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.

COM0014-800 – Post #2 – Storytelling: Not Just for Grandpa Anymore

Storytelling is as old as language itself, and serves the purpose of passing information from one person to another; social media is a platform for us to share our messages in direct, concise, and meaningful way that is inspirational and and easily understood by out audiences. There are a few guidelines to keep in mind when storytelling on social media…

  1. Keep it clear and concise – Get to the point quickly in your first few sentences, and be clear what point you want to get across. Always open with your most important information, but at the same time, keep it interesting; it’s not just about stating the facts. Social media readers will skim the headlines and first few sentences of a post, and only continue reading if the style and content appeal to them.

  1. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors are a turn off – Make sure you edit your work or have someone do it for you. Nothing with kill your credibility faster than errors in your writing; the internet is full of people just waiting to point out your smallest mistake. Reading your work out loud can help you find errors, or have someone else edit your writing if you work in a monastery or library.

  1. Use a style that will keep your audience engaged – Writing in an active voice rather than a passive voice is more engaging by nature. At the same time, make it your own, write how it comes naturally; you can always edit later It’s also important to stay positive with your writing; keep your tone positive, and people will keep coming back.

Once you have managed to engage your audience with a captivating opening, followed by more details on your topic, in a clearly written, well edited, and concise fashion, where do you go next? It’s best to end with a call to action, and how to do so. Of course you should already have that in mind when you start writing.

For me, concise writing is difficult; I come from an academic background where long, drawn out writing is practically encouraged. I’ve gone through about 5 different drafts to get my word count down, but still get across what I want. How about you? Does short concise writing come naturally to you? Any tips on how to master it? Post your comments below.

COM0014 – Blog #1: My Dream Vacation

Traditionally, in my experience anyways, the first assignment of the school year is an easy one. Really there should be no reason why describing what I did on my last vacation should be very difficult… except I haven’t had the opportunity to go on a vacation in quite a few years. I have had sporadic time off throughout the calendar year, but my life circumstances have not given me the luxury of a traditional “vacation.” So in the spirit of getting some words written down, I thought I would take a look at vacation I am working towards taking in the next five to ten years.

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My BMW F800ST   Photo Credit: Brad Whitehorn

For the most part of my life I have been an avid motorcycle enthusiast. I had the posters in my room as a kid, and even went out and got my motorcycle license before learning how to drive a car. I have ridden on and off since then, but I got bit by the touring bug when I saw the documentary Long Way Round featuring Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman; the pair essentially drove around the world on a pair of BMW motorcycles. While I don’t think I have what it takes to push across the wilds of Mongolia and other remote places, the prospect of a week long guided tour was enough for me to set a life goal.

I’ve had a passport for most of my adult life, but has rarely had occasion to use it. It doesn’t help that I don’t fly very well, but I’m willing to do my best to get over it for a once-in-a-lifetime dream trip! That trip is the nine day, 1600km Best of Europe tour offered by Edelweiss Bike Tours. The tour starts in Munich, Germany, and travels through Austria, France, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland. Europe has some of the best motorcycling roads in the world; from long sweeping curves through picturesque landscapes, to tight mountain switchbacks. Aside from the riding experience, I want to experience the history. This tour goes through mediaeval towns and villages that are still thriving today, not to mention castles and landscapes that have been untouched for hundreds and hundreds of years. This is something you just can’t see in the back roads of Ontario, which have their own charm, but it’s just not the same.

I think what concerns me most about the whole trip, aside from the flying part ( I’m told there are prescriptions that can deal with that), is the language barrier – my French is passable at best! Anyone who’s been to this region, please drop me a comment and let me know what it’s like!

Passing the Torch at the Local Car Show

For my final blog post for this class, I have decided to do something different.  Up until now, all of my posts have been business or social media related, and very analytical in tone; so I thought I would change it up and blog about something more personal and sentimental.

