Why Social Media is a Good Addition to Graduate Studies:

Though my Masters will be in Marketing, I am currently pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Social Media. When I tell people this they look at me puzzled, as in “hey you don’t need a degree to figure out Facebook”, but I look at it in a different way. The word optimization comes to mind “an act, process, or methodology of making something (as a design, system, or decision) as fully perfect, functional, or effective as possible” (Merriam-Webster 2012). If I could learn how to use social media tools in the most optimal way I could exceed my client’s objectives making me one valuable employee!

Social Media is one of the most powerful communication tools on the planet. Consider that 2 billion people around the globe are connected to the internet today, and approximately 86% of those users are active on social media platforms. Whether we connect to friends across the globe or businesses down the street, this tool gives internet users the power to interact and engage with the world around them.

Businesses recognize the power of social media. Companies can (amongst other things) start public relations campaigns, build brand equity, target specific audiences, and announce their services via social media. It’s quickly becoming a company standard to utilize platforms like Facebook and Twitter. With that development, there is a legitimate need for an adequately trained workforce in Social Media strategy.

As an employee in the Marketing field, I noticed many companies in my industry (CPG) relying more on social media campaigns. I understood the basics of how social media worked from a personal standpoint, but I had very little idea of what it meant to run a social media campaign for a business. I knew that recent graduates had a better knowledge and understanding of social media that far surpassed my own, and that in order to be competitive I needed to understand social media marketing platforms and strategies.

I have had the pleasure of taking social media classes in graduate school and have felt that it has given me an edge as a member of the workforce. Whether it’s developing a professional social media portfolio, or enhancing my connection with leaders in my industry, these skills allow students to compete in a world that is becoming more engrossed with social media.


Bullas, J(September 02, 2011) 20 Stunning Social Media Statistics. JeffBullas.com Retrieved July 12, 2012 from http://www.jeffbullas.com/2011/09/02/20-stunning-social-media-statistics/

Thomas (April 01, 2009) Social Media Heads to Graduate School. Open Education. Retrieved July 12, 2012 from http://www.openeducation.net/2009/03/31/social-media-heads-to-graduate-school/

Merriam-Webster(2012) Optimization. Merriam-Webster.com Retrieved July 12, 2012 from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/optimization

In a pickle: The over-productive garden

In April we decided to start a little garden to take advantage of freshly grown herbs and veggies. We have just began to see the fruits of our labor (pun intended) and I’ve had a lot of fun adding them to new recipes. I know I get bored eating the same thing more than two days in a row so I’ve searched for some great uses for what we have in our garden.

Cucumbers  have been growing like wild-fire. My boyfriend is not a fan of these veggies so it’s up to me to eat them all…and boy was there a lot of them!  My first thought was salad…but honestly it got old quick. I always have loved dill pickles. Only one problem, canning seems like a lot of work. Well turns out you can make these little puppies and store them in a jar for about 3 months with no special canning procedures required. I took several recipes and put them together and came up with these deliciously garlic dills:

1) Start 8-10 cucumbers. Cut the tips of both sides of the cucumber and discard ( for whatever reason it keeps them crunchy). Slice length wise.

2)In a pain pour two cups of white vinegar ( white wine vinegar worked ok too), 2 cups filtered water, 2 tbsp salt, a dash of sugar(optional) and boil until salt dissolves.

3) put pickles in a big  jar ( or 3-4 small jars)  add 1 tbsp of whole peppercorns, 1 tbsp of whole coriander, 1 bay leaf, a dash of red pepper flakes,  1 small chopped onion, 4-6 chopped cloves of garlic..you can never have too much, and 2tbsp of dried dill (or 4 fresh).

4) pour vinegar solution over pickles. Make sure the lid is on tight and slowly tilt the jar and make sure the solution is covering the entire pickle and spices distributed (though some will float to the top). Store in the fridge – wait about 3 days before you eat one.

If the water is a bit cloudy you can use pickling salt instead, but it’s entirely fine to use normal salt.

Here are links to the two recipes I combined…Epicurious Fast Favorite Garlic Dill Pickles and All Recipes Homemade Refrigerator Pickles

When I cook I rarely follow a recipe to a tee and sort of put my own personal spin on it. Do you have any garden veggie recipes you love? Have you combined recipes to make something even more spectacular?

A smoothie snack to fuel the fire:

 I recently began a new workout regiment called TurboFire and have absolutely loved it thus far- two weeks in! It is both challenging and entertaining which are two important factors in my opinion as I find myself easily bored with working out (something ex-rock climbers have issues with I imagine) . While I am pretty good about working out a couple days a week, this program requires me to kick, punch, and shake my booty six days a week!

