COMM0015 – Post 4 – Out of the Box

It’s both remarkable and overwhelming to see the number of new applications being introduced daily in the field of online marketing and social media.

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I only recently stumbled upon social apps such as Yik Yak, Secret and Whisper. Essentially, these apps enable hyper-local communication while retaining users’ privacy. Initially created to allow the sharing of information between people in the same location, the apps became extremely popular as people wanted to share or receive unfiltered real-time information in any area.

Prior to apps like these, people usually monitored local events or breaking news by following a reporter or others using a hashtag. But this required trusting that the information providers were actually in the area. The inherent value of apps like Yik Yak comes from the ability to select remote locations and seek out the direct source to learn more about a topic or event of interest.

All this is great, but anonymity is at the core of these apps. And is that good or bad? Unfortunately, like most powerful tools at our disposal, it depends on who’s using it. Anonymity can sometimes be a great thing, but it also has an ugly side.

 

It has many useful characteristics. For example, there are many troubled people who are afraid to reach out to their friends or family when in need – these apps offer a way for them to find help from a non-judgmental source. These apps also encourage meaningful dialog about important issues that might not otherwise be shared by someone due to fear of repercussion.

Of course, the ugly side usually materializes when less-desirable humans are using them. The tools can be used to perpetuate cyber-bullying and slander that can have devastating consequences. After the launch of Yik Yak, there were reported incidences of cyberbullying and an anonymous bomb threat.

http://nobullying.com/yik-yak-is-anonymity-a-beautiful-thing/

It’s interesting that the courses in this program have focussed on how we can use social media to help promote ourselves and the organizations we represent through the disclosure of personal information. Yet these apps derive their value from providing the exact opposite – through hiding behind our computers.

I’d be curious to know if you use apps like this, and if so, for what purpose? In the end, most apps survive through targeted advertising – do you think users of these apps are really anonymous after all?

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COMM0014 – Post 7 – Personal Reflection

Each day, myriad individuals are using social media for the first time to brand themselves or the organizations they represent. And it’s often easy to distinguish between postings that were created with the assistance of planning, and the postings that were created hastily or without any underpinning strategy or long-term goal.

All the courses in this Social Media Program stress the importance of preparation prior to launching a social media presence. In order to create content that will best help to achieve your desired outcome, the work must be done up front. Understanding your customer in advance is the first step toward giving them exactly what they want.

Without rehashing all earlier lessons in the Program, listening to your audience is the jumping off point. Once you understand your audience, identifying best practices and tools will allow you to reach them in the most effective manner. Once you understand your audience and have established a plan to reach them, it’s critical that the content is meaningful and relevant. This course has emphasized that the best way to achieve that result is by determining a personal communication style that is compelling and engaging.

This is why storytelling is so important when trying to create great digital content. When your audience feels like they are listening to a story they automatically feel a stronger connection to you. The storytelling approach is less about telling and more about sharing. It’s more personal, which makes you appear more honest. And that goes a long way toward building trust, which is the perfect foundation from which to build a solid relationship with customers. The more that customers feel they know you, good and bad, the stronger the bond and loyalty. People want to engage with those they can trust, relate to and feel they know well.

As I continue to develop my brand through social media I want to ensure my content is shaped to sound like I’m telling a story. Whenever I live or remember an interesting event (from childhood to present day), I plan to record it in my notes for future use. No experience will be excluded to record – it’s impossible to know whether it could or could not be relevant later on when trying to create content for my audience. I’m hopeful that these notes will inspire me to create content that my audience will want to read.

I plan to be consistent with the type of story I tell. I want to clearly show a strong, competent professional, without being afraid to expose a soft, caring personality through self-deprecation and humour. That’s who I am, so it will require the least amount of effort while coming across as genuine. Striking the perfect balance will be key, but if executed properly it could make for compelling content that provides value and builds a strong, loyal following.

Does this style of storytelling interest you?

Post 3 – Professional Networking now and in the future

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Most of my career has been spent working for four organizations. And, for different reasons, I was fortunate enough to be able to take some time when leaving one and joining another. It enabled me to take time to regroup after a lengthy tenure at a fast-paced high tech company, and another to spend some time with my young children. Recently I was able to take a year off to spend some quality time with my ailing mother before she passed.

Each new job I started came as a result of someone approaching me. Call it luck, serendipity, or the result of astute employers knowing a good thing when they saw it (I like to think it’s the latter). Whatever it was, the fact is I never had to network to find employment. For the past few months I’ve started reaching out to my network of friends and former work colleagues. This can be somewhat frustrating.

