Personal Reflection

I have always believed that story telling is the most natural and engaging way to communicate with an audience. Even in the classroom, storytelling becomes an integral tool for teaching as we share examples of our experiences in industry through stories. It is these stories that students relate to and remember.

Storytelling is the key to engaging your audience and building relationships online. It is through these stories that we share who we are and what we believe. Storytelling allows us to create content that feels personal, is relatable, and conveys the human experience in a way that no other means of marketing can. Our stories allow us to share the information we are trying to convey in a creative and authentic way.

One thing that I have learned through this Social Media journey is that the most popular posts on our social media are the ones that share information, solve a problem or evoke true emotion from our followers. I am teaching my students to put themselves in the place of our followers to answer questions or share information that they feel they will truly connect with.

It has been gratifying to watch my students content creation grow and evolve over the past few months. They are monitoring our social media to see what is receiving the most engagement, and creating posts to meet that demand. Of all posts, the one that garnered the most likes, shares and engagement was a short video of a student folding a napkin in the Restaurant with the caption “how to impress your dinner quests”. The engagement was off the charts! We discussed as a class why they thought it was so popular. The answer is, it taught them something that they didn’t know and it was interesting enough that they shared it with their friends.

Storytelling starts with empathy, and gives back rather than trying to push the sale. It’s learning what your audience wants, then giving it to them in an informative, interesting and engaging way. Our students have learned a great deal this semester. They have learned to add value to their followers, teach them something of interest to them, and share their journey through their stories, in an authentic and engaging way.

If We Building It, WILL They Come?

After two VERY rough years, COVID restrictions are lifting. Restaurants, gyms and salons are reopening and are eager to return to the thriving business they once enjoyed. But, it begs the question, if we build it, will they come?

This is the greatest challenge we have ever faced at Restaurant International. For the past two years, Restaurant International has been open/closed, open to the public/closed to the public, open to inside guests/closed to inside guests, and on and on. While people have been milling about at grocery stores and shopping districts where they can feel secure behind their masks, going into a restaurant maskless, with strangers, can be a huge leap of faith for many.

We ask ourselves, how do we build their confidence and make them feel safe to return? We know that inherently, people love to socialize and eat out with friends and family, so we have that on our side. But are they willing to take that leap, or will they stay in their intimate groups, sharing meals at their homes with friends and families. That is the question.

Beyond trying to bring people back to the Restaurant, we also face the challenge of building the confidence back in our students, who will be serving close to a hundred strangers a day, maskless. They have been practicing with their classmates for many weeks, but now it’s time for the real deal. We need to build their sense of security for their personal health and safety, but also their confidence in their ability to take what they have learned in theory, to serve real guests.

Social Media marketing is playing a huge role in our ability to over come this challenge. We are creating content that tells the story of our students journey in their program, including the skills they have learned online, the practice that they have garnered while serving each other, and how excited they are to welcome guests back to their classroom to enjoy a GREAT meal with colleagues, family and friends.

We have already begun this marketing campaign with social media posts showing students working in the kitchen, creating great food, mixing exciting cocktails and setting places for people to join them. They have told stories by creating short videos about a day in the life of a student here at AC, and posted pictures of place settings with the caption “your table awaits you”.

Followers are really relating to these stories and are engaging online with our students as they tell their stories and invite them to join them on this journey back to real life. We are building a story, in the hopes that they will come.

Personal Brand

Everyone has something they are good at or passionate about.  While examining my personal brand, I asked friends and family to name the first three words that come to mind that they feel would best describe me.  While I immediately related to some of their descriptors, others took me by surprise.  The ones that resonated were the ones that I consider part of my personal brand, the things that I believe I authentically represent.  The others were perhaps red flags to explore further and see if they belonged within the scope of my personal brand.

I now had a list of descriptors that I felt told a story of who I am.  Mother, wife, educator, event professional, passionate traveller, equality advocate and lover and protector of our big beautiful planet earth. Of these, I find that there are three areas of specialization that I believe represent me the most, they are family lover, educator, and passionate and sustainable traveller.

