I chose a previously attended (before Covid) Farmer’s Market event called Georgina Farmer’s Market for my Event Participation Assignment. Although I attended 3 different markets on a regular basis that year, I’ll concentrate on the Georgina Market in particular. While this isn’t specifically a professional development course or event in the traditional sense of a seminar, conference or webinar, it was a great experience when it comes to networking and developing interpersonal skills as well as product promotion. I chose to attend this event for a few different reasons. I was operating a hydroponic vegetable business at the time and the Georgina Farmer’s Market is a small but growing weekly event that features small businesses as vendors. I also chose it because it is only about 10 minutes from my house, so it’s easy to attend on a regular basis. Finally, I chose it because this market in particular is right in the middle of our community, so I knew it would give me a chance to connect with people in my own area and hopefully create lasting relationships.
One of the great things about the Georgina Farmer’s Market is the variety of interactions you can be involved in during one 4-5 hour window of time. First, I was able to speak to the other vendors at the market, many of whom were returning vendors. There was a wonderful feeling of friendship and helpfulness when dealing with all the other vendors. Since it was my first year as a vendor at an event like this, the other vendors close to my booth were kind enough to help me set up my tent and even help with my booth set up when I was trying to set up on time alone. Everyone was always so welcoming and really went out of their way to treat other vendors like friends and family, rather than competitors. Also, when a market visitor asked about a product that one vendor didn’t have, but they knew another vendor did, they would send that customer over to the other vendor. We would even trade products with other vendors at the end of the market day so everyone got to go home with something new from another business at the market.
Beyond the vendors themselves, who gave me countless tips throughout the day, the visitors to the market created endless interactions! In one market day, I could talk to upwards of 20-100 different visitors. Sometimes visitors would come to the booth at the same time, so I would have to divide my time between clients as best I could. This made it a bit more difficult to create more in-depth conversations and lasting connections with those visitors. My favourite times at the market were when I would only have one or two visitors at a time. During these moments, I was able to really get to know the customers and what they were looking for. I enjoyed learning about what brought them to the market and then to my booth in particular, what they did, and what they loved. I was able to create some custom items for people that I met at the market, and give them whatever advice I could to make sure that they were happy with their purchases after leaving the market.
I think people come to the farmer’s market to socialize just as much as they come to browse and purchase items. This can sometimes seem frustrating, because as vendors you want to try to sell as much as possible. But the connections you can make with people can be just as valuable, if not more so. My dad (he was my business partner) and I spoke to so many interesting people. And the funny thing was, even though it was our first year, people would come back to the market the next week and visit us! If they loved a product we sold them, they would come back for more, they would tell their friends about us, they would start to follow us on social media, and even ask for custom items. It was a great feeling to really connect with your customers and feel like you were making a difference in someone’s life. Sometimes clients from my pet care business would even come for a visit!
The Georgina Farmer’s Market event forced me to consider various ideas for my own booth at the market, but it also gave me lots of ideas for how to create a social media presence, organize an event, create networking connections, and market a business in person as well. One realization that I walked away with from the market is that organizing and promoting any event is hard work! I often watched one of the organizers walking the market and taking live videos and photos for social media, organizing giveaways, talking to vendors, getting to know everyone and helping where she could. It is a constant process, but one that is necessary if you want your event to be successful.
I learned that creating connections doesn’t need to be limited to those who are in your industry, or people that you can immediately provide a service/product to, or those that you think you can benefit from. You never know when a connection you made will reappear in the future looking for your help, so it pays to be friendly and helpful as a rule and stay open to new opportunities.
I also learned that you can find out a lot about what customers are looking for by listening to what people ask for and how it differs from the products that you or other vendors have. Perhaps there are gaps that can be utilized for creating services and products.
Another rule I learned through the market that I still live by is if you are given the chance to get involved in something – do it! It could be an event, a class, participating in a giveaway, or donating your time or product to a good cause. You have to stop looking at every opportunity for what it can do for you NOW, and think more in terms of creating connections in your industry or community. You also have to think about the type of person you want to be. Do you want to be someone that only helps other people when it can benefit you? Or do you want to be the kind of person who tries to be helpful simply because you can?
I would definitely consider this type of event in the future! Whether you are a vendor or simply a visitor, this kind of event has endless opportunities for networking and gaining valuable knowledge from other people you meet. You may meet people in your industry, which is great, but you also have the chance to meet people from all industries and walks of life. It can help give you fresh ideas, expose you to new perspectives, and ultimately make you a better business person not matter what industry you’re in.
