The Movie “Chef” and Social Media

Note: I wrote this post back in the summer of 2015 on my LinkedIn, seems just as relevant then, as it is now.

Let’s face it. Social Media is one of the most misunderstood advertising platforms that currently exists. It’s so young, and changing so often, that I sometimes wonder how companies can require 8 years of experience on a resume. In two years, someone can know more about what trends are happening, than someone with 8 years experience(Twitter was founded only 9 years ago). Platforms will be popping up yearly, and it requires an individual who can research and be able to learn, establish and provide on a platform as early as possible.

Social Media is a mix between content, timing, and targeting. Researching social media and learning what other companies are doing may serve you better than an 5-hour class. If you really want to learn from experts, they are all around you. They are your kids, your significant other, your friends, yourself! There are hundreds of tricks and tactics to use, but you are generally creating interesting content, focusing that content to a target, and reaching that target by being social with established pages, groups and profiles.

Sorry about all that, the main reason you are reading this article is because I referenced the movie Chef and it’s use of Social Media.

Chef was released in 2014 and stars Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson. Favreau loses his restaurant job, and finds himself starting a food truck to bring his life back on track. He has a son from a past marriage, that helps him establish a Twitter profile, one of the main factors in his early collapse.

It is easy to say something, and have it read in the opposite context, just ask the previous Houston Rockets Social Media Manager. But Favreau’s character, Carl, doesn’t fully understand Twitter, and starts a small “Twitter War” between himself and a food critic. Ultimately, he starts his food truck, and his son becomes his media “manager.” Carl thought he was sending a personal message, when he sent one for the entire Twitter universe to see. A common mistake because my parents are still working on their Facebook skills. It really captures the generation gap that is visible within Social Media; this, from a business and personal perspective.

There are millions of others like me, who engulf ourselves with Social Media as a way to express ourselves, and read others’ expressions. We gain personal satisfaction from likes and shares, the same way a business does. We are all just marketing ourselves, our thoughts and our lifestyles.

The kid can do it better.

The child in Chef follows trends, he knows what to say, and he places content in the right places and times to generate a substantial following for the food truck. What we can take from this, is that there is a generation below us all that knows what is cool, and what is trending. Even the generation below me. They learn from others, and they are easily able to adapt to any platform. For the movie, Twitter and Vine are the most popular platforms used. We need to act like kids, and think like marketers. Knowing what’s hot, and knowing how we can use it.

Social Media takes a mind that can generate content, and be able to adapt to an ever-changing media space that has continuously become shorter and shorter; where the content that you display has a mere 10-second window to be obtained, comprehended and acted upon. Someone needs to know how the platform works, so that our character could send a private message, instead of causing controversy in his own life.

To come back to the movie, it really emphasizes the social barrier that lies between generations. The understanding that simplicity of content can gather crowds more than many over-analyzed campaigns. Your personality on Social Media is a direct reflection to your organization, and will tug at your target audience because they will feel what you post. They will admire your gains, and criticize your mistakes (and they will remember them too, and screenshot them, and share them). However, the movie really shows what amazing things Social Media can, and currently does. To put faces to an organization, create a following, and make each and every follower feel as if they are a part of something greater.

Watching this movie, I couldn’t take my mind off of the reality that was being acted out, as it pertains to Social Media. It is an art within itself, and takes a skilled marketer that has energy, patience and a strategic mindset to put 100% in each platform.

Trends will come and go, but as long as there is the internet, Social Media will never die. For a movie on Netflix, it is completely worth the watch.

Bottomless Coffee: Communicating from Houston’s Largest Harvey Shelter

I woke up on Tuesday, August 29 at 8:00 am. It was finally towards the end of Hurricane Harvey’s destruction, and just two days after Mayor Sylvester Turner ordered evacuees to the George R. Brown Convention Center. The 24 hours prior, members of our marketing team, along with myself, were slowly monitoring activity on our social media profiles.

Before the storm, we shut down our normal messaging, paused campaigns, and prepared to be a voice of information and updates for those in and around the Houston area.

A few days prior to Harvey hitting Houston, I had the privilege of needing to take my car into the shop for transmission issues. Since I didn’t have transportation, I took the Friday before Harvey off, ran some errands, and prepared for the storm.

