COM0015 – Blog #4: Out of the box and into the social media sphere

Everyone knows – well, hopefully everyone knows – that once you put something out there on social media, it’s out there forever. There’s no taking it back because a screenshot can live forever.

The person you portray on your various platforms is the person most of the world will see you as. Not just your posts, but your likes and dislikes, your music and movie preferences, your employer and alma mater. It’s all there to find.

And social media platforms and marketing experts have figured this out – and are taking


Newspaper ad buys are steadily decreasing as companies turn online and to social media.

advantage of it in a big way. I didn’t realize until recently just how targeted a marketer could be when building an advertising campaign on social media. But every bit of information you put online can be used to find you and try to sell you something.

A Facebook ad campaign, for example, can target people living in certain areas, with a specific job title, who like pages A and B, who like pages A and B but not C. The list goes on and on. Marketers can now reach the exact audience that they want for a very affordable cost. In the old days (less than a decade ago) they would have had to spend huge amounts of money on an ad buy and hope that the right people saw it amongst the masses.


Is this the new face of the polling industry?

But I’m also amazed at the other ways in which our social media information is being used. Polling firms that use artificial intelligence to scan social media platforms are far more accurate than traditional telephone polls. This new system can analyze a person’s feed and determine their opinions – some which they may never have the courage to tell a stranger on the other end of a call.

The information on social media says so much more about us than we even realize. It can tell a company what we’ll buy, or a pollster how we’ll vote. Organizations that figure this out sooner rather than later will produce more effective campaigns for much less money.

And maybe we’ll start to see Facebook ads for things we want to buy.

All photos courtesy of

COM0014 – Blog #7: Storytelling is good for the soul…and blog

Everyone loves a good story. Who doesn’t have childhood memories of bedtime tales that start with “once upon a time…” and end with “happily ever after”? We tell stories to StockSnap_KI0YU7B6O7amuse, to delight, to frighten, and to explain. And when combined all together, a well-told story can be an effective tool.

The simplest reason why storytelling is important is that it makes people want to listen. If your story is interesting enough, your audience will stay and read. And when they’re finished they may even comment on your story – or share it with their friends and followers. A good story is the hook to get people interested and excited in your content.

No matter how niche your blog may be, you will always be competing for your audience with someone else doing the same thing. Your storytelling ability is what can set you apart. If your reader is interested not only in the content but how you’re telling it, they’re more likely to stick around. And come back tomorrow.

StockSnap_5O5E77VOMXI want to engage my audience with tales from my travels. Which is convenient, because really, in the end, your stories are the best souvenirs you can bring home. And possibly, by sharing these stories with the world, I can inspire others to set out on their own adventures.

I don’t have ridiculously inspiring or far-reaching stories to tell. Mine are simple, funny anecdotes. Stupid and silly things that have happened to me. From a late night in a pub in Northern Ireland to a rainy rollercoaster ride in Copenhagen, they’re simple and (hopefully) amusing stories. But they’re mine. And maybe, just maybe, someone reading will decide it’s time they made some of their own.

The End.

Images courtesy of

COM0014 – Blog #6: Shaped by my hometown…and too much TV

My childhood made me a dreamer. I dreamed of moving away and seeing the world. I dreamed of doing great things and making my mark. Honestly, I really just dreamed of living like the people on TV – hanging out in coffee shops, living in fabulous big city apartments. Yes, when I say people on TV I really just mean the characters on Friends.

I grew up in Whitehorse, Yukon. The capital of a territory with a population of 30,000. It’s a beautiful place to grow up. But also a place that made me feel like escape was necessary. I wanted a bigger life than I felt was possible in a town where everyone knows everyone else.


The view from my childhood home in Whitehorse.

When I graduated from high school I moved to Ottawa to go to school at Carleton University. I’m sure most people would not count Ottawa as the “big city” but I loved it. The extensive and (mostly) reliable public transportation, the office buildings over four storeys tall, the Starbucks on every corner – I felt like I was in heaven.

Since I was eighteen, every choice I’ve made has been rooted in my desire not to move back home. When I graduated and couldn’t find a good job right away, I worked in retail – because at least I was working in a real city. While all my friends from high school were giving up and moving home, I was determined to set down roots here – the capital city not of the territory, but of Canada.


The view from my Ottawa apartment…on the 19th floor.

It’s now more than a decade later. I’m working in a job that I love. A job that I not only enjoy, but feel passionate about. A job that occasionally sees me rubbing shoulders with politicians, journalists, executives – the city’s elite. And I have to take a moment and think about how far I am from home.


