COM0015 – Blog #1: Tools & Sources

adult chill computer connection

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

The Algonquin College Social Media Program has presented me with a wealth of knowledge and different ways of approaching social media, and has shown countless ways to listen/monitor social media content that is important/relevant.  I have also learned that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and it takes some experimenting to figure out what works best. Because I work in such a specialized field, with comparatively little content available, some of the more popular tools haven’t been particularly effective, but I have landed on a couple of things that seem to do the trick for me.  The key tool that I utilize for listening/monitoring is Google Alerts, tied into Feedly to make it easier to review results.  I started utilizing this way back when I took Monitoring and Measurement; I created lists of keywords that I have tweaked over time, and continue to change as new trends emerge.  Google Alerts has been useful, not only because it is free, but once it is up and running, it needs very little maintenance.  It also allows me to filter out terms that are similar, but do not apply to my company’s products, or the industry.

After perusing and trying out a number of different listening/monitoring tools, it struck me that I was really just over-complicating things.  As it turns out, the easiest and least time consuming method is to manually search Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, using many of the same keywords that I utilize with Google Alerts.  While this may not work well for a large scale operation, my industry is small, and fairly specialized.  The area where doing a manual search really shines is in closed groups; to the best of my knowledge there are no tools that can do this.  I get a lot of information from the groups I belong to, and a lot of that comes from searching specific terms.

Speaking strictly from a work perspective, my absolute go-to for industry news and updates is Career Wise, put out by Contact Point. It is an aggregator of the top articles, blogs, events, etc. that is published weekly.  It covers anything and everything to do with Career Counselling and Career Development in Canada.  Contact Point is also a huge influencer in the field of Career Development in Canada, so being retweeted, or included in Career Wise is a great accomplishment.  The other source I go to for industry news and updates is LinkedIn; there are a number of influencers who publish content on a daily/weekly basis that I follow.  The one downside to this is that there is no filter, the content comes straight from the author, and it is up to me, and the rest of the readers to determine the content’s value.  Of course, being social media, there is the opportunity for immediate feedback and dialogue.

Overall, these tools and sources have been working for me for some time; while I do periodically revisit my keywords list when there are new products, programs, or legislation. I don’t really feel the need to change how I listen/monitor. I am however curious to see what others, who work in niche industries do for listening/monitoring social media. Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Advertisements

COM0014 – Blog 7 – Personal Reflection

What makes great digital content?  It certainly isn’t page after page of marketing copy, full of buzzwords like “synergy” or “optimization”; nor is it the incoherent ramblings of Grandpa Simpson jumping from topic to topic, boring the life out of his audience.  That’s not to say that he is completely wrong with his approach; storytelling is a great technique for connecting with your audience, as long as you do it right.

To make sure that you are telling your audience the right stories, you need to know a little about them first. This doesn’t mean just finding out basic demographics like age, income, gender, etc., but also lifestyle choices, hobbies, and other preferences. From a business perspective, you also need to know what type of clients you have; are you targeting consumers directly, or business/government clients?  Knowing this will impact your approach.

Even after you have discovered some of our audiences’ unique traits, there are some general rules to follow when it comes to great storytelling; always speak/write in an active voice; it is clearer, and by nature is more engaging.  It’s also important to write how you speak – keep the flow natural, and don’t be afraid to use colloquialisms, as long as it is appropriate for your audience.

Ultimately the story you tell is yours, but it is up to you to figure out the best way to communicate it to your audience.  However it may look, make sure the style, formatting, and message is consistent across platforms, and over time – Make sure you have your own identity, and communicate it to your audience.  Be it a personal blog, or a marketing strategy research is your friend.  Once you’ve decided who your audience is, and the best approach for reaching them, the rest is up to you to let your creativity flow.

COM0014 – Blog 6 – Do People Know Your Story?

What is your industry’s greatest flaw?

Without beating around the bush too much, I can easily say that my industry’s greatest flaw is lack of recognition.  Few people outside the industry actually know what Career Development is, and even fewer can actually describe what Career Development Practitioners actually do.  When I meet new people outside of my world of work, and they ask what I do, I sigh because I know I have to tell a story to get them to understand.  If I don’t have the time, or really don’t feel like getting into it, I say I work in an office, or I’m a paper-pusher.  Otherwise it goes something like this: “Remember when you were in school, and didn’t know what you wanted to do for a career?  Then the guidance/career counsellor gave you a test to take?… Yeah, I didn’t follow its advice either, but that’s essentially what I do.”  It’s usually followed by a few “ahs” and nods of semi-understanding.  I’ve even thought of changing jobs at many points just so I could say something like “I fix cars”, or “I breed and raise sea monkeys for export.”

