COMM15 – Blog Post #3 / Networking Your Social Networks

Everything you put on social media is part of a brand.

Whether it is your business’s profile or it’s your own personal account, everything that is tweeted, posted, commented and favourited is a contribution to the overall development of a brand identity. Who and what you choose to engage with constitutes your social network – the schoolyard playground, so to speak, within which your brand develops and is actualized.

I have had plenty of experience in developing and maintaining various networks across several different brands – both personal and professional.

I’ve had the exciting opportunity to become quite invested in digital content in the sport industry, specifically in tennis, as a result of the networking I did on Twitter – all while using a completely different account from my personal one. I created a “tennis account” where I could follow and engage with tennis journalists, high-profile bloggers, players, and other key stakeholders in the industry. This engagement landed me a volunteer position at Rogers Cup in Montreal, which in turn landed me an internship at Tennis Canada in Toronto, which in turn has allowed me to explore various freelance opportunities within digital media across multiple sports.

On my personal accounts, I take a different approach. The network I’ve developed for myself on Facebook and Instagram, for example, constitutes largely friendships I’ve developed in person prior to engaging with them on social media. My brand of humour is at its best on Facebook, Instagram, and my other Twitter account – and I use that for my personal networking (and who knows, sometimes personal networking can become professional!)

Professional networking is best done in person – there’s no doubt about that. With the amount of options and images and words and people and profiles and everything on the internet, networking “irl” is the job interview you wouldn’t have got online – but that’s not to say there’s not something to be gained professionally in the digital space. In fact, there’s plenty to be gained.

LinkedIn is the number one social networking service for professionals. While I would hesitate to look up a prospective employer or employee (from a recruiter’s perspective) on their Facebook (which should be private and inaccessible anyway), I wouldn’t hesitate to research them on LinkedIn. The networking services that LinkedIn provides are paramount, giving you suggested connections on both real-life connections as well as connections that are aligned with your professional experiences and skills.

My personal commitment to the next several months of networking is to engage more with these platforms at a more frequent rate. It’s easy to let go of your digital presence when real life takes the wheel – and that can’t always be helped. But when it can, maintenance of your social networks is paramount. While I haven’t always been consistent in my posting across all my channels, particularly on LinkedIn, the more engaged I have been the more results I’ve seen in terms of growing my networks and getting myself out there – everywhere.

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COMM15 – Blog Post #2 / Strong and Weak Organizations

Getting your business on social media isn’t just something that happens overnight.

Ok, maybe it is – but reaping the the rewards of a social media presence certainly isn’t as simple. Why? Because having a social media presence is much, much different than having a social media strategy. Whereas anyone can make a Facebook page or sign up for an account on Twitter, it takes extra care, effort and planning to execute a content strategy for your profiles. To do it right means you’re taking full advantage of a digital demographic and enhancing your business, but to do it wrong could prove detrimental.

To make things even more complicated, there is no single social media strategy that is applicable to all businesses; a business to consumer model would manage their social media in a completely different way to a business to business model, while a business in the service industry would do it differently from a business selling toys, for example.

When it comes to my two favourite restaurants this side of Toronto, social media is used in two completely different ways – one that is unconventional yet effective, and one that is conventional but ineffective.

the-waterfront-river

The Waterfront River Pub and Terrace is a beautiful gastro pub located just south of the centre of Napanee, Ontario. Opening within a historic limestone building right upon the Napanee River, I had the pleasure of working there as a server for two summers while studying at Queen’s in Kingston.

Their social media approach is… ecclectic – but it works. Jane Adams Roy, the owner of the restaurant, is a vibrant yet to-the-point woman whose years serving in the Canadian Military rubs off only in her management style, but not in her people skills. She’s warm and extremely personable, which reflects in the way she manages her restaurant’s Facebook page.

Napanee is a small city of around 15,000 people and the Facebook page caters primarily to that community. If you’re not part of the Napanee community, their social media presence makes you feel like like a part of it. While The Waterfront is every bit a community pub, the food, craft beers and decor hardly reflect that; with Jane’s social media approach to personal, wacky, and non-corporate engagement with their digital audience, the restaurant simultaneously manages to be up-scale, yet innately rooted in community.

