is your social media marketing working for you?

social media communities have been around long enough to have a first generation in their wake, so it would seem we’ve all had enough time to learn their ins & outs. while many of us have mastered the art of staying in touch, i’m seeing a common thread among clients and colleagues alike: many of them are spending more time creating content and cross-linking these communities to each other than whipping them into the marketing strategy they came for in the first place.

sharing content online is all kinds of fun, and a great way to raise awareness, but using it for marketing should always be part of a bigger plan to connect back to the content you create on your own site. if you’re spending all your time creating awareness on social networks without consistently linking back to your home base, you’re working for them—for free. that’s not what you got into business for! but hey, it’s okay — you can turn the tables anytime and start making them work for you.

best practice vs. a common example

marketing in the social media arena should be an all-roads-lead-to-rome strategy by the most direct route possible. think of it like a multiple funnel system, where each funnel is a social community designed around a unique aspect of how people like to communicate. creating awareness about your business or projects is as simple as participating in the communities that suit you best, and periodically saying “hey guys, i’m doing something cool, come take a look” with a link to the most relevant landing page on your site. participation and link strategy should look like this:

best practices for social media marketing link strategy

however, that’s not always the case. what i often see when i analyze a social media campaign in need of help is that some link strategies are sending users to 2 or 3 different communities to get piecemeal information, with links to the main site infrequent at best. the mistake here isn’t just that you never get eyeballs on your site, it’s can also be a turn-off to your audiences too. each of them have made a conscious choice about the community they prefer, and would be a lot more likely to check out your site than trek around to communities they don’t like. here’s what i generally find when social media marketing is a bit scattered:

example of a scattered social media marketing link strategy

lots of effort going everywhere but home

sites like facebook have so many tools to keep you busy creating content [for them] that it’s easy to spend all your time building photo albums and posting informative updates while forgetting to promote your own site. in their desire to compete, social networks provide apps for automatically updating other communities, which is really just traffic-poaching disguised as a convenience tool, giving you crappy-looking updates in the process. [ever seen a truncated facebook post & link on twitter? do your twitter followers even care about facebook anymore?] or sometimes, it’s just easier to think “but all my videos are on youtube, why not just send traffic there?” youtube subscribers may be a secondary benefit of hosting videos there, but the videos should be embedded and showcased on a relevant site page of your own.

don’t send your audience on a wild goose chase for your content. first thing’s first. put the time in on your own site or blog to make sure anything anyone would want to know about you or your business is easy to find. create the content you want to share there, around one main idea at a time, and then report on it in each social media community with a direct link back to your blog post, or relevant pages on your site.

put yourself first

the first place to generate content is on your own site. if you need to make regular announcements or have new and changing content you want to talk about and you don’t have a place on your site where you can do this, it’s time to get one [hint: i can help]. consider adding a blog where you can update revolving content. make your full announcement here first, with complete information and photos or videos, when applicable. this is what you’ll be linking to everywhere else.

the philosophy here is that you’re training people to learn that your site is where it’s at for any information they’d ever want to know about you. sure, they’ll catch your posts on twitter, facebook & tumblr, but after 3-5 times of clicking through to your site, they’ll make the connection that they can always find what they need on your site. and hey—people who don’t use ANY social media will be able to find it there too, imagine that!

choose your communities and let them know

write custom posts for each community, tailored to how each one showcases information best. i understand the temptation to save time by writing one great post in one place and let that service distribute it for you, but these distributed posts rarely look good elsewhere. often, they take your snappy teaser copy and truncate it to nonsense, replacing half of your sentence and any photo with a generic link [so they can advertise their great service to another sucker]. if you truly believe you don’t have time to write one sentence for each community you’re in, get honest about which ones are a priority. a half-sentence tweet that only links to facebook says loud and clear: “i don’t care about twitter.” keep your community members in mind, and write directly to them. “hey guys, i have something cool to show you, here’s why you might like it,” post your link, select the best photo preview if applicable, and send it off.

need an example?

