All posts by Laura Townshend

Laura's a native Texan. Besides loving Texas and horses, she's a marketing consultant, writer, and blogger who lives in the western Hill Country of Central Texas. Reach her at laura@biggreyhorse.com. Keep up the the Horse! Follow us @BigGreyHorse on Twitter.

Christmas Cheer at Winter’s Eve A Christmas Festival in Wimberley, Texas

Christmas Tree at Winter's Eve A Christmas Festival in Wimberley, TexasBecause I’ve married a persistent man, we attended Winter’s Eve A Christmas Festival in Wimberley, Texas, on Saturday, December 10, 2016.  Honestly, Mr. Carter wasn’t going to let me get away with not driving to Wimberley on this particular night, and I’m so glad that he persuaded me to go.

The night air was heavy with drizzly rain and, in the outlying areas around Wimberley, light fog obscured our view as we drove down the winding roads. Neither the rain nor the cool weather could stop the festivities, however. Townsfolk and visitors lined the streets as people walked from shop to shop, sipping wine and hot cocoa.

Winter’s Eve A Christmas Festival is an annual event hosted by the Wimberley Merchants Association. The festival’s been in existence since 2007. The cool thing about the festival, and the premise from which the festival springs, is that you can shop until 10:00 p.m. that night.Metal Reindeer at Winter's Eve A Christmas Festvial in Wimberley, Texas

The only shopping we did was window shopping, I’m sad to say, as there were so many lovely wares to be found. However, my husband, Dave, and I had a blast looking at the various wares in the shops that were open.

It truly was a winter wonderland with the misty rain and surprises in every shop we stopped to browse in. Our first stop was for coffee at Sip! on the Square. Dave and I ordered spiced Mexican mocha lattes that were absolutely delish! The lattes warmed our insides while we walked the streets and took in all the sights and sounds. (We’ve visited this coffee shop in the past while on the road for business, and it’s such a delightful place. Please give this merchant your business as they will surprise and delight you with all kinds of yummy drinks!)

Laura Townshend Carter and Dave Carter at Winter's Eve A Christmas Festival in Wimberley, Texas
Laura Townshend Carter and Dave Carter

Every corner had a band or solo artist performing. There was also so much food and drink to experience; it was far too much for Mr. Carter and I to swallow in one night.

We’re total goobers, I know. It’s easy to see from the photo that my husband and I don’t let a little rain stop our plans. Wet hair? No problem! Just keep on with the fun and smile, smile, smile!

The truth is, fire pits were strategically placed around the square so Winter's Eve A Christmas Festival in Wimberley, Texas.it was quite easy to warm up. If you stood still for more than a couple of minutes, someone associated with the festival would offer you $2 in Wimberley bucks (play money that was equal to real money at participating area merchants) to purchase or put towards pretty much anything your heart desired. We also participated in a raffle which was a nice way to donate a little money. Congrats to the person who won!

Because Winter’s Eve A Christmas Festival has had almost a decade to improve and refine the event, everything ran smoothly. The festival even had…wait for it…drum roll…belly dancers! The two women who danced were spectacular and I thoroughly enjoyed photographing the ladies. See for yourself!

Belly Dancers at Winter's Eve A Christmas Festival in Wimberley, Texas
Belly Dancers that ROCK!
Green Belly Dancer at Winter's Eve A Christmas Festival in Wimberley, Texas
Green Belly Dancer
Red Belly Dancer at Winter's Eve A Christmas Festival in Wimberley, Texas
Red Belly Dancer

 

Aren’t the ladies beautiful? Each one had colored light to dance within, which made for a surreal effect. Swaying to the music, I was captivated by the dancers’ charm. In the crowd, many of us photographed and videoed the experience.

Do you remember making cartoons on the edge of your second-grade writing pad, then flipping the pages quickly to watch a horse canter or a fish swim? I have so many photos that I can run quickly through them on my iPhone and make the ladies dance. (Yes, I’m  a bit of a creative nerd.)

But I digress. Walking on through the night, Mr. Carter and I stumbled upon the following merchants on the square. Here is the story of our experiences.

Aunt Jenny's Attic at Winter's Eve A Christmas Festival in Wimberley, Texas
Aunt Jenny’s Attic

Aunt Jenny’s Attic sells creative gifts and European collectibles. We didn’t go into this marvelous shop, but it looked quite enticing. From what I understand, lovers of unique, one-of-a-kind pieces easily fall in love with Aunt Jenny’s Attic. Looking at the outside of this boutique, I must admit that I love Christmas soldiers and royalty, so Aunt Jenny’s Attic got top marks from me for the decorations. The red and green outfit for the King, combined with a sweet, bearded face deserves a photo (even if he is just a seasonal decoration). The garlands and large wreath were also photo-worthy.

Kiss The Cook at Winter's Eve A Christmas Festival in Wimberley, Texas.
Kiss the Cook

Kiss the Cook features bakeware, cookware, tools and gadgets. They also do wedding registries and recipes This is another shop we didn’t enter, but it sounds like quite a bit of fun. As an avid foodie and wannabe chef (not really, but I dig cooking and experimenting with new recipes), Kiss the Cook sounds like it could be tons of fun to peruse.

