Social media moves fast. One minute you’re “poking” someone on Facebook (that’s actually still a feature) and the next you’re responding to a direct message using face filters and emojis on Instagram.
This blog keeps you up-to-date with all the new features social media has to offer. Instagram and LinkedIn introduced great enhancements in July. Read more about the new features below and try them out today.
Earlier this month, Instagram rolled out a new feature allowing users to send photos or video replies to stories posted by those you follow. When watching a story, tap the camera button at the bottom of the screen to use the creative tools in the camera such as boomerang, face filters and stickers. When someone replies to your story with a photo or video, you’ll see it in your direct message inbox.
This new feature plays well for friends on Instagram but is also possible for business use. Customers and brand advocates now have the opportunity to engage with your brand using other creative means. Businesses could hold a contest to encourage engagement by awarding a prize for the best creative response to a section of your story.
Throughout the month of July, LinkedIn released several great new features.
You can now customize the notifications you receive with new options including muting, turning off or even unfollowing.
It’s now possible to add up to nine photos in a post. Much like Facebook, LinkedIn lays out the photos in a collage. Post multiple photos from an event such as a meeting, conference, or volunteer day to further build either your personal brand or your business brand.
LinkedIn now provides insights about your audience. When you post an article or update, LinkedIn provides details about the employers of your target audience, their job titles and how they found your post. You can also see the number of people who reshared your post and who they are.
In the coming months, users will be able to record and share video directly in the LinkedIn mobile app. LinkedIn continues to provide useful features to professionally enhance a personal and business presence.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to update Instagram and LinkedIn apps by accessing the Google Play or the Apple App stores.
Check back next month for more social updates with the Social Scoop. Past issues also offer updates to ensure you have all the info you need to succeed.
Smart, social-savvy businesses are now using the power of one social media feature, direct messaging, to connect more efficiently with their current and potential customers by breaking through the clutter.
Direct messaging, or DM as it’s commonly referred to, is available on all major social media platforms. Similar to sending a text message to a friend, a direct message allows you to send a private message to a person directly to their inbox, instead of posting on their social feed. DM achieves most of its popularity on Twitter and Instagram.
Businesses use DM to:
Connect with new followers and point them to the content or a product on their website
Ask questions about buying experience or quality of service
Answer questions customers ask on social media
Handle negative feedback or complaints privately instead of in the public feed
Send targeted messages to different types of followers
Request user-generated content for social media feeds
To add to the DM experience, personalize messages using the customer’s name or handle. Also, if you have a large audience list to reach with the same message, create a document with consistent messages you can easily transfer into a DM to help save time and maximize efficiency.
The images below illustrate a few sample implementation strategies for using DM.
Relationship building with new followers
To begin the relationship with a new follower, depending on the platform, a DM may take the form of something like the photo to the right.
Handling negative feedback
To handle a negative comment or feedback, acknowledge the communication and direct the conversation off of social media with a DM like this:
ABI: “We appreciate your feedback and want to learn more about the issue to discuss how we can help ensure the best service possible. Let’s set up a time we can discuss over the phone.”
Soliciting user-generated content
If your fans post great photos of your product and tag your company, use DM to ask for permission to use their photos on your feed. Engaging in this way creates customer loyalty and allows you to harness the power user-generated content. That DM might read something like the photo to the right.
[Pro-tip: If they say “yes,” thank them and make sure to give them credit for the photo in your post, e.g., (📷: @TomEdison96)]
Direct Messages serve as a great way to personally reach customers on social media. While some may scoff at the idea saying, “It’s too intrusive,” DM allows you to speak directly to your target audience. If your business would like to initiate conversations and build relationships with current and potential customers, DM provides a simple, personal touch-point that can lead to new followers, customers or clients.
Test out your DM skills with us! Send us a message via Twitter DM or any other social platform. Let’s start the conversation!
Keeping up with all the updates to each social media platform is a daunting task. With no set schedule for updates, some channels have multiple updates in one month and zero updates in another. Similarly, some channels have numerous new additions in one update, while others don’t.
With social media constantly evolving, it’s imperative for social media pros to stay up to date with the latest from each platform so they can stay ahead of the curve and use new features to address communication goals as soon as possible. Let’s get right into it – here is the June social media update round-up.
June saw a big improvement to Facebook Live video with the implementation of closed captioning. This update provides more access to Facebook Live video for people with hearing impairments. For this feature to work, turn on captioning settings and the captions will automatically appear in your live video.
Safety Check was updated with four new features:
Expanding community help
Sharing a personal note when completing a safety check-in is completed
Introducing crisis descriptions
Facebook Messenger’s video chat in feature also received an update to now include animated reactions, filters, masks, effects and the ability to take screenshots of your video chat.
