COMM 0015 Blog Post # 4 Out of the Box

So I admit it! I don’t get it! Snapchat is one of the most popular social media platforms these days, but I can’t fathom why something that disappears a few seconds after it is received, can have such wide appeal. But it does!

Old Guy in Glasses Looking at Phone Confused

Is it a fad, or is Snapchat here to stay? Well, this recent blog I read suggests it will be around for a while. http://www.pocket-lint.com/news/131313-what-s-the-point-of-snapchat-and-how-does-it-work

So, I wanted to know whether any colleges had figured out a way to utilize Snapchat as a recruitment tool? Most colleges are widely using social media to connect with prospective students, but how can you use a messaging system that has a shelf life of about ten seconds?

It turns out Time Magazine was also curious about the same thing. They found six American colleges and universities that were testing Snapchat as a means of letting applicants know they had been accepted into a program. http://time.com/36307/snapchat-grows-up-how-college-officials-are-using-the-app/

At a time when post-secondary schools are fighting to attract students, Snapchat is a good example of how some schools are thinking out of the box by connecting with students in their personal social space. With social media, that space can change in a heartbeat, and organizations that stay on top of these trends will benefit, while others will miss opportunities. With social media, there is no “box.”

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COMM 0015 Assignment # 5 Overwhelmed by Web Analytics

Analytics has become the new measurement tool for businesses. Increasingly, organizations are taking a data informed approach to make decisions on everything from where they advertise, to understanding who their customers are.

The information is fascinating, but can also be overwhelming, simply because there is so much data to dissect. I recently attended a professional development session on web analytics that helped me and my colleagues better understand areas of our web site that were performing well and others that were not.

From determining how long people were staying on our site to exploring where most of our visitors live, the information is very powerful. The challenge is to figure out what are the most important things we need to know. The facilitator said it best when he said, “You could easily bury yourself in analytics for days and still have more questions.”

Chris McFarlane gives Pembroke staff some Google Analytics training

I work at a community college and we are particularly interested in improving the web experience of prospective students. The web site is a primary recruitment tool, but with fierce competition from other colleges for the same students, our web site has to be more engaging then our competitors.

Web analytics is providing us with an opportunity to evaluate our site’s performance, while also providing us with other information that can help inform our marketing strategies. From search engine optimization performance to bounce rates, we are digging deeper to understand who our students are and what content gets their attention.

I’d love to hear how others are using web analytics? Please share your thoughts.

COMM 0015: Blog Post # 3 My Networking Social Media Blueprint

I’ve spent most of my career building a personal network, but it was done the traditional way. Lots of handshakes, plenty of good conversation, and building a reputation through hard work, professionalism and determination.

When social media came around, it provided both an opportunity and a threat to my personal networking prowess. Sites likes Facebook, Twitter and Linked In have allowed me to connect with a much larger audience that would not have been available to me previously, because some people simply weren’t easy to find.

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With no networking borders because of the internet, I knew the new face of networking had to be a combination of traditional schmoozing and on line dialoguing. So I jumped into the social media world and slowly worked on figuring out the rules of engagement and how I could have some influence.

It’s still a work in progress, but here are what I consider my top five “must do’s” in social media networking.

1. Be the same person on line that you are in person. Nobody likes a fake.
2. Build your credibility by posting good content.
3. Interact. Listen and respond. Don’t just be a networking creeper.
4. Find your niche. Focus your posts so that they resonate with the people that you want to be part of your network.
5. Stay on top of what’s new in social media. If you want to network on line, you need to have a presence and that means joining the networking “hot spots.”

Moving forward, I have a few goals to strengthen my network. I work at a community college and I am particularly interested in the subject of strategic enrolment management within post-secondary institutes, and want to connect with more professionals in this evolving field.