Upon seeing the sign, my first impression was that Kiss the Cook was a restaurant. (What a darling name, right?) I did my research, however, and found exactly what the shop does. Had to say I was a little disappointed, but only because I’d love to kiss the cook who feeds me exceptional meals!

Cottage on the Square at Christmas Eve A Winter Festival in Wimberley, Texas.
Cottage on the Square

Cottage on the Square is a quaint bed and breakfast that lies within the Wimberley town square. I’m sure the building holds many old secrets and history we may never know. Not only does the downstairs serve as a vintage shop, but this B&B consistently receives high ratings from its guests.

The structure of the old home engaged me and I wanted to follow the stone path inside and never come out. Dave and I will revisit this little bed and breakfast, neatly tucked into the middle of Wimberley, when we come this way again for business. Who wants to stay in a hotel when you can have a B&B?

Life Inspired at Winter's Eve A Christmas Eve Festival in Wimberley, Texas.
Life Inspired

And our last stop as we walked the Square was Life Inspired. At this store, you’re seeking a gift for a special person. To quote Life Inspired, “This is inspired gift giving.”

Truthfully, I can’t tell you much more than that, because we were making our way back to where we started at this point, and we did not enter this shop, either. However, looking at the careful way the entrance and sitting area is decorated, I think anyone would be more than happy with the wares Life Inspired offers. Check it out, and come back here or to the Big Grey Horse Media Facebook page to talk about it.

The Bazaar at Winter's Eve A Christmas Festival in Wimberley, Texas.
The Bazaar

Course, if you know me, I’ve always got one more surprise up my sleeve. As we walked back to the car, I noticed The Bazaar. What could be more fun than dressing up as a sexy Santa and Mrs. Claus?

The Bazaar is conveniently located in both Wimberley and Austin. I’ve visited the Austin location, and it’s a fun journey through various costumes, lingerie, and more. It’s something everyone should do at least once in their lives. Even better if you’re shopping for that unique costume to take you through the Texas Renaissance Festival, Halloween, or a very sexy Christmas.

We had a blast at Winter’s Eve A Christmas Festival! It was tons of fun and we encourage you to participate next year. If you go with an open pocketbook, all the more fun, I’m certain. We thank the Wimberley Merchants Association for hosting the event and putting on such a good time. Quite a bit of thought went into the festival and we really appreciate all the hard work that went on behind the scenes. What Dave Carter and I experienced was seamless.

You can’t ask for much more than that.

All of us at Big Grey Horse Media wish you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas From Big Grey Horse MediaMerry Christmas and  Happy Holiday Season.

May your days be merry and bright –

And may all your Christmases be right here in Texas!

 

Takeaway

Visit the Wimberley Merchants Association to keep up with next year’s Winter’s Eve A Christmas Festival.

Wimberley, Texas, is a mecca within Central Texas. If you’ve not been there before, check it out. Should it ever happen that Dave and I are not able to live where we do, Wimberley would be the next stop for us.

 

 

 

 

 

Rockin’ With Ranch Popcorn Recipe

Ranch Popcorn Recipe LargeIt came as a big surprise when I found out that many people don’t know about Ranch popcorn. Last year, a client had a marketing campaign going for Hidden Valley Ranch dressing (dry spice packs and bottled). Even here in Texas, the beautiful Lone Star State that adores Ranch on just about everything, folks didn’t know the simple way to make a Ranch popcorn recipe.

I began using Ranch on popcorn years ago. Too many years ago to really even know when the thought occurred to me that by using a Ranch dry seasoning packet, I could have Ranch popcorn any time I wanted. Before this revelation, I’d have to wait until Christmas time when the large tins of flavored popcorn are sold at the grocer’s.

A few tips about making Ranch popcorn:

Start with a little and work your way up. If you butter and Ranchify your popcorn with a heavy hand, there’s no turning back. The popcorn is wasted and thrown into the trash. Or strewn about the yard for the birds to eat. Save yourself the trouble and build slowly. Some people – believe it or not – don’t like Ranch on their popcorn. Others will enjoy the taste, but a little goes a long way (with both the butter and Ranch seasoning).

I like it light. I’ve been eating popcorn for as long as I can remember. My mom, like all the moms of the 60s and 70s, enjoyed popping batches of popcorn for family and friends. She’d make so much we’d have leftover popcorn (which is quite good if it’s stored properly). I’ve eaten popcorn everywhere from at home to the theater, and I’ve developed a simplistic taste for the treat. I will not eat popcorn laden with butter – so much that it’s dripping and soft – nor will I tolerate flavoring on my popcorn that’s over the top. A little goes a long, long way in my world.

You can add more. Most people probably can go with more butter and/or Ranch. Feel free to make this recipe yours; that’s the fun of working in the kitchen. You can design your Ranch popcorn according to your tastes.

Ingredients matter. I used to purchase Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning packets for this recipe. HEB’s version is cheaper and just as tasty. You don’t have to spend big bucks to make this recipe taste good. I also use white popcorn but that’s simply a matter of preference. I like that taste and look of white popcorn more than I do the yellow kernels. Last, please use butter in this recipe. Margarine, fake butter, etc., ain’t gonna cut it.