Although The Waterfront doesn’t make use of Twitter or Instagram (where their delicious food could most certainly be photographed and posted) AND they don’t make much use of proper hashtags or tagging in general, the communicative skills they employ on their Facebook page has made the pub a surprising success, growing from 200 likes to nearly 6,000 in just under two years.wooden-heads-exterior

My other favourite restaurant in the Kingston/Napanee area is not quite as effective on social media despite being open for decades longer and with a far more esteemed reputation. Wooden Heads is located in Kingston’s historic downtown area right by the water and has an exceptional modern-Italian cuisine that I’m literally craving at this very second – but that’s only because I’ve been there.

Their Facebook and Twitter pages are practically barren despite being updated frequently. How is that possible, you ask? The only pictures or updates going on either page are the daily specials… and that’s it. Sure, the specials are a fantastic way to get your existing followers keen on coming to the restaurant for something new, but it’s not a way to grow your business’s digital presence.

In contrast with the Waterfront River Pub and Terrace’s social media efforts, which has seen their Facebook following go from 0 to 6,000 in the short three years that they’ve been open, Wooden Heads has around a mere 2,250 following on Facebook and very little engagement – and it’s been open for over 22 years.

COMM15 – Blog Post #1 / Tools & Sources

Here’s a question: why would any individual or business organization spend so much time on social media? Facebook and Twitter are for phone-addicted young people to use in their spare time, right?

As Justin Trudeau once said, because it’s 2015. Ok, so it’s 2016, but the point remains.

We live in a completely different world than we did ten years ago. Actually, we live in two different worlds. Businesses cater to real people in a tangible, physical reality – but they also interact, sell and listen in the digital world. Listening is the first step in reaching any online demographic, and the sources and tools that we use to do so are vast and various.

As a part of the industry of tennis media, I’ve had the change to really explore the digital landscape of sport. I’d like to think I know it pretty well. Using two of my favourite tools, I’ve been able to keep a close eye on everything tennis related over the years – both as a fan and as employed by the industry.

Hootesuite and Tweetdeck are invaluable tools for any social media listener. I get a feel for community, real-time updates, and an easy to use interface that allows me to keep track of thousands of different social media accounts. Used in tandem, both tools provide all the same updates as an RSS feed dashboard (such as feedly.com), and both use a similar interface that I like to have open on two separate screens. Users like to post and retweet news articles across social media, making an RSS platform unnecessary (so long as you’re following the right people), and the ability to track trends and hashtags on both means you are always up to date on the big stories right when they happen.

Tweetdeck I use exclusively for Twitter happenings. I have multiple Twitter accounts for various organizations (including my personal one!), and each timeline is unique and requires separate attention. I keep certain users separated on different feeds, as well as certain trends depending on the time of the year in tennis (such as #USOpen hashtag when the US Open is taking place, or Tennis Canada’s #sleepisfortheweek hashtag during the Australian Open). On Hootesuite, I place all my other social media platforms, including Instagram and Facebook, and monitor those platforms as I would Twitter on Tweetdeck.

Getting the right news updates from the right sources is imperative to social media listening. In tennis, there are two sources that always keep me posted on all the breaking news within the sport. The first, of course, is Twitter, where I have a specific list of reputable journalists that are always bringing real-time coverage of tennis. This list includes Ben Rothenberg of the NY Times and the @WTA_insider account, which is the WTA’s own agent of inside tennis coverage on the women’s tour.

The other source is this underground Portuguese tennis website called “Bola Amarela.” Random, I know (– and I don’t even speak Portuguese). I personally view this website and its accompanying Facebook page to be an exceptional model of how to use social media in the sport industry. They have all the videos of all the crazy things that happen in the tennis industry, from the very top levels to the lower amateur levels of the sport. I check in on Bola Amarela daily to get a glimpse at what’s happening in the tennis world.

Sure, there’s a lot of social media to scan if you want to be consistently immersed in your industry – but hey, it’s 2016 and that’s just how the world works.

COMM14 – Blog Post #7 / Course Reflection

This course has been a real pleasure to be a part of.

