Out of the Box | Where are the Ethics in Digital Marketing?

I have learned a lot during this course. All the material has been informative. The course material has lead me to spend a lot of time in search engines looking for more information.

My searches have taken me down many website rabbit holes. I have learned about tools I didn’t even know existed. What I have been thinking about the most is how tools are used.

Some companies collect vast amounts of personal data. I think we know this about the big tech firms like Facebook, Twitter and Google. What I did not realize is that there are data companies that are building massive databases of user information that gets used for targeted marketing. The most famous example is Cambridge Analytica, who claimed to have over five thousand data-points on millions of American voters. This data was collected without user knowledge. Cambridge Analytica was hired by a political party in the US to influence voters. They did this by targeting swing voters with negative ads. This ties into a lot of issues around transparency, privacy and truth.

The number of things digital marketing companies know about me was surprising. Google and Facebook both allow you to download the raw data that has been collected about you. We do not understand how this data is used or what our profiles look like.

Recently there has been an increase in public discussion around how marketing companies collect and use our data. The European Union has implemented the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). There is no comparable regulation in the Americas yet.

The next few years will see a rise in discussions around the ethics involved in marketing, data collection, application design and application development.

I hope that soon, the ethics of how social media marketing are discussed in programs like this one. It is not the role of an educational institution to dictate ethics; however, it would be nice to see at least a mention that there are concerns that should be taken into consideration when developing marketing strategies.

Coming Out of My Shell: Personal Networking

A social media strategy is essential to building a personal brand. Knowing what current trends are in my industry, generating content and engaging others is necessary to stand out from the crowd. I know this. I have known this for a long time. The problem? I don’t, nor have I ever had a plan for how I will use social media. I have an account on dozens of platforms — all the major players, some obscure platforms and those specific to my interests and profession.

On Twitter, I occasionally read peoples tweets, looking for articles of interest. I have never engaged others, though. On LinkedIn, I ignore it until I need to look for work. On content sites such as Vimeo, YouTube, Medium, Dribble, and Pixabay I’ve posted work, but I don’t follow-up to see if anybody has engaged with my content. I turn off email notifications and app notifications because I find them distracting. I’ve been a social media disaster.

I know ignoring social media does nothing to advance my goals. I signed up for this course to learn how to deal with social media. I have learned a lot, and I am working on a strategy.

My strategy over the next year

Content has to be sincere; engagement needs to be honest.

One of the most significant barriers I’ve faced in Social Media engagement has been my own insecurity. Every time I think about writing content a little voice in my head says “You know, this has been written about many places online by people who know a lot more about the subject than I do. I don’t think I have anything to offer”.

I have to really focus on online networking. I live in a rural area and have family obligations that make in-person networking almost impossible.

Content strategy

The first part of my plan is a content strategy. This is intended to help with scheduling content and identifying what content represents how I want to project myself to the world.

Take Inventory

I have several articles I’ve written, illustrated and designed that I have never published.

I have folders full of paintings, animations, illustrations and articles. I will organize these. I will study keywords and trends and apply these to each piece of content using a taxonomy. This will give me a list of what I already have, organized in a way that will be useful.

New Content

I create a lot of content — some for work, some for volunteer projects and some out of general interest. As new content is created, I will apply the taxonomy terms identified in keyword research to each piece of content.

Content Scheduling

To engage in social media, it will be necessary to develop a realistic schedule of content publishing. One issue I’ve had in the past is setting goals that were too ambitious to fit into my work/life balance. It is better to be consistent, even if it means new content gest released less frequently.


I will keep the number of channels I use to something I can manage. My original content is art, design, animation and some writing.


Instagram will be used for posting art and design images. I might post stills from animations if the context of pulling a still from video works. That needs to be tested.


Vimeo will be used for animation projects. I have evaluated both Vimeo and YouTube for video and have found Vimeo to be more suitable for original creative works.


I often write about the work I do. For this I will use medium and spring the $5 for a subscription so I can take full advantage of it. From the Medium articles I will reference content on Instagram and Vimeo where appropriate.


Any content I create I will post to LinkedIn. I write a short intro to each piece to provide context to the viewer.



I will set aside time for social media engagement. This is critical for me as I don’t use notifications. I probably never will because they are distracting. Because of this, it is necessary to be proactive in engaging others.