For those of you who are uninitiated in the ways of Ranch, as we lovingly call Hidden Valley Ranch dressing in these here parts, here’s my highly coveted recipe.

 

Ranch Popcorn

1/2 cup of popcorn kernels

1-2 T butter

2-3 tsp Ranch seasonings mix

Pop the corn. While it’s cooking, melt one to two teaspoons of butter in the microwave.

Drizzle the melted butter over the warm popcorn. Keep stirring with a large spoon so the butter is distributed evenly. Add the Ranch seasonings mix and continue stirring until the seasoning is mixed in.

Ranch Popcorn Recipe Close Up

 

Chef Tai Lee’s New Cookbook Fires Up Texas Kitchens

The Veritas CookbookWe’ve been graciously asked to review Chef Tai Lee’s new cookbook, “The Veritas Cookbook: Cooking with Chef Tai (Savory Books).” It’s definitely our pleasure to review any book, as everyone at Big Grey Horse Media is an avid reader. Ask us to review a cookbook from a well-known Texas chef? Icing on the cake, baby.

Haley Campbell, marketing manager at Savory Books, reached out to me earlier this month. “The Veritas Cookbook: Cooking with Chef Tai” is one of the publishing house’s newest titles. Savory focuses exclusively on cookbooks featuring top chefs and restaurant owners from around the country. Lucky for Texans, Chef Tai happens to be one of those amazing chefs and he’s conveniently located in College Station.

Since Haley contacted me, the new cookbook’s arrived and is being devoured. It’s a beautiful book – there’s not doubt that Chef Tai put tons of work into his recipes. The photos are drool-worthy, too. Perfectly plated foods that scream: EAT ME NOW!

A little background on Chef Tai is necessary at this point. It’s always interesting to know where your favorite chef came from and how he became famous. I am particularly interested in how folks end up in Texas, especially when they aren’t located in one of the big cities. While I don’t have all the answers yet, we do plan on making a trip to interview Chef Tai. We’re very excited to meet him and see his restaurant.

Veritas Wine Bar and Bistro, located in College Station, Texas, opened in 2007. The restaurant’s won numerous awards including the Reader’s Choice Award 2013, Open Table Dinner’s Choice Award 2009-2013, Best of Brazos Award 2008-2013, and the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence 2007-2010. I think these awards speak to Chef Tai’s love of cooking and how much he cares about the experience Veritas’ patrons will have.

The Veritas Cookbook: Cooking with Chef Tai (Savory Books)” blends Asian, French and American foods (can you say tasty?). I’m not spilling the beans…yet…but this cookbook is packed with recipes you’ll enjoy making in the privacy of your kitchen. While it’s a treat to eat out and have Chef Tai prepare these foods for you, there’s nothing like recreating a dish just like a famous chef.

So are you ready for foodie fun?

We will publish our book review this coming week. Hang tight and see you then!

COCOAMODA Chocolate Review

COCOAMODA Truffles Assortment BoxedCocoamoda on Urbanspoon

It is a pleasure to share our COCOAMODA chocolate review with you. Afriel chose COCOAMODA after carefully considering all of the chocolatiers in Texas. We expected a tasty experience, but did not anticipate being sent over the moon, beyond Jupiter, and far into the Milky Way.

Two words: COCOAMODA ROCKS! Thanks, Chef Wilkinson!

A little bit about this Texas-based company: COCOAMODA offers gourmet chocolates through their storefront in Calvert. Besides being a chocolatier, COCOAMODA is open on Fridays for five-course dinners and Saturdays for seven-course dinners. Each week a different menu is presented by Chef Ken Wilkinson.

I love chocolate. I’m not a chocaholic like Afriel, but I do crave a nice, dark chocolate several times throughout the year. And when those cravings hit, I’m all for the good stuff. Unlike everyone else, I was the girl, way back in the 1960s, who dug dark chocolate. That was me, an oddity and a bit of a misfit, for loving my dark chocolate.

Every Christmas, my mom would buy a few bags of the Hershey’s assortment of little chocolate bars. The bags would be unloaded into a candy dish and put out for our Christmas guests.

I would carefully sort through the candy dish, digging out the dark chocolate bars. No one wanted them, so my mother gave me liberty to pick out the dark chocolates. Everyone turned their noses up at the slightly bitter taste.

All the better for me, because I didn’t have to share!

My point being that so very long ago, I was shouting dark chocolate’s praises. I stood up for the bitter, smoky taste. I defended dark chocolate as being far superior to milk chocolate. And I greedily hoarded any dark chocolate pieces I could get my little hands on.

Afriel got a taste of fine chocolate as a little girl, too. She is a true chocaholic, however. That girl can eat chocolate just about anytime, anywhere. While she appreciates the fine chocolates, she won’t turn a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup down – ever. She acquired a taste for Belgian chocolate when she visited her dad while he was stationed in Belgium. She’d bring a few chocolates home to share. She still loves those little shells.