I am a professor of Event Management and Coordinator of the Hospitality Diploma here at AC.  I’ve had the incredible opportunity to teach and guest lecture in China, Spain and Switzerland and this is an area of my professional career that I would like to expand and perhaps even continue as a sabbatical and eventually as a private contractor in my retirement.  

During my Master’s Degree, I did a great deal of research on the topic of Pro-Poor Tourism and that experience completely changed the way I travel.  Pro-Poor Tourism means travelling to third world countries or immerging economies and engaging in local tourism by staying in locally owned hotels/homestays, eating at local restaurants, hiring tour guides and drivers that are local to the community and purchasing food, supplies and gifts from local merchants.  This ensures that the money you spend stays in the local economy rather than returning back to North America.  While traveling to destinations such as Cambodia, Thailand, Kenya, Tanzania and Vietnam I made a concerted effort to leave my money with the locals.  I stayed in local hotels and homestays, asked for suggestions of locally owned restaurants and recommendations for drivers and tour guides from the region.  I found this style of travel to be incredibly rewarding and it has become a lasting passion.

After spending time considering my personal brand, I went through and viewed my social media. I am not surprised to report, that 90% of the content on my socials represent one of these three themes. I guess it’s fair to say, that I am living and portraying my brand.

GoPro Success Using UGC

Photo by Mary on Pexels.com

I have long believed that no one does UGC like GoPro! There are a few key success factors contributing to the marketing success of GoPro. The first is their ability to segment their audience and provide content to attract each unique set of users. The second is their use of User Generated Content to market their product over multiple social media platforms.

GoPro was a small American technology start up company founded by Nick Woodman in 2001 (TWC,2022). By understanding not only his product but the needs of the diverse audience of people who use it, Nick was able to build a multibillion dollar empire. GoPro is known not only for their high-quality tech, but also for their ability to innovate and keep up in a very dynamic and changing marketplace.

GoPro discovered early on that their portable waterproof high-tech camera initially designed for the extreme sport market, was being used by a wide variety of people with vastly different needs. In order to meet the needs of such a diverse group of users, GoPro used a market segmentation strategy to divide its market according to psychographics and type of use. By splitting this market they were able to identify, target and build a wide variety of users. Through market segmentation GoPro was able to appeal to a diverse and constantly growing population. This allowed them to not only develop and deliver content to align with each segments interests, but to deliver it in a platform native to them.

I believe the greatest success factor for GoPro has been their engagement of their market on social media through user generated content. Each day over 6,000 photos are upload to social media with the #GoPro hashtag (Lai, 2016). GoPro is then able to take the best of the best within each segment and post it to the appropriate social media platform. User generated content is considered a far more authentic means of marketing. Research indicates that 90% of consumers state that authenticity is a key factor in deciding which brands they will support and 60% say that user generated content is the most authentic form of marketing. (Ramby, 2021)

With this knowledge GoPro has created its own low-cost marketing campaign by posting user generated content of people using their product. What I find extremely interesting is that very few social media posts from this business actually speak of, or show pictures of their actual product. Their strategy has always been to show people how the product is used. I can certainly understand why this has been so successful, when you view their Instagram account, the pictures are absolutely spectacular. Anyone who participates in any form of sport, leisure or entertainment and wishes to save those memories, can’t help but be drawn to the GoPro.

There is no question that GoPro’s strategy of advertising their product through the use of UGC has been an overwhelming success. This strategy has set them apart not only within their market place, but in the social media marketing world overall. Go pro has taken the time to build relationships with their users and has successfully engaged them as content creators across all social media platforms. A true success story. #gopro

TWC. (2022, Feb 13) How to use a GoPro Marketing Strategy in Your Business/2022

Ideagoras Social Media. (2022, Feb 13) GoPro – Building a Social Brand Using Consumer Generated Content

Lai, N. (2016, July 14) GoPro: Socializing with their Media

Segmenting for Success

Photo: AC Student Angela Ventura

Restaurant International is located in H Building of the Ottawa campus at Algonquin College. While it is a functioning restaurant, open to the public, many people don’t realize that this learning enterprise in actually a classroom. For the students in the School of Hospitality and Tourism this classroom is a safe environment to put theory to practice.

