Unexpected applications of social media

Spending the time focusing on social media through this and the other courses for the Social Media Certificate has certainly broadened my mind on how and where social media can be used.

The most surprising element to me is how broadly social media can be used for business. It can be used by the biggest enterprise or the smallest mom and pop shop. It can be used by non-profits, schools, businesses, basically any organization of any size at any time, anywhere in the world.

The other interesting aspect of it is that you don’t have to be a huge successful conglomeration to have a successful social media program. It is true that the smaller businesses may not have teams of people dedicated to their social media, but that doesn’t prevent those smaller businesses from developing an appropriate plan that targets their specific audience and builds content and metrics to support that audience.

I am curious to see how and where social media will continue to evolve. I do hope that it continues to maintain its nature of being a platform for all. Although, who knows, maybe there is a new platform for all right around the corner!

Assignment #5 – Professional Networking

On November 13th, I attended a networking event hosted by Canada Post on the topic of Data Visualization. It sounded like an interesting topic and there wasn’t much information shared in advance of the event so I signed up to attend. As I said, it sounded like an interesting topic, since I wasn’t quite sure what they meant by data visualization and thought it could be applicable to a number of different areas – social media, internal use, etc.

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Data Visualization as a topic was much simpler than I thought – it was essentially the idea that presenting data in a visual format is better than presenting it as numbers. Which, duh. Surprisingly, that was the essence of the presentation – I would have hoped for more items on different ways to showcase information, but that was pretty much it.

The presentation itself also had its share of hiccups. The primary presenter was based in the UK, but they were unable to connect with him via video conference so he was audio only. There were also technical challenges in the room which meant that those in the room couldn’t speak or interact with him – only those on the phone were able to – so as someone who was in the room, it was not a great experience.

Those in the room were a cross-section of Canada Post head office employees, with a number of reporting teams, communications professionals and more. I didn’t have a chance to chat with too many of them, apart from sharing looks about the relative ineffectiveness of the presentation.

Honestly, what I learned from the interaction was what not to do – don’t have someone present remotely without video and triple check and then triple check again all the audio requirements. It’s a difficult experience as an attendee when you don’t feel connected to the presenter at all.

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The one quotable quote that I took from the event was, “Presenting data visually allows for the viewer to quickly understand at a glance the point you are trying to make, without having to use unnecessary words or time to explain it.”

As for whether I will attend future presentations, I likely will, but from my desk and through the phone!

Professional Network – now and in the future

Developing a professional network has been something that I haven’t really dedicated a lot of time to, preferring to primarily use LinkedIn on a passive basis. I add colleagues from work and networking events, I update when I change jobs or achieve personal accreditation, but I do not use the platform to its full potential. That is one activity that I can definitely do more work on in the near future.

Additionally, I don’t use other social media as a way to develop my personal network as much as I could. I am typically a pretty passive social media user – preferring to “like” other posts and content but not developing my own. By developing a stronger online presence, I can do a better job of outlining a personal narrative that others might find compelling.

In person, it’s a bit more difficult as I live outside the city. But even within my work environment, I could do more social activities as there are a number of networking events hosted by the company I work for – I could even join some of those networking committees. I’m relatively new in my role, so once I develop a stronger understanding of my current responsibilities, I will be in a better position to volunteer my time to some of these initiatives.

I’m a bit of an introvert, in the real world and online, so the biggest thing I will have to do is push myself further!

Separating the strong from the weak

To me, a company that is doing social media well is one that is providing engaging content on a regular basis that also points either directly or indirectly to the products they are selling. I understand that businesses are only successful when they are able to sell their products, so I don’t have a problem when their social media posts link directly with their goods, but I find the best ones are the ones that do that in an interesting way.

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Beau’s Brewery in Vankleek Hill, Ontario, is one that I find manages their social media content well. In particular, there was a campaign a couple years ago where they were working to raise money to support a female-led brewery in Rwanda. For the period of the campaign, they were selling merchandise and experiences that linked directly to that charity initiative, but also promoted and sold their own brand as well. Some of the products for sale included branded clothing (again, promoting their goods when people wear them) and experiences like a tour of the brewery and special brewery dinners, which would promote their primary product to potentially new individuals. While the goal was to raise the funds for the Rwandan brewery, they were also able to promote their brand, so a win-win in their books.

ingeniumIngenium is another company that promotes its brands well. Ingenium is a collection of museums in Ontario that are operated under one banner (Science and Tech museum, Space and Aviation museum, and Nature museum). I find that their most engaging posts are the ones that uncover deeper stories about some of the exhibits that are either on display or coming soon to one of the museums. They have strong writers on staff and the articles they produce are interesting enough in their own right, but also drive interest to visit the museums and see the artifacts on which the stories are based.

