COM0015 – Blog Post 4 – Out of the box

An overwhelming amount of new options / apps are coming out almost daily making it difficult for someone new to, or a dabbler in, social media / online marketing to keep track of the new apps or trends that could be useful to the company he or she represent. You need to have the time to research and test the possibilities of the apps to see if it will be valuable for your company to use them. It can also be difficult to choose one because we never now how popular they will be and what will be their ‘lifespan’.

How are you supposed to choose apps to make your company efficient with so little information? (if you need more words maybe expand on how this means that social media and online marketing need to be professionalized and that is why were are seeing these as new jobs).

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Rather than focusing on which apps to choose, I believe that basic communication is more important regardless of the medium, an app is really just a medium. In this ‘uber’ connected world, I find that we tend to chose the same old apps, using the the same old underlying processes, because we just can’t process the information and decide. You have to seek information about social media rather than the information coming to you. Or maybe it is just me? Our last assignment was about participating in a social media event, so you would assume: just google it and find something! No. It was really difficult to find a social media related event to attend in the national capital, so it goes back to the connectivity and communication. I think there are possibilities to increase what and when we share information. While I was trying to find something to talk about, I searched Mashable for the new trends and discovered Mashable Social Media Day. On June 30, Mashable will host their 6th social media day and numerous events are organized across the world whether online or in person. When you search deeper, Mashable is referring you to Meetup, a website to meet with people sharing the same interests / events as you. What a great way to increase networking and communicating.

Finding and interacting with others in social media, is one tool that we can use to help us deal with the rapid innovation occuring in this field. Let’s hope that it gets easier!

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COM0015 – Professional Networking

After attending the Unit Public Affair Representative Course last week (course from the Government), I have to admit that networking is essential to social media and communications. Spending the week with other communicators was really invigorating and I learned a lot. I have learned that the government public affairs community has a ‘Technet’ where you can ask for, or give, advice. Because I am new in the public affairs world I assume that I will be asking for public relations advice but be able to give advice about social media. Using the ‘Technet’ will be my first step of my social media networking strategy.

My present strategy to develop my network (online and in-person) is to: maintain and consult my new ‘Technet’ when required (that way, I stay active within my community), and secondly, continue monitoring Facebook and Twitter for social media influencers (Rebekah Radice, The Social Media Examiner, Mashable, Chris Brogan, Erik Qualman, etc) for virtual suggestions on potential ideas and the latest trends. I think it is a great way to learn, share and find new ideas. There are so many comments left after their posts that those influencers don’t always answer, but I consider it a good professional development nonetheless. If the topic interests you, it gives you a starting point to research the rest. I also make sure to look at who those influencers follow and most of the time, I end up adding to my following list. It increases the information I get and share.

Another strategy I will consider is to attend more social media events whether they’re online or in-person. Online seems more likely as there is very little opportunity in Ottawa for social media conferences. I will keep an eye open and consult Facebook Events and Meetup to see what is going on close-by, step out of my comfort zone and attend something.

Attending events is great for networking but for me, it is more about what you do with the information after that’s important.static1.squarespace.com

If any of you out there know of any social media events / conferences / webinars in the national capital, let us know.

COM0015 – Blog Post 2 – Strong and Weak Organizations

As I follow numerous companies and organizations on various social media platforms, I have come to understand that I prefer some of them more than the others for how they handle business. One of my favorite company to follow is Canadian air carrier: West Jet. I believe they have one of the strongest and most-up-to-date Canadian social media strategies, they keep up with current practices, and that they never cease to try to improve.

West Jet is present on Facebook, Twitter, You-tube, Instagram, LinkedIn, has its own app, and maintains a blog as well as publishing a monthly magazine for reading on flights. I see more traffic on Facebook and Twitter for West Jet but that does not mean they do not use the other platforms. They probably come to the conclusion that the bulk of their clientele uses Facebook and Twitter so they focus more time on those two. The amount of daily Twitter exchanges between West Jet and travelers exceeds the 500 everyday and WestJet is not afraid to retweet, answer and exchange with their customers. Facebook is utilized to announce contests, latest news and promotions. Facebook and Twitter are also linked with the WestJet Youtube channel. WestJet produces its own videos (the Christmas Miracles and April’s Fool jokes videos probably being the most popular) about the many destinations they have, their community involvement, and some educational /entertainment clips. They involve their employees (called WestJetters) in their efforts; they have fun and are not afraid to share and show it. It is part of the WestJet culture and it is good for the customers to see it. With the help of a video, Westjet announced the creation of its own tartan to celebrate their new route to Scotland.

They also partnered up with Disney (they have an entire plane painted with Mickey Mouse), the Toronto Blue Jays (at the Rogers Centre, there is a section painted with WestJet colours called the ‘Flight Deck’, and again, for all of those, WestJet uses Twitter, Facebook, Instragam and Youtube to publicize and advertize their partnerships.