We all grow and change and sodo our Instagram feeds. The new Archive feature, introduced in June, allows users to move photos previously shared on your feed into Archive where only you can see them.
If you change your mind, select “show on profile ” and the image will reappear in its original spot. Just click the circle arrow in the top right corner of the app to start archiving.
Also rolled out in June, after you go live on Instagram, you are prompted to share a replay on your Instagram Story to let more people catch up on what they missed.
In June, Twitter rolled out new features for businesses allowing them to add buttons to drive actions in Direct Messages (DM).
It’s easy to attach a button to a DM which allows users to take actions outside the DM, such as composing a tweet, following an account or opening a website within the Twitter app.
Probably the biggest change in June across all platforms was the Twitter facelift. This generous and well-deserved update to the Twitter user interface (UI) this month showed users that Twitter is still a viable social media player and that it listens to its users. Without getting too technical, here are the new changes to Twitter.
Slide right to access your profile, additional accounts, settings and more.
Refined the typography throughout the app so headlines are bolder and distinct from the rest of the text in your feed.
Round profile pics
The icons and the reply button changed from an arrow to a speech bubble and all the icons were slimmed down.
Snapchat unveiled Snap Map, which allows users to see what people are up to around the world by using the new maps feature. Pinch on the screen to zoom out and view the map. This feature allows you to also select your location settings so you can decide who can see your location while you are on the app.
Additionally, Snapchat introduced the ability to design custom Geofilters right in the app for any special occasion – birthdays, anniversary parties, weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc. Until now, this ability was reserved for desktop and designers. To get started, tap “On-Demand Geofilters” in Settings. Pricing for Geofilters starts at $5.99 in the app.
LinkedIn received a few updates at once to improve the mobile experience. Now, you can see your connection history. Use this new feature to add some personal detail when you reach out.
Another new feature, Search Appearances, allows you to see how many people found you in search and the companies and job titles of the people searching for you.
Three other minor changes to the platform include:
Implementation of a new drag and drop feature allowing you to easily reorganize volunteer and education sections of your profile
Ability to add an image to any comment across the LinkedIn platform, when words just won’t do
Provide quick reply messages for when you want to reply, but don’t have the time
If you do not see these updates on your phone, go to the App Store or Google Play Store and update the apps to receive the latest features and check back next month for another roundup of social media updates.
Today, social media is a critical component of the marketing strategy for most businesses. This phenomenon shouldn’t be surprising, as more than 50 million active small business pages exist (Brandwatch.com) on Facebook alone. While there is nothing our social media experts love more than to see businesses grasp the powerful nature of a social media presence, balance is key. When overindulging, it’s easy to spread your content thin across several channels.
The saying “jack of all trades, master of none,” accurately describes this craze. Many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) create four to five social media accounts with the thought, “If I’m on these social media platforms, I’ll have more opportunity to communicate to our audience.” While a presence on more social channels does provide SMBs increased audience exposure opportunities, maintaining a legitimate presence on each platform is a two-way street. If SMBs publish content frequently but fall short when it comes time to respond and engage audiences past the initial post, audiences will look elsewhere for content.
All too often when a new social media platform hits the market, the first thought is to immediately engage. It’s the “shiny new toy” effect of which Snapchat illustrates best. Many SMB’s who target younger audiences thought Snapchat would be the right channel and for some it was, but for most, it wasn’t. Snapchat takes time to learn, produce content and grow an audience. Yes, Snapchat is great for targeting a younger demographic, but if the SMB doesn’t have a Snapchat strategic plan in place, Snapchat isn’t going to necessarily work.
Whether it’s Snapchat, Instagram or even Facebook, SMBs should look at their goals and think strategically. Consider the following criteria when selecting the appropriate channel:
Does the channel help meet communication goals?
Does your business have the capacity to produce the necessary content to effectively reach the audience?
Do you have a real reason for being part of that social community?
If you answered “yes” to the above criteria, then the social channel in question might be a good fit for your business.
The last thing you want to do is make a semi-enthusiastic commitment to a channel, which ultimately becomes just a waste of time and resources, two things no business can afford. The truth of the matter is, it’s not necessary to be on every social channel.
Before diving in, here’s what you need to know about each social channel.
After considering those two channels, we recommend the following social channels after careful consideration of the target audience, brand goals and ability to maintain the channel. Use the descriptions below to help guide you towards the social channels that work best.
Social media shouldn’t be a struggle; it should be fun. It’s where you get an opportunity to talk about your brand, show people who you are and engage audiences you may have otherwise missed. Building your brand on social media is crucial for success in today’s marketplace so choose the social channels that meet your business goals.
Tell us how you engage your audiences through social media by commenting below or engage with us on social media. Let’s start the conversation.
