Hellofood.com – 1 platform for all your food deliveries

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Hellofood is now live in Lebanon after successful launches in several markets around the world, including Jordan and KSA.

The concept is very simple. Hellofood aggregates restaurants’ menus on their online platform. As a user, all you have to do is choose your restaurant, enter an address and order. The restaurant then delivers to your door.

Though most restaurants deliver in Lebanon, this is most interesting because very few restaurants actually have online interfaces for deliveries. After only 2 weeks live, Hellofood already has 26 restaurants registered and growing fast.

The interface is very intuitive and user-friendly, and also soon launching as a mobile app, which has proven successful in Jordan and Saudi.

You can try the service for yourself here:

When you do try it, let us know what you think in the comments.

Ya batrak, ya mufti… I love u But!

Amidst the social turmoil in France around ‘le mariage pour tous’ and gay rights in general as well as the pseudo-debate in Lebanon concerning civil marriage comes a timely and relevant webseries entitled ‘I Luv U But’.

Mouna and Sam are second-generation Lebanese immigrants to  Australia who are having a hard time coping with the contradictions between their gay identities and their parents’ conservative, religious views.

The way out: classic. Fake a heterosexual marriage to each other.

The result: a series of very light-hearted, somewhat cynical, but mostly spot-on funny short episodes following their life as a married couple. Some scenes are somewhat lacking in substance, others are full of wit and humor.

Take a step back and remember homosexuality is still illegal in Lebanon and our current societal debate is around…civil marriage rights. A few thousand miles behind.

I guess better to laugh about it: Check their Youtube channel, Like them on Facebook

 

Cultural terrorism prevents Mashrou3 Leila from opening for RHCP in Beirut

I haven’t posted here in a long time but this grinds my gears so i’m typing again.

Context is here for those unaware.

Disclaimer in expectation of simplistic, partisan comments: I am not an Israel supporter, I am not a traitor of the Palestinian cause…yada yada yada

Seriously? Simply because RHCP won’t back down on performing in Tel aviv, you’re arrogant enough to be self-righteous enough to pressure the band from opening for them in Beirut? Are you forgetting the essential part of the story here? They’re performing in Beirut!!!

Whether you like it or not, Israel is a nation with an economy, a government, and an influence in today’s world as well as a diaspora (and hence consequences around the world) that far exceeds the Lebanese one.

(Update): The band is also to blame here as they may have caved a little too easily.

Many have tried before to use cultural sanctions as an answer to the Israeli government’s political and military actions without success. You, ‘activist’, are willing to deny an up and coming band with a great opportunity ahead, the chance to open for one of the greatest bands of the past twenty years because you don’t agree with the Israeli government?

‘Cultural terrorism’ is the word you’re looking for. I saw you, activist, request they cancel their Tel-aviv concert. I didn’t actually see you ask them to *choose* between Beirut and Tel Aviv. Even after they tweeted their “joy, pleasure and excitement at playing in Tel Aviv,” as well as their “great love for Israel.”

But of course you can’t ask them to choose. No artist would ever perform in Lebanon again if that was the choice offered to them. Every single artist you can name who’s ever performed in Lebanon, by the way, has also performed in Israel.  Every movie you’ve seen has been aired in Israel. Every series you’ve watched has been aired in Israel. Every product you buy is on sale in Israel…

Where is the logic?

But it seems, unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, you do have somewhat of a reach, to pressure the local band into pulling back. Despicable.

How would you have felt if Israeli activists had decided that Lebanon, being a ‘terrorist country’, they wanted to pressure them to boycott their concert in Lebanon?

Rhetoric question, i guess… not even really expecting this post to make a difference, but wanted to write it…

How MEA should have handled the bad buzz around the on board passengers’ fight

I think that most of you have already seen the video that is buzzing since last weekend about a man going nuts on a MEA flight from Paris to Beirut. In case you haven’t, here it is:

110 000 views on the Youtube video and more than 250 conversations on Twitter about the fight in 3 days and a very visible digital footprint on Google thanks to a number of blog posts about the subject… I keep on repeating it, despite the evidence of facts: today, information travels incredibly fast thanks to the Web. Social networks, real-time information, user generated content: All these innovations make the communicational context both exciting and dangerous.

A crisis around a brand on the social web can happen very quickly.

How MEA Air Liban should have reacted to all these negative messages associated to this video? So for the next crisis (even if they still might have a chance to handle this one properly), here is a list of tips and advice for MEA people on how they should handle the bad buzz on the web without worsening the situation.

Once a bad signal is detected and before the crisis :

Be present on social networks rapidly: Have a specific plan and set up a Social networks monitoring team in order to be aware of everything that is being said around this specific issue on all social media channels (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube…)

Build up your message carefully: Don’t have an excessive reaction, just try to be honest and transparent. Imagine the list of questions that could be brought up by this issue and the impact they can have on your internal organization and bring the appropriate answers.

