Cracker Barrel’s Hard Lesson

By Emily Hayden, Account Manager

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store is learning a hard lesson in social media best practices this week.

A month ago, an Indiana man named Brad left a simple post on the wall of the corporate Facebook page, “Why did you fire my wife?” There was nothing else. Initially, just a few responses to the original post added more details, including that Brad’s wife (now identified as Nanette) had been let go on his birthday after 11 years of service.

Once these details came out, the story went viral, and internet trolls have now taken over the corporate page. The campaign has spread across Twitter and Instagram, with the rallying cry of #JusticeForBradsWife.  Within 24 hours, there have been thousands of posts and comments, and national media are beginning to take notice.

The only action taken so far by Cracker Barrel has been to turn off the ability to comment directly on the wall of its page. Scroll through the comments section of anything that has been posted recently, and you can see how that doesn’t really slow down the wildfire once it has started.

While Cracker Barrel is attempting to figure out a response, we thought this was a good opportunity to point out the value of strong corporate social media management.

First, don’t take the decision to approach social media lightly. If you aren’t prepared to commit the resources needed to properly maintain and monitor your presence, it creates the potential for these PR nightmares. If you don’t have someone highly skilled on your team, hire professionals who can establish pages, create content, monitor and respond for you.

Next, a few safeguards should be put in place on all corporate pages to prevent this situation.

  1. Set pages so that wall posts must be approved by an administrator before going public.
  2. Have a team in place to continually monitor page activity.
  3. Keep an eye on comments to things you have posted. There is no way to filter these through a pre-approval process, but someone monitoring the page can hide inflammatory posts and comments and even ban abusive users from the page.

Last, and possibly most important as far as Cracker Barrel is concerned, respond quickly and accurately to any posts or messages. A simple statement from Cracker Barrel on the original post would have gone a long way in preventing this whole situation. While Facebook and other social streams seem larger than life, real people are on the other end of all interactions, and each has the potential to stir the general public to either hate or love your brand.

Cracker Barrel, we feel your pain and wish we had been there to help prevent it. The Hirons team is ready for any questions you have about social media or crisis public relations.

How Many Friends Do You Have?

By Tom Hirons, CEO 

Robin Dunbar makes a compelling case in his TEDx talk that the human mind has the capacity to manage about 150 meaningful relationships at a time. It has become known as the Dunbar number. Hence the question, how many friends do you have?

When Hirons started working with Ruler Foods, a division of Kroger, we knew that Facebook would be a critical platform and that building a network of individuals who like and follow the page would be one measure of success.

In less than a year and a half, Ruler Foods’ page likes went from 0 to 35,579. And they are still growing. That’s good for Ruler Foods and good for Hirons.

President Trump has 22.3 million followers on Twitter. I have 98. But how many friends?

Dunbar views friendships in a series of concentric circles. At the center are your closest friends, primarily comprised of a few family members. For most people, this may number five to seven.

In the next circle are those 10-15 individuals you might describe as best friends. These are people with whom you communicate on a regular basis.

In the third group, Dunbar describes individuals whom you would be genuinely happy to see if you bump into them at the airport or grocery store.

Beyond that are those who might be on your Christmas card list, with whom you might communicate once a year.

In total, 150. Curiously, the math is reliable. Through centuries, across technologies and across cultures, the number is generally around 150. The average number of Facebook friends? About 150. Dunbar holds that this is based on the capacity of the human mind. It’s how we are wired.

Why is this relevant?

Hirons does extensive grassroots and grasstops outreach. Knowing the Dunbar number and other principles, we can more accurately project the number of meaningful contacts we must make to achieve the reach and results we desire over time. We shape content to significantly increase the likelihood that it will be shared.

It also is relevant as we know the capacity of the computer extends far beyond 150. And through customer relationship management (CRM), we can help clients behave like friends, greatly enhancing sales and customer relationships.

Yet the most powerful application might be for each of us in our own lives. Knowing the natural limitations of our capacity, we might work to push the boundaries of those concentric circles. Imagine taking the time to communicate and expand your list of best friends, or those with whom you maintain regular contact. Imagine never avoiding eye contact or hoping someone you recognize doesn’t see you. I write this hoping I’m not the only one who has done this and equally hoping I won’t do it again.

If I can only have 150 friends, let them all be good friends.

Fine-tuning Facebook Ad Data

By Olivia Crum, Digital Coordinator 

More than ever, consumers are engaging with ads across a plethora of platforms. Due to the increase in digital channels, Facebook has expanded its measurement partnerships to increase cross-channel comparability and, later this year, third-party verification. By partnering with companies such as Nielsen and ComScore, Facebook is taking strides to ensure accurate ad delivery data.