Marketing your small winery can seem overwhelming and challenging, especially for those small shops with just one, or maybe a few employees. During harvest, there is never enough time to even think about marketing, and by the time you get everything else done from, bottling to distribution, it’s almost harvest again! However, you know creative and customer-focused marketing is critical to the success of your winery.
Adding a few simple tools to your marketing toolbox can assist in strategically and successfully promoting your wine brand. Even a minimal time investment pays huge dividends with the following tips.
Know your audience. Defining your target audience is the first step in effective marketing. Keep in mind your audience is much larger than just wine drinkers. Analyze and organize your current customer base by categories, such as millennials, baby boomers, women or wine drinkers who are new to enjoying wine.
Define your message. Determine a key message to connect your brand with each group of ideal customers. The message should be clear, direct and consistently used so it resonates with potential customers. For example, if your millennial audience group is interested in scores from Parker, make sure your messaging includes your recent ratings. Key messages help tell your story to compel your audience to take action.
Get to know the media. Sending a press release about your upcoming winemaker dinner to the local food and wine critic without building a relationship with him/her will appear self-serving and may get pushed aside. Build a relationship with wine writers and influencers. Read their stories, engage with them on social media platforms and share their stories. Are you getting ready to promote a new wine and want some press? Invite the writer to a private tasting before the release to allow for personalized face time. Prepare materials in advance to make packaging the story easy for the reporter; include photos, content and potential alternate interview contacts.
Engage on social media. Social media used to be about likes and followers. Now, engagement determines success- how many people, when they see your Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram post, actually like, share, or comment on that post. Engagement is a two-way conversation. The best way to get engagement is to give some as well. Scrolling through your social media feeds for 10 -15 minutes per day looking for like-minded brands, wine influencers and your customers so you can comment, like and share their posts, will show your investment in the industry. Social interaction creates an awareness of your brand with audiences, who may become followers or customers. Social engagement will keep you in the minds of your customers and strengthen your consumer-producer relationship. Wineries can be hesitant to post on social media because of the Federal Trade Commission laws on advertising to minors, but with advances in data collection on most of the major platforms, you can confidently and legally promote your brand.
Let the label tell the brand’s story. If your wine is in retail shops or on display at a restaurant, the packaging is your most valuable asset. You need a label that stands out from the crowd, but also represents your brand and identity. Make sure your key message is translated into the label through visuals or text.
Utilize influencers. Invite top wine influencers to a tasting. Engage with them on social media. Meg Maker, Amy Lieberfarb, Jancis Robinson, Jon Thorson and Antonio Galloni are just a few, but like we mention in Tip #1, do your research to make sure chosen influencers are appropriate for your brand.
Participate in tasting events. For most small producers, providing complimentary cases and cases of wine to a special event may put a big dent in your potential sales, but don’t underestimate the value of attending these events. Yes, you will definitely get quite a few people who are attending the event just to get intoxicated. You will also get serious wine drinkers and media. Many tasting events host a trade/media hour prior to the general public. This is your opportunity to meet media face-to-face and make a lasting impression. Do your research about tasting opportunities. Find out what reporters and influencers have attended in the past. Ask fellow wineries if they have participated and what their thoughts are.
These cost-effective and simple tips will be the start to successfully marketing your winery. We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences about wine marketing. Comment or share on social media and tag A. Bright Idea so we can reply!
Your NCAA basketball bracket may be busted, but your favorite college may still win with its branding.
As one of the most watched sporting events, the annual March Madness tournament showcases 68 teams for basketball talent. But it also gives universities and colleges one of their biggest marketing opportunities nationally. An estimated 82.5 million Americans fill out their predictions for winners on the tournament brackets, a bonding ritual known as “bracketology.” Many of those faithful bracketologists also work full-time jobs, resulting in an estimated loss of $2.1 billion in productivity during the tourney. The popular pastime also provides the opportunity for many people to learn about some colleges for the first time.
As the NCAA Final Four championship approaches, with many brackets already busted (thanks, Maryland), our Idea Dream Team decided to take the tournament’s Sweet 16 to create our bracket based on branding. We named our process “brandetology.”
Brandetology (n.): A 100% made up word referring to the thorough study of #branding in NCAA basketball to build a #MarchMadness bracket.
We picked our Final Four Brand Champions based on the industry’s top brand strategies (no wagering, please). Our team reviewed the school’s logo, design and color palette, to include the uniforms and court graphics, as well as the team’s social media and website for content and ease of navigation — all tools of a comprehensive brand strategy.