Up until this point I never bothered to pay much attention to keeping an online profile. I’m a social person, but I also like to keep somewhat private. Constantly updating my profile for the world doesn’t come naturally to me. I don’t think it ever will, but I realize I’ve got to do it. Although I’ve been tweeting under two anonymous accounts for years now, I need to create a twitter handle that identifies me. I don’t have a facebook page. My professional online network is limited to LinkedIn, and even that had been rather neglected until just recently.

After updating my LinkedIn page, I joined several LinkedIn groups related to Marketing and Communications. I have been spending most of my time monitoring the activity to get a sense of the type of individual that participates and the conversation style – once I feel confident that my comments will have value, I’ll begin participating. Until then, I don’t want to be doing myself a disservice by jumping in ill-prepared.

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Moving forward I plan to participate in the LinkedIn groups, and then discover other groups that will continue to expand my network. I also plan to begin exploring relevant blogs that could increase my profile by providing valuable comments. Once I’ve established myself in a few of these groups I’m hopeful I’ll be able to meet some of the other contributors at marketing/communications functions and events.

I also plan to finally create my Twitter account to use to further my career. After using Twitter for years I know how it works and feel comfortable with the technique. I’ve also already been following many of the top marketing/communications leaders – now it’s time to begin contributing to the conversations and building my own following under the real me.

A little further down the road, once I’ve firmly established myself in LinkedIn and Twitter, I plan to begin blogging. It might make more sense to create the blog first, but the Twitter account works best for my schedule now. And, hopefully I’ll be able to build a large following that will be a solid potential audience for my first blog post when the time comes. And of course, I plan to leverage these accounts to arrange face-to-face meetings with people who can either help expand my knowledge base or find me a suitable employer.

What about you? What do you plan to do to boost your professional networking in the future?

 

 

 

COMM 0014 – Post 6 – What Really Lies Beneath That Sugar Coating?

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Source: freeimages.com

When I was in the second grade, having a piece of candy was everything to me. I dreamed of all kinds of candy. In fact, I had a recurring dream that always ended with me in my candy-filled (to the ceiling!) basement. This made waking up to reality a major disappointment. Yes, during that year of my life, candy was king.

In order to fulfill my obsession, I would visit the confectionery around the corner from my school three times a day – before school, at lunch, and after school. It was convenient, and it offered a wide selection of my favourite sweets. And, even though the owner was curmudgeonly, he would offer me discounts as well as the occasional free candy bar. He would whisper to me that I was his favourite customer and that I shouldn’t tell anyone else. Because of this I was even more inclined to fill my gut with all sorts of sugar treats. I mean, really? Free candy? In my mind he became the best guy EVER and his store was the only place I would go to buy my barrels of candy.

It wasn’t long before I found out through my friends that he was telling us all the same thing. Apparently, each one of us was his favourite customer. Of course, I could have chosen to ignore the fact he told each of us a little white lie, and continued to enjoy his candy and the occasional discount. But even at that age it left me feeling cold. I felt I didn’t really know him. I began to see his curmudgeon side more and more. I didn’t trust him. I no longer felt a connection to that man, and it was strong enough to encourage me to take my money and sugar fixation to another store.

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Source: freeimages.com

This childhood memory has stuck with me to this date. From that moment on I have ensured that the foundation of any communications strategy I prepare for an employer or client is built on trust. Everything else flows from that. And, without it, your entire business could fail – especially if your product or service is a common commodity.

Have you ever felt like a business wasn’t being entirely honest with you? If so, did that have an impact your relationship?

Blog Post 2 – Strong & Weak Organizations

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Recently I listened to a CBC Under the Influence podcast that highlighted brands executing stellar customer service. To illustrate, the host told a story about Zappos, an online retailer that sells shoes, clothing and accessories. The story goes something like this.

One night, a group of people returned late to their hotel room. Someone in the group was craving pizza and was told room service had ended. As a joke, one member of the group suggested calling Zappos. Even though Zappos doesn’t sell pizza, the customer service rep found a list of local pizza places that would deliver to the hotel. This story reinforces the bold statement they have posted on their website: “Customer service isn’t just a department!” The entire organization is built around one sole mission: to provide the best customer service possible.

I presumed that a company making this statement would have a strong social media strategy. I wasn’t mistaken. In fact, Zappos is frequently listed as a company that has it all figured out. I did a little research, and saw that they do a very good job with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Their social media presence includes lots of photos and videos, and, most important, lots of engagement.

