Out of the Box

Social media cannot be disputed as a superior form of marketing. With all the technological advances today, the way we are marketed at has become so refined and so exact that it’s scary. In this course we talk a lot about the positives and the best practices, but an unexpected application of online marketing has been the basic enslavement of society. We have gone beyond the basic tools of marketing and into a realm where the human mind is being manipulated and changed. 

Recently, I watched The Social Dilemma. A Netflix documentary that goes into great detail over the unethical nature of social media, and by extension marketing using social media. What was presented in the documentary was not new information to me in any way, but the presentation really drove it all home. Up until watching it, I always said these advancements were good for marketing and made life easier and we as humans should be able to handle it. I don’t think that is the case so much anymore. It’s like my caffeine addiction. I know Pepsi is bad for me, I know all the reasons why, but I still drink it every single day. Even now, through my pregnancy. I’ve cut back, but as much as I’d like to tell myself I can cut it completely, I couldn’t. Social media has that same effect. Like Pavlov’s dogs, we jump for our devices upon hearing a notification go off and then we’re sucked in. 

I don’t mind being advertised to, or the creative ways marketers advertise, but I am concerned for the mental health of humanity because this has maybe gone a bit too far. When I started to become interested in social media marketing, I wanted to learn all these tricks and take advantage of all the new ways to target and get out there. I knew social media in itself could be damaging to the psyche, but I didn’t realize how connected the marketing aspect was to it all. Without advertisements the services wouldn’t be free, platforms are continuously improving marketing methods to continue to pull big dollars from advertisers, and so every notification or scroll or like is all a part of the major marketing plan.

From the movie ‘They Live’ (1988)

With all this in mind, I do feel a small sense of guilt for wanting to get in on the scheme, but at the same time marketing has always been portrayed as a sort of evil industry. One of my favourite movies is ‘They Live’, in which a drifter stumbles upon a big alien conspiracy where he discovers every magazine, billboard, television and radio advertisement held subliminal messaging to control the general public. Subliminal messaging has been proven to be a known part of marketing, and I find that fascinating more than evil (unless of course aliens are using it to control us). In the end, I have to sort of shrug my shoulders and say: it is what it is. I need to do my part to not let social media control my life while using it to get a job done. Perhaps there is a better way to make this form of marketing less harmful and I’m all for that, but I also need a job so… here we are.


Netflix. (2020). The Social Dilemma. https://www.netflix.com/ca/title/81254224

Professional Networking: Now & In the Future

Professional networking is insanely important for your career, whether you work in an office, for yourself, or out in a field. I learned a lot about networking at a very young age because my Mother was and still is a politician. I went everywhere with her, possibly a result of being the youngest, and I got to see first-hand how important it was to make connections- even if there was no immediate benefit to you in the moment. Somewhere, down the line, every connection you make could come in handy. This was also a strategy Mum used as a farmer, which has helped a lot over the years.  

As I became an adult, I learned to be very socially savvy and make these connections for myself. I began as a teenager to get involved with various organizations and events to get my name out there and meet people. In a rural community it’s very easy to become well known by doing that. As my world grew, so did my connections and I followed proudly in my Mother’s footsteps. Unfortunately, in that, my Mum sort of became a bit of a stage mother. She was always forcing introductions to important politicians and thrusting my work at them, as well as nudging me at events to speak with this person or that person. I appreciated her wanting to see me succeed but a baby bird needs to fly. Separating myself from her within our shared world is difficult but necessary if I ever hope to be taken seriously. 

My current strategy for networking involves attending every conference or event related to my industry that I can get to and shaking as many hands as I can. Running for positions within my agricultural organizations has also opened a lot of connections for me. Last year I ran for a director position with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and had to make a speech to all the attendees of the conference. Though I was not the successful candidate, I had been seen, heard, and my intentions made clear. I made hundreds of connections through that experience, the most important being an invite to a lobby day at Queens Park where I was able to meet with Members of Provincial Parliament. A dream come true for me.  