After Afriel chose COCOAMODA for this review, I emailed the company to let them know we were going to place the order within 24 hours. I alerted them that we were Texas foodie bloggers and that I hoped to hear from them and get a few questions answered. Just like my responses (or should I say non-responses?) from Texas Pepper Jelly and Collin Street Bakery, I heard nothing from COCOAMODA.

What’s a blogger to do when three companies in a row don’t answer one phone call and two emails? Write the truth and say that I hope each company does better, in the future, nurturing their customer base.

COCOAMODA Package WrappedAfriel and I reviewed the COCOAMODA truffles over a period of several days. There’s absolutely no way I could eat all those truffles in one sitting. I don’t think fine chocolate should be consumed in a frenzied fashion. When you’re indulging in a rich food, you definitely should savor the moment. That moment should always be special and exclusive.

The truffles were not specifically identified. We had to sort through the box and use the sheet that came with the truffles in order to determine which ones were which. Some of the truffles were easy to spot; others are still a mystery (we’ve put a ? by the truffles we couldn’t identify).

Espresso

Afriel: Dark chocolate outer with creamy inside. Rich cocoa scent. Deep and slightly bitter espresso flavor inside that lingers afterwards. Ground peppercorns on the outside deliver a slight, warming heat but are still kid-friendly.

Laura: Dark chocolate outer shell that’s brittle. Inside is soft and creamy but not runny. Smells super cocoa-y. The inside is like velvet and tastes like espresso. Outer shell is very bitter but good. The finish is extremely smooth with distinct pepper taste that lingers. Outer shell has ground peppercorns.

COCOAMODA Plated Truffles

Milk and Honey

Afriel: Milk chocolate outer shell with gooey inside. Crushed wafer thins in the chocolate shell. Creamy, milky, honey taste. The honey isn’t overwhelming.

Laura: Light brown outer shell with creamy chocolate inside that’s runny. Smells like milk chocolate. Outer shell is smooth and milky. Inside has distinct honey flavor. Chocolate shell has a crunch – almost like wafers are mixed with it and the chocolate is airy. This chocolate is absolutely divine in taste. The finish is smooth.

Key Lime

Afriel: White chocolate outside. Extremely gooey filling with lime zest. A good lime smell. Outer shell rolled in sugar with lime juice brushed on. Tastes exactly like a good, tart key lime pie.

Laura: Funny looking little chocolate. It’s been rolled in something; has a bumpy shell. Filling is gooey with lime zest. Distinct lime smell. Taste of inside is very lime-y. Just like a good key lime pie: so tart! White chocolate is smooth. Hidden in the layers of dominant lime and tart there is a lingering sour flavor, but it’s not unpleasant. This is one of the most unusual chocolates I’ve ever eaten.

COCOAMODA Truffles Close Up

Milk Chocolate ?

Afriel: Milk chocolate outer shell. Gooey inside. A good, chocolate-y smell with a slight caramel taste.

Laura: This chocolate looks like the Milk and Honey. Creamy milk chocolate inside. Smells like a regular chocolate bar. Inside tastes a bit like caramel. Shell is a smooth milk chocolate. The taste is like a really high-end, milk chocolate bar.

COCOAMODA Plated Truffles2

Marrons Glaces

Afriel: Sweet, dark chocolate outer shell. A yellow nougat-like filling. Filling smells like almond extract. The texture of the filling is grainy and almost gelatinous. The taste is a bit smokey.

Laura: Dark chocolate shell. Yellow nougat filling that smells fruity and sort of like almond; it’s nutty. The filling is an interesting texture; it’s almost gelatinous. This dark chocolate is sweet; it’s not as bitter as the Espresso. It’s a different candy. The tastes of the chocolate and the filling and the texture are highly unusual. Finish is nutty and smokey.

Coconut

Afriel: White chocolate shell rolled in toasted, shredded coconut that has not been sweetened. Gooey inside with just a hint of sweetness. Good coconut flavor. I really enjoyed this truffle in spite of not being a big fan of coconut.

Laura: White chocolate shell rolled in toasted coconut flakes. Filling is runny and slightly sweet. This truffle has to be eaten in one big bite to be appreciated. Crunchy texture that’s not overly sweet. The truffle didn’t smell like coconut which surprised me.

Passion Fruit ?

Afriel: A white chocolate shell rolled in fine sugar with a lemon-y, tropical type filling.

Laura: White chocolate shell. Filling is yellow and creamy. Taste is distinct but I can’t place it. Filling is almost lemon-tasting. Shell didn’t have much taste.

COCOAMODA Truffles Close Up3

Lavender

Afriel: Milk chocolate outer shell rolled in fine sugar. Creamy filling of smokey, herb-y lavender that tastes just like walking through an herb garden.

Laura: Milk chocolate shell that’s been rolled in sugar. Milk chocolate filling is creamy. Has a very sweet smell. Filling is herbal tasting. Shell is air-filled and crunchy. This is an extremely interesting candy. It reminded me of sage.

Hazelnut

Afriel: Milk chocolate shell rolled in crushed, toasted nuts. A rich, hazelnut filling that’s not overly sweet with a nice, nutty aftertaste.

