COM0015: Assignment 5 – Event Participation

Location, location, location!!

So many of the social media events that I truly wish to be at are usually hundreds of kilometers away. BlogHer, for example, is an exceptional gathering hosted in Toronto. Ottawa, however, has had the Ottawa Social Capital Conference which I had the pleasure of attending a few years ago, but, sadly, only ran for a few years.

When perusing online for some heavy-hitting-awesomeness that is hosted online, the price figure attached is mindboggling. I wasn’t sure what, or how, to continue.

I happened across the thought of when I’d hosted our Condo Corporation’s AGM at our local library to search through other workshops that might be available through their boardrooms. Success!!

Ass 5 image of link of workshop

And, best of all…if you have a library card? It’s FREE. J

This particular workshop was hosted by Lara Wellman, of Lara Wellman – Digital Marketing. I’d had the opportunity to meet her in one of my previous attendances at the Social Capital Conference and her speaking abilities resonate both with those people who are just beginning in social media, to those who have already established themselves and are looking for new techniques and/or tips to broaden their success online.

“I specialize in helping small businesses increase their visibility and grow their customer base using online tools. Through an array of services such as workshops, coaching and strategic planning, I make clients comfortable with social media and other web tools and teaches them how to optimize their use.”

Event WorkshopSome of the attendees were small business owners who were just starting out in the world of adding social media to their business tool kits. I was one of two bloggers and was able to relate how social media has assisted my health advocacy across multiple social media platforms. I was able to learn how to define the key messages of my blogging: two general and two personal. One such message I determined to be: “Choices empower you to be a better patient.” It was nice to get back to some of the most often overlooked basics. I was able to briefly network with a Nutritionist student and relate some of my experiences in the online health communities.

 

Lara’s validation of the manner in which I promote myself across various platforms was summed up in her statement, “Even if you want to reach an entire country, how to market to each [platform] will vary.” It made me refocus on the nature of language and storytelling to best relate to which audiences are using which media platforms.

One key idea that Lara presented was the benefit of email marketing. This may be something for me to look into in the future in order to provide more of the resource information that my followers seek, but enjoy the blog itself for its value of providing insight into the journey itself. Another idea for me to look into, which terrifies me to no end, is the opportunity to monetize my blog. Thus far, I’ve resisted simply because some of the major websites my blog is listed on will not accept monetized blogs. Something challenging to consider as I move it forward, for sure.

I would highly recommend looking into attending a workshop like this in the future. I think the availability and location adds a distinct ease of attendance. I certainly appreciate the time that Lara offered, free of charge, for those who need a little bit of focus and direction as to where to take their online, social media journey to success.

Have you had a successful experience at a local professional networking event?

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COM0014: Blog Post #7 – Personal Reflection

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the good, the bad, the less-than-stellar, the fugly…and every shade of colour under the sun.

taller de ilustracion digital - 381

Words are forever on the lips and hearts of the future…

My story *is* my brand. My words illustrating the made-for-tv-movie kind’o’life that is being a chronic disease patient in the throes of the managing my own little part in the Cosmos. Readers come for the coffee, stay for the story. The challenge has been to stifle the “societal norms of blogging” that tell me to write clean and proper. I’ve undertaken to write my journey, my stories, as real, raw and authentic as they are, because that is a true to form reflection of what life is all about.

Transparency has been key, and, to be honest, is really, *really*, nerve-wracking. I’ve written about my journey through mental health issues, some very significant. I’ve written about a recent physical assault in order to provide a voice to those who may not find their own. I’ve ALSO written about one of my twin boys having pooped in a floor vent when he was four years old, about my healing through art projects and about my passion for playing video games and how I totally suck, but enjoy the escapism nonetheless. It has been this very transparency upon which I’ve built and solidified my brand. Lupus Interrupted IS “Me.” on every level. It’s how I am viewed not only as a blog, but as a person. I have never split up my personalities in order to conform to one view of norms over another dependent on location. I believe this is the fodder for becoming legendary.