Thankfully there have been a number of initiatives in the past few years to fix this flaw, and raise the profile of the industry.  One of our national associations has been spreading the use of the #careerdevelopmentmatters hashtag on social media, and provincial organizations have started instituting certification for Career Development Practitioners so we can have something to hang on our walls, and show off to our clients.  I am hopeful that someday soon, I will be able to say “I am a Career Development Practitioner,” and people will know what that means.

 

Much like Kelso’s father, no one really understands what I do either.

COM0014 – Blog 5: Personal Brand

IMG_20170802_153611972_TOP

Credit: Brad Whitehorn

I consider myself a Career Development Professional, despite the fact that I do not work with end-user clients, nor am I in management.  I specialize in resources for the career development industry, but I am not an agency information officer.  Within the industry I am kind of an anomaly; many of the jobs in Career Development have pretty clear-cut descriptions, but there are very few companies that offer the same things as the company that I work for that distributes, publishes, and conducts independent research.  My number one goal in my position is to find the most appropriate resources for Career Development Professionals to use with their clients.

What are some personal qualities or characteristics that set you apart from your competitors?

I like to have conversations; be it in person, over the phone, an email, or even in a blog post, I like to feel as though I am sitting down and talking over a coffee.  Personally I hate it when people start into a sales pitch without me actually saying what, if anything I am interested in.  When I write blog posts, I like to write very casually, and leave lots of room for feedback.  I’ve developed a lot of great business relationships this way, because my clients know that when they talk to me, I’m not going to push a product on them, and move on.  I have a competitor that is big into self-promotion, and comes across as a sales person.  I know that this attitude has just sent more people my way.

What have you done lately to make yourself stand out?

I have spent a lot of time listening on a couple of industry-specific social media pages, but now I am starting to get my name out there.  As well, up until fairly recently I have been using my company’s social media fairly anonymously.  However I have now started putting my name on things.  I have been blogging about areas and materials that I consider myself an expert at under my name.

What would your colleagues say is your best trait?

I work for a small company, so my clients are my colleagues.  I would say that they appreciate my honesty, and my willingness to follow through.  I will not sell them something because it makes me a more money, I will recommend what works best for them.  As well, when I they ask me something I don’t have an answer to, I will do some research.  Sometimes this means that I don’t make a sale, but it does mean that my customer will return in the future.

What do you do that you are most proud of?

Recently I wrote a couple of blogs on career assessments, and shared them on the Facebook group of a national organization; the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and it gained some new customers.  The posts were also picked up by yet another national industry group, and was included in their recommended blog posts.

COM0014 – Blog 4 – B2C Case Study

It is pretty much a given these days that large corporations have embraced using social media platforms to engage with their audiences. They also have entire departments that are tasked with running their social media campaigns, and are ready to interact with anyone at any time of day.  But what about small, local businesses.  Local businesses have it harder as they don’t have huge marketing budgets, and unless they are situated in an area with a lot of walk-by traffic, they need to find other ways to attract new business.  When talking about small businesses engaging their customers, I like to use my… or I should say my dogs’ vet clinic, the Newmarket Animal Hospital as an example.

There are a lot of veterinary clinics in Newmarket, Ontario… we’re crazy about our pets here.  The Newmarket Animal Hospital has taken to Facebook to engage with their audience.  They do a good job of posting fairly regularly with a good balance of posts about general pet care, and their services.  In February for pet dental health month they made posts about keeping your pet’s teeth clean, and had a promotion for discount oral health checkups.  This works well as their current clients can share these posts with their own networks and groups as word of mouth advertising.

During their regular business hours, they are very quick to respond to feedback, questions that arise from their posts, and feedback in the reviews section.  An incident occurred a while back where a dissatisfied customer left a very negative review; the person in charge of the social media account was quick to share their side of the story, without pointing fingers.  They even had other clients come to their defense because of their good reputation in the community.

For the most part, the Newmarket Animal Hospital does a decent job with the way they are using their chosen social media outlet; they respond quickly, in a sincere way that everyone appreciates.  They could however be posting a little more frequently, even if it is just picture of their clients… who doesn’t like seeing pictures of adorable pets?