I plan to do this by:

1. Commenting on more blogs written about strategic enrolment management to start conversations with subject matter experts.
2. Writing my own blogs on the subject to build personal credibility based on my experiences.
3. Attending more conferences, workshops, webinars that provide leading content on strategic enrolment management.
4. Read books written by organizations/individuals that have extensive experience working in strategic enrolment management.
5. Participating in college strategic enrolment management committees to learn from my colleagues.

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Through personal and on line connections with enrolment management professionals, I know I can learn a lot and help my college achieve its overall enrolment goals.

COMM 0015 Strong/Weak Social Media Organizations Blog Post # 2

In Canada, we like talking about the weather. it doesn’t matter what the season, Canadians complain about or worship the “weather man.” This fascination with weather, has turned Canada’s Weather Network into must see TV for millions of Canadians, and also created a marketing dream in social media.

The Weather Network is an organization that does social media well and one of the big reasons is because Canadians want to engage and talk about the weather. Whether it’s a snow storm in Calgary or the tail end of a hurricane in Nova Scotia, Canadians are eager to share pictures of damage caused by storms, or their neighbour digging out from 30 centimetres of snow.

Large fallen tree, later cut by emergency crews to get it off the road.

Large fallen tree, later cut by emergency crews to get it off the road.

By capitalizing on this interaction with their followers, the Weather Network has been able to build a significant audience of followers on its Facebook and Twitter sites. At last count, the Weather network has 348,000 followers on Twitter.

Many sports leagues are also very good at social media. With a large fan base that craves the latest news on player trades, new contract signings, and of course game results and statistics, there is a lot to talk about on social media when it comes to sports.

The National Football League may be the best at social media. Not surprisingly it is also the wealthiest of North America’s major sports and has the largest following. The NFL is a news making machine, and the added attention it attracts from sports journalists drive traffic to all of its platforms, including its social media accounts.

NFL picture

The NFL engages with its fans through a variety of social mediums, that are cross promoted through its television and radio coverage, web site, blogs, and other social media platforms. With almost 8-million Twitter followers and close to 12-million likes on Facebook, the NFL is a major social media influence. When you add in that every one of its 30 teams also has large social media followings, you have a proverbial social media juggernaut.

While the Weather Network and the NFL have their act together when it comes to social media, the same can’t be said about the Canadian Football League. While the CFL’s nine teams all use major social media avenues such as Twitter and Facebook, the league is hard to find on Facebook and has limited followers. Its performance is better on Twitter, but outside of game day tweets, there are a lot of missed opportunities to promote the league.

The biggest failure is not surprisingly the Toronto Argonauts, who despite operating in the largest Canadian city, continue to struggle to attract fans. The Argos limited presence on social media doesn’t help. A search on Facebook finds mostly fan based Argo sites and if I did find the official site, and I’m not sure that I did, it was the most inactivate Facebook page I have ever seen for a professional sports franchise. The content was stale, there were few photos and video links, and ultimately it left me with an impression of a team on its way to shutting down. Not what you want when you are already having a difficult time selling tickets.

To be effective, social media needs to be engaging and site owners need to be listening to what their followers are saying. Some organizations get it, but many others still haven’t turned up the volume and started singing from the same tune as those that are the leading act.

Tools of the Social Media Trade

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BLOG Post # 1

I have to admit that when it comes to monitoring and measuring social media, I am still an apprentice. But like any good tradesperson, practice makes perfect, and my on-the job training is starting to pay off.

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To successfully use social media in business, you need to be paying attention to your accounts and listening to what people are saying. It’s the only way to truly measure the return on investment that you are getting from your social media posts and interaction.

For me, the buck stops with Twitter. The interaction is quick, timely and above all it is to the point. You can figure out very quickly whether your post has any traction, based on the number of retweets, favourites or the comments posted back to the tweet. Plus, you can link Twitter to your email or Facebook page to get updates when someone has tweeted something to your account. When news happens, Twitter is the place to be.