To pick the final four of brandetology, we considered:
Visual Branding (Uniforms, logos and courts)
Color and pattern schemes
Distinct branding elements that differentiate the school
Design integration and consistency across all mediums
Social media (Instagram accounts reviewed as a sample)
Dynamic and captivating visuals
Balance of video content versus photo usage
Shareable and engaging content
Diversity of photo topics (court, uniforms, players, students cheering, user-developed content)
Ease of navigation
Social media integration
Page hierarchy and placement of compelling content
Use of impactful graphics
Interactive and multimedia content
The Final Four of Branding
With Nike co-founder Phil Knight, an alumnus and strong supporter, Nike’s influence and monetary backing show throughout Oregon’s branding from the uniforms all the way to their top-of-the-line facilities. Oregon scores high marks across the board from a branding perspective, including its court design. When you think of Oregon, you think of forests, and the court features silhouettes of pine trees. The variations in color and layering of trees create depth on a typically flat and one-dimensional court. The muted colors also contrast well with the neon uniforms, so they command even more of a presence.
With bright and bold colors using neon yellow and green, like the basketball uniforms, most of Oregon’s football and basketball uniforms also incorporate subtle feather design elements. With Knight’s influence, the colors and variations of uniforms push the envelope in uniform design innovation. The bold, bright, reflex colors prompt an immediate reaction, and coupled with the design, make the uniforms memorable. While the logo’s typographic execution uses shallow cap height and letter-width pitch, the unique feel makes it recognizable and works well in the world of sports.
Oregon’s social media presents compelling and consistent content, never forgetting brand identity. The Instagram account uses bold, high-contrast and professional imagery that appeals to viewers and athletics alike.
The website integrates social media content well and has a clean, contemporary aesthetic. The bold imagery and headlines engage the site visitor immediately. The website uses the logo in an interesting way without any type but remains instantly recognizable.
North Carolina Tar Heels
Arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan played for the school, and now his Jordan brand serves as the official apparel of the team. The uniforms feature traditional Carolina blue and argyle patterns down the sides. In color theory, blue often symbolizes stability and confidence. The strength of the Tar Heels branding comes through, with the color dubbed by many as “Carolina blue,” and the iconic logo remains one of the most well known from the team’s consistency at the top and enthusiastic fan base.
The court’s color scheme also highlights the Carolina blue along the sidelines but shines at the mid-court logo with an outline of the state. Even so, the court wasn’t the most compelling of the finalists.
The basketball team’s social media (particularly its Instagram account, @UNC_basketball) includes a good mix of custom imagery from players celebrating victories on the court to behind-the-scene photos in the locker rooms, giving fans a complete and behind-the-scenes look. The school’s colors appear in nearly every image, maintaining brand consistency. The site features custom graphics and motion graphics.
The minimalist, clutter-free design of GoHeels.com allows for simple navigation. While the design remains static, readers have numerous headline options and access to audio and video footage. Overall, the design falls short of the style of the Instagram account and requires some updates to support the university’s brand elements throughout the site.
The Musketeers’ playing surface at the Cintas Center underwent a major facelift in the fall of 2014. The university went straight to its fans for creative inspiration.
In the spirit of true engagement, the university incorporated elements of the fans’ ideas into the aesthetics. The school’s final product, which features the Cincinnati skyline, includes two-toned wood staining and the primary X logo at center court in bold, dark blue lettering.
The basketball team’s Instagram account consistently uses a photo filter to wash the images in a bluish tint to support the brand’s color palette and a type treatment that appears hand drawn with a youthful energy.
With an enticing, contemporary color palette and frequent use of iconography to simplify navigation, the university’s website has a very youthful design. During the Musketeers’ tournament run, the school’s athletics website kept the strong graphic content at its forefront, creating numerous splash pages for the school’s game day coverage, even including a countdown ticker to tipoff. These elements create fan engagement and drive traffic to the site.
The Baylor athletics logo includes the classic “BU” with gold lettering and green trim with a very conservative, traditional typography. But you wouldn’t feel as if the school’s branding was traditional in its approach with a sharp juxtaposition in its use of glow in the dark colors. To say you can’t miss seeing their uniforms is an understatement. The neon-yellow and green color combination creates a glow-in-the-dark effect unlike any in the school’s athletic department.
Supporting the connection to the team’s lineage, the basketball players wore on their jerseys the names of the “Immortal Ten,” a group of players who passed away in a bus crash in January 1927 while traveling to a game. By paying tribute to the tragedy, it ties together the present and the past, it shows the university cares about the school’s student-athletes of all eras and ties the generations together, an important role for a university to help build pride and support.
The team’s social media accounts thrive on glowing green visuals that reinforce the brand. A social media industry best practice and a mainstay for Baylor, shorter posts drive impressions. The school also employs a strong social media campaign promoting the noted phrase, #SicEm, a phrase used by supporters of the university on game days meaning to attack, or “get them.” With over 185,000 #SicEm usages on Instagram, even the official Baylor University website tells fans how to enjoy the phrase properly.