They appear to be doing their best work with Twitter, where they have a very active following of over 32,000. It is through Twitter where they continue to display their exemplary attention to customer service and the effort they’ve made to create real relationships with their fans and customers. Here’s another example: a customer tweeted that the 5 day shipping of the birthday gift he bought for his brother would arrive too late – he wondered if it could get there in 3 days instead. Zappos answer? “This order is going to ship out today and your brother will have his birthday present tomorrow!” That’s pretty good. Short, sweet, and an immediate solution provided. There was no lengthy dialogue, no redirecting. And, the answer was delivered within 30 minutes.

Zappos makes sure to always be engaged with their audience. And its not only replies to inquisitive direct @mentions, but also to indirect @mentions. They alsoknow its wise to team up with other brands to achieve better engagement and double the possible reach. And all of their posts reflect that they truly understand their audience. For example, they often post charming, low-key and funny branded short-form social videos.

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Zappos also does a great job of promoting themselves and their products through the use of their customers’ testimonials. They were one of the first companies to create a Twitter aggregation page on their website that pulls in all the mentions of the company. This is obviously a great way to illustrate the brand’s authority as well as promote in one spot the various Twitter accounts the company has.

 

valiquette

Valiquette Sports is a company that could benefit from a revamped social media strategy. They have a presence on social media, however I’m not so sure they developed a strategy prior to engaging in the medium. As with many small-to-medium companies, it looks like they entered social media without a strategy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if they are putting in the time they could benefit from doing a little more work up front.

They are using Twitter, however they have only 15 followers – hardly a following large enough to get excited about. It takes time to build a following, but perhaps they aren’t using the proper techniques for their audience.

Because it is a sports store, their audience includes primarily people who are active, or have children who play sports, or both. They could be targeting this group through various channels – identifying groups that are populated with active individuals, and engaging with them. There are many groups for each of the sports they supply equipment for – hockey, baseball, football, etc. Through these groups they could build trust in their knowledge and expertise of sports equipment, which would drive traffic to their Twitter account.

One of the best ways to begin this engagement would be by developing their own blog on their website. They have a newsletter, however, unlike blogs, newsletters aren’t set up to stimulate engagement with the audience. The blog would allow them to not only prove to their audience that they know their products, but that they care about their customers and what they have to say. It is the perfect place for their customers to interact with the company as well as themselves – building a community. In addition, blog subscribers will more than likely become followers on Twitter.

Their facebook account is actually not bad – it’s their twitter account that could improve considerably. The posts aren’t as regular, there are spelling mistakes, and many if not most of the posts aren’t engaging. Some of them don’t offer any value at all, which can be annoying more than anything. With only 15 followers it’s difficult to keep the tweets engaging, however there are ways they can build that through retweets and posting valuable information that their current followers will want to share.

Valiquette’s is a local company which could benefit by building on their local community involvement. At the other end of the spectrum, they could be sharing articles and testimonials from professionals on the products they sell. They could share articles and stories on anything that is fitness related – all sports, activities and health in general. They could be sharing stories about the successes of local minor teams – these are tweets that would be shared and increase awareness of the company and help define its brand.

A perfect place to start would be to get the interest of large groups such as the various minor hockey and football associations that have larger followings. Once they have these on board they will benefit from posting valuable information that these associations will share to their audiences, who could then be inclined to follow Valiquette’s.

COMM 0014 – Blog Post 5 – Personal Brand

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http://himehimeka02.deviantart.com/art/ID-Guess-who-i-am-263631010

I’ve always thought the most important thing for people to remember as they navigate through life is to remain true to their inner self, to follow their moral compass.

If there’s one thing I can count on, it’s my integrity.

I tell myself it’s a commendable trait, and I’m proud of it, but it can be a major pain in the butt. If I wasn’t so unwavering I’m sure my life would be easier in many ways. I’ve had opportunities to take jobs at significantly higher salaries, but it would have been at the expense of my integrity. I couldn’t do it, and I can’t do it. It’s who I am, and it will always be my overarching guide.

brandinghttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Livestock_branding#mediaviewer/File:LeftShoulderBrand.JPG

This characteristic has served me well in other ways during my professional life. It’s behind each of the trusting relationships I’ve established with employers and employees. And, in my role as a Communications Adviser, it’s something that’s valued. Establishing strong relationships through trust is at the core of developing and executing successful communications strategies. And I’m able to maintain that trust by always doing what I say I’m going to do, and delivering on schedule.

