COM0014 Personal Reflection – Blog #7

Reflecting back on this course, I feel that rather than learning something new, this course has reinforced the importance of telling a story and connecting with your audience. Social media is about connecting with others and how we do that is through telling our story. We all have a story to tell that is uniquely our own and we shouldn’t be afraid of sharing it.  If we are lucky we also have the opportunity to help others to tell their story.

However, your story can get lost or miss its connection if it is not well-written. We have all seen a great story miss its mark when it is not told well. The key word here is storytelling. There are better ways than others to tell a story to engage your audience.

The importance of ensuring you are talking to the right audience is a key point also. While there are some stories that are universal in their appeal, generally they do not work for all social media channels and for all audiences. You can tell the same story but it needs to be tailored to each audience and each channel.

The internet and social media has enabled us to connect with others around the world on both personal and professional levels. How we find others and how we find consumers is through providing engaging digital content and the best content always tells a story.

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COM0014- Blog Post #6 – Do people know your story?

What is your favourite customer story?

A lifelong farmer in PEI, woke up one morning in January and headed out to his barns to begin his daily chores. Upon walking outside the first thing he saw was that his 3,000 square-foot barn had collapsed under the weight of the snow and rain from the night before, trapping 40 cows and a bull inside. He immediately called 911 and the local volunteer firefighters rushed to his farm. All the barn entrances were blocked by the collapsed roof, but the firefighters made their way inside not knowing if any of the cattle were alive or if they were alive how they would react. After much perseverance, hard work with axes and chainsaws and careful maneuvering to ensure no further collapsing, suddenly six cattle emerged from the barn and trailing behind the sixth cow was a baby calf that had only been born mere hours earlier. The firefighters were able to save all the cattle, and no one got hurt.

Impressed by the volunteer firefighters’ courage and hard work, the farmer wanted to ensure they got the recognition and reward they deserved. While aware he did not have an insurance policy on his barn, and therefore the policy would not kick in and pay the firefighters, he reached out to us (his insurance company) to see if there was anything we could do as he knew we were a “good company that cared about more than the bottom line”. All the financial advisors in PEI and my department came together to donate $1,000 to the small rural volunteer fire department, which went a long way for such a small department and allowed for training for all the volunteers.

Even though it may seem to be a small drop in the bucket in terms of donation amounts, this heartwarming story of staff and our company putting people first and coming together to support a client and a small group of volunteers is one of my favourite client stories and one of the many reasons I am so proud to work for the company I do.

 

COM0014 – Blog Post #5 – Personal Brand

I must say writing about myself is not an easy task, especially when it is not just a bio or job description. Asking others or even looking back at yearly appraisals definitely helps!

In my current role I work with many different business units with the goal of creating valuable and high quality social media content. I continuously strive to understand the needs, priorities and challenges of the client to ensure myself and the team can meet needs and develop a high quality product, while setting realistic expectations. I have a very positive disposition and I am always is willing to help. I am a strong communicator and strive reduce any possible problems. I am very collaborative and like to include others in the decision process and consistently strive to reach a higher calibre of success/outcomes.

I am strong team player and I am always ready to ask questions, receive feedback to help me develop my skills and experience.

Changing of roles over the years, along with working in a fast-paced industry such as communications and social media has afforded me a great deal of flexibility. I learn new skills and tasks quickly and on the fly, while still ensuring quality results. I am always willing to take on new projects and tasks as social media is fast-paced and ever-evolving and many requests do come in on the fly with quick turnarounds. I am continuously able to bring my past role and experience in public relations, media relations and communications to the table in my current role in social media to suggest new ideas and solutions, and think outside the box.

Bringing my past work experiences and life experiences to the table has allowed me to create innovative out-of-the-box campaigns and content that have resulted in record setting social media results for my company.

I am constantly energized by the evolution of social media and its effects and benefits to businesses at large, and bring that excitement with me every day to each task I tackle.

COM0014 – Blog Post #4 – B2C Case Study

Sephora is a “beauty-retail concept”, which was founded in France in 1970. Sephora sells a large amount of classic and emerging beauty brands across a broad range of product categories including skincare, color, fragrance, body, smilecare, and haircare, in addition to their own private label. Sephora has been growing its North American, and specifically Canadian presence, significantly in the last 10-15 years.