i’ll walk the talk here for you. first, i wrote this article and posted it here on my blog. i usually write these articles as the main entrée to my newsletter, so i wrote and sent my newsletter. then i went to facebook and posted it on my business page. the same goes for linkedin, though they are tricky to link to, and google+. i created a shortened url so i’d have most of my 140 characters to tease it on twitter. if this were a creative inspiration post, i’d pin it to my pinterest board of the same name. i created my content and reached out to each community individually with a unique message to let them know about it, linking right back here. and at the bottom of this post, i let you know that you can get more useful info just like this in my irregularly-delivered newsletter.

but what about building community on each social network?

hey, there’s nothing wrong with adding to your photo albums and posting quickie updates without always linking to your site — AFTER you finish your self-promotion, that is. give your facebook fans photos to share, post instagram shots to twitter & tumblr, encourage conversations, share support information and press that links to other sites. blend these things in as you see fit, just make them secondary to your main objective…YOU!

have questions?

these are the basics, but there can be a few levels of social media engagement integrated into an overall marketing plan. my penchant for organizing these strategies is also a service i offer. if you need help figuring out how to implement a system like this or want to fold some existing efforts into an overall campaign, reach out and we’ll figure it out!

if you liked this article and want more like it, sign up for the parlato design studio newsletter for your monthly power shake of design, branding, marketing & promotion!

happy monday

kitty kazoo & motor, march 2012
kitty kazoo & motor, march 2012

well well well, it looks like i took an unintended blog hiatus, likely due to adding too many life events to my actual life. i miss it though, so i’m back in full force. in fact, i’ve even gotten more organized than ever with the editorial calendar plugin, which is a wordpress blogger’s dream–i have no idea how i lived without it.

so, these two little ladies in the photo above went to their annual vet visit. though they’re not related, they’re both elder-cats and showing very similar health profiles. after losing 1 cat to kidney disease in december, i put my lifelong quest to find a vet i LOVE back on first priority, and found dr. michelle fuller through a friend. she sounded like the kind of vet i would like, so i scheduled a visit and was blown away. amazing bedside manner, extensive knowledge of cat nutrition and health [way beyond the disappointingly typical “we were educated by pet food companies” i have found elsewhere]. she’s supportive of my raw food diet, she’s into herbal supplements and alternative medicines, and she turned me on to a vet-developed herbal remedy for hyperthyroidism resthyro which is has great results without the side effects of drugs. so highly recommended for those of you who might be of the same mindset in the LA area.

so, onward. back to work, back to writing, back to awesome.

article of the week

7 steps for creating disruptive new retail experiences by jump associates for

one of the most fun aspects of branding is when the main work of identity and brief are finished and you get to start applying the brand to in-person experiences. jump associates put together a great list of time-tested points with examples of how to build a unique, engaging experience out of your brand strategy.

braised turkey breast, sourdough stuffing & citrus gravy

this recipe, with many other delicious treats for thanksgiving, appears in the parlato design studio seasonal eats recipe guide! pick up your copy today in the parlato design studio store, and follow the thanksgiving2011 tag for more recipes as they become available. enjoy & thanks for being awesome!

i’ll just come out and say it: i’ve never been a fan of preparing a whole turkey. as much as i am a fan of using the whole animal, and the benefits of getting to make turkey stock once the meat is eaten off the bone, i don’t like wrestling with a carcass the size of a small child or tying up the oven for hours, wondering if it will come out just right. what i do like is this manageable alternative of braising, which takes only 2 hours, can be done in the oven or on the stove, and allows the chance to flavor the meat with the braising liquid, turning out a really tender and delicious turkey breast.

wrapped turkey breast
wrapped turkey breast

start by sourcing a naturally-raised, free-range turkey breast [whole foods or your local, independent butcher is a good place to start]. the one i’m using is 3.5 pounds.

open turkey breast, skin-side up
open turkey breast, skin-side up

unlike chicken breasts, turkey breasts are sold together. cut away the netting and unfold it, and you’ll see you have a symmetrical set.

stuffing your turkey breast
stuffing your turkey breast

place the turkey skin-side down on a work surface and rub the insides down with olive oil. now is a good time to stuff the center with fruit, aromatic herbs, or flavorful items [like prosciutto or salami slices]. i have chosen orange slices and some of the cherry relish i’ve prepared. the idea here is that you’ll fold the breasts back up, tie them up to keep them in place [and to create the final shape for the breasts, since they will firm up when cooked], and infuse some of the meat with flavor. what you’ll end up doing is folding the right side over the left to tie it up, so if you have items that will move a lot [like oranges] put them on the left side. you can put everything on one side if you’re afraid it will move too much.