Laura: Semi-dark chocolate shell that looks like it’s been rolled in nuts. Semi-dark chocolate filling is creamy. Not much of a smell to this one. Filling is hazelnut and very rich, delicious. Shell is thin and bends when you bite. Very interesting texture. Deep flavor. Not a very sweet chocolate, but not bitter. Nutty flavors dominate.

COCOAMODA Truffles Close Up2

??

Afriel: Deep, slightly bitter espresso flavor with a creamy filling.

Laura: Dark chocolate shell with a dark chocolate filling that’s creamy. Deep, earthly smell. Very bitter but in a good way. Distinct aftertaste.

Eggnog ? Cornish Ice Cream ?

Afriel: White chocolate shell. Creamy white filling with a lightly sweet taste.

Laura: White chocolate shell. White cream filling. Smells like white chocolate. Filling has a vanilla taste that’s very smooth. The shell is definitely a smooth, traditional white chocolate taste. Filling has something else in the taste, but I can’t put my finger on it.

Raspberry

Afriel: A very strong, deep, dark chocolate scent with a dark chocolate shell. A very light, raspberry flavoring in the filling.

Laura: Dark chocolate shell. Dark chocolate, creamy filling. Smells like dark chocolate. Dark chocolate shell tastes bitter. Cream filling is deep but has a hint of a sweet finish.

COCOAMODA Box of Truffles

Takeaway

COCOAMODA is at 518 S. Main Street in Calvert, Texas 77837. The phone number is 979-364-2190. The hours of operation are Wednesday through Thursday 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. Dinner reservations begin at 7:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. COCOAMODA is also open on Sunday 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

 

 

 

 

What It Means to be a Foodie Blogger

Fresh Fish at Central Market in Austin, Texas
Fresh Fish at Central Market in Austin, Texas

I didn’t start the Big Grey Horse Media blog with the idea of becoming a foodie blogger. However, the blog’s evolution, and our business, seems to continue to move towards blogging about food. Let’s face it – food is hot.

Truth is, Afriel and I love reviewing restaurants. We’re long-time foodies, even before the term “foodie” was created. We’ve got a year’s worth of restaurants to review in 2014. We’ve also got a number of yummy recipes to share with you. As someone who loves to eat, this is a very exciting part of our business.

If you’re starting out as a new foodie blogger, whether you’re doing restaurant reviews, cooking in your kitchen, reviewing books, or watching food trends, my best advice is to jump in with both feet. Obviously you love food or you wouldn’t become part of this world. There are so many perks for foodies. The best, however, is imparting your knowledge with others who are hungry for what you’ve discovered.

Tasty Chicken Enchiladas at El Bracero in Kingsland, Texas
Tasty Chicken Enchiladas at El Bracero in Kingsland, Texas.

As you build your website or blog, share the best that you have. I don’t think you have to be perfect in order to conquer the world of food, but I think little details count. Readers care about good photographs. Readers care about strong content. Readers want credible, authoritative sources. We take this seriously, and each restaurant we review and every recipe we share is completed with honesty and integrity. We also know that our opinions are just that – everybody’s got opinions, and yours may be different from ours.

Boiled Shrimp for Lou Percy's Shrimp Dip Recipe
Boiled, fresh shrimp.

The most important thing you can share is your authenticity. Readers may disagree with your experiences, but they will appreciate you being who you are. When we review a restaurant and don’t like the food, we know that’s just our experience. However, we’re going to share our review honestly. At Big Grey Horse Media, what you see is what you get.

This month’s the theme is healthy eating. We’ve got four fantastic local eateries on the list and we’re so excited to share these new reviews. We’ve also got some tasty recipes to share. January 2014 is the time to get healthy and fit. See how much fun being a foodie blogger is? If you’ve got the inclination to write about food, the world is your oyster.

 

 

Happy New Year from Big Grey Horse Media!

Happy New Years FireworksHappy New Year from all of us at Big Grey Horse Media!

Did you start 2014 on the right foot? Have you jumped into this new year with both feet? We’re very excited about our plans for the company this year. Things continue to get better and better – our growth has been phenomenal. We’re happy to have you with us as we grow and develop.

I think that’s the key to running a successful company – you continue to grow and develop. Like life itself, a business that stagnates dies. I see Big Grey Horse Media as an entity that will always seek to improve and move into new areas.

We’ve got quite a bit on the plate for this month. You’ll see healthy recipes prepared in our kitchen, we’re eating out at four local eateries that serve healthy food, and the blog will be filled with business tips, resolution posts, and more.

We’re very focused on providing what our audience wants, and so far, you’ve told us that you dig foodie reviews and recipes, business articles, and tips for writers. If you’d like to see anything else, be sure to let us know.

See you soon!

 

Twitter Decoded: Marketing on Twitter

Marketing on TwitterFor some reason that I don’t understand, people tell me Twitter is like a black hole. Or that Twitter is difficult. Or that Twitter is easy for personal accounts, but using Twitter for business doesn’t make sense.

Trust me, folks. Marketing on Twitter isn’t a big mystery.

In our second article in the Twitter Decoded series, I’ll teach you how to:

  • identify your target market
  • engage your target market
  • build a relationship with your target market
  • turn your target market into clients

I’ve used Twitter since 2010 when I established this blog. I’ve learned many things since then and want to pass what I’ve learned to you.

