COM0014 – Blog #2: Your attention please

Photo by Ahmed Zayan on Unsplash

From the moment you start reading this I’ll have just eight seconds of your undivided attention to provide you with information!

Thanks to advancements in technology, an abundance of information is available right at our fingertips, and it can be a daunting task to focus in and fully read an article. Just like a good fad, gone are the days where readers would sit down and read word for word information presented on the screen. So, what does that mean for us communicators? It means we need to adapt and adopt styles that speak to our reader’s shortened attention spans.

The facts

Research shows humans have a shorter attention span then a goldfish! Thanks to the bombardment of instantaneous information such as: texts, tweets, Facebook messages, emails, and advertisements, it has become increasingly difficult to hold anyone’s attention for very long.

The following infographic makes it very clear just how short the attention span of human beings has become:

Infographic made by wyzowl

The solution

Write with the “skimmers” in mind! Break up content with clear, descriptive headings, and make it easy for readers to jump to the section they are looking for. Keep information interesting by avoiding rambling, and when possible, using graphics or videos to grab the viewers attention.

The conclusion

The storytellers and communicators of today need smart strategies to make the most of the eight second attention span most readers have. The use of clear, manageable content broken up in manageable pieces along side visual storytelling tactics have proven to be the way forward.


What strategies have you seen to capture an audience’s attention?

Has a unique tactic grabbed your attention and kept you engaged past the average eight second attention span?

COM0014 – Blog #1: Chasing down gold in Edmonton

Photo by VanveenJF on Unsplash

Edmonton Canada may not be the most favored August destination, but I was keen to hop onto a plane August 15th and travel 6 hours and 21 minutes (layover included) to the “big E”. Why, you ask? To chase plastic!

Yes, you read that correctly. I’m obsessed with chasing plastic, or, more specifically, playing Ultimate Frisbee. If you have never heard of the sport, you can read all about it on Wikipedia or alternatively you can read the Ottawa Carleton Ultimate Association’s Coles notes.

I’ve been playing Ultimate for years and each summer if our hard work pays off, my team gets the chance to represent Ontario at the national competition.

But this year was extra special. Just like the Olympics coming around every 4th year, so too does the “big show” for Ultimate. Every 4th year is a “worlds qualifying year”. What does that mean you ask? The winning team at Nations becomes team Canada and gets to represent the north at Worlds; the top competition in our chosen sport. Everyone wants to go, and very few get that chance

Edmonton was where teams in 6 divisions: junior men’s (under 18), junior women’s (under 18), men’s, women’s, men’s masters (over 33) and women’s masters (over 30) traveled to for the chance to fight for first. The competition was fierce, and the atmosphere was intoxicating. While its hard to put into words how it feels to be at the national competition, this highlight video put together by Nick Kolakovic does a pretty good job:

My team, Lowercase, was playing in the women’s master’s division. Our initial ranking was third and we were ready to show we deserved first. After 3 days of playing in the windiest conditions I’ve been in, eight games later…

Well they say the journey is more important than the destination but coming home clutching gold felt amazing!

Lowercase CUC 2019

Here’s to the summer I chased down gold in Edmonton, and to the upcoming adventure it will bring!

Do you also play Ultimate, or perhaps another sport? Where have you traveled to play?

Targeted advertisements: Facebook’s ability to read your mind

Photo by Kev Costello on Unsplash

Have you ever mentioned a product in spoken conversation only to be advertised that exact product on Facebook soon after?

Well, you would not be alone! Despite Facebook’s constant denials, many people still believe that the social media platform uses device microphones to listen in on real-life conversations to target them with relevant advertisements. More then ever we are talking to technology with the emerging trend of virtual assistants and sharing a wide range of sensitive information with machines. However, how much of that information is shared with social media platforms?

Facebook made over sixteen billion in sales last quarter, and most of its revenue comes from advertising.

If Facebook is not listening to our personal conversations, how does it seem to target us with relevant advertisements?