tying up your turkey breast is a little challenging. i find starting with it on one side is easiest, tie butcher’s twine around the top and start tying it up. the video above is a very straightforward way to do it. if you prefer written instructions, these work well too. you may find this gets a little messy. mine was messy too, but it won’t affect the final result. say the serenity prayer and accept your messy stuffed turkey breast.

add some oil to a dutch oven and place the tied turkey breast on its side to brown for a minute or two. flip to the top-side down, and finish up with the other side so your last browning side is the back. once the turkey breast is back-side down, add the mirepoix, cover and sweat a few minutes.

braising the turkey breast
braising the turkey breast

once all the browning and sweating is done, add the white wine, vegetable or chicken stock and orange juice. the liquids should not entirely cover the meat, but rather come up somewhere more than halfway up the sides. i decided to top mine with orange zest so the orange oil could steam out and into the meat. turn up the heat to get the liquids to boil, and then turn down to medium-low and cover to braise about 2 hours. alternately, you can finish in the oven at 350º for about 2 hours. make sure to check liquid levels periodically and add water if they’re boiling away.

braised turkey breast

1 3.5-lb turkey breast
mirepoix: 1 onion, 3 med. carrots, 1 heart celery, all chopped to medium dice
2 cups white wine
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
juice and zest of 2 oranges
optional stuffing: 2 oranges, sliced & 3 tbsp cherry relish

cut netting from turkey breast and place the open breasts on a work surface, skin-side down. rub the inside of each with olive oil and line each with any fruit or herbs you’d like to infuse into the turkey [i chose orange slices and cherry relish]. fold one side over the other and tie up as a roast with kitchen string.

in a dutch oven, brown the sides and top of the turkey breast. finally, place the back side down and add the mirepoix, cover and sweat the vegetables 3 minutes. add the wine, stock, orange juice & zest,
and bring to a boil. turn down to low, cover and simmer 2 hours, or place a 350º oven for 2 hours.

vegan options

don’t bother with trying to replicate turkey on a vegan diet. ditch tradition [you’re probably not into it anyway] and take the opportunity to make your all-time favorite entrée to celebrate with your friends & family.


obviously, there are hundreds of whole-turkey recipes online, but if you’re looking for a different option for a turkey breast, try evan kleiman’s suggestions for roasting a turkey breast.

citrus gravy
citrus gravy

it’s a myth that you need actual turkey drippings to make gravy. i used some reduced braising liquid and a little butter, and it’s delicious!

citrus gravy

2 cups turkey braising liquid
1⁄3 cup flour
1 tb butter

place 2 cups of the turkey braising liquid in a saucepan, or simmer to reduce the turkey braising liquid down to 2 cups. add the butter and whisk to incorporate. while whisking, add flour in 1 tbsp increments and whisk to incorporate. continue whisking as gravy thickens to desired consistency.

this recipe makes about 2 cups of gravy. if you plan to double it, use the desired amount of turkey braising liquid to start [you may add stock, water or wine to increase], and add 1 tablespoon butter for every 2 cups liquid. when whisking in flour, take more time between additions, as the gravy will thicken more slowly, and likely won’t need double the amount of flour.

vegan options

i’m finding so many interesting options for vegan gravy, i thought i’d share some tasty ideas:
vegan gravy using mushrooms
awesome mushroom gravy
cashew gravy
miso gravy
tasty onion gravy

sourdough stuffing
sourdough stuffing

i love stuffing, but when i thought about making my own recipe, i thought about how i could make it more tasty with interesting bread, and not entirely and all-out carb-fest by adding some nuts and seeds. i chose whole grain sourdough, and worked in mushrooms and a mix of pepitas, pine nuts and sliced almonds. make it with some of your turkey braising liquid, or keep it vegan with vegetable stock.