Setting Up Your Twitter Account

When you’re setting up an account on Twitter, remember that this account is for your business. If you’ve got a personal Twitter account, don’t use it for your business. Use your business name for your Twitter account (i.e., @biggreyhorse). This builds your brand and makes it easier for others to recognize your business.

Finding Your Target Market

Once your account is set up, you’ll want to follow others. My advice is do not go crazy and follow hundreds of accounts. You can get your Twitter account banned for what’s termed “aggressive following” and “aggressive follow churn.”

This means follow accounts that are meaningful to you. If you’ve got 50 accounts that you want to follow, by all means, go for it. The hope is those accounts will follow you back.

I’ve had good success on Twitter with my target market following back. What’s surprising is when someone influential from outside of your target market follows your account, and then some of their followers become interested, too.

Big Grey Horse Media’s target market is Texas. I’ve followed wineries, companies I like, restaurants, people, businesses and individuals that compliment what we do, etc. It was easy to find accounts to follow because I simply did a search for “Austin.” Or “Texas winery.” Or a person’s name. See how easy that is?

For your target market, you want to follow the businesses or individuals who are your customers. It really doesn’t matter if your business is set up as B2B or B2C. Twitter makes it easy to find people who will be interested in what you are doing.

There’s a search function in Twitter. Go to it, type in the name of your target or a search string that will help you find your target. Hit “search” and boom! There’s a handy list of accounts related to your search.

Remember that your target market is businesses and/or consumers who buy your product or service. While it’s fine to follow others who will never be your customers, it’s more important to follow accounts that might need your product/service than it is to follow your friends or your mom.

Engaging Your Target Market

There are two methods I’ve used to market Big Grey Horse Media on Twitter. The first is to simply be honest and state what you do and how you can help. There’s nothing wrong with this method, but I’d use it with caution.

The reason I caution you to market yourself honestly on Twitter is you don’t want to spam others. I also haven’t had anyone choose Big Grey Horse Media simply because I offered our services via a Twitter DM (direct message) or a tweet. While some people do this and secure new gigs, I would be very careful. It’s a fine balance between doing a little marketing and spamming someone who doesn’t know you.

My ideal way to engage Big Grey Horse Media’s target market is to follow accounts (whether you initiate the follow or are following someone back) and listen to what they say.

As you listen to the tweets, look for patterns. What is your target market talking about? Who do they follow? Who do they interact with?

Sometimes you have to follow the chain to get the complete picture. I guarantee, however, that when you begin investigating you will find a way you can help with your products/services. But you have to listen and be patient.

There’s two ways I’ve had great success with Twitter:

1) Obtaining interviews

2) Developing relationships

Both of which can lead to greater things down the road. You gotta pick the low-hanging fruit first, though.

Building Relationships

Marketing on Twitter is all about relationships. Unless you are already doing business with someone and decide to follow them on Twitter, you have a cold relationship. Having someone follow you, or following them, doesn’t mean the plate’s hot.

Take your time. As I mentioned before, listen to what the business or person is saying on Twitter. What do they talk about? Who is their target market? Who do they follow?

Over time, you can develop awesome relationships that will spread to your other social media channels. If you have folks following you across the board, that’s great! You’re definitely taking the right approach.

I’d caution to take your time and allow things to happen naturally. I would not stalk other Twitter accounts or try to engage them in ways that aren’t natural. I also would NOT push my business on anyone. That’s not Twitter’s purpose.

Another way you’ll build relationships on Twitter is to tweet your blog posts, announcements, PR, etc. Make sure you do this so folks know what’s going on, but never use your Twitter account simply to toot your horn.

Social media’s about relationships. Say it again. Social media’s about relationships. Burn this into your brain.

No one wants to know every thought that you have, as you have it. Unless that’s your purpose and you have a large following who digs your humor, make Twitter be about others, too.

Re-tweet things that catch your eye. Things that your followers will enjoy.

Send a tweet when someone you admire wins an award or receives positive PR. Spread the love.

Favorite tweets you dig.

Turning Your Target Market Into Clients

If you do all that I’ve suggested so far, you’re building credibility and trust with your target market. Only you can say when the time is right to approach with a deal, but if you’ve warmed your targets up, they will begin to come to you. Marketing on Twitter 2

The best way to get business, and the only way to get business, is to solve someone’s problem. If you’re doing your job right on Twitter, you’ll solve problems and earn the position of an authoritative source. Once you’re seen as credible,  you’ll have no problem closing the sale.

Bottom line: Twitter’s a blast. I’ve learned so much over the years and the fun continues. I’d say the biggest mistake people make is going full steam ahead with a Twitter business account and then petering out in a few weeks or months. If you decide Twitter isn’t for you, the best thing you can do is close your account. Nothing smacks unprofessional more than a Twitter business account with zero followers and one or two tweets.

If you’re still scratching your head and confused about how to make Twitter work, reach out. I’m happy to help you grow your online presence.

Blogging With Big Grey Horse Media: Three Amazing Years

I’ve reached a milestone. I’ve been blogging with Big Grey Horse Media for three years, and it’s been one of the best experiences in my life.