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At the opposite end of the spectrum of the airline industry, I believe that United Airlines is in need of a better and updated social media strategy. The overhaul starts with their outdated website: icons are missing, their Youtube channel and Instagram feed are not publicized and the information is not simple to find. The website would need a facelift which would include an icon and a link for each of their missing platforms. As a matter of fact, if you Google United, their Google profile shows more platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Youtube) than their own website.

To make matter worst, United is fighting against a terrible reputation – worst airline – and are known for their poor customer service. We should all remember the famous United Breaks Guitars video. Halifax’s musician Dave Carroll’s song about his experience with the airline went viral in 2009 and two more videos came after that. His career grew exponentionally (he even wrote a book about social media and the power his video had) and created numerous business/ social media studies.

United-Breaks-Guitars

In order to improve their social media presence, United would benefit from adapting their thinking to put the customer forward. On their Facebook page, you can see that they are trying to reach out and help their customers by answering some of their concerns, but is it too little too late? When you look on Youtube, comments that are left on the various United videos are not very flattering, lots of complains about indifference, lack of care and concern, and a lot of Sorry but we can’t help you. Would a social media tune up be enough to change this airline’s status? United should review their current strategy, get their employees in love with customer service, and do a bit of appreciative inquiry. By putting the customer at the centre of their plan, it might be the start of a culture shift. Just enough to finally take off.

COM0015 – Blog Post 1 – Tools & Sources

My two favourite listening / monitoring tools are Twitter for listening to trends and recently, I have been introduced to Mention.com (https://en.mention.com/) I find that Twitter is very practical because I get the headlines and if I want to read more about any given subjects, I just click on the link. It gathers all sort of information and postings and can recommend other similar sites / tweets based on what you already follow.

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(ok I could not find the Twitter bird over Ottawa, so Toronto it will have to be)

When it comes to monitoring, last semester, I was introduced to Netvibe to monitor. I liked it because it allowed me to monitor numerous platforms onto one single dashboard. I like to see all of it on the same screen and not having to switch back and forth. But it had its limits. My workplace is currently trying a platform called Mention.com and from what I see, it is working very well. The only thing is that you have to pay to use it. There’s a trial part but it is not long enough to be worth it. Knowing about Mention.com would be beneficial for me as it is a tool work is using and a position of content manager might open up 🙂

As for a source of news, I love surfing on Mashable. It is simple and has a bit of everything to help me increase my profesional knowledge of what is happening in the social media world.

COM0014 – Blog 7 – Personal Reflection

As this course comes to an end, I’m flipping through my notes and telling myself I should go back and read them again from time to time. Review and reflection is important because it helps me to remember and keep up with this newly acquired knowledge. Reading my notes, I can see I highlighted some concepts I wish to focus on. I want to be able to find my blog voice and the best possible applications of blog rules. I also need to recall and use the inverted pyramid more often (which goes against everything I learned in school), and the necessity and importance of properly assessing the target audience. Branding would be the other most important concept one may want to dedicate energy towards while using social media.

Story telling is also essential to create meaningful digital content. It is about people and personal interactions. People remember people, they remember the connection they had and how they felt at that time. Authenticity and honesty should be at the core of your stories. In a world dominated by technology, digital realities and to some level ‘fakeness’, people are looking for meaningful and powerful connections; something that will change them or recognize the fact that they exist. Deep down, people want to be seen, they want to be different, and most of all, they want to be remembered. Story telling allows people to remember because the story creates images and memories aiding in retention and connects to them emotionally and maybe even remind them of such stories from their own past..

As for how my content will be guided by my story, I have to admit that I always try to infuse who I am and what I do in all my posts. I find it extremely difficult to write about topics that do not have any ‘relation’ to me. It is almost impossible for me to write something generic, too technical, or something I do not care about. If I do, it is going to lack style, conviction, and authenticity. As discussed before, readers do not relate well to that kind of post, they simply ignore them and move on. I want my readers to relate to my posts and enjoy them. I want to tell stories that will reach people and that will show them that they are not alone thinking a certain way.

COM00014 – Blog Post 6 – George’s trip to Australia (Do people know your story?)

It all happened during the summer of 2011. I was in charge of a group of teenagers going overseas on an exchange program and that is where I crossed path with George, a young 18 years old Inuk from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.