Of the four courses I signed up for in Algonquin’s part-time online social media certificate program, this is the one that I felt I had the greatest opportunity to excel in. I’ve always considered my communication skills an essential part of my personality and as an essential talent that has managed to transcend both my education and my work. In particular, I’ve always felt like I had a finger on the pulse of digital communication and the diverse ways and platforms through which people choose to interact with each other on the vast landscape of the Internet.

In this course, I’ve learned the value of telling a story. I’ve not only learned to tell my own story, but I’ve been able to look at real organization and businesses and look at the stories they’ve been telling. I’ve learned to be critical of these stories and have managed to identify the things that work and don’t work in the storytelling that some of my favourite brands partake in – or even fail to partake in!

At a theoretical level, one of my favourite takeaways from this course is engaging in the discourse of authenticity in the digital world. What is authenticity and can it really exist? Have “real stories” become extinct on social media when very rarely is a story told without an audience in mind? Several of my blog posts and my discussion forum answers have engaged with this question and the process has allowed me to cement my own educated opinion on the topic.

I’ve realized that the stories I want to tell are honest ones; they might not always be authentic, but they certainly can be honest. I’ve also discovered my own personal style of digital communication. Humour and entertainment are two focal points of my personality and I like for that to translate into my writing. A tongue-in-cheek tone lightens up my content and (hopefully) makes it more readable – for my personal brand at least.

Ultimately I’ve learned that all content is guided by storytelling. Knowing your audience is essential in figuring out how best to communicate your brand to them. And not only that – but knowing what sort of approach is best for which sorts of audiences has always been an interest of mine and has been consolidated by the content of this course.

COMM14 – Blog Post #6 / Stories: Authenticity vs. Honesty

I’ve always been reinventing my identity.

Growing up in the new millennium paralleling the growth of technology and social media has not just allowed me express myself in different ways, it has required me to express myself in different ways. When thinking about the story of my digital personal brand, I find it difficult to honestly use the word “authentic” in the description. Why? Because I’ve always calculated my presence in different streams of social media as they’ve emerged or developed in tandem with my own growth as a person.

If I had to reinvent my business’ identity (that business being, well, me), I’d attempt to discard my cynicism for honesty. While it’s my own belief that it’s paradoxical to “try to be authentic” it certainly isn’t inauthentic to try being honest with myself both online and in person.

I’m at a point in my 23-year-old life where I haven’t yet been able to find a sustainable career outside of part-time service work and where I’ve often fluctuated between identities. In high school, I was one person; in university I was another. Now, living back at home with my parents taking an online course on social media while working part-time at a hockey arena – I’m something else. Alongside this progression of my “real life” identity, so too has my digital identity changed with it.

When I was in high school, social media was communication. I almost exclusively used it to communicate with my friends beyond any sort of idea of building an online reputation or image. In university, this changed completely. My identity fluctuated year after year based on the type of person I wished for people to perceive of me. Sometimes I wanted to be the funny guy on social media with the witty, objective commentary. Occasionally, I wanted to be the sincere one who stood up for issues that mattered to me. Other times, I’d just use it to communicate.

Now, more than ever, I’ve focused on social media as a means to enter the professional world. I monitor and criticize my own activity as it might appear to a prospective employer. I don’t keep any of my profiles on private setting because I feel that my personal brand is slowly being fleshed out on social media the way I want it to be. I put a lot of thought into my social media presence nowadays, and even though that might not be the most authentic story to tell, I’m working on it to become at least an honest one.

COMM11 – Blog Post #3 / The Outrage Formula: 140 Characters

This afternoon, pro tennis icon and international athlete superstar Maria Sharapova held a press conference in Los Angeles. The topic? That she had recently failed a doping test in January and is indefinitely suspended from competition.

Now, as a tennis fan, this news is quite shocking and, if you’re a fan of the picturesque Russian, quite disappointing. Plastered all over Google news searches, Twitter, and in Facebook’s trending topics, you’ll find a variety of baiting and incriminating headlines such as “Sharapova fails drug test at Australian Open,” “Tennis community stunned by Sharapova’s failed drug test,” or “Maria Sharapova: Professional Tennis Player Announces She Failed a Drug Test at Australian Open.” None of these headlines are false… but are they telling the whole truth?

The truth is that it simply doesn’t matter to a large majority of social media users. The headlines that the common internet user is generally unable to avoid in this day and are are simply micro-stories; clickbait that supposedly tells a whole news story within less than 140 characters, catered to the short attention spans of media-saturated citizens of the social media world.