Around 2:00 pm, the rain started.

My roommate and I ran errands and picked up our close friend from the airport, and I finally picked up my car and proceeded home, where we would all be staying through the storm.

Fast-forward through historic rainfall and flooding.

Come Tuesday morning, I receive a text message from a coworker, discussing access for our social media accounts for a couple of people working inside the George R. Brown Convention Center. The team member was slightly confused as to how access is given for different platforms, so just as I poured a cup of coffee at home, I realized I would need to head downtown.

With shorts, sandals and no shower, I headed to the George R. Brown Convention Center, not knowing how long I would actually be staying.

Crisis Communications

I entered the convention center on the second floor, and all seemed calm. I later came to realize that evacuees were not allowed on levels outside of one. Down on the first floor, guests were only allowed to enter through one door, where Houston Police Department officers were checking each individual who entered.

After checking in with a previous coworker at the shelter, I proceeded to the third level of the building, where the headquarters for shelter operations was.

A large meeting room with a rectangle, dash-like shape of tables, along a grey floor with many black squares. I took a seat at the media table, meeting two women that I would be working with on social media communications. I was to be in charge of communications on all platforms for these profiles:

  • George R. Brown Convention Center
  • Visit Houston
  • Houston First Corporation
  • Wortham Theater Center
  • Jones Hall for the Performing Arts
  • The Twitter account for a city housing director

Immediately, the amount of questions across all networks was intense to say the least. In four days, the convention center received over 400 direct messages, while the other networks received under 50 combined. Over the course of a few days, our page likes shot up 2,500 – being the center of so much media and local attention.

Twitter profiles were consistently being mentioned, while I monitored communications to combat false information.

I met and learned a lot in these first four days.


Being in the center of operations, allowed me to communicate directly with the Red Cross management, City of Houston, fire department, health department, police department, and more. Something that was needed to answer many complex and specific questions.

Most inquiries pertained to volunteering and donations. After the first day, the convention center was at capacity for donations, and those seeking to help were directed to the BBVA Compass Stadium, home of the city’s professional soccer teams. The concourse filled up within a day.

Every day consisted of three main updates; 8:00 am, 2:00 pm and 10:00 pm. In the first three days, I averaged 13 hours and probably a gallon of coffee a day.

Being the Convention Center

Although there were many profiles I was set to manage, the convention center rose and stayed the most important. At its peak, the facility had over 10,500 guests, and changed physically; with barber shops, FEMA, pop ups, and more. Outside guests from all around would come to bring smiles.

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The convention center had many guests I got to interact with and cover: Ted Cruz, Micky and Minnie Mouse from Orlando, the Houston Astros, cosplayers and more.

At night, the desire to sleep was met with continuing messages, and apparently too much coffee during the day.

After Friday, I was instructed to take a couple of days off. The number of guests at the convention center had dropped, as those received new housing or moved out. What my contributions were at the convention center, became something that I decided to manage from home. We still received over 25 messages a day, but the messaging and answers to questions I had down cold. Here’s a few, summarized:

  • Convention center wasn’t accepting donations, and many other shelters weren’t either. Stay tuned and check in with local churches and shelters in your area.
  • We always need volunteers, please register with the Red Cross.
  • Contact this person.
  • Contact that person.
  • We will find a place in need of 100 meals you’d like to donate.
  • Here is a site where you can get connected with those who may be at the shelter.

I returned for a few hours the following Monday, transferring some accounts over to a new media person, and to get a little work done in the place I had been for so many hours before.

Spending time in that room, made me forget what time it was, whether it was raining, or even the devastation that was happening in other parts of Houston. On day 3 (Thursday), I came across the two big televisions in the center of the room, as a news crew was flying over parts of west Houston along Buffalo Bayou, where the flood waters took over thousands of homes.

It was the first time I got to see the devastation to that level. On the Sunday prior, I saw some homes and cars, but not nearly to the same extent as I was seeing now.

Harvey took homes big and small, from all types of people. Those displaced came from all different backgrounds, some who came to Houston after being displaced from Hurricane Katrina.


When we resumed work on Tuesday, many of our profiles hadn’t posted a single piece of content in over a week – we couldn’t.

For days of thought, I couldn’t come up with an answer to the question, “what now?”