Online marketing and social media are constantly changing with the needs of society and introducing new applications and technology. But some applications have unexpected uses for someone involved in social media and online marketing. One application that has surprising uses is Pinterest. While I have used Pinterest from time to time, I always considered it more of a hobby site people use to get ideas for projects. I very briefly considered creating a presence for my business on the platform at one point, but ultimately decided against it. I never really considered the potential Pinterest has as a platform for selling items or services. But apparently I was wrong! According to one survey, about 72% of those who use Pinterest claim that they get motivated to shop and buy things when browsing Pinterest, even when they originally logged in to Pinterest just to look and weren’t searching for anything in particular. And once they get to the point of wanting to buy something, a whopping 90% of Pinterest users surveyed said that Pinterest aids in their decision making process when it comes to what they actually do buy. So if you have a business and are debating what platforms to focus on, you might want to give Pinterest a try!
Another application that has had a surprising impact on social media and online marketing is an application like Canva. I only recently discovered this program after having noticed it mentioned in various job posting descriptions while browsing for jobs. This program has and will continue to have a significant impact on online marketing by allowing smaller businesses and those with less advanced graphic design skills to compete with larger companies who can afford to pay someone to design content for them. This one program has so many great features! You can create posts for Facebook, Instagram, flyers, menus, posters, brochures, and so many others. It is also a great application for those who work with clients or teams, since you can share your work with others or allow them to give feedback. This allows smaller companies and even freelancers much more flexibility to create and share work without getting into complicated programs or dealing with issues like file conversion for emailing work as well as other logistics issues. I think this program has the potential to really level the playing field for so many businesses and individuals trying to create a strong and professional looking social media presence. I’m excited to work more with the program myself and try out more of the features and templates! I think this is a must-have program for anyone who is getting into social media management.
Beyond applications themselves, there are also a few aspects of how social media and online marketing is used for business that I have found surprising. Businesses initially became involved in social media to reach more clients and influence their customers to buy products or services. What was unexpected was that customers have been gaining more control and overt influence over businesses as well through social media. Businesses used to have the upper hand and company operations lacked transparency or often any real accountability. But things are changing now with the prevalence of social media and online marketing. Customers have much more agency than perhaps businesses ever expected, or were ever prepared for on social media. It’s now much easier to call out a business for poor practices or terrible products. Customers can interact more easily with other customers of the same company and they can spread positive or negative information about a company extremely quickly. In many ways, social media has forced businesses to improve their standards or suffer the consequences to their reputation.
Ultimately, social media and online marketing have changed the way businesses market themselves, what tools and applications they use, and how customers can interact with them. Staying up to date on current trends and applications, as well as getting creative in terms of how those applications and tools can be used, can help you stay relevant in the industry. Have you found any unexpected applications when it comes to social media and online marketing? I’d love to hear about your experiences and observations in the comments!
I am currently switching careers and trying to break into the content writing and digital marketing field from a completely unrelated industry working with pets. Since this is a newer industry for me, I have been focusing on a multi-faceted strategy for professional networking. First, instead of only applying for the ideal full-time jobs, I have also been applying for freelance and part-time positions in the digital marketing field. So far, this has proven to be useful, and I have been able to get involved in some article writing, freelance editing and writer feedback work, as well as some work creating social media campaigns and flyers for various small businesses. This has allowed me to create professional connections with business owners I’m producing work for, other freelancers, and editors. It has become a great way to build my network as well as gain valuable knowledge about digital marketing and content creation.
Second, since I’m still in the early stages of building a network in the digital marketing world, I have tried to create genuine connections with people who have interviewed me for jobs. I have been able to form a strong enough connection with some of the people I have interviewed with that we now stay in touch (even though I wasn’t chosen for the role I interviewed for). This has been a great resource for advice regarding how to prep for other interviews in the field as well as the best types of jobs to apply for, and what type of skills to focus on strengthening. This will hopefully come in handy in the future as I continue to pursue my career in the field.
Third, I have started to use LinkedIn much more than I used to. I have been able to use it to connect with those in the digital marketing industry, and gain more knowledge about what they are looking for in an employee and what they value. I can connect with people I know, and form connections with others in my desired field as well as other related industries. I have started to comment more on posts by others in the digital marketing field, watch videos posted by those people, and try to participate where I can to demonstrate my interest and desire to create lasting relationships. This is also something I plan to ramp up in the next year as I continue to widen my network through this platform.
In the next 6-12 months, I also have a few other ideas in mind to further develop my network – both personal and professional. One resource that is great in our area is the Chamber of Commerce. They are very supportive of new businesses and those trying to expand a business. They have monthly breakfast networking events for small business owners in my area (as well as other networking events), so my intention is to create a freelance website or business cards/business plan and potentially attend some of the networking events to meet new people and create connections – even if they are just friendships and not professional. And there’s food, so you can’t beat that!