Upon entering the website during the team’s tournament run, the audience first encounters a splash page honoring the team’s accomplishment and providing details for fans about when, how and where to watch all the action. The site’s main pages integrate the infamous #Sicem phrase and provides easy navigation for fans to find the information they want without getting bogged down in content.
Brandetology Honorable Mentions
(*NCAA tournament participation not required for this category)
With more than 340 schools in NCAA Division I, many schools deserving recognition for branding didn’t make it into the NCAA basketball tournament, but we deemed them worthy as part of our branding honorable mention section.
Court: Florida International Panthers
With a design almost guaranteed to appeal to recruits and students in the North watching basketball games on cold, wintry nights, the school’s basketball court has a beach theme with palm tree fronds and waves crashing on a shore in its design. There’s a Panther at center court, but give us sand and surf imagery any day. The court definitely has a strong concept.
Uniform: Maryland Terrapins
As a Maryland alum, I can’t go without mentioning my beloved Terps. The Terrapins continue upping the ante in the branding game, especially since moving to the Big Ten. Much like Phil Knight’s influence at Oregon, Maryland benefits from Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank’s influence as an alumnus of the school and a strong supporter of the athletic program. A former player on the school’s football team, Plank and Under Armour provide Maryland many different uniform combinations. Many of the uniforms incorporate elements of Maryland’s flag design, which sets them apart from other universities giving just enough of an indication without being too assertive, along with full-color Maryland flag trim and seams.
Logo: Georgetown Hoyas
Georgetown’s Hoyas nickname remains shrouded in mystery, with the precise origin of the term dating back to the 1890s remaining unknown. Eventually, the mascot became Jack the Bulldog. The bulldog logo has evolved over the years for the better, without losing its original spirit and character. The newest version of the logo includes a little more personality with expressive eyes, as well as shading for increased dimension and drama. The line quality is very bold and graphic, which helps with scalability and increases the perception of strength.
Website: Florida Gators
FloridaGators.com demonstrates a good site that shows off their brand. Several design factors makes this a great online presence. The site features impactful imagery using bold school colors of blue and orange. The simple navigation has large callouts to important information. The callouts themselves include easy access to tickets, scoreboard and the schedule of upcoming games. The site also has large, easy-to-read news articles that grab the reader’s attention.
Instagram Account: Miami Hurricanes
@Caneshoops carries a bit of everything from action shots to pre-game close-ups and team huddles to exclusive locker-room footage. Miami makes you feel ready to lace up your sneakers with a focus on action and intensity. The photo quality is consistent throughout the feed, offering a cohesive look, an important factor to acquire and maintain followers. People follow visually appealing accounts regardless of the subject. Miami takes their followers through a journey with the team, an impactful strategy for those who live and breathe basketball. That kind of slice-of-life content also can appeal even to non-basketball fans. With a minimalist mentality regarding written content, the visuals do the talking for them eloquently. Instagram accounts that invest in producing quality content gain the most and reward their followers with the experience.
Each year on March 14 (3.14), people all over the world celebrate Pi Day. The most popular of all trending holidays celebrates the mathematical constant π, 3.14159, which, if you don’t recall from sixth-grade math class, is used to calculate the circumference of a circle, among other things.
You’re probably thinking, “This made up holiday can’t really be legit.” Well, think again, friend.
The date March 14 (that is, 3.14) was designated Pi Day by House Resolution 224 of the first session of the 111th Congress of the United States in 2009.
What gave us pause about this rather abstract holiday was what makes Pi Day so popular around the world? What started out as a holiday for high school math teachers, branched out into a world-wide, social media trending, pie eating fun day, with no age limit or industry focus. Anyone can celebrate Pi Day because, even if you don’t like math or have any interest in circumference exploration, most people like pie!
And that’s where the secret lies – with pie, a close favorite to Pi. Apple, peach, pumpkin, chicken pot, meat or even pizza, all these pies make Pi Day a little more fun. See, for the Pi Day newbies, pie is a key ingredient for making Pi Day awesome for two reasons. First, it gives folks an excuse to eat pie at work. And second, π is used to find the circumference of a circle and pies just also happen to be circular! Mind blown, I know.
For Pi Day this year, we figured we’d have some fun and have a little pie bake-off. The recipes are listed below, if you want to try any of these for yourself.
Bonus: Test your math skills – The earth has a diameter of 7926.41 miles. What is the circumference of the earth? Use C=2πr. Place your answer in the comments below. Also, let us know which type of pie is your favorite. Happy Pi Day!
