Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Making the Most of Social Media - Part One: Using Facebook to Save Face

At ECPR – and just about everywhere else – social media is more important than ever before. Several years ago, we began offering PR 2.0 – traditional public relations combined with social media management. And, since then, we’ve become the social media manager for various clients’ social networking channels exclusively. The face and function of social media has changed drastically over the past few years – status updates, tweets and photo sharing aren’t just for college students anymore.

Social media channels are now more popular than most news outlets. According to mediabistro.com social media members spent a total of 632 minutes on social media sites per user this past January. While some may find that statistic disturbing, it merely signals that the banal social media to which we were once introduced is now more informative, relevant and necessary than in years past. It holds a role in almost everyone’s life. One reason social media has gained this relevance is its place in the business world. These online tools are not only essential for the image of your brand, but utilizing individual functions and analytics of the site are beneficial for reaching and understanding your clients, customers or target audience. That’s why we’ve decided to provide a four-part series of social media breakdowns for businesses in the home, garden, design and agribusiness industries.

Let’s Face It
Of those 632 minutes spent on social media sites, a whopping 405 of them were spent on Facebook. So it’s no wonder we begin our first Social Media Series post here. Because Facebook is still primarily a place for personal social interactions, it can be challenging and time consuming to assure the page you provide for your clientele or customers is exactly what your company needs. Here are a few ideas to make the most out of your Facebook business page:
  • Decide on an image. No, not just a profile picture (although that’s important too). Meet with the team of people in your company and decide what you are trying to convey through your Facebook presence. Are you simply adding another portal for potential clients to visit your main website? Are you hoping to connect with past, current and potential clients? Will your posts be formal or more conversational? It is important that every employee who may access your Facebook understands the personality you want to convey. Type a list of potential post ideas and keep it on file. Decide on specific types of posts so that no one inadvertently posts a topic that is irrelevant. Will you only post about news specific to your company? Will you share articles and videos? What type of photos will you share? Similarly, if someone makes a post that you think is exemplary of your Facebook image, be sure to highlight that achievement in an e-mail or memo to employees.
  • This is a visual world. Although many users get their news via link posts on Facebook, what initially attracts clicks is photos and videos. If your business doesn’t have a lot of photos on file, start building your image library today so you make your page “go live” as soon as possible. Designers and architects, are you consistently taking photos of your designs and posting them on your page? Is it possible to post before-and-after or progress photos as well? What about a video tour of a recent project? Growers, are you posting photos of your new plants or seasonal series? You are more likely to get “likes” on your page if users know they can count on you for visual updates and appeal. Be creative with your photos – if you have an event coming up, take pictures of the attendees. And, tell them you’ll be posting them on Facebook soon. Photos of other people on a business page give the business a personable and approachable image. Be sure to write captions for each and every photo you post, yes, each and every one.
  • Don’t be a wallflower. One of the biggest purposes of Facebook is to be SOCIAL. This means, interacting with people who visit and interface with your page. It makes absolutely no sense for a company to have a Facebook page that is closed for comments. If a client or customer simply wants to view information exclusively about and by your company, they will visit your website. We call that one-way insight. But, Facebook is a two-way street intended to generate online dialog with two or more fans or Facebook users. If someone likes a post or shares a link, be sure to thank them or leave a comment. Think of your Facebook page as a new conversation with a client or customer. You would never just walk away from a real-life conversation, so why let a post go unanswered? If a customer or client leaves a complaint or concern, don’t necessarily delete it – address it. This is a perfect opportunity to show that your company is accountable and available for its customers. Also, make an effort to interface with other brands and companies in your industry. If you’re mentioning media coverage, news or other relevant topics, tag the other Facebook business page in your post. This is a very simple tactic to “reach out” to and connect with other businesses.
  • Earn your keep. One of the most important rules for having a Facebook business page is to keep it active. It’s easy to de-prioritize your social media and update it only when you have occasional news to share about your company. But it is absolutely crucial to keep your page alive and fresh. If a potential client or customer visits your page and sees you haven’t posted anything in weeks, they will likely assume you are uninterested or just not available. You would never leave a client or customer phone call or e-mail inquiry unanswered, right? The same should be top of mind concerning Facebook comments. Being social media savvy is a trait that customers / clients and other businesses admire in companies, so making social media updating a daily, if not hourly, task is truly important. If you don’t think you can budget the time or patience to update your channels, consider hiring a public relations firm to do it for you, one that specializes in your field. This guarantees your internet brand image will be up to speed and tailored to your needs.

What are your Facebook success stories? Have you found certain tactics that bring in more clicks than others? Feel free to share any comments, ideas or stories in our comment section below, and check back in March for our second installment of this series, highlighting how to get the most out of your Twitter account.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Planning with Fire




Spring is almost here, and whether you live on an eternally-temperate, sunny coast, a landlocked, winter wonderland, or somewhere in between, next season is historically the time when homeowners prioritize outdoor room construction and design.