In the next year, I also intend to get more involved in some of the in-person events in my town such as the weekly Farmer’s Market, which is an amazing place to connect with lots of people and small businesses. While it is not business networking specifically, it’s a great place to mingle with the community and create connections with others in my area. I have actually participated as a vendor in the past with one of my previous small businesses and it was amazing how many people you talk to from different industries and how often people are looking for help. If they have met you in person, there is a much stronger chance that someone will remember you and ask you for help if they’re looking to hire someone for a project. There are many opportunities like this in the community here like fundraisers for non-profits, festivals, markets, or even just volunteering with community groups on a regular basis—all of these are great places to make last connections with people!
Within the next year I also intend to increase my participation in the online community boards and forums on platforms like Facebook. I am a member of some community forums on Facebook already, so I plan to participate more in those and become more well-known in the community as someone reliable, helpful, and knowledgeable. This means that in the future, if someone is looking for help with social media management, perhaps my name will come up naturally or I will have a decent reputation already if I offer to do social media work for businesses in my community.
Finally, to expand my professional network online, I will also follow more blogs focused on digital marketing and try to make meaningful comments when possible, or ask questions to the authors of the blogs. This will help establish my interest in the field and initiate relationships with the authors of the blogs, which I can hopefully build on over time.
There are so many amazing ways to build your professional network – what’s your favourite? Let me know in the comments!
I have always been drawn to companies that not only provide a service or product, but also demonstrate a desire to have a positive impact. With everything going on in the world such as environmental issues, war, politics, and health issues, it’s often encouraging to see companies try to have a positive influence. For this reason, I am an admirer of Tentree as a company. They structured their entire company image, products, and mission around the idea of creating a sustainable company that gives back in a meaningful way. They sell sustainably produced clothing products, and while they do cost more, their followers believe that lowering our environmental impact on the world is worth that cost. In addition, Tentree also has a company commitment that for every item they sell, they will plant 10 trees. To date, their website states that they have planted 77,279,203 trees in their first 10 years of business! Now, they don’t go out planting each tree themselves, but the company works in partnership with tree planting organizations to make their company promise a reality. They are climate neutral certified as well.
They got involved in social media from the outset of their company, started out strong, and have continued that throughout their years in operation. There are a number of aspects of their social media strategy that make it effective. First, they have a well-known logo, which is used across their various social media accounts and on their products to create continuity and familiarity.
Tentree also uses a number of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Youtube, Twitter, and Tiktok. So they have diversified their platforms to reach various target audiences and increase their exposure and reach. But they don’t just post the same things on each platforms; they emphasize content tailored to each platform so that their posts resonate with various audiences. For instance, on platforms like Tiktok, Tentree shares posts from their audience, meaning they have to create less material themselves, they grow their audience through cross-networking, and are also able to establish a stronger connection with their audience by sharing their followers’ videos. Whereas on platforms like Instagram, Tentree showcases their visual ads for their products through beautiful photography. They also share their audience’s content through their hashtag, which shows their products in action in the real world. They use LinkedIn to highlight their business related awards, and to share knowledge and information with other businesses about sustainability and environmentally friendly businesses practices. So they focus on sharing information that still plays to their strengths, but can also add value for other businesses. They also introduce new products and aspects of their business in this platform. They even created an app where anyone in the Tentree community can track their individual environmental impact.
Tentree also uses a number of ambassadors and influencers to help promote their products. This creates even more engagement and mentions for them and their products. They’re also very responsive online and try to be quick to respond to those who reach out to them on social media. A few years ago, when Mountain Equipment Co was being asked about the absence of diversity in their models, Tentree began to increase their own ambassador and model diversity. Effective monitoring and response like this is a huge part of what makes a company successful on social media. You need to be able to adapt and change quickly when necessary. Their website now features women of all sizes and they use models of different skin colours and backgrounds as well.
Finally, they know how to create a super successful campaign! In 2019, Tentree created one of the most liked Instagram campaigns – ever. It got over 15 million likes and they also racked up about 400,000 new followers in the span of a week. In addition, they also had 200,000 more visits to their website than normal. During Earth Week, they posted the image of a young tree to bring awareness to environmental issues with a promise that if the post hit 5 million likes, they would plant 500,000 trees, or one tree for every 10 likes. I love campaigns like this because they are incredible for improving the reach and exposure of a company and building an even larger audience, but I think it’s also popular because they’re not trying to sell you something in the campaign. It has a more authentic and philanthropic feel because it isn’t connected to some sort of sales pitch directly.