Stay available to all questions even on week ends

Accept to lose control and assume your mistakes: You can’t control every conversation. If you want people to trust you and broadcast your message, you need to trust them: listen, be inspired, let yourself go and engage. The customer will be reassured and will provide more trust in a company that agrees to take responsibility rather than a company that says nothing.

Engage conversation and create relationships: This needs effort so don’t focus on talking about your brand. Ask questions, listen to peoples feedbacks and insights and try to adapt your organization accordingly.

Think on the long term: Don’t expect immediate results. Its takes time to create a community of brand advocates who trust you especially after this type of incident that brings up the very serious question of passengers safety on board.

Good luck!

Yes I’m a blogger, but no thank you…

I recently received an email from an agency that I will not name asking me if I could give them the visibility over my blog stats to assess whether or not engaging a relation with me and my blog would be interestinf for their clients!

Actually this subject about relationships between brands and bloggers has been making some buzz lately. These relationships can be both exciting and ambiguous and sometimes difficult. But the main issue here is that brands (and therefore their agencies) are not getting the fact that a blogger is a person who writes about a specific subject by passion and deep interest. Therefore, they should respect their privacy and their opinions by acknowledging the fact that bloggers can do whatever they want whenever they want. Also, their level of influence (and of course their visibility) is not always linked to their blog stats and doesn’t depend on the number of actual readers they have on regular posts.

I’ve been reading so much nonsense about bloggers waiting for brands to offer them gifts and money in order to write about their brands on their blogs, but no, it doesn’t always work like this. So I think this deserves some clarification.

How brands must manage relationships with bloggers?
As a blogger, I am often approached by companies, agencies or brands that want me to talk about their product or service.
In most cases, this first approach is materialized in the form of an email, usually non-personalized, which contains a press release or an invitation. Some of them, very clumsy, might also send an email by copying several bloggers, or they might also put the wrong name or wrong address of the blog. No Comment!

So… Here are some recommendations if you guys (companies, brands and agencies) hope to have a chance with bloggers.

- Practice the direct approach: Avoid mail for initial contact. Instead, send a short tweet with a link… The blogger will then remember who you are more easily

- Then follow up on the mail, once the initial contact is established, send the blogger an email with the most personal information. Do not copy and paste the press release (again!!) but explain succinctly and clearly your service (or the things you want to talk about) in your own words.

- Stay within the themes and topics; target bloggers that match your theme: If you want to announce something related to what’s new in your restaurant, do not waste your time trying to convince a tech blogger to write about your news, because even if he is a client, he won’t talk about it on his blog.

- Do not force hand: bloggers feeling compelled to write an article will never do it or worse, they might be “evil” and tell their bloggers friends about their experience with you, and then BAM : bad buzz. So try to establish a real relationship with them, without expecting something in return. Ask them for their opinions, offer them your test, invite them to meet you. Be cool, frank, honest and transparent. Do not over-play, do not try too seduce or mislead about anything you are talking about.

- Let go: if you see that the feeling is not there, it’s not worth insisting. Check back regularly to them when you have an update or a news you want to share with them but do nothing more.

- Actually, the real thing, and what brands should start doing ABOVE ALL is to propose an experience, a real project in which the bloggers will be proud to participate. This way you can be practically be sure that they will be talking about their experience with your brand, sharing with their readers something they actually liked doing. This way you are sure you would have created the best brand’s ambassadors.

Why and how Restaurants in Lebanon should start moving to Social Media

Social media, mobile browsing and the utilisation of mobile applications on modern smartphones have seen a huge surge in popularity in recent times
According to tis infographic by Restaurant App Engines, there were 72% more smartphones sold in 2010 compared to 2009, and 87% of these smartphone owners use their phone to access the web. With such a phenomenal amount of usage, businesses can no longer afford to ignore these additional promotional avenues, and this infographic proves that restaurants are no exception.

While social networks are proving suitable tools to test new promotions or original ideas, this is not their primary mission. In fact, social networks offer the opportunity to bring something useful to your customers. Most of your communication actions should be planned around this idea.

OK now everything you’ve heard about social networking has come to convince you and you’re ready start this amazing “adventure”? Good idea. But you need to know how to do it and most importantly, what to say. Dear restaurants’ communication and marketing managers, here are some tips and examples to guide your communications on these networks and expand your virtual community.

1- Talk about the new features: new dishes, new recipes, new prices, new ingredients, new employees, new design…

2- Create exclusive content and be visual! Share your photos of mouthwatering dishes, videos of what happens in the kitchen, pictures of special events. In fact, images other than those on your website.

