Blog#2–Social Media Strategies: the Strong and the Weak

 “It’s hard to find things that won’t sell online” is a quote by Jeff Bezos, founder, and CEO of Amazon. Most organizations today have reacted to this concept by developing some level of Social Media presence. In fact, according to Social Media Statistics, there were 4.2 Billion Social Media users in 2020. As a result, it is important for businesses to develop a competitive Social Media Strategy. For the purposes of this discussion, the example I chose of an organization with a strong Social Media Strategy is IBM, to compare to the Social Media Strategy for my demystifying COBOL blog, which is still weak strategy-wise and a work in progress.

IBM–A Successful Overall Strategy:

Picture Courtesy of Unsplash

As an organization that has an enviable Social Media Strategy, IBM was able to use Social Media to increase sales leads by 400% . IBM has been effective in this category because they not only listen on Social Media, but they also engage their customers in conversations to create a connection with them. They produce and share quality content and have an active presence on most of the main Social Media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and YouTube. They create current, frequent, quality content, using different formats.  In fact, a Social Media Case Study on IBM found that employees are even encouraged to share work-related content on their own personal Social Media. In addition, IBM has video content, which is predicted to be the best Social Media Strategy for 2021. Consequently, I would describe IBM’s Social Media Strategy as very successful.

An IBM SWOT Analysis:

In a 2020 SWOT analysis of IBM, two of its main strengths mentioned are that it is a reputable name in the tech industry with a valuable brand, but one of IBM’s weaknesses is that it has dropped in popularity with the strong competition in the tech industry. In addition, on the one hand, it has the opportunity to take advantage of technical advancements, but, on the other hand, it has the threat of aggressive competition. IBM has an impressive and ambitious Social Media Strategy with over 250 Social Media profiles, but as a leader in the industry, it is also subject to many threats as well as weaknesses. It would be considered to be in the upper end of the Social Media Strategy spectrum and has the strengths and opportunities to mitigate any weaknesses and threats.

My Blog–No Social Media Strategy:

In mid 2019, it was reported that 40% of small businesses had no Social Media Marketing Strategy. Currently, my blog, www.demystifyingCOBOL.com, has no detailed Social Media Strategy to either monetize it through ads or generate revenue through selling products. Per the 2021 guide to building your Social Media Strategy, the steps to follow are: 1/ Set goals that make sense for your business; 2/  Take time to research your target audience; 3/  Establish your most important metrics and KPIs; 4/  Create (and curate) engaging social content; 5/  Make your social presence as timely as possible; and 6/  Assess what’s working, what isn’t and how to keep improving. A new and evolving blog business such as mine needs to go through all of these steps to develop a Social Media strategy that will allow it to become, and stay, relevant in today’s competitive Social Media market. The goal is to move steadily out of the weak bottom of the Social Media Strategy range and generate revenue from my Social Media presence.

If you have a business, where would your Social Media Strategy fall on the spectrum? Would it be highly successful, proven, and strong like IBM; emerging and yet to be developed like mine; or somewhere in the middle?

COM0015 – Blog #1: Listening for ‘COBOL’ in Social Media

Part of providing content through Social Media is to ‘listen’ for information about your chosen niche in order to understand the conversations that you may want to become involved in. Since my focus is COBOL, I make it a point to listen daily for news and articles related to the COBOL programming language. If you have a strong interest in a topic and you are a regular Social Media user, your Social Media listening should evolve naturally as part of that interest. For example, I have instinctively incorporated listening for COBOL topics into my daily Social Media routines, not only to keep up with content others are providing, but because I am genuinely interested in the information shared.

Favorite Social Media Monitoring Tools

Google Alerts

One of my preferred Social Media listening tools is Google Alerts. I set up a daily alert to listen for COBOL content. The results–which generally include articles, courses, and job opportunities–are sent to my email. I can quickly scan through them to find the ones that interest me. I favor this tool because it is free, and it gives me a summary of the information that I am looking for.

An example of a Google Alert email

LinkedIn and Facebook Searches

Another of my favorite listening methods on Social Media is to search within the applications. For instance, if I search for COBOL within LinkedIn, I get lists of courses, groups, companies, posts, events, etc., all content within the LinkedIn realm that concentrates on COBOL. Similarly, a search for COBOL in Facebook provides related groups, posts, pages, etc. I perform these searches frequently enough to know what is new in these applications in terms of COBOL. I like to use these types of searches since I can perform them easily while I am reviewing my newsfeeds.

A search for COBOL within LinkedIn

               

A search for COBOL within Facebook

Sources of News and Updates

Facebook Newsfeed

One of the best sources that I have of news and updates on COBOL-related topics is a Facebook group called ‘COBOL Programmers’. It has about 18,000 members, and there are frequent, current posts. I have joined this group to get updates into my newsfeed which I review daily. There are articles as well as interesting discussions. This source of information is useful to me since the members are mostly experts in the COBOL programming field.

