Over the last six weeks, I have been learning about using social media in business. The learning does not stop here. Social media is a rapidly evolving space; in order to stay abreast with developments in this space, it is important to make learning a key part of work itself.
Google Alerts for personal branding
One really unexpected thing that I discovered in this course was that Google Alerts was not only a useful social listening tool but also a powerful personal branding aid. I set up an alert for my full name, and now every time it is mentioned somewhere online, I learn about it immediately.
Social media in internal communications
I have also began reading a lot about using social media for internal communications in a big company or organization. In contrast to outdated and cumbersome intranet sites, social media offer a quick and easy tool for conveying information to large groups of people and collecting instantaneous feedback.
What helps here also is that, by its very nature, social media is viewed as a low-stakes and not-too-serious communication channel. So, adopting social media for internal communications helps remove a lot of psychological and hierarchical communication barriers.
Have you discovered any interesting uses for social media that you did not think about before taking this course? Let me know in the comments below!
Networking is key to professional success. In addition to getting to know people who may offer you a job or refer you to someone who is offering one, networking also makes you stand out, opens the door for new opportunities, boosts your intellect and creativity, adds to your self-confidence, and gives you access to information that can help you succeed (Cole, 2019).
Doing nothing not an option
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have effectively put the job of expanding my professional network on hold. I am still active on LinkedIn and Twitter, the two social media channels that I use mainly for networking purposes. However, I do not make professional connections or promote myself on these platforms as actively as used to.
I understand that by doing nothing, I am losing a lot of opportunities. As one author puts it, “if you’re not networking, you’re not working” (Fasih, 2014).
Here is what I am planning to do in the next 12 months to build up my professional networks.
September – December 2020
During the next four months, I will work on ensuring that people see me online the way I want to come across. Social media provide the most effective platform for building and communicating one’s personal brand (Algonquin College, n.d.).
So, I will start by making sure that all the social media accounts I have tell my story the way I want it to be told. I will post content and engage people in a way that will show that I am aware of and interested in what is happening in my industry. I will also comment on content shared by more prominent people in the industry and offer insights to demonstrate that I know what I am talking about and can add value to any project.
January – April 2021
The next phase will focus on building connections with people who can offer me professional advise, provide insights about organizations I am targeting in my job search, and introduce me to people in these organizations.
I will start by putting together a list of people I want to connect to and a list of organizations I am interested in working for. I will, then, connect with people from the first list – either through other people who are already in my professional network or by sending them LinkedIn messages and invitations to connect. I will also start making connections with people working in organizations from my second list.
May – August 2021
The final four months of my networking plan will focus on meeting key people from my expanded network in-person. I will be aiming at meeting people who can help me make the next major step in my career – either by referring me to managers who have positions to fill in the organizations I am targeting or by giving me insights about these organizations.
I will also start giving back to the community by connecting with professionals who are just entering the industry to offer them professional tips, mentorship opportunities, and access to my network.
What do you think of my networking plan? Do you have any recommendations on what I can improve in this plan? Let me know in the comments below.
In writing this blog, I have used and cited the following sources:
As a new manager with a growing team of people reporting to me, I chose to attend the event in order to learn to recognize the signs of and cope with stress, anxiety and other mental health issues linked to or made worse by the pandemic. The webinar was hosted by CharityVillage, a great career resource and knowledge hub for non-profits.
Here is a brief summary Melles’s presentation. COVID-19 has had a major impact on all aspects of our lives by disrupting them, making our normal coping mechanisms unavailable, and leaving us uncertain about how the new normal is going to look like.
Stress and anxiety are a normal mental health reaction to these disruptions. In the times of the pandemic, we should know how to recognize stress symptoms in ourselves and the people reporting to us.
The pandemic has redefined what it means to be an effective leader. Today, effective leadership requires self-awareness, self-regulation and self-care.
My main takeaway from the event is that effective leadership during the pandemic and in its aftermath requires three things. First, good leaders should trust their employees or people reporting to them to do their work, even when “normal” processes or procedures are disrupted. Second, effective leaders focus on deliverables rather than counting the hours that employees spend on tasks. Finally, good leaders serve as role models for people reporting to them when it comes to self-care.
