COM0014: Blog #3 – Traveling solo (+ your social media accounts)

Solo travel may seem like something that you do, well…solo. But that’s not really the case. Female solo travelers, in particular, are drawn to communities where they can share tips and gain insights from another woman’s experience. There’s no doubt that men travel alone too, but often nobody bats an eye at the guy travelling by himself. Women need the community to ensure there’s nothing “wrong” or “strange” about what they’re doing.

Female solo adventurers fall into two categories: those who have traveled by themselves and those who are working up their courage to start. Often young, but sometimes retired, they all share an incurable condition: wanderlust.

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The number of women who choose to travel solo is on the rise

Social media is also vital to them. When I travel I use it not only to document my journey but as a means of communication. When I add my location to a Facebook post and Instagram my latest photos, my mom – 9 time zones away – can see that I’m still alive and having fun.

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A phone and social media accounts can be a lifeline for a solo traveler

Communicating with people back home is important, but so is communicating with people who may be closer or who may have some advice to share. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of blogs by female solo travelers that provide tips and advice to like-minded voyagers. These communities are invaluable, because they often address problems that regular travel sites may not.

Hotel reviews written by men, families, or couples may not acknowledge the specific questions that women consider when travelling alone: is the neighbourhood well-lit at night? Will I be safe walking by myself? Mainstream sites do not offer specialized information for this growing demographic. But those who devote a social media strategy to reaching them will surely reap the benefits. Because women seem increasingly intent on seeing the world – likely in preparation to take it over.

All photos courtesy of stocksnap.io

COM0015 – Blog#1: Evolving Tools and Tried and True Sources

I think it’s now pretty clear that social media isn’t going anywhere. Once you give people the opportunity to be part of the conversation – and to start their own conversations – it will be impossible to retract. Individuals and organizations that are able to use this to their advantage, to listen to these conversations and shape their messaging accordingly, are bound to be successful.

Social Media Pollsters

Last year we saw two of the most shocking election surprises in history. First was the Brexit vote, in which the UK surprisingly voted in favour of leaving the European Union. The second came in November, when Donald Trump (much to the awe of the news networks covering the event) won the presidential election over Hillary Clinton.

The polls had been wrong.

The United Kingdom was supposed to remain a part of Europe. And Hillary was supposed to be the newest resident of the White House. All the polls had said so.

Actually not all.

Traditional telephone polls had been calling for a ‘remain’ Brexit vote and a Democratic victory, but more sophisticated polling technology – that uses artificial intelligence to examine social media – were much more accurate. Advanced Symbolics, a company based in Ottawa, correctly predicted these upset victories, as well as the Liberal’s overwhelming victory in the 2015 federal election. Erin Kelly, the president and CEO of Advanced Symbolics (and a friend of a friend), explains in this article from Policy Magazine how and why social media polling is superior to traditional methods.

Social Media polling

From telephone calls to social media posts – is this the future of the polling industry?

I have not personally had the opportunity to use this technology but I’m a huge fan because it demonstrates just how valuable social media listening is. What would have happened if in the weeks before Nov. 8 voters knew that Hillary Clinton would likely win the popular vote but lose the electoral college and therefore the presidency? Would people in Britain have voted differently if they knew there was a serious possibility of leaving the EU?

Of course social media listening and monitoring is possible without the sophisticated equipment and fancy technology. Facebook is a great tool for anyone looking to monitor what people are saying. Almost everyone has a Facebook profile and it’s the place where people are most likely to share their opinions.

Where do I get my news?

I hate to be unoriginal and say Facebook and Twitter but: Facebook and Twitter. For breaking news from around the world there’s nothing better than these two platforms.

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Almost anything that’s happening in the world will be broadcast on Twitter before anywhere else. People will tweet from a crisis before anyone else knows there’s a crisis. And reporters will tweet about a crisis before they have a story written. And even if you’re completely oblivious, the Trending Topics will tell you something big is happening. You won’t get many details with Twitter, but it’s definitely the place to find out you should be looking for them.