As a writer, you’d think that maintaining a blog would be easy to do. During the last three years, I’d say the majority of the time this blog was a chore to keep up with.

I started blogging around Thanksgiving in 2010. I’ve had periods where I blogged and more periods where the blog stagnated. Honestly, it was more work than pleasure. To be brutally honest, the majority of these three years, I only blogged because I felt it was part of my responsibility to do so. There was one period in the past where I happily showed up to post.

The majority of the time, this blog was an afterthought. My client work always took precedence. After all, that’s what paid the bills.

I reckon that for most bloggers, this is a common occurrence. You start off strong and you fade quickly. Or you start with the best of intentions and fizzle out but keep going…without inspiration…and your blog sucks. But you keep posting, because you think it’s the right thing to do.

It’s not. One thing I do know is that blogging because you feel you must is wrong. Your readers will know your game and leave.

I love how my company’s grown. I’m very proud of what we do and the customers we serve. What amazes me the most is how this blog has evolved, developed, and grown. From where I started in late 2010 to where we are now, three years later at the end of 2013, is a completely different place.

My blog’s canvas certainly has painted a different picture from what I imagined it to be.

When I dug in last summer and dedicated my time to regular posting, I realized that this is really where I want to be. I love visiting restaurants and doing reviews. I enjoy working with other writers and having their voices be part of Big Grey Horse Media. I love the PR we’re getting and I love seeing folks come from UrbanSpoon and Foodio54.

I dig how Big Grey Horse Media’s social media channels send hundreds of readers our way each month.

If you were a newbie blogger and asked me how to do it, I think my answers would mirror what I said when I wrote this blog post. However, I’d also add this to the mix:

Be willing to grow with your blog. Setting goals and planning editorial calendars is something every blog owner must do. You gotta have a road map to work from.

Keep your eyes open, however, to the signposts along the way. Sometimes a side adventure is waiting for you. More so, a new road may appear that will take your blog to super stardom.

This coming year, Afriel and I have all sorts of fun planned for the Big Grey Horse Media blog. As always, we invite your comments and thoughts. Feel free to contact us here or email laura@biggreyhorse.com.

Thanks to each of you who visit Big Grey Horse Media’s blog. We appreciate you so much – we couldn’t do it without you! Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing. Happy holidays to you and yours!

 

Texas Pepper Jelly Foodie Review

Texas Pepper Jelly Star Sampler Pack
Texas Pepper Jelly Star Sampler Pack

Texas Pepper Jelly’s been close to my heart for a long time. Somewhere along the way, I sampled some of Craig Sherry’s hotter that hot jelly and fell in love. I’ve watched the Texas Pepper Jelly site and read the blog. I even subscribed to the newsletter for a few years.

This month, I decided it was time to give Texas Pepper Jelly a proper review. The disappointing part of this review was how non-responsive the company was regarding my review and order. I emailed Texas Pepper Jelly, introducing myself and Big Grey Horse Media. I explained my objectives and that I would appreciate any additional company information, press kit, etc. that could be included with my order since this was a review.

I never heard back. Not a peep.

After placing my order online, it was a bit strange that I never received a confirmation email. I say this because every other company I do business with either sends a confirmation email or sends me to a confirmation page at the end of the transaction. I was a bit nervous and wondered if the order went through. What assuaged my concerns was seeing that the payment had been processed for my credit card.

Now to the good stuff. I ordered the Star Sampler Pack. It showed up via Federal Express within a few days of placing my order.

Cranberry Habanero Texas Pepper Jelly
Cranberry Habanero Texas Pepper Jelly

The promptness of the delivery was great! I often wait over a week for items because I rarely pay for expedited shipping.

The jelly was packed well. The wooden star that the sample jelly jars were packed in was attractive. For this order, you pick six jelly flavors to fill the sampler. I chose strawberry, cranberry, apple, apricot, pineapple, and raspberry. When the order arrived, a handwritten note inside explained that the cranberry habanero jelly only comes in a 5 oz. jar, so Texas passion habanero was substituted in its place. I also received the cranberry habanero jelly, gratis, in its 5 oz jar. Now that’s good customer service!

I am the first to admit that I dig spicy. I’m a chili head from way back. I’ve sampled Texas Pepper Jelly in the past and really liked it. Hold onto your hats, however, because the jellies that showed up were s-p-i-c-y. All of them are habanero based, so I expected a punch and a kick. But I’m here to tell you, these jellies are fierce!

I sampled each, over a period of a few days, first by dipping a spoon into the jelly and trying it straight. The berry jellies are definitely the most authentic in flavor. While each of the jellies I tried were good, the pineapple probably loses my vote as least flavorful. I didn’t find anything pineapple about the taste; it’s just a sweet jelly with lots of spice.

Sampling Texas Pepper Jelly
Sampling Texas Pepper Jelly on crackers with cream cheese.

The Texas passion habanero jelly was interesting, because it’s a mix of fruits laden with habanero. I honestly couldn’t pick out any of the fruits listed, but overall, the jelly has a sweet, pleasant taste. I guess I was looking for a distinct fruit taste, and I couldn’t find it, which was a bit of a let-down.