The deep, wide angled view of my world.

This is what resonates with people. How one crafts their story within the context of their journey. This particular course has been a validation that what I endeavour to craft is, in fact, on the right track in making those connections with people and of inter-personal engagement. My use of my own personally crafted catch-isms (like #gladitude) and phrases are validated when I see my friends post them on their own walls and tweets.

Stories live forever. Digital communication is merely one medium of recording what it is that we’re trying to say. I want to say it all by living the way I write, and writing the way I live.

COM0015: Blog post #4 – Out of the box

The fast paced world of the Web2.0 and all of its dynamic changes as it continues to evolve will certainly keep social media managers and businesses hopping through bytes and hoops. Having already learned so much about various applications and websites geared to assisting in that electronic, social journey, there have been a couple of surprising additions to my ever-evolving social media repertoire.

Lastpass

Old-school habits welcome new applications…

One of the very first things I had struggle with, especially with the addition of new opportunities to try suggested media and applications, was having to remember an entire stockpile of passwords. So much so, I’d had to post in the course discussion board for suggestions. Having a made-for-tv-movie kind of life, remembering to make dinner trumps eleventy-billion passwords on any given Sunday.

After hitting up my BFF, Google, I found my saving grace: LastPass. While there are other various “master password” vaults, this one works really well for me. The premise is that it is an application that remembers all of the passwords stored on your device and saves them all to one location, a “vault”, if you will, which can be accessed via one main password. Like any new, fandangled looking application, it took me a couple of days to adjust to how the process worked, but I can attest that it is a huge relief in an already over-processed brain *not* to have to add handfuls of new passwords to my own cellular vault.

evernote

One-stop-shop for content management

A second welcome addition to my social media repertoire has been the use of Evernote. Oh, I’d heard of it before, downloaded it…and let it sit to collect electronic cobwebs over the past few years. I have friends who swear by it, live by it, don’t-leave-home without it. I’d never really felt I had use for the application. I had Pinterest, and I clip/bookmark a ton of stuff of various topics in that one-stop-shop. BUT, what I hadn’t considered was this:

Now that my goals for Lupus Interrupted have been redefined, new opportunities having arisen for content…my brain is on overdrive with ideas…that come when I’m out shopping, the middle of the night, and generally any time I’m *not* sitting on the couch, laptop in hand. I’ve noticed ideas for content at my doctor’s office which I can look up, and clip for later. I’ve noticed links shared via Facebook that I can quickly add an idea to a note. After an adjustment period, I feel I’ve gotten the hang of it enough that it’s becoming habitual to clip and write content ideas. Now, for the harder part…making and crafting executing the posting of those amazing ideas. 😉

It becomes clearer to see how much the social web can overlap and intertwine. What kinds of unexpected applications have YOU found in your online marketing or social media journey?

COM0014: Blog Post #6 – Your story

COM0014: Do People Know Your Story?

They loom like an unassuming shadow. Seen by many, known by few. As she travels the road through the healthcare system, they are her supporting actor in her made-for-tv-movie kind of life. They are the sidekick to her fight against villainous poisons that plague the healthcare communities.

“C.H.”

Two years ago I received my Chartered Herbalist designation. No small feat, given the eleventy-billion on-the-go’s I’d had on my plate: Five kids. A business. A not-for-profit. Yet, I’d sought out education to further my understanding of complimentary, alternative therapies for the autoimmune disease that plagues my path in life. Sometimes, this path leads me through low-grade chemotherapy treatments. Sometimes, this path leads me to the ice cream aisle.