Sephora.com launched in Canada in 2003, and Sephora is present on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+ (I do appreciate they have separate Canadian channels for the most part!). Social media can be a great tool for Sephora as make-up is a great visual medium which meshes well with the visual focus of social media.

Sephora is one of the few companies I have seen where you are able to shop directly from their Instagram posts. This is a newer concept for many B2C brands and not one many have embraced yet or have not had the capacity to do so. It does break the experience us rather than have it be seamless as you have to go through a specific link in their profile to shop the posts, but once in there it does simply the process and ensure you get the exact item and colour in the post.

SephoraInsta

Overall, they are using social media well. They use their channels for promos for special in-store and online events, special online codes and discounts, earlier access to product launches, sneak peeks, exclusive products, etc. This is a good fit with their target audience and would help increase sales and create demand (and many sold out products).

They are using their Facebook and Twitter channels for customer care and are doing a good job of responding quickly and trying to take it offline.

They are also partner smartly with brands they sell (recent example Estee Lauder – EsteeEdit, Tarte) for Instagram takeovers and exclusive product launches (Marc Jacobs exclusive lipstick colour) which are promoted heavily on their channels. They also partner with bloggers for sponsored posts on those blogs.

takeover

While they do a great job of marketing and selling the products they offer, it seems they have very much divided the channels they sell on (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) vs. the channels they engage on (YouTube and Pinterest). They excel in certain areas of engagement – reviews on their website are well-done and user-generated and highly regarded, their YouTube channel has great tutorials and they have a “Makeup of the Day” board on Pinterest but I feel they could start extending that to their other channels specifically Instagram and even Facebook. They could profile their members and their makeup looks on these channels and not just on Pinterest. Facebook and Instagram allow for more 2-way interaction and engagement, and even 3-way interaction.

pinterest

Sephora has a very strong community and a good social presence which is benefiting their business, but they could take their engagement even further.

COM0014 – Blog Post #3 – The hunt is on

I am a home décor junkie. Specifically, mid-century modern décor and furniture. The internet and social media have made the ability to source furniture from this era easier than ever. Before social media, word of mouth, ads, and chance/luck/hope were what you had to rely on when looking for original furniture or décor from that era. My recent search for a teak dining table and a cabinet for my living room was done online (Kijiji) and heavily through social media (Facebook, Instagram).

Antique, vintage and consignment stores and businesses have benefitted immensely from the visual medium of social media. Being able to post photos of current stock, shares photos of their pieces in buyers’ homes, and reach their target consumers directly aids their business greatly.

The target audience varies based on the furniture – from original mid-century pieces and reproductions to lesser-known pieces and designers of that time, but which have the same aesthetic.

Those who sell authentic mid-century furniture (from designers such as Herman Miller, Charles & Ray Eames, Harry Bertoia, Eero Saarinen, Arne Jacobsen, George Nelson) are targeting those with a much higher income. While those selling reproductions and “non-name” pieces target a mid to high income.

In general the target audiences for any seller of mid-century modern furniture are urban dwellers (generally bigger cities, and condo/loft owners) middle to upper class, 25-55 age range, and those with a clean, modern and classic aesthetic. The target audience is both male and female (although I would say a slightly higher emphasis on women due to the demographics of the home décor industry). Their target audience is also knowledgeable – they know the history of the pieces, and they also know the value and price points of the pieces. There is not as much need to explain the quality and a name drop of one of the designers listed above (Eames, Saarinen, Jacobsen, etc. – no first name needed) as a design influence or to explain the style needs little explanation also. Their target audience knows these names and the pieces they are referring to.

Something that many of these sellers will want to do (and many currently do) is to also target an audience of influencers in addition to their target audience of consumers. This is of benefit to the seller as many of their target consumers will be following their target influencers. Influencers are interior designers/decorators, bloggers (home, fashion, lifestyle), and publications (Domino, My Domaine, Dwell, Elle Decor). Having their product or business mentioned or linked to on the social media or website of their targeted influencers is a marketing coup and results directly in higher online visitors, followers and sales, while also raising the brand awareness of their business and building their reputation with consumers (which is important when selling quality furniture, word of mouth/recommendations on social are very valued).

My hunt continues for my next furniture or décor acquisition and my home and I are very thankful for the use social media and the web for making the hunt easier!