Strong Organization: Moose Jaw
The company Moose Jaw, which is an outdoor retailer, also has great and quirky social media content. Sometimes it’s hard to get people to read captions on posts, or the information on your website. People have short attention spans and limited time. But Moose Jaw has a knack for making me want to actually read their posts – not just look at the cool or fun photos! Although it was acquired by Walmart in 2017, Moose Jaw is still able to run their website and social media as they had before the acquisition.
What drew me to their content in the first place is that I’m an outdoorsy person, so I’m always looking for new retailers to check out. But what made me love their content was the dry humour they consistently infuse in their accounts online. They definitely push the boundaries sometimes, but that’s what I like about them. They have created this quirky persona and have completely committed to it. And it seems to work! They have over 100,000 followers on Instagram. They are able to promote their products as well as encourage and inspire their audience to get outdoors, but in a comical way. They also do fun posts that encourage engagement, like a recent post that asked their audience to draw a picture of their own dog or pet in MS Paint and email it to the Moose Jaw email address provided for a chance to be featured.
Even their website has the same spunky feel to it. For instance, at the bottom of the website where the links to their social media accounts are, they have the title stating “Surf our channels. Or don’t.”, and they even use this dry humour in smaller aspects of the site, like the bottom index has information on terms and conditions/privacy – and the title above that section is “Boring Legal Junk”. Moose Jaw has also diversified their platform use and can be found on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Youtube.
A Weak Organization: Impact Martial Arts
I’ve noticed a number of businesses in my area that could use social media, or should improve the way they use social media. Impact Martial Arts is a business not far from where I live, which I know is trying to expand at the moment. However, they really aren’t utilizing their social media the way they could. The company has a website, and is also on Facebook and Instagram. While they have a decent diversification onto various social media platforms, their following size is limited and they have very low engagement across all platforms and don’t utilize tools or trends to their advantage.
Impact Martial Arts offers a variety of different types of classes and camps, and they cater to all age groups. This provides so many avenues for creating engaging content and connecting with their audience. Since people have been cooped up for a few years after the pandemic, getting into physical activities is more popular at the moment and Impact Martial Arts is in a unique position to appeal to that desire. Some of the most significant issues I’ve noticed with the company’s social media accounts are:
No use of a call to action in most of their posts
The company doesn’t use tools within social media platforms like stories, reels, live streams, or enough video content
Lack of storytelling to create engaging posts
Don’t partner with ambassadors or influencers to help the reach and engagement of the brand
Don’t post on a regular basis, if at all
Posts are too focused on broadcasting and less about connecting with people
If I were to suggest new objectives to improve the Impact Martial Arts persona and image on social media, they would be as follows:
connect with the audience on a more personal level and increase engagement
create a unique and eye-catching logo to represent their company
create a sense of community and belonging with followers and potential clients
empower the audience to get out and get active
establish the company as source of knowledge and expertise
set the company apart as a community contributor and leader both on social media and in real life
Rather than being a faceless company, clients will begin to view Impact Martial Arts as more of a group of experienced and knowledgeable friends. By extension, this change in image would also increase interest in the company classes and camps. People instinctively prefer to deal with someone they’re comfortable with, someone they feel they can trust and count on. The goal is to wrap that feeling up in the image they establish and maintain on social media.
Impact Martial Arts needs to stand out as a company who cares about its clients beyond a sales pitch. The new social media strategy would show clients that Impact Martial Arts understands them on a deeper level as well as the reasons they love the martial arts and being active. The company should also strive to demonstrate that they identify with the audiences concerns or fears about starting martial arts classes. Both will allow the company to bond with their audience over shared life experiences and a mutual love of staying active, while also acknowledging the audience’s fears and ways to overcome those fears in the social media content. This will create a feeling of empowerment and comfort for clients that Impact Martial Arts staff are knowledgeable and care about their audience.
I would focus on posts that don’t emphasize products or services so much as highlight the people. People naturally connect with other people and common experiences or feelings, so that should be the focus of the social media content. The overarching campaign would be broken down into various smaller, more focused social media campaigns aimed at increasing the bond with their audience, increase social media engagement, and show their audience they care. Mini campaigns could include the following:
live videos on Facebook or Instagram with martial arts experts or staff answering questions about a particular topic
pre-recorded video posts with various martial arts or active lifestyle tips to help make the activities more enjoyable. They could even get the audience to pick the next topic for new videos
quirky photos and videos featuring staff demonstrations and even potentially asking the audience to share photos/videos of themselves doing the same
sharing various types of stories, and asking the audience to share their personal stories, photos or videos that speak to that topic
featuring employees and their stories or tips about staying active
brand ambassador features
The imagery would focus on inclusiveness, connection with others, empowerment, and a feeling of sincerity or authenticity. It would be great to feature the staff, as well as clients as much as possible – rather than using stock photography. I would ensure a wide range of ages and family groups were represented visually: teens, young people in in their 20s, singles, couples, families with children, and even retirees. Finally, the imagery would represent a wide range of activity levels, figure shapes, and fitness levels. The imagery should show that trying martial arts and getting active is for everyone! There is no age limit or fitness level required to enjoying getting active and learning something new, in whatever capacity someone is capable.