Methods Facebook uses to establish relevant advertisements:

  • Advertisements targeted to a specific demographic.
    • Businesses can show Facebook ads to people within certain parameters and can target down to a 1-mile radius of an address.
    • Businesses can use the birthdate, gender and city you have entered into your Facebook profile to determine if you fit a demographic.
  • Advertisements shown based on a user’s online activity while on or off Facebook.
    • Facebook knows what you like and post on its platform. From that data it can determine what advertisements it thinks you will like.
    • If you are logged into Facebook on your device and it is running in the background, it can figure out what other sites you browse. This is done with the technology called Facebook Pixel.
  • Targeted by a specific company.
    • Facebook allows companies to upload email lists of specific users, such as previous customers, that they want to see their advertisements.
  • Targeted by a third-party data provider.
    • Advertisers can work with third-party marketing services such as Datalogic to find the right customer. These companies use a variety of data sources like credit card information and other customer behaviour to provide information that can be integrated with Facebook or any other advertising platform to target someone.

Here is an infographic created by Kate Lidsay and Maria Zavleta that further explains Facebook’s targeting options:

Still concerned Facebook is listening to your personal conversations?

Here are the steps to revoke the platform’s access to your microphone:

On an iPhone (iOS 9):

  1. Go to the Settings app
  2. Scroll down to Facebook, tap it
  3. Tap “Settings”
  4. Turn off the slider for Microphone (slider should be grey instead of green)

On an Android:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Swipe over to “Personal”
  3. Tap “Privacy and safety”
  4. Tap “App permissions”
  5. Tap “Microphone”
  6. Find Facebook, and turn the slider to OFF

I decided to follow these steps on my personal device, will you?

Here is how to stop Facebook from tracking your web activity:

Firefox recently launched the extension “Facebook Container” which helps users control their web activity by isolating their identity into a separate container, stopping Facebook from tracking web activity. When installed, this extension will delete all your Facebook cookies and if you are logged into Facebook, will log you out while you are browsing the web.

Will you be utilizing this tool the next time you search the web?

What steps have you taken to share less information with social media platforms?



Have you been targeted on Facebook by advertisers? Read all about Facebook’s advertising techniques today! #TargetedAdvertising


Is Facebook psychic? Read about targeted advertisements here:


From schoolyard to social media: understanding a new form of bullying

Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash

The statistics are staggering, according to Statistics Canada one fifth of young Canadians say they have experienced some form of cyberbullying or cyberstalking.

Definition of Cyberbullying

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, cyberbullying is: the electronic posting of mean-spirited messages about a person often done anonymously.

The evolution of bullying

Bullying has evolved from physical and verbal abuse in the playground to cyberbullying online on social media platforms and smartphones. No longer does the victimization end when a child leaves school but instead the attacks remain prevalent 24/7 as lives online become more interwoven with lives offline. There is evidence that this new form of bullying is even more intense due to the following reasons:

  • It is anonymous as a cyberbully can hide behind online settings and fake information
  • It is harder to leave behind as humiliating information can be stored and accessed online forever  
  • It feels like there is no escape as cyberbullies can contact their victims via computers or smartphones anytime, anywhere

How Cyberbullying is affecting Canadian youth

In 2014, PREVNet put together an infographic outlining how cyberbullying truly effects the youth in our society:

Cyberbullying and how it is affecting Canadian youth

High profile cyberbullying cases

If you are being bullied online, you are not alone. Unfortunately, the number of cyberbullying stories has only continued to rise, many which result in suicides. A few of these horrific stories from the past decade include:

  • Rehtaeh Parsons (2013): Tried to commit suicide and was later taken off life support after photos of her being sexually assaulted were distributed around school.
  • Amanda Todd (2012): Committed suicide after posting a video on Youtube detailing her years of struggling alone with bullying and cyberstalking.
  • Ghyslain Raza (2003): Made a video of himself re-enacting a lightsaber fighting scene from Star Wars. A schoolmate found and uploaded the video where it was viewed over 76 million times by October 2004.

Did you hear of any other high-profile cases of bullying of social media platforms?

What to do if you are being cyberbullied

Being bullied though social media or text messaging can often feel hopeless, however there are a few steps you can take to help put a stop to it. Planned Parenthood put together the following list to help deal with online bullies:

  • Change your privacy settings on social media accounts to “friends only” or “private”
  • Block and un-friend any harassing accounts, email addresses, or phone numbers
  • Keep your personal details private. Refrain from sharing your phone number, address, or any other personal information
  • Take a break from social media or your phone
  • Save screen captures of harassing emails, texts, or messages as evidence
  • Report online abuse to the social platform it is taking place on (Facebook, Twitter, extra)
  • Don’t respond to mean or threatening messages
  • Report the issue to an adult, and in serious threats, to the police

If you are being bullied, never fear reaching out to someone for help. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to someone you know, there are many support hotlines including the Canada Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868

Have you been cyberbullied or witnessed it? How did you deal with the situation?



