COM0015 – Blog 4: Out of the Box

Throughout this course I’ve come across many platforms that support digital communication in different ways. Whether it’s creating content and sharing messages or tracking and monitoring engagement and monitoring, there are many tools and platforms to take advantage of. 

The application that surprised me in some of my research for this course is Reddit. I’ve used Reddit personally for a long time in a really passive way. Endless scrolling and sometimes using the up vote and down vote tool to engage with content. 

What I didn’t realize was just how impactful the platform can be. Specifically, I’m realizing how interactive it is and how it can be utilized for gaining insight into the minds of consumers. The sheer number of users on the platform speaks for itself. In an article by Sprout Social, it’s written that there are more than 430 million active users and billions of visits per month.

Because the platform is all about voting up and down and sharing ideas, the platform proves to have some serious influence and persuasive powers. In an article by Wallaroo Media, it was explained that the clothing store UNIQLO credits 5% of their total website visits to a thread on Reddit called r/frugalmalefashion. That’s a pretty incredible stat. 

While there’s the benefit of threads like the above, the platform also allows for purchased advertising and sponsored content. Like other social platforms, these are great ways to reach a large audience that are already using the platform. 

In conclusion, throughout this program I’ve had the opportunity to research and use many applications. What I’ve learned, above everything else, is that the field of social media marketing is ever-changing. What works now might not work in 5, 10, 15 years from now. The key to success in this field is to stay agile and be willing to pivot to new platforms. 

COM0015 Blog #3 – Professional Networking Now and in the Future

When I was 19, I started my first real job as a bank teller. This job gave me the confidence to speak to strangers and specifically to get to know them. In the banking world, it’s important for you to know your clients to avoid things like fraud. And so I got very accustomed to asking questions and learning about people. 

This translates really well to networking. One of the best ways to leave a lasting impression with someone at a networking event is to have a deeper conversation than simply asking, “So, what do you do?” or “Where do you work?”

Fortunately in my current job, I still get the opportunity to meet new people – except now instead of personal banking clients, the people I’m meeting are Executive Directors of charities or CEOs of companies. This leads me to my first activity to developing my professional network in the next few months. 

Activity #1 – Make the best of EVERY conversation 

I’m lucky to have some built in networking opportunities with my job. I talk to individuals pretty much all day from different organizations, charities and companies. We mostly talk about partnerships and donation opportunities but it’s also the norm to conduct a little chit-chat during these conversations too. On top of that, these conversations are now taking place virtually and remotely – by video call mostly – and that allows for an additional level of conversation. We now get the opportunity to open up the conversation to more personal things like home life, family and so on. This really helps build stronger connections. 

Another aspect of this new virtual world is keeping up with your network on LinkedIn. This leads me to my next activity. 

Activity #2 – Send that connection request! 

I get to meet new people almost every day. A best practice I’ll be implementing over the next several months is making sure I send a connection request to every new person I meet at work. Whether it’s a new community partner or even a new colleague, I’ll be making sure I solidify the personal connection we’ve built through meetings and video calls by using LinkedIn as a tool for connecting. 

This new virtual world has given us the opportunity to connect with more people because not only is the ~new norm~ to connect by video call, we can also connect with people outside of our immediate geography. The world is our oyster and I’m taking advantage of it. 

How do you plan to build networks in this virtual world? 

COM0015 – Blog #2 – Strong and Weak Organizations

Shopping and consuming local has been top of mind for many lately. With increasing COVID-19 related restrictions on business operations and many businesses having to shut down their in-house services, the restaurant industry is quite possibly the hardest hit. Many restaurants are attempting to make ends meet solely on takeout menu options and others have unfortunately succumbed to the pandemic and closed permanently. 

My partner and I have been actively trying to find opportunities to support local and one way has been ordering pizza on Friday nights from local establishments. While we’ve been trying out best to order from neighbourhood mom-and-pop shops, we’ve also explored some larger chain restaurants with local franchises. This prompted me to consider how much our beloved local pizza joint might benefit from a social media strategy. And so, today I’ll be drawing on the social media successes of the restaurant chain Panago to analyze how a social media strategy could benefit my favourite local pizza place, Isabella Pizza

Now it’s important to disclose that I don’t have insight into how successful Isabella Pizza has been since the beginning of the pandemic – they appear to be fairing well from an outside perspective. This restaurant has been in business for a long time and likely has a strong base of repeat customers and regulars. That said, I do believe if they utilized social media to the fullest extent they could broaden their reach and attract new customers. 

When I look at a company like Panago on social media, I notice a few things off the hop. First, they have active accounts on three of the most prominent social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Specifically I find the company’s Instagram account to be very well branded and features impressive visuals as well as examples of ways that Panago goes beyond their day to day business of pizza-making. 