sourdough stuffing

2 tb olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large stalks celery, sliced
2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms
2 cups turkey braising liquid or vegetable stock
1⁄2 cup white wine
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp sage
1⁄2 lb sourdough loaf, cubed & toasted
1⁄3 cup each of toasted pepitas, pine nuts & sliced almonds

preheat oven to 350º. sauté onion on medium-high heat in 2 tbs olive oil, 3 minutes, add celery and mushrooms, saute 2 minutes. add wine, simmer and reduce, 5 min. turn off heat, add the turkey braising liquid or stock, thyme, sage, salt and pepper to taste.

add toasted sourdough cubes to a 9 x 12” baking dish and pour vegetable mix over. toss to coat and soak sourdough through. sprinkle nuts over the top. bake 40 minutes at 350º until heated through.

apple, celery & lemony yogurt slaw

this recipe, with many other delicious treats for thanksgiving, appears in the parlato design studio seasonal eats recipe guide! request a free copy before november 7 [details here], and follow the thanksgiving2011 tag for more recipes as they become available. enjoy & thanks for being awesome!

apple, celery & lemony yogurt slaw

i decided to include a fresh, crunchy salad in my thanksgiving menu, because so much of thanksgiving food is carb-laden comfort food, i thought it would be nice to contrast that with some raw greens and fruit. this salad is really easy to prepare if you have an adjustable mandoline with a julienne attachment [it’s not necessary, but it cuts the prep time down a lot]. replacing any mayonnaise with yogurt, we’re getting a leaner fat and protein, and natural probiotics. beyond being tangy and refreshing, a little of this salad goes a long way!

apple, celery & lemony yogurt slaw

half a head of napa cabbage
4 medium apples, mixed
2 large stalks celery
1 cup plain greek yogurt
juice and minced zest of 2 lemons
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp crushed
mustard seeds
1 tb apple cider vinegar

slice cabbage crosswise thinly [about 1⁄8” thick] and place in a large mixing bowl. julienne the apples into matchsticks with a knife or a julienne mandoline and place in the bowl. slice celery stalks thinly crosswise with a knife or mandoline and place in the bowl.

in a small mixing bowl, add the yogurt, minced lemon zest, mustard and mustard seeds, mix to incorporate. whisk in the vinegar and lemon juice to incorporate quickly to prevent curdling. salt and pepper to taste.

pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss to coat. transfer to a serving bowl to serve.


make it vegan
substitute the dairy yogurt for vegenaise, cultured soy, or coconut vegan yogurt
skip the yogurt and make…
lemon viniagrette
lemon maple vinaigrette

alternate ingredients
– increase the color contrast with some red cabbage
– increase the tangy factor with some radicchio
– spice it up with some julienned radishes
– increase the probiotics with some saurkraut
– go all out on color and fiber with vitamin-rich root veggies like julienned carrots and beets

get design on a budget without a crowdsourcing contest

crowdsourcing & design contest vs. partnerships and volunteer opportunities

so, you find yourself in the position of needing design services, with the little problem of not having a budget for the designers you want to hire. and maybe you’re thinking “hey, let’s have one of those contests where people will design stuff for us as part of a competition, and we’ll award some kind of prize for the winner!” why not, we’re seeing all kinds of larger brands hold crowdsourced design contests, and it seems like a good deal for everyone, right? well, i can understand the eagerness to want to jump to this conclusion, but there are a few problems here, not least of which is that there’s actually no real benefit to your winning designer. big brands don’t hold design contests for the purpose of supplementing what their creative teams can provide, and this is where smaller businesses stand to make mistakes when they emulate big companies. we’re all in this together, and we all have valuable services that can add to each other’s businesses greatly if we trade them strategically. there are smarter ways to get the things we can’t yet afford by searching ourselves for equitable trades and creating volunteer opportunities, and i’m here to set you on the path that’s better for everyone.

so, what are crowdsourced design contests?

by definintion, crowdsourcing is the act of sourcing tasks traditionally performed by specific individuals to an undefined large group of people or community (crowd) through an open call. When applied to a design project, the contest seeks to replace paid work with spec work, which is essentially work that is only paid for conditionally after completion if accepted, leaving the designer to put out effort on good faith of payment. [clue: professional designers usually work on a payment system, where a deposit and payments are made at project milestones along the way, not after.] the general feeling of the design industry is that spec work, including crowdsourced contests, are frowned upon. when a company decides to replace paid work with a contest, we talk about it and tend to agree it’s not worth our participation. believe me, designers are asked to work for free all the time, and unless you’re saving kittens for the greater good, or you’re my mom, we’d prefer it if you factor the cost of business into your budgets.