The new social media content would be meant to make customers feel at home, part of a family that understands who they are, what they love, and what they worry about. Followers should come away from the company’s content feeling like they belong; they should feel a sense of excitement and exhilaration for the experiences that they have to look forward to, and a sense of connection and being ‘seen’ through the stories Impact Martial Arts shares about their staff and community members. Their social media content should make the audience feel empowered to experience and explore martial arts and a more active lifestyle, and feel like they will never be alone in that endeavour – Impact Martial Arts is there to help them whenever they need it.
Whether doing stand-alone posts, mini campaigns for engagement, more targeted audience campaigns, or real issue campaigns, I would construct the posts with some basic similarities. I would keep the tone friendly and familiar. I don’t think a corporate style voice works for active lifestyle content nor does it connect as well with the audience. I would also involve quotes or content from real people as much as possible including staff, ambassadors, or others in the community. This makes the audience feel like they’re connecting with real people when they interact with the company. I would also include a call to action in most posts, if not all. Finally, visual content would also be used in all posts – whether that is photos, videos, or some other form of visual enhancement.
Monitoring is one of those aspects of social media marketing that can be easy to forget in the excitement of creating content. But it’s a vital part of social media marketing and there are so many amazing tools out there now to help make it easier to effectively monitor social media trends and create a more successful social media strategy.
There are a number of tools that I love using for monitoring social media trends, but one of my favourites is Google Trends. Google Trends is one of my go-to options for monitoring overarching social media trends on a larger scale. Since it is connected to Google and search query information, it can give more comprehensive information than other tools that just use a smaller subset of information, or only monitor one social media platform. There are a few aspects of Google Trends that originally drew me to it. First, it allows me to set up Google Alerts for any keyword or topic I want, so it can be used by anyone regardless of industry, interests, goals, or trends you are hoping to monitor. This also creates less work for me, since I don’t have to go to a dashboard to check things constantly; I get alerts straight to my mailbox. Since it isn’t specific to one industry, it also allows me to use the same tool for all of my businesses and well as information related to some of my freelance industry work. I can even get a glimpse into the demographics connected to various keywords and topics! Just a quick hint for anyone that decides to use it: if you don’t turn off your Google Alerts when you stop using it, or change your keywords and phrases over time, you will keep getting alerts to your mailbox forever.
Another tool that I have recently started getting used to is Hootsuite. As a small business owner, freelancer writer, and someone also looking to get into digital marketing, I don’t necessarily have time to check multiple monitoring tools on a regular basis. So tools like Tweetdeck that are only specific to one platform would be too time consuming, since I would probably have to use multiple tools to get a decent amount of data. Hootsuite, on the other hand, has many tools to choose from so you can tailor your searches and monitoring to what you really want to know. Another great aspect of Hootsuite is that it’s not specific to just one platform; I can search within various social media platforms all in one place. I can also monitor a number of different things at once including various topics, hastags, keywords, and anything else that might be useful to me. Beyond monitoring, I can also create and plan my social media content right in Hootsuite to consolidate where I manage all aspects of my social media strategies even more. Finally, Hootsuite also has many resources you can use to increase your knowledge, which is always a great addition no matter what your main reason is for using Hootsuite.
Choosing the right news sources to keep you up to date in your industry is important too!
When it comes to staying current on news and updates within particular industries I’m interested in, such as social media marketing, I like to follow blogs and sites that are focused on one main industry. For instance, when I want to keep up to date on social media marketing and content writing news or updates, I follow sites such as Marketing Land, Social Media Examiner, as well as The Moz Blog for SEO specific news. They include breaking news in the digital marketing industry, specialized articles and even tips—all focused on things that matter to my business and work. Since social media marketing is a constantly changing industry, to stay relevant you really need to continuously be learning and updating your skillsets and knowledge. This is important to me because if I am creating social media strategies for other companies (or even for my own businesses), it would be easy to miss out on new tools, options, or changes in how various social media platforms work. This could seriously reduce the efficacy of my strategies and keep me from creating the best work for my clients and myself.
