4 Things Non-profits Can Learn From The Food At The Canadian National Exhibition

The days are getting shorter and back-to-school commercials are starting to pop up on. That can only mean one thing; the Canadian National Exhibition is in town.

The CNE is the annual end-of-summer fair that takes place in Toronto and includes midway rides, carnival games and countless other attractions. And one more thing; food, lots and lots of crazy food.

‘The Ex’, as it has lovingly been called, has become quite infamous as a testing ground for weirder and weirder food combinations, year after year, like deep-fried butter and cronut burgers (a hamburger with donuts taking the place of the buns). This year is no different. Some of the new items available at the CNE in 2014 include spicy peanut butter sriracha rolls and butter coffee.

cronut burger

The cronut burger was the talk of the town at the CNE in 2013. The Ex has plenty of zany food options like it. (photo via observer.com)

You’re probably more than a little hungry by now, but you might also be wondering what this has to do with social media and non-profits/associations. Here are four things that organizations can learn from the wacky, greasy, shamefully-delicious food selection at the CNE.

Create An Experience Like No Other

Part of the reason any sane person would ever eat a cronut burger or deep-fried butter is being able to brag to their friends about it. That’s the reaction you want from your members/community. When you make your social media efforts part of a unique experience for anyone involved in your organization, they will keep coming back and they’ll bring friends who can’t resist being a part of something extraordinary.

Devising and implementing an experience like no other is not an easy task, but the best way to get the creative juices flowing is to answer a few key questions, including; What does your community need? What solution can you develop to include as many members/people as we can? How can you make it easy for these people to share this experience with others?

Something as simple as a great Twitter chat, a Pinterest board mural or an Instagram scavenger hunt can go a long way to getting people involved in your organization because you have provided something they rarely get anywhere else.

Give Them Lots of Variety

There aren’t just crazy, over-the-top food options at the CNE; there’s lots of choice when it comes to picking something for lunch or dinner. The options range from Canadian comfort food (poutine and back bacon sandwiches) to Japanese (sushi) and everything in-between (pasta, perogies, curry, etc). The point is, there is something for everyone and it’s never boring.

The same concept should be applied to your non-profit/association’s social media strategy. It’s great to publish a comical story about your industry, such as a hilarious YouTube video, but it’s not especially wise to make this a daily occurrence as it doesn’t really help members or progress your organization’s goals. It’s necessary to tweet about new services your offering, success stories from your non-profit fundraisers, editorials on current events, findings of the latest surveys or reports, peer-reviewed articles and many other forms of content.

This goes for all platforms. Mixing it up every so often will allow you to provide frequent value for member, donors, volunteers, staff, sponsors and other involved in your organization.

Passing Inspection is Key

There’s been a lot of talk about the cronut burger in this post and for good reason. It was one the most talked about foods at the CNE over the last few years, for both good and bad reasons. In the early days of last year’s fair, the cronut burger was the biggest food adventure, but only a couple days later people began to get sick from the glazed delicacy. It turns out the cronut burger stall in the Food Building didn’t exactly pass health inspection with flying colours.

Your organization’s social media can learn a thing or two from the cronut burger fiasco. First of all, have a plan. Poor organization and lax guidelines make for nightmares down the road. If you have a plan and stick to it most of the time (barring any breaking news and appropriately light-hearted spontaneity) than your social platforms will run like a well-oiled machine. Creating a content calendar is good place to start and can be a big help with running your platforms effectively and efficiently.

You should also give your social media a health inspection of its own. Review the performance of your organization’s social media performance regularly and update your strategy. Don’t only look at the numbers, such as clicks, comments, retweets, follows, likes, etc. Ask your staff, members, donors and the rest of your community what they like and don’t like about the current strategy and update your plan accordingly.

Consistency

The CNE has been around for more than 100 years and food has always been a major feature of the event. Generations of Torontonians remember their first ice cream waffle sandwich or their years of sampling Tiny Tom donuts at The Ex.

food building cne

The Food Building has been a popular staple at the CNE for generations. (photo via BlogTO)

Your organization’s social media strategy needs the same kind of consistency as the food at the CNE. It is crucial that posts are regular. For example, if you create a blog for your non-profit or association, make sure to evaluate your resources (monetary, time, etc) before you start publishing. This will help you determine how often you can realistically post a blog with consistency. Otherwise you may publish three blog posts in three weeks, hit a busy period at work and not post for two months. Your community will become disillusioned and will be less likely to be loyal followers of your blog and other platforms.

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Your organization’s social media platforms need to be consistent, organized, unique and varied to appeal to your community, much like the food at the CNE. So next time you’re stuck in a rut online or are looking to venture forth on a new platform, remember these four tips and you won’t go hungry.

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