so, what’s the problem with them?

here’s what they look like: a company announces a contest to design them a poster or a logo or an ad, and after reviewing all entries, the company will select a winner who will get a prize of somewhere around 500 bucks. [clue: this prize is usually far below market value for the design work solicited] on the surface of it, it seems harmless, maybe even fun to the amateur on a lark, but let’s take a closer look. statistically speaking, the likelihood of winning is extremely slim. contests like these usually have legal provisions allowing them to take exclusive rights to ALL work submitted. if you were thinking of showing it in a portfolio as the winner or even as a contributor, think again—the company can demand you make no public reference to the work you did. so let’s get this straight: hundreds of people do the same job, one person gets paid below market value, and all of them get stripped of the ability to promote what they did. is this how we want to treat people who do free work for us?

so, why do big brands have design contests?

i’m of the firm belief that big brands have crowdsourced design contests for entirely different reasons than smaller companies, and that they’re not at all used for actually sourcing design. big brands all have budgets for the design they need done, and they know the value of having it done professionally. if they don’t already have a big in-house team, they have an agency they trust implicitly and use regularly. i promise you there are no creative meetings that result in the design team running in a panic to marketing, saying “we’re fresh out of ideas! quick—call in the public to help!!”

so, if they don’t need design, what are the contests for?

here’s where i’ll tell you a branding secret. creating a strong brand is about creating a lot of positive thinking around your company or product. designers start this by designing your brand for you, and you continue it by delivering good service and growing the brand in line with your core commitments. the reason good branding works is because allows the customer to project their strongest personal narratives when they interact with it. when i think about buying the running shoes i’ve been coveting, i think of myself a healthy person who likes running more than i do while promising myself i will go running more than i will. when a big brand launches a design contest, they get hundreds of thousands of people to think about advertising for them. even if they only get 5000 submissions, they may have gotten 50,000 people or more to imagine creating something for them—thinking positively about their brand—which is infinitely more valuable than getting free design. [clue: when they cast you in the role of their designer, they’re getting you to make positive statements to yourself about them—sneaky!] moreover, they can test the reach of their advertising and brand loyalty by seeing how many people participate. it’s actually a way to take the market’s temperature, get people rallied around them, appeal to our sense of narcissism [maybe i could win!], and get participants to take action in the name of brand loyalty. that’s the power of positive thinking, only they’re using your brains to do it!

the thing is, while we may write these contests off as publicity stunts, most people see them as legitimate, and they do a lot to create the perception that design is a simple thing that can be done equally well by anyone for about 500 bucks. with obama’s recent art works campaign [design of a poster in exchange for 1 signed copy of the limited edition print], common reactions to designer criticisms said “but this is volunteer work—just like the folks going door-to-door!” i’m sorry to say, but just because entry is voluntary doesn’t make it volunteer work. volunteers should have a connection to the effects of the work they do—that’s the rewarding feeling they’re working for. contests like this ask thousands of people to do work that no one will ever see, rewarding only 3 finalists—and not by using their art in the campaign, but merely selling prints in their store. they’re missing a bigger opportunity to show more of the work and celebrate being inclusive rather that just getting people thinking and talking. i could go on, but instead i’ll leave it at this: the design community respectfully asks bigger businesses to find more creative ways to increase brand loyalty than contests that cheapen the value of the design profession.

so, where does that leave smaller businesses?

here’s the big disconnect i see. while i’ve almost never seen the winning work from a big brand’s design contest [clue: big brands don’t break brand continuity for contest winners], there are lots of smaller companies and non-profits running similar contests for major parts of their branding. sometimes their logo, sometimes a major promotion poster—money-making promotional items they should budget in as the cost of doing business, but for whatever reason, they don’t. it might seem like a great benefit to the contest-holders to have hundreds of samples to choose from for the price of a prize, but you’re asking hundreds of people to all go through the same effort, rewarding only one. considering most professional designers abstain from participating, ask yourself who is even doing this work? unlike a big brand contest designed to excite people about a familiar brand, the participants of a smaller, lesser-known contest don’t have much to connect to. and anyway, do you really have time to review hundreds of mediocre samples, retrofitting a final choice into an appropriate brand for you? when small businesses do it, it looks a lot more like what it is: someone asking for something for nothing. there’s a much better way to get what you want without wasting the time and effort of everyone involved.