The cranberry was okay, as were the apple and apricot. These are flavors you can recognize. The true winners, in my book, were the strawberry and raspberry jellies. I distinctly found the berry flavors and there was nothing artificial about the taste.

I ended up doing the rest of my sampling with HEB water crackers, a thin layer of cream cheese, and Texas Pepper Jelly on top. This is the ideal way to eat these jellies. While the jellies remained overly spicy (too much pepper blasting out the good fruit), the combination of the bland cracker crunch and smooth cheese made eating the jellies a fun treat.

If you don’t like spicy foods, leave Texas Pepper Jelly to the folks who do. You won’t like these – they are strong! In some ways, a bit too strong for me. When the fruit taste came through, as in the strawberry and raspberry jellies, the strong pepper vibe made sense. It didn’t make as much sense with the jellies where the taste was little more than sugar with peppers thrown in.

In spite of my disappointment, I want to say that I love what Craig’s done with his company. And those who love habanero peppers mixed with jelly should dig what Texas Pepper Jelly has to offer. I am game to try more products and give the company a fair shake. I will say that what I sampled in the past was spicy, but I seem to recall the fruit flavors being clearer. I’d also like to incorporate the jellies into recipes.

While Texas Pepper Jelly’s online ordering may be a bit strange to me (no email confirmation or confirmation page), this order arrived quickly, was attractively packaged, and contained a nice note, an additional sample, and swag (a Texas Pepper Jelly refrigerator magnet that’s a 2014 calendar and a blue, rubber Texas Pepper Jelly coaster). Everything was a very nice touch and it helped to make up for my confusion about the order.

This story will continue. Thanks, Craig!

 

Takeaway

Texas Pepper Jelly is an online store. The phone number is 713-702-3489. You can also email sales@texaspepperjelly.com.

 

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Collin Street Bakery Fruitcake Review

Collin Street Bakery Logo Collin Street Bakery on Foodio54

Collin Street Bakery on Urbanspoon
I ordered a tempting, luscious Collin Street Bakery fruitcake for a review. I learned about the company from my writer, Danny Gallagher. He suggested Collin Street Bakery as an ideal Big Grey Horse Media feature story (and yes, Collin Street Bakery, you’re on the editorial calender for 2014).

Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed. This fruitcake is excellent and I recommend ordering it for Christmas parties and as Christmas presents for the special people in your life.

It’s sad that no one else in my family adores fruitcake the way that I do. I guess the upside of this is I get the fruitcakes family members receive as presents but don’t want. Remember Afriel’s re-gifting humor? In this case, freshly made fruitcake is an excellent thing to pass on to me!

When you order a Collin Street Bakery fruitcake, you can request to have it sent immediately or you can ask that the fruitcake be sent as soon as it’s been baked. I opted for this. Fresh fruitcake is one of my favorite Christmas desserts. And what arrived was worth a few extra days’ wait.

Collin Street Bakery Fruitcake Plated

Given that I requested my fruitcake be baked fresh and it’s the holiday season, I figure the order came within a reasonable time frame. I ordered online December 6 and had the cake by December 17. The fruitcake was nicely packaged and lovely to unbox.

Collin Street Bakery Fruitcake Tin

Inside the Collin Street Bakery Fruitcake Tin

Collin Street Bakery Fruitcake Wrapped

Collin Street Bakery Fruitcake Unwrapped

Impressive, eh? This is one rich fruitcake, folks. Certainly up to the standards I hold for a fruitcake. I’ve eaten fruitcake since I was a tiny child. Every Christmas, someone in my mother’s family made a homemade fruitcake. My mom’s family is full of great cooks and bakers, so I am quite the snob when it comes to how I judge the holiday cake.

Collin Street Bakery fruitcakes are moist and not very cake-like, which I think is the hallmark of a quality fruitcake. The Texas pecans Collin Street Bakery uses brought back plenty of good memories of my hometown and old friends. All of the ingredients in this fruitcake were fresh and tasty. It’s as if the fruitcake is encouraging you to take another bite. Or two. Or three.

Collin Street Bakery Fruitcake Plated Close UpBecause of the fruitcake’s richness, however, I can’t eat more than one small piece in a sitting. But I think that’s the beauty of a good fruitcake. You eat a little at a time, every day, and before you know it, the cake’s gone!

I ate this fruitcake as it came, meaning I didn’t douse it with alcohol. I’ve had fruitcake both ways, and I think that when done properly, an alcohol-laden fruitcake is out of this world. If you want to age your fruitcake with a bit of hooch, Collin Street Bakery’s website offers instructions.

Collin Street Bakery didn’t return my phone call regarding a media kit or sharing additional information for a product review. Sad to say, because I hoped to speak with someone about this order. The website does say, “And our Bakery officers still personally handle every order the Bakery receives.” Remember customer service, folks. When people reach out to you, especially those who are reviewing your company, be available to answer questions and provide information.

Merry Christmas, ya’ll!

Takeaway

Collin Street Bakery is located at 401 West Seventh Avenue in Corsicana, Texas 75110. The phone number is 800-292-7400. You can visit their website to order products and obtain details about the company and their history.