There are over 5,000 kilometres between Ottawa and Whitehorse. But sometimes it feels like a different planet. When I go back to visit I’m happy and proud to talk about the life I’ve built so far away. And when I come back to Ottawa I’m always happy to be home.

I may not live in an apartment in the West Village, or spend all my time drinking lattes on a coffee shop couch. In real life, who has time for that? But I do feel like I’ve been successful in building a life I always wanted. And I have growing up in a northern town – and a television show about six best friends – to thank for that.

COM0015 – Blog #3: Meeting over LinkedIn and a latte

For over a decade I despised LinkedIn. I resisted setting up an account. I ignored friends’ suggestions that it would be good for my career. I happily deleted unsolicited emails asking me to connect. And I rejoiced when I heard stories about people leaving the platform.

And then I got a new job. A job for which I’m qualified at least in part because of connections I’ve made in my previous work history.

A job in which I’m required to reach out to these contacts. And develop new ones.

StockSnap_JZTRVCLRJPI’m now a LinkedIn devotee. I scour the My Network page to see who I can connect with that will be a good contact to have – and who could possibly introduce me to someone else I should k

now. I’ve come to appreciate the value in knowing their work history, their previous experiences, their educational background. If nothing else, it makes it easier to start a conversation.

And I’m finding that conversation is best done in person. Reaching out is important, but meeting face to face is critical. Usually, there is a bit of reconnaissance that goes into preparing for the first meeting. Often it’s checking out their Twitter feed and/or Facebook pages to get a feel for their interests and their attitudes.

So LinkedIn and coffee are now my two main tools for developing relationships with key partners. It’s definitely a simple strategy, but it seems to be working.

Business agreement handshake at coffee shopI’ve been able to reconnect with people I haven’t spoken with in a while, catch up on what they’ve been up to, and let them know where I’m at. So it’s been good professionally, but also personally. It’s always nice to see old friends again.

In the coming months there are individuals I know it will be crucial for my organization to develop a relationship with. My goal is to establish these connections – and make them meaningful and productive. I don’t just want to have coffee with these people. I want something to come out of it.

If I’d known what I know now, I would have created a LinkedIn profile when I first entered the workforce. And I would have connected to everyone I met along the way. Obviously, I can’t redo it. But I can start now and build from there.

And Ottawa’s a small town. It shouldn’t be too hard to connect.


COM0014: Blog #5 – Independent and proud of it.

I’m independent. My mother has been telling me that since I was 10 years old. It felt like a compliment then, although I wasn’t sure. Now I’m confident that it was. So today when people tell me that, I just smile and say, “I know.”

My independent streak has what’s allowed me to book a flight to Europe and head out on my own, just me and my backpack. It’s what’s allowed me to travel the way I want and see the things I’ve always wanted to. What’s allowed me to sit alone in a cafe and people-watch, or spend a whole day at the Louvre when most people are breezing past the most famous works. Or eat a whole box of Ladurée macrons on my own.


Who would really want to share, anyway?

I love not being dependent on anyone to do the things I want to do. I’m happy that I don’t have to rely on anyone else’s schedule to travel the world.

Not that it hasn’t gotten me into trouble. Because independence often goes with pride, and pride leads to not asking for help when you need it. Like asking for directions. Or asking which train is headed to Antwerp and which is headed to Amsterdam.


Don’t worry, I made it to Amsterdam.

But independence is freedom. People often think independence means wanting to be alone, but it doesn’t. It means being comfortable with yourself when you are. And I’ve learned how to do that…and how to do that on a different continent.

People all use different words to describe me: dry and witty, quiet and shy, smart and capable. But the common adjective is always “independent.” And I’m definitely proud of that.

All pictures are mine.

The Swift Hand of Social Media Justice

It’s often been repeated that anything you post online can live forever. Never post anything on social media that could embarrass you at a job interview or at your next family reunion. But people often fail to recognize that it goes further than that – anyone can post anything about you on social media. Anyone can snap a photo with you in the background, and you can be caught in something you never intended to end up online. We truly live in the age where the world is watching.

This was definitely the case this past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia – the site of a white nationalist, KKK, Nazi gathering that turned deadly when a car slammed into a crowd of civil rights protestors. The power of social media was harnessed to identify attendees at the rally and call them out for their racist and hateful views.