140 characters of information is potentially all someone might get with regards to a certain story. And if that story is as polarizing as a highly regarded international athlete caught doping? People and their free opinions take to the internet by storm. It’s all a part of the modern culture of outrage: if there’s a popular topic and a powerful opinion to be made of it – someone will make it.

In the case of Maria Sharapova, there are quite a few mitigating details that underlie the headlines – headlines that, if merely read and not researched, suggest that the 5-time Grand Slam champion was using steroids to make herself into the fearless winner she has been known to be. But before we look at facts, how about we sample a bit of the internet’s outrage first?

While I cannot guarantee that Twitter users VillageShrink and LebstaBru haven’t educated themselves fully on Sharapova’s ordeal, they expertly underline the thesis of this blog post. People read a headline, quickly form an opinion, and at the push of a button and 30 seconds of typing 140 characters, they’re able to contribute to the outrageous #narrative of the day. Just think – all of their followers (perhaps not even sports fans) will now get second, third, or even fourth hand “information” and believe it to be soundly true. Their response? Perhaps they might tweet their own opinion.

It’s the double-edged sword of social media. As quickly as a cute puppy video or the goodwill of a major corporation might go viral and evoke the positive reaction of the internet community, one celebrity misstep or problematic advertisement can sentence those missteppers (and their brand) to their social media doom.

Sharapova admitted in her press conference that she did indeed take the drug meldonium. And that last sentence probably constitutes the foundation of more online outrage than it should. Especially because a) the drug only became banned at the start of 2016, b) she and hundreds of other athletes had been using it for years, c) meldonium isn’t considered a PED (performance-enhancing drug) by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), d) she was unaware that the drug had been added to WADA’s Prohibited List, and e) maintains that she had only used the drug as treatment for angina-symptoms and low-magnesium.

Feels a lot harder to brazenly label someone a cheat with all the information, right?

But like I said, it doesn’t matter. It’s fun to be outraged; to say something hyperbolic that some corner of the internet might agree with and therefore share or retweet. And the technology of social media in 2016 just makes it so easy, too. While it’s true that opinions cannot be false, they can be seriously uneducated – before posting on the internet, one should most certainly think before they tweet.

COMM14 – Blog Post #4 / Oreo, Online King of the B2C

Who doesn’t love an Oreo?

It doesn’t matter if you’re a toddler licking out the middle, a high-schooler dunking one into milk for a midnight snack… or an adult doing both of those things – Oreos are the quintessential cookie of North America and everyone loves them. In fact, I’m proud to admit that I am actually eating one right now.

(How’s that for engaging with my studies?)

On social media just as it is to our tastebuds, the Oreo brand reigns supreme. Its Facebook page is among the most popular of all B2C brands with over 40 million likes, and its Twitter account (eponymously and appropriately named @Oreo) has over 800,000 followers and 22.9k tweets – not bad for a cookie.

According to econsultancy.com, Oreo owns social media through Twitter, Instagram, Vine and Pinterest:

“…Oreo is the king of agile marketing, and it’s clear that Oreo has a marketing team that not only has a finger tightly on the pulse, but who can also react with whip-smart efficiency, humour and charm.”

My own inspection of their social media presence confirms such: their account is professional enough to be informative, but charming enough to not feel impersonal. In fact, it feels wildly personal. User engagement, particularly on Facebook and Instagram, is paramount, and Oreo frequently uses daily campaigns with their fans in taking advantage of their simple, unmistakable product. For example, the Oreo Facebook page has created a social media event for its followers in March, promising 30 days of #twists featuring their product and a challenge for their followers. This user engagement not only strengthens their consumer/fan-base but also strengthens the presence of their brand as well.

A closer inspection of the Twitter account reveals effective, shareable content as well. A large majority of their recent tweets have charming, cookie related images attached. These images are simple and easily shared at the click of a button, and allow their followers to contribute to their own personal brand with different campaigns such as #HockeyMomHallOfFame and an Oreo-themed PS4 controller when the console was released a few years ago.