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My work involves a lot of public relations and recruitment of students to the college I work for, and therefore Facebook is another social media avenue that I pay a lot of attention to. Using Facebook’s insights, a lot can be learned about who is reading your posts, how many “likes” are being picked up each week by the site, how many shares are happening, what type of posts are getting noticed, etc.

My LinkedIn account is also very helpful in keeping in tune with the latest trends in social media. I have joined some groups that share excellent information and I follow “Mashable,” a great source for topical blogs that provide a wealth of information on how get the biggest bang from social media.

As we all know, social media never stops. I’m afraid I’ll be an apprentice a while longer!

Stuart McLean–I Want To Be Just Like You!

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Stuart McLean is a masterful writer and storyteller! His fictional tales of Dave and Morley, two average Canadian citizens, who seem to always be getting themselves into a “pickle” are not only funny, but they are also very real for anyone who has been married for a while with children.

Ok, maybe Dave does a few more “off the wall” things than most of us would, but haven’t we all been part of a disastrous home improvement project, a well planned meal that went terribly wrong, or a family pet experience that created a small catastrophe at an important gathering?

Ironically, I have been reading some of McLean’s stories as I sit down and write this blog about what makes compelling content for digital storytellers. I think the answer is actually quite simple, but not as easily achieved.

It starts with being a good communicator. You need to be able to write interesting material, and be able to get to the point quickly. If you haven’t captured the reader’s attention in the first paragraph, it’s probably too late. Remember the inverted pyramid style of writing. It should be your Bible if you want to be a consistent blogger.

The writing needs to be conversational and targeted. Good writers know who their audience is and have an uncanny ability to capture their attention. How do they do it? They provoke a reaction from the reader by luring them in with key words, a topical subject, or with a question that begs a response.

Their writing has a smooth flow to it and is authentic. It’s easy to read and understand, it’s well researched, and it’s meaningful. Good writers generate a following because they effectively sell themselves as subject matter experts. Their writing becomes their personal brand.

Stuart McLean is a treasured Canadian icon. Long before blogs and other forms of social media existed, McLean, was connecting with Canadians through more traditional mediums like radio, books and live theatre. He still is.

While reading his books, you can hear his inflection coming through in the words, just like if you were driving along in your car listening to CBC radio and hearing another wild tale of Dave’s shenanigans on Vinyl Café. Unless the trip ends, you don’t dare turn the dial. McLean has a grip on his listeners, because he is the ultimate storyteller.

The challenge for the rest of is how do we make our readers hear our voice, when we don’t have a weekly following of millions of Canadian radio listeners? Like McLean, we need to find our niche. He has done it by creating a fictional family that lots of people can connect to because the stories are about day to day family life.

So what is your story and how are you going to tell it?

My Introverted Story!

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Blog # 6

If I told a colleague that I am an introvert, they would laugh at me. They may even call me a liar! Probably, they would shoot back a sarcastic response like, “Yeah right!”

You see, I live a very public life as someone who spent more than a decade in radio and television, and the past sixteen-plus years working in public relations for a community college. But growing up as the fourth of five children in a middle class home, my childhood was about blending in, rather that being up front. When you are fourth on the pecking order, the older siblings tend to do the talking and you spend more time listening.

So, how do you convince people that you actually still carry some of that childhood timidity, when others are used to seeing a regular dose of you in the local newspaper or on television? Not exactly the image of a “shy guy!”

Media Scrum

The reality is I have made a living out of communicating with people, but that doesn’t mean that I am always comfortable with taking centre stage. At times I am an introvert, and happy to be in the background, but people rarely see that side of me.

Butler Cheque Donation

Why, because in the world of public opinion, my public life has overpowered my private life. Even if the people that know me best talked about my more passive side, they too would have a tough time selling it to others that connect me with broadcasting, public speaking and fundraising activities that garner a lot of community attention.

Try as I may, people just don’t buy it that at one time I was introverted, and at times I still am. Perhaps this blog will be the starting point of my communications strategy to change public opinion.

The Brand That is Me!

