What is all the chatter about social media and engagement?

The days of bashing people over the head with a hard sales message are over. The internet has put megaphone marketing out to pasture and social media has made communication a two-way process. With this new dawn of interaction – the ability for people to talk back – comes engagement.

When a company pays attention to their clients and customers, they are engaged in a conversation. By providing relevant, insightful information, they become a trusted source of knowledge, so when the time comes to buy, customers instinctively go to them.

Delivering rich, interesting content that connects with your audience has a range of benefits. For a start, if people engage and respond positively they will promote on your behalf. And if you find out what your customers want, you can develop products that will pretty much sell themselves.

Having a conversation can also help improve the way people view your brand. Proctor and Gamble engage with women through Vocalpoint to find out what mums are interested in, so they can learn about their audience and promote to them in the hope they’ll tell everyone in their network.

Blogs, social bookmarking, reviews and ratings, and photo and video are excellent ways to reach out and engage with your audience. It’s important to plan your campaign and decide which channels are right to reach your audience. And don’t think you have to use every available social media tool; you don’t. The trick is to try and see what works for you, and adapt your strategy accordingly.

For a relatively small financial investment, you can easily engage with your clients and customers. Start a conversation. You might be surprised by how well people respond.

Tread carefully at Kakadu

Ashley threw another log on the fire and lay on his back. He watched the stars flash and sparkle in the night sky, wondering at the beauty and sadness of so much space.

“Take a look at that – it’s just incredible!”

“Wow” said Mary, “I’ve never seen such a clear sky.”

“It reminds me of Kakadu.”

“What’s Kakadu?”

“Kakadu is where I lost my shoe.”

They lay in silence, each tracing imaginary lines between stars to make pictures.

Suddenly Mary rolled on her side, propping herself on an elbow. “You lost your shoe in Kakadu?”

“Kakadu Park in Darwin. I was running away from a crocodile.”

“You were chased by a crocodile?” Mary’s eyes widened.

“Chased is a bit strong.” Ashley felt his manhood threatened. “I’d say he showed a keen interest.”

“Oh really? And what did you show him?”

“I showed him how fast I can run.”

“And how fast can you run with only one shoe when you’re running from a crocodile in Kakadu?”

“Like a kangaroo I bounced in my fitflop shoes right up to the stars in Kakadu.”

She eyed Ashley with suspicion. “But I thought you said you lost a shoe to a hungry crocodile in Kakadu.”

Ashley was quiet for a moment. Then he spoke sheepishly. “Did I say that? Well I didn’t exactly lose my shoe. He tore a chunk from my fiftflops in Kakadu.”

Mary sensed blood and moved in for the kill. “I don’t believe you, show me your shoe. I want to inspect the damage from Kakadu.”

So Ashley swung one leg onto his knee and in the light of the camp fire Mary could see the damage to the heel of his fitflop shoe where the crocodile had snapped in Kakadu.

And Mary said “Oh.”

“Yes,” said Ahsley proudly, “I call them my fitflop highfives – I’m sure you can guess the reason why.”

They both looked up just in time to see a shooting star hurtle across the sky. Each of them thought, “I’m so lucky,” but they kept the thought to themselves.

Mary said, “Quick, make a wish and I’ve made mine, to wear fitflop shoes and reach up to the sky.”

“You’re not supposed to tell me,” said Ashley. Then they fell into a fit of giggles.

© Steve Bird 2013


Confident, curious and culturally aware

Children’s brains are wired to easily learn a number of languages simultaneously. The benefits include increased mental ability, more self-confidence, enhanced cultural understanding and better life chances. Steve Bird interviewed two British mothers about the advantages to their children of Spanish early years education, and two native Spanish teachers who work in the UK to find out how early language learning helped them.