COM00014 – Blog #2 – Tell me a story

Let me tell you a story.

That is what I took away from this week’s readings and lessons. In order to connect and engage with others, in any capacity not just digitally, we need to tell a story. Storytelling is fundamental to who we are as a human race, and has connected us since the dawn of time. The greatest strength of the digital world is giving us a platform to share stories with others from personal to professional.

While we can all tell a story, it is important to tell it in the best way possible in order to reach your audience and have the desired result whether it is your intent to inspire, captivate or entertain.

There are a basic rules that can be followed when structuring and writing your story:

  • Put the most important information first in order to grab the reader’s attention.
  • Be clear and concise (to allow for skimming).
  • Have good grammar, spelling and punctuation (which I fully support as the state of  basic spelling and grammar on the internet is depressing).
  • Use active voice instead of passive voice.
  • Know your intended goal or outcome of telling the story.

While the above guidelines are good to follow, the key ingredient to any story is to make it your own.  Don’t let the voice of the story get lost. Whether it is your voice, the voice of the company or the voice of the person in the story, make sure it shines through as that is what makes the story unique and that is what allows others to connect with it.

No matter what, keep going and keep practising. It can take time to develop your storytelling style, but keep writing and rewriting.

I want to hear your story. Will you tell me a story?

COM0014 – Blog #1: What I did on my vacation

With two young children and a husband whose job currently equals a very small amount of time off, vacation time is limited and typically involves a “staycation” rather than a big trip. So, for this post I wanted to go back and reminisce about a trip I took to Europe 10 years ago this summer (how has it already been a decade?!?!).

My sister was living in London, England at the time on a two-year visa. I had just recently finished my post-secondary schooling (undergrad and post-grad), and gotten my first real full-time job which meant PAID VACATION (my 25-year old self feels that deserves all caps). Without the need to pay for accommodations, just the flight and spending money I was Europe bound. One important thing I quickly learned was the mind-blowingly low cost of travel in Europe (compared to Canada). Not only was I going to visit my sister in England, but a trip to Paris for a few days, and a trip to Spain for another few days were subsequently also booked.

My cousin was along for the ride for the first part of the vacation, and my boyfriend (now husband) joined for the second half. It was a jam-packed week of fun and adventures, as Europe has no shortage of things to do and see. I did pick up a few tips that I used on subsequent trips to Europe (and other cities in North America):

  1. There are many benefits to visiting a foreign country (or even an unknown city) and having a resident or native as your tour guide. My sister was able to give us a huge personal walking tour of London on our first day, which was also beneficial in keeping us awake after a red-eye flight. Having someone know where to go and how to get there without hesitation or consultation of a map saved us and our jet-lagged brains so much time and effort. We were able to see and do so much with minimal planning on our end. This was not the case in Spain which was totally new to me and my boyfriend and my very basic Spanish could only take us so far (and it not a major city that we were in). While it was enjoyable, it was harder and more time-consuming to know where to go and what to see and do (1st world problems, I know).
  2. I highly recommend walking as much as possible in any European destination. While European cities are well-designed transportation-wise you get so much more out of walking and seeing all the sights. On top of walking across most of London, we also walked across Paris (literally – from Notre Dame all the way to the Arc de Triomphe, with a nap under the Eiffel Tower in the middle of the day!). We saw so much of the local life away from the tourist locations and discovered some fantastic restaurants and shops. Though you do not want to miss the standard tourist sites as some of these monuments are just amazing to actually see in person.
  3. Know your interests and what you want and have to see and be open to some off-the-beaten-path options (which natives will be able to fill you in on or that you find on your own wanderings). For anyone looking to try something different and up for a bit of a party I highly recommend the church in London.

I hope many of you have had the fortune to visit Europe and see the sights and experience the culture. Italy is still on my bucket list, along with a trip back to Paris for my wedding anniversary. What are you favourite cities and sites in Europe?

Note: Please excuse the absence of photos in this post, iPhoto is not cooperating despite my best efforts (and this trip was before Facebook was very popular).

Social Good

The value of the data that can be mined on social media is becoming more and more apparent and it is starting to be looked at, and used,  in new and interesting ways. Beyond the typical use of data mining for targeting for advertising, a recent article on CBC News revealed a Canadian study that is exploring how social media data can be used to help detect and monitor individuals potentially at risk of mental health issues.