Virtually, I have a profile on practically every social media platform going. Certain platforms are more focused on different things, but I make sure that my voice and my personality are consistent. When I meet someone in person, I hand them my business card and encourage them to connect with me online as well so we can continue to stay in touch. That is key for farmers, like myself, who may only see someone once a year at a conference or event. Social media has really made networking a lot easier to do in that regard, it also makes it easier to connect with people further away that you might not have met otherwise who are in your industry. I personally prefer meeting someone face to face, but the online component is important for lasting relationships.

conference coffee is both tiny and gross, but gets you through it all.

Going forward, I will continue to push myself further. I have never had a problem meeting new people and I enjoy testing myself by putting myself into situations that are stressful but ultimately beneficial. I am very passionate about my industry and my career and in order to have any success in either I need to get out and have my voice heard. Whether that’s by a neighbouring farmer or an MPP who could make the difference in getting proper internet to rural communities. I am my Mother’s outspoken, passionate, determined daughter and networking is as easy for me as breathing. I was devastated when Covid-19 robbed me of all my events and conferences this year. I will be attending virtual conferences, but the professional networking will be lost and missed. Here’s hoping next year I can get back on track! 

Strong & Weak Social Media Strategies

A company or organization’s marketing is only as good as it’s social media presence. In 2020, this is something that I firmly believe. Traditional marketing is not where the people are anymore, TV, radio, print, everything has been replaced by something far more freeing on social media. TV is now youtube, radio is now Spotify, Print is now every Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, banner or promoted post disguised as an organically human post.

Two companies I feel have really grasped and ran with social media, perfecting their strategy and succeeding in their business because of it, are Wayfair and Wendy’s. These two brands stick out to me specifically because, in Wayfair’s case, I am the perfect demographic. I am a female adult who wants my house to look pretty. Wayfair has my number. They have catchy advertisements (Never underestimate the all mighty power of a jingle), they know what aesthetic is going to catch your attention, and they know what you’re looking for. Facebook has made that part extremely easy. One day you’re cruising Marketplace for kids bookshelf, the next Wayfair ads keep magically popping up in your feed showing you the exact bookshelf you want and the price isn’t too dear. Wayfair also has its own app, which literally puts the furniture virtually into your home via your camera so you can really visualize it in your space. Other clever things about Wayfair are the usage of known celebrities, like Kelly Clarkson, and they domination SEO and paid advertising on Google. Not only are they one of the first results in the paid adverts, but the organic searches and the shopping side bar search. 

A sucker for farmhouse home decor

Wendy’s stood out to me as well because they have really made a name for themselves on social media, and again, I’m part of their fast-food loving, young person target audience. They essentially invented major brands having personalities. Wendy’s Twitter took the world by storm with how sassy and personable it was, making people want to follow it because ‘Wendy’s is like a salty chick who says it like it is’. They continue to dominate the scene because of this, even when so many brands have tried to replicate it. The audience Wendy’s seeks is younger, think college/University age, so they love Twitter beef, and actual beef most likely. The brand is also very responsive, consistently responding to tweets on a regular basis not only showing their engagement and personality but giving them a lot of presence. The other thing about Wendy’s is that they have a great product. Fresh, never frozen beef and you can taste the difference (speaking as a beef farmer). When your product is good, it’s a lot easier to just be a winning personality online. 

Also a sucker for fast food

An organization that would really benefit from a social media strategy would be Viagara. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have to research brands without any social media presence to get to that answer. This really surprised me because you do often see a lot of spam from Viagara, which is so 1995. This brand, although targeted towards an older audience, could truly benefit from having a social media strategy. They aren’t even in the top five search results when you Google their name! They’re 8 down into the free search, not even mentioned in the advertised searches. As the population ages, the generation of Viagara’s target audience changes too. Many boomers are using social media and turning away from traditional media. Viagara has already started a campaign to show people there is nothing to be embarrassed about when buying it, they should really take that and run with it on social media. Having an online personality will take the dirty word connotation away from the brand and make it more mainstream. Their first step should be something easy, like Twitter, and try to adopt the Wendy’s method of brand personality. Light jokes and quick responses would help them gain the traction they need to become a brand people want to follow which would then take away any stigma. From there, they can grow into bigger campaigns and targeted advertisements.

