COM0014 – Blog #1 – My Five Best Summer Vacations

It’s hard to say whose idea it really was (we both take credit), but my husband and I purchased a small tent trailer in 2011.  When summer arrived, we packed up the kids (who were 9 and 11) and headed out in search of adventure.  What started off as a test trip to the west coast turned into five fantastic summer vacations that covered every province and half of the United States. 

Our Viking trailer sleeps 5, and can be pulled by our Toyota Rav 4

The first year we travelled from Winnipeg to Vancouver Island.  In Year Two we got as far east as Quebec City.  On the third year we spent 5 weeks meandering through the Atlantic provinces and New England.  The fourth trip took us to the Grand Canyon, and on the final year we explored the west coast highway from Vancouver to San Francisco.  In 19 weeks we covered over 30,000 kilometers; eventually (and predictably) our teenagers succumbed to the lure of summer jobs and time with their friends which put an end to our wandering ways.

Whale watching; Old Growth Forests; Antelope Canyon

It is tough to pick a favourite adventure, but here are some that I would highly recommend:

Top: Playing in the tidepools; Portland’s Motto
Bottom: Glass Blowing; #NoFilter Sunsets

Of course, not every day was a picnic.  We had several flat tires, and when our engine died on the highway in Pennsylvania we had to rely on the kindness of gun-toting strangers who told stories that we hoped weren’t true.  There were a few health incidents, and one required a trip to the hospital. Google Maps misled us routinely, so we were often a bit lost.  The usual stuff.  However, through these experiences I refined my parenting motto: “We’re in the business of making memories; they won’t all be good.”

If you have a hankering to try a road trip, my advice is to start with a plan.  Being spontaneous sounds romantic but taking time to scour tourism websites and Tripadvisor will alert you to off-the-beaten path adventures that are easily missed.  Many excursions need to be booked in advance, and you’ll want to ensure your schedule aligns with the dates and times that venues are open.  We learned to start with detailed plans and then amend them spontaneously.

Beyond sight-seeing, these trips provided us with amazing family time.  The shared experiences, the group decision making, and the endless games of cribbage were even more valuable than the incredible scenery. All in all, I count these trips among my greatest parenting successes.

Horseback riding on the beach in Oregon.

Are you a road tripper? If so, what destinations do you recommend for my next adventure?   

Make Your Picture Worth All 1,000 Words

We have all heard it: a picture is worth a thousand words.  But the saying long predates social media. Is it still true today? If you want pictures with maximum impact there are several things to consider when choosing the right image to accompany the text in your posts.

Photo from canva.com

Do We Even Need an Image?

In a word, yes. Images can be photographs, graphic designs, charts, colourful text, or a mixture of all of these. Images grab the audience’s attention and help them remember your content (Online Logo Maker, 2017).  Facebook posts with images have 53% more likes and 104% more comments than those without (Farid, 2021). Ads with an appropriately chosen image convert the audience 40% more often than text alone (Social Draft, 2018).  We can safely conclude that images really do make a difference.

Choose the Right Image

Experts have many recommendations for choosing the best image:

  • The image should be relevant to the topic and should pique the audience’s interest. (ShareThis, 2017)
  • Focusing on one object is preferable to an image with many small details (ShareThis, 2017)
  • Images should be simple, yet profound (Cohn, 2019)
  • Stock images are acceptable, but should seem genuine and be chosen to evoke an emotional response (ShareThis, 2017)
  • Consider your audience’s style.  Some will be open to an artsy or experimental style, but others will prefer a classic image (ShareThis, 2017)
  • The image needs to be sharp, properly edited, and of good quality (Cohn, 2018)
Images from canva.com

Then Choose the Right Image for The Platform

Interestingly, the research shows variation in how different platforms respond to different types of images.  Counterintuitively, Facebook images of people perform worse than those without people.  Similarly, images with only part of a body (like a hand) do better than those of a full person.  (Mindstream Media Group, 2020). Facebook readers like images that are bright, clear, playful, and ingenious (Mindstream Media Group, 2020).