As my advocacy bloomed to life six years ago, and many networks and communities were joined, I’d noticed one glaringly obvious commonality between them all: The search for information regarding alternative therapies. I was also profoundly bombarded with the “latest and greatest,” the conspiracy theories, the snake oils and…best of all: CURES.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is an autoimmune disease that currently has no cure. It has no cure, because scientists cannot trace its originating cause. This can be witnessed in the extreme variability of symptoms shown by patients afflicted with the disease. Some have merely a facial rash. Others, systemic organ failure.

I sought to understand anatomy, body systems and the chemical constituents of plants that highlight herbalism and its foundational basis for many of the pharmaceuticals we use today. So, why do I not share a lot of my compounded knowledge between the natural and the scientific?

PDR

PDR = Physician’s Desk Reference A must for defining contraindications!

I do not, as yet, have a game plan to manage the legal liability. You see, the common layman can tote anything as a “cure.” The significant problem arises that the average patient is so sick from the combination of pharmaceuticals any of us receive on an ongoing basis, coupled with an often devastating loss of hope, that they will seek solace in trying just about anything that may give them the relief they yearn for.

Herbs + Pharmaceuticals = The potential for devastating contraindications.

Sure, I’ve shared my Badass Hand & Body Wash…or my Badass Bug Spray…but, I don’t know my common reader from a hole in the wall. Thus, I do not know what your entire health photograph looks like. What medications ARE you on? What is your blood pressure? Blood glucose? Heart health history?

I have an ethical duty of care to provide a complete analysis for a patient in my care as an herbalist. I can only hope ethics and morality will factor in and trump the financial gain of promoting products that, essentially, have the possibility of contraindications so severe as to compromise the lives of so many just hoping for some relief in their journey of pain and disease.

COM0015: Blog Post #3 – Professional Networking

cards

Hello…My Name is…

Prior to a couple of years ago, I’d never really considered the professional opportunities that can surround blogging and health advocacy. I don’t run a business and I had been completely oblivious to the networking opportunities that could lead to paid writing, guest posts and reciprocal sharing of resources. This has been widely regarded as a big mistake.

Sure, I had set up a personal account on LinkedIn. However, I’ve not yet made a “business” page for Lupus Interrupted. Sure, I had some cards made up that I could hand out…but it was mostly willy-nilly and, frankly, thrust upon my family and friends in the dire hope that *maybe* THEY would hand them out if they happened to meet someone who might be interested in health, advocacy, or just for kicks’n’giggles.

Then came the opportunity for me to attend the Social Capital Conference in 2013. I had had my first opportunity to professionally network not just online…but in the REAL. This is where my nemesis resides…in the social anxiety that finds me ordering pizza online, and texting or emailing friends. Go, Go SocialAnxiety Girl! *cape flailing behind* Not only did I survive my first trial by fire of meeting people I had connected with regularly online, I was able to meet handfuls more who were genuinely interested in the concept of health advocacy and blogging. I had started to understand that blogging, itself, was taken seriously, not in the ad-hoc manner in which I’d previously thought.

Having attended the conference also expanded my perspective about networking. Whereas I had previously been connecting with, obviously, people in the health industry, advocacy, or even parenting, I was negating the opportunities to network with social media specialists, digital marketing professionals and even niches like Ottawa event coordinators or local business owners.

Unfortunately, the conference is not running, and more unfortunate is that the one I would *love* to attend, BlogHer, is held out-of-city and to coordinate attending within the chaos of my reality is mind numbing. So, I’ve been looking at even smaller gatherings hosted locally and have even found workshops held at the local libraries.

My future really needs to see more of the nurturing of my online networking. I verily believe that this will increase the opportunities available for more exposure and awareness. I need to broaden my perspective to include new audiences to network with that I may have previously disregarded.

Strategy? This is a very new concept, to actually put goals into words and words into actions. I will regularly be checking sites like EventBrite for local social networking events and better plan around the chaos to ensure my ability to attend. Online, I have included a broader target audience to include more local connections, and to use the #Ottawa on my posts and in my searches/filters in order to add valuable connections across all platforms where Lupus Interrupted can be found.