Growing up I was always fascinated with cars… not just cars, anything that had wheels and an engine that turned them had my attention… especially if it was red.  My father saw this as a great chance to bond with his son, who despite best efforts didn’t like sports of any kind. We spent many weekends going to classic car shows that were within a reasonable distance from home.  Some were large annual events, and others were small, local affairs put on my local car dealers and garages.  He taught me the differences between Fords, Chevys and Dodges, and why you should always choose Chevy over the others… I think he may have been kind of biased!  The one show we always looked forward to was the Whitchurch Stouffville Museum Antique and Classic Car Show.  This was the biggest show we would go to; we would spend hours looking over the hundreds of cars on display, and then voted for our favourites.  Sadly as I got older, I was less and less interested in hanging out with my father on weekends, but I guess that’s just what teenagers do.

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Fast-forward several years, and I am now a father of a pre-teen myself.  Over the past few years my daughter has shown a growing interest with cars… especially the classics.  She’s always out there with me when I’m changing over the tires for the winter and spring, and got upset that I didn’t take her car shopping with me a couple of years ago.  Needless to say I’ve been happy to nurture this interest.  We’ve been to a few smaller shows around town; we’ve even dragged my wife along occasionally.  We’ve also gone to the occasional “cruise night” at the local Harvey’s.  Last week when I arrived home from work, my daughter was all excited to show me an ad in the local paper for a “big” car show… not just any one though… it was the very same show my father and I used to look forward to every year: the Whitchurch Stouffville Museum Antique and Classic Car Show! “Can we go dad?” she asked.  I answered with an enthusiastic “Yes!”

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It may sound sentimental, but the event this past Sunday was a parenting turning point for me.  I found myself in the same shoes that my father had been in several years before, and I couldn’t have been happier.  As we walked through the aisles upon aisles of antique and classic cars, I was able to point out the differences between Fords, Chevys and Dodges, and why you should always choose Chevy over the others!  We bonded over deciding what car we should buy for ourselves, and how we would hide it from my wife… unfortunately we never did come up with a good plan.  By the end of the day my daughter said to me: “Dad, we definitely have to come to this every year!”  I plan on enjoying it for as long as I can; soon enough she will be a teenager, and she too will want to stop hanging out with her parents on weekends.

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Blog Post 5 – I Like to Move It, Move It!

Julien_characterbigMy office that is…  My boss announced a while ago that they were looking for a new location and that we would be likely relocating by the end of the year.  We’re a small office of only five employees… six if you count my boss’s Shih Tzu, so how hard of a task could it be? Not only have I been tasked with getting our new internet and phone services set up, I’ve also been put in charge of notifying our customers of our upcoming move.  My boss suggested that I call Canada Post and get enough Change of Address Announcement cards to send to all of our clients.  When I mentioned that close to 10,000 would have to be filled out by hand, and I probably should have started last year, that idea was thankfully quashed.  It was then suggested that I “type up a letter” to do the same, and print labels from our customer database. Not a bad idea in all, and it would save time, but there still is the matter of postage, which is $0.75 each for businesses.  I said that I would save the company $7,500 and apply what I have learned from this course to let our customers know about our pending move.  That was met with some blank stares, but I think they have faith in me!  My boss refers to this as “social media stuff” and still wonders how it all works, but to be fair, she does come from a different generation, and I still manage her LinkedIn account for her.

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Imagine filling out close to 10,000 of these by hand!

We already have a company blog used for product announcements that is heavily subscribed, along with pages on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn that have decent subscription numbers.  I plan to create a short, to the point announcement, with a fun graphic that I can post across all of these social platforms, and on the main page of our website.  I feel the consistency and ease of accessing information is the most important part of getting this message out to our clients.  While I don’t have a proper CRM software package at my disposal, I do have a few utilities that will help me extract client data from the various social networks.  I can then cross reference it with my client database, and get a pretty good picture of who will be receiving the message.  So far out of the 10,000 possible clients, I’ve managed to whittle it down to a few hundred clients who are not subscribed to at least one of our social media platforms.  This could be because they haven’t subscribed yet, don’t access social media, or have an obscure username that doesn’t cross reference to my database.

movingI recognise that not everyone is subscribed to social media networks, my boss for example, and I wouldn’t be able to decipher various usernames, so I still wanted to have some sort of mailing to notify those customers, but the thought of filling out any quantity of Change of Address Announcement cards made me cringe… then it hit me… almost literally… a banner ad on Facebook for a VistaPrint 50% off sale!  While I am still having a number of “We’re Moving” postcards produced, the message and artwork will be consistent the announcements I will be posting on the various social networks.  Even if a client manages to slip through the cracks, and gets a post card and messages on social media, the different mediums only work to reinforce the same message.