The company also uses its social media to interact with their consumers and to share their company values and commitment to things like community and giving back. Something else noteworthy about Panago’s social media efforts is they seem to be actively engaging with customers which adds a humanistic element to a faceless brand. 

Image Source

Isabella Pizza doesn’t use social media. They don’t have accounts on all of the major platforms and while they have an active website it’s pretty bare bones. They also have a Facebook profile that hasn’t had any activity in 5 years. Right away I can identify 2 ways that Isabella Pizza could benefit from a social media strategy:

1) Increase brand awareness with a larger audience in a greater geography

2) Build strong relationships with new customers and nurture existing relationships with regulars. 

Panago’s presence on social media provides potential customers with a glimpse into not only the quality food options that the company produces but also spotlights things that set the company apart from others chain restaurants. If Isabella Pizza utilized social media to share photos of food, their restaurant, their employees, I believe they could attract new customers who are interested in trying out a new place. Without presence on social media, there’s a less likely chance that an individual would even come across Isabella Pizza while searching for a new restaurant to try. To start doing this, they company would need to start capturing content and planning out how they’d like to distinguish themselves from other pizza places. 

Isabella Pizza could be using social media to interact with customers. This not only serves as a mechanism for communicating with existing customers, but also a forum for reviews and commentary that might catch the eye of new customers.

Something I believe is important to consider however, when comparing companies like the Panago Franchise to small shops like Isabella Pizza, is the – for lack of a better word – “man power” available to a franchise to generate content, monitor engagement and perform other social media related duties. A small business like Isabella Pizza would have to find capacity in their business to perform these activities. 

In short there’s no doubt that Isabella Pizza could benefit from social media – especially because they have so much room to grow. To that effect, I believe there are some tactics that a small, local business can take away from its franchised competitors. However, Isabella Pizza has done a considerable job in their many years of business to create a loyal base of repeat customers. And I say that with confidence because I’m one of them.

Does your favourite local takeout have a big, franchised competitor? 

COM0015 Blog 1: Tools and Sources

Before starting this program, I hadn’t had the opportunity to try out any social media monitoring tools because I never had anything to monitor! In completing the courses for this program, I had the opportunity to try out several listening and monitoring tools and this has allowed me to narrow down my two favourite tools to Google Alerts and the advanced search function on Twitter. 

The reason for choosing Google Alerts as a favourite is simple – it’s just that! It’s simple. The simplicity of setting up alerts and having alerts sent to you directly is exactly what makes this tool so great.

And now you might be thinking, “Jess, is an advanced search on Twitter really considered a monitoring or listening tool?” And my response to that is Y-E-S!

While the tool doesn’t do the searching for you in the same way that Google Alerts scans online content for mentions of a particular person or subject, I found that an advanced search on Twitter was the simplest and more effective way to listen to consumers and users on the platform. It’s easy to customize your search in ways that you can’t with other tools.

As an example, with the advanced search your can narrow down things like dates and tags, but you can also refine your search to specific accounts the tweets come from, among other things. I also found that the active role I had to play in making these searched allowed me to find other keywords and subjects that aligned well to searches that I hadn’t considered before. 

Staying in the know!

I have a strong appreciation for traditional media outlets. Entities like CBC and CTV are typically where I consume news. In recent years however, I’ve been taking in updates from non-traditional channels like through social media and news apps. 

Image Source: Screenshot of CBC App

I’ve found that following these outlets on social media, Twitter in particular, allows me to stay close to what’s happening as breaking news happens. These sources are constantly posting new stories and updates and linking to them directly through social media. This makes their Twitter accounts a sort of vessel for news and brings users from social media to the news article or video. I find this really helpful. It makes me feel in the know.

So much of what my organization does, especially my particular role within my organization, relies on having a good understanding of what’s happening and what’s important to the people in the community we live and work in. Having access to these traditional and trusted news outlets via social media makes it easier to stay current as the top headlines and any breaking news is shared on social within minutes. 

How do you stay in the loop? 

COM0014 – Blog #7: Personal Reflection

Humans connect with other humans,
not corporate buzzwords & impersonal brand messages. 

In my work, I’m tasked with creating content that demonstrates my company’s brand, values and strategic priorities. In order to set my company apart from our competition, it’s important to build connection with our current and future clients through the consumption of digital content. For consumers to feel this connection, it will be important to tell a story that captures their attention and allows them to see the values of the company. 

I’ve never been one for cliches, but since the beginning of time humans have been using stories to share about history, traditions and influence opinions. Using a story to get a point across and share information is key to good communication. Sharing information in the form of a story allows listeners or readers to latch on to specific details making it easier to remember the overall message. In the case of digital content, online readers are flooded with information every day. In order for content to stand out among the hundreds of thousands of social media outputs appearing on timelines and feeds daily, it’s important to create content that tells a compelling and unique story. Stories need to be relatable to the audience, but distinct and unique enough to stand out.