Photos with faces clearly visible were posted online. A Twitter user going by the handle @YesYoureRacist promised that if he was sent the names and profiles of alt-right rally-goers he would “make them famous.” And people delivered.

Identities of the men who were there quickly became public. Some of lost their jobs, and some of have been disowned by their families. And based on their extracurricular activities, there’s nothing wrong with that. When people demonstrate in public they can – and should – be called out if their views are hateful and repugnant.

But – what if social media gets it wrong?

In 2013, after the Boston Marathon bombing, social media users incorrectly identified a university student as a suspect, based on an image of the finish line. He was innocent of any wrongdoing, but his family quickly started receiving death threats and racist messages.

What’s the lesson here? Maybe that social media can be used to stand up to bigotry and hate. These platforms can be used to call out discrimination and make people accountable for it. But it’s not without risks. And it’s certainly not foolproof. People power social media and people make mistakes. But when people do get it right, social media can be an undeniable force for good in the world.

Just remember: even if you don’t use Twitter or Facebook, someone you know does. Someone out there can identify you and in an instant the world can know your name.

There’s no such thing as anonymity anymore.


After #Charlottesville social media delivers justice to white supremacist attendees. Read more:


After the events in Charlottesville, social media users took to Facebook and Twitter to call out white supremacists by name. Are these platforms the new foundation for delivering social justice? Read more here:

COM0015: Blog #2 – Social Media and the Political Process

Social media is an excellent way to involve citizens in the political process. By keeping them well-informed and engaged, they will not only be educated about what is happening but also more motivated to want to be a part of it. That means stating their opinions, making their voices heard, and ultimately, turning up at the ballot box.

The Senate of Canada has taken a big leap forward in employing social media as a way of keeping Canadians engaged in the governance of the Red Chamber. In March they partnered with Twitter, an agreement which will see select committee meetings live streamed on Periscope. The Senate also live-tweets events procedural events and votes. And all senators are identified by their Twitter handles.


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

This is a significant evolution in the parliamentary process – particularly from an institution typically viewed as being, well, behind the times. Using Twitter allows the Senate to reach out to a younger audience, one who might not know much about what they do or how it may affect their lives. And using a senator’s handle to identify them also gives the public a way to communicate directly with them, automatically making them more personable and approachable. It democratizes the upper chamber which has typically been viewed as the most undemocratic branch of our government.

The next best thing to having our political institutions utilizing social media is having our, well, media use social media. The New York Times has done an excellent job of making their Facebook page a destination for news lovers – not only in the United States, but everywhere.

The NY Times posts stories frequently on their Facebook page and on Twitter, but they also actively involve their followers in story creation. They use their audience as a resource. Often, when covering a topic they will solicit their Facebook followers feedback. For example, if they are writing a story about gender discrimination in the workplace, they will post on their Facebook page asking for people to share their own experiences. They make the news feel less like a reporter-reader relationship and more like a community sharing of information.


Courtesy of

The New York Times also utilizes the Facebook Live platform frequently, for everything from exclusive musical performances to discussions about topical issues. Their weekly discussion series #RaceNYT is a half-hour live broadcast on Facebook that looks at race relations in the US. Often these conversations involve readers sharing their own experiences. The videos are hosted by a New York Times journalist and they take questions from readers in the comments section. They are giving their audience a role to play in the news, not just telling them what is happening.

While there are organizations that are clearly adept at moving the conversation forward using social media, others have not quite caught up. iPoliticsLive is the live journalism branch of iPolitics – an online political news publication based in Ottawa. It provides a new and inventive way to deliver the news to Canadians, but it’s social media outreach certainly needs some work.

In some ways, it is very advanced. iPoliticsLive presents events around a specific issue with a journalist interviewing a panel of experts live in front of an audience. Broadcast free on Facebook Live, the events are available for anyone to watch. They use a new technology called Slido which allows users to enter the event hashtag, ask questions and vote on questions they like. The audience then becomes the interviewer.

Where iPoliticsLive does a poor job of utilizing social media is in promotion for itself. Twitter is used infrequently and then only to live-tweet during events. And Facebook is used only to post links to an upcoming event page on Eventbrite. But they could be doing so much more.

Their social media should be engaging their audience, and reaching out to potential followers who would be interested in their upcoming events. By starting to post more frequently, and asking questions about what new topics should be covered, they will get a better feel for what is important to Canadian citizens.


Could social media activity be a mental health indicator?