COM0014 Blog 3 Target Audiences

Communicating effectively with your audience/customers is the cornerstone of any social media strategy; and working with diverse groups adds an additional layer of challenges to it. My company’s largest product line is Personality Dimensions – a personally assessment tool.  It is available in four languages, and is sold widely in international markets outside of Canada including: Hong Kong, Australia, and the USA.  When my company began development with the product, extensive cultural research was undertaken to make it as universally appealing as possible.  Having access to this research has made it easier for me understand our target demographics.

While there are geographic and cultural differences amongst our target demographics, there are a number of similarities between them.  Clients mostly work in social and human services, i.e. career development, HR management, family services, etc.  There is a fairly even split in age demographics, a little under half are baby-boomers, also a little under half are generation X.  This group is increasing in size, and moving into higher positions as the former are retiring.  There is also a growing trend of millennials entering as front-line workers.  About 85% of these groups combined are female, which does pose some challenges for me.  The group as a whole is widely educated, having at least a two-year college degree, and many have bachelor’s degrees as well. In Canada, Australia, and the USA, English is the most widely spoken, however other languages have a significant presence. In Hong Kong, Cantonese is most widely spoken, however most of our clients also speak English.

Maintaining a blog on Personality Dimensions has been instrumental in reaching out to the younger demographics in our client group.  I am able to reach out to different communities by posting on a variety of topics, feature guest bloggers, and get feedback through surveys.

In many communities, the advice of leaders and respected influencers does more than any kind of advertising can.  My biggest challenge now is how to reach out to these individuals to get an “endorsement.” Please comment below if you have gone down this road, and share how well it worked for you.

COM0014 – Blog 2 – Storytelling & Communication Styles

When I hear the word “storytelling,” I immediately think of Grampa Simpson spouting off nonsensical ramblings about wearing an onion on his belt during the war.  While this is a form of storytelling, it doesn’t translate well to a blog post.  In social media, storytelling is all about communicating a message in a concise, meaningful, easy to understand, and familiar way.  When using storytelling on social media, there are few important things to keep in mind…

  • Your writing needs to be clear and concise – You’re not Margaret Atwood. It is important to get to the point in your first few sentences, and be clear about what you want to get across. Make sure your writing is interesting, and always lead with your most important information.  Readers will skim titles, and the first few sentences, but will only read on if it is appealing to them
  • Make sure you check over your writing before posting it; read it out loud if you need to. Spelling and grammatical errors will turn off readers, and lessen your credibility in the subject area.  Remember there is always a keyboard warrior out there ready to pounce on your mistakes.
  • Keep your audience engaged by writing in an active voice, as opposed to a passive voice. Write as it comes naturally to you, and keep your tone positive; readers will respond accordingly.

After you have hooked your audience in with a catchy title, killer opening, and well written copy, you can’t just leave them hanging. Always include a call to action; this is the reason why you have written your piece, and what you want them to do next.

Concise writing has always been difficult for me.  It has become more natural for me the more I do it, but I often feel like I am not putting enough in.  Do the rest of you share this struggle?  How do you keep your word count down, and still get your point across?  Share your comments below.

COM0014 – Blog #1: What I Did On My Vacation

IMG_20161115_132524363

If you think this is bad, you should see the other side! ©2016, Brad Whitehorn

My last vacation was quite unconventional to say the least, but I did spend an extended period of time out of town, went on some crazy adventures, met some great people, and didn’t have to cook, so I’m going to count it as a vacation.  It all started on a warm, sunny day in October 2016 when I went out for a ride on my motorcycle.  Something I had been doing for over 15 years, when a driver of a pickup truck ran through a stop sign, sending me on a flight through the intersection beginning my “vacation.”

It was probably the shortest flight I have ever been on, but it was definitely the roughest landing.  Thankfully I was in full protective riding gear, and surprisingly wasn’t bleeding much at all; my ankle, leg, arm, wrist, and a couple of fingers were a different story though.  From there I got to continue my sightseeing tour of the greater New Tecumseth in Southern Ontario… this time staring up at the ceiling of an ambulance while strapped to a board!  After spending some time in the local hospital, I was told that I would be going on a helicopter tour of Toronto courtesy of Ornge Air Ambulance.  While it was a nice clear night, my view was pretty much limited to the ceiling inside the helicopter.

