King Arthur Flour Utilizes Digital Gatekeepers for SEO

I’m going to reveal a bit about myself to all of you today: I am not very good at cooking. Or even baking, for that matter. I think it takes too long, there is too much room for error, and requires too much clean-up for my tastes. I tend to blame all of this on my Italian roots and my mother who, as my childhood friends will remember, loved making food at all times during the day.

King Arthur FlourNevertheless, I recently learned about King Arthur Flour. That’s weird, I know, since the preparation of frozen pizza and macaroni and cheese does not require flour. So I’ll admit, I haven’t actually purchased any products from the Norwich, Vermont based company. Nor do I intend to, to be honest. I heard about the company as a result of its annual Blog & Bake program, and it inspired me to write this post on the topic of gatekeepers, and how important they are in the field of public relations.

We work at great companies who make great products and do great things. It’s simply our job to make sure as many great people are aware of them as possible. But it’s hard to tell that many people, so we go about it in different ways. That’s where traditional media relations came in: we tell a few well-respected journalists at widely-read publications about our greatness, and he or she passes the information along to a lot of other people.

Journalists are many things – like employees, writers and story-tellers. Most importantly, though – they’re gatekeepers. They act as a filter, separating the bad from the good and the great. Each one represents a much larger population – if we can just tell the right journalist about how great we are, he can tell everyone else!

In the digital age, though, the landscape is changing as fewer individuals read print newspapers and magazines, and essentially anyone with an Internet connection has the ability to produce and share content on a personal blog like the one you’re all reading right now. Especially in less mainstream niches, like baking, different people are the truly influential ones.

King Arthur Flour fully utilizes gatekeepers through its Blog & Bake program. Each year, a dozen of the most influential baking-bloggers are invited for an all-expenses paid weekend in Vermont, learning new baking techniques and baking new foods. The coverage rate after the event is incredibly high, with at least 11 of 12 writers in 2013 writing at least one post on their blogs this year.

This kind of coverage of an event has a number of effects:

  • Basic communication of King Arthur Flour’s great product to a huge but very targeted population.
  • Individuals who read baking blogs are, obviously, passionate about baking and look up to the writers of the blogs as role models. If their baking-heroes are using King Arthur Flour, why wouldn’t they follow suit?
  • Each blog post is loaded with a ton of high-resolution images from the weekend-long event. King Arthur Flour is seen as a tourist attraction among those that care about baking, and this kind of coverage can persuade people to visit the Vermont campus in addition to simply buying the flour.
  • Last but not least – this event has King Arthur Flour buzzing. It’s referenced countless times in each blog post. It’s linked to in each blog post. It’s even in the majority of the posts’ titles! Can we recognize the search-engine-optimization results that this event is responsible for?

I know it’s hard to quantify and attribute SEO results to any individual act of promotion, but you would have to think Blog & Bake has helped King Arthur Flour rise to the top of Google. Currently, Googling “blog bake” yields King Arthur Flour’s blog on page one. Furthermore, Googling “flour bake” yields King Arthur Flour as the top two results.

King Arthur Flour - Google Search

As less people receive solutions to their problems by reading newspapers and Google plays a more prevalent role, SEO becomes significantly more important and that changes who the gatekeepers are.

On the off chance that I one day decide to begin baking (and care about my cakes & cookies enough to buy premium flour), can anyone guess where I’ll be ordering from?

Facebook Graph Search to Harness Social Data

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook announced the social media giant’s newest feature: Graph Search. If the News Feed and Timeline are the first two pillars of Facebook usage, Zuckerberg believes that this is the third.

Three Pillars

So what does it do?

Essentially, Graph Search allows Facebook users to sift through the information shared with them from other users. In other words, I could search for restaurants that my friends have been to in the New York City area. Or, for example, I could search for photos that I Liked on Facebook before 2003.

Google is to web results as Graph Search is to social results.

So why does it matter?

I’ll be the first to say that this introduction definitely matters, and Facebook absolutely needed it. We are all used to Facebook implementing changes and new designs, and we are all used to complaining about it for weeks afterward (until we all get used to it and then all of a sudden can’t imagine life without the Timeline). But this is vastly different than those occasions.

Graph Search is finally going to harvest, organize, and utilize the massive amount of information that is available on Facebook. That information, friends, is powerful stuff.

I think, broadly, Graph Search will do two things:

1. Provide an added benefit to users.

Pretty regularly, I see a friend of mine post something on Facebook basically asking their friends for a recommendation. Today, it was for a pediatrician in the Greece, NY area. But that’s just a simple example. People ask for advice from friends all the time. Now, with Graph Search, this will be easier and more productive.

Facebook will be able to aid individuals in decision-making.

2. Make it significantly more important for brands to connect with users on Facebook.

If Facebook is going to be used to help people make decisions about what restaurants to dine at, which store to make shop at, and which bands to listen to, it instantly becomes hugely more important for brands to connect with fans on the platform to take advantage of the search results that it can lead to.

Facebook, and social media in general, are sometimes ignored by businesses because it’s difficult to see results, and it’s difficult to sell anything. Graph Search will greatly improve ROI, because the third-party endorsements that are made on Facebook will be more accessible and widely used. If businesses choose to ignore Facebook, after the introduction and implementation of Graph Search, they will surely be missing out on valuable endorsements.

Graph Search

Do you think Graph Search will benefit Facebook’s long-term financial health?

Learning 2.0 – Digital Tools for the Student

As the end of September draws near, the first semester of my Junior year of college is well underway. Group projects, essays, and tests are an almost-everyday occurrence, and sometimes I wonder how receiving the grades that I want to receive is ever going to be possible.

But then, I remember all of the tools and advantages that I have simply  because it’s the year 2012, and I start wondering how anyone could have done this 50 years ago. The following is a short list of the digital tools that I use almost daily in my schoolwork.

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Place your bets! Facebook’s future

This is a guest post by Mark Trova. Read more about him at the bottom of the page, and make sure to follow him for great reporting on business and politics.

Facebook is the largest social network in history. With 800 million users and counting, Facebook claims over 1 in 8 of the world’s population as a user. In the past few days, news has stirred about Facebook going public. My first thought was, as a user, am I going to have to start paying for it?

The answer is no, as marketing created an astonishing $1.5 billion in profit in 2011, for the last three years growing at 127%. So in other words, Facebook is doing just fine without the PR nightmare that would ensue by charging users to use it. So, should we even care about this?

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