Communications plans also require someone who can anticipate and provide solutions for every conceivable outcome during its execution. That’s how I’m wired. Employers know they can rely on me to think of all possible outcomes. Minimizing surprises is a good thing, but I’m fine if there happens to be an unexpected one – people I’ve worked with say that I remain calm in pressure situations and quickly provide solutions to any crisis. And, I’ll often be able to keep us laughing the entire time.

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Personal Branding 101 Wordle

Most important to me is my ability to express my creativity – I almost always think outside the box, and being in that space is when I’m most valuable to others. That’s when I’m in my element. Many people can do effective communications, but I don’t want to be like others. I like trying different strategies. And I always want to do the best I can, the first time, every time.

What are your most important qualities?

COMM 0014 – Blog Post 4 – B2C Case Study

Written By: Chris Creamer • Sunday, June 9, 2013

Dspite having the worst record in the Canadian Football League last season (2 wins and 16 losses), the Ottawa Redblacks were arguably the league’s most successful team. Every one of their home games was played to a sold-out crowd. How exactly did they manage to do that? It didn’t hurt that the team returned to the city after several years, but much of the credit has to be given to the team’s social media marketing efforts.

It’s clear the Redblacks organization understands the make-up of their audience. Jeff Hunt, long-time owner of the successful Ottawa 67’s hockey team, used the same marketing approach to promote the Redblacks in his role as president of the overarching company, OSEG (Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group). What the team does on the field is important, but there’s more to the product than just the game. Consumers want to be entertained, first and foremost. And entertainment can come in many varieties.

The Redblacks are selling their customers an ‘experience’. This includes live music, eating, drinking, and pre- and post-game parties. A positive and fun atmosphere will keep people going to the games. Not unlike the Ottawa Bluesfest or other festivals, people want to be around others while having a good time at an event. They want to feel like they’re part of a community.

The social media strategy is simply an extension of that overarching strategy. Their Facebook and Twitter accounts have a strong following, and they’re doing all the right things. They are engaging with their audience, showing that they are listening to them. They prove this by quickly responding to questions or complaints and providing real solutions. They have proven this by addressing customer complaints about such things as parking, concession stands and the washrooms. And they’ve gone further than that — to prove that they’re listening, all season long they were proactive by providing updates on parking and possible traffic problems. They were using their large social community to help ease traffic problems for the games.

They are also very good at building their brand. They promote the many community events attended by their players, sharing pictures and videos. They are continually retweeting messages from fans who are sending pictures of themselves and others having a great time at the games. Planned and impromptu parties that occur before and after games are organized through their social media community — the games have become known as a fun place to spend a summer night.

The team uses standard social media practices such as posting pictures and video of exciting action from games, and offering special opportunities for their followers — game tickets and paraphernalia at discounted prices, and free ticket giveaways. But they also get their customers engaged through fun games on twitter such as ‘Caption this photo’, and stirring up the rivalry that exists between the North- and South-side stands. Almost all their tweets include a photo or video.

Their approach seems to be working as they have had a steady increase in the number of followers on both Facebook and Twitter, which only helps to spread the positive commentary and promotion of their products.

 

COMM 0014 – Post 3 – Target Audiences

Hockey is a big thing in my family. I grew up playing the sport, and I continue to play on a regular basis. I have coached minor hockey teams for the past dozen or so years.

I monitor two general groups: Groups that discuss the National Hockey League (including my two teams of interest – the Ottawa Senators and the Detroit Red Wings), and several minor hockey groups.

I follow the NHL primarily through Twitter accounts that include the official twitter accounts for the NHL, Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings, and several sports networks, broadcasters and reporters that follow those teams and the NHL as a whole. I also follow a few of the players that play in the league.

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It is apparent from following these accounts that the audience is very passionate about the sport. They are extremely knowledgeable and very loyal to their teams. They are also very engaged and quick to opine on the latest event or rumour.

The hockey communities consist of people with diversified cultures, genders, income levels, education levels, and lifestyles. The average follower is predominantly male, with above average income and education. It isn’t a cheap sport to get involved with, and most fans have played the game at some point in their life.

Followers want to receive and discuss the latest developments surrounding their team – most important to them is the ability to receive the most salient, accurate and expert information as quickly as possible. For this reason it behooves most NHL teams to offer immediate updates regarding their team’s latest developments – to pass along any information updating the status of individual players or external events that directly impact the team.