This makes Restaurant International a unique enterprise from a marketing perspective. They are open to the public, serving people in the community while also trying to meet the needs of the college community itself, creating a wide variety of audiences to market to.

Potential Guests include:

Members of the external community

Couples seeking low cost dining: 25-65 years, middle income, native to Ottawa (mostly from Nepean), enjoy dining out, seeking a couples night out on a budget.

Retirees on fixed incomes: 55+ years, retired or semi-retired, middle income who want luxury without the high price. Some are couples, others are groups of friends or family.

Centrepointe Theatre audiences: 25+, middle income employed, or low income students seeking a night of dinner and theatre without the hefty price tag.

Groups of families and friends from the neighbourhood: 40+ years, groups of middle age, middle income, social groups wanting a place to gather, catch up with friends and enjoy a good meal.

Members of the AC community

Photo: AC Student Angela Venture

Students: 18+ years, low income, looking for a change of pace from fast or cafeteria food. Often come with a group of friends, or as a couple for a higher end night out on a budget. Seeking upbeat, fun atmosphere without the chaos of a nightclub experiecne.

Faculty: 35+ years, middle to high income. Post secondary educated. Gathering with colleagues for lunch or family, friends or colleagues for dinner. Want to support students. Enjoy the quieter atmosphere away from the staff cafeteria/lounge.

Administrative staff: 25+ years, wide range of incomes and educational backgrounds. Gathering with colleagues for lunch or family, friends or colleagues for dinner. Want to support students. Enjoy the quieter atmosphere away from the staff cafeteria/lounge.

Social Media Marketing Strategy:

The one thing that most audience of RI have in common is the desire for great food at a lower cost. The Restaurant has labelled this Boujee on a Budget and this is now a theme that flows through all social media platforms. By segmenting the restaurants audience and researching what platforms each audience is using, the restaurant has developed a messaging strategy to communicate with all potential audiences in their own space, sending communication that will resonate with each demographic.

PlatformAudienceMessaging
FacebookCouples seeking lost cost dining
Retirees on fixed incomes
Centrepointe Theatre audiences
Groups of families and friends from the neighbourhood
Faculty
Administrative staff
Great Food
Low Price
Low cost wine
Social space
Gathering
Special Occasion
InstagramCouples seeking lost cost dining
Centrepointe Theatre audiences
Groups of families and friends from the neighbourhood
Students
Faculty
Administrative staff
Great Food
Low Price
Low cost wine
Social space
Gathering
Special Occasion
TwitterCentrepointe Theatre audiences
Faculty
Administrative staff
Dinner & Show experience
Great Food
Low Price
Low cost wine
Support Students
TikTokStudentsBoujee on a BUDGET
Great Food
Low Price
Low cost wine & spirits
Social space
Gathering
Special Occasion

Storytelling as a Means of Communication 

Photo by Susy Hazlewood from Pexels

All Bloggers create content, but not all Bloggers create a following.  Why is that?  Why do we click on some articles and never even ask who wrote it, yet other articles we read and then immediately “google” the author?  

Over the years I have followed several different blogs and clicked on a multitude of article links.  Many blogs have come and gone.  Some I have read a few times and never returned, some I have subscribed to for a period of time but eventually lost interest, yet there are some that I have bookmarked for easy access.  

It wasn’t until recently that I really considered what it is about these blogs that has held my interest over the years.  It turns out, all three Blogs that I faithfully follow are Storytellers.  All three bloggers are food and natural health bloggers, but what they really have in common is their stories.  I know when they had babies, where they went on their last vacation and even their hopes and dreams for their families and careers.  These are topics far out of the scope of food and natural health, yet they share this information through their stories.  They all have a gift for sharing the information that I came to acquire through their stories about everyday life.