I also love to use LinkedIn News as a source for business news. Since I’m involved in a variety of business ventures, I find it useful to keep an eye on this source for information on what different businesses are focusing on, what issues they’re concerned about, and what information could be useful to me in my own pursuits. Even information that doesn’t necessarily apply to me in the moment, I often keep note of it in case it becomes useful to me in the future. It also gives me the chance to follow the advice of industry leaders and learn from the experts. LinkedIn News also includes a variety of types of content such as articles as well as videos and interviews. In addition, it also has a separate tab for events that can help keep you more up to date. I prefer this source over many others because it is generally more business focused, whereas with other news related sites, I might be getting a wider variety of information but it would be less useful to me.
At the end of the day, you have to choose the tools and sources that are right for you. What works for another person or in another industry may not work for you—and that’s okay! Think about your goals and what information would be most beneficial to you and go from there.
What tools and sources do you think are underappreciated but just as good as the popular choices? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear what you think!
Marketing a business or yourself is an ever changing experience, especially when it comes to using social media. If you want to truly reach people and make an impact with your content, you have to be willing to put in the effort needed to do that.
I think this course has helped to remind me how vital storytelling is to branding on social media. People want to feel like they’re connected with something real, someone genuine. You have to find ways to incorporate storytelling into your content, no matter what the focus of your content is. It’s often easy to forget that in the rush to try to keep up with posting every day and managing other aspects of your business. You have to draw your audience in by weaving a story, by creating emotion in your story and therefore in your audience. To me, this is probably the single most important aspect of creating social media content, and it’s definitely something I will strive to achieve in the future.
This course was also a reminder that as business owners, we are not separate from our audiences. If we want our content to resonate with people, we need to take the time to really get to know our audience. We need to monitor and listen, we need to ask questions, and interact in a meaningful way with them. Then we need to be prepared to change our strategy as we find out more about our audience. Just because we think we know who our audience is or what they’re looking for, it doesn’t mean that we’re right – sometimes it takes time and even some trial and error.
It was also eye-opening to really look into how your communication style can and should change depending on which segment of your audience you’re trying to connect with. That’s something I think I took for granted in the past and didn’t really pay any attention to. But this course forced me to consider whether I was speaking to my audiences in ways that allowed them to connect with me, and to consider how various demographic and psychographic characteristics can truly affect how people relate to your content.
I look forward to using all of the skills and information we learned in this course to improve my own business and social media content in the future!
When you’ve been working in the pet care industry for as long as I have, you gather a pretty impressive collection of client memories. There are hysterical ones, joyful ones, scary ones, and heartbreaking ones. But there are some memories that just really stick with you for better or worse. One of the moments that will always stay with me is one of those memories that has a bit of every emotion all rolled into one.
I was going to visit Toby, one of my oldest dog walking clients and also one of my favourite dogs. I had started walking him before he was even a year old, and here he was 9 years old. Though they hadn’t needed walks for a while, his ‘mom’ Kelly was home and had invited me over for a visit. They had recently found out he had cancer, and it was progressing quickly – so this was kind of a bittersweet good-bye visit.
I hadn’t seen Toby in months, so I was excited to see him, and for those that don’t know Toby, excitement is his middle name! I wouldn’t have even guessed he was sick if Kelly hadn’t told me. When I came in, he was still bouncing all over the place like a pinball, and running around like a puppy. As we made our way into the living room, I sat on the oversized armchair to chat with Kelly. Toby was so excited he was squealing non-stop while unapologetically trying to squeeze himself onto the chair beside me with endless determination. Kelly burst out laughing saying “I’ve never heard him squeal like that before!”, and in all my years I hadn’t either –so I guess he missed me too!
My heart was just bursting as I held back tears even as I was laughing uncontrollably. We sat and chatted about Toby and about life, about all the things we loved about him. And in case you were wondering, yes, Toby DID manage to squeeze onto the chair with me – though he was half on my lap! It was the sweetest visit and the last time I would ever see Toby. But it is one of those memories that I take with me to remind myself that my job is important in those little ways that can change a life, that what I do makes a difference to my clients, to their pets, and that the relationships I build are life-long friendships – whether with it’s with my human clients or my furry ones. They’re not just clients to me, and I’m not just a service provider to them. They’re like a second family, and I will always cherish these moments.
I run my pet care company on my own, so it essential is a personal brand. My personal brand comes down to what I want to represent and how I come across to my audience. The traits I focus on are ones that come naturally to me, but are also traits I know my clients value. What sets me apart from others in my industry is the way I treat my clients and their pets. I am friendly, safety conscious, knowledgeable, and easy going. I think all these traits combined are what come together to create my personal brand. I want to be known as someone that clients can trust, can count on to be there for them when needed. I want people to feel like they can have peace of mind when dealing with me and when using my services. I also want people to feel like they know the genuine me, not a business version of me. You can act professionally while still allowing your true self to come through.