Organizations and companies that don’t utilize social media marketing are just playing themselves. It is the easiest and most effective way to reach an audience, especially this year with everyone stuck at home on their phones or computers. Some, like Wayfair and Wendy’s are killing it, and then there are some who really aren’t and need to re-evaluate their strategies, but the ones who haven’t taken that first step at all, like Viagara, really need to do so. It’s either that or settle for obscurity. Time is running out for brands that rely on a word of mouth name recognition alone.


Calabretta, D. (2020, March 17). Viagra gives another reason not to be embarrassed. 

Bikker, Y. (2019, October 30). A Tribute to Wendy’s Awesome Social Media Strategy. 

Sims-O’Grady, C. (2019, February 26). Social Media as a Business Model: Wayfair and Instagram. https://medium.com/@colin.simsogrady/social-media-as-a-business-model-wayfair-and-instagram-fc94558797bf

Social Media Tools & Sources

My favourite social media trend listening, and monitoring tools are Hootsuite and Google Analytics. These tools have helped me better understand my audience and whether the content I’m putting out is working or not. 

Hootsuite monitors my social media presence, keeping tabs on all my statistics as well as notifying me when I have a message or a comment on any social media platform. It also makes it so I can post ahead of time, which for me is the most important. Life gets in the way, so if I can take some time on Monday morning to post a comic strip for the rest of the week, I’ll never miss a day. It also gives me more time to think about what I’m writing to go along with that strip that will have people more engaged. I’ve shared more, I’ve included a call to action that gets conversations started… Since doing this, I have really noticed a spike in my engagement across platforms. Without stressing about posting my comics on time it also frees me up for more organic spur of the moment postings like taking advantage of my stories, tweeting nonsense, and providing a bit more behind the scenes which give my brand more personality. With Google Analytics, I get a clearer picture of how my website is doing. It tells me where the traffic comes from and in turn what platforms and content work better.  It also shows me which of my subpages do the best, which really lets me know what works. So far, I’ve discovered my online store gets nothing, but my longer narrative style comics get the most attention. From that, I was able to deduce that no one wants to buy ‘things’ but maybe they would support my art in other ways. I set up a Ko-Fi account after that and left donation buttons on my comic pages where the audience can buy me a coffee to show their appreciation. It’s been far more effective. 

The two best social media sources for me to get my news are Twitter and Facebook. Twitter mostly because I can easily follow news outlets that I trust in my area. Facebook usually has articles shared by my friends and family that I might have missed because I don’t follow the same news, but the information is still relevant to my area. For example, I follow Global on Twitter which gives me big picture news, but on Facebook, a friend shared an article from my nearby small town’s paper that talked about a young couple I went to school with handling a crisis. It’s not big-time news, but it is to me and therefore I want to see it. 

Personal Reflection

This course on Digital Communications has really taught me a lot about the importance of not only finding your voice, but having something important or helpful to say with it. Storytelling and figuring out what your stories can offer others was a really important lesson for me as I was unknowingly struggling with that. I think at the end of this course it is now clearer to me what my story is, who it could resonate with, and how I can use my voice to better get it across. 

Storytelling is important to creating great digital content because it gives you an authentic way to connect with others. You get to share a piece of yourself that in some way should benefit you, and your audience. Storytelling is the way humans communicate with each other, back and forth we share stories in order to find connection and understanding. To bring that into the online marketing world makes perfect sense. People may not relate to a hot dog selling business, for example, but, if you give it a heart and a personality, an audience will form. 

I think my content has already been guided by my story, as I write about living my life as a farmer. There is room for my content to expand into other ways of story telling, however, and I will explore those other ways going forward. I want to continue to tell my story as a young farmer in Canada and do my part to help highlight Canadian farming as well as bring something back to our community that can strengthen it. Whether that comes in the form of entertaining distractions or solidarity in mental wellness I still need to work out but, storytelling is definitely the way to achieve both. 