Instagram audiences, however, prefer posts with a single dominant color, and in particular blue hues.  They like images with lots of light, background space and texture, but low saturation.  (Mindstream Media Group, 2020)

All the experts advise respecting the image size requirements for each platform.  Failure to do so may result in unfortunate cropping or awkward placement.

Photo from canva.com

Should I Take My Own Photos?

With high quality cell phone cameras, everyone can become a photographer.  Here are some useful tips from Convince & Convert (Lemin, 2014):

  • Compose the picture thoughtfully, and using the “rule of thirds”
  • Ensure you have sufficient, suitable lighting
  • Be thoughtful about what is in the background
  • Experiment with different camera angles
  • Use high resolution photos.

What About Filters?

Experts suggest filters should be used with a light touch to sharpen an image.  The research shows that filtered photos are viewed 21% more often, and are 45% more likely to be commented on, especially when the filter increases warmth and exposure (Bakhsh et al, 2015).  Be wary though; using the wrong filter, or over-filtering can make your photo look amateurish and hurt credibility (Patel, 2020).

Give It a Try!

With all this knowledge in hand, you will be looking at your images in a new light.  Try a few strategies and be sure to measure your engagement. 

Do you have any tips to add to these recommendations?


References:

Bakhsh, S., Shamma, D. A., Lyndon Kennedy, L., & Gilbert, E. (2015). Why We Filter Our Photos and How It Impacts Engagement. Comp.social lab at Georgia Tech. https://b.gatech.edu/3lEZj0C

Cohn, M. (2018, September 10). Tips for enhancing your social media images. CompuKol Communications. https://bit.ly/3AqzCVw

Cohn, M. (2019, July 11). Using Effective Images with with Social Media. Best Practice In Sales and Marketing. https://bit.ly/3yC6Gth

Farid, Z. (2021, April 13). Why are social media images important? Social Champ. https://www.socialchamp.io/blog/social-media-images-ideas/.

Lemin, D. (2014, April 1). Photography for Social Media: 5 Detailed Tips. Content Marketing Consulting and Social Media Strategy. https://bit.ly/3yA4Fh5

Mindstream Media Group. (2020, January 30). Picture this: Best practices for sharing images on social media. Mindstream Media Group. https://bit.ly/3jETqh4

Online Logo Maker. (2017, March 29). Why images are so important to social media. Medium. https://bit.ly/3yyA2c2

Patel, N. (2020, December 2). How to use Instagram filters in paid social media campaigns. Neil Patel. https://bit.ly/3Angfwx

ShareThis. (2017, February 6). How to Pick The Right Image For Your Facebook Post. sharethis. https://sharethis.com/best-practices/2017/02/how-to-pick-image-for-facebook-post/.

Social Draft. (2018, December 3). How to choose a social media firm. Socialdraft. https://bit.ly/3s0bxSG


Facebook Post:

Images from canva.com

Gertrude Stein wrote “A rose is a rose is a rose”, but which is the right rose for your social media post? We’ll help you interpret the research to make the best choices: https://wp.me/p3QRy0-t9E


Twitter Post:

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The Tale of a Social Media Crisis

Man in hospital bed. Photo from canva.com

I have a story for you.  It is a true story from the hospital where I last worked.  It begins with the admission of a very ill patient. I wish I could report that his care was excellent, but truthfully the staff overlooked something important.  With hundreds of staff members caring for hundreds of patients every day, errors occasionally happen.  When they do, the staff disclose the mistake to the patient and family.  Usually the honesty is appreciated, the care providers work to rectify the situation and commit to doing better.

Going From Bad to Worse

In this situation, the closest family member was a social media celebrity with hundreds of thousands of followers.  She routinely has thousands of responses to her posts.  She chose to share her complaints about the hospital on her social media accounts, which was certainly her prerogative. Unfortunately, her posts boldly exaggerated the situation, and included allegations that were patently untrue.  Here’s what happened next:

Crisis Sign
Photo by canva.com
  • The hospital tried to work with the family to address their concerns, and to deal with the untrue allegations; this was extremely time consuming, and entirely unsuccessful.
  • Local and national press picked up the story, broadcasting her allegations widely.
  • Due to privacy legislation, the hospital’s response was limited to acknowledging that they were in discussions with the family.
  • There was a tremendous amount of “piling on”; despite hearing only one side of the story, her followers and consumers of the news stories made horribly disparaging statements about the hospital. Other celebrities, including celebrity physicians, jumped on the bandwagon with intent to shame the hospital.
  • Staff members became very demoralized; they felt this individual was using the situation to grow her social media presence. The relationship between the family and the staff deteriorated.
  • Eventually the patient was successfully discharged.
  • The celebrity continued to post about this episode periodically, often threatening retaliation.
  • The hospital was considering legal action when the posts finally stopped.

Lessons Learned the Hard Way

This event was enormously exhausting, frustrating, and very hurtful.  However, it was also a learning opportunity.  With help from our regional communications experts, we learned these lessons:

Lessons Learned
Photo by canva.com
  • Do not engage in on-line debate. You will not win and may make it worse. 
  • Attempt to take the conversation offline.  Use comments like “We’d like to connect with you to sort this out; can you send us a DM with your number so we can call you?”
  • Understand that as terrible as this is, it will pass quickly.  People have short attention spans and short memories. All it takes is one big news story to divert their attention.
  • Help staff understand that it will pass quickly and commit to standing by them until it does.
  • Don’t hide; review your planned social media posts for relevancy but keep posting.  

Consider Crisis Planning In Advance

It was a horrible experience, but should it happen again, the hospital will be better prepared to weather the storm.  The consultants at Convince & Convert have created this useful step-by-step guide to handling a crisis. (Baer & Teague, 2020).

Have you seen this kind of phenomenon on social media?  Does your brand have a crisis plan?  


References

Baer, J., & Teague, L. (2020, September 28). Don’t be scared, be prepared: How to manage a social media crisis. Convince and Convert. https://bit.ly/2WB6hZV .  


Crisis Ahead Sign – Photo from canva.com

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Meeting Participants in Distress – Photo from canva.com

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Creating Content for the Real World

As content creators, we instinctively create material that that resonates with ourselves and those just like us.  While there is value in writing about what we know, our challenge is to improve our reach by making our content relevant to a wide audience.  One strategy is to tailor our content to a more diverse audience.

Understanding Our Fellow Internet Travelers 

Attractive, young white adults. Photo from canva.com

Let’s begin with an overview of Canadian diversity:

  • Nearly 5% of Canadians self-identify as Aboriginal (Government of Canada, 2021)
  • Over 22% of Canadians self-identify as a visible minority (Government of Canada, 2021)
  • 5% of Canadians identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (Carlson, 2012)
  • 20% of Canadians aged 15 years and over have one or more disabilities that limit their daily activities (Government of Canada, 2018)
  • 22% of Canadians are 65 or older (Government of Canada, 2021)
  • Approximately 25% of Canadians are obese (Government of Canada, 2011)
Group of individuals of diverse ages and ethnicities.
Photo from canva.com

Addressing our content to an audience of young, white, straight, slender, healthy adults no longer serves us well, and is a disservice to our audience.  So how do we improve?

Current literature points us toward the concepts of “diversity and inclusion” which have gained great traction in businesses. 

Diversity is the presence of differences within a given setting. In the workplace that can mean differences in race, ethnicity, gender or any other number of things. Inclusion is the practice of ensuring that people feel a sense of belonging and support from the organization (Built In, n.d.)

Translating the concept to social media is a little tricky, but perhaps the easiest way to do that is to break the strategies down into content solutions and technology solutions.

Content Tips

Woman writing on her computer
Photo from canva.com

These strategies will engage a more diverse audience (Sehl, 2020; Tuke, 2018):

  • Use images that represent the full scope of your desired readership
  • Mark the holidays of religions other than your own
  • Use gender-neutral language (“folks” or “friends” not “ladies” or “guys”)
  • Use inclusive language (avoid words like “crazy” or “insane”)
  • Avoid jargon that may be unfamiliar to new immigrants
  • Partner with diverse content creators, or organizations that represent diversity and inclusion

Technical Tips

The following inclusion strategies assist diverse readers to connect with our content, despite their newness to English, a reading disorder, or physical limitations (Sehl, 2020; Tuke, 2018).   Remember that the visually impaired may be using screen readers.

