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


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.

address card

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.


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!


“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.


Men’s Badminton Doubles finals


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!