Adding Value Through Shared Experiences

John Jantsch in his article ‘Do People Know Your Story?’ Asked the question: What experiences can I share that will help my audience?

To answer that question I need to understand what my audience needs help with and what my experiences offer in terms of a solution for that. Throughout this course I have been going through a serious identity crisis with my personal brand. Is my audience who I thought they were? Am I wasting my time on the wrong audience? Am I somehow steering away from the original path I had set out on with my message and my audience? 

My experiences are those of a young awkward farmer who just wants to help the agriculture industry in some way. I think somewhere along the way I lost sight of how that could help my farming community. I originally started making these specific comic strips and sharing them online to relieve stress, and hopefully help others relieve stress by having a laugh. Farming is stressful. Mental health is a serious issue in our rural communities and there is a massive need for ways to help with that. 

In the past (and I mentioned this in my last blog), my strips have been associated with the mental health movement in agriculture and at that time it wasn’t really something I was interested in because I thought it wasn’t really part of my brand. Now, as I mull over John’s question, I feel like I couldn’t have been more wrong, and the answer to his question was staring my in the face the entire time! 

I made comics as a teenager to vent my frustrations or anxieties about things that were going on in my life. I make comics to escape problems, I make comics to work through problems, and I can now make comics to share those problems with others who may be going through similar things. Especially in the farming community, where mental health is a crisis. They face hardships daily that could effect whether they have enough money to pay their bills. This past year alone, personally, my farm experienced a flood (so the crops went in late), followed by a drought (so the crops didn’t grow as nicely), an early snow (so the crops couldn’t be harvest on time), 10% of our herd was not pregnant, and Ontario’s largest processing facility was shut down making it impossible to sell our weaned calves leaving us with fifteen extra mouths to feed through the winter. That’s not even all the struggles we faced in 2019, and this year isn’t looking much better. 

I know my farm is not the only one going through these troubles, and there are different struggles for different groups. What I can offer is my experiences dealing with these issues through my strips that will hopefully help my audience find a positive way to get through their own struggles. I need to focus on the people I belong with, and how I can give back to our community. This is the best way for me to do that, and these experiences could be their experiences, so I shouldn’t keep those to myself. 

My Personal Brand – Art Meets Agriculture

My personal brand is best described as light-hearted, a little geeky, and farm fresh. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I make comics about farming and rural life and I share them via social media. For me, it is important that people are receptive to my personal brand because I want them to support and appreciate my work. When someone reads through my social media feeds, I want them to be able to see me as someone they can relate to and want to be friends with. 

What I do is a combination of things that couldn’t be more different, and my competition reflects that. I see myself competing with other slice-of-life comic creators, but I also see myself competing with agriculture personalities who are using social media to promote their farms or educate on farming. When I stack my personal brand against someone like ‘WhatsupBeanie’, it’s easy to see that we do the same thing, but with very different themes. Compared to her brand, mine stands out as one that is very country, very rural and maybe a little redneck in some opinions. On the other hand, compare my personal brand to that of ‘Farmer Tim’. We both have farm themed content, but we talk about it in very different ways. His brand is typical farmer, sweet and hardworking, simple content with a lot of story telling. Compared to him my brand comes off as silly, cutesy, and maybe like a little awkward and geeky. I speak more to the younger generation with my kind of brand, to both the weird art kids and the red necks.

Recently, I have been trying to expand my brand into different mediums. Dipping my toes into alternative ways to bring more attention to my comic strips. I want to show more of my personal brand so that people are not just following my social media because they like my work but because they want to see me succeed. To do this, I’m experimenting with recording myself drawing, and posting more Instagram Stories from around the farm or my house that give a better glimpse at who I am. I’ve been attempting to respond to other people’s postings more and to make myself a little more visible than that one tweet or instagram post a day. 

I have a great support network so far, and my work is constantly receiving praise for being cute, funny and relatable. Something that I had not intentionally associated with my brand but has been tied to it regardless was a positive voice for mental health in the agriculture community and an advocate of women in agriculture. Both of these topics are of great importance to me, but I never set out to be a mental health brand or a feminism brand. 