That summer, George had been selected to attend the Australia exchange, a very long way from his isolated northern community. He arrived in Ottawa with a small bag and very few personal items. Soon after his arrival, we found out that he had nothing of the basic travel items (soap, shampoo, toothpaste, etc.) and almost none of the required clothes. When we asked him why, he shyly admitted that he hadn’t forgotten to pack his things; he just didn’t have them. In his community, not a lot of those items were available and affordable so he just left without. At that time, I really felt bad for asking, but I felt even worst that George did not have all he needed for this trip. That night, I went back home and made a small bag of the basic necessities so he would have his own and would stop borrowing. I also grabbed the box of clothes my husband was going to donate, maybe something would fit George? The next day, George came by to try on some clothes. He tried a few things and when he came out with a blue shirt and the brand new pair of cords my husband never wore, he was looking down at his toes. He seemed very shy in his grown up clothes. He said that the sleeves were a bit short, but that the rest was ok, without looking up. I tried to encourage him and told him blue was a good color for him. He turned red and smiled a little. He went back into his changing room and came back with what fit. He put his new clothes in a bag and left to go and pack it up. I didn’t say anything to him because I did not want to embarrass him. On his way out, he met another adult staff he knew from before. He proceeded to show her all of his clothes and all the combination he could make. He was over the moon and that made my heart melt a little.

In order for the teenagers to go on exchange, they had to pass a physical fitness test to ensure they would be able to do all the activities offered. Sometimes, some of those kids can’t go because we fear for their safety and level of participation. Our youth come from everywhere in Canada and meet in Ottawa before leaving for their destinations. In George’s case, he was not used to Ontario’s climate at all and he did not pass the fitness test. I should have recommended that he not attend the exchange but I just couldn’t do it. He had worked so hard to get there with so little, how could I deny him this opportunity knowing he would perform well? On top of that, the rest of his group had gathered around him and during those preparation days, he had somewhat become the group ‘mascot’ and everybody cheered for him. He was now called ‘Georgie’.

Of the week I spent with ‘Georgie’, I never saw him being negative. He was a genuinely happy person. He always had a smile on his face and always helped his group. He was not your stereotypical outgoing leader by any means but his soothing attitude that made him able to relate to all.

In my organization, it is not every day you get to meet an insightful young man like George. After 13 years of being an adult staff, I was a bit jaded with the process, the politics and was thinking of calling it quits. Without knowing it, Georges, my somewhat customer, had sparked the little flame again and made me realize why I was volunteering my time and why I had chosen this organization. He showed me that it matters.

George had an awesome time in Australia and the trip gave him the motivation to do something else with his life (yes, I keep track of him from afar). He will never know what he did for me and the impact he had on my career, but I am grateful I met him and I trusted his abilities.

COM0014 – Blog 5 – Personal Branding

I always have a hard time describing my personal branding, I come from an organization that discourages personal differences or ‘bragging’ about oneself so it is always uncomfortable for me to do so. Also, because I do not really use social media to promote a business, I often feel I can’t really describe my personal branding, but I will give it a shot! I work for a youth organization and it is essential that we use the same social platforms as they do.

Some of my personal qualities and characteristics that set me apart from my peers are my dedication, resilience, loyalty, professionalism, and organizational skills. I work hard to complete projects and aim for results. I do not back down from a challenge, but I can ask for help when I’m out of my realm. The needs of my ‘clients’ are the core of what I do and I always try to offer them my best. The fact that I am bilingual is also something that sets me apart from my ‘competitors’ (maybe less in Ottawa, but nationwide, for sure!).

In order to stand out at work, I keep up to date with the latest trends in social media and always push for better communication and sharing of information. I also believe I am more open to change than the majority of my colleagues and it doesn’t bother me to promote it. I take the time to review things and keep in mind the interests of my stakeholders.

I have asked two of my colleagues to describe me and they came out with: intelligent, organized, thoughtful, loyal, have a sense of humor, frank, direct, not afraid of confrontation, and have very diverse skills. I am very grateful for those colleagues because it is not every day you hear what people think of you professionally.

I have spearheaded numerous projects: creation and maintenance of two bilingual Facebook pages for work; development of communication strategies; and risk management policies and protocols. I also learned about outdoor risk management in order to review important policies and publications for compliance with industry best practices and standards, but what I am mostly proud of is my work ethic and my dedication. For the majority of us, it may not mean much, but for me, but for us who have pledge to serve my country before myself, it is a tremendous achievement. I have been working full time for the government for 7 years now and there were times where I could have taken it easy or stop caring, but I didn’t. I continue on given my best every day and I always remember who and what I work for. There is a ‘customer’ at the other end and if I ‘slack’ off, the customer will not get the experience it should have. I strive for excellence and nothing else.