Something that often makes me stand out is my dedication to volunteering and fundraising for local dog rescues. It is something I’m passionate about, but also has the added value of making me stand out from other competitors and show my clients that my love and compassion for animals doesn’t stop at things that I get paid to do.
I think my colleagues would say one of the best things about me is that I am reliable and trustworthy. Not only is this an important trait when it comes to taking care of someone’s pets, but also makes colleagues confident that they can refer clients to me and know that I’ll treat them like family. I think it’s also a trait that helps build a strong reputation over time. Once you lose someone’s trust, it’s hard to get it back. So I try to be honest at all times, even if it means that I have to clients to service better suited for their pet than mine. Or like the dog below…sometimes I adapt my services to keep my furry clients happy!
It’s an odd thing to be proud of, but I’m proud of my ability to be flexible and accommodating with my clients. It’s a trait that I choose to be, even when it sometimes makes life more difficult or complicated for me. I’m happy when I can ease the stress a client may be having. For instance, maybe five years ago, a client had hired another dog sitter for their dog as my new kennel set up wasn’t great for their dog. Unfortunately, on only the second day of their trip overseas, the dog sitter contacted them and told them she couldn’t keep the dog any longer as the dog was having accidents in the house. The client called me, sobbing and panicked, with no idea what to do and asked if there was anything I could do to help. I knew their dog well, so I told them that I would keep the dog for them for the rest of their trip and not to worry – I would take care of her. Did I have to help them? No, it wasn’t my responsibility, but helping people is part of the reputation I take pride in. I always try to give as much as I can to my clients – whether it’s helping with last minute requests, taking photos of their pets, giving them extra updates, or extra attention if their pet is stressed – I’m happy to help!
Ultimately, one of the ways I’ve measured whether my personal brand was working was the reviews people leave me as well as what clients say about me when they suggest my services to their friends. I don’t solicit reviews so the ones I do get give me a glimpse into what people have to say about me. So far, so good!
I chose Algonquin Outfitters for my B2C business case study. Algonquin Outfitters is a company that sells outdoor gear, runs camping trips, and also rents out camping gear. They currently have locations in Bracebridge, Hunstville, Haliburton, and Algonquin Park.
What Algonquin Outfitters Is Doing Right
Currently it appears that Algonquin Outfitters is using Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and they have a website. They use a variety of platforms that suit a B2C business, which is a step in the right direction to expand the audiences they can connect with. Another positive aspect of the company’s social media marketing is that they do try to post reasonably often and they include photos, which makes the posts at least slightly more attractive to viewers and also allows them to showcase their products periodically. Algonquin Outfitters also organizes a few contests each year that do create a certain amount of engagement on their social media channels. Their website is well designed and aesthetically pleasing and I do find there are some connections between their website and their other social media platforms, but that is still minimal.
Shortcomings Of The Algonquin Outfitters Social Media Strategy
Despite the positive aspects of their social media use, I would say that the quality of interactions that Algonquin Outfitters is having based on their social media content is fairly low. Their posts on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Instagram are all mainly duplicate posts used on all channels which means that they aren’t really changing the way to connect with customers on various platforms. Their posts tend to revolve around simply talking about products they have on sale, or new products that came in, but there’s no depth to the posts. They are simply broadcasting information rather than creating any dialogue with their customers. There really isn’t anywhere to go with those kinds of posts. They don’t inspire customers to post comments, or share, or mention the posts . This seems at least partially due to a lack of time and effort being put in to these accounts. While they do have a fair number of followers, I would say the majority are not active fans based on the lack of any post engagement. The company isn’t creating networks through their audience or influencers, they don’t really appeal to the emotional side of buying or storytelling, they don’t seem to give the impression that they want to know what their clients think or even that they want to connect on anything more than a superficial level. They seem to be focusing too much internally, treating their social media accounts as broadcasting platforms rather than utilizing all the tools available to really listen and interact with their audience.
What Could Algonquin Outfitters Do Differently?
There are many things Algonquin Outfitters could do differently, but I will just delve into a few options. Ultimately, they need more emotion, more heart, more aspects of storytelling in their posts. They need to create posts to connect with their audience on a deeper level to show that they understand them. The company could tie their posts into things like how their products can improve time outdoors in terms of things like enjoyment or safety. They could be using much more video content either of clients using the products or going on adventures, of employees trying out the products, or videos of their excursions.