All of that working out tends to leave me famished and so I am beginning to  learn  how to fuel my body properly. I love snacking and eating-out , two things that have made “dieting” difficult for me. I generally allow myself a few bites of some of my favorites (raspberry zingers and bagels were two tempting foods available at work today)  because if I don’t I would find myself gobbling down entire boxes of cookies out of desperation (not a pretty sight)! Beachbody, the makers of Turbofire, recommend a product called Shakeology. In the past I have found pre-made shakes and powders to be kind of gross, not to mention expensive, so before I am ready to commit to that I have been experimenting with my own delicious smoothies.

I found a fabulous blog about smoothies which are an awesome healthy and very tasty snack!  My Healthy Eating Secrets has some tasty looking treats which are vegan and very fruit-centric. They recommend adding ingredients like dried coconut and cacao powder for added touches which I fully intend to do! I also am planning on adding some veggies to future fruit smoothies in order to add even more nutrients.

In the meantime, here are a few of my favorites that I’ve whipped up myself this past week (all make 1 to 2 servings). You can amp up the protein on these drinks (and not interfere with any of the flavor)  by adding 1/3 cup of egg-whites (the ones in the carton are safe to use) to your drink, making it a great post work-out treat:

Mandarin Peachberry:
In the blender we go:
1) one container of low fat Chobani Peach Greek Yogurt
2) 4 Ice cubes
3) 1/3 small can of mandarin oranges
4) 1 cup of frozen strawberries ( I buy fresh, cut up and freeze)

Summertime Watermelon Key Lime Cooler:
In the blender we go:
1) one container of Chobani Key Lime Greek Yogurt
2) 1/3 cup of frozen strawberries
3) 1 cup seedless watermelon
4) 1 tsp of  fresh mint

Chocolate Funky Monkey:
In the blender we go:
1) 1 banana
2) 1/2 cup organic low-fat milk ( leave out and replace with more ice if you want it thicker)
3) 3 ice cubes
4) 1 tsp of smooth peanut butter (natural/organic is best)
5) 1tsp of chocolate syrup ( I am going to try to sub in cocoa powder next time and increase the banana for sweetness)
6) top with sprinkling of cinnamon

Let me know if you’ve tried one of these and how you liked it. Also, if you have a great smoothie recipe please do share!

The Future of the Virtual Foodie Community:

What is a community? Wikipedia tells us that it is a group of interacting people in some proximity (time, space, relationship etc) that often share common values and social cohesion.  Often in life we will be a part of several communities perhaps the Girl Scouts, Your hometown, or religious affiliation. We have spent the last few months exploring the foodie community.  Paul Levy and Ann Bar coined the term Foodie as someone who considers themselves an “aficionado of food” and/or drink.  If we put the two definitions together we get a community of food loving people. I for one think as long as humans have the basic needs to belong and consume sustenance, Foodie communities will stand the test of time! The future will consist of developed communities reaching out in more advanced ways.

Technology has been the driving force of the virtual foodie community. Long before the microwave our ancestors were hunting and gathering food and preparing meals for consumption. Long before the internet we were communicating with others and forming strong communal bonds. Technology has enabled these two daily activities to integrate and streamline. We now have the ability to share that love for food with people in a meaningful way almost instantly.

As technology enhances and flourishes so too will virtual foodie communities. For example, as phone technology has improved we now have the ability to use phone applications to connect with fellow foodies. I recently traveled to Asheville and was able to instantly review The Chocolate Lounge after sampling some of their fare.  Twenty years ago I may have had to spread the news face-to-face but now I can connect with others instantaneously with the click of a button.

I have a very personal interaction with a foodie community (follow me on yelp). For the past three years I have been a Yelp Elite. This basically means I am very active within the community. I take a personal interest in growing the site and making connections. Many of the people I interact with through the site I have met in person. I have noticed the community growing and branching out from strictly virtual to people’s daily lives.  This evolution has been fueled by several of the above factors 1) a love for food 2) a love for communication and 3) New Technology.

Here are some other less known foodie communities. Take a look at the sites and perhaps you will find one that is right for you:

Living-Foods is  a food community focusing on the living and raw food movement. Here you’ll find raw food life style information, member archives, event calendars, classifieds and the list goes on!

Flavorwise is a food community focusing on flavor-likes and dislikes. For example, if you like very spicy foods you can build and share menus based on those flavor-profiles.