I happen to be a woman in agriculture, who lives and works with other women in agriculture. I have received praise for showing a feminine heavy cast, and in a radio interview I did last November with Valley Heritage Radio, I was asked if this was intentional and I had to confess it wasn’t. I also inadvertently became connected to the mental health movement in agriculture after an interview I did with Better Farming on how my comics help me relieve stress for myself and others. Ever since then I have been asked to speak on the topic more and more which is wonderful, but never my original intention. 

I think that there could be a really a strong chance of success for my brand if I were to lean more into one of these subjects to further my brand recognition, but it is not something I am yet comfortable doing as I never intended to be that voice in the first place. My brand is supposed to inspire a care-free, fun and innocent love for farming and rural life and I’m not sure I want to move into a space where I am actively advocating for something more than that. I don’t want my audience to ever feel that they are being preached to by me, but in that, I feel that I have stunted the growth of my personal brand. 

Going forward, if my efforts to diversify my presence online do not increase brand awareness I may end up exploring these avenues… but until then, I will continue with the personal brand I have now. 

B2C Case Study: Spotify

Spotify Logo – http://www.spotify.com

I love Spotify. I was hesitant about a subscription service for my music back when it was first coming into the picture, but about four years ago my sister-in-law turned me onto them. How did she sell me? They had Eddy Arnold’s Cattle Call on there. I have obscure tastes in music ranging anywhere from old country western to eighties synth with space vibes. Spotify has it all, and it recommends new stuff based on your tastes! I have discovered a lot of new music this way and have easily recommended it to all friends and family. 

Despite being a great service with a lot of word-of-mouth and recommendation style marketing going on, Spotify is also very active on social media. Spotify has a strong following on social media, which is partly due to its star power. The popular app has teamed up with many musicians to create content that encourages consumers to stay engaged and intrigued. Faces like Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and Justin Timberlake fill its feed their faces and voices. It has no trouble catching followers’ attention and engage with them by responding to its tweets or comments. 

Spotify itself is also considered a social media network. The service has 217 million users on it as of April 2019 (1) and is growing as a popular place for advertisers to take their campaigns. Company’s want to connect with consumers in places where they already spend a lot of their time; Instagram, Facebook and now, Spotify. The app also offers a community for people. The ability to create playlists and share them with others (and yes, unless you’ve specifically identified them as private, people can see your embarrassing playlist names), the ability to create, share and enjoy podcasts, and of course, it can be used to flesh out your personal brand. For example, a company can make its own account, create a bunch of playlists that create the feeling and vibe of your company, then encourage consumers to come and listen to them. 

Spotify is a great app and a great business. It sells a subscription directly to the consumer that removes the need for hoarding and buying individual songs or CDs. It is the next level of the music industry and has successfully made it to the top of the competition. The move to include paid advertisements was an excellent decision and helps them to stay on top and change with the times. Becoming its on social media network may be the most genius move of all. 


Pusztai, H. (2019). Why brands are turning to Spotify as the next big social platform. http://www.buffer.com/resources/spotify

Spotify. (2020). http://www.spotify.com

Spotify on Instagram. (2020). http://www.twitter.com/Spotify

Spotify on Twitter. (2020). http://www.instagram.com/spotify/

My Target Audience

Before I get into who my target audience is, I should first explain what it is I’m trying to get out to them. I am a comic artist and I post daily strips that give vignettes of the life of a modern farmer or rural person. Every day I try to post something I’ve experienced that was humorous in the hopes that it will bring other people joy too. Strips about doing chores, working with family, strips about the culture, about my childhood and strips about city life compared directly to country life. 

The immediate audience that comes to mind for such content is automatically farmers. My strips are relatable for them so it must be for them. I came to the conclusion early on that due to many factors that might not be the case. 

Farmers make a very small portion of the online community, most opting not to use it at all. It is a niche, but it’s almost too much of a niche to become anything profitable. When they are on social media, farmers are inclined to use Twitter or Facebook and use those platforms to get the news or stay updated with friends. They don’t tend to use Instagram because that doesn’t serve either of those purposes, and Instagram happens to be the best platform for my type of content.

Farmers are very supportive, friendly, and want members of the community to succeed. They can appreciate what I do and offer words of support but, that is essentially where it ends. These are people who have all their finances tied up in the work and don’t have a penny to stretch for something that isn’t practical. Supporting an artist via Patreon or KoFi would be something completely foreign to them and not justifiable in their minds. 

My actual target audience is young and mostly urban audience. My brand of humour speaks more to the younger generations who just want to be entertained and experience things. I create the strips so that any young person could find something to relate to in it, but it’s still highly farm or country focused. This way, my audience can see that we are all the same in the end, despite backgrounds being so different. For example, my country versus city strips call out in particular are differences and makes a joke of it, but in the end those two people are best friends. 

country vs city strip

The goal of my business is to highlight farming and farm culture through my visual storytelling. I believe the best way to do that in a successful way is to tell the stories to people who don’t already know it. I want to connect with those people and share with them the story of agriculture in a language they are familiar and comfortable with, that doesn’t teach at them but rather laughs with them. Millennials and Generation Z’s also seem to be more open to supporting artists than other generations. If they like your work and your personality they are more likely to subscribe to a Patreon or buy a piece of your work. I’m not necessarily saying farmers wouldn’t do that, but from a business perspective I have to go with the more likely bet.

Long story short, my audience is the young, urban, Canadians of today. The people living through their social media platforms and giving what they can to support people they appreciate. In doing so, I give back to the farming community in a more meaningful way. Even with my strips focused on pleasing a very different audience, they are still relatable to those farmers out there who need a good chuckle too. 

Storytelling & Communication

This week we learned about communicating through the art of storytelling. Social media has given us the biggest stage for which to tell our stories. It has lead to many successful careers for people who know how to do it right. They found their authentic voice, chose their subject carefully and made sure to use proper communication techniques (for example: Spelling and grammar in a blog).  

 I have always loved to spin yarn to any captive audience. My mission is to make people laugh, and I do that through being as animated and expressive as possible. I think all humans have that desire to truly connect and share with each other in that way and that is what lead to the rise of the social network. Anyone can tell their stories in any format they choose. This leads to a lot of crummy content, or a lot of really great content, but either way it is an overwhelming amount of content that one could sift through for all eternity. 

Storytelling is important. It is something we have been doing since the dawn of time. It keeps us social, it keeps us grounded and it helps us relate to the other people in our lives. Spending time with a friend often involves rounds of storytelling, back and forth. I go out for coffee with a friend of mine regularly, last time I was telling her about a racoon issue I experienced, she responded with a squirrel issue she experienced, I retorted with a squirrel experience I had as a kid, she came back with a story about growing up in a city apartment so she couldn’t relate to a childhood where a squirrel lived under her bed and chewed up her action figures. We moved on to discuss our childhood differences. Our entire basis for communication is storytelling. 

In a digital space, that back and forth still exists. When someone makes a post on instagram or a blog post, or a tweet, a simple invitation for someone to weigh in with their own experience ignites the same interaction. A picture of a meal with the caption ‘what are you eating?’ Tells a story about what the person is eating and invites a response story from someone else. This engagement often drives the success of a person’s online presence, and if they are so inclined, could lead to a career- all from doing what comes natural to us!

Long story short, I learned that storytelling can be the key to successful career online. Storytelling should be authentic, not forced, and it should always feel like you are starting a conversation with whoever you are telling the story to. Much like telling spooky stories around a campfire, we take our turns and weigh in when we can relate. 

I feel as though I already know what my appropriate storytelling vehicle is, but sometimes I wonder if I’m missing an opportunity. Making comics is my jam, but given my love for verbally entertaining my friends with stories that will make them laugh, I wonder if I might be more successful in a video sharing experience? Would I still be authentic? This is a question I hope to uncover through this course.