Marketing Mix Modeling (MMM) is a statistical analysis that measures the impact of media tactics. It specifically allows advertisers to measure performance across media types, enabling comparisons among TV, digital and print ads. Advertisers will be able to determine which ads performed best and which ads yielded the greatest ROI. This information becomes more powerful when used to create subsequent advertising plans.

The concept of MMM originated with consumer package goods advertising. It has proven so useful that Facebook is encouraging advertisers to utilize the analysis to make tactical decisions about future campaigns.

These additions will benefit our advertisers throughout the planning and evaluation process. MMM will allow Hirons to look at all data in a synchronized platform to better evaluate a client’s ad performance. With Facebook’s measurement partners, we can now verify and measure specific outcomes for Facebook impressions. This will better inform us, as well as our clients, as we begin planning future campaigns.

Good move, Twitter

Ethan Thomas, Account Coordinator

Hey Twitter, I appreciate what you’re doing. And I’m not alone.

As I explained in What’s Happening, Twitter?, the social media giant is losing active users to Instagram, Snapchat and others. However, there is hope for Twitter in the live streaming market, especially with its rights to stream NFL games.

Well, Thursday Night Football on Twitter is killing it! CBS reported overall lower ratings for the network during each game, but our good friend Twitter is picking up the slack. Just over 2 million viewers chose Twitter over their cable provider when watching the NFL’s second non-Sunday football game.

While the sheer number of viewers was a pleasant surprise, I was also impressed by the targeted advertising that most live streaming services fill with a blank screen (looking at you, Xfinity). I was honestly worried it would be the same two advertisements played over and over again ad nauseam. In reality, it was a pleasant mix of ads that didn’t make me question if I was watching the right channel or not.

While the entire broadcast is technically being run by CBS, Twitter has managed to piggyback onto the opportunity to act as its own television network.

Let’s think about this:

  1. Twitter did not have to do the heavy lifting of dealing with announcers or a broadcast team.
  2. Twitter users do not have to pay a monthly subscription fee to watch.
  3. Advertising appears to target the consumers watching.

Not saying that running a highly efficient live stream isn’t difficult, but let’s be real: Twitter is getting the better deal in this arrangement.

After watching, the first thing I thought of was how unimpressed I was with Facebook’s attempt at streaming live sports. If you don’t recall, Facebook was the main provider of coverage of all preliminary games in USA men’s basketball’s Olympics quest. The system seemed flawed, rushed and overall not ready for use by your everyday Facebook user.

Twitter isn’t just a social media network like Snapchat or Instagram. Twitter is becoming THE online media network. As an avid sports fan, I’m honestly impressed with Twitter’s streaming capabilities. As a member of the advertising community, I’m extremely interested in getting more involved.

New Pantone App Lets You Create Color Palettes From from Your iPhone

By Chris Costidakis, Associate Art Director 

Pantone has launched an addictive new iPhone app aimed at Instagrammers and digital-savvy designers. The Pantone app lets users create personalized color palettes from selfies and pictures by matching hues in the photos with the 10,000 hues in Pantone’s library.

The app identifies RGB, CMYK and Hex codes and indicates appropriate color schemes to match. Users can create, test and store palettes on designs and materials, and they are easy to share via social media. Other handy features include the ability to name and geotag palettes and then upload them to Photoshop and other design software via Creative Cloud. All these features go a long way to providing what Pantone is calling the “first offering in a new digital suite of solutions for the creative industries.”

The Pantone app is geared at younger designers who can’t necessarily afford to spend hundreds of dollars on Pantone’s color swatch booklets, but it does still come at a cost. Users must pay an $8 USD monthly subscription fee or an annual fee of $60 USD to gain full access to color libraries.

Download Link

What’s happening, Twitter?


By: Ethan Thomas, Account Coordinator

Daily users are declining. Total active users are declining. Is it management? Or is it that a picture is worth much, much more than 140 characters?

It really seems as though Twitter is losing its following to Instagram, Snapchat and – though I hate to admit it – Pokémon Go. Instagram rebranded its logo, put a minimalist touch to its interface, and even changed up its newsfeed algorithm. Snapchat has exploded into the realm of paid advertising content, and companies are finally catching up to speed on how to reach customers on the platform. And in less than a month, Pokémon Go has become the biggest game in U.S. history (though its popularity seems to be fading).