Pi Day Recipes
Peach Pies with Vanilla Wafers Submitted by Lisa Morris
Servings: 4 individual pies.
INGREDIENTS 1 (9-inch) refrigerated pie crust, divided into 4 equal pieces 1¾ cups chopped frozen peaches (keep frozen until ready to use) 2 tablespoons granulated sugar 1 tablespoon cornstarch 4 vanilla wafer cookies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Press the pie crust pieces into 4 cups of a 12-cup muffin pan. Press the crust into the bottom and up the sides of each muffin cup.
In a medium bowl, combine peaches, sugar and cornstarch. Toss to combine. Spoon the peach mixture into the muffin cups. Bake for 30 minutes, until the fruit is tender and the crust is golden. Top each pie with a vanilla wafer cookie and serve warm or at room temperature.
(She will be doubling ingredients to make a large pie rather than 4 individual)
Coconut Dream Pie (Kraft) Submitted by Teri O’Neal
Prep: 15 mins – Ready in: 4 hr 15 mins
INGREDIENTS 2 envelopes DREAM WHIP Whipped Topping Mix 2-3/4 cups cold milk, divided 2 pkg. (4-serving size) JELL-O Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding and Pie Filling 1 cup coconut, toasted 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional) 1 (9-inch) baked pastry shell, cooled
Beat whipped topping mix and 1 cup of the milk in large bowl with electric mixer on high speed 6 minutes or until topping thickens and forms peaks.
Add remaining 1-3/4 cups milk and pudding mixes; blend on low speed.
Beat on high speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally.
Stir in coconut and pecans. Spoon into pastry shell.
Refrigerate at least 4 hours or until set. Garnish with additional toasted coconut, if desired.
Baked Spaghetti Pie Recipe Submitted by Katie MacNichol
INGREDIENTS 16 ounces dried spaghetti 16 ounces ground beef 8 ounces ground Italian sausage 1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped 3 garlic cloves, minced 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes 2 tablespoons tomato paste 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning 1 teaspoon salt 3 large eggs 1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend 1 cup shredded or grated parmesan cheese Pre-made pizza dough
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-10 inch springform pan, or a 9 inch deep-dish pie pan. If using a springform pan, wrap the outside in foil to avoid leakage.
Place a large pot of salted water over high heat to boil. In a separate saucepot, add the ground beef, sausage, onions, and garlic. Brown the meat over medium heat for about 5 minutes, breaking into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Once the meat is cooked and the onions have softened, add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, and 1teaspoon salt. Stir and simmer on low.
Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions, usually 6-9 minutes. Drain the cooked pasta.
Separate out 2 cups of meat sauce and set aside. Add the cooked pasta to the remaining pot of meat sauce. Stir well to coat the pasta. Beat the eggs, then stir them into the spaghetti. Stir in the parmesan cheese
Roll out ¾ of the pizza dough and lay on the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 5-9 minutes (until it starts to brown). Remove from oven.
Pour the spaghetti into the prepared pan on top of the crust. Press down to pack the pasta in the pan.
Pour the remaining meat sauce over the top of the pie. Sprinkle shredded cheese over the top. Cut the remaining pizza dough into 1” strips and make a lattice pattern on top of the cheese. Brush lightly with melted butter (optional).
Bake for 15-25 minutes until the edges are crispy. Cool for at least 5 minutes before cutting and serving.
——————————————————— Chicken Pot Pie
Submitted by Shawn Nesaw
INGREDIENTS 1 box of two refrigerated pie crusts 1/3 cup butter 1/3 cup chopped onion 1/3 cup whole grain flour 1 1/4 cups chicken broth 1/2 cup milk 1 diced chicken breast (cooked) 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (thawed)
Heat oven to 375°F. Make pie crusts as directed on box for two-crust pie using a 9-inch glass pie pan.
In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender. Stir in flour until well blended. Add broth and milk gradually while continuously stirring. Cook until bubbly and thickened.
Stir in chicken and mixed vegetables. Remove from heat. Spoon chicken mixture into crust-lined pan. Top with second crust; seal edge and flute. Cut 4 slits in top crust.
Bake 30 – 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Tips: Let pie crusts warm up to room temperature before using. This recipe makes a thick gravy. For a thinner gravy add an additional 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Cook chicken in the same pan prior to making the gravy for additional flavor and less dishes to wash. Leftover chicken broth can be frozen for later use.
One of the top tools of the social media trade we implement for both clients and our internal usage is the content calendar. Perfect for staying on track and proactive planning, a content calendar keeps your content creation streamlined and efficient, yet flexible. Although content calendars may seem like one more thing to do, the planning conducted in advance makes strategy implementation a lot easier.