Food Service is an online food community for professionals in the Food Service industry.  This site has chat rooms, job opportunities, professional resources, and  market reports that focus on this particular industry.


Are you currently active in  any food-centric virtual communities? If so which ones?


(2008) Top Ten Trends: Foodie 2.0. In The Food Channel. Retrieved February 25, 2012 from http://www.foodchannel.com/articles/article/top-ten-trends-foodie-20/

Barr, Ann, & Levy, Paul. & Dale, David,  1985  The official foodie handbook / Ann Barr & Paul Levy ; adapted for Australia by David Dale  Doubleday, Sydney :

Hamburger Helper… is not bringing sexy back!

I would like to perform an experiment. Close your eyes, get comfy, clear your mind and really think about what I am about to ask you.

What words come to mind when I say Godiva Chocolat and Ciroq Vodka…perhaps sexy? Intriguing?

How about skittles or Oreo’s …fun? Maybe even young?

Ok, here’s the last one, what comes to mind when you think of Hamburger Helper? If you weren’t thinking fun and sexy  you’re not alone! This has been one major issue plaguing the company and many others that might lack some of the excitement of the aforementioned brands I listed earlier. This un-sexy problem is one that inhibited their social media growth. You see, people tend to interact with companies and brands that they find exciting, sexy, fun, or intriguing. Hamburger Helper has an image problem when it comes to Facebook the brand often goes ignored. Hamburger Helper never meant to be a sexy brand. In fact, marketers work hard to present it as a high-quality, wholesome, and a trustworthy brand. They did not anticipate that their online presence would be negatively affected by their (to put it bluntly) boring image that they themselves facilitated.

As technology has advanced the world of advertising and marketing has expanded from print media to include online platforms. According to Nielsen, consumers spend one-quarter of their online time on social media sites, Facebook accounting for a whopping 16 percent ( Sobieski, 2011). The problem is that consumers aren’t interacting with all brands only those that are appealing.  For example, Skittles has 20,831,623 fans and has several off-shoot fan pages whereas Hamburger Helper only has 9,087 with no fan pages. The company has risked putting time and money into their social media campaigns without being recognized because of their un-sexy image.

As of yet, the company has not found a way to solve this problem. Kevin Sobieski mentions one suggestion and that is to join the Superbowl advertising frenzy. It is predicted that those commercials will be watched 500 million times on the web alone generating a huge social media buzz. Of course with the expense involved this is not a feasible solution for all of the un-sexy brands out there.  Companies and brands need to find ways to connect with their consumer. For example, offering coupons and discounts are a great way to generate buzz for any brand. This is how companies like Einstein bagel have created some buzz despite their not-so-sexy reputation.

Check out the brands you follow. Are you a follower of sexy or fun brands mainly or are you the exception and interact with brand that may be considered boring?


K. Sobieski. (2011). Social Media is Taking Over. What’s a Boring Brand to do? In The Online Economy Strategy and Entrepreneurship. Retrieved February 21, 2012, from http://www.onlineeconomy.org/social-media-is-taking-over-what%E2%80%99s-a-boring-brand-to-do

Hungry? There’s an app for that!

How many times have you been in an unfamiliar neighborhood and stumbled upon a gem of a restaurant and thought to yourself man, what luck! ?Or traveled down a stretch of highway wishing there was something else besides the bevy of Golden Arches and Purple Bells? Or ate your way through a meal you later wished you hadn’t? These situations occur across the world every day and now cell phone applications are making foodies everywhere very happy! You see, finding that to-die-for place or avoiding that not so delicious dining experience just got a lot easier!  I am going to explore two of my favorite iphone apps  that are both highly rated (4 stars or more on itunes). They also happen to be on this awesome list covering the top 10 iphone food apps.

1)      Urbanspoon is one of the oldest applications on the list and it is also one of the most popular! It has been downloaded well over 10 million times on iphone alone! The application is modeled after a slot machine. On the first column the user has the option of locking which neighborhood they would like to dine in, the second column narrows the type of cuisine (Italian, burgers, Chinese etc.), and the last offers a price range lock-in option. The lock-in I am referring to gives the user the ability to specify their preferences exactly (i.e an expensive steak house in Midtown or a Cheap Vietnamese restaurant in Southend).