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You can get breaking news from Facebook too but that’s not the reason I like it. Many publishers on Facebook now use the Instant Articles feature, which means that if you’re reading it on a mobile device, the loading time is almost zero. This means you can actually read the article instead of giving up after looking at a blank page refusing to load. If all you’ve got is your phone to give you information, it’s important that you’re actually able to get that information.

By following and liking the organizations you want to receive updates from, you can tailor your newsfeed to show you exactly what you want to see.

 

So what do you think? Will social media monitoring soon replace the traditional telephone pollsters?

 

Images found at Stocksnap.io and edited by me.

COM0014 – Blog #2: That comma goes where?!

Having a good story to tell is important, but telling it free of grammatical errors is essential. A blog post can be structured to entice the audience to read it – and hopefully read to the end – but if the copy is overrun with commas, or lacking them entirely, most readers will give up. Good grammar demonstrates that you value what you’re writing, and therefore your audience should as well.

Break it down

Before you worry about turning people away, though, you need to focus on drawing them in. Most will skim over content before deciding if it’s worth their time. Breaking up a long blog with short, catchy subheadings can make it look more palatable to someone with a short attention span. And if they’re on the internet, chances are they have a short attention span.

The lead should do just that: lead

Using the inverted triangle technique, with the most important information in the lead paragraph, tells the reader exactly what they can expect from the rest of the article. A well-written lead tells them why it’s important and what they will get out of it. It should make them want to know more. If your opening paragraph doesn’t catch the audience’s attention they’ll move on to something that does.

Let’s eat grandma

Proper punctuation is critical for your message to be clear and effective. You won’t be perceived as a reliable source on your subject matter if your copy is riddled with errors. A missing or misplaced comma can turn a sweet sentence into a scary one. Proofreading is good. Proofreading twice is better. Compelling copy is great, but poor punctuation and bad grammar will imply that your story is not worthwhile.

A well-written article should compel the reader to action. It should make them start to care about the subject matter, start to consider your ideas, and start to shape and present ideas of their own. But none of this can happen if they haven’t read it in the first place. The cleaner, clearer and more concise your writing is, the higher the chance that your ideas will be heard.

Would poor grammar make you stop reading an interesting article?

Do you have one grammar pet peeve that turns you right off?

A Twitter Presidency Divided

It’s inescapable. We’re living in the era of the Twitter Presidency. What would once have been private early morning rantings are now 160 character official statements from the president and breaking news on CNN.

A contentious debate has broken out, specifically over Donald Trump’s preferred method of communication, but also over the general idea of politicians using social media to bypass the traditional channels altogether. The president claims it as an effective tool to go around the “mainstream media” and speak directly to his base. Detractors argue that it provides a venue for unchecked rhetoric and is, well, unpresidential.

The next best things since television?

Twitter is the first medium to allow a president unfettered access into the minds of citizens across the country (and around the world). Radio and television were once breakthrough technology that gave politicians an avenue into the living rooms of voters.

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But things have change. Social media reaches into cars and coffee shops, street corners and skyscrapers, anywhere there’s a data signal or a wifi connection. and opinions, no matter how random or controversial they may be, can instantly be seen by anyone with a cell phone, tablet or computer – nearly the entire population.

What is ‘Covfefe?’

So while citizens may be hearing more from their leader, is what they’re hearing worthwhile? Donald Trump has been famous (or infamous) for using Twitter to attack opponents and the media, and for denying or distorting commonly agreed upon facts.

But he’s also used it to promote new job statistics and make cordial statements about other world leaders. Exactly what a president should be doing.

And, well, he’s used it for ‘covfefe.’ What many believed to be a typo in an unfinished tweet started a media firestorm with the follow up:

Is it failure to admit he’s made a mistake (even a tiny one)? Or a way to distract from investigations into collusion and failing health care repeal bills? Or is it possible that ‘covfefe’ has a very real and specific meaning? It seems unlikely but we can’t discount it.