What has been an unexpected obstacle that you’ve encountered in your professional networking endeavours?

COM0015 Blog Post #2 – Strong/Weak Organizations

CV_Product_Orange

Sharpie? Hello?

While the ultimate goal of any B2C organization is to increase the bottom line, there are a number of ways businesses can establish themselves as the go-to for consumers above the often over-saturated aggregate of similar companies. This is where the better social-media driven B2C’s thrive.

I’ve been following Sharpie for many years as a scrapbooker and mixed media artist (when I have a few moments to spare). Boasting a pretty good 5-10 page rank, Sharpie has endeavoured to connect not just within the artist audience, but parents (labeling, chore charts, etc) and students/teens. Visually represented across multiple social media platforms, their strength comes from images and the ability to engage their customers through submissions and tags. While Sharpie’s Instagram account may boast a relatively modest 128K followers, its hashtag use has well exceed 1.3 million. A community and culture. Their Facebook page boasts over 3.6 million followers. While the blog and direct engagement is still lacking on some forums, it’s the visual representation of the brand that shines not only from the company, but moreso from the #sharpie culture. #sharpietattoo is my personal favourite! It is empowering the creativity of its community and foreshadows continued growth in promotion and practice….

…BUT…

Then, they all but disappeared. Sharpie just…stopped. Dead.

Instagram? Last image uploaded was 115 weeks ago. Blog? Last post was written July 10, 2013! Twitter? Last tweet was February 29th. Not so bad? The one before that was December 21, 2013!

For a company actively engaged with the teens who “tattoo” and the moms that label and the designers who design and the Pinterest winners (and maybe Pinterest failers)…Sharpie seemed to have hit some kind of social media roadblock. What happened? Did they, then, just become the mirror “weak” organization…of themselves??

Arik Hanson had a few speculative points of interest as to why a company with over 4 million fans would suddenly up-and-leave the social media foray in his article: “Why did @Sharpie shut down all its social media accounts?” Change of CMO? Being a company that is owned by a bigger company and got eaten by the bigger proverbial fish?

I think the withdrawal from the social media communities that really found niches within the creative industry is going to leave a lasting impact on the value of engagement, obviously, but more so, though people will continue to purchase Sharpie products based on brand loyalty, Sharpie is really missing out on expansion and growth opportunities as social media continues to evolve and reach further target markets and communities. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to be an active contributor to have seen them just up and…who even knows? No explanation. That kind of corporate behaviour risks a lot, that very brand loyalty, especially.

How do you think Sharpie’s withdrawal from social media will eventually affect their bottom line over time, if perhaps the management change felt it more cost-effective to do so? I’d love to have my own “clear view”of what the heck happened!

COM0014: Blog Post 5-Personal Brand, Lupus Interrupted

Personal Brand- Lupus Interrupted

Facebook Page

Lupus Interrupted…changing the game of chronic illness through raw, real and authentic advocacy

One of the most recognizable qualities that I bring in my personal brand to the social media smorgasbord is the ability to write real and write raw.

In a vast ocean of health advocates that feather the platforms with resources and information, I am profoundly aware of two groups of advocates: Those who puppy’n’rainbows’n’kittens, 24/7…or those that subscribe to the “Whine-1-1.” I do neither of those. My strength in conversation resides in the ability to use colourful language peppered with sarcasm and a rapier wit in order to best illustrate what it’s like to live with a chronic disease as an on-my-own, working mother of five.

My followers regularly admire and comment on my strength. I verily believe that it’s my best asset, though seemingly foreign to me on those less than stellar days of pain and overwhelming monotony. However, that’s exactly what makes my brand stand out. I subscribe to a perspective of #gladitude…that choice one makes to notice the small things that may have otherwise gone unnoticed that brings a little colour into one’s day. I make a choice to be transparent in sharing my journey because of the necessity of showing others the ability to make that very choice as to how we define ourselves through even the most difficult of times.