Man editing on his computer
Photo from canva.com
  • Avoid unusual fonts
  • Use a larger font, in colours that stands out from the background
  • Put hashtags at the end of the post
  • Don’t overuse capital letters or emojis
  • Add photo descriptions
  • Capitalize each word in a hashtag (“Camel Casing”)
  • Caption videos for the hearing impaired
  • Use the “Alt Text” feature to add photo descriptions for screen readers (and help search engines find you.)  Here is an excellent article:  https://symphonyagency.com/alt-text-for-social-media/

Time Well Spent

The benefits of these extra steps should include a larger, more diversified audience.  They also allow our brands to contribute to a more equitable and inclusive society.

Have you ever felt excluded or disadvantaged by social media? What tips would you add to the list?


References

Ashwood, Matt. “The Complete Guide to Adding Alt Text for Social Media Images.” The Symphony Agency, 24 Feb. 2021, symphonyagency.com/alt-text-for-social-media/.

Canada, Public Health Agency of. “Government of Canada.” Canada.ca, / Gouvernement Du Canada, 23 June 2011, http://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/health-promotion/healthy-living/obesity-canada.html.

Carlson, Kathryn Blaze. “The True North LGBT: New Poll Reveals Landscape of Gay Canada.” National Post, 6 July 2012, nationalpost.com/news/canada/the-true-north-lgbt-new-poll-reveals-landscape-of-gay-canada.

Government of Canada, Statistics Canada. “Canadian Survey on Disability, 2017.” Statistics Canada , 28 Nov. 2018, www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/181128/dq181128a-eng.htm.

Government of Canada, Statistics Canada. “Highlight Tables, 2016 Census.” Statistics Canada, 8 Feb. 2021, www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/dp-pd/hlt-fst/index-eng.cfm.

Sehl, Katie. “Inclusive Design for Social Media: Tips for Creating Accessible Channels.” Social Media Marketing & Management Dashboard, 15 Oct. 2020, blog.hootsuite.com/inclusive-design-social-media/.

Tuke, Holly. “6 Ways to Make Your Online and Offline Content Accessible for Blind and Visually Impaired People.” Life of a Blind Girl, 6 Apr. 2020, lifeofablindgirl.com/2020/04/06/6-ways-to-make-your-online-and-offline-content-accessible-for-blind-and-visually-impaired-people/.

“What Is The Meaning Of Diversity & Inclusion? A 2021 Workplace Guide: Built In.” What Is The Meaning Of Diversity & Inclusion? A 2021 Workplace Guide | Built In, n.d., builtin.com/diversity-inclusion.


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All Kidding Aside, Can We Be Funny?

There are many reasons to use humour in our social media posts.  As content creators we strive to provide material that is engaging and memorable; we hope that consumers will remember our brand and associate it with positive emotions.  Ideally our fans will even share our content, thereby expanding our reach to new audiences.  Indeed, researchers have shown that humourous posts are among the most likely to be shared and to go viral (Marketing Charts, 2017; Ward, 2013).  But before we break out the jokes, there are some caveats.

Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

Write For Your Audience: Would Your Mother Approve?

Experts recommend that humour in social media must be used carefully.  The humour needs to be relevant to and appropriate for your brand (Padley, 2013). For most brands, the best engagement comes when the humour is in good taste (SocialBee, 2021).  Common sense dictates most brands should stay clear of jokes about religion, politics, and other topics on which consumers will be emotionally aligned and highly divided. Juvenile humour, morbid humour, and humour that mocks individuals or groups can easily damage your brand.  In fact, some experts recommend that certain brands should not even attempt to use humour.  An article posted on the site Business2Community.com states: “Obviously, certain brands just don’t lend themselves to humor. We’re thinking the healthcare and financial fields can’t successfully do funny, as can’t any heavily regulated industry” (O’Hagan, 2012).

Is Humour Taboo for Your Site?