I can’t be sure if these bloggers have assessed their target audience and made a conscious decision to develop their content in this manner, or if this is just their natural communication style.  But I am clear, that storytelling has been a key success factor to building their strong following.  

People have long been attracted to stories, it’s how we share our success, dreams and passions in a communication style that is universally loved and understood.

If you are interested in food and wellness, take a moment to share in these bloggers’ stories.  It’s time well spent.

https://ohsheglows.com

COM0014 – Blog #1: A Life Truly “LIVED”

In August of 2019 I set upon a journey that would change my life in more ways than I could ever have imagined at the time.

My mother was 82 years old and had traveled the world, yet there was one destination that had eluded her… Africa. When she turned 80, I said “Ya know Mom, you’re not getting any younger, if you’re going to hit Africa, you might want to do that sooner rather than later”. She laughed, I laughed and not much was said after that.

Fast forward to June of 2019… I had just returned from Vietnam and was sharing pictures and stories with Mom. We compared where we had been in Asia, our likes, loves, must sees and “you should skip that” attractions. During the conversation I again raised the issue of Africa. “Seriously Mom, you’re not getting any younger”. But this time her response took me by surprise. “I don’t think I’m going to make it to Africa” she said. I was shocked. “What do you mean? You can’t skip Africa!” Her response was not at all what I was expecting. “All of my travel buddies are either dead or too old to travel now”. I had no idea this was the reason that Africa seemed to be cast aside for so long. I responded without hesitation, “then its settled, we’re going to Africa”.

In one month I planned a 4 week trip to Kenya. Mom’s dream was to travel by safari and stay in a beautiful tent with a guide, a chef and every exotic animal in the warm, dry, spectacular Savanna. I had to explain to her that at 81, while romantic in thought, a tent was probably not really a practical, or comfortable choice. I think it was the thought of getting up in the middle of the night to use an “outhouse” that convinced her that I could find something equally as spectacular, while providing running water and a toilet. (lol). Welcome to Salt Lick Safari Lodge, Tiata Hills, Kenya.

For 27 days and 27 glorious nights, we explored all of the beauty, warmth and hospitality that Kenya has to offer. After a long flight, we spent a week relaxing by the ocean in an incredible spa resort. She loves the ocean and swam in the pool every day. We explored the history, people, food and culture of Mombassa for 7 days.

Then, it was off on safari for two weeks. Words cannot begin to describe the beauty of Kenya. The warm dry air of August, the incredible sunsets, with a sun so large and so close, it felt like you could reach out and grab it.

The curious, intelligent, wild animals of Africa were the obvious highlight of the trip. We spent days and days on safari in search of the ultimate “game”, the LION. We saw elegant, swift, spectacular elk; zebras in large wild herds; the truly ugly, yet adorable warthogs; the enormous, gentle herds of elephants and so many many more.

Until one day, we finally found the elusive lion. Not just a lion but a pride of four lions including three beautiful lioness and a brilliant, spectacular, very large, very sleepy male lion with a magnificent mane arounds his strong, elegant face. That was it, Mom had come to Africa, gone on safari and found her “MGM Lion”. The look on her face was absolutely worth every moment spent planning and every dollar spent travelling halfway around the world.

Mom said, it was the best trip of her entire life… and I agreed.

For Christmas, I had a brilliant book made for her of all of her favourite pictures from Africa. She was just thrilled and told me when she went home after her Christmas here in Ottawa that she looked at it EVERY day. On June 3rd, 2020, ten months after our trip to Africa, Mom died peacefully in her sleep. When I arrived to her home, I found her book of Africa, open on her coffee table.

She was an extraordinary women, who lived an extraordinary life. I will be forever grateful that I dropped my life, took a leap and shared this extraordianary experience with her.

Where’s Waldo?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

The Search is Over Thanks to Waldo’s Vaccine MicroChip

The Potential Impact of Posting Conspiracy Theories on Social Media

While social media and blogs are supposed to be a space to share your own personal thoughts with the world, there are some topics you might want to reconsider or avoid all together. We are told from a young age to avoid contentious topics such as politics and religion when gathering in social situations. As our social life has moved online, it may be time to consider how posting, liking, sharing or retweeting controversial topics may impact your personal brand.

Over the past year I have watched friends, family and colleagues post, repost or share conspiracy theories on their personal social media. I understand that these are their own personal beliefs and they have a right to like or post anything they chose, but the reality is, the more I read these posts, the more I question their judgement, beliefs and in some cases sanity, lol.

You can call this judgemental, but the reality is that each and every time you put a thought out in a public domain, you are being judged. As discussed in a previous post, this is just a standard risk of engaging on social media. Each post you make represents your personal brand, and by nature of the fact that it falls under the umbrella of “conspiracy theory”, you have entered a controversial arena. You might want to consider your audience to decide who shares your mindset and may receive this information in a positive way vs those who may be triggered, offended, or question your judgement. One negative experience may affect how you may be perceived in futrue posts. Food for thought…

If you have experienced this issue on social media, please share your experience below. I would love to hear how you have addressed or ignored such posts from your friends, family and colleagues.

For related interesting reads, please check out.

How to Build a Persoanl Brand on Social Media

What to Say If People You Love Believe Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories

Facebook: Where’s Waldo The Potential Impact of Posting Conspiracy Theories on Social Media https://bit.ly/3vDpgio

Twitter: Where’s Waldo The Potential Impact of Posting Conspiracy Theories on Social Media https://bit.ly/3vDpgio

References:

De Bellefonds, C. (2020) What to Say If People You Love Believe Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories. Self.com. https://www.self.com/story/coronavirus-conspiracy-theories

Lau, V (2020). How to Build a Personal Brand on Socia media. LinedIn.com. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-build-powerful-personal-brand-social-media-2020-vanessa-lau

Yikes & Likes!

Tips for Responding to Negative Reviews on Social Media

Photo by Thought Catalog on Pexels.com

Social Media is a great platform for two-way discussion and conversations with your followers. Customers often head to social media to share a positive experience or complain to friends in a very public way.  While comments on social media can sometimes be difficult, they allow you an opportunity to engage with your followers in a way never before afforded. But, with privilege comes responsibility. It is expected, anticipated, even inevitable that along with the glowing reports, and positive reviews, you will receive negative feedback about your business. 

No one likes to read negative comments about their product or service, but this is often a reminder of WHY you are active on social media in the first place.  This is your opportunity to truly engage with your audience by proving that you are listening and responding to customer feedback.  This is an opportunity to use that feedback to better your product and provide what your customers truly want.

Rebecca Kowlewicz, a Forbes Magazine Council Member suggests four tips for responding to negative social media reviews.

  1. Respond in a timely manner
  2. Prove that you are listening
  3. Keep it positive
  4. Offer contact information

Rebecca states that time is of the essence when responding to a negative comment.  The sooner the better, but at least within the same day.  This allows not only the reviewer, but your entire customer base to see that you are active on your social media platforms and are there to engage.

Rebecca talks about the importance of demonstrating sincerity in each reply by using the customer’s name and acknowledging their specific concern.  While there are many documented cases of internet trolls or competitors posting false negative reviews, it’s important to take all reviews at face value and keep the message positive.

The final step in your response is to show the reviewer that you value their feedback and will use it to better your product or service.  If there is an opportunity to resolve an issue or provide compensation, be sure to offer contact information or ask them to send you a private message so you can resolve their issue in private rather than a long public back and forth.

All reviews positive and negative should be documented and put forward to your team. This direct feedback from your customers allows you to improve your product or service and to share that feedback with those within your organization who can facilitate the change. That, is a social media review success!

