Brand Relationships

Fantastic Fanpages: Volkswagen Netherlands

Every once in awhile I see a Facebook/social media campaign that blows my socks off and this one by Volkswagen in the Netherlands really does!

Why do I think this campaign is so amazing (other than the fact that it’s different and fun)?

1) They are totally speaking to their audience on Facebook and making something fun and gimmicky for them.

2) The contest requires at least 20K likes on one model which means you are compelled to invite and share with friends.

3) They given you an incentive to keep coming back to check on how the contest is going.

What’s more… I visited the Volkswagen Netherlands page and they do a really fun job on a regular basis! Check out their most recent photos:

They clearly make a regular effort to reach out to what’s going on with their fans - a volkswagen inspired pumpkin carving and a volkswagen ready for movember.  I LOVE IT!

Let’s for a minute compare how Volkswagen Netherland’s page looks to some of their counterparts:

And now Volkswagen USA

And Volkswagen Canada


They aren’t bad pages, but in comparison to their European counterpart, they just aren’t doing anything amazing.  I thought it particularly interesting to compare the same brand and how different management can makes such a different impact on your audience.

What do you think? Are you impressed with Volkswagen Netherland’s Facebook presence?


How to monetize your online presence

This is my second post following my attendance to two social media conferences in Toronto in the last month.  For my views for brands see my previous post.

This post is going to talk about monetizing and working with brands from the individual’s point of view. There are many ways to get extra value out of the time and energy you put into your online presence and there are companies clamoring to figure out how to use you to spread their messages.  I don’t think it’s for everyone, but here are my thoughts on the options that are out there.


There was a time where people felt advertising on your blog was selling out.  Then it was ok and in fact desirable. Lately it seems like a lot of people are swinging back to the sell out point of view - that by advertising on your blog you are letting brands rule your content.

My feeling is that most people can advertise on their blog without selling out or compromising their values.

How? Approach advertisers that are a good fit for what you do. 

I would happily advertise for companies like Zemanta, Twitter, and Wordpress on this site. They make sense with my content.  I might also advertise local events, other online workshops and tools I feel would be of use to my audience.

If you are a healthy living/eating blog, maybe your advertisers are those who sell cookbooks you believe people should be using, or suppliers of healthy foods and products you have no qualms about endorsing to others.  If you are a blogger who talks about crafts, you could promote the companies that you use in your home.  If you are a blogger who has young kids and you love Fisher Price, what’s the harm in having an ad for them on your blog?

What wouldn’t I do? I wouldn’t have an ad on my blog for a high end restaurant on my kids’ blog, I wouldn’t have an ad on my personal blog for the Weed Man, and I wouldn’t promote anything I personally have issues with (I have lots of issues with Weed Man, don’t get me started! ;)).

I think that as long as you stay true to yourself and your own voice, you can find decide to try to find advertisers who fit in with who you are.

One of our great and longstanding advertisers at

Is advertising for everyone? Absolutely not.

Will advertisers set limits on what you do and don’t say?  I haven’t encountered it but I’m sure there are some who would have issues with swearing or certain topics.  Do you talk that way on your blog? If so, maybe advertising isn’t appropriate for you, or maybe you just haven’t found the right advertisers.

Is it easy to get advertisers? It depends on your blog and your target niche. Sometimes it’s as easy as giving a quick ask and sometimes advertisers even come to you.  If getting advertisers is something you want to pursue, @missfish has some great resources (including this post on rate cards) on her blog and I’d be happy to answer questions in the comments on my experiences with it.


There are many companies out there who will offer you products in return for a review on your blog.  Some will also offer you an extra item for giveaway.

If this is something that interests you then approach companies and let them know why you’d be a good fit.  Just remember that you need to claim any free product that you receive as income on your income taxes.  The flip side of this is that you are now running a business and can claim expenses like an office, your internet, and your technology.  (Angele over at Shoebox Be Gone is a great resource for that kind of info.)

Ford graciously loaned us a Ford Explorer for both She’s Connected and Blissdom

A lot of companies won’t even ask you to specifically write a review in return for product, but they of course hope that you will talk about them.  I have gotten some fabulous clothing from Mark’s this way (I really am a huge fan of their clothing now!) and both GM and Ford Canada have been awesome enough to loan me and my friends vehicles to get to social media conferences.


There are opportunities out there for one off sponsored posts.  Maybe it’s in exchange for product, maybe it’s in exchange for money, but it’s not a long term commitment to endorsing a company on your blog.

Sometimes these happen in conjunction with advertisers.  One one of my blogs anyone who commits to 3 or more months of advertising also gets an introductory post and a chance to host a giveaway on the blog.

The biggest key with these is that they are disclosed as sponsored posts, generally with a statement that the thoughts are still your own.


The way that I have made the most money from my experience blogging, on Twitter, etc is by capitalizing on the experience and knowledge I have gained.  I share that knowledge with people who want to be in the space by holding workshops, by coaching people and by going to events as a speaker.

There are many opportunities like that that you can create for yourself.  Pitch your writing to publications, offer your services to companies for their own blogs and web sites. Barter your writing services for their services (I know someone who bartered children’s classes for some writing and reviews for the business to use).


This is something I hope to do on this site in the coming year, provide online services and products people can buy.  Things like e-books, tutorial videos and online classes.


- More opportunities for bloggers/people in the social space to advise companies on what works and what doesn’t.

- More opportunities to create specialized content - videos, posts, etc that can go on the companies’ sites as well as other locations online (like Facebook, google plus, YouTube, etc)

- More opportunities from companies that involve more than some free product.  There are a lot of people who would be happy to have some free product but there are more people who would love a bit of extra income to help pay the bills.

What are your opinions on and experiences with monetizing?

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Brands working with social media influencers

In the last month I got to attend two fairly big conferences in Toronto geared at women online.  She’s Connected and Blissdom Canada.

I have a long list of post ideas that have come from both of those conferences. This first one is about the brands trying to work with women in the social space at these conferences and what I think works, what I’m left wondering, and where I would love to see brands ultimately end up when trying to build relationships. (there is a short recap at the end, because this blog post is way longer than I like my posts to be!)


Cheesy fun

People like to have fun.  If you can have them have fun and then share that fun with their network you just spread your brand.

What’s important to note here:

- Your brand needs to be well represented in the gimmick.  If you had me dress up in a funny costume, took my picture on a red carpet and I can’t remember what your brand is or what you sell - you missed the mark.

- People will do silly things, and spread those silly things, for the right incentive.

I doubt I would have taken this photo or tweeted it if I hadn’t had a chance to win grocery money. Also, I won :)

- If your fun is “fun enough” you won’t need the incentive - but that’s hard to predict.

This Fisher Price bouncy seat big enough for adults (multiple!) to climb into for photo opps was a huge success.  SO many people wanted to do it and we had a blast while posing in it!

I loved what Kellogg’s did with this cereal box posing.  You can certainly see the value in having something professionally done instead of us using our cell phones for photos and they emailed the photo to you IMMEDIATELY which meant we were sharing them right away.

This  booth was my favourite of both conferences. They were displaying people’s photos as you walked by and it made me want to do it.  I don’t even eat corn flakes and I went to this booth by myself so I could have a cereal box photo.

And then I went back to make it even more fun with friends!


I also walked away with an awesome vintage cereal box tshirt which is a lot of fun, and some samples.  You’re all thinking about corn flakes now, whether or not I said I liked them.  That’s a good push in my opinion.

Yummy and delicious

Kraft had a great suite decorated for Halloween with all kinds of holiday specific treats, a cupcake decorating station, and qr links to the recipes for the treats you were eating.  At the end they gave you a sampling of a few of the treats.

It was fun, unobtrusive and gave ideas for things you could do later on. I could see some people who like to blog about cooking with kids and activities for doing with kids making some of those treats and blogging about it.


Ford was a sponsor of She’s Connected and they had all kinds of information booths set up about their different features. I’m not sure I’ll ever own a Ford, but let me tell you - I know A LOT about some of the really cool technologies they have in their vehicles! My favourite is the Mykey technology which allows you to lock down things like speed and stereo volume for the teen you’re lending your car to! Me (and people like me) knowing this stuff about Ford and talking about it online in the right context could prove valuable to them in the long run.

Jane’s told me about their toaster chicken.  I admit that when I first found out toaster chicken existed (essentially a frozen chicken patty you heat in your toaster to eat) I was a bit…. alarmed.  They handed out an information sheet that compared toaster chicken to other convenience snacks.  I’m not going to pretend toaster chicken is healthy for you - but it’s not so bad compared to french fries and frozen pizza and I’m willing to admit my kids get those sometimes and they could potentially eat toaster chicken one day too.


- What do the brands who give out big bags of product but no guidance expect from those receiving it? Are you thinking we will blog about a loaf of bread or are you hoping that when we use the products we’ll tweet about them or are you hoping that we’ll eventually become brand loyal and blog about you? I don’t know what you’re trying to do.

- What a big company expects when they are at a conference as a big company representing multiple smaller companies.  If I talk about big huge company nobody knows being great - is that helpful?


- more companies working with bloggers in long term ways.  Make them your brand ambassadors.  Have them write content (and pay them) that you can use on your own web site, in your publications, etc.  I can almost guarantee that if people are writing this kind of content for you they will link to it from all of their channels, and then you’re getting the audience you want to your own site.  Makes more sense!

- create experiences that make sense.

I was invited to a Mark’s Over a year ago when Mark’s Work Wearhouse re-branded.  I was their audience (woman, 30+ years old) and they did my hair, my makeup, gave me an outfit (chosen by a stylist) and then took awesome photos of me.  They wanted more women like me to realize they could shop at Mark’s. Since then I not only have continued to shop at Mark’s, I used that photo for a long time on Twitter and Facebook, I bring my friends on shopping trips to Mark’s and I have been able to continue that relationship with Mark’s to help keep promoting their clothing to my demographic (have I mentioned how much I love my Inspiri jeans.  LOVE). They created a relationship with me that made sense and that I WANTED to continue.

If you want moms to talk about your food products, maybe invite them to a day where you teach them to meal plan, freezer cook for a month, describe how to make healthy meals for your kids that they will eat, and then send them home with food for a week that they can keep talking about. Don’t just give them a box of cookies and expect much in return.

I could go on for hours with ideas of what I think would work but instead I will recap (because this post is LONG)


If you want to target socially influential people at events here are my top tips:

- make it fun (but don’t expect follow up)

- make your message clear

- make sure people have the information to share your message

- don’t expect much in exchange for a bag of free stuff

- your chances of getting mentioned on Facebook and Twitter are for more likely than being blogged about.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

- build relationships

What do you think? Are you a brand working with people in the social space (I am avoiding saying bloggers for a reason, I don’t think that should be the target)? Are you working with brands? Share your thoughts on what works on this topic!


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