Every minute of every day, approximately 347,000 tweets, 293,000 Facebook statuses and 400 hours worth of YouTube videos are uploaded to the web

The 3-year long project called “social web mining and sentiment analysis for mental illness detection” is setting out to create a set of tools that can be used by doctors, psychologists, school counsellors, research groups and others to flag concerning patterns in social media posts. Text-mining algorithms will be used to pick up different patterns within the data they are mining from social media sites and to predict the patterns.

On social media people are posting about everything in their lives, with very little filter, from what they are doing to how they are feeling. Their moods, activities, and social interactions are out there for all to see.

This study is a natural extension of the education, awareness and fundraising that is already being done online around mental health. Bell’s Let’s Talk campaign is the most well-known social campaign being used to help end the stigma around mental illness, and it is allowing people to talk more about this issue on social media and their own struggles with mental. The data from this campaign will be a goldmine for this study, as the amount of posts on that day were huge.

The program will watch for how an individual’s online activities change over time, and then raise a flag. The program could then notify that individual’s doctor. This program could also extend to cases of cyber-bullying. Parents or school counsellors would be notified if strange or angry messages appear online.

The use of social media for the greater good and to tackle larger scale issues is becoming one direction the future of social media is headed. It is a gold mine of information and can be put to use to help on a larger scale. A recent example of this are the “check-ins” that have been implemented on Facebook during crisis events such as the Paris attacks. This is being developed even further to create a warning system for weather events to help see lives (see VStDenis’ blog post for the full breadth of these systems).

Another example that comes to mind, as I do work in the insurance industry, was Manulife Canada’s announcement early this year that they would be offering discounts on insurance for healthy living utilizing the tracking of lifestyle data.

Unlike other insurance plans, which largely rely on a self-verifying questionnaire and then claims activity to set rates, the Vitality program will work with wearable fitness-tracking devices such as Fitbit to monitor healthy living activities, and offer reward points or insurance discounts as the policy evolves.

Despite all the scary and bad aspects of social media, there is so much good and benefits that it brings. Social media isn’t going anywhere, and the use of data and social media for the greater good and the betterment of society is one way that it will be continuing to grow and evolve.

TV to YouTube & back again

TV to YouTube & back again

 A little over 10 years ago, a digital short on SNL changed the internet and YouTube forever. I am sure pretty much all of you are familiar with “Lazy Sunday – The Chronicles of Narnia” performed by the Lonely Island on Saturday Night Live, way back in 2005. What you may not be familiar with is how that one skit changed the history and future of YouTube.

(*actual video of skit not to be found due to legal issues with NBC, see legal fracas below)

The article ‘Lazy Sunday’ Turns 10: ‘SNL’ Stars Recall How TV Invaded the Internet in the December 2015 issue of Variety, profiled this skit and its impact on the internet.

“’Lazy Sunday’ was groundbreaking because it was the first TV programming to earn a second life on the Internet, collecting over 2 million views in its first week alone and setting off a legal fracas with NBC Universal months later.”

These days we take for granted the fact that this was not always the case. Now, talk shows (and comedy shows) now create content specifically for the web and the potential for virality and sharing. They are built with these digital platforms in mind and the life they can have after the airing of the show. I cannot even begin to count the number of videos I have seen shared on my Facebook feed and Twitter feed from late night shows specifically for this purpose – Carpool Karaoke, Lip Sync Battle (and pretty much every Jimmy Fallon skit), Mean Tweets, and the list goes on.  And now SNL creates their skit with digital in mind, whereas the first time it was not planned and they fought it.

“When ‘Lazy Sunday’ came out, we were watching numbers on a site we had never heard of. It was this double whammy: we always got associated with the Internet, but it was television that made it possible. Then it became the currency of the popularity of our shows – oh, this one is really popular because it had X hits. YouTube really changed that, honestly. There was this second life to television.”

And now, it has all come full circle. While TV infiltrated the internet and the internet gave a “second life” to television, in 2016 it is the internet that is infiltrating television and changing it. Monday, February 29th marks the launch of Viceland, VICE Media’s own television channel. VICE began as a magazine in Montreal, and now has many online offshoots of “demographically focused platforms”. VICE is truly a multi-platform and multimedia company that built its reputation through alternative channels including the web, and now it is simply adding TV to its list of media. My awareness and knowledge of VICE is through their documentaries which are online, but they are now taking over the traditional TV medium with their content.