The company could also increase the number of contests, challenges, or even just calls to action on posts asking customers to post videos, or photos of themselves using their products and telling their own stories, or sharing Algonquin Outfitter posts. They could showcase stories about their employees and their experiences outdoors so people get to know the company better. They could create hashtags asking people to join them in getting outside or sharing their favourite spots. They could connect or partner with more influencers or brand ambassadors to help strengthen their online community and networks. The company could use their blog to share knowledge about the outdoors and outdoor activities and use email marketing as exclusive addition knowledge, outdoors tips, and perhaps deals on gear that the regular customers might not receive. Really, the options are endless!
When you’re creating online content – whether that’s blog posts, articles, promoting products or services – compelling content is extremely important. But what happens when you’ve succeeded in producing incredible content but the right people don’t see it? As important as storytelling and engaging content are, if you aren’t reaching your target audience, then your amazing content will go unnoticed. If you want to build a business, product or service that thrives, you need to be ready to sit down and put in the time to get to know your audience!
Every Detail Matters When It Comes To Learning About Your Audience
You can’t properly create content for an audience that you know nothing about. First, you have to have an idea who would benefit from or be interested in your product, information, or expertise. This is where demographics such gender, age, family situation, location, and various others come in to play – really any characteristic of your audience that can provide insight can be useful.
Learning about and connecting with your audience reminds me of online dating. At first, you might just be looking at what someone looks like, how old they are, if they live close to you. But once you find out those things, you want to know more, you want to go a little deeper. You want to know what kind of car they drive (or even if they have a car), what their interests and hobbies are, if they like to travel, what their values might be, what their hopes for the future are, even what makes them happy or sad. The same things are important in regards to your target audience – the more detail you can get about their lifestyle, values, and opinions – also known as psychographics – the more accurately you can create or adapt your content so it will speak to them.
Listening And Connecting: Your “Date” With Your Audience
So you’ve learned more about your target audience – now what? Once you’ve figured out who your audience is, it’s time to go on a “date” with them! And what do you people say about proper etiquette on a date? First, make sure you listen more than you talk. As the saying goes “You have two ears and one mouth so that you can listen twice as much as you talk”. At this stage, you should be getting to know your audience even better by listening, asking a lot of questions, and making sure you demonstrate interest in what your audience or your ‘date’ is interested in. You need to listen if you want to find out what platforms your audience uses, what kind of content they like and why, and what kind of things they’re searching for online in relation to your content or product. For instance, not all apps or platforms are created equal when it comes to what groups use them. If your target audience is late teens and early twenties, there’s a good chance that they spend more time on platforms like Tik tok, Snapchat, and Instagram than Facebook, LinkedIn, or even Twitter.
If you want to listen and learn more about your audience, you can join associations related to your business, use things like Google trends and alerts to monitor search trends, you can join Facebook groups and community pages that your audience may be a part of, follow hashtags to see what conversations are occurring how they relate to your own content, even join in the conversations with those you consider to be part of your target audience.
As great as all these online listening tools are, don’t get so caught up with the social media side of things that you forget that there are lots of incredible ways to connect with your audience in the real world as well! You can use things like in person surveys and polls, focus groups, festivals, and connecting with other related businesses to connect with your potential audience. There are really endless ways to listen to your audience – don’t be afraid to get creative!
Establishing A Relationship With Your Audience
If your first few ‘dates’ with your target audience go well, then the hope is that you can create a long lasting relationship with them. Once you’ve listened sufficiently to your target audience and asked questions to find out as much as you can, all these things can give you a glimpse into your target audience and as you will probably see by this point, they won’t all fit into neat little groups or boxes. There will be lots of diverse groups and people!
You can then begin creating content or promoting your product in ways that would appeal to them based on everything you’ve found. Remember, you want to build a relationship with your audience based on trust and authenticity– important traits in any relationship!
While you may create a primary ‘voice’ for your content, information about your target audience will help you to determine how you can adapt your voice to better connect with different subsets of your audience. Maybe in some cases you’ll have to emphasis certain information that concerns or appeals to one group more than the others. For instance, as someone with a pet care company, I might create different content for pet owners with large families with children versus single pet owners, maybe emphasizing proper ways for children to interact with their dog, or the benefits of owning a pet as a single person. Perhaps I would emphasize different aspects of pet ownership based on the average income of my target audiences, or based on their feelings about long work hours and leaving their pets alone. You don’t necessarily have to cater to every segment of your target audience in each post or article you write, or with every product – you just need to make sure that each time you create content or promote a product it is directed and appeals to at least one group in your audience. If you can find common threads among various groups within you audience, that’s even better. The more members of your audience you can connect with at any given time, the better! At the end of the day, individuals in your target audience are looking to feel heard and understood – so make sure you take the time to get to know them!