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Blog Post # 5

If you really want to know what your personal brand is, set up a Linked In account, and monitor any endorsements that you accumulate from your connections.

Writing about the brand “that is you” is difficult. Who wants to toot your own horn, so the best way to talk about your personal brand is by letting others do the talking.

Before Linked In came along, I would have described myself as someone that was committed, loyal, innovative and community minded. My assessment would have been based on my past work experience that has primarily been in management and leadership roles, and my personal interests that have involved a lot of community based volunteer work. What Linked In helped me understand was how others viewed me, and whether my thoughts were in line with theirs.

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It turns out that in some cases they were, and in others, we weren’t on the same page. For example, the highest number of endorsements I have received have been for public relations (57), fundraising (51), community development (34), radio (19) and public speaking (17).

You might have guessed it by looking at these endorsements that I have a very public job. I manage a student services department at a community college and much of that role involves public relations. What has surprised me about the way people view me is the endorsements for fundraising and radio. I was trained as a broadcast journalist and spent 13 years in radio and television before joining the college, but I have been out of the “paid” broadcasting business for 16 years. I still do a bit of volunteer work for community television.

As far as fundraising goes, I am self taught. I have been heavily involved in helping to raise funds for our new campus that opened in the fall of 2012, but I certainly don’t view myself as a professional fundraiser. In fact, fundraising is kind of like having a tooth pulled, in that asking for someone’s money can be a very painful experience that doesn’t always have a happy ending.

So what does this tell me about my personal brand? It suggests that people form an opinion of you over a long period of time. As your career progresses, you carry with you those opinions and the expectations that come with them.

Social media allows your personal brand to grow. Instead of making an impression at the monthly chamber of commerce meeting, you now have a 24/7 presence, whether you like it or not. Try “googling” yourself. It can be an eye-opening experience, much like getting endorsements on Linked In.

Now that I know I have a personal brand, the next task is managing it. Paying attention to how people are engaging with you on social media is the new networking reality. It’s no longer about being evaluated on how firm your handshake is (although that sometimes still matters), but rather about how influential you can be on line?

Your personal brand is your passport. With a good brand, you can travel a lot of places, and like any passport it needs to be well protected!

Building A Nostalgic Customer Relationship

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There are only 21 drive in outdoor movie theatres remaining in Ontario, and Pembroke is lucky to have one of them! In fact, the city’s 60 year old Sky Light Drive In was recently saved, when it was brought back to life after sitting idle this summer because the owner was unprepared to make the substantial investment needed to install a new digital projection system.

You can understand the owner’s position. He could no longer access films on 35 millimeter reels, and therefore he had a choice to make. He could either close the Drive In, or spend a lot of money on a digital projector system that would significantly improve the movie watching experience for his customers, and hope it would generate enough business to make the investment worthwhile. He wasn’t willing to take that risk.

Selling the Drive In to someone who would be willing to make that investment wasn’t considered a viable option, until Kevin Marshall and Kathy Lepine, stepped forward and said they were interested. The couple had experience restoring older theatres in both Renfrew and Arnprior, but running a Drive In would be a new experience for both of them.

They assessed the situation, and determined that if they strategically invested in making the experience better for customers and used the right marketing approach, there was a strong business case to buy the facility and turn it into a seven day operation during the peak summer season. Their business plan focused on a business to customer (B2C) sales pitch that celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Drive In, by pulling on the emotional strings of people who had fond memories of taking in a movie at the iconic theatre.

With only a week-and-a-half window from the time they purchased the property to opening night, there wasn’t a lot of time to make a deep connection to prospective customers, and so the new owners turned to social media to spread the word. In a week, they generated more than 2500 likes on their new Facebook page, starting a conversation that captured the nostalgic relationship that many people have with historic structures like Drive Ins, wooden rollercoasters and old ballparks.