Inteaction – My Content

When I post content, I will carefully monitor each post to see if there are questions or comments I should be addressing. I will answer questions and reply to comments.

Interaction – Other Peoples Content

I am already a member of several LinkedIn groups, and I follow a lot of other creators on Instagram. I will organize these so I can focus on what I do professionally. I will pay close attention to content relevant to what I do. I will ask questions and comment on things that impress me.

Measuring and Evaluation

In previous assignments for this course, I have written assignments on how I would measure and evaluate social media impact. I will take what I have learned and apply it to my own social media strategy.


One of my biggest takeaways from this course has been about developing a social media persona. In other words, a brand. On reflection, I think my anti-social media angst is because I have been going too big in the number of platforms I use and how I used them. There has been no separation between my personal and professional interests. While it’s a good idea to be intimate in professional engagement, throwing it all together in one big social media stew is overwhelming and chaotic. One of the most important things I can do is separate my personal and professional presence on social media. I’ve been doing it in the analog world for years; it’s time to do it twenty-first-century style.

COMM015 Blog 2: Strong and Weak Organizations

Two Organizations with Impressive Social Media Strategies

Open Media

I like Open Media because they address a lot of policy issues that are important for all of us. They regularly take on big telecommunications companies, the CRTC and the government. They deal with topics line net-neutrality, digital democracy and data privacy.

Open Media runs excellent social media campaigns. They are active on all major platforms and regularly engage with the audience. What I find most interesting is how they use audience participation to further their campaigns.


On the Open Media capmpaigns page you will see a list of campaigns you may be interested in displayed as cards. Select a card, and you are taken to a simple form you can complete. This form is a submission to the CRTC about one telecom issue or another. You can customize the content if you like, or you can use a pre-filled submission. Click a button to submit then you are taken to a page full of ready-made tweets and Facebook posts, each with a bit of content, a link and an image. You choose the one you like, click a button, and it is posted to your feed.

I find this approach for activist campaigns smart. For such campaigns, you need a high volume of participants to make an impact. Open Media has made it incredibly simple to engage.

Smashing Magazine

Smashing Magazine is a website primarily for designers and front end web developers. The key to their success has been publishing quality material. There is prestige in the community with blogging for Smashing. They maintain the quality of content by having an editorial board and by paying authors. Paying people attracts talented writers.

Smashing releases several articles a day; they are very active on Twitter and have SmashingTV on Vimeo.

For an organization the deals almost exclusively with digital content creators, they have put together an exciting combination of digital and real-world engagement. In addition to the blog, twitter and SmashingTV, They publish books, put on conferences and jus this month started a print magazine available to paid members.


SmashingTV on Vimeo offers a vast amount of information for designers and developers. These are all initially webinars where users have a chance to participate. They are promoted on the site, the mail list and twitter well before they happen. You are required to register for an event. The registration piece is interesting. I have a paid subscription, so I don’t need to register for them to get my information, they have it. I think the value in the registration is it gives the impression of scarcity. “If I don’t sign up, I’ll miss out.”

An Organization that Could Benefit from Social Media

Happyday Montessori School*

Happyday is a Montessori school in the Capital Region. They have been in business for decades and have impressed hundreds of parents with the nature of the program and the focus on learning.

A few years ago, the Government in Ontario mandated that children would start school at the age of four instead of five. This was a big hit to Happyday.

Happyday has a lot to offer children. Attendance at Montessori is recognized as a school. Children can stay at Montessori until grade 3 and be integrated into the public school system at grade level. Parents could keep their four-year-olds at Montessori; however, it costs money to do this.

Happyday has a loyal base of parents who’s children have attended. There is a lot of research available that indicted children who attend a Montessori school are more successful over their school career than children who start in the public school system. If Happyday built a website with information about the program and began a social media campaign, they could attract more students to the program.

They should set a target enrollment increase. Happyday can join social network groups where people have questions about early childhood development and provide information to parents. This advice should be professional and not promotional.

They can build a mail list of alumni parents. This is a good place for promotional content as word of mouth travels fast in parenting circles. Providing easy to digest information in the mail list could turn hundreds of parents into ambassadors for the school.

* Not the real name of the school, they are small, and I did not get permission to write about them

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

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.