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)


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?

COM0014 Blog post #2: How zombies have improved my writing

COM0014 Blog post #2: How zombies have improved my writing

Writing well is hard work. I have been in communications for nearly two decades now and even now, I’m still learning. And after 20 years in the industry, I learned my two favourite tips only in the last couple years, both of which are referenced in this week’s course reading:

  1. Passive voice vs active voice
  2. Asking questions

Passive voice vs active voice and how zombies can help.


Isn’t this guy cute?! You can get him on a shirt here:

One of my more recent assignments was to rewrite several hundred customer letters for a national bank. And no one likes passive voice more than a bank that doesn’t want to be blamed for anything. Everything was written in the passive voice: “the error was caused …”, or “the credit will be refunded…”, and the list goes on.

But here’s my zombie trick… if you can put “by zombies” where the action is taking place, then you have a passive sentence. “The error was caused… by zombies.” “The credit will be refunded… by zombies.” If there are zombies in your writing, then you need to rewrite!

Asking questions and generating discussion.

I took a training course in a methodology called “Kepner Tregoe.” Essentially, it’s a way of thinking to help determine the root cause of an issue, whether it’s a technology issue, or a personal issue, it can all be solved by KT. What stuck with me was the way they provoked thinking and discussion.

Instead of asking if anyone has any questions after a presentation, which is a closed question anyway, turn the question around and ask “What questions do you have?” This forces the audience to think back on the content, and uses an open question to push the audience into responding. It’s an effective technique and I find I use it all the time!

What tricks do you use to help you remember grammar rules? And… what questions do you have? 😉

COM0014 – Blog #1: My culinary tour of Toronto, Summer 2019


I don’t watch wresting but I can name all these WWE stars! Photo courtesy of

For Christmas last year, my partner and I gave our boys tickets to one of the biggest events in the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) calendar – Summer Slam. But we didn’t just get them tickets to the one pay-per-view event – we signed them up for the whole kit and caboodle, which was four (yep 4!) nights of wrestling events. It was going to be all wrestling, all the time… but not for me.

Sure, I enjoy the WWE on a soap opera level, but it’s not one of my favourite things in the world. On the contrary, one of my favourite things in the world is to eat out!

So instead of staying home in Ottawa while all the boys in my house left, I decided to join them on their Toronto adventure, but not for the wrestling activities. When they would head out to the Scotiabank Arena for their daily dose of choke slams and suplexes, I would head out to a different restaurant in a different part of Toronto to eat as many of the things as I could!

I live in a small town outside Ottawa and my kids are not culinary adventurers so this was my summer vacation!

  • I ate at the Irish Embassy on Yonge Street – classic Guinness and pub grub.
  • I ate at Rickshaw Bar on Queen Street – an Indian/Pakistani/African fusion restaurant, which was amazingly fabulous. The head chef escaped from an arranged marriage, and eventually made her way to Toronto. She’s only in her 30s and her “to-be” wedding dress is hung on the wall!
  • I ate at Banjara on Bloor Street West – a decades-only classic Indian restaurant where you could have your own private buffet at your table!
  • I ate at Chula Taberna on Dundas Street East – a Mexican restaurant that featured $5 margaritas and had the most delicious guacamole and burritos.

Yes, I ate it all. At the end of our four days, my boys were very full of wresting and I was very full of food. A win-win for everyone!

Enjoy food as much as I do? Where’s the best place you’ve eaten? What’s your favourite type of food?


Social media: The rise of the little guy

I live in a craft beer household, and I have for many years now. Craft breweries are a growing part of the beer fabric of the country – in Ontario there are now over 270 registered breweries, according to the Ontario Brewers Directory. However, they are still relatively small, especially when you think of the large conglomerates like Molson and Labatt, who themselves are owned by even larger conglomerates (Molson Coors and Interbrew, respectively). But even the small can be mighty when they feel threatened, and social media has a significant role to play in enabling those smaller groups to amplify their message.

Case in point – this week the Ontario PC government rolled out their “Buck a Beer challenge,” fulfilling a promise they had made on the campaign trail to lower the minimum price of beer to $1 from the current level of $1.25. (If you live in another province, or under a rock, click here for a recap of the news.)

Apart from the one brewery where Premier Doug Ford made his announcement, the response by the craft brewery industry was unanimously against the idea. Immediately the social media engines (which likely means 1 person at each brewery who does 5 other jobs) of the craft brewery industry sprung to life, denouncing the government “offer” to sell beer for $1.

Ottawa brewer proposes its own buck a beer challenge (Dominion City Instagram)

A full-on social media onslaugh ensued – the craft breweries were all over Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and more, telling their followers why they wouldn’t be participating in the “challenge.” From there, the impact spread to the traditional networks, with representatives from breweries around the province speaking to their local media, and in many cases, spreading to outlets across the province and the nation – all within a couple hours of the announcement.

Muskoka Brewery offers other buck a beer option (Muskoka Brewery twitter feed)

In the pre-social media days, sure the traditional media outlets would have picked up the story, and the local craft brewery spokesperson would have trotted out their message, but it wouldn’t have had the power that it does today, or the reach. As beer writer, Jordan St. John, noted on Twitter: “Coming through the #buckabeer channel. I think this might