Here’s what one follower wrote: “Your writing is easy to read and follow. The vocabulary (especially those words and phrases of your own creation) make my heart burst with happies. You keep me wanting to read more (and I often do) despite the liquid feels pouring down my cheeks.”

A common word used to describe my brand (because, yes, I’d actually had to ask as writing about myself in this manner is exceedingly difficult for me) is: Growth, as it applies to lessons. I’m certainly not perfect. None of us are. Though, I use my journey to highlight the lessons I learn along the way. I *do* describe the fuglies of my nature, of my mistakes, but I also “find the silver lining in the cosmic shitstorm” and illustrate exactly how I’ve learned and how I’ve utilized the lesson in order to further my self-evolution as a human being.

I verily believe it is my profound ability to inspire through authentic writing and storytelling. This is what has brought followers and readers to my personal brand, and one that keeps them engaged and inspired. Put simply, it is my eloquence to explain the good, the bad and the uncomfortable content (mental health, depression, etc) within an umbrella of reality in which people can relate.

COM0014: Blog Post 4 B2C Case Study – Vistaprint

I have been following Vistaprint very closely in the past several weeks not only as a result of my own personal dealings with the company itself, as a consumer, but also to see if I could garner any insight as to their social media practice(s) in my role as a student.

Vistaprint is a publishing company managing everything from your personal to business promotional needs…business cards, promotional materials, wedding invitations, signs, clothing and even digital marketing. Their catechism is:

“Rely on Vistaprint

Absolutely Guaranteed

Every time. Any reason. Or we’ll make it right.”

Having used Vistaprint for various Lupus Interrupted and Kubb Canada promotional items (business cards, signage) I encountered my first problem this past January: My business cards for my personal use weren’t shipped and I’d needed them for a social media networking event the following week from the date that I’d put in a telephone call (old school, I know) to the company to enquire as to their whereabouts.

The customer service I received was exemplary so, pondering this day and age where complaints and negativity easily trump compliments and positive feedback, I donned my Super Cape and took to the interwebs (the Vistaprint Facebook page) to let them know of my happiness!

Vistaprint

Consumer engagement is ongoing. Using a name is a personal touch not often utilized by companies.

They responded. Not only did they respond to me, they respond to *everyone*. A quick scan down the “Visitor Posts” highlights not only interactions but actual engagements with customers…and a lot of posts have been due to poor perceived value/experience. An incredible number of engagements have been made daily.

But, that’s not all…their Twitter account not only sees near-daily postings, but a scroll down “Tweets & Replies” highlights their intense engagement with their followers and responses to queries, mentions and the like (both positive and negative)

The nature of not just some standard, automatic responses is what impresses me the most in the company’s efforts to not just actively engage their customers…but to *pro-actively* engage their customers. One can feel that there is a real person behind the post. Case in point, they will often use the customer’s name.

In the ongoing challenge for B2C companies to stand apart, engagement is often lacking to build strong relationships. Regardless of product, Vistaprint continues to put out the effort to their customers and excels in their listening abilities.

 

COM0014: Blog Post #3 – Target Audiences

“Can You Hear Me Now?”

There is, hands down, no question as to the ease of finding the target audience for an autoimmune disease such as Lupus.

“Enquiring minds want to know why!!”

I could, in theory, best sum it up as the little boy in that movie, The Sixth Sense, all whisper-like: “I see Lupus people.”

People with chronic conditions yearn to be heard…and seen. As a result, I can list you off a summary that even a general peruse of social media platforms will illustrate:

The majority of Lupus patients are women (9 of 10).

            The most common age brackets are between 20 – 40 years old.

            Ethnicity plays a factor as African-American women are three times likely than                       Caucasian women to be afflicted with Lupus.

           Income is never an applicable categorization of patients: I have NASA aerospace                      engineers, teachers and homemakers on my lists and forums.