COM0014 – Blog Post 4 – West Jet and the case of B2C

My good example of B2C is West Jet. Right from the start, West Jet publicized they were different from other airlines by the fact that they cared because they were owners too. After, when social media became the ‘norm’, West Jet did not lose a beat and started to engage their audience with online promotions, blogs, and videos. When Facebook came out with Pages, West Jet created two official pages (English and French) and engaged with the community. Same for their Twitter feed. If you follow their feed, there is an incredible amount of interactions and re-twits (positive or negative) in both official languages. Not only do they advertise their latest promotions, they also respond to questions and comments from the public. Their interactions are always polite and they show concern when it is appropriate. Overall, it seems that West Jet is one of the few Canadian companies that allocate time and resources to maintain communication lines with their consumers. In the large and competitive travel industry, West Jet distinguished themselves with care and humor  through yearly April Fools videos, Christmas Cheers, Flash Mobs, collaboration with the Toronto Blue Jays, community projects, etc.  The company was capable of involving itself in the community by being involved and contributing. Again, everybody knows that West Jet cares because they are West Jet owners too.
 
I follow West Jet on Twitter and Facebook. The company also regularly uses You Tube, Instagram, and a blog. Their interactions are about the people and not always about their latest promotions. They always try to provide solutions to complaints or show concern and empathy, especially if the travel situation is out of their control. They genuinely look like they value their customers and are listening to their needs. They often ask for contribution from the audience such as pictures, comments from trips and ‘tags’ from travel posts, etc.  West Jet also takes the time to ask their audience questions about various topics.
 
I think that West Jet is a good example of proactive B2C and a leading company when it comes to utilizing social media. They are posting more than once a day and are not afraid to interact with their audience, even if it means answering unhappy customers.

COM0014 – Blog Post 3 Target Audiences

By Karina Smith

I am currently serving on the board of directors for the Vasculitis Foundation Canada (VFC) and I also oversee their social media platforms (including website). Until I took over the web based tools, the foundation only had an outdated unappealing website. Now, we have a more modern website, a Twitter feed, and a Facebook page and group where people can chat and exchange more freely than the official page.

The target audience for the VFC can be separated in three categories: patients, families or support systems, and the medical community. The predominant category is the patients. The complicated thing with analyzing the demographics of patients is its incredible variety: Vasculitis diseases can affect anyone. There is no gender specific or age category. Male or female can get vasculitis regardless of their ethic or religious background, marital status or age. Researchers are currently trying to identify the origins of vasculitis and so far, all points towards a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The lifestyles of vascultis patients are completely different and can range from not being able to work to being fully functional.

When we are communicating with our audiences, we try to reach our members (usually patients) and their support network. Our audiences are generally more conservative and that is a bit why we are trying to rejuvenate the way we do things so the younger generation feels involved. Even if our main audience is patient-based, we cannot forget the support networks of families, friends, and loved-ones who compose our second largest audience. Within those two types of audiences, none are composed of specific ‘leaders’ but some are more ‘tech savvy’ than others. Our social media interactions are targeted at the Canadian population, but we do have a few international followers as well, mostly patients and families.

Whenever I post for the foundation, I try to be clear, simple, and to the point. I do not make it overly ‘fancy’, but I use proper English or French. Our posts are not medically complicated because our audience is mainly patients who, while afflicted, will not have a medical background.

I am not overly too familiar with other successful online campaigns related to my audience. Currently, the ALS Ice Challenge is trending when it comes to raising awareness and funds on a disease. There is a lot of online talks on the pros and cons of such campaign and its true benefits (CBC – The Current, August 20). Not sure if an ice bucket over your head reaches all type of audiences, but it seems to work better when you are a public figure (any type of public figure really).

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COM0014 – Blog Post 2 – Storytelling and Communication Styles

This week, I have learned that I am doing almost everything wrong when it comes to blogging…and that I have a lot to learn about storytelling and communication. If I had to choose, I would say that the most beneficial thing I have learn with Lesson 2 is the inverted triangle approach, where you have to post the most important information first so the readers don’t miss it or scan pass it. You want to hook them right from the start (a bit like I am doing right now). Not only do you have to show all your cards during the first round, but you have to go all in! It really feels weird. Ever felt like that?

I also learned about using the active voice rather than the passive and ensuring content is clear and concise. This is the opposite of what I have learned since high school where you introduce your topic, creat a context, and do not reveal too much too soon. Blogging it’s about saying what you have to say and letting people decide if they want to go in details. Two different communication paradigms.

On top of that, as a blogger, I also have to start thinking about what action I want my readers to make after reading my material. It needs to inspire them to make the necessary actions. Maybe it was my “hippie” way of thinking but when I started blogging, I though the process would be “organic” and all would happen without too much thinking: build it and they will come right? I am starting to realize it may have been wishful thinking on my part…when I started blogging, it was for my social media certificate and I did not have a specific goal in mind; I just wanted to distract people and offer them a laugh once in a while. I now know, I will have to go back and develop a better plan for my blog, including a posting schedule. A lot of work ahead, but I’m looking forward to it. Did you have an abrupt awakening like I did?

Karina Smith