A screenshot of the COBOL Programmer’s group in Facebook

LinkedIn Newsfeed

Another great source of current COBOL information and discussions are the ‘Mainframe’ group and ‘COBOL Programmers’ group on LinkedIn. They have approximately 47,000 and 15,000 members, respectively. There are frequent, current article and discussion posts to these groups by industry professionals, which makes them valuable sources of information.

A screenshot of the COBOL Programmers group in LinkedIn

As users of Social Media, we are all listening to our chosen topics. Did you also find that your Social Media ‘listening’ developed naturally, or did you consciously create a listening strategy?

Blog #7: A Story Worth Remembering

Storytelling in Digital Content

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten” is a famous quote by Rudyard Kipling a writer, poet, and novelist. In terms of digital content, it is ultimately the storytelling capability of the author of the work that sets one article apart from another and makes it memorable.

In 2019, 500 million blogs existed. Everywhere you go online there are blog posts. Are they all unforgettable, interesting examples of storytelling? Probably not. The best posts draw you in with the heading and keep your attention with compelling content

Content Guided by Story

By nature, there are many stale technical websites that contain facts and figures, provide training material, or list job openings. As a contrast, I want the content of my technical blog to present an overall story, where every part will be connected. My individual blogs will be influenced by and will reflect my personal experiences in my work as a COBOL programmer over the last 25 years. I will attempt to share my subject matter in a memorable way, concentrating on the whole message as I build each separate story.

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

Stories to Tell

My general theme will be COBOL programming and the human side of that world. The individual parts will all stem from the main focus. The stories I want to tell will be about the people who are programmers; how it feels to be a programmer; being a woman programmer; the history of programming, as well as some of the people who have made it what it is today. My end goal is to write stories that inspire the reader to come to their own conclusions and leave with a new understanding of COBOL as a programming language.

In the end, I want my content to be a memorable story for the reader to take away with them and reflect on after they have turned the page and moved on—a story worth remembering.

Blog#6: A Programmer’s Unique Story

All of my friends who have younger siblings who are going to college or high school – my number one piece of advice is: You should learn how to program.” This is a famous quote by Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook.

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

The Discovery

I wish I would have had that advice presented to me when I finished high school. In the end, I did learn how to program, but my journey was very roundabout. I spent many years in University, getting a 3-year Psychology Degree and a 4-year Commerce Degree. With all that education behind me, I was still having trouble finding direction. As a result, I read an amazing, self-help book for job seekers called What Color is your Parachute? Surprisingly, the exercises in the book pointed me toward a career in programming, mostly based on my interest in the one programming course I had taken in University.

The Becoming

Given a new path toward programming, I decided to go the quickest route and get a programming Diploma. I used my University courses to get exemptions in the non-programming courses and finished a two-year Computer Programmer Diploma in a year. I loved it. Luckily, I was able to get a job as an entry level COBOL programmer shortly after I graduated, which has led to a rewarding 25-year career as a Programmer-Analyst and IT Specialist.

Photo Courtesy of Dreamstime

The Next Step

The natural continuation of this lifelong journey is to write about it. To answer some questions that can only come from experience. What is it like to be a woman in technology? What has it been like to work with newer technologies at the same time as older ones? What is it like to be in the computer field with multiple generations of people?  There is so much to write about–so many topics to explore, drawing on my many years of experience. All the facets of the past have come together to create my story, which is, I hope, unique enough to share.

What’s your story? Where are you on your own journey? Are you still becoming, or are you considering your next step?

Blog#5: Your Personal Brand Is Your Uniqueness

“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do” is a perceptive quote about branding, by Henry Ford. Some successful examples of personal branding, based on character, are Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, and Elon Musk. Their Personal Brand is their personality and how they present themselves to the world.

According to Jacob Cass, in Building a Personal Brand, a Unique Selling Point (USP) and Visual Identity are important factors in building an online reputation.

What Is My USP?

Several qualities, when combined, set me apart from others and give me a unique perspective. One of these things is the fact that I am analytical and can work through situations logically. Another characteristic I have is that I am persistent: when I want to do something, I will try to find a way to make it happen. A third feature that contributes to my USP is that I am a life-long learner.

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

How Do I Stand Out?

Of my unique characteristics, I feel that continuous learning is the one that makes me stand out the most and contributes to my visual identity. It has enabled me to be recognized during my career, as well as personally. I am very proud of the fact that one of my best traits is that I am constantly upgrading my skills and knowledge. As well as conventional learning, such as taking courses, I learn informally from those people and events around me. For example, as part of my day-to-day life, I study the behaviour of the people in my organization. I like to reflect on the types of workers, how interactions happen, the impact of the new on the old, women in the workplace, just to name a few.