Here is a quote from the event which I thought I should remember:
Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.
As the event consisted of a presentation, followed by a short questions and answers session, I did not have much opportunity to interact with the presenter or other participants. I asked Melles after the presentation whether she had any tips for managers on building trust and relationships with remote teams. She outlined two guiding principles for managers in charge of remote teams in the aftermath of the pandemic: showing people that you genuinely trust them and giving them the autonomy to do their work the way they see fit.
I will definitely attend similar events in the future, particularly the professional development webinars that CharityVillage organizes for non-profits. These events are a convenient way to learn new skills and force yourself to rethink the way you do things. Besides, these events provide a great opportunity for professional networking.
Some organizations do an impressive job of using social media to support what they are trying to achieve. Other organizations do such a poor job on social media that people are often left wondering why they have these accounts in the first place.
In this blog, I will look at two small Ottawa-based companies that differ dramatically in how they use social media – MAVEN PM and Ottawa Asphalt Kings. Both companies are in the business of asphalt sealing and pothole repair. The industry might seem too technical or even too boring to provide social media case studies. Yet an analysis of the two companies’ different social media strategies provides valuable insights.
About a month ago I realized that unless I fixed all the potholes and cracks on my driveway, the approaching winter will destroy it. I googled local companies that could do the work for me.
During the next several days, my social media feeds displayed several targeted ads from asphalt companies. Ads by two local companies got my attention, and I began exploring their social media presence.
This company’s social media accounts were so good that I found myself scrolling down to see even their old posts and reading comments. In addition to a clean and straightforward website, MAVEN PM has vibrant accounts on Facebook and Instagram.
The company is using the channels to demonstrate how exactly it fixes both common and more unique asphalt driveway problems. It uses video and image content to tell the stories of individual driveways that the company has fixed. Most of the stories follow a standard “before and after” structure.
What I found particularly impressive was how good the company was at responding to comments and resolving customer complaints on social media. Lots of people used comments under posts to ask questions, both general and related to specific driveways. These questions were all answered, including the recent ones. The company also responded to complaints, albeit not numerous, ensuring customers that it will act promptly to resolve situations that had made them unhappy.
I sent a message to the company through Facebook and they responded within a couple of hours, providing basic details and offering a free estimate.
So, this company uses visual content effectively to promote its services on social media. It also uses its social media accounts really well to engage with customers and address customer inquiries and complaints.
There is not much you can do to make pothole fixing interesting on social media. Yet, MAVEN PM’s social media left me with an impression that the company was really passionate about their work and offered great customer service.
Ottawa Asphalt Kings
This company left me wondering about why it had decided to be on social media. Overall, I think it is a good company that does its job really well. It has a lot of great reviews on Google.
Yet, there is too little information about Ottawa Asphalt Kings online. The company does not have even a basic website, and its Facebook page is virtually useless. Yes, you read it right – the Facebook page that the company’s ads lead to is useless.
A lot of information on the page is outdated, and the latest post is from May 2020. What is worse, many comments, questions and customer complaints remain ignored.
I sent a message to the company through their Facebook page, and it took them six days to respond to the message. Even then, the response was of little value to me as they simply asked me to call their landline.
So, although the company seems to have many customers, its social media presence is effectively useless. Ottawa Asphalt Kings would definitely benefit from a social media strategy. It should use Facebook, Instagram and possibly even TikTok to share visual content promoting its services. It should also use social media to engage with customers, listen to them, and address their complaints. This will help the company to not merely survive but to grow its business.
Their first step should be to decide who will be responsible for managing their social media, how often they will post new content and respond to comments or questions, and how they will create content. To do so, Ottawa Asphalt Kings needs to dedicate resources to social media. While this change may put a strain on the company’s resources in the short term, it will doubtless pay off in the long term.
There are two ways in which I keep track of social media trends. First, I am subscribed to daily newsletters from Social Media Today, SocialBakers Blog, Hootsuite Blog, and Influencer Marketing Hub. Newsletters from these platforms go directly to a dedicated folder in my email inbox. I look at these newsletters daily to get a sense of major developments around social platform updates, social media marketing, digital marketing, etc.