Using content that captures emotion and tells a compelling story will be key when creating content for my company. I want to tell stories that amplify the human aspect of my company’s brand. Stories that personify the corporate brand and allow consumers to see beyond our logo in order to build lasting and meaningful connections. 

COM0014 – Blog #6: What excites me to get out of bed every morning?

I’ll be honest, despite what I’m about to write in this blog, the one thing that really gets me out of bed in the morning is coffee. C’mon, I’m only human! But when it comes to my work, it’s something else. Everyday I get to talk to people who are passionate. And it’s their passion that gets me out of bed in the morning. 

I might be biased, but I have the best job ever. I get to represent my organization as a steward of our charitable foundation. What’s my job exactly? I give charitable gifts to organizations with programming and services that support youth in our communities.

Sounds too good to be true, right?
I’ve had to pinch myself a couple times!

Our main priority is supporting youth as they transition from high school to the next chapter in their lives – be it post secondary schooling, the work force or otherwise. Why? Because youth are the future and when they’re successful, we’re all better off. 

So who are these passionate people who get me out of bed every morning? It’s charities that support youth with learning soft skills like communication, teamwork, critical thinking, among other things, that youth don’t typically learn in traditional education. It’s organizations that have a contagious passion for helping young people in vulnerable situations who have faced all kinds of barriers in their lives. It’s employees that work at my own company who want to volunteer their time to support young people in their community through mentorship and sponsorship. 

It’s also the youth. The youth get me out of bed in the morning. As a young person myself, I know the struggles that youth are experiencing when they start out in the job market. Many have been set up to fail. I get out of bed every morning knowing I get to help these young people see their potential and succeed. 

So besides the coffee… and maybe my cat meowing for his breakfast… what gets me moving in the AM is what I do for a living. It’s helping youth and youth focused organizations succeed and thrive. It’s being a catalyst for change in the world that faces young people as they embark on their career journey. 

COM0014 – Blog #5: My Personal Brand

What’s my personal brand? I’m a passionate teller of stories and connector of people. I find tremendous joy in bringing people together to learn new things, try new things and share new things with each other. I constantly look for opportunities to share new experiences with people around me. 

I believe the things you do and say represent who you really are as they are a reflection of your values. I pride myself on being authentic. Real. Transparent. What you see is what you get. I’m not the type to beat around the bush either. I strongly believe in the importance of speaking the truth, even when it’s hard. 

Details are important to me. My colleagues would say I’m detail-oriented. But to me this isn’t just active listening and asking clarifying questions. To me it’s a desire to learn anything and everything I possibly can. I want to know all the details. All the nitty gritty stuff that most people couldn’t be bothered to uncovered. 

I’m empathetic. I’ve made jokes about this being my tragic flaw as if I’m a Shakespeare character. I feel things deeply and often take on the emotions of others. This helps me be a caring and compassionate person. I bring this trait with me into every new learning experience, every new friendship and every new day. 

So, what’s my brand? I’m a storyteller, a convener, a giver of authentic feedback, a feeler of feelings, and a lifetime learner.

A picture of Jess (author of blog) drinking a beer.
This is me in my natural habitat. Not part of my personal brand, but definitely somewhere you might find me to witness my personal brand for yourself!

COM0014 – Blog #4: B2C Success at Starbucks

When I think about B2C brands having success in engaging their audience on social media, the first company that comes to mind is Starbucks Canada. Why does Starbucks come to mind? Mostly because I love a good coffee. But also because I’ve noticed the company does a great job in engaging with their customers on social media.

In this short case study, I’d like to cover three things that Starbucks is doing well.

Screenshot from Starbucks Canada on Twitter

Starbucks has a really good routine around responding to users on social media who ask questions or have concerns. When looking at their recent replies on Twitter, customers who ask questions are responded to in a very timely manner. The company has clearly put on a lot of focus on listening to their customers through social media. Not only are the responses timely, they are helpful and friendly. By doing this, Starbucks is building a relationship with their customers and the helpfulness and friendliness of the interactions builds trust. 

In addition to engaging with their customers on social media through replies, Starbucks creates engaging content as outputs on their social accounts. This content includes information about promotions, tips for using their app, and other ads and updates. These posts generate conversation and engagement with their customers without necessarily soliciting responses. This is a testament to the quality of social media content being put out by the company. 

Lastly I think it’s important to comment on how Starbucks utilizes social media as a communication channel during times of crisis and uncertainty – specifically the current pandemic. Customers have a lot of questions relating to how Starbucks operations have changed as well as what Starbucks is doing to support the community during this time. The company is not only responding to questions as they come up, they are also pro-actively posting updates to keep their customers informed. 

Example of response from Starbucks – Screenshot from Starbucks Canada on Twitter

In sum, I believe Starbucks is doing good work in their B2C efforts. The company clearly has routines and priorities aligned to utilizing social media as a tool for connecting with consumers. 