3- Encourage your customers to comment on the menu’s new items and give their opinion and recommendation

4- Tweet the sources that mention your restaurant

5- Talk about the celebrities who came to your restaurant, what they said, iwhat they ate and what they did

6- Tell funny stories that happened in your restaurant

7- Talk to your followers, ask the what they want to improve in your restaurant

8- Maintain a dialogue with your customers and potential customers and answer the questions they ask

9- Talk about future projects and plans for your restaurant

10- Push some special operations: Present the “Customer of the month” or ask your fans on Facebook to propose new recipes or dishes that can be considered as “Recipe of the month”

11- Turn your employees into trendy brand ambassadors

12- Increase your traffic by creating unique contests, distributing free stuff and promotions and by retweeting any positive feedback

13- Communication regularly and during peak hours (come on you know what are the peak hours for every social network… :p)

14- Messages such as “buy this or that” are not effective. Social media tend to focus on interactivity and there must be room for criticism. Express yourself on topics of interest to your community

15- Learn from the experts. Follow restaurants and private experts in your field to see how they build a community and agree that you have much to learn

Now restaurants like Crepaway and Roadster do it pretty well on their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, but maybe it’s time for them to take a step forward and start challenging the use of social media for their businesses?
The one rapidly growing technology everyone in the industry has an eye on is the mobile phone, as it isincreasingly becoming the portal through which consumers interact with the digital world. Gaining access to consumers as they go about their daily lives and being able to reach consumers at that crucial moment when craving strikes is the key to success. Who will be the first one replacing their call center for delivery by developing a mobile app ?

Lebanon: one of the five leading countries on social media in the ME

The number of Facebook users in the Arab world reached 27.7 million by the end of Q1 2011, an increase of 30 per cent since the beginning of the year, according to the second Arab Social Media Report (ASMR).

This edition monitored the growth of Facebook and Twitter in the region, propelled by the uprisings sweeping the Arab world. It revealed a substantial shift in the use of social media from social purposes towards civic and political action.

The number of active Twitter users in the Arab world during the same period, according to the report, was over 1.1 million users who tweeted at least once every two weeks. These ‘active users’ generated over 22.7 million tweets during Q1 2011. Regional Twitter trends during this period focused primarily on events unfolding during the Arab uprisings. The words ‘Egypt’, ‘Jan25’, ‘Libya’, ‘Bahrain’ and ‘protest’ were the top ‘hashtags’ used by Twitter users in the Arab region.

The report noted that though the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Lebanon are the leading five countries in the region according to the percentage of Facebook and Twitter users, social media growth was the fastest in those countries experiencing social unrest. While Turkey continues to lead the region in terms of number of users, Egypt saw the highest increase in the number of users during the first quarter of 2011 among the Arab countries, adding close to two million Facebook users.

A major impact on brands and advertising
Not so long ago, the relationship that brands had with their clients was the equivalent of one-way street. Clients were told what they should love and how to love it. The only thing the customer could control was their own decision to purchase. But this is no longer the case today with the emerging power of social networks and the impact they have on our daily lives. Consumers now have the ability to speak publicly thanks to the features of the Web 2.0 tools which makes marketing teams extremely nervous.
With Internet users increasingly influential and platforms that are multiplying, social networks have become essential for brands. These spaces can now allow them to reinvent the relationship with the consumer.

In search for a real added-value
Brands should provide real value in order to foster affinity with Internet users and get them eventually to become the brand ambassadors. Social networks are primarily focused on the individual, so brands must place this individual at the heart of their strategy even if sometimes they can be considerd as intrusive.
Between Facebook and Twitter, user profiles and expectations are very different. The first is rather considered as a medium of belonging. Its members display their affinity with certain groups and certain interests.
On Twitter, however, the content is designed to power a community of opinion leaders, prescribers, etc.. So many brands have chosen to use it as a platform for customer relations.

Companies are increasingly likely to launch “Like pages” on Facebook. But what is the real benefit of these pages for the company, particularly in terms of customer loyalty vis-à-vis the brand?
Brands are seeking to promote themselves on social networks, but are still struggling to get results. Some brands do not know how to approach this young medium.

What is the real problem? Interaction.
A simple photo or video are not enough to interact with users of social networks and other social websites. To ensure the success of a campaign (to get a good return on investment, to start a positive buzz around a product, service, initiative), it is necessary to involve the user, to capture his attention, arouse their curiosity. So what should brands actually do? They should create specific web pages and original multimedia content, including videos and contests – even if the theme is not directly related to the core business of brand. The main objective is to create co;;unities around the brand or product. When people find it of value, if the brand pages are relevant to their interests and if they can act on such content (comments, play, create …), they can be ready to accept the fact that they are liking a page that is promoting a brand. In this case, users of social networks do not consider the branded pages as advertisements meaning that they do not want to switch to another page as the case may be faced with banners and pop-ups.

In order to reach their target and drive traffic through social networks, advertisers must encourage interaction with users and rely on advertising. It would be a mistake to limit to the word of mouth or viral marketing. All of us, Internet users, websites, brands, agencies and advertisers must learn to move forward and live together worthy experiences, let them be digitally or in real life. What are your thoughts on the subject? Any Lebanese brand you feel is doing the work properly? :)