No matter what the real story behind ‘covfefe’ is, it got people talking. And that, in itself, is important for democracy.

A two-way bully pulpit?

What makes Twitter drastically different than other communications tools used by past presidents is that the people can now communicate back. Tweeting at the president is as close to a one-on-one conversation as many will get with the office – which is much closer than anyone in the past would have dreamed of.

Twitter users can voice their frustration with their president and at their president more directly than at any time in the past. Pro-Trump and anti-Trump hashtags rally supporters on both sides.

But Trump has recently been sued by a group of Twitter users who he blocked after them for replied to his tweets with criticism. While the lawsuit may not have enough legal ground to be successful, it emphasizes how important Donald Trump’s account (his personal one, not the official @POTUS that he inherited from Barack Obama) has become.

Revolutionary or a one-off?

A presidency lasts four (or eight) years. Donald Trump is only approaching six months in office. It’s hard to say whether Twitter presidencies will be the norm from now on or whether President Trump is an anomaly. But as both Democrats and now many Republicans, as well as the majority of Americans, wish that Trump would put his iPhone down, it seems likely that we will never see another presidency quite like this.

Promotional Posts:

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Is Trump’s ‘modern-day presidential’ Twitter use the new normal? Or an anomaly?

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Donald Trump’s election win ushered in the era of the Twitter Presidency. Will it outlast his time in office or is it a one-off?

COM0014 – Blog #1: I Left My Heart In Bruges 

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Bruges feels like a movie come to life

Films have a wonderful ability to transport us to an exotic locale or a faraway city. Or make us want to transport ourselves. It’s impossible to watch Roman Holiday without dreaming of following in Audrey Hepburn’s footsteps: eating gelato on the Spanish Steps and riding a Vespa through the city – all while being accompanied by Gregory Peck.  And you can’t watch Amélie and not want to walk the hazy, magical (and incredibly clean) streets of her Paris.

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The Belfry of Bruges: site of one film death and many recreations.

Other films also inspire the travel bug, but it’s much more coincidental. Last year I found it in In Bruges. The story of two Irish hitmen sent to hideout, it’s an incredibly dark and violent comedy set in the beautiful and historic Belgian city. If it wasn’t for the foul language, violence and bloodshed it could be a travel brochure. So last year on my annual European vacation I made it a point to spend a couple days in Bruges.

The city centre is one of the world’s most well-preserved medieval settlementss, making it a UNESCO heritage site and a popular tourist destination for millions of travelers every year. It’s quaint and historic and beautiful. Everything you want in a European town. But when I arrived I realized I was definitely not the only one who’s visit was inspired by the movie.

Time seems to have stood still in Bruges’ historic city centre

The Markt is the main square, dominated on one side by the Belfry of Bruges. The bell tower plays a crucial role in the movie, when a character leaps to his death. And I watched tourists stand in line to have their picture taken in its shadowas they lay on the ground to imitate the mangled corpse. I clearly was not the only movie fan there.

I had no intention of getting down on the ground, but I did pay the fee to climb the 366 steps to the top for the panoramic view of the city’s red roofs and church steeples. I also had a check list of movie-related things to do: see the legendary swans of Bruges (check), visit the Groeninge Museum (check), see if the town really does have a Pizza Hut (check – it does).

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Bruges lit up at night: it’s easy to see why it’s in the running for the title of “Venice of the North”

My two days were filled with walking the cobblestoned streets, eating Belgian waffles and drinking Belgian beer. I wandered along the canals and stood in an insanely long line for a box of Belgian chocolates. For 48 hours I soaked up the atmosphere and the history of Bruges. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen and I’m so glad I did.

I guess I have Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson to thank for that.

What about you? Has a movie ever inspired you to travel? Where have you been and what made you want to go? Let me know in the comments.