There have been any studies done that indicate excessive social media use can have an adverse affect on users. Besides the addictive properties and the risks of cyberbullies, social media can have a decidedly isolating effect. When we see friends getting married, going on vacation, living the life we want to live…well, that can be a little depressing.

But is it possible that your own social media activity could tell your doctor when your health might be taking a turn for the worse. According to a new study, that just may be possible. By analyzing the frequency and types of photos that users shared on Instagram, scientists from Harvard and Vermont universities were able to accurately predict who was suffering from depression.


Science may be able to tell which one is suffering from depression – just by analyzing their social media posts

The potential implications are astounding. An app could notify a doctor that a patient may be slipping into a depressive state – before the patient even realizes it themselves. Someone at risk of a mental health illness might be able to receive treatment before they even know there’s a problem.

While it’s possible that social media is causing the problem in the first place, it comes as a bit of a relief that it may be able to diagnose it in the future. It seems that social media is developing a safety net for its users – which seems to make it a friend after all.


Could your social media activity help a doctor diagnose depression? Science says it may be possible


A new study says  your social media activity may be an indicator of your mental health. How could this be used to diagnose depression in the future?


COM0014: Blog #4 – Come on, everyone. Let’s movie!

It seems a little out of place that a television channel dedicated to the past is so adept at using technology to engage with their audience. But Turner Classic Movies – or TCM, for people in the know – has done an incredibly effective job of using social media to create and connect a community of classic movie buffs.


On their main Twitter account, @TCM uses this hashtag as a rallying cry to its followers – who are also the viewing audience. People come together to tweet their excitement about that night’s primetime showing or an ongoing event (Audrey Hepburn Mondays in May, anyone?).

Thanks for the memories…I mean retweet

The @TCM account is also very active in liking and retweeting posts from their followers and other accounts using their hashtags. By making their audience feel valued and appreciated, TCM is ensuring that they will keep tuning in to their channel…instead of just turning on Netflix.

Grab the popcorn and let the live-tweeting begin!

Overall TCM has done a great job of engaging a younger, more youthful audience than you might except the channel to attract. Often it’s young, on-air hosts will live-tweet a movie so that it feels like you’re watching the classic with a group of your friends. As someone who’s friends don’t understand the appeal of black-and-white films, I definitely appreciate the feeling of community this provides.

I love classic movies and have loved them for more than a decade. But to be able to share that love and talk about it with a group of people has not always been easy. TCM uses its social media channels to create spaces on their various platforms where this is possible. Because the best thing after watching a great classic movie is being able to gush with someone about why it was so great.

But just a heads up: you always have to supply your own popcorn.



Is a curated social media presence the new superpower?


Banksy quote on display at the Moco Museum in Amsterdam

“I don’t know why people are so keen to put the details of their private life in public; they forget that invisibility is a superpower.” – Banksy

 Would it really be possible for Superman to survive in today’s world of iPhone cameras, Twitter and Instagram? Would Clark Kent truly be able to sneak into a phone booth to change into his alter ego? Would he even want to? In today’s world, would he be more likely to do a before-and-after shot to see how many likes he could get on Facebook?

Invisibility may have once been a superpower people longed for, but I think that time has passed. Anyone without a definitive presence on social media now looks suspicious and often begs the question: what are they hiding? Prospective employers will Google potential employees to see what their posting on their various social media platforms. If they find nothing, that will likely be just as bad as discovering a trove of glassy-eyed party photos.

Even Banksy, the infamous and anonymous graffiti artist, took to social media to publicize his New York residency in 2013. Although it could never be definitively proven that it was Banksy behind these accounts, it seems more than likely that it was – and a verified Instagram checkmark seems to back that up.


Hammer Boy, one of the few surviving pieces from Banksy’s 2013 NYC residency

Despite the fact that he has often used his art to rail against the effects social media has on society (such as Nobody Likes Me and Mobile Lovers), the artist owes a great deal of his popularity to the online world. His art has been shared and retweeted countless times all over the globe. And by taking his social media presence into his own hands, Banksy was able to publicize his work on his own terms and attempt to take control when it was seen and how it was seen.

It seems that the most famous street artist in the world, known both for his ability to remain anonymous in the 21st century andhis biting commentary on the downfalls of social media, may have discovered the happy medium between social media overexposure and no exposure at all.



Has carefully curated #socialmedia replaced invisibility as a superpower?  #Banksy may figured this out


With social media taking over the world, invisibility may no longer be considered a superpower. Even #Banksy, the world’s most famous – and anonymous – street artist is now on Instagram. Find out more: