COMM-0015: Tools and Sources

It can be challenging to figure out what social media monitoring tools are best for you when you are just getting started in the field. There are a plethora of services out there designed to monitor media for you; however, most of them are paid services. Like most things, knowing how to do the basics on your own will help inform your decision when it comes time to invest in a paid service.</span>

Monitoring Tools

To monitor what is going on in my field, I primarily use Google Trends, and RSS feeds.

Google Trends

Google trends track search terms over time. It also allows you to compare trends. With Google Trends, you can look for keywords related to your industry and see how people are using these terms to search. For example, suppose you are a climate scientist, and you want to write an article for the general public on climate change. You know that Climate Change is the correct scientific term, but you know a lot of people use the phrase ‘Global Warming.’ You can use Google Trends to see what terminology is used in which region. This can influence how you use jargon in your article.

global warming, climate change - Explore - Google Trends 2019-07-14 13-52-10

Google Trends can compare search terms and give you an indication which terms are popular in a region. This is useful for keyword research.


Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is a tool I like to use to gather articles on topics related to my business. I work in Web Development and Multimedia, so there are several sources where I want to read their entire feed (A List Apart – for example). If I want an entire syndication from a publisher, I add the RSS link to Feedly where I can categorize my feeds. I can create my custom RSS feeds with Google News, then I can add them to my feeds on Feedly. On my various devices, I then use applications to aggregate the feed into something I can easily read.

I’ve found it useful to use Google Trends and RSS in conjunction with each other. Articles on RSS will often mention something in my industry I’ve never heard of. If I hear of it a few times, I’ll check Google Trends to see if searches for the mention from RSS is spiking at all. If it is, I’ll add that specific feed to RSS for a while to further monitor.

I prefer deep reading. Twitter and linked in are valuable sources of information in my field, I use them all the time for distributing my content and engaging others. When it comes to monitoring what’s going on in my industry, neither of these platforms has the depth I’m looking for. Too much chatter going on.

Monosnap 2019-07-14 13-59-55

There are several RSS readers that can be used to manage your feeds. This is an example of an application called Reeder.

Sources of Information

The two best sources of news and updates in my profession are Smashing Magazine and Shop Talk Show.

Smashing Magazine

Smashing has excellent articles where they discuss ideas, ethics, coding practices – everything that has to do with my day to day work. I like the material, I like the User Experience of working with their content, and they are very friendly and engaging.

ShopTalk Show

ShopTalk Show is a podcast about front end web development. They explain new things technology trends, discuss hit might stick and what will pass. The advantage Shop Talk has over other channels for me is the format. Because it is a podcast, I can listen to it while driving to and from work.

Both Smashing and ShopTalk have excellent production. The attention to detail means a lot to me. There are other websites and podcasts for sure; it is the quality of the material covered in combination with a high bar of excellence that keeps me coming back.

comms0014: Personal Reflection


Image courtesy Pixabay

There is a difference between writing my story for an audience and writing a story that I think the audience wants to hear. For me, that has been the most important lesson of the Digital Communication course.

Stories are important. We consume them like mad. Books, movies, conversations, songs, even memes are all stories. The dryest academic paper will become engaging if it has a beginning that sets the tone, a middle, some conflict and an end with a resolution.

People engage in social media differently than they do in other formats, they can become part of the story. What I find interesting about that is, it is very modern, something we have been unable to do with print or broadcast media in the past. It also feels ancient, a throwback to when we would sit around the fire at night telling stories and building them together.

To involve the audience, I need to understand who they are and speak directly with them. This has been a critical revelation for me in this course. In the past, I’ve had a tendency to find a target audience and try and figure out what they want to hear. This is different th an finding my own story then figuring out how to tell it to the people I want to reach.

The stories I want to tell are mostly about art. I’m not trying to sell work. I want to share my experiences. I’ve learned there is value in the story, not merely instructions. There is a cast of characters, wins, losses, conflict and resolution. I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in projects using unusual techniques in places most people will never get to see. I have something to say about community art projects. I want to structure stories about art and community that invite participation.

Participation and community; these are the things social media excel at. I look forward to applying what I have learned.

comm0014-blog06: The Gig I Almost Didn’t Do: A favourite Customer Story


Mural painted by students in Naujaat, Nunavut

I left art school in my twenties full of energy and ready to conquer the world. In my wanderlust, I lived here, there and everywhere. I held odd jobs, lived in dodgy places and painted everywhere I went.

Eventually, I settled in the north. The real north. Tundra, polar bears, twenty-four-hour daylight in summer and the aurora borealis in winter. In the Arctic, it was easy to become a big fish in a small pond. I travelled around working on art projects, mostly with young people. I enjoyed being the center of attention and the reputation I was getting as the artist to call if you have a youth project.

Time went on as it always does. With experience, I began to doubt myself. There was something that didn’t feel right about being a white man travelling to indigenous communities, making my money and building my portfolio when there were so many talented indigenous artists who could be doing the same thing.

I gathered a list of Indigenous artists, and I quit. Whenever I received a call to a community, I turned it down, providing my list of artists to the caller.

In 2013 I started getting calls from the town manager in Naujaat, a community that sits right on the arctic circle. I turned him down. I gave him a list of Inuit artists I thought could help with his mural project. He kept calling. I’d turn him down, and he would call again, saying, “I know your work, I want you to come to Naujaat.”

Finally, in 2015, I lost my job, and the next time, the town manager called I accepted.

I did things differently this time. Instead of standing on scaffolding explaining what I was doing to a bunch of teenagers as I worked, I refused to paint. I worked out a technique of instruction that saw the youth doing all the painting. I cleaned brushes and mixed paint so they could keep working. In the north, everything out of the ordinary is news. When the media showed up to talk to me, I refused to speak to reporters and directed them to the students.

The town of Naujaat now has a beautiful mural sixty feet long and ten feet high completely done by local students. The youth are very proud of their work. The town is proud of its artists. I hear plenty of proud grandparents have framed the news articles where their grandchildren were interviewed. I got a nice thank you card from the school. Except for the students I worked with, a couple of teachers and the town manager, nobody in Naujaat knows who I am, and it’s brilliant.

I’m more proud of that mural than any that I painted. I loved sharing my knowledge and watching other people use it. This is a value I have learned to apply to my regular work as a digital strategist. Putting the customer first is not a gimmick for me. It has become my whole reason for doing what I do.


COM0014 Personal Brand


The three characteristics that best describe me are creative, curious and persistent.

I have been served well by these traits. Because of them, I have been to places and had the opportunity to do things that would have been impossible had any one of them been missing.

Learning new things, and seeking out solutions to things I don’t know how to do come naturally to me.

Recent Accomplishments

I look for solutions to any problem I come across. Recently at work, I noticed a gap in project management. While the PM was good at managing contracts, time, budgets and assigning tasks, she had difficulty communicating between the development team and clients because she didn’t understand the technology we worked with. I stepped up and offered to manage the technical aspect of project management for her. Volunteering to do this got me a promotion to team leader.

What colleagues say

“He was always available to help me with any questions I had on styling/design matters, and he did it with an excellent attitude.”
— DR

” He has always been straightforward and honest about what should or could be done, and has a knack for seeing his client (in this case my business) from a potential client point of view.”
— RH

“I don’t know what you are doing, but keep doing it!”
— BS

Pride in my work

The trait I am most proud of is an ability to bring out the best in others. I like to take the time needed to make sure the team is successful. This has worked well for everything, from web projects to art projects.

COM0014-blog04-Black Walnut Bakery: A Social Media Case Study

About Black Walnut

The Black Walnut Bakery is located in Cumberland, Ontario. The owners have a strong community focus, supporting other local businesses and area artists.

Social Media Findings

Black Walnut uses the following social media channels:


Black Walnut Bakery on Instagram

Content posted to Facebook and Instagram is identical. Posts always contain a photograph and accompanying text information. The content is about what’s going on at the bakery, primarily pictures of items baked that day. There are often special promotions for occasions such as holidays or community events.

On both Facebook and Instagram, the company engages with the audience. They usually answer questions within a day and often posts memes thanking customers for support. A high level of likes and shares indicates customers appreciate this acknowledgement.

Black Walnut staff often interact with other local pages on Facebook such as the Cumberland Community Page where they will post events happening at the bakery.

While not precisely social media channels, Black Walnut Bakery receives high praise from customers on Yelp, Trip Advisor and Google reviews.

Social Media Evaluation

I like the approach Black Walnut uses with social media. The photography is professional, well-lit, clear and has good composition. The high-quality photography showcases their product, and it is an indication that they care about what they are doing.

Being involved in other community pages shows community support, and it is also a good way of location targetting the audience.

By answering peoples’ questions via social media, they are engaging with customers and showing that they care about the audience.

My only real criticism of Black Walnut’s social media use is that they are under-utilizing their website. I could not find links to their social media accounts on the website. They do have a news section of the site for specials and events. However, they are not using social media to link back to these events.


COM0014 – blog-03: Targeting New Gardeners

COM0014 – blog-03: Targeting New Gardeners

Target Audiences

The target audience I chose to evaluate are people who are either thinking about starting or have just started gardening.

To investigate the audience, I used Twitter, Facebook groups and Google searches to find groups of gardeners.


Most people in the target audience are urbanites. In this case, ‘urban’ is used to mean not rural. The suburbs, small towns, urban centers and even apartments are home to new gardeners.

This target audience seems to be primarily of an age where they have a detached home and young children. Research from Statistics Canada on these life milestones would indicate the audience is in their mid-thirties.

The profiles and social media posts of the audience indicate people mostly work as professionals. This would suggest at least some post-secondary education.

Since the audience tends to have children and homes, the assumption is that they live with a partner. However, I could not find a way to find out for sure. That would require the use of a survey or an interview.

Using ethnic background as a target audience characteristic is problematic for me. Based on profile pictures of the audience, most tend to be white women. It feels uncomfortable to me making racial assumptions. Just because someone looks like a white woman, doesn’t mean she is. Walking through community gardens, you will see people of all ages and ethnicities. It is possible that they are experienced gardeners and not part of the target audience. It is also possible that white women are more likely to join social media groups and share photos of themselves. I don’t know.

Psychological profile


New gardeners generally fall into two groups: those interested in growing food and those interested in landscaping – growing flowers and shrubs for example. My focus is on the vegetable growers.

People getting into growing vegetables tend to be concerned about the environment and the quality of their food. They enjoy travelling and sharing social media posts about the evils of corporate food production. New gardeners like to share information and appear not to be concerned with how others perceive their skills.


COM0014 Blog 02: We Need to Work for Readers Attention

It is critical to make our messages easily understood when we write. There has to be a focus on our most relevant content, the stuff we really want the reader to know.

We want to engage readers. Before we begin writing, we need to think about what it is we want the reader to do. Understand the action we want the reader to take, leave a comment, buy a product, make a donation, sign a petition or follow on social media, for example.


Lesson two focusses on how people respond to stories. We have done this since the first cave paintings. After reading “Becoming a Digital Storyteller,” I read a few articles, online and offline looking for the story structure. From reports in the Economist to a short story by a fantasy writer, there was a structure with a clear beginning, middle and end. The beginning, middle and end are not always chronological, more structural. This seemed more prevalent in non-fiction than fiction (which surprised me). For example, the structure of many Economist and National Geographic articles is:

  1. The current situation isn’t right. (present)
  2. This is how we got here. (past)
  3. This is what will happen if we stay on this trajectory. (future)

Lesson two had valuable tips on how to write — for example, ending a blog post with a question to engage writers. The part on passive versus active was interesting to me. Examples of passive and enthusiastic writing are compelling. I find when I write, the active voice often doesn’t feel comfortable to me. I plan to pay closer attention to this. I will also try some self-reflection on why this is the case.

Do you think self-reflection is valuable as a writer if you are writing for someone else? A company, for example.

COM0014 – Blog #01 : A Trip through time across the country

A few weeks ago, I had some business travel to Seattle. Since I was on the west coast, I arranged to spend a few days in Vancouver visiting friends. Friends I haven’t seen in a very long time. This is the gang I hung out with over thirty years ago when we all had superpowers, time to burn and no responsibility.

It has been twenty years since I’d last visited the old gang. For me, the trip was a voyage through time as much as it was a trip across the country.

I imagined Vancouver would be late nights in bars, screaming along to blistering music or drinking in a pub raging against the world. Maybe we would climb a mountain to conquer something — the things we used to do.

Tom’s band back in the day

I arrived on a Friday, anticipating everyone’s excitement at my arrival. I’d left all my responsibilities behind in Ottawa for a few days. For my friends though, this was another Friday night. Chris had to work; Tom couldn’t find a babysitter, Sarah had a crushing deadline and couldn’t leave the studio.

I spent my first night out west wandering around looking for something to eat. Has that ever happened to you? When you find yourself in the middle of a major city, restaurants everywhere yet you can’t find somewhere to eat? That was my Friday.

Young Punk

When we were invincible

Saturday was the day to see people. I was nervous. Other than the odd comment on Facebook, we’ve had very little communication over the years. Would we have anything to talk about? Would we be relegated to small talk? Chatter about work or housing prices? How do you pick up friendships after so long apart?

Adam has been diagnosed with MS and no longer able to work in his beloved film industry. There would be no late nights drinking with him. The medication he was on and the diet to stay healthy ruled out alcohol. He walks with a cane and is still as funny and brilliant as ever. Chris still lives as he always has, bouncing from band to band, picking up short term jobs that he can quit to go on tour. Tom has a family now. Sarah is a widower, a mother of 3 and a successful artist. She has recently started teaching again so she could get out of the studio and see people.

My nervousness at what to expect quickly faded. We picked up as if it had been two days and not two decades since we were last together. We didn’t go to pubs, shows or stay out late. Instead, I had a great time getting to know the people my friends shared their lives with partners, children and new friends.

father and child in park

Now we hang out in parks

I would encourage any of you to look up your old gang. Life goes on, but the people you share your youth with have a special place in your life. For me, these were the people who were there when I began to be the person I am now. I miss my friends of long ago, I am enjoying who they are now, and I look forward to who we all become. One thing is for sure, I won’t wait another twenty years for my next vacation to Vancouver.

Make it, show it, share it! Your creative work out in the wild.


There are so many ways to share your work!
image source

In my previous posts, I introduced you to the influence you have on galleries by your personal curating choices and how that can be an inspiration to you. We then talked about a journey you could take to pick up some technical skills. The third blog was introduced you to communities where you could participate in creating art. Now that you’ve learned what inspires you, you’ve picked up some technique and are part of an arts community (you did all that, right?) it is time to show the world your creations!
The online world, particularly social media allow for a great many avenues for artists to share work. It used to be you absolutely had to find a gallery to show in or venture into the world of commercial art if you wanted to create for a living. There are so many places to sell art on-line I couldn’t begin to list them. This is, however, a social media course, so let’s focus on the pros and cons of showing your work on social media.
The first thing I would advise before you share anything online is read the license agreement. You also need to learn why agreements are written the way they are. I have seen a great many memes about Facebook or Twitter forcing you to agree to let them copy and share your images. This is a bit misleading. If a person or organization does not get permission to duplicate your work and they do, they are breaking copyright law. The second you post something it’s copied, so this consent is necessary. You also need to check the default settings for things. A few years ago, Yahoo was criticized for selling photos people had posted to Flickr without even notifying them, let alone share the profits. This was completely legal. When people posted photos to Flickr the default licence was set to a Creative Commons license to share without attribution, even commercially. You also need to be aware what the licenses mean. When you create something in Canada. It is copyrighted to you as soon as you create it. There is no need for a © symbol, you don’t need to mail a copy to yourself. You made it. It’s yours. How you use your rights are up to you. Learn and understand the rights you are giving up or holding onto.
The first thing you need to do is figure out why you want to show work on social media. The answer to that question will inform what you show, how you show it and where. If you are a hobbyist and you want to show friends and family what you are up to, share it on Facebook as you would any other activities you are sharing in your personal circles. Instagram can be used for either personal or professional sharing of your work. Many artists use Instagram as a primary sales tool. If your wish is to be professional, your Instagram account should be all about your art. That doesn’t mean show only your work, it’s a good idea to post about exhibits, share other people’s work and engage the art community. Stay on topic though. If you want to be commissioned, Dribble and Behance are places where many art directors look for talent.
I would encourage you, no matter what type of work you do, to share it with others. Whether the best channel is social media or not is up to you. Privacy on social media is becoming an issue more people are talking about. How important do you think it is to protect your copyrighted work on-line?


Fun, profit or fame! Get your work out there for people to see!
There are a lot of ways to share your creative work online. To make the most of it, you need to learn what to show on which channel and beware of the pitfalls that could cost you money and reputation.



Make something, show it and share it! Get your #artwork out on #socialMedia, but read this first so you don’t get ripped off!

Join a creative community and release your inner artist!

Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected. – William Plomer

In my previous blog posts, I’ve written about how social media has made us all curators. I’ve written about how you can use the online tools, including social media, to learn how to draw. If you’ve curated anything, even a few photos you like posted on facebook, or a collection of knitted socks on Pinterest, consider that inspiration! Something with that content moved you. Combine that inspiration with some of the mechanical skills mentioned in my last blog post on learning to draw and you are all set to get creating!

survey-iconHow willing are you to collaborate artistically with others?
Take the Survey!

A great way to begin exploring creativity is to get involved in collaborative art projects. These can be online, offline or a mix of both. Social media allows for ways of organizing creative projects that would have been impossible a little over a decade ago. The painting at the top of this post is a wall about 50 feet wide and 12 feet high in a community centre in Naujaat, Nunavut. I’ve painted murals before, supposedly instructing students on how to paint. That isn’t what happens though. There is never enough time or money so in the past, I’ve flown into a community and painted a wall while a bunch of people stood around looking at me. At best I may have explained a bit about what I was doing. Naujaat was different. The project was done in 2015, the young people I was to work with were all on Facebook. Months before I made the trip, we began working together. We talked about ideas and beliefs important to the community. Drawings were shared online. Some people cut out drawings, assembled them into collages, photographed them and posted. Eventually, we came up with a concept. Because I knew what was to be done, I was able to make sure the right paints in the right quantities were flown to Naujaat, I was able to come up with a teaching strategy and get feedback from teachers and students before I got to town. This made a huge difference. The mural was executed entirely by the young people. All I did was wash brushes and mix paint. The students tweeted the experience as they worked which attracted the attention of the northern media. The youth of Naujaat are proud of what they accomplished. I am certain that this project would not have been successful if not for social media. There is a gallery of photos and some information on the Naujaat mural of life at

Online collaboration on creative projects goes well beyond using social media as a way of orchestrating logistics and collecting information. In 2010 there was an opera written on Twitter by hundreds of contributors one tweet at a time. The actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt has organized a production company where pretty much anybody can sign up to work on creative projects with others, and you get paid for it! See How Joseph Gordon-Levitt And His Creative Army Of Artists Are Changing TV. According to a story on CNN collaborative creative projects online have become much more sophisticated in recent years. No matter what your artistic interest, there are people out there who need your input.

I’ve found working with others on creative projects to be energizing and educational. I’ve learned a lot from others that I never would have sorted out on my own. There are plenty of opportunities to join creative projects. Try it out for yourself. Head over to StoryTimed and contribute to a work of fiction, find a community writing project on Twitter. If drawing and painting are more your things, check out the best online collaborative drawing tools. Play around, make mistakes, then make things people love.

If you’ve followed along with my blog posts, you’ve discovered the inspiration you bring yourself and others via the content you curate on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. You’ve learned how you can use social media to learn the mechanics of drawing and today you learned how to work with others to get the creative juices flowing. You now have all the tools necessary to make art. Congratulations! Next week – sharing your work!

Get creative! Join others and make some #art that people love! No experience necessary.

Get creative! Join others and make some art that people love! No experience necessary. Find out why creative collaboration works and how you can get involved.