an ad for a bullying awareness website.  You can find it here: Bullying Canada.