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One organization that I think could do a better job in its social media is the BlackBerry Help twitter account. The only content that the account pushes out on a regular basis is a near-daily tweet that “they are there.” My presumption is that much of their traffic is handled through direct messages, however, there is no engagement with a regular BlackBerry user. The account could easily promote content around the latest product, tips and tricks with existing devices, handy features, and other useful tidbits that a device owner would find useful and drive engagement with the brand. Saying hello and/or goodbye on a daily basis does nothing to promote the brand or drive loyalty.

Listening and monitoring social media

Listening and monitoring social media

My two favourite social media trend listening and monitoring tools are:

  • Google Alerts
  • Twitter (search function)

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For social media trend listening and monitoring I like Google Alerts for a few reasons. The main reason is that I spend a lot of time on my email – so it’s handy that the Google Alerts are delivered to my mailbox through push notifications rather than my having to pull information from various sources on a daily basis. In addition, I like it because I can choose what keywords and businesses that I want to follow and the Alerts push only those specific compilations to my email.

I also like Twitter, because similar to email, I spend quite a bit of time on Twitter and I like the search function so that I can uncover why certain stories or keywords are trending. Often I don’t see where various trends start and only catch vague references so the search function, as well as the top trending subjects, are very helpful.

My two favourite sources of news and updates are:

  • CBC News via Twitter
  • Linked In app

For news, I use the news source of record for most Canadians – CBC. I have a journalism background and am pretty particular about the sources of my news since I understand the different types of “spin” that journalists and columnists put in their writing based on the newspaper or news media who pays their salary. The feeling of being able to trust the source of your information is very important in this day and age.

From a professional development perspective, I tend to use LinkedIn. Having a long and extensive work history means I am able to benefit from a varied group of contacts through that platform (which I tend to invariably access on my mobile device). It is incredibly useful to follow the career paths of people I admire and want to emulate, as well as to see upcoming job postings and opportunities.

My current role doesn’t have a social media element, so much of my use of social media is from these personal and professional networking standpoints.

The importance of telling stories

Storytelling is important to creating great digital content because it forces the creator of the content to think of the audience and to think of the best way to tell the story. The best stories are the ones that are told in a compelling fashion, using tones and voices that are familiar to the reader – resulting in content that keeps the reader interested and engaged. Ultimately, with social media, the end goal is to turn the reader into a buyer and consumer of the product so strong storytelling can resonate with the reader and influence their purchasing decisions.

In terms of content, I’m a big fan of themes for content. It allows the creator to structure their posts in a way that makes sense to the reader and can help to organize thoughts and ideas so that posts are concise. Well-constructed themes also lend themselves to well-constructed key messages and calls to action, that give cues to the reader and lead them down the path that you have laid out for them.

The kinds of stories I want to tell are ones that are helpful and aren’t written in a way that imposes or forces a decision on the reader. They convey thoughts that are suggestive, using a friendly tone and voice. This is a strong element of my writing, thus making it easier to create content and posts because they come from a place of truth. I look forward to using this voice more as I create more content online in future.

My favourite customer story – Turning disappointment on its head

Disappointment is a fact of life that we all grow up with. Get something you didn’t want for Christmas? Order something online but it didn’t fit? Sure, we’ve all been there. But how often has that story turned around, and when it does, isn’t it the best thing ever?

My friend had booked tickets for a music night, sponsored by a brewery, at a local eatery. It was music featuring his favourite band, at his favourite restaurant, sponsored by his favourite brewery – he was beyond excited. He booked a babysitter, did all the things to get himself ready, but the event was abruptly cancelled the week before it was scheduled to occur. No reason was given, refunds were offered, but my friend was gutted.

As you do in this day and age, he took to social media to express his disappointment. He tweeted at the brewery and the restaurant, resigned to his fate, but still wanting to share his voice and his experience. Low and behold, he received an answer – and what an answer it was!

The brewery reached out to my friend, shared their disappointment in the cancellation, and offered an alternate evening. They welcomed him out to the brewery for a free tour and tasting, and offered to provide a 5-course meal prepared by their in-house chef, to be held at the brewery co-founder’s house. Who could turn that down?