Going forward, as the world continues to get smaller and smaller, personal branding will become even more important than it is right now. How unique you are will eventually become your value. Do you agree?

Blog#4: A B2B to B2C Transition Success Story

Zoom is a communications technology company that provides software for teleconferencing, telecommuting, distance education, and social relations. In fact, their motto on all their Social Media sites is “Bringing the world together, one meeting at a time.”

Photo Courtesy of Pexels

Online Interactions

Zoom has a very active and positive online presence. On Social Media, they post frequently on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook, with their engagement being geared to individuals in a Business to Consumer (B2C) model. In terms of their website, it is easy to navigate, and they have included ratings and reviews; however, the emphasis there is on the “Enterprise Experience” and follows the more traditional Business to Business (B2B) design. Their overall approach seems to be to rely on Social Media to converse with the consumer audience, while their website focuses on communication with the industries they deal with: Education, Finance, Government and Healthcare.

B2C vs B2B Traditionally

In terms of audience online engagement, traditionally, there have been several differences between B2C and B2B website promotions. For example, in B2C, the buyer is the consumer; the purpose and design of B2C online cater to consumers; the content is simpler and there is less of it (for example, fewer pages and less information needed on contact forms); and, finally, consumer ratings and reviews are very important in B2C online marketing. As we have seen, Zoom has maintained their traditional B2B approach in their website, while transitioning to a more B2C style in their Social Media interactions.

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

Successful Transition from B2B to B2C

With Covid-19, businesses have become more personal and are recognizing that “customers behind the businesses are real people”. As a result, Zoom, formerly a B2B enterprise, provides a good example of a brand that has been able to successfully shift from B2B to B2C. During the pandemic, Zoom realized there was a niche to be filled in serving remote workers and successfully adopted a strategy based on the fact that business users had now become consumer users as well.

It will be interesting to see what other companies are able to thrive by responding quickly to changes in the work landscape and adapting to new ways of working. Stay tuned…

Blog#3: How to Know Your Online COBOL Listeners

When you want to get to know someone in person, how do you generally accomplish that? Initially, you probably try to learn their characteristics, then you determine how to talk to them. The process is similar for online connections. First you want to get to know their demographics and their psychological traits (psychographics), then you find ways to communicate with them.

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Assuming that the majority of the online COBOL-related audience are COBOL programmers, their average age would be 55. Also, in an Evans Data Corporation survey, 27.5% of software developers in the world are women. Thus, the demographic of an online COBOL audience is probably men around age 55. Based on this demographic, some psychographic information about this group is that they are conservative, upper-middle-class, and are followers. In addition, according to the survey mentioned, one-fifth of men software developers have a personal interest in the technologies they are using. Consequently, one in five of COBOL listeners have a personal interest in COBOL technologies.

Now that we have identified some characteristics of COBOL online listeners, one of the ways to find out how to communicate with this audience on social media is to search on Twitter. In this case, a Twitter search on #cobol came back with several related people to follow. Similarly, a search on COBOL in Google Trends resulted in 23 related queries and 19 related topics to investigate. In terms of Facebook communities, related groups and pages included a COBOL Programmers group with 16,000 members and a COBOL page with 3200 members.

A screenshot of a COBOL search in Facebook

It is important to remember not to initiate a conversation too quickly in an unfamiliar COBOL online community. Some are primarily for job postings and others are used to sell online courses. Become a listener.  Get to know the demographics and psychographics of the group you are interested in before you start communicating.

What is your online style? Are you mainly a listener? Which online communities do you enjoy following?

Blog #2–Tell an Unforgettable Story

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten”. This powerful quote by Rudyard Kipling has never been truer than in the age of blogging. A good blog cannot just be a retelling of facts. It must also tell a great story in such a way that the readers form their own ideas from it and want to share it.

Photo courtesy of Pexel

Storytelling

Mitch Joel (2012) recognized that media channels were moving from content based on “fact” to content based on “opinion” and that opinion is the new news. Great content, therefore, should come from a great story, not from facts alone. He further argues that the writing should be from the heart (emotional), honest, and well presented.

Communication Styles

Moreover, to be a good storyteller, the content writer must write clearly and concisely in an organized way that accommodates the reader. According to the article, How to Read, by Brian Clark (2008), there are different levels of reading a piece of writing. For example, the reader can skim through it (Inspectional phase), analyze it (Analytical phase), and form their own ideas from it (Syntopical phase). These audience reading levels should be taken into consideration when writing a reader-oriented blog.