The takeaway: Respond in a timely manner, thank them for their feedback, take it off line to resolve the issue and retain a customer.

What strategies do you use to respond to social media feedback? Do you have policies and procedure in place to ensure success? Please share them below.

For more information on this topic please check out:

How to Manage Negative Reviews on Social Media

Facebook: Yikes & Likes. Tips for Responding to Negative Reviews on Social Media. https://bit.ly/35mNFhn

Twitter: Yikes & Likes. How to Respond to Negativity Online. https://bit.ly/35mNFhn

References:

Kowalewicz, R. (2021). How to Respond to Negative Social Media Reviews. Forbes. http://www.forbes.com https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2021/03/10/how-to-respond-to-negative-social-media-reviews/?sh=4f42ee7d6a81

Viewtrackers (2021). Powerful Examples of How to Respond to Negative Review and Positive Reviews. Viewtrackers. http://www.viewtrackers.com https://www.reviewtrackers.com/guides/examples-responding-reviews/

Finding My People

Locating Your Target Audience on Social Media

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

You have identified your target market, crafted your message and customized your brand to meet diverse audiences from Facebook to TikTok and every SocialMedia platform in between. But how do you FIND your people?

Every brand spends time and money in search of their ideal audience. The social media management tool Hootsuite has put together a “how to” to help find and connect with your target audience. Locating your target market begins with research and time compiling as much information as possible about your people.

Christina Newberry of Hootsuite suggests you find new people by gathering information about your current audience. (Newberry, 2020, para. 9) Who are the people already using your product?

Key Information:

  • Age: You don’t need to get too specific here. Focus on learning which decade of life your social media target audience is in, or their generation.
  • Location (and time zone): Where in the world does your social media audience live? This helps you understand which geographic areas to target. You’ll also learn what hours are most important for your customer service and sales reps to be online. And when you should schedule your social ads and posts to ensure best visibility.
  • Language: What language does your target audience speak? Don’t assume it’s your language. And don’t assume they speak the dominant language of their current physical location.
  • Spending power and patterns: How much money does your target audience for social media sites have to spend? How do they approach purchases in your price category? Do they have specific financial concerns or preferences you need to address?
  • Interests: What does your target audience like to do? What TV shows do they watch? What other businesses do they interact with?
  • Challenges: What pain points is your social media audience dealing with?
  • Stage of life: Does your social media target audience include college students? New parents? Parents of teens? Retirees?

Knowing your current audience is a great first step, but there are many potential customers that you have not yet identified. Social listening is a great tool to discover what people are saying and where they are saying it. This allows you to hear not only what people are saying about your product, but your competitors products as well. By uncovering and engaging in these conversations using relevant keywords and hashtags, you are able to respond to social media posts and engage in the communities where your potential audience is currently engaged. (Amareson, 2020).

Once you have engaged with this audience, you have the ability to see what else they are interested in and where they spend their time on social media. By spending time engaging in their space, discussing their interests and listening to their ideas you can “mine” your target audience. Developing relationships takes patience and time, but the benefits often provide a lucrative return on investment. Congratulations, you have found your people!

What strategies do you use to find your target audience? Reply below to share your TIPS & TRICKS!

For more information on this topic please check out:

How to Find and Target Your Social Media Audience

Find Your Target Audience on Social Media

Facebook: Finding My People.  Locating Your Target Audience on Social Media https://bit.ly/2TDXl4H

Twitter: Where Are My People? Locating Your Target Audience on Social Media https://bit.ly/2TDXl4H

References:

Newberry, C. (2020). How to Find and Target Your Social Media Audience.  Hootsuite. https://www.hootsuite.com https://blog.hootsuite.com/target-market/

Amareson, S. (2020). What is Social Listening & Why Is It Important? Hubspot. https://blog.hubspot.com https://blog.hubspot.com/service/social-listening