Content calendars are great for keeping track of all your communication tools, including blogs, PR pitches, press releases and social media. It’s a central place where every piece of content is developed and archived. For creative teams, it’s a collaborative exercise that keeps the whole team involved. For individual social media managers, it’s an organization tool to help with time and strategy management when working with integrated content.
Need more incentive for content calendar use? Here are more of our favorite benefits:
Organization – The content calendar’s main draw is in its organizational structure. There’s no set way a content calendar should be created and organized, it allows customization for a given need. Columns you may set, for example, are things like “platform” (where something is posted), “contributors” (who is helping develop the content) and “deadline” (completion date). The content calendar provides a clear path for what is happening, establishes goals as well as roles and responsibilities for the team.
Lessons learned– By finding common themes in different posts and looking at analytic data that tracks post engagement (most platforms offer this capability for free), you’ll be able to see what resonates with your audience. Understanding what your audience needs and likes helps you target those needs and likes in future posts.
A look ahead – A key factor in social media and content development, in general, is making sure you are consistently posting, staying top of mind with your audience while also expanding your reach to new audiences. Using a content calendar allows you to look a few weeks to a few months ahead for notable milestones such as company and client anniversaries, birthdays, local events, awards, relevant historical events and social media holidays, just to name a few. Additionally, proactive planning allows more time for development of videos, photos or events.
Once you start using a content calendar you will see a nice variety of diverse content. That’s great, but keep in mind, it’s ok to deviate from the plan. A content calendar keeps you organized; it’s not meant to shackle you to the content you’ve developed. Social media is inherently “in the moment” so when something interesting is happening around the office your audience would appreciate, post it.
Who doesn’t love cute puppy pics?
Here’s an example: A co-worker brings in their new puppy. It’s bound to get your office talking and if that’s the case, your audience will probably enjoy a cute puppy face in their news feed as well. Who doesn’t love cute puppy pics? Social media is driven on situations where you can capture the “now” to show the human side of your brand.
Tell us how you organize your content. How do you see a content calendar fitting into your process? Share with us in the comment section below.
We developed our own list of major social media trends we think are really going to take off this year. Since some of the items on our list were relatively mainstream last year, we’ll explain each tool and give our insight on how you and/or your business can utilize these this year, either on your social media accounts or website.
2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the emergence of social media. Since its humble and somewhat intangible beginnings, social media has become the way to engage audiences in a discussion surrounding campaigns and increasing brand awareness for businesses and products. Consumers also seek reviews from family and friends about products and services through social media before making decisions to buy. The content users post on their social media channels evolves as quickly as the tools used to capture the content.
At A. Bright Idea, we continuously research the latest applications, tools and techniques. Here are the top four social media trends we’re excited about and look forward to implementing this year:
Boomerang: One of the hottest features we’ve seen in the past six months is Boomerang. This Instagram-exclusive feature loops a series of photographs together to create movement, making them visually similar to a GIF. Users can film Boomerangs within the Instagram app, adding it to their “story” or through the stand-alone Boomerang app. As video continues to rise in popularity throughout social media, Boomerang adds another level of engagement, furthering the wide use of video features to every day users. If you’re on Instagram, you should try Boomerang. We recommend using it once per story and very infrequently in your actual Instagram feed. Boomerangs are compatible on Facebook and Twitter, as well as Instagram.
When you win new business!
Live Video: Live video serves a purpose for broadcasting information or entertainment. It gives audiences a direct connection with the broadcaster in real-time for a true-to-life experience. Facebook, Instagram and Periscope are the most popular applications offering this service. Live video thrives due to its unedited, unrehearsed and in-the-moment content. The uses of live video are many and worth a try. If you’re looking to boost engagement on Facebook, we recommend using Facebook Live to get a nice bump in engagement. Facebook algorithms play favorites with their in-app tools, allowing your live video content to reach more people than a normal photo or video. We recently wrote a blog to serve as the beginners guide to using Periscope for live video. You can use the tips in that article for any live video application.
360 Video and Photographs: Panoramic video and photographs give a 360-degree view from where the user stands. Images and video captured leaves a lasting impression from the stunning views or perspectives of the photographer. For social media, posting 360 images provides the audience with an interesting perspective. The post becomes more engaging, enticing audiences to interact with the photo to see the entire image. Currently, Facebook allows users to post their panoramic or 360 photographs directly to their account. YouTube supports 360 video. We anticipate an uptick in 360 video use with event centers and venues trying to showcase their amazing spaces to potential audiences. 360 video improves leaps and bounds on the Y2K era “virtual tour” with the use of Virtual Reality viewing devices and interactive features within the video.
