COM0014 – Blog #7: Personal Reflections

One of the most important things I learned in this course was to be a good “listener”, which in turn will make me a better writer and storyteller.  Monitoring what conversations are taking place on social media, and filtering out the noise is important for bloggers, marketers, and companies in order to be proactive and also to know when to engage.    

Social media has provided a unique and different avenue for communication.  It is a vital tool for interaction and relationship building, and storytelling is at the forefront of these connections.  What is important about storytelling is that it helps build communities and also helps bloggers find their authentic voice.  In a sea of information, being a good storyteller will help you stand out.  

Voice is also an important part of storytelling.  After completing all of the assignments, blog posts, and discussions, I can say with confidence, that I have found my voice!  My writing has become more direct and succinct, and I’ve learned in some cases that less is more.  Oftentimes blog posts are too long and they lose the reader early on.  I have found that multiple short paragraphs that chunk the information are the most effective way to blog and increases the likelihood of someone actually reading your whole post.

As a book blogger, I want to continue to get published and recognized by authors, publishers, and the media while growing my community of followers.  I want to tell stories about stories—why you should read certain books.  I also want to tell the story of the Canadian author and the Canadian publisher.  Be sure to check me out here.    

COM0014 – Blog #6: Do People Know Your Story?

What about your childhood shaped you for this moment?

My grandfather was Leslie McFarlane.  Perhaps that name doesn’t ring a bell, but I bet Franklin W. Dixon does, as in the author of The Hardy Boys.  Frank and Joe Hardy were created by my grandfather for the Stratemeyer Syndicate.

McFarlane started his writing career as a reporter, but quickly learned that being a reporter was not for him so he turned to freelance writing.  After publishing articles with the Toronto Star Weekly, he answered an ad to write a mystery novel for the Dave Fearless series under the pen name, Roy Rockwood.  After writing seven novels in the series, he tired of the character and wanted a change.  Stratemeyer pitched an idea for a new mystery series that would appeal to teenagers and the name being thrown around was The Hardy Boys Mysteries.  And as the saying goes, the rest is history.  Millions of copies have been read by tens of millions of kids all over the world.  He worked on the series from 1927 until 1946.

In 1943, he started work with the National Film Board of Canada and in 1953, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Herring Hunt, a documentary film.  He also had a short stint in Hollywood as a writing for the TV show, Bonanza.

Although he died when I was a child, his writing has greatly influenced my life.  Books are my passion and to this day I am a voracious reader.  I was the kid that almost hyperventilated with excitement when the Scholastic book order was delivered to the classroom.  Do you remember those days?  I can’t be the only one that was like that!

Books have also shaped my career path.  I have a Bachelor of Arts in English and a post-graduate certificate in publishing.  Presently I work in educational publishing, but would like to transition into trade publishing and am hopeful that my acquired knowledge in social media will help me with this desired career change.  As I wrote about in a previous post, I am a published book reviewer and have a blog Girl Well Read.  Yes, I do book reports for fun!

I’m so proud of my grandfather’s accomplishments.  He received a medal from the Queen of England for his contribution to literature which I now have.  I only wish that he was here to see publishing in the digital age and for us to talk about all things books.

COM0014 – Blog #5: Personal Brand

I am a published book reviewer and book blogger and Girl Well Read is my brand.  Simply put, I think everyone should read.  Rarely am I ever seen without a book, even when I’m cheering from the stands at the rink, the sidelines of the rugby pitch, or from the bleachers at the diamond.

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Photo credit: Pexels.

Being a book blogger has connected me with my favourite authors as well as with other passionate readers and reading communities.  I also get some swag which includes books, book related merchandise, and advanced reading copies (an advanced reading copy is essentially an uncorrected proof that is provided by publishers to reviewers, booksellers, and librarians before publication/mass distribution).

What are some personal qualities or characteristics that set you apart from your competitors?

One of the things I do with my blog to stand out from other book bloggers and influencers is to ensure that I also review and tag Canadian content.  As the granddaughter of a highly successful Canadian author, I realize the impact that  emerging new voices have on Canada’s literary arts scene—they also need as much support as they can get!  Support the arts in Canada, people!

What have you done lately to make yourself stand out? 

My Instagram feed has been gaining a lot of attention as of late and this is due to engagement.  I am now going beyond the “like” and commenting on authors’ posts and ensuring I am publishing to as many apps and sites as I can.  Engagement is huge and has really grown my following organically.

What would your colleagues say is your best trait?

My honesty is my best trait.

In exchange for an advanced reading copy (ARC), I am to provide a review.  Not only do I always provide feedback, but I give an honest and unbiased assessment—I will not give a favourable review so that the publisher will always choose me to to receive an ARC, and I also will not give extremely negative feedback either.  Because a book wasn’t necessarily my taste, doesn’t mean that it won’t resinate with another reader.  Also, there is a person behind that book and their effort deserves respect.

What do you do that you are most proud of?

What I am most proud of is when authors engage with me through comments, tweets, and the reposting of my reviews.  Chrissy Metz, who plays Kate Pearson on This Is Us is on a book tour for her book This Is Me.  One of my favourite authors, Emily Giffin, interviewed Chrissy during one of her tour stops.  I liked and commented on the post and my comment was liked by Emily Giffin.  I took a screenshot and posted it to Instagram, and Chrissy Metz liked it!  I was really touched that she took the time to like my post while on a whirlwind book tour.  A little fangirling going on here.

Under the Influence

Have Influencers Run Their Course?

With many influencers on social media displaying the same content as one another and having the same look and feel, I was wondering if influencers were still relevant in social media marketing.  There doesn’t seem to be much of a risk or expense for a business to engage an influencer; they are providing them with their product or service (and sometimes paying them) and in return, an influencer helps create brand awareness with their audience.

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Photo Source: Pexels.

What is an Influencer and Who Are They?

Basically an influencer is an individual that has the power to persuade and ultimately affect purchasing decisions because of their authority, knowledge, and relationship with their audience.  They are actively engaged with their following and usually specialize in a particular niche, for example lifestyle, fashion, or food.

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Photo Source: Pexels.

Types of Influencers

The majority of influencers fit into four categories:

  1. Bloggers/content creators—have a large reach in niche areas.
  2. Micro influencers—everyday users and regular posters that have a moderate following.  They find a niche market and become an expert.
  3. Industry experts/thought leaders—gain respect and followers because of their qualifications.
  4. Celebrities—the birth of the celebrity influencer was a result of paid endorsements/product placements.  The cost for a company is astronomical and would not feasible or attainable for smaller brands/companies.

Of the above mentioned categories, the focus has shifted from celebrities, to the bloggers and micro influencers.  Audiences can relate more to these groups and feel that their connection is more authentic as is their relatability.

Influencer Marketing

Google searches for 2017, saw the term “influencer marketing” increase by 325%.  I’ve noticed in my own job hunting an influx of social media marketing and social media & communications type positions as departments are increasing their budgets in this area.  Generally speaking, this is money is well spent. For each dollar spent on influencer marketing, marketers see an average of $7.65 in earned media value returned.

The biggest platform for influencer marketing is Instagram. Last year there was over 12 million brand sponsored influencer posts and experts estimate that number to double in 2018.  Those are some crazy numbers!

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Photo Source: Pexels

Why Are They So Popular?

Everyone has their passions and influencers share theirs—they’re people who aren’t afraid to share their enthusiasm which enables them to influence audiences through the power of social media.  They are also authentic and this is probably one of the most important attributes to their success.

What also makes influencers so effective is that people can relate to them on a social level—they are every day people, just like you and me.  They use their personalities and shared interests with their audience, and because of this, people buy in through purchasing or sharing of their content.

Bursting the Bubble

There’s been a boom of influencers, and now the bust.  The technological landscape is changing and many influencers are feeling that their content is getting lost because of new algorithms.  Take Instagram for example, it now shows you what it thinks you will want to see based on past likes as well as images that have received a lot of likes instead of being sequential.  Not very “insta”, is it?  But these likes may or may not be authentic, they could be purchased or from fake accounts.

One of my favourite influencers, Erin Sousa (Sparkle Media), wrote a fantastic blog post all about Instagram and how it has been affected by the new algorithms.  Aside from being super creative, Erin is incredibly knowledgable and real, and believes in the power of community and brand.  She has always remained true to herself and is a fantastic example of authenticity.  (I messaged her for permission to mention and link her blog—she is delightful!)

Others are finding it hard to stand out in a sea of blogs that all look the same and are promoting the same things.  So when they try to change it up, and get sponsored by a new product or service, oftentimes their followers call them out on it because they are no longer being authentic.  Is the payoff worth losing followers over?

Who are some of your favourite influencers?  Comment below.

Sources:

https://influencermarketinghub.com/the-rise-of-influencer-marketing/

https://wordpress.com/post/algonquincollegesocialmedia.wordpress.com/74069

http://thesparkle.net/2017/08/05/instagram-then-and-now/

 

Facebook: Are You Under the Influence?  A look a social media marketing.

Twitter: Under the influence of influencers? https://tinyurl.com/y8d48ma2

 

COM0014 – Blog #4: B2C Case Study

How Starbucks Uses Social Media to Engage With Its Audience   

Starbucks uses a multi-channel approach when engaging with their customers over social media.

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Photo Credit: Pexels.

App/Rewards Program

Starbucks Rewards has created a loyal following both with an experience-based program and rewards program.

The experience side allows users to manage their card, reload funds, use location service and is enhanced by mobile ordering—a customer can order and pay for any menu item, chose the location, and walk in and pick up their drink without having to wait in line, thus creating loyalty by this enhancement to the customer experience.

Members are given “stars” (points) for their purchases that can be redeemed for any menu item when they reach 125 stars.  Participants can also reach “Gold Level” status which comes with great perks, including an actual gold card.  The elite member status symbol is a strong motivator.

The app also features seasonal drinks and menu items that greet the customer when they first load the app.  Oftentimes a member will receive more stars for trying these recommended offerings.

As a member, I regularly receive triggered emails that mirror my purchasing history with a slight twist.  For example, I frequently buy Caramel Macchiatos and Cool Lime Refeshers.  The company offers me extra stars if I purchase both, plus another menu item of their choosing within a certain time period.  It is a win-win: the customer receives a bonus and tries something new, and the company is upselling by offering extra stars.

Facebook

Besides the usual company-based information that is found on most brand pages (contests, jobs, store locator), Starbucks creates content that focuses on the personal rather than the business so that their page is friendly and engaging.

LinkedIn

Starbucks has a strong presence on LinkedIn that features more than job postings and selling coffee—they highlight their company culture and post interesting articles.

They also emphasize building community and with that, increase loyalty.  The company aligns with other non-profits that serve local communities like Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

Instagram

The brand’s posts and customer’s posts alike feature seasonal content—warm and cosy in the winter, and bright, cheery, and refreshing in the summer—with friendly captions.  Starbucks fans also show brand loyalty through their posts.

The platform is also used by the company advertise promotions which increases engagement and brand loyalty.  And they love to regram, especially celebrities drinking Starbucks.

Twitter 

Starbucks’ Twitter communications strategy includes original and retweeted content: information-sharing, emotion-evoking, and action-inducing.  Their replies consist of information, apology/support, and comments which including showing gratitude.

Campaigns

Year-after-year, they creates successful media campaigns—think Pumpkin Spice Latte and their famous red cups.  Of late, one of their more successful campaigns had customers submit their red cup designs through social media.  Thirteen different designs were selected and used that year.  With personalization influencing customers like never before, this campaign was on point.

Where They Miss the Mark

Starbucks is definitely a successful B2C model however, where they succeed in engagement, they fall down in transparency with their rewards program—the parameters for the program change frequently and communication is not great.  Here’s an example of poor communication: did you know that you now have to claim your birthday drink on your actual birthday?  You used to have four days to do so (down from the original seven days).

Sources

https://www.inc.com/rebecca-hinds/5-powerful-lessons-starbucks-red-cup-campaign-can-teach-us.html

https://blog.smile.io/loyalty-case-study-starbucks-rewards

https://www.linkedin.com/company/starbucks/?originalSubdomain=be

 

“Why didn’t you like my post?”

 

Photo credit: Pexels.

It is almost a Pavlovian response to like someone’s post and Facebook has us programmed.  After reading an article about how someone stopped “liking” their friends’ posts, pictures, etc. and how drastically their Facebook newsfeed changed, I decided to give this a try.  Here is what happened:

Time Savings

Have you ever hovered over someone’s post trying to decide whether to like it or not?  Since I have stopped liking people’s photos and posts, I spend significantly less time on Facebook and a have noticed in general that I have more time.

Fewer Ads  

By avoiding liking posts, I am making a conscious effort to not participate in teaching Facebook’s advertising algorithms.  This actually works.  My content is less biased with surprisingly fewer ads.  Although as of late, I have noticed that I am seeing ads for things that I have recently performed a search on.  For now, this is harmless, but I’m curious as to how this is going to play out besides being super creepy that Facebook is spying on me.

Less Chance of Like-Farming 

Here is an interesting article on “like-farming“.  In a nutshell, like-farming is when a scammer posts an attention-grabbing story to gather likes and generate shares.  The post is then changed to scam people out of information, or to distribute harmful downloads.

Because posts that have a lot of likes and shares show up more often in people’s newsfeeds, this gives the scammer the platform they need to promote or sell information in an attempt to obtain data.

So, what kinds of stories are people tricked into liking and sharing?  Emotional ones for starters, and stories that specifically ask for likes.  For example, a photo of a teacher with a sign saying that she is showing her class the reach of social media so please like and share—who doesn’t want to help a teacher?  Or posts that promise a heartwarming outcome like children getting a puppy if they generate enough likes.

I encourage you to go back through your liked posts because you will probably see that you have liked something that you normally would not have because the post has been changed by like farmers.

Here is an article about your activity log with step-by-step instructions on how to look at your past likes.

Friends Stopped Expecting Likes/Asking Why I Didn’t Like Their Posts & Pictures

I always felt guilty over not liking things.  Would I be perceived as not approving of something, or not being accepting?  Am I withholding a form of affection?

If you don’t like anyone’s posts, than the friends/family that rely on this type of validation won’t have hurt feelings when you don’t participate and I’m pretty sure we all know these types of people.  Not feeling this pressure is actually liberating in a way.  I feel less stress not having to comment or react.

Engage Through Comments & Positivity

What I have started to do just recently is to engage by comments only—I still do not hit the like button.  Instead I tell people what it is that I like with a positive comment.  While conversations and debates can be constructive, tone doesn’t come across a lot of the time so I avoid getting sucked into anything argumentative or negative.  So far so good.  I am seeing the positive side of social media and enjoying Facebook again.

Final Thoughts

All-in-all, eliminating, or at the very least minimizing, your likes is more than just a good security measure. It reduces clutter in your friends’ news feeds, and their clutter in yours, so you can spend more time enjoying posts that really matter.

Have you ever been called out for not liking a friend/family member’s post?  Comment below.

Facebook: Why Are You Not Liking My Posts?

Twitter: Less likes, more time. https://tinyurl.com/y9ohovsu

 

Social Media Success Story —Depeche Mode Fan Takeover

Depeche Mode has been on tour since May 5th of 2017 in support of their 14th studio album Spirit.  I’m always amazed when people ask me if they are still relevant.  This is a band that in the first nine months of last year, sold more concert tickets than Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, and Justin Bieber.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The band also sold out an unprecedented four nights at the Hollywood Bowl—something that no other band, including The Beatles, has ever done.

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Depeche Mode promotional poster from DepecheMode.com.

Social media largely responsible for the success of the Global Spirit Tour.  Depeche Mode announced early last year that they would be giving fans the opportunity to take over their page each day for a whole year:

Whether you’ve been a fan since Basildon, or since yesterday, we want to hear from you. That means concert-goers, cover artists, bloggers, roadies, former fans, superfans, significant others, young fans, old fans, and more. Basically, if you’ve got something interesting to say about Depeche Mode, we just might let you say it as Depeche Mode. (source: DepecheMode.com)

There has been some pretty incredible takeovers from not only fans, but some pretty cool celebrities too: pro skateboarder Tony Hawk, musician Trent Reznor, designer Christian Siriano, astronaut Tim Peake, director Tim Saccenti, and the late Chester Bennington with Linkin Park.  I was touched and inspired by some of the posts, and simply amazed by others.

People wanted to hear other people’s stories and experiences.  Some lucky fans even got to give updates through interviews with the band, attend sound checks, and make tour announcements.  Even if there was someone you didn’t particularly find interesting, you could come back the next day for fresh new content.

I think this was a genius idea on how to further market a band/brand that has been around for more than 30 years.  This takeover not only attracted fans of all ages, but it increased reach and engagement.  BBH L.A. and Facebook’s Creative Shop were the innovative forces behind the Facebook takeover.  They reported that in the first month of the campaign, that the Depeche Mode Facebook page saw an increase of 26.4% in total engaged users, as well as a 74.4% increase in total organic reach.  This campaign provided a messaging platform with fresh daily content to keep Depeche Mode fans engaged all while the band was busy performing in various cities across the world.

What’s your favourite Depeche Mode song?  Comment below.

Facebook: People are People: Depeche Mode’s successful fan takeover.

Twitter: Depeche Mode fans takeover page with Spirit http://bit.ly/2HQffpA.

COM0014 – Blog #3: Target Audiences

In my spare time, I blog about books.  In exchange for an ARC (advanced reading copy—a copy of a book in its pre-published version that may need final proofreading) I am to provide an honest review that may be used for promotion/publication purposes.

 

In the digital age, it can be hard to make a book stand out because there is so much content available.  This is where social media can be incredibly effective.  Authors can actively participate in the social media strategy and publicity whereas this responsibility used to fall solely to the publishers’ public relations or marketing departments.  The authors’ followers are a good starting point when assessing who their target audience is.

Demographics

In order to communicate effectively with their audience, book publishers should research the demographic of their reader: what is their age, gender, education, career, and where do they live?  Some genres are gender and/or age specific.

Psychographics

Further analysis is needed in order to successfully determine the audience for their social media strategy: who are their favourite authors, what are some of their favourite books, and what are their favourite genres.  What is their reading behaviour—how many books do they read, and how do they read?  Are they reading for pleasure or work?  How do they choose what books to buy—are they an impulse shopper, do they purchase based on recommendations, or are they simply attracted to the cover?

Existing Social Media Fan Base

The existing fan base of an author is also part of the targeted audience (even though they will most likely buy whatever the author publishes).  Look at these readers’ demographics and psychographics.  This type of research can be done through surveys, engaging with followers from the authors’ social media pages, focus groups, and interviews.  I once participated in a panel where we were asked five pointed questions about the novel, and some of my answers/comments were published in a print ad and website article with a synopsis of the book.

Most social media platforms have “business” accounts that have analytics attached to them.  This enables visibility of the demographic type information at a glance.

Genre

Sometimes there are books that span multiple genres.  For example, there may be a thriller type book that has a strong female lead.  This would appeal to readers that like thriller/mystery type novels, as well as readers of women’s fiction.  In this case, because there are multiple target audiences, there would be a need to create different strategies for each group.

Engagement With Influencers/Bloggers

What key words are online readers and bloggers using?  These are words that should be incorporated in the social media strategy and provided to bloggers/influencers.  This creates a ripple effect so that publishers can reach more of their target audience.

Another way to engage with the publishers’ target audience is through the qualified lead.  In this case, it would be the readers who are interested in the ARCs being offered.  This ensures that bloggers/influencers will specifically request the publishers’ book because they are interested in the genre, or more specifically are a fan of the author, and therefore will be more likely to give a favourable review.  This will encourage their followers to purchase the book for themselves or a friend.  By having the target market request the book, the information can be used to further establish who this group is and how to best communicate with them.

Explaining Sports to Women

Too many times I have heard that I don’t know anything about sports because I’m a woman.  According to Forbes, women know a lot about sports, women like sports, and heck women even play sports.

 

I live in a house with all men/boys which automatically turned me into a hockey/baseball/rugby mom.  At one time, I even drove the stereotypical minivan.

While at one of my son’s hockey games, a group of dads started heckling me and the two ladies I was standing with, even going so far as to call us “stupid” and claimed we knew nothing about hockey.  They  then tried to further mansplain the game to us when a call didn’t go in their favour.  Let’s be clear: I don’t need anyone to help me understand hockey.  I grew up in a rink—both my brothers played hockey.  I married a hockey player, and we have two children that play.  My grandfather was an author who published hockey stories as well as wrote articles on the sport.  My uncle was a commentator on Hockey Night In Canada and also penned several books on the subject.

 

So why is it widely perceived that women know nothing about sports?  

Ladies—have you ever supported a team only to have to justify why you like them beyond their uniforms?  This not only implies that only men can like sports, but that men are also the experts when it comes to anything sports related.

Women personalities in sports media.

Although millions of women play sports, and many more millions are fans, women are still not given the opportunity to actually talk about sports.  Males dominate the media.  By discouraging women in this field, it only fuels the premise that women simply don’t understand sports—maybe it’s the men that don’t know as much about sports as they think.

Social media can certainly up the ante for these women working in the male-dominated sports industry.  It provides them a platform that not only gives exposure, but a voice and a presence so that women of all ages can follow them, learn from them, and support them.

Facebook: Explaining sports to women, hint: don’t do it.  Why is it Widely Perceived that Woman Know Nothing About Sports.  

Twitter: Why men shouldn’t explain sports to women http://bit.ly/2FtLXQK.

COM0014 – Blog #2: Storytelling and Communication Styles

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Storytelling is the most basic form of communication.  Although we are more advanced from a technological perspective, we are still using storytelling as a primary method of communication.

Al Gore didn’t invent the Internet, primitive people did.

Okay, so maybe primitive people didn’t invent the actual Internet, but they did use cave walls much like how we use the web, as a way to capture information and share it with a larger audience.

In more modern times, the printing press introduced mass distribution and the wide reach that we continue to experience today through tv, movies, books, and of course, the Internet.

Content is rooted in story and the ability to tell a great one.

Bottom line: you need to be a great storyteller.  Given the volume of content available, many readers are skimmers.  You need to captivate your audience from the get-go with your title. Have you ever read an article that you normally wouldn’t have only because you were grabbed by the title?

Know your audience.

Content should be engaging, inspiring, motivational, and entertaining.  To accomplish this you need to know your audience.  Who are you writing for?  What do you want them to take away from your piece?  How do you want them to engage with you?

When you know your audience, your content is more likely to be shared.  Always be true to yourself and use your voice—there is only one you, and you are interesting.  (See what I did there, I’m being motivational!)  You will attract like-minded readers and increase your following organically.

Short and digestible.

Looking back at some of my other blog posts (I’m a book reviewer for various publishers), I quickly realized that the best ones are in fact the shorter ones.  These posts chunk the content into small paragraphs which plays right into the skimmer personality, which I think is what most of us are becoming.  How many times have you gotten a huge email, only to stop reading early on because it was too wordy and visually overwhelming?

You want engagement and buy-in.  By arranging your piece using short paragraphs, someone can quickly and easily read your post and look forward to reading more from your blog.