After landing at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, things started to get a little fuzzy.  I don’t remember much of what happened over the next couple of days, so I must have had a really good time then!  I spent six days and seven nights there, while the staff was amazing, and there was free WiFi, the food was a little underwhelming; their specialty was a steamed English muffin and plain cream of wheat for breakfast every morning.  At the end of my week-long stay, I was informed that I would be taking another sightseeing tour; this time on Toronto’s Queen Street.

The tour was pretty short, maybe only ten minutes down the street to The Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, but the driver and “guide” were super nice.  I have nothing but good things to say about this place; the staff were amazing, the “recreation” was challenging and engaging, the WiFi was free, and the food wasn’t half-bad either… even though they dished out pasta primavera like it was going out of style.  While there I participated in some great activities like “learning how to walk again,” “lifting a 3lbs weight with my left arm,” and I got to play with the St. John’s Ambulance therapy dog.  But after my month long stay, it was time to go home.

While I had some interesting experiences, and got to meet some truly amazing people, I don’t think I would repeat this vacation again.  It was so amazing that I still haven’t returned to full-time work yet, but hopefully I will be over it soon so I can get ready for my next trip.

COM0014 Post #4: B2C Case Study

When looking for examples to follow, or case studies in social media, I like to look at small businesses as they are most relevant to my work.  Large multinational corporations have entire teams working on their social media efforts, but with small businesses it is usually one person, and it is definitely not their full time job.  For this assignment, I have turned to my (or should I say my dogs’) vet office.  There are dozens of veterinary clinics in and around Newmarket, Ontario, so building a strong word-of-mouth reputation is important for business success.

newmarket-animal-hospitalThe Newmarket Animal hospital has put all of their social media efforts into their Facebook page, with no presence on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or G+.  I believe that this works well for them, as Facebook is where most of their target audience spend their time.  They do a good job of balancing posts on useful pet-care and selling their services.  They post useful articles/tips about how to care for your pet in the different seasons, and other things to watch for your pets’ well-being.  They have also been running a loss-leader advertisement for $1 pet exams for new clients.  This is effective in that their current clients can like and share the post to their own networks to get the word out.

When it comes to responding to feedback, either on the posts themselves, or in the “reviews” section they are quick to respond, either by thanking clients for their comments, or addressing bad reviews.  An incident occurred earlier in the year when a dissatisfied client left a scathing review.  The clinic was quick to share their side of the story, without coming across as defensive or dismissive, people are very passionate about their pets after all.  Because of the reputation they have built, other clients came to their defense and suggested the negative comments were wrong.

Overall the Newmarket Animal Hospital does a decent job with the way they interact with their clients on social media through the content they post, the speed and manor they listen/respond.  They could however be posting a little more frequently, and include links back to their main website in their posts.

COM0014 – Target Audiences – Blog #3

Understanding how to communicate with your audience is key to any social media strategy; when your audience is made up of diverse groups, it makes for an interesting challenge. My company’s main product, Personality Dimensions is available in four different languages, and is sold widely in three international markets outside of Canada – Hong Kong, Australia, and the USA. Extensive research went in to the development of the product to make it as culturally universal as possible. Having this cultural research on hand means that the first step of understanding the target audience has already been completed.

Despite cultural and geographical differences, there are a lot of demographics in common amongst the target audience. Customers predominately work in the social service field – career development, family services, etc. Approximately 85% is female, which can be a bit of a challenge for me. There is currently a nearly even split in age demographics; half are baby-boomers, which is decreasing in size as they retire, and the other have are generation X, which is increasing in size, with more moving into leadership roles. Individuals who work in this field have at minimum a 2-year college degree in disciplines like career counselling, and social work; many also have bachelor’s degrees in a variety of liberal arts disciplines. In Canada, and the USA English the language predominately spoken, however it may not be an individual’s first language. In Hong Kong the language most spoken in this demographic is Cantonese, however English is almost as widely spoken.

The Personality Dimensions blog has been key in reaching out to this demographic. This allows me to reach out to the different communities individually by doing things like theming posts on relevant topics, inviting guest bloggers from their respective communities, and seeking feedback via survey to help better understand their needs and wants.

The next challenge is successfully reaching out to individuals who do not speak or read English. Translation of existing work is an option, but it is expensive and may not be relevant content. I plan on reaching out to leaders in the community who can write effectively in French, Spanish, and Traditional Chinese, but I would like to hear from others who have had success with this. Please comment below with your strategies and success stories.