So now I’m asking for everyone’s input!  Do you think I have my bases covered?  Do you think that my plan will work, and will prove to my boss that this “social media stuff” has value?

Has anyone else been tasked with the same thing?  How did it work out for you?

Have you caught PANAMANIA???

2015_Pan_American_Games_logo.svgSince the Pan Am Games landed in Toronto, and surrounding areas just a little over a week ago, one of the big questions on the top of many minds is “will The Games be a success?”  I guess the answer depends on who you ask.  News outlets, local politicians, and vocal residents seem to have set TO2015 up for failure from the get to.  Starting with stores about corruption, and a ballooning price tag of $2.5 billion dollars, as well as restricted movement around the city, Torontonians don’t seem to have that warm, fuzzy feeling that the organizers had hoped for.

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Pachi, the not so fuzzy mascot.

I think what a lot of residents are forgetting is that Toronto is a world-class city that attracts all sorts of artistic, cultural and sporting events, and if we want to attract these high-calibre events, sacrifices are going to have to be made.  One of the biggest beefs Torontonians seem to have is with the infamous HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes.  These lanes exist on many of our roads and highways, but when the Pan Am games rolled into town, they added more lanes in different locations, upped the requirement of 2 people in a car to 3, and issued special permits to athletes.  I get it… when you’re sitting in stopped traffic on the 401 or QEW and you see cars with an Games Permit whizzing by in a mostly empty lane, it’s hard not to feel resentful, but we have to remember that is temporary.  It also doesn’t help that the HOV lanes are a favourite topic of discussion of most morning radio announcers in the city.  You can’t even flip through the stations, because they’re all complaining about them!

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“Temporary” HOV Lanes on the DVP

Of course, when faced with these problems, you need to get creative, and think outside of the box when faced with challenges.  Or if you can’t beat them, why not join them?  Ticket sales have unfortunately been a little underwhelming, but that just means that there’s a lot to choose from. The Pan Am games offer up a number of different events that you wouldn’t normally be able to see, that are really very interesting and entertaining to watch.  Between friends, family and myself, we’ve been to badminton, diving, cycling, rugby sevens, water polo, handball, and various equestrian events.  While the Pan Am Games don’t get the same recognition of the Olympics, it doesn’t mean that they athletes should get any less attention.

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Men’s Badminton Doubles finals

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Men’s Water Polo

What do you think of the Pan Am Games?  Is it worth the $2.5billion price tag?  If you were in the area would you go to any of the events? While I realize that most of the people on this discussion board seem to be from the Ottawa area, please be kind with your comments… not all Torontonians fit the stereotype!  …and be careful when you use #TO2015, evidently there’s a policy against that!

Has social media killed the garage sale???

I can remember as a kid, zooming around the neighbourhood on my bike after dinner on Fridays, scoping out all the garage sale signs for my parents.  It seemed like clockwork, every Friday evening in the summer, the signs would go up for sales the following day.  Then on Saturday morning, we would head out for “the hunt”.  To a 10 year old, there was nothing greater than finding massive collection of baseball cards for a few dollars, or a new (used) bike to replace the one that was outgrown already this season.  By the end of the day, you would have amassed a trunk-load of stuff that you didn’t really need, then start the process over again the following week.

Now, while “the hunt” is still on, the techniques are quite different.  With sites like Kijiji, Craigslist, and even social networking sites like Facebook, you don’t need to spend near as much time going from sale to sale, looking for your prize.  These social buy-and-sell sites allow sellers to upload pictures, descriptions, pricing, and where you’re located.  They also allow potential purchasers to search for specific items.  And best of all, it’s completely free!  There are options to pay a small fee to get your ad ranked higher up on the listings, but it isn’t required.