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And because followers like to discuss their team, it’s important to offer fans an outlet to express their views. They want to talk about what’s great about their team, what’s not working, and offer advice on what actions the team should take in order to be successful. Yes, most fans are ‘armchair’ coaches or general managers – they have all the answers. Blogs and twitter accounts are perfect for this group – information can be provided, and followers can engage.

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In addition, watching a hockey game (or most sports for that matter) is best enjoyed with others, sharing in the excitement and yelling at the screen together. When watching with others isn’t an option, Twitter and other social media allows people to participate in an exchange of commentary, which is the next best thing. Being part of a ‘community’ is very important to this group.

Any strategy or campaign targeting this market should focus on the following:

  • ensure updates are always timely and accurate
  • constantly ask this group (of armchair coaches) for their input through simple questions, surveys and polls (anything to generate fervent discussion and give followers a feeling of being part of a community).

If you’re a hockey fan, what is it that you look for from your social media accounts?

COMM0014 – Post 2 – Storytelling and Communication Styles

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So you want to become a successful digital writer? No problem. All you have to do is make your writing captivating and engaging by keeping these five things top of mind: write your content like you’re telling a story; create content that is clear and concise; be mindful of grammar, spelling and punctuation; use an active voice; and write with a style that encourages engagement and interaction.

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Digital writers face many challenges in their efforts to stand out in today’s world. For one, people are strapped for time and are easily distracted. Not only that, the digital age has made the competition fiercer than ever. Therefore your writing needs to capture their attention immediately – with a good story. Once you’ve done that, you need to make sure you don’t lose your reader through unnecessary content – be short and sweet. And even a good story won’t keep their attention if they become distracted and fed up by poor grammar and spelling (not to mention your loss of credibility). Using an active voice will help keep momentum in the story. And finally, you need to ensure you have a plan before you start writing. You want your material to provide your audience with an experience they will remember, something that will inspire them to take action.

Being a successful storyteller isn’t all about what you like. It’s also about identifying what your audience wants to hear – and they want to find it and hear about it in as short a time frame as possible. Oh, and once you become an expert at keeping their attention, make sure you provide an easy way for them to share your content and interact with you.

Are there any blogs that you actively engage in? I’d be curious to see what style is used to keep you engaged.

COMM 0015 – Post 1 – Tools and Sources

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There are many tools available to help with your social media listening. Algonquin’s Social Media Program (COMM0013) introduced me to a monitoring solution that is created using a foundation of NetVibes and Yahoo Pipes. After I overcame a couple of simple roadblocks during the building process, I found the finished product to be quite robust for the price – free. Contrary to free versions of other tools on the market, this solution doesn’t seem to have the same limitations – at least where it matters, such as the number of social networks you can monitor. I continue to use this tool, which conveniently displays information provided by numerous Twitter accounts, Google Alerts and Blog posts. This is a great solution if you want a scalable product for thoroughly monitoring an organization without incurring any cost.

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I also like to use the free version of Hootsuite for consolidating and managing social media accounts. I use this to monitor a couple of Twitter accounts I tweet from, as well as my LinkedIn updates. Search columns are added that scan Twitter in real time. It’s a very clean interface, and the free offering is adequate for my requirements. It allows me to easily follow my two accounts without confusion, and I’m able to quickly track information such as New Followers, Retweets and Mentions. Another reason I like to use Hootsuite is that I often work with others who have an upgraded version of it. For the longest time I had only looked at and used the information to craft strategic plans – I’ve since enjoyed getting my hands dirty and trying to better understand its entire scope of functionality.

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I am a news junkie who uses Twitter as a primary source for news. I’m constantly retrieving information from my handheld device, and I find twitter serves my appetite for up-to-the-minute news. It’s simple to navigate, and I can modify it quickly to meet changing needs or interests. Scanning the news in a Timeline is quick and easy, and a full story is a tap away if I feel inclined to get the details. I follow many of the obvious news sources like the Globe and Mail, New York Times, CBC, etc., but I also track many journalists and bloggers who tweet out news before its released by one of the conventional news sources. And, of course, Twitter allows you to easily follow all news related to a fast-breaking story.

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When I’m not looking for time sensitive news, my favourite news source is Business Insider. I find that its emphasis on business and technology is tailored toward my interests, both personally and professionally. It provides top news stories aggregated from around the web, as well as its own analysis. And although I go there mainly for business and technology news, it’s a very comprehensive site that also satisfies my thirst for the latest news in music and sports.

I’m always looking for more current news providers. If you’ve got a news feed that you recommend I’d love to hear about it.