A city devastated, and we are usually the voice of attractions, events and activities. In the days following, thinking of content to find and post, I thought “we love Houston.” We are a city of amazing people, and we want to showcase that. Tell the good stories that came out of such a tragic event, and showcase a sense of pride and hope that the community will come back, and it will.

Over three weeks and the recovering isn’t close to over, physically or mentally. I look to bring a cycle of content that followers can expect, but make sure we drive home that sense of pride in the community. Work to connect those who would like to help, to those who need it.

Our city is amazing. It is the most culturally-diverse city in the nation, and it has shown true heart. I couldn’t have been any less happy, spending those hours at a small table, typing answer after answer, hoping I was doing something worthwhile.

Producing Video: Platform-Specific Success

I was listening to the Social Media Marketing podcast from Michael Stelzner, chief of Social Media Examiner and all-around expert. The discussion was about creating short, Instagram-friendly videos that people would love. A bit of the content from that podcast made me think a little deeper about video production across different platforms.

To make this quick, I figured I would round up a few different platforms, and showcase the types of video content people consume.

Facebook


With Facebook, you have a few different types of video content you can produce:

Facebook Live

  • Keep your videos engaging from the start. If nothing is happening, no one will care!
  • I strive to keep my face away from the camera, as people care more about my brand than my blue eyes.
  • Once you press “go live,” you will always have this feeling as if you aren’t ready. Know that it won’t go away, but you will learn how to create a checklist of items to make sure you are as ready as you can be.
  • Using a tripod of stabilizer will help you keep your videos smooth, less Cloverfield (Google “Cloverfield trailer” if you need to know).
  • Practice using your own profile and making the live video private. You can learn a lot by practicing how you hold the camera, and developing your own opinion about strategy.

Produced Video

  • Videos automatically play on Facebook when uploaded through your profile.
    • Make it engaging and make sure your video gives viewers a sense of the additional content, at the beginning.
  • Shortcut: keep your videos at a minute or under, so you can use them on other platforms easily.
  • Add text, allowing viewers to gather more information, instead of using the sound on their phones.

Twitter


Live

  • Imagine you read the exact same thing here, as you did for Facebook 🙂
    • Twitter Live is a great way to showcase content, but make sure you keep it engaging at all times, so you don’t lose anyone.
    • If you shoot on Instagram Live, save the video and publish it across other platforms.

Produced Video

  • This is the same as Facebook, but you are limited to the amount of time you can show your video. Twitter allows you to trim your video to show a certain amount.
    • I suggest a 30-second video with a link to a full video on YouTube.

Instagram


Instagram Live

Now that Instagram saves your live video as a story, this is a great method to kill two birds with one stone. If your content has a link to learn more, add an image at the end with a call to action for viewers to swipe up (add the link with the button at the top), and find either a full video, information, etc.

Produced Video

On Instagram, you are limited to a one-minute video as a post, but there are a couple different ways to showcase produced video content on your profile.

  • Assume that 95% of your video views will be on silent. Make your video in a format that does not require audio.
    • However, add music as a background for viewers who do want to hear something.

Another method, is creating produced video that you upload as an Instagram Story. You will need to make sure the specs of your video are 1080W x 1920H.

  • Don’t show your whole video. Instagram Stories is a great place to gain and lose followers, so don’t bog them down with anything more than 30 seconds of video or photo content.
  • End your short Instagram Stories video with a photo and link to the full video, or more information.

YouTube

Guests to YouTube are expecting to listen to voices or sounds, so this is where you can produce a video with directions or an actual speaking role. This is also the platform where you can embed your video into your website, something I highly suggest, when possible.

  • This video can be where you send links on other platforms to, with a video of any length, with the most information and audio.
  • Make great use of the description and tags for your videos, to increase the ability for users to find your videos.

For video marketing, there are endless ways to get your message out there. For me, it’s important to evaluate the content, and producing videos specific for the various platforms.

When you are presented with a piece of content, think about whether it would be suitable for a live video, or produced video. Think about whether you want your Facebook viewers to see it live, or your Twitter viewers to see it live.

Tip: Don’t go live and show the same content for different platforms. Give live viewers of Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat a different experience, it provides more value in following your page across each platform.