On the other-hand, if you’re still bent on having the traditional garage sale, social media is a great outlet for advertising your sale!  You don’t need to rely on a few signs posted inside your neighbourhood, you can post an ad with your location, along with some of the “hot items”, with pictures to give potential “customers” a greater incentive to visit. It also opens your sale up to people well beyond your local neighbourhood.

There is always going to be some concern when you’re making transactions with individuals you have never met before; Craigslist offers several Safety Tips, and Kijiji has an Online Safety section as well. Essentially it comes down to using common sense; when buying or selling, do so in a public place.  I personally like gas stations; they’re easy to find, are often busy, and a loaded with security cameras pointing in every direction. You also need to be aware that if something seems like way too good of a deal, it probably isn’t real… or it’s stolen goods!  It’s also important to watch for people who make the purchasing process convoluted or complicated; it’s usually a scam. It’s always a good idea to ask for payment in cash.

So how about you; have you bought or sold anything on Kijiji or Craigslist?  Over the years I’ve done lots of both. My wife and I managed to unload a bunch of wedding gifts that we didn’t want. I’ve also bought and sold furniture, bicycles, kids toys, motorcycle parts, car parts, and more.

Has anything bad ever happened to you?  The worst that has ever happened to me is that people haven’t shown up when they’re supposed to, but I adhere to some pretty basic safety rules.

Kijiji and Craigslist are the most popular buy and sell sites on the internet, but there are also many groups on Facebook devoted to buying and selling specific categories of items.  Do you have a preference?  Incidentally, Canadians overwhelmingly prefer Kijiji while Americans predominantly prefer Craigslist.

How about advertising a garage sale… have  you done it… did it work for you?  While I’ve never actually had a garage sale as an adult; I generally rely on social media buy and sell sights to sell things one at a time, I have been tasked with putting together an on-site estate sale… let’s hope advertising it on Kijiji and advertising it on Craigslist will pay off. (sorry for the shameless plug!)

Father’s Day is Different for this Dad

happy-fathers-day-2014-greeting-cards  As a child, the Father’s day experience for me was rather typical; with our mother’s help, my brother and I would usually make Dad some breakfast, eggs, bacon, and toast…  Nothing too fancy, and usually followed it up by giving cards whatever gift we had fashioned in school, or as we got older, the requisite tie or fishing lure. The rest of the day dad had to himself. It was Mom’s job to keep us out of our Dad’s hair so he could do what he wished during the day. Usually it involved reading the paper and watching golf on TV, two things we were happy to let him do on his own. I never gave a second thought to how the whole Father’s Day experience could be different.

…until I became a father!  I didn’t exactly become a father in the same way my own Dad did.  On March 10th, 2012 my wife and I became parents, literally overnight to a beautiful 9-year-old girl! Through the crazy process that is adoption, we were thrown head first into being parents. After trying to spend our first Mother’s day together in a more traditional sense, we quickly agreed that all future Mother’s and Father’s day would have to be about our daughter’s needs, and not our own desires.  She had come this far in life and had yet to celebrate either. Thankfully, our own parents are very supportive, and are happy to get a quick phone call of recognition on the day.

So how was my first Father’s day different from my own experience?  For starters, I was woken up at the crack of dawn by a smiling, excited daughter who was acting like it was Christmas morning.  If anyone else had done the same, they would have been faced with a few choice words, and me going back to bed… but I still got up for her, and choked down a breakfast that only a 9-year-old could have made.  Then she wanted to “take me out” to go shopping at my favourite stores… so we wandered around Canadian Tire, Home Depot, and Princess Auto for a couple of hours, before having lunch at McDonald’s. The rest of the day is a bit of a haze, but I remember being exhausted at the end of the day.  Although it is not what I had ever could have envisioned, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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As a self-proclaimed Facebook junky, things are different for me in this respect as well.  I see updates coming in all day from other friends and family posting pictures of them and their kids celebrating in their own unique ways, but I can’t share that joy the same way they have.  Because of our daughter’s situation, my wife and I have agreed to a self-imposed ban on posting any identifying pictures on social networks.  There have been times when we’ve had to ask for her photo to be taken down, and for the most part people are understanding, but I still feel as though we are missing out on something.  I have to be very creative and cautious with which pictures I do post.  However it still doesn’t compare to the 9 years of what she has missed out on. Needless to say, I’m not looking forward to when she turns 13 and is eligible to get her own Facebook account.