2)      280 Million of users have downloaded Opentable’s application making it quite a success! It is a great app for the holiday traveler and foodie alike. What do I mean by that? Say you’re traveling on Christmas Eve night, or Easter morning, or Valentine’s Day it might be difficult to snag a reservation and you might not even know where to go while on the road. Opentable allows you to search from restaurants in your GPS enabled area and reports back the type of cuisine, price range, and available reservation times. You can narrow your search criteria and browse menus. The best part, you can actually make your reservation straight from the application without making any calls! If you use the app frequently or even their website be sure to sign up for the rewards program to earn gift cards redeemable at one of their 25,000 OpenTable restaurants!

Have you used either of these apps before? Please share if you found a great  foodie gem using an application on your cell phone!


If you’re in Charlotte two of my favorite gems include Good Food on Montford and Le’s Sandwiches (get the #6)!


Strickland, J & Fenlon, W. 2012. Top 10 iphone Food Apps. How Stuff Works. Retrieved from http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/cell-phone-apps/5-iphone-food-apps5.htm

2012.Retrieved from http://www.opentable.com/

Ken.2010.Urbanspoon Celebrates 10 Million iphone App Downloads. Urban Spoon. Retrieved from http://www.urbanspoon.com/blog/48/Urbanspoon-Celebrates-10-Million-iPhone-App-Downloads.html

Souper Good Soups!

Ok, I know what you’re thinking how cheesy can one girl get? Well I can get this cheesy folks…

Mmm doesn’t that look good? Try Brown Eyed Baker’s Cheddar and Ale Soup with potato and bacon goodness for those of you who aren’t watching your waistbands! It is nothing short of a cheesy indulgence so eat sparingly but happily!

Anyway, I promised I would post some of my absolute favorite soups (and chili) recipes so I will give you my top three all in order of healthfulness the prior being the most unhealthy.  But do not fret they are in no particular order in terms of taste as all are delicious!

The second soup is actually a chili and is very healthy despite being from Paula Deen. She makes a spectacular white bean chicken chili! I know what you’re thinking Paula Deen AND healthy? Yes! Just sub out the little bit of butter for organic evoo and you have a scrumptious hearty meal…that isn’t a caloric mess!  I did think the color was a bit blah so I put my own little twist on it – I added a homemade salsa fresco to the top when serving ( 1 diced avocado, 1 diced tomato, fresh squeezed lime juice of one lime, salt, & pepper).  The salsa had a wonderful zing to it and it tasted great (albeit spicy FYI).  This is also a great idea for a tailgate or a game night!

The  third and healthiest recipe is Oh She Glows Holiday Soup for the Soul.I made it last weekend and wow is it tasty …and vegan! Don’t be afraid by the sweet flavors of cinnamon, curry, and nutmeg as they are rather subtle. Also, red quinoa is a bit pricey ($6 for a box at Harris Teeter). It is worth it to buy this particular variety because it tastes a bit different and trust me you can make this soup about 5 times before you run out of the quinoa! I didn’t add the saffron as $18 is where I draw the line for vegetable soup, but I can imagine it would be delicious. I made a whole pot and packed it away for a week’s worth of lunches, served it with nice whole wheat crusty bread and it was ever so satisfying!

Now it’s your turn, send me your soups! Let me know why your favorite soup is special to you…bonus points if it’s healthy to boot!

Get the Skinny on the Consumer Goods Industry

You may have heard the term CPG before, but what is it? It stands for Consumer Packaged Goods industry and it comprises of every good that is consumed every day by the average consumer! Think along the lines of that pair of Steve Madden’s you purchased last week, the new tires on your car, and that candy bar from the vending machine.  You may be thinking that sounds like a big industry and you’re right it is! CPG is one of the largest industries in North America valued at approximately $2 trillion US Dollars!

Clearly such a big industry is involved with Social Media and in many different applications. I have some great examples here:

Coca-Cola’s Facebook – While Coke is a huge brand on a global scale, their Facebook page allows them to connect one-on-one with consumers. A quick visit to their page shows some interesting interactions. For example, they ask their profile viewers to rate their superbowl commercial that aired last night. They get great feedback directly from viewers using Facebook.

CPG News has a great Twitter Feed people in the industry can follow in order to stay current on topics such as trends and even job openings. On the consumer end of things companies like Luna Bar use twitter to make announcements such as introducing new flavors, garnering feedback on how users stay motivated to eat well, and reaching out to communities for non-profit endeavors.

Linkedin allows me to stay connected to my co-workers in the CPG industry. I can update my profile and network in order to find current co-workers or new people in my industry. There are a lot of great connections to the CPG industry via this site. For example, I can follow companies like Clorox to see what types of positions might be in my area or even get great advice through groups I follow such as the CPG Supergroup!