Another example of television looking to the internet is the TV show Lip Sync Battle. Yes, the same as the Fallon skit I mentioned above. It is based on the skit from Fallon’s show, and therefore did start on TV, it is because of its popularity online that it become its own show on Spike TV, and the videos of the performances from the show continue to rack up huge numbers on YouTube. I would bet that the digital life of those performances is way higher than the audience actually watching the show while it airs. It is one of the many shows that does better online and afterwards than when it actually airs.

I think what VICE demonstrates is that the focus these days is truly on multi-media and multi-platform success. A skit cannot just be well-received on the show when it airs, it needs to have a life afterwards online. It needs to be useable and shareable on various mediums and channels and to have as much of a second life as possible.

It will be interesting to see how television and the internet continue to evolve as they begin to merge more into each other.

Digital Parenthood

Digital Parenthood

The children of today will need only to look on social media when they are older to get a timeline of their lives. From the milestones to the mundane, their lives are being chronicled in a very public way that no other past generation of children can relate to.

A recent article I came across through Facebook Insights, titled “The Mobile State of Parenthood” really got me thinking about my own children’s lives and how social media has changed parenting.

“Parenting has become a digitally shared experience”

I can clearly remember when I was pregnant with each of my children and trying to figure out when to put the news on social media that we were expecting. That is the first piece of your child’s life on social media, before they are even born into this world. And it is the first of many. From ultrasounds and being born, to first days and first milestones, it is generally all chronicled on social media. Ninety-two percent of American children have an online presence before the age of 2. Parents post nearly 1,000 images of their children online before their fifth birthday.

sharenting-parents-posting-social-media.jpg

But how much is too much? The term “sharenting” has been coined to describe this new phenomena of the overuse of social media by parents to share content about their kids. I am sure we all have a friend on our social media, who definitely shares way too much about their child(ren).

lookatmybaby.jpg

There are certain milestones or events that their Facebook friends just don’t need to know; however, stats from Facebook seem to contradict that “sharenting” is as hated as we may say. On Facebook in the US, new parent’s posts about their babies receive 37% more interactions from relatives and 47% more interactions from friends than their general posts.

“The arrival of baby transforms a parent’s life in an instant.”

On the flip side though, one of the biggest assets of social media when you are a parent is the connection that it can bring to others going through the same thing, to help you feel connected and not alone during a time that can sometimes feel very overwhelming and so new. Social media can become a bit of a lifeline – moms and dads are more active on Facebook than non-parents.

newparenposts_stats

Social media allows you to feel connected to your friends and keep up to date on what they are doing, while sharing the reality of your new life as a parent, which means you are usually on Facebook in the wee hours of the morning.  New parents in the US are active on Facebook in the wee hours, starting their first mobile sessions as early as 4am and peaking at 7am.

It also allows you to keep family up-to-date on those cute kids of yours, especially far away family that are not privy to seeing them every day and are not here in person to experience the milestones.

The Insights article made a very interesting extension to the community created by sharing your children’s lives and your life as a parent online – “with sharenting comes a more fluid sense of family. It takes a digital village. Parents’ oversharing rallies family and friends and extends the modern ‘family’ beyond the immediate household.” This is where the beauty and advantages of social media can be seen. Social media is a collaborative tool, and allows us to create these connections and extensions regardless of geography.

“We are shifting back to the an extended family structure,
albeit one of a more virtual kind.”

Now, there is also the dark side to this conversation in terms of privacy and who is actually seeing your children’s photos and the effect this sharing and self-obsession can have on our children who grow up with it. I have deliberately chosen to stay away from the darker side of this topic for this post, as it requires its own post (can it even be dealt with in one post?), and I wanted to focus on the positives of social media as a parent. Social media is a way for us to connect with others, and this is especially useful for those going through similar situations. Parenthood is mind-blowingly awesome and hard, sometimes at the exact same time, and social media allows for us to share both the good and bad moments and create these collective experiences.

How do you feel about those who share about their kids on social media? Do you share about your own children, and how much?