Perhaps. While brands like Burger King, Charmin, and Old Spice are known for using humour in their advertising campaigns, brands engaged in life and death situations, or who are sought after as knowledgeable experts, tend to steer clear of humour so as not to undermine their reputation or devalue their brand.  However, there are examples of brands who have challenged those boundaries.  Here are a few:

  • Palos Community Hospital in Illinois ran series of brand awareness ads that used humour to address serious topics.  This video promoted their hip replacement program: 
Original Video by Palos Community Hospital
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYTxDMaKOkU
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched a campaign to help people prepare for a variety of events (such as natural disasters, severe weather events, or radiation emergencies).  They added fun by urging readers to prepare for a zombie apocalypse using standard emergency preparedness strategies (stocking emergency supplies, identifying emergency contacts, planning evacuation routes etc.).  While the comments were mixed, this blog post generated over 1,500 responses!
  • The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission uses their Facebook page primarily to keep the public safe by publishing product recalls.  To increase their engagement, they periodically post serious content with an absurd twist.  The page has almost 30,000 followers.  A standard product recall post will generate between 10 and 15 responses, while one of the humorous educational posts will usually generate 4 to 5 times the responses. Humour keeps their audience coming back for more.
From the Facebook page of the
US Consumer Product Safety Commission,
April 23, 2021

Here’s What We’ve Learned

Based on the work of these pioneers, we can conclude that humour can be used, even in delicate situations.  It appears that the type of humour that works best is what psychologists call “affiliative humour” : 

This involves telling jokes about things that everyone might find funny. The goal is to use humor to bring people together to find the humor in everyday life… The goal is to create a sense of fellowship, happiness, and well-being. If you are fond of jokes about animals or everyday occurrences, then you are using affiliative humor (Rigglo, 2015).

If we had advance knowledge of the COVID-19 pandemic, we would likely have predicted it to be humourless.  A worldwide catastrophe that has resulted in millions of deaths would seem to offer no opportunity to be funny.  Yet, we have chuckled about the human condition: toilet paper hoarding, Zoom calls in pajama bottoms, and our dependency on Netflix.  Because this humour focuses on the unexpectedness or absurdity of our shared experiences, most people find these topics funny and appropriate. They serve to create a sense of fellowship. These examples help to illuminate the path to using humor in any social media forum.

It takes a strong understanding of your audience, a light hand, and a bit of courage, but the payback in engagement could be well worth it. 

So, have you heard any good jokes lately?


References:

Khan, A. S. (2011have , May 16). Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://blogs.cdc.gov/publichealthmatters/2011/05/preparedness-101-zombie-apocalypse/.

Marketing Charts. (2017, July 5). Americans More Likely to Share “Funny” Than “Important” Content on Social Media. Marketing Charts. https://www.marketingcharts.com/digital-36502.

O’Hagan, S. (2012, August 6). The Role Of Humor In Social Media For Business. Business 2 Community. https://www.business2community.com/social-media/the-role-of-humor-in-social-media-for-business-0242508.

Padley, B. (2013, April 5). The Role of Humor in Social Media. Social Media Today. https://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/role-humor-social-media.

Palos Community Hospital. (2012). Palos Is Leading Edge Orthopedics. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYTxDMaKOkU.

Rigglo, R. E. (2015, April 15). The 4 Styles of Humor. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201504/the-4-styles-humor#:~:text=How%20do%20you%20use%20humor%3F%201%20Affiliative%20humor.,%E2%80%9Cpoor%20me%E2%80%9D%20fashion%20is%20called%20self-defeating%20humor.%20.

SocialBee. (2021, May 24). Humor in Copywriting. https://socialbee.io/humor-in-copywriting/#:~:text=%20Tips%20on%20using%20humor%20in%20your%20copy,market%20a%20product%20or%20service%2C%20you…%20More%20.

US Consumer Product Safety Commission. (2021, April 23). Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/USCPSC.

Ward, C. (2013, January 14). Why Content Goes Viral: the Theory and Proof. Moz. https://moz.com/blog/why-content-goes-viral-the-scientific-theory-and-proof.


Image result for Facebook Icon. Size: 173 x 97. Source: www.pcmag.com
Image from Canva.com

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