scrap the contest idea and get real

as i said before, we’re all in this together. we could be building lasting partnerships instead of trying to get stuff from each other for free while slapping the word “contest” on it. treat this work like what it is: a job. prepare a full creative brief and advertise for it with honest compensation. if you don’t have the budget to pay for it and you’re looking for an outright volunteer, say so, or start asking yourself what you can offer in trade and quantify these things in an offering. not empty promises of future work, unqualified referrals or portfolio building, because we’ve all heard that before, and they sound just like the lies they are. consider things you might normally charge for that have little overhead for you, that would be as valuable to your designer as their design work is to you.

dig deep and mine the value you can offer

for starters, you will want to take ownership of the work, but always allow your designer a credit in print on the piece, a link online [preferably in a “thanks to our sponsors” or similar credit], the right to display the work in a portfolio, and to enter contests for the purpose of garnering awards. [clue: this is what paid designers ask for, so it should be a given for in-kind trade work.] taking it further, write them a testimonial they can use on their site and on social media networks. if your site has a page of trusted partners or online advertising, link them up. if you’re in the business of putting on events where there is some form of collateral, offer them sponsorship placement on signage, an ad in the program book, and let them leave print matter for attendees to take. if you’re in a particularly related industry an there are speaking opportunities [say you put on a conference and have a panel your designer would be a good fit for, or if you run a trade show and can offer them a booth] see how you can work them in. if you deal in products or services the designer might be interested in, be open to offering an equitable amount of products or services in trade. make sure the things you’re listing have real value, and if you can ballpark what their monetary equivalent is, you can come up with a suite of offerings, perhaps a combination of promotion, service and product that comes in right around where the project fee would be. if you find a designer who is interested in these things, and whom you feel is a good fit for your design project, you’re in business! draw up a trade agreement of exactly what each party will do for each other, with a timeline for milestones and deliveries. lo and behold, we have reinvented the barter system!

what if i don’t think i have anything of value to trade?

hang in there kitty! if you’re in business in any capacity, you will have something to offer and probably just have to think harder, but if you’re not finding a designer who wants to take you up on your trade, start smaller. many new businesses think they have to come roaring out the gate with all the fancy collateral that larger, more established businesses already have in order to compete. here’s another secret: you don’t, because you’re not competing those businesses yet. start with what’s free and work your way up. can’t afford a web site? get all your social networks set up, add business pages and start communicating with people there. can’t afford a logo and identity? set your company name in a nice, clean, appropriate typeface, and make yourself a simple business card [clue: ask me for referrals on affordable printers]. look into networking events for small businesses, and for your industry, and get out there and talk to everyone you meet about what you do. tell them you’re just getting started, and you’re really excited about it. you can get much farther on good service and a good attitude with a simple identity than flashy design that attempts to cover unfocused service and untimely delivery.

…and save your money as you grow, because if you’re doing it right, you’ll have the beginnings of a brand promise people are eager to associate with visually, and for that you’ll need the budget for an awesome designer.

article of the week

biz ladies: 10 Steps to an Incredible Product Launch by Sarai Mitnick for

if you’re in the business of selling products and need a little DIY elbow grease, this piece from sarai mitnick outlines 10 steps you can take to insure the best launch you can do on your own. of course, sometime down the line, a pr specialist can help bring the muscle with farther and bigger reach, but if you’re not quite there yet and have some work to do before hiring someone, this is a great way to prepare.

article of the week

Sometimes a Brand isn’t Worth Saving: Here’s How to Tell by jump associates for

i’m really looking forward to following this series by jump associates. in this first piece, they present 5 important questions to ask in order to determine whether a brand can breathe new life through revitalization, with great examples of how brands that may have seemed stagnant reexamined their options and told new stories.

happy monday

happy monday
happy monday


this week i’m getting ahead at working on some fun surprises for holiday stuff. if it seems early to you, take a look at this oldie-but-goodie, how to plan your holiday mailing so you have time for everything.