What is the most common need of the Lupus community as a whole? To be seen and heard. In order to support the conversations requires the effort to keep the conversations going. This can be achieved by commenting and engaging on their Twitter posts, retweeting the links that are important to them and by using visuals, like Instagram, to show that living with lupus has its good, its bad and its fugly. When people feel validated, they can be empowered.

Lupus Interrupted aims to highlight the issues facing those with chronic conditions and, taking the female demographic, writing about topics such as parenting is highly beneficial. Also, having a “Healing Through Art” tab is a forum within which to encourage the self-care so desperately needed by people who otherwise feel like their bodies are failing them. Legs don’t work? Knit. Hands don’t work? Take a nature walk.

Lupus #LHandSign

#LHandSign at the Ottawa/Gatineau Walk for Lupus 2013

One of the most successful Lupus campaigns is the “Lupus Hand Sign.” Patients take a photo of themselves with their hand forming an “L” sign. Simple. Easy. Powerfully obvious awareness.

Connection through common journeys. That is how we are seen and heard.

COM0014: Blog Post #2 – Storytelling & Communication Styles

Books

Whose story are you really telling?

This isn’t your grandma’s nighttime reading. At least, not mine. My story is raw, real and colours your thoughts and opinions with language and humour while defining the very nature of living with challenge and perseverance. Writing and blogging about health is a challenge of manipulating story with facts and resources while wrapping the content under an umbrella under which people will want to stand. A challenge of a necessary evil in content creation to determine where my story meets the reader’s expectations to be entertained and educated.

One of the main catchphrases of Lupus Interrupted is, “Life ain’t all about purple painted ponies pooping butterflies jacked up on SugarSmacks.” The reality of how I discovered my story writing abilities and, consequently, my communication style began the very first time my website was declined to be featured on more readily-recognized website due to “the effective use of language that may offend some of our readers.”

Challenge: [Accepted]. I was hooked at that very moment to be the most real “Me.” I could be in my writing. I’d had to look critically at the nature of how I express my thoughts, opinions and my journey itself and compare it to what my readers were wanting when they approached my blog to read as opposed to the plethora of every other health blog and website on the Web 2.0. There are academically sourced, clinical websites. These are not my website, nor do I ever want Lupus Interrupted to become an academically sourced, clinical website. My resonance with my readers and followers is based on my ability to write the authenticity of a journey through autoimmune disease as a woman, a mother and a generally awesome human being thrust in the chaos of the Cosmos of managing the “Everything” in the world.

For those who are familiar with my uber-favourite blog and blogger, “The Bloggess,” you have an idea of where I get my determination to remain true to my own writing and communication style without succumbing to the social stigma of telling a story peppered with language, sarcasm and a rapier wit. Look at the number of comments on her posts and it is a fitting validation of what readers are seeking when they click on any of her content.

I have found the requirement, however, to maintain a balance between posts that my readers can superficially skim and those that require further thought and analysis. Could I ever say that my style brings in the variety of readers (Elementary, Inspectional, Analytical and Syntopical) and engages them on each level? No. And, Yes. I’ve discovered my storytelling abilities are validated when I see them post recognition of various elements I strive to include in my writings. “#gladitude”, for example. I see them actively using thoughts, ideas and expressions they have found within my content and displaying it for others to see on their own social media feeds.

I still strive for the engagement within the blog content itself. Comments usually flow best on the content that my readers most intimately resonate with (usually mental health, parenting or choice of perspective posts) and lack within posts that are product-oriented or factual.

It’s an interesting challenge to continually modify and adapt content within my story telling in order to best resonate with readers and followers in their own journeys through chronic disease. The key is to watch and listen how they are using the content to formulate their own perspectives and how they are choosing to share it (platforms, media, posts) to others.

Do you find your attendance to certain websites is based on your attraction to the content and, if applicable, do you visit various sites because they *are* different in content?