Have you witnessed the evolution of bullying? Read all about cyberbullying today. #cyberbully


Would you be able to deal with a cyberbully? Read about this new form of bullying here:


Reeling in a Catfish: How to spot if you’re being lied to online

Photo by Dieter Kühl on Unsplash

What is a catfish?

If I would have asked this in years past, I’d only receive one answer. However, these days with the increase of social media you can find two definitions in the dictionary.  According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary a catfish is:

  1. any of an order (Siluriformes) of chiefly freshwater stout-bodied scaleless bony fishes having long tactile barbels
  2. a person who sets up a false personal profile on a social networking site for fraudulent or deceptive purpose

For this blog, Lets focus on definition number 2!

The act of deceiving someone online by creating a more appealing version of oneself (later given the name catfishing) became mainstream knowledge in 2010 when Nev Schulman made a documentary titled Catfish, which documented his story about being fooled in a relationship he had developed on Facebook. Since then there have been reports of many other high-profile cases of catfishing including singer Casey Donovan and NBA star Chris Andersen.

How could these well-known personalities be fooled? People have become increasingly better at catfishing, so it’s important to be vigilant of the telltale signs that you are being duped.

Some elements to watch for:

  • Your new friend online is too good to be true
  • Googling their name or using a reverse image search points to them being a different person
  • They don’t have any online friends
  • They ask for money
  • They will not meet up in person or video chat
  • They have elaborated stories all the time

However, the best method to avoid being catfished is to better understand the people behind the mask. XNSPY developed an infographic depicting interesting facts and statistics about the act of catfishing and the people who choose to deceive others in this way.

Catfishing: Interesting Facts and Statistics

It’s interesting to note that while this infographic highlights malicious reasoning for catfishing, in the tv program “Catfish”, many of the guilty parties claim they catfish others because they are lonely. Do you believe this is the case?

You spotted a fish, what do you do next?

  • Block and delete them
  • Call them out and encourage them to give up the scheme
  • Report it
  • Let others know

While catfishing does not have any specific legal action in Canada or the United States, depending on the intent of the catfish, they can be charged. If the primary intent is to obtain money, they can be criminally charged with fraud. Alternatively, cases involving emotional damages are limited to civil suits.

Have you come across a catfish? How did you spot them?


Can you reel in a catfish? Read about how to spot an online fake! #catfish #ReelingInACatfish

Would you be able to spot a catfish? Read about the telltale signs here:


The art of influence: a new marketing career

Photo by Elijah O’Donnell on Unsplash

What’s an influencer?

In short, an influencer is someone like you and I who has built up a social media following and charges companies to place ads amongst their personal content. Gone are the days that this role can be filled simply by celebrities. Today, people are looking for recommendations from peers rather than celebrity endorsements. This is supported by a 2015 survey by Tomoson, where 51% of marketers believe influencers produce a higher quality of customers.

Have your purchasing habits been influenced by someone you are following online?

Is this a new fade?

Turns out, the role of influencers has been around for quite some time! While it has evolved over generations, this career seems to be here to stay and brands are taking note. From royalty, characters, and celebrities who were early adopters as brand ambassadors to regular, average people with large online followings, anyone these days can be an influencer. Are you one?

Below is an infographic developed by Nowsourcing that depicts the evolution of the influencer.

Click to Enlarge Image Chart
Evolution of Influencers
Evolution of Influencers

Is this my next career move?

At first glance the job as a social media influencer seems to be too good to be true, so is it? It’s my personal belief that while many have tried to make this career choice, not many have succeeded. Why? Most likely because it requires much more work than initially expected. Today influencers are not only perceived to be experts in a product or service, they are also expected to have leverage in a certain community. This is developed though personal engagement and rapport with the public, something that may take quite a bit of unpaid work and time. It’s no wonder so many marketers and brands turn to influencers as they don’t need to invest the time into building an audience themselves.

Still want to become an influencer?

Turns out most current working influencers advise to be authentic, consistent, creative, and patient. While developing a following may be time consuming, becoming a social media influencer sure can seem rewarding. Here are top tips of working influencers on how to turn your social media presence into a career.

Do you think you have what it takes to jump into this evolving job market?

Career as a social media influencer; too good to be true? Read about the art of influence today! #career #TheArtOfInfluence

Is becoming a social media influencer your next career move? Read about it here: The art of influence: a new marketing career