Overall, the Oreo business’ connection to their consumers is almost as perfect as their product. Although it feels as though they could have more interactions with some of their Twitter followers (I noticed they have very minimal replies from their account over the past several months), sometimes less is m’Oreo.

COMM11 – Blog Post #2 / Social Media: Ch-ch-changes ♬

I remember when I first discovered Twitter.

It was probably late in 2009 when the first couple of my friends signed up for the now omni-present social media service. I remember having absolutely zero interest in another social media platform, as apparently Facebook at the time was simply all I’d ever need. For every 140 character “tweet” on Twitter, I could be reading a 300 word update on someone’s day (“more is more,” right?) – why would I want this so-called micro blogging?

Nevertheless, I joined Twitter in January of 2010 as a result of a desire to read to-the-minute update on tennis matches I was unable to watch while I was at work. Back when Google syndicated Twitter searches with its own results, there used to be a “trending” tab where live tweets related to “Djokovic vs. Federer” (for example) would pop up; I caught myself always checking in on these live updates and figured that perhaps it was time to ditch my contrarian youth ways and give in to the phenomenon that was Twitter.

And I couldn’t have ever imagined what good it would ultimately do for me.

Through joining Twitter that fateful day, I opened the door to a limitless supply of networking opportunities in the world of sport. As a generally career-uncertain liberal arts university student, the connections I’ve made within the niche “tennis community” corner of Twitter (#TennisTwitter) has provided me with volunteer opportunities (which have in turn improved my resumé and social media skills) as well as job opportunities – I have an interview next week with Tennis Canada, wish me luck!

What your Facebook profile looked like in 2009 – minus whole being a multi-billionaire thing

Changes in technology always change the way society works. If the times had remained as they were in 2009 when all I believed I needed (social network-wise) was my Facebook, I never would have found a sports community like the one I’m currently apart of, nor would have I discovered the realm of professional interest that I’m currently pursuing.

It’s a thoroughly sociological concept at its foundation. (Bare with me here.)

According to Marxist sociology, society is the result of its productive forces (so, the technologies that allow its members to produce) and is relations of production (the ways in which power and labour is divided therein.) On the internet, new ways of interacting with each other are developed daily.

The invention of Twitter changed the way brands interacted with their consumers and the way consumers interacted with their brands. Before, Facebook had “pages” for official brands, it, well, didn’t. That was a change in Facebook technology that impacted marketing’s transition into new media. What came next? We had Instagram, Snapchat, Vine and Periscope all emerge in recent years, all of which have totally changed the way we engage with content produced by both people and brands, and it has totally changed our relationship with the internet as well.

As a result, brand marketers have had to change their approaches to getting their product out there and jobs like “social media strategist” have started popping up all over the place.

Oh yeah, and certificate programs like this one.

How have you noticed change in social media over the years? Has it impacted the way you do you work – or even the way you live day-to-day? Sound off in the comments!

COMM14 – Blog Post #3 / Target Audiences – #TennisTwitter

It’s 7:30pm on a weeknight and your favourite sports team is about to hit the ice/field/pitch; you’ve got your beer in one hand, food in the other – it’s been a long shift at work and this anticipation of this single sporting event has gotten you through all the day’s trials and tribulations. But here’s the golden “target audience” question: with whom are you watching it?

Some people are at the game with a legion of fans (your significant other might be privileged enough to work for a company with corporate box tickets to every game Ottawa Senators play)

Some people are at a bar watching the game with a community of beer drinking buddies (the bar beneath your downtown apartment? Sure, everyone goes there to watch the Sunday night football.)

And some people are at home with an internet stream watching the Australian Open final with… their Twitter timeline?

Like many sports, tennis has quite a significant albeit very unique presence online. Being a major fan of the sport myself and having contributed to a reputable fan blog over the past year and a half, I have come to know first-hand that the demographics of the people that engage with tennis digitally are far different from the people that engage with the sport in reality.

Unlike most popular televised sports that are complete an entire season of scheduled home and away games, tennis matches and the individual pro athletes that partake in them travel all over the world; only staying in one spot for a maximum of two weeks – if they make it all the way to a tournament final.

In a 52-week year, chances are there is only going to be one week of live professional tennis to watch; this means that for all the demand there is for the sport; the supply (of watching it live, of course) is short. This means that ticket prices for the biggest events and names are very high and the diversity of the crowd is, well, very low.