Sasha McClinton’s son Joseph is in pre-school bilingual education
Why did you choose a bilingual nursery?
We are aware of the benefits of learning a second language. The most important time to learn is between 0 and 18 months, and it’s easier for them to acquire a second language at that time, which will benefit them throughout their life. It also stimulates the brain and improves IQ and gets them involved with a different culture. We don’t speak any other languages ourselves so we can’t offer it to our children.

What impact is the experience having on Joseph?
Being immersed in Spanish for 30 hours each week means he’s at the same stage as children who have a Spanish speaking parent at home. He speaks Spanish and English and seems to realise that he’s able to recognise a different context. He can follow instructions in Spanish and subconsciously he’s becoming bilingual.

What are the benefits?
The experience is making Joseph very confident and happy. It’s enriching his life, and I like to think it will help him learn other languages easily and give him better prospects. Lots of our friends went on to study French or German but wouldn’t consider themselves to be fluent. You can get to a level and be successful but it’s not the same as learning from a young age.

Lucia Farres is from Spain and works in a bilingual nursery
For three hours every Friday between the ages of 8 and 18, Lucia Farres attended language school where she was taught English by native English tutors. Six years ago, after finishing her degree, she took the opportunity to travel to England with a friend and has never looked back.

As well as making her feel confident about meeting new people, her ability to speak English fluently set her apart from many of her peers. “I had to rent a flat, find a job and go to interviews, so it would have been really difficult if I couldn’t speak English.”

Being fluent also gave her the idea to set up language exchange parties to help other non-English speakers meet people from different cultures, make friends, develop their language skills and find work. “It’s a good feeling to know I’ve helped people improve their lives. It also helped boost my confidence and get a better job, so I’m very happy.”

Felicity Cassin’s son George is in pre-school bilingual education
Why did you choose a bilingual nursery?
We looked into Spanish because we wanted to give George the advantage of speaking another language. When they’re small it’s easier to pick up, and it’s good to communicate in another language and be exposed to different cultures. It will give him so many opportunities to travel, work and make friends, and will also make learning other languages more easy.

What impact is the experience having on George?
When he counts and speaks in Spanish he gets positive reinforcement and praise. We went to Tenerife recently and he would say hello to the locals and they really like it. It gets a positive reaction. It doesn’t faze him that he doesn’t understand everything, but he doesn’t understand everything in English so it doesn’t matter.

What are the benefits?
It’s really good for his confidence. It’s an advantage to speak another language and really enjoyable too.

Steve Bird’s nineteen-month-old daughter is in bilingual childcare and she loves it.

This article will appear in ABC Magazine in March 2013.

Value added

The biggest complaint I’ve heard from people over the years about eating out in restaurants relates to value. It’s happened to all of us: you go to a restaurant looking for a good eating experience. The ambiance is average, the service is nothing special and the food is fairly ordinary. Fifty quid later, you wonder why you didn’t stay at home and cook the meal yourself.

If you’re thinking of running a secret restaurant or pop-up diner, the notion of value needs careful consideration. People will be paying to eat at your restaurant so you need to offer a memorable experience.

Imagine a punter going to work on Monday after being at your restaurant on Saturday night. A colleague asks them what they did over the weekend. What you want them to say is, “Well, I went to a secret diner at a stranger’s house. The food was amazing, the service was great and I met some interesting people.”

It’s a big talking point, and if it was a positive experience, they will be speaking highly of you. The colleague will want to know what you ate; what the other diners were like; if it was any good. If your punter recommends you, then the colleague may want to come too.

And therein lies the value of pop-up dining: it’s something off-beat where you have the opportunity to meet some interesting people. And it’s more like private dining than a normal restaurant because you are free to talk to everyone in the room.

So think carefully; unlike the average neighbourhood restaurant, you want to leave people feeling good about spending money at your secret diner / pop-up restaurant.

At Noshi Noshi @ Reynolds Diner, we add value in another interesting way: our diners have the opportunity to get stuck in and actually make one of their courses. I’ll tell you more about that in the next post.