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Oh, and for the record, she did let me sleep in this year, but she keeps bugging me, asking when I’m going to be finished my homework, so we can get back to spending the day together!

Introverts Find Their Way with Social Media – COM0011

The age of social media has opened up more opportunities for Introverts to express themselves, and survive in an carl-g-jungExtravert’s world. Before I go any further, I think it is important to define what I mean by “Introvert.”  “Extraverson” and “Introversion” were first coined by psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Jung. In his book Psychological Types Jung defines Introversion as “being characterized by an inward flowing of personal energy—a withdrawal concentrating on subjective factors.”  In plain English it means that Introverts get their energy from having personal time to reflect and think without being interrupted. This doesn’t mean that Introverts are shy, reclusive, and socially awkward; in fact, it can be quite the opposite! Introverts are solitary by choice, but shy people avoid things like social situations and public speaking out of fear. Introverts can absolutely be the life of the party, but eventually that outwardly focused energy will run out, and time is needed to “recharge.”

“I’m not antisocial; I’m just selective with my energy!” – Carole Cameron, Author

Some would argue that social networking causes Introverts to “ignore the real world”, and think of them as” socially reclusive”.  See What Impact Has Social Media Truly Had On Society. Without getting into an argument on metaphysics, or quoting a good portion of The Matrix, I would say that the ever-increasingpopularity of social networking, is allowing Introverts to become more social!

As an Introvert myself, I not only appreciate my down time after work, I need it!  After spending the day answering calls, talking with clients, sitting through meetings, getting dinner with my wife and daughter, then getting my daughter to bed; the last thing I want to do is go out for a coffee with friends, or call someone to chat. Instead I pull out my phone and start browsing through Facebook. This gives me the perfect opportunity to get caught up on what my friends and family have been up to, interact by leaving comments, and even creating new posts. From this, I usually move on to my Twitter feed and favourite message boards, all-the-while engaging in two-way communication.

I should also point out that Introverts tend to be the people that need to think before they speak. I’m not implying that every Extravert is walking around with their foot in their mouth, what I mean is that reacting or answering quickly come more naturally to them, whereas Introverts need more time to process (I would bet that the top-performing Jeopardy contestants are all Extraverts!). Introverts also tend to have a greater concern for privacy. Could social networking be any more tailor-made for Introverts? The various platforms (Facebook, Twitter, blogging, photo-sharing, message boards, etc.) let us think about what we want to say before we say it, without the worry of responding quick enough; who we share it with, and do it in a way that isn’t emotionally draining. It is even widely known that Mark Zuckerberg (co-founder of Facebook) is an Introvert himself.

“Introverts are taking over the world… quietly.” – Paul Huschilt, Humourist

Without social media, I would certainly have less interaction with my friends and family. That’s not to say that I never see these people in person, and even if my energy is drained, I still make the effort to call my mother once-a-week (Although, that tends to be a more one-sided conversation regardless of how I’m feeling 😛 ).  Face-to-face socializing isn’t going away any time soon, human nature precludes us from it.  Regardless of what technology is available, there will always be socially reclusive individuals who ignore the goings on of the “real world”.

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While over 40% of the population are Introverts, nearly 60% don’t share the same tendencies, and likely have differing opinions on what constitutes being social. However with over 1.44 billion active users on Facebook, it can be safe to say that they are not all Introverts. If this many people are active users, doesn’t this mean that they are actively participating in social engagement?

Social networking is not a substitute for the “real world”, rather it is more of a supplement to it. It gives Introverts their necessary down time, but can still be social at the same time.