The internet provides a solution for a general lack of community in the live tennis world. The demographics – from age and gender, to education, class, and even race – are far more diverse on #TennisTwitter, as the community has aptly named themselves. Here ticket prices and the ability to travel to tournaments are irrelevant, since there is an infinite supply of online streams to watch. The community of Twitter-users typically have overlap, but divide themselves into communities based on certain player fan-bases, geographic location, and even age and education.

From my own experience, a large majority of the #TennisTwitter users that I follow come from an educated background; they are cynical, passionate and generally knowledgeable about the sport beyond simply its rules. Of course, there are branches that I’m not directly connected with, yet that I have also experienced overlap with courtesy of retweets from this web-like network of tennis fans.

Communicating with the broad tennis digital community from a sports brand’s perspective would require, in my opinion, two key traits. The first would be knowledge of the sport and of the sports different fanbases: the difference between a Rafael Nadal fan and a Roger Federer fan is significant, and to ignore that is to potentially marginalize a large group of potential consumers. The second trait is objectivity; if a brand – such as a sports equipment warehouse or a local tennis club – invests emotionally or unprofessionally on their social media account within a larger community of digital users, it will hurt the brand’s credibility in communication with those users.

Do you follow any sports with a ‘Twitter community’? Sound off in the comments!

If You Click This Hyperbolic Headline, I’ll Get Paid More. I Swear You Won’t Regret It LOL!

Just kidding.

But many professional bloggers are not.

Clickbait headlines are the current epoch of modern media. It might be easy for a cynic or a longtime devotee of print media to reduce clickbait headlines (“27 DIY Jewlery Projects That Are Actually Easy“) to dumbed-down, unsubstantial headlines designed to coerce the young, media illiterate consumer with a small attention span to click the link so the website can turn its profit. The more clicks: the more websites like Buzzfeed can charge for advertising.

Here’s the thing: cynics are probably right – but clickbait headlines, by nature, work wonders in an internet-focused social media world that so many are engaged in and that is hyper-saturated with text and information.

“We live in a society of information overload. At any point in our day, we have access to more information than at any previous time in our history.” (Briana Ellison, The Breeze)

The youth of today spend more time sifting through and compartmentalizing media that promises to entertain us than ever before; and therefore clickbait titles are aimed directing at these types of consumers. Using a digital communication style ripe with short-forms, “internetisms,” meme’d language and so forth, popular binge media websites (Buzzfeed, once again as an example) “get on your level” or are “hip with the times” …as your mom or dad might describe it. The relate-ability of the headline, plus the exact promise of literally what sort of content you will find in the headline helps young, high-speed consumers navigate through their media with little effort.

By its Wikipedia definition, clickbait is

“a pejorative term describing web content that is aimed at generating online advertising revenue, especially at the expense of quality or accuracy, relying on sensationalist headlines to attract click-throughs and to encourage forwarding of the material over online social networks.”

Clickbait headlines are not only easy to read and easy to engage in due to the personal tone (“We Need To Talk About Sir Purr, The Carolina Panthers Mascot“), they are also easy to share. On the website Upworthy.com, among others, you are able to rate the article and are then given quick-and-easy hotlinks to share the content on any social media profile you own. This formulaic approach to producing viral content pays dividends to websites that earn a profit via pay-per-click or through traditional online paid advertising.

“Upworthy has mastered the dark viral arts with a unique blend of A/B technology and lily-white earnestness. The staff scours the Web for ‘stuff that matters,’ writes multiple headlines for a test audience, selects the top-performer, and blasts it out on social media.” (Derek Thompson, The Atlantic)

I’ve been guilty of clicking my fair share of clickbait headlines. I remember when I first started studying journalism in 2010 at Ryerson University, the magical virality of clickbait hadn’t yet been perfected. It was only a year later, as Buzzfeed became a frequent flyer on my Facebook News Feed that I became critical of these easy, self-advertised headlines that I couldn’t help but click and, of course, share.

Given that clickbait is still such a dominant trend in modern media, how do you think it will evolve? Have you been guilty of being persuaded to visit a website you’ve never heard of because the title promised you “hot content”? Sound off in the comments!