For retailers, spring is when homeowners seek outdoor room furnishings and accessories with little advanced notice. It also signals a time for retailers to start ordering for next fall and winter to get a head start on cold weather product planning. Our client, California-based O.W. Lee, a manufacturer of high-end outdoor furniture and casual fireside products, has extensive collections that will appeal to your customers—whatever your region and whenever you need inventory.

For outdoor room designers, spring may produce several project requests on short-term deadlines. For planning ahead of time, or last minute needs, O.W. Lee has made ordering select deep seating and chat-style fire pits much faster by launching two new quick-ship programs, making inventory more accessible and easier to secure.

The programs include the company’s Santorini Fire Pit and a Monterra Chat & Fire Pit Set, which can now be shipped within 10 working days from receipt of completed sales orders. The quick ship programs have been entitled, “Fast as Fire, On Demand” and will be available to O.W. Lee’s customers from March 1, 2012 through Aug. 31, 2012.

The Santorini Fire Pit quick-ship initiative includes a choice of three hearth tops. The 42-inch hearth tops feature hand-cut ceramic tiles in Sand, Mocha or Calico. The Santorini Fire Pit has a rich Espresso finish and comes with burner assembly. Fire ring inserts can be ordered such as a Log Kit with lava rock granules, Ceramic Rock Kit with lava rock granules, Glass Kit with decorative glass in two colors, or Lava Granules only.

The Monterra Chat & Fire Pit Set was conceptualized to offer a combination of O.W. Lee’s popular Monterra Club Chairs and Vesuvius Chat Height Fire Pit. The chair options are the Monterra Spring Base Club Chair and Monterra Swivel Club Chair, both with Espresso frames and Fife Ginger fabric cushions. The Vesuvius fire pit base is paired with a Richmond 54-inch round hearth top in cast aluminum. This pairing provides coordinated design style at a great price point.

The Richmond hearth top frame is Espresso in fashion with the frames of the Monterra Club Chairs. Fire ring inserts featured in the Monterra Chat & Fire Pit Set are the same as with the Santorini Fire Pit program.

O.W. Lee will be displaying both the Santorini Fire Pit and Monterra Chat & Fire Pit Set at the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Expo 2012, which takes place March 1-3 in Atlanta. Company representatives will be on site to answer questions about the quick-ship options. To learn more and view a full product gallery, log onto www.owlee.com.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Something to Write Home About...

ECPR friends and fans – we are so thrilled to announce that on March 6, our client, Historical Concepts, is releasing its first book – Coming Home: The Southern Vernacular House.

For nearly thirty years, Historical Concepts has designed country houses, mountain retreats, and coastal cottages that “pay homage to the South’s deep sense of place.” Coming Home serves as an anthology of this award-winning firm’s architectural and design masterpieces. The book features 224 pages of opulent photographs and descriptive storytelling of Historical Concepts’ most treasured properties.

Published by design-book experts Rizzoli New York, authors James Lowell Strickland and Partners present the small details and big ideas about how they’ve created these iconic homes.

A Beaufort-style house combines formal classic revival details with casual painted plank walls; a barrier island retreat mixes eclectic elements from Southern coastal cottages with whimsical Caribbean details; and a guest home constructed with salvaged beams and weathered finishes resembles a converted barn. Elements of traditional Georgian, Federal and Greek Revival styles, as well as examples of southern vernacular architecture can be found in the homes featured in Coming Home.

Envision wide, wrap-around front porches, Spanish moss and antique claw foot tubs— whatever your industry, this collection of Southern charm will inspire ideas for your clients, products or projects.

Be sure to visit Amazon.com on March 6 to snag one of the first copies available. We are in the process of scheduling signings and speaking opportunities for the Coming Home authors, so stay tuned to see if we’re hosting an event in your area! In addition, for our blog readers who are designers, design center managers, retailers, media members, and other trade professionals, please contact us with your questions regarding events or for review copies. Visit http://www.historicalconcepts.com/ for more information about Coming Home and the Historical Concepts development and design team.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Terra Nova Nurseries’ Dan Heims to Speak at the Kansas City Garden Symposium


ECPR friends and fans, Terra Nova Nurseries’ plant guru and recent guest expert on “The Martha Stewart Show,” Dan Heims, will be speaking at this year’s Kansas City Garden Symposium. Dan is set to speak on two separate occasions, Friday, February 17, 2012 and Saturday, February 18, 2012. If you’re attending the event, don’t forget to mark the dates on your calendar!

Beginning at 6:00 p.m. EST on February 17 at Brio Tuscan Grill, Dan will educate gardeners about “New Perennials from Around the World,” at the pre-symposium banquet. In his talk, Dan will share information about worldly plants with amazing colors, extraordinary foliage and varied flower forms.

Additionally, show goers will not want to miss out on Dan Heims’ second speaking event at 12:45 p.m. EST on February 18. Heims’ “Garden Gems” session topic is sure to be an audience favorite. He will discuss the latest and most exciting perennials, tropicals and woodies in today’s market. Known for traveling the world to gain insights about international plant trends and new introductions, Dan will reveal several of his top plant secrets to attendees.

To learn more about Dan Heims and Terra Nurseries, visit the company’s website at www.terranovanurseries.com.