The night turned into a night that my friend couldn’t forget (and he often reminds us of his good fortune). Not every company can offer that, but it is an example for good companies to go that extra mile to replace disappointment with an experience no one can forget!

Blog Post #5: My Personal Brand

My son recently had an assignment similar to this and he asked me what I thought were his most prominent characteristics. So I thought I would ask him the question right back. I was gratified by what I heard – not only that he said good things, but that Thinkinghe didn’t feel pressured to say all good things. But here are some of our thoughts (I meshed his and mine), about my personal brand.

Dedicated – Once I commit to something, that’s something that’s going to happen. Sure, I may procrastinate, but it will eventually be done. My two sons are actively involved in a competitive soccer club that is about a 30-minute drive from the house, and rain or shine, we are always there and we are always there on time.

Thoughtful – When considering actions or activities, I invariably take the time to understand the impact on others. There may be times when I do that too often, or when unnecessary, since I often put others’ needs ahead of my own. The trick comes in the execution – so I try not to sacrifice my own requirements to serve others.

Tough but fair – this one is particularly relevant for the family life, but I also try to keep strong boundaries at work as well. Being a Libra, it’s all about the balancing act for me. When can I bend, and when do I need to stay strong.

This was an interesting and, ultimately, valuable exercise to do with my kid. In everything I do, I try to set a good example so it is good to have these conversations to try to understand what people think of you as there are always opportunities for improvement.

B2C Case Study – SOBDL

B2C Case Study – SOBDL

sobdlThe B2C business that I will be reviewing today is the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies (SOBDL). This business operates within an online model, as they do not have a physical brick and mortar storefront. This also requires the business to fully leverage social media as their primary marketing mechanism, which they do quite effectively.

The business operates a couple of revenue generating streams – one is festivals and events that they host and organize in Ontario (primarily in Toronto though they have recently expanded to Ottawa and Hamilton) and the other is merchandise through the etsy platform.

Since the SOBDL does not have a storefront they actively use social media to promote their events and their merchandise. They operate on a number of different platforms including YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Untappd.

I think their social media choices work well for their primary audience of women (and those who identify as women) beer drinkers. While some social media sites are almost required for any company these days (Instagram, Twitter and Facebook), their use of more niche sites like Pinterest (popular among women with 70% of users being female) and Untappd (focused on beer drinkers) are tailored for their audience and more likely to generate a higher engagement.

Their social media also works because of the high-level of attention that their administrators give to their platforms on a regularly basis. They offer new content on a weekly basis and they have a high response rate to questions and posts. They are attentive to their audience, they are good at what they do and it shows!

Blog post #3: Craft beer: It’s not just for white dudes anymore

When thinking about the characteristics of the typical beer drinker, you might be forgiven for focusing primarily on white men. That’s how the demographics of the traditional beer audience were highlighted for decades in traditional advertising among the big international breweries. But in the past several years, with the rebirth of the craft beer industry, the audience has been expanding in diversity. With that expansion, innovative social media practitioners can expand beyond the traditional white male audience.

The other 50% of the world – women

In an effort to be more inclusive, many breweries are now focusing their hiring efforts on women brewers. Not surprisingly, this also brings along women drinkers, who have traditionally been sidelined where it comes to beer advertising. One online group that has expanded into physical events is the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies. It started in Toronto with a pair of women who wanted to build a supportive environment for women who drink beer. They have now expanded to hosting their own events exclusively for women and those who identify as women, and they have expanded beyond Toronto into Hamilton and Ottawa. They use traditional social media – Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – to connect with their audiences, augmented by the in-person events.

Broadening the diversity conversation

In the past several years, there has been a growing audience beyond the traditional white male audience to include people of colour in the conversation. However, the problems of social media of racist and sexist behaviour are also colliding with this movement. There are still bright lights of optimism. The hashtag #IAmCraftBeer came into existence earlier this year when a black female drinker posted a vile commentary that she had received. By posting her experience, she rallied hundreds to the cause, resulting in the hashtag promotion of diversity in the beer drinking culture. This successful grass roots campaign can only benefit those companies who also seek to promote diversity in their operation or their clientele.

With this in mind, while it is important to be able to identify your main audience, it is also valuable to identify the audiences that are trending to increase. This enables the savvy social media practitioner to proactively take advantage of those new territories and increase the reach of their content.

What do you think? What is another audience that remains untapped by beer advertising?