Second, I use LinkedIn and Twitter search functionality to find content that contains keywords and hashtags of interest to me. This allows me to track what various thought leaders and influencers think about where the world of social media is moving.
I use these particular listening and monitoring tools because they provide a good coverage of the topics that I am interested in. I use insights I get through these tools to develop and tweak social media plans and content. I also use these insights to learn about what is happening in the social media world beyond my area of expertise.
News and updates sources
I use Google Alerts to stay abreast of news and updates of interest. I currently receive daily alerts for 18 keywords, and I change these keywords quite often.
I also use Flipboard, a free news aggregator, that fetches news from all the websites I follow and organizes them into “magazines” for my convenience.
I prefer Google Alerts and Flipboard to other tools because they are easy to use, reliable and free. They help me stay up-to-date with major developments that are important for the organization I work for and for my personal professional development.
And what tools do you use to track social media trends or news of interest? Let me know in the comments section below.
Between mid-May and early July 2020, I took a Digital Communication course at the Algonquin College. Here is my brief reflection on what I learnt in the course.
Stories make great content
There is a lot of information in the digital world. An average social media user is bombarded by thousands of various messages as soon as they go on any online platform. If you want your message and content to stand out, you need to tell powerful stories. You also need to do so in your unique and authentic voice.
Stories shape content into something that resonates with audiences. A story provides content with a natural flow, from a beginning to an end. In doing so, stories give digital content a form that most people are wired to follow.
Stories help you explain what makes your business or organization unique, and they do so in a compelling way.
Every story needs an audience
In crafting digital content, it is important to know who its audience is. In modern multicultural societies, audiences are bound to be culturally diverse. Therefore, it is important to understand the various groups within your target audiences and to ensure that your messages resonate with all of these groups.
When you know who exactly you are targeting with the content, it is much easier to decide what kind of stories you want to tell and how you want to tell them. Stories will guide your content.
Storytelling is already helping me in my job. I use stories to communicate important digital safety messages to audiences that are not likely to pay attention to information conveyed in a different way.
And what kind of stories are you telling? Does your audience find these stories compelling? Let me know in the comments below.
One evening in 2018, Olga closed her laptop and walked out of a hotel room in Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan, for a quick dinner. She had arrived in the city the previous night to participate in a workshop for local civil society groups. As the head of a small human rights watchdog, she was a regular at these events.
When Olga returned to the hotel, her laptop was not there. The hotel had no security cameras, and police officers who soon arrived said it was unlikely that she would get the device back. That only reinforced the woman’s suspicion that the laptop had been taken by the authorities. As a vocal member of a coalition demanding justice for victims of police abuse, she knew the authorities would do anything to get access to her data.
Having the laptop stolen could have had dire consequences for Olga, her organization and other people that she worked with. She had a lot of sensitive files on her hard drive, including testimonies from victims of police torture. If this data fell into the hands of the authorities, it would have been a disaster for many people.
Encryption and backups
Nonprofits and activists are particularly vulnerable to attacks targeting their online assets and digital devices. The Ottawa-based organization I work for helps civil society organizations in countries like Kazakhstan to tackle digital risks.
Shortly before Olga’s laptop was stolen, we had helped her organization to put in place basic digital safety measures. Those measures included encrypting her laptop and setting up automatic backups. So, Olga not only kept all her files but also knew that the thief would not be able to decrypt them. As a precaution against possible device loss, we had also enabled remote erase on the laptop. With the laptop gone, the woman activated this function and knew that as soon as her device connected to the Internet, its hard drive would be wiped.
This is what we do on a daily basis. This work is important for activists and civil society groups fighting injustices and making their communities and nations better places to live.
And what is your your favourite customer story? Have you ever helped someone in a way that made you particularly proud of your job? Share your stories in the comments below.
I am a communications professional who currently manages social media for an Ottawa-based nonprofit. Several things set me apart from other professionals in my field.
First, I have a lot of experience in delivering high-stakes communications campaigns in difficult operational environments. Such environments include post-conflict nations, characterized by repressive political system, endemic corruption, and deep-seated suspicion of foreign-funded projects. I know how to move forward and secure crucial allies in seemingly hopeless situations. This means that I can be a valuable asset to internationally funded development projects and initiatives working in such places.
Second, I am good at crafting messages that resonate with various audiences. In my current role, I develop a lot of social media content focusing on digital safety. The people I work with often commend my ability to explain complex and technical terms or processes in plain language. I have recently begun using comics to convey digital safety advice.
Finally, I have a sharp analytical mind that allows me to see patterns amidst thousands of data points, extract key information from these patterns, and pinpoint connections between seemingly unrelated events and developments. In addition to my social media work, I help the organization I work for to understand and position itself to capitalize on major political, economic and social developments in the regions where we operate. I am particularly proud of this aspect of my work.
On a recent walk in the park in Kanata, ON where I live, I noticed a sticker on a bench. In black letters on a simple white background, the sticker read, “Support a local business. Shop at Books and Nooks.” The catchy name stuck in my mind and I soon found myself googling it.
Books and Nooks is small, family-owned company selling books, accessories and knick-knacks online.
Books and Nooks on social media
The company has a great-looking and easy-to-navigate website. The website tells the story of Books and Nooks and features on online store. It is also home to the company’s blog, MishMash, offering tips and insights around everything related to reading, home decor and fashion.
Books and Nooks has an active presence on Facebook and Instagram. The company is using these platforms to build relationships with its customer base and to drive traffic to its website. To achieve this, Books and Nooks posts images related to reading, motivational quotes, links to new blogs, and stories about the products it is selling.
The company also uses its social media presence to responds to questions and comments from customers. These interactions, however, appear to be scarce. Overall, Books and Nooks’ social media accounts do not seem to register much engagement.
Yet, the company’s interactions with customers that are visible on the platforms are timely and professional. Whoever runs these accounts responds to comments and questions in a courteous and helpful manner, thus helping to establish long-term relationships with customers.
I think that Books and Nooks has so far failed to capitalize on its social media presence. The company does publish content that some of its existing customer base may find interesting. However, its posts on both platforms generate few interactions and do not seem to help the company attract new customers.
Do you happen to know of any small, family-owned companies successfully using social media to promote their business? What makes these companies successful? Please let me know in the comments below.
Digital technology is everywhere. It is permeating everything we do and shapes how we do it. In this context, it is important that everyone understands risks associated with digital technologies and has the skills to handle these risks.
Digital safety project
I work for an Ottawa-based nonprofit that helps civil society organizations stay safe online. One of the particularly challenging projects that I am currently helping to get off the ground supports small civil society and independent media organizations in Kyrgyzstan, a small nation at the heart of Central Asia, by helping them understand and tackle digital risks.
The following is my attempt to define the audience for the project’s social media channels and describe some ways to reach this audience.
The younger urbanites
The project’s audience includes individuals working for or collaborating with small independent media organizations and civil society organizations in Kyrgyzstan.
These are mostly young people, between 20 and 35 years old, living in large cities. About two out of three individuals in this group are men. Most of these individuals are recent graduates from one of two Western-style universities in Kyrgyzstan, the American University of Central Asia (AUCA) and OSCE Academy in Bishkek. More than half of people in this group spent at least a year studying abroad, typically in the United States or United Kingdom.
These individuals come from middle-class families with mostly university-educated parents. At least eight out of 10 people in this group speak fluent Russian and more than half speak fluent English.
Most individuals within this audience have grown up in the world permeated by digital technology. They embrace digital technology and have a good understanding of risks stemming from their reliance on these technologies.
The best social media platforms to reach this audience include Facebook and Instagram. Video and images are the two types of content best suited for this audience.
All educational content should assume a good level of familiarity with basic digital safety practices and aim at providing practical recommendations rather than abstract advice. One type of content that I expect to resonate particularly well with this audience is humorous content, specifically memes.
Do you know of any organization doing similar work around digital safety? Do you have any suggestions or tips on how to reach the audience I described? I will be happy to hear from you in the comments below.