Drones: Another popular piece of technology that we think is going to make waves on social media is drones. Drones are radio-controlled aircrafts used in many practical functions. The aircrafts vary in size, shape, type and capability. First introduced in military surveillance applications, todays off-the-shelf drones are primarily used by professional and novice photographers and hobbyists alike. In order to operate a drone, you must first register the craft with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Guidelines for flight are listed on their website under “Fly for Fun.” Drones squeezed their way into the mainstream in 2016, mostly on YouTube but now Target and Best Buy sell drones so we’re anticipating seeing more wondrous drone video and photography on Facebook and Instagram this year.
As with everything in life, “everything in moderation.” The same is true for social media. The trends above balance accounts and create diversity of posts while adding personality and fun to a feed. However, you can have too much of a good thing. Use the trending social media services sparingly. A feed of nothing but Boomerangs and drone shots might get engagement in the beginning but will become unexciting to audiences over time.
Let us know the top social media trends you engage with on a daily basis by commenting below.
You finally wrapped your last present, put the finishing touches on your decorations, baked one more batch of grandma’s famous cookies and even selected your holiday dinner – but what about the wine?
The hectic nature of the holiday season is stressful enough without worrying about the right wine to serve or worse yet, the right wine to bring to someone’s home as a gift. Follow these simple tips in making your wine selection and then kick back, say cheers and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
The sky is the limit. – When selecting a wine for the perfect holiday occasion, understand that short of box wine there is nothing off limits. Wine comes in many varietals and price ranges, but expensive doesn’t always mean good and taking a chance on a smaller brand you’ve never heard of doesn’t mean bad.
Wine should be fun. When you find yourself staring at the shelf full of wine bewildered by all of those cool, edgy and colorful wine labels (designed by some hip ad agency no doubt) or shelf talkers screaming at you with giant wine scores from the so-called experts, remember to take a deep breath and relax. Wine is supposed to be fun and about sharing something with your family or friends over delicious food and warm conversations.
It’s all about variety. Don’t be overly concerned about wine pairing or one particular varietal over another. If you’re like most Americans, the holidays are about variety, everything from carved red meats, creamy cheeses, savory dishes and sweet desserts. Like that wonderful baseball movie line, “If you build it, they will come,” or in this case, “if you serve it, they will drink it!”
But since this is a wine blog about the best wines to enjoy for the holidays, here are a few of my personal favorites that you might want to add to your cellar. Keep in mind all of these wines are deliberately $50 or less considering all of the choices in this price range.
2013 Simi Alexander Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma County) $26
2012 Hall (Napa Valley) Cabernet $46 – pictured
2012 Jordan (Alexander Valley Sonoma) Cabernet $49
2012 Groth Vineyards (Oakville Napa Valley) Cabernet $50
Quite truthfully, what could be better? If you know me you probably know I’m a California purist at heart and for this publication will only recommend wines from the Golden State with a focus in Sonoma Valley or neighboring Napa Valley. These wines pair perfectly with a medium-rare Christmas tenderloin, carved roast or dark chocolate truffle after dinner.
Gloria Ferrer (Sonoma), Brut $18
Domaine Carneros (Carneros), Blanc De Noir Sparking $38
In all my years enjoying wine, I’m pretty sure there is one thing that goes with everything and that’s a fine bubbly. Nothing says elegant more than a bottle of Champagne or Sparkling and your guests or special someone will thank you for it later.
St. Francis (Sonoma County) Old Vines Zinfandel $20 – pictured
2014 Selby (Sonoma County) Bobcat Zinfandel $42
2014 Gamba (Russian River Valley) Zinfandel $50
Maybe a varietal you haven’t tried or liked, but the secret is finding the right food to enjoy with this wonderful red with for the holidays. Typically lighter in color than a Cab or Merlot this moderate tannin and high acidity wine is higher in alcohol and perfect with lamb, pork, especially barbecue or a big hearty meal like your Mom can only make.
2014 Decoy (Sonoma Valley) Pinot Noir- $22
2014 Sonoma-Cutrer (Sonoma Coast) Pinot Noir $33
2014 Landmark Vineyards (Sonoma Coast) Grand Detour Pinot Noir $35
Forget about the 2004 cult film, “Sideways,” this varietal was made famous by the French and in Sonoma County some of the very best in the world! If the label says “Russian River” or “Sonoma Coast” then it’s like tossing darts.
2015 Walt (Sonoma Coast) Chardonnay $40
2015 Adelshelm (Willamette Valley Oregon) Pinot Gris $18
Don’t just grab the first bottle of Chardonnay you see! Many California Chardonnays are pretty typical, and you either love them or you don’t. You know the kind, big, buttery and oaky with hints of vanilla and butterscotch. Unless you are serving some lobster tails New Year’s Eve, try some of my favorite white varietals, including Chardonnay.