Photo courtesy of Pexel

Encouraging Interaction with your audience

In addition to writing with their readers in mind, a content writer needs to know how to create a piece of writing that their readers may want to share. Chris Brogan (2008), in his article, 23 essential elements of sharable blog posts, lists his ideas on the subject, including getting the reader’s attention; specific topic advice; sharing your post; and how to end your post.

Ultimately, to be unforgettable, the blogger should tell their story in an organized and thoughtful way, and their readers will naturally want to interact and share their post.

What was the last post you shared? What made you want to share it?

Blog #1: A COBOL Programmer’s Pandemic Vacation To-Do List

Before I tell you about my 2020, pandemic vacation, let me tell you a bit about myself. According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I am an Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging (INTJ) person. Being logical, methodical, and conceptual makes me ideally suited for my profession as a computer programmer,  which is a suggested career for the INTJ personality type.

Since the pandemic lockdown started six months ago, I have been spending most days continuously at home on my computer doing coding, analysis, system testing, mentoring, or attending meetings in this new virtual work world. No more breaks for water cooler gossip or work kitchen chats. No long commute to psych myself up at the beginning of the day or wind down at the end.

By the summer, I badly needed a vacation break. As usual, in keeping with my scheduled, systematic nature and the list-making preferences of my personality type, I wrote down all of the things I wanted to do on my time off.

This summer, at the top of my list, was a family get-away vacation to a cottage on Otter Lake in Quebec. With limited travel allowed between provinces this year, we booked it ahead, sight unseen, with very few pictures. It was a risk, but in the end, it was a beautiful peaceful, waterfront location about a half-mile from the main road. We had rented it for two weeks at the end of July. It was gorgeous weather and very relaxing.

Otter Lake View from our Cottage

Another thing on my list of things to do on my vacation was to give my daughter some practice driving. She just passed the written test at the beginning of the year and driving school classes and in-car lessons immediately shut down in mid March.

It was very awkward being in the car with her over the summer. As a teenager, she was sure everything I told her was wrong. Ultimately, we made it through driving sessions and online practice tests together. It was a valuable bonding experience, but I was relieved when a driving instructor took over in September.  

My Daughter at the Wheel

My vacation to-do list would not have been complete without having a computer-related item on it somewhere. With no end in sight for remote programming work, I took some time to set up my own separate home office space with a desk, monitor, new chair, and treadmill.

I faced my desk to the window, put up a bird feeder outside, and found I had some work-at-home buddies. My cat, Oreo, loves to lie on my desk and look out the window, watching the birds eat. Of course, once I had my new office in place, I also had to take a sneak peek at the work emails I was getting during vacation.

Oreo on my Desk
A Finch on my bird feeder

In the end, I did not get everything on my vacation list done, but overall, it was a relaxing, successful, semi-productive time off.

Take some time to look at where you fall on the Myers-Briggs scale.

Did you find that your career choices, as well as your list-making tendencies, correspond to your personality type?

Celebrating Women in Computing–Past, Present and Future

Image courtesy of Pixabay

The Importance of Women in Computer History

Women have been widely recognized as being important in the history of computer programming. Two examples of women technical pioneers are:

  • Ada Lovelace (1815 to 1852) was believed to be the first computer programmer.
  • Grace Hopper (1906 to 1992) was a computer programmer who helped pave the way for the COBOL programming language by developing a compiler, which translated mathematical code into machine readable code.

Image of Grace Hopper courtesy of Pixabay

Canadian Celebration of Women in Computing

Today, women continue to celebrate their place in technology. This year is the fourth annual CAN-CWIC (Canadian Celebration of Women in Computing) conference, which is taking place in the International Center in Mississauga, Ontario on November 8th and 9th 2019. There are 20+ sessions planned for 700+ attendees and 40+ expected exhibitors. Sessions include such topics as social media branding, technologies for people with disabilities, cyber security, gaming and others.

Image of courtesy of Pixabay

Some Stats on Women in Technology

Some promising stats compiled on women in technology for 2018.

Canadian Contribution to the Future of Women in Computing

Image courtesy of Pixabay

To invest in the future of women in Technology, the Canadian Government has launched a $2 billion Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) to double the number of women owned businesses in Canada by 2025 by increasing access to finance, networks and advice. As a part of WES, there is a $20 million Women Entrepreneurship Fund which funds women-led companies. Also, involved in the WES initiative is a $200 million Women in Technology (WIT) venture fund that supports women in building their businesses.

What would you consider to be one of the biggest hurdles of being a woman in technology?

Celebrating the Past, Present and Future of Women in Computing. https://bit.ly/2p5VPt9

 

Women in Computing—Past, Present and Future. #CAN-CWIC #womenintechnology #fundingforwomen. https://bit.ly/2p5VPt9