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Very quickly there was a buzz in the community and true admiration for the new owners for rescuing the Drive In from the wrecking ball. Opening weekend was a success with hundreds of cars arriving to take in a movie, but moving forward the owners will have to make sure they are listening to their customers.

For example, I was disappointed there wasn’t more engagement on their Facebook site on opening weekend. While the number of likes has grown to almost 4,000 people, there was little posted on the site about how people enjoyed their experience at the Drive In. I thought it was a missed opportunity to keep the dialogue going, and to generate more interest in everything the facility has to offer.

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The re-opening of the Sky Light Drive In is a wonderful story, but for it to have a happy ending, the new owners will need to continue to build a customer relationship that will lead to repeat business. They have excelled in generating interest in their business through the use of Facebook, but now the hard work begins. They need to listen attentively, engage and measure what their customers are saying.

Hopefully, they will recognize the power of their Facebook site as a customer relationship tool quickly, and take advantage of other social media platforms to spread the word further. Twitter, blogging, Linked In and other social media outlets will create opportunities for both B2C and B2B (business to business) engagements. If they use social media well, and combine it with other communication tools such as an effective web site, media releases, promotional brochures and paid advertisements, they will have a great story to tell.

After all, it’s not easy to find a Drive In these days, and there are lots of people that will travel to find one because history has a way of reminding us that it feels good to wind back the clock and re-live a cherished experience. Drive Ins truly are a special place.

I’d love to hear about your Drive In experience. Please share.

Embracing the Past-Target Audiences

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Lots of people have trouble letting go of the past. They lament about days gone by, trying to find solace in others that share the same romantic view of a simpler time when communities thrived and people had more time for another.

In small town Ontario, embattled downtowns have become the poster child of naysayers who unfairly try to compare the bustling downtowns of thirty years ago with today’s disadvantaged downtowns, that struggle to complete with big box stores and shopping malls designed to draw people away from downtown traffic. Add in some absentee landlords, aging buildings, empty storefronts, and it’s easy to complain and reflect on the way things used to be.

But out of these negative points of view can come something very positive through the use of social media. In Pembroke, Ontario, a small city that was built on the forestry trade in the early 1800’s, a Facebook site originally set up as a space for people to express their frustration, has become a “history channel” where people celebrate the community’s past and look to the future, envisioning a revitalized downtown and more opportunities for people of all ages.

The site, known as “I’m from Pembroke, and I’m Not Afraid to Admit It on Facebook,” has captured the imagination of Pembroke area residents, as well as those that have long since moved away from the community. With almost 3400 likes on the site, it offers a step back in time through the sharing of historic photographs, story telling about some of Pembroke’s founding families, and widespread opinion on the challenges facing the city today, including its struggling inner core.

Facebook Post for Blog

I work at a community college and I was so impressed with the interaction on the site, it prompted me to contact a local historian about teaching some night classes on the History of Pembroke. The classes hit a homerun! The first classes covered Pembroke’s historic churches and great fires in the community, and both sold out. Two more classes are planned for the fall.

Most of the students that attended the classes were older, many over the age of 60. They had found out about the course because I posted information on the Facebook site that they had been conversing on. By monitoring the site for a few months, I had a good idea of the average age of the users and what attracted people to the site, and that was historical pictures.

I wrote a blog about the history classes, adding in some photos of Pembroke’s Grand Trunk former train station, long since torn down, and told some stories about the community’s past, based on information I had gathered from the teacher and the city’s web site. I linked the blog to the Facebook site, helping drive traffic to our college web site and registration page, and it didn’t take long for the classes to fill.

By doing a bit of research and monitoring of a popular social media site, I was able to create an opportunity for our college, and also help bring more people into a discussion about how the community can rally around its wonderful history and plan for its future. Most encouraging is that more young people are joining the Facebook page and asking lots of questions about Pembroke’s past. That level of engagement has to be positive for the city’s future.

To read my original blog on the history classes, visit this site: http://www3.algonquincollege.com/pembroke/blog/pembrokes-wild-west/