All of this is going on and what, Twitter removed links and photos from counting toward the maximum character count? Seems like a pretty boring summer for a social media behemoth.

Don’t worry. Twitter isn’t brooding in the corner while Snapchat and Instagram take over the social media landscape. It’s got a bigger plan. If you haven’t been looking, you could have missed it.

Last fall, the NFL experimented with the first free live streaming of a football game on Yahoo Sports. Yahoo reported that the live stream accumulated 15.2 million unique viewers, 33.6 million video streams and over 460 total minutes of video consumed. The game took place in London, and the most surprising statistic came from somewhere unexpected: 33 percent of the entire audience, just around 5 million unique viewers, were overseas. For a sport dominated by American fan bases, this is huge. Twitter definitely took notice.

Twitter swiftly won the global digital streaming rights for 10 NFL Thursday night games. It beat out big-name competitors such as Amazon and Verizon – two big competitors in the live-streaming market. “This agreement also provides additional reach for those brands advertising with our broadcast partners,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. He may not be everyone’s favorite major sports commissioner, but he’s nailed this right on the head.

The potential for advertisers to utilize this medium is enormous. Not only will there be outstanding paid promotion opportunities, but the amount of organic brand-to-consumer connections will set a tone for other major sports in the United States and abroad.

“This is about transforming the fan experience with football,” said Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. “People watch NFL games with Twitter today. Now they’ll be able to watch right on Twitter Thursday nights.”

Twitter’s been relatively quiet about this, but with less than 50 days left until kickoff, expect to see brands begin pushing their involvement.

Building Client Relationships One Post at a Time


By Emily Hayden, Account Manager 

As an account manager at Hirons, I spend quite a bit of time each week monitoring my clients’ social media pages. I act as the front line when it comes to observing and responding to online conversations involving the brands I represent. This takes certain levels of skill and tact in order to maintain the brand’s voice and please its customers.

When monitoring social media, I see it all – the good, the bad and the just plain weird. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of really trying to understand what the original poster wanted to say and the emotions behind it. While it might seem counter-intuitive, social media truly are about relationships. Most posters just want the company to hear what they have to say, whether it be critical or complimentary.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s really easy to see a negative comment online and give a canned response along the lines of “Thank you for your feedback, [NAME]. We will take it under advisement moving forward.” Here’s the thing, though: This doesn’t accomplish anything for anyone. As the account manager, it’s my job to get that feedback to the client in the hopes that its staff can make the necessary changes to improve that customer’s experience. Along with doing that, it’s crucial to provide the customer with a response that shows that the company really does care about fixing whatever might be broken.

On the other hand, as important as it is to respond to negative comments online, it’s equally important to acknowledge the positive ones. I try to never use the same “Thank you” response more than once. I like to authentically thank people for being loyal customers in any way I can. It just makes people feel good to be acknowledged, and it makes me feel good to reach out to people who love the brand as much as I do.

A great client recently gave me the most humbling compliment anyone could give to someone in my position. He thanked me for replying to customers on Facebook in the way that I do – adding that I respond as though I were an actual employee of the company. While that’s an amazing compliment, what he doesn’t realize is how seriously I take the responsibility of managing social media accounts.

As an account manager, I am able to see firsthand how passionately our clients care about their work, and that enthusiasm is contagious. The work we do through Facebook, Twitter and other social channels is our opportunity to help our clients share their passion with their customers and fans on a personal, real-time level. In many ways, social media are the most powerful tools we have for sharing the voice of our clients, and we waste them if we issue a canned, computer-generated response.

My advice: Be a fan of your fans. Share your passion, get more shares!


Advertising on Instagram Promises High Visibility and Return

Instagram Ads


By Ethan Thomas, Communications Management Intern 

A picture is worth a thousand words… Or maybe it’s better to say a picture is worth a couple thousand dollars? Paid advertising has finally tapped into the 400 million user photo-sharing community smartphone app, Instagram. “Instagram is now an end-to-end advertising solution that drives real business results. Increase awareness and message association, or get visits to your website or downloads of your mobile app.” – Quote from Instagram’s website. Basically, the Instagram game has changed. No longer held down by your businesses ability to only show your followers your best advertisement with the low-fi filter. Now you can place your ad right into millions of mobile user’s hands without the necessity of a “follow.”

The set up actually offers advertisers more variety to post content than a normal user. Not only can the advertiser post photos and videos, but there is a “carousal” function that allows users to swipe through several photos in one advertisement. These all have the ability to drive users to a website, suggest app installs, and create general mass awareness for your brand. An added bonus: Advertiser videos can be up to thirty seconds long, while the regular user can only post up to fifteen seconds.