Youtube is a great social media site for the CPG industry to harness. For example, Kraft foods has their own Youtube channel where consumers can learn to make different recipes featuring their products.

Even though CPG is such a large industry we can see that Social Media allows consumers to be more connected to their favorite brands than ever before! Do you follow any of your favorite CPG companies on Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube?

Source: 2012. Consumer Packaged Goods -CPG. Investopedia. Retrieved from http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/cpg.asp#axzz1l2rRct1d


I learned a sad fact today from a wonderful local blog I frequent quite a bit called FoodBabe. The all-knowing Food Babe just informed us that I should feel a tad more guilty about my guilt-free Frozen Yogurt habit. I always felt fairly good about my standard Fro-yo choice taro root with blackberries, strawberries, and coconut. Mainly fruit and all natural right? Wrong. I had no idea the amount of sugar I was subjecting my body (according to FoodBabe 20 grams of sugar for five ounces)  to or all the awful food dyes this stuff is packed with!

Food Babe informs us:

“Some Facts about food coloring:

Blue 1 is used to color candy, beverages and baked goods and may cause cancer. Blue 2, found in pet food, candy and beverages, has caused brain tumors in mice.

Red 3 is used in cherries (in fruit cocktails), baked goods and candy. It causes thyroid tumors in rats, and may cause them in humans as well.

Yellow 5 & 6 are the third most often used food colorings, it is found in many products, including baked goods, candy, gelatin and sausages. It has been found to cause adrenal gland and kidney tumors, and contains small amounts of many carcinogens.”

Yikes!  Well I may have to re-think my yelp review! What do you think folks? Will this change how you feel about fabulous fro-yo? As for me,  I may opt out of Taro since it has the food coloring, but stick with my Vanilla Bean! I will also use this as more of a special treat rather than a dessert stand-in staple!

Food For Thought:

Thanks for visiting my blog!  The purpose is quite simple, to introduce my love of food to social media!


Here are some links to help you get started taking a bite out of social media:

  • Yelp Glorious Yelp is one of my favorite social media sites that serve many food-driven needs. Traveling? Check yelp out for a favorite foodie hot-spot. Had a wonderful dining experience? Share your review with the community! Wonder when that new restaurant down the street is opening? Find out on yelp!
  • Meet fellow foodies on FoodCandy where you trade recipes, read food blogs, and find food-centric events.
  • Speaking of blogs, a few of my favorite are Oh She Glows where you can find some delicious vegan fare.  Smitten Kitchen ( I highly recommend the warm butternut squash and chickpea salad, again mostly vegetarian-fare here but fear not Carnivores! The Pioneer Woman has some delicious recipes to offer as well that will answer all of your meat-loving prayers. All of these sites are visually stunning and contain recipes that are delicious and easy!

The Social Media Matrix, and how it can be used in the food/consumer goods-industry:

All of the Social Media sites above can be utilized for food-centric companies whether it be  restaurants, markets, food-brokers, farmers etc. Since I work in the Food brokering CPG industry, I will focus on how that particular industry can benefit from these SM outlets.

facebook can be used to connect consumers, clients, and brokers. At my company, we use Facebook as a way to familiarize ourselves with the public. It has the highest number of potential viewers, as they have roughly 800 million users. This can be accessed by anyone who works for the company although marketing or management will presumably be the primary user.

Linkedin can be used to find potential employment or can be used by the business to find employees or connect with current employees. This is a great site to find talent as resumes are often at the users fingertips. HR will most likely be the primary user, but management and employees will also access the site.

Buzzagent may not be the best site for a food broker because they do not have a physical product or a service for general public use. This would be a great site to suggest for clientele. Clients (food manufacturers) can test out new products and gain feedback to enhance sales presentations or to use to improve products.

Yelp was discussed earlier as well. This is a growing community that food brokering companies can use to gain knowledge about overall public sentiment regarding a business, product, service or brand. For example, if a number of 1-2 star reviews are given to a particular company management may want to investigate what is causing the negative reviews.  They also have discussion boards which may help to gauge sentiment as well.Yelp reviews can cover businesses (including food brokers) and/or local manufacturing companies so this may be an under-utilized site that marketers and management may want to consider looking at.

So now I pose this question to you blog viewers, what are some of your favorite social media sites that discuss food?


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(2004-2012). 10 Things You Should Know About Yelp. Retrieved from http://www.bzzagent.com/pg/FAQs
(2011). About Us. Retrieved from http://press.linkedin.com/about
(2011). Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics