#TurnDownForTurkey: What Thanksgiving Really Means in 2014

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#TurnDownForTurkey SmartPhone Challenge

My sister and me in a pre-smartphone Thanksgiving.

There are quite a few ways we like to think about how Thanksgiving began. Some versions are warm and fuzzy. Others are down right disappointing. Regardless of what you believe, or choose to believe, or choose to disregard, it’s what Thanksgiving is about now that’s most relevant.

For many of us the holiday is symbolic of our human need for community. Our need for human interaction and celebration, with a little sustenance thrown in for good measure.

I remember when Thanksgiving really was just that. A day full of cooking, laughter, hugs, watching the Macy’s parade, watching football, sleeping, eating, eating again – We’re sure you all know the drill. It all revolved around not just being together, but also being present.

But in today’s modern world Thanksgiving has become very, very different. Not necessarily for better or for worse. Just different.

We’re all there, but are we really all present?

Now that we have cell phones, well mini wifi-enabled computers, we’re hyper in touch with the digispace, but sort of out of touch with face-to-face. We know we rely on our phones to get us through the day. We pull it out to get a recipe. We may pull it out to tweet a #turkeyselfie, facebook, or google search to end an argument. We pull it out to constantly refresh our inboxes, check in on work projects, and worst of all, to shop (no more waiting for Black Friday, the deals start on Thanksgiving day people!).

It’s a lot. It’s so useful. So functional. And it has certainly made Thanksgiving dishes substantially better (TY Food & Wine app!). In fact, 44% of recipe searches came from mobile on Thanksgiving Day last year, and it’s already trending higher this year.

But, I still find myself thinking about the Thanksgivings we enjoyed pre-smartphone. Somehow I wasn’t bored, the food tasted just as good, and I felt relaxed. I have very vivid memories of live conversations, endless games of pass the pigs, and “accidentally” adding too much rum to the rum bread pudding.

So…what would it mean if we got rid of our smart devices for the day? If we turned off our phones <gasp>,  turning down our digital connection and turning up our in-person, in-the-moment connection?

I’m not sure how it’s going to go folks, but I’m doing it. And I’m challenging you to do it too.

Tell me how it goes (the day after obviously!) with #TurnDownForTurkey!

Is your brand a good Valentine? How to evaluate your brand sentiment via social networks

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Valentine’s Day always makes me think about my family, friends, and if I have one, my significant other. I usually smile thinking about my parents and my sister – remembering our special Valentine’s Day dinners. I feel so lucky to have so many valentines in my life.

But more importantly, in the days leading up to the 14th, I’m forced to reflect on my relationships and to evaluate if I’m a good Valentine myself. Do I want to spend Valentine’s Day with myself? How do my mom, my sister, my father, my boyfriend and my friends think of me?

Brands should be doing the same thing, regularly. It’s important to monitor what your followers and your customers think of you – and how they think of you so that you. In other words, what’s the general brand sentiment? 

Why is this an important thing to monitor? Sentiment is a good indicator of how well you’re doing as a company and it can help discover more & better ways to engage with your followers. So if you haven’t started yet, you should start monitoring brand sentiment this Valentine’s Day, but how?

I can tell how I’m doing based on the heart-shaped notes, chocolates, and maybe even flowers I receive, but how can brands tell how they’re doing? Thank goodness for social networks! Now there’s a whole new avenue for people to express themselves. To find out how we’re doing and what our customers are thinking about us, all we have to do is leverage this information.

First, the easiest thing to do is to set up search streams in either Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, so that any time your brand or company name is mentioned via twitter, it will show up. You can do the same with Google alerts, so that when there’s a mention in a news article or blog you’ll receive an email straight to your inbox.

In the same search stream you can search popular keywords in your industry or community as well – if there are popular owners or employees you can search their name as well. If you’re not using a twitter aggregator, then you can just do a normal search on twitter.

The next part is determining the “sentiment” of each of these mentions. Clearly, a recommendation is positive while a complaint is negative. For all of the negative comments, you should try to respond – try to find out more details about the problem and figure out a way to make it better. As you go on, this can become a means of customer service and market research.

There are some free services out there to help you evaluate your brand sentiment and I list some below. But it’s best to track sentiment on your own – that way you can respond in real time!

1. Socialmention.com: This website allows you to search by keyword (brand name for instance) in multiple categories (blogs, twitter, images, news, etc.). The sentiment they use is basically the “ratio of mentions that are generally positive to those that are generally negative.” It will also show you the people who are mentioning your brand the most and how often.

2. Twitrratr: To analyze your sentiment based only on twitter, Twitratr is okay. You can enter in your search term and it pops up with all of the twitter mentions in three different colums: positive, neutral, and negative. I’ve found that it’s not so useful all the time because words like “blue” make mentions appear in the negative column, but blue isn’t always negative!

3. Twitter Sentiment: Allows you to enter in a keyword and then it pops up with all of the mentions, red if it’s a negative comment and green if it’s positive. There’s no color if it’s neutral. Again – you can do this constantly on your own, by just setting up a search stream. But they do summarize the general sentiment at the top with a nice little pie chart and bar graph.

There are definitely other services out there, like Twendz etc. which require a little extra funding for pro accounts.

How do you monitor brand sentiment?