This is a game changer for several reasons. Facebook isn’t the cool social media site to use for Millennials. Trends have shown young social media users are shying away from using Facebook, and focusing on getting news from twitter and photo or video experiences from Instagram. Maybe it’s due to the fact that everyone and there grandma has a Facebook account. Overpopulation and the excessive amount of information about its users may turn some away, but I digress. Yes, Facebook does own Instagram. They’ve actually been great owners after purchasing the app for nearly 1 billion dollars. They’ve allowed Instagram to develop naturally, and have not bogged it down with overbearing Facebook features.

From a user perspective, the advertisements so far have not seemed overly invasive. It’s just another picture to scroll through on your feed. When you think of it from a business perspective, that’s the best part. It’s a nearly guaranteed view of your advertisement. How often can you guarantee the visibility of an advertisement like that? To get to the next picture they have to pass your ad with little to no distraction that you normally find on twitter, Facebook, or any other social media site. Fortune magazine discusses how this, along with Instagram advertisings other features, has shown that users are two and a half times more likely to click on these ads than all other social media advertising platforms ( I’m not a gambling man, but I will take those odds every day.

Instagram has already developed their ad space for over thirty countries. Taking this global has been a foreseeable next step, and there are no real signs of Instagram slowing down. So watch out Insta-world, it’s not just your best friend’s brunch or that sweet nature picture on your feed any more.



When It’s More Than Like

By Ethan Thomas, Communications Management Intern 

Let Me Introduce You to Facebook’s Dislike Button

OK, so let’s get this straight. It’s not really a thumbs down, “Your post sucks,” dislike button. Also, it has yet to cross the pond and hit American soil. Facebook officially revealed it is testing several new alternatives to the “like” button in Ireland and Spain.

The new options are emoji-like responses that include “love,” “haha,” “yay,” “wow,” “sad” and “angry.” They are similar, but don’t resemble Facebook’s current “stickers” that can be posted in the comment section of a post. Facebook’s Chief Product Officer Chris Cox released a video about the testing in the two European countries.

While adding a new delightful element to Facebook’s ever-expanding repertoire, this actually has interesting potential for any organization or business that has a Facebook page. As consumers, we are in an age where digital customer feedback can make or break a company. Now we have another way to give feedback to the companies we love or hate. We can give a little more emotion than just “liking” or ignoring social media content. Look for companies to start gathering this data and using it to influence future content.

So get ready, America, if the Spanish and Irish like and use this feature enough, we could be seeing it very soon.

8 Things You Should Know about Google’s Mobile Friendly Update

By Meghan Hamm, Digital Strategist

The mobile-friendly algorithm update that Google launched on April 21st has caused a lot of commotion in the internet marketing world as many companies scramble to update their website in fear of losing search traffic. This update has been designed to reward mobile-friendly sites with higher rankings on mobile devices to help improve the search experience for users.

If you have not checked to see if your website pages are considered mobile-friendly, you should use Google’s Mobile Friendly Test. This will let you know if your pages are mobile-friendly or not and will tell you what you need to fix in order to pass the test. If you have a Google Webmaster Tools account, you can also check your entire site using this Mobile Usability dashboard. If you do not have a Webmaster Tools account, you can set up this free resource relatively easily.

If your site did not pass the mobile-friendly test and are concerned, here are some more facts about the update and the potential affects it might have on your search traffic.

1. The update affects only search rankings on mobile devices. So, the traffic coming from desktops and tablets will not be affected.

2. It applies to individual pages, not the entire website. Some pages of your site might be deemed as mobile-friendly and other pages may not be.

3. Google is only demoting mobile un-friendly sites for non-branded search queries. Meaning the searches that appear with your brand name in them will not be affected.

4. Local business listings or local pack listings are not affected by this update either.

5. Sites that are mobile friendly will say that they are on mobile devices:









6. Site speed is also not a ranking factor in the mobile friendly update.

7. The algorithm is a real-time dynamic update, meaning once your site becomes mobile-friendly (if it already isn’t) you will recover the lost traffic that occurred due to the update. It also means that if you make a change to your site that makes it not mobile-friendly, then you will lose the status.

8. Even though responsive designed websites are the preferred solution for mobile-friendliness, if you have a site that uses a separate mobile URL, it can pass the test just the same.
Regardless if you have been affected by this update or not, it is important to have a mobile-friendly site to improve user experience.