COM0014 – Blog 3: Target audience for my “beerstagram”

For a long time I’ve felt drawn to the craft beer community because its members are passionate and interesting. Recently I decided to take my love for the beer community one step further by creating an Instagram account where I share my favourite beers and interact with others in the community.  Check it out:

After joining the beer community in this capacity, I noticed an overwhelming imbalance in the demographic represented. Although the beer community on social media is incredibly well established, most of the contributors are men, typically white and middle class. Don’t get me wrong, there are many very powerful and influential women and other minorities within the beer community. But despite this it is still a bit of a boys club. 

While the target audience for my Instagram account, generally speaking, is other beer lovers, my goal at this stage is to increase visibility of women and other minorities in the beer community. To do this effectively, I’ve narrowed down my target audience by considering the demographic and psychographic breakdown of the community as a whole. 

When I think about a more specific audience for my content, I can identify two key groups of people:

#1: Other beer lovers
There are hundreds of beer appreciation accounts on Instagram, many of them with strong stakeholder status amongst their peers and new members of the community. Within this group, I’ve identified three subgroups with different demographics and psychographics. 

Subgroup A: Accounts run by men, typically middle class, white and usually between the ages of 19 and 40. This sub-group makes up a large percentage of the beer accounts on the social platform and are typically considered “leaders” rather than followers.

Subgroup B: Independent accounts run by women (i.e. not related to an organized group or company). This subgroup is growing in numbers and includes users with various ethnic and religious backgrounds, sexual orientation, marital status, etc. 

Subgroup C: Lastly, I discovered a sub-group of accounts run by women on behalf of organized groups that promote the inclusion of women and other minority groups within the greater beer community. An example of this is @ladiesdrinkbeer

#2: Breweries
The second key group to consider is owners breweries and their employees who manage their social media. This audience is very influential and definitely leads within the beer community. It is made up of different demographics but in my own backyard (Ottawa, that is) this audience is predominantly male and would fall in the middle class psychographic group. 

The best way to reach, interact and ultimately communicate with these audiences is through social media, specifically Instagram, as this is typically the platform of choice. On Instagram, tactics for reaching these audiences includes tagging specific accounts, like breweries, in pictures when their beer is featured as well as actively commenting on photos put out by the breweries.

A similar tactic can be considered for reaching the individual users listed above as well. To tag these users in posts and comments is the best way to directly interact and communicate with them. Instagram is a great platform to engage via photo visuals which is very appealing to users of all demographics. The photos draw them in and a caption can be used as a descriptors as well as a call to action soliciting for opinions or comments. 

Are you a craft beer fan?
Follow @thisismyhoppyplace on Instagram and comment below with your favourite beers!

COM0014 – Blog 2: Storytelling matters, now and always

Although the medium for storytelling has evolved over time, specifically with emerging technology and the changing landscape of communication, the important components remain the same: humans find success in preserving and sharing information by expressing emotion through the telling of stories. While the way individuals take in stories has changed, especially in the online era, storytelling is remains something that’s been used for millenniums to build relationships, teach lessons, share culture and create meaningful connections between people. 

In other words, and at risk of sounding cliche, storytelling has been around since the beginning of time and will remain important for humans through the ages. 

When it comes to storytelling in the modern world, specifically online, it’s key to engage readers right from the start of your story in order to maintain their desire to continue reading. In Brian Clark’s “How to Read”, Clark explains the varying types of readers and how they consume written content. He explains that people don’t read well online, in fact they spend more of their time scanning for bits of information they might find interesting, rather than taking in an entire piece of writing from start to finish.

While Clark dives deep into elaborating on four key reading levels (Elementary, Inspectional, Analytical and Syntopical) the key takeaway from this piece is the importance of creating content that not only draws the reader in, but brings them beyond the Inspectional level where they simply skim the article but never quite reach a point where they can properly analyze, absorb and create an understanding of the topic at hand. 

Because we know that consumers of online content tend to be scanners rather than analytical readers, it’s important that information be shared in a particular order where the important information comes first and then as the article goes on, additional but less crucial information is shared.

This technique, known as the Inverted Pyramid approach, ensures that even if the reader is simply scanning the first few lines of an article, they will see the most critical information and are more likely to stick around and read the rest of the content.

In the world of journalism, writers are provided the resounding advice to avoid burying the lead. With the most important information at the top, the writer can ensure they reach the greatest number of people with their messages. Even the most time-strapped reader is likely to read the first few lines of an article when the key information is easy to find. 

While it’s fair to say that storytelling will always play an important role in our lives, it’s also fair to assume that we all continue to see a change in how we tell our stories. Whether it’s on social media, through blogs, or perhaps some new technology that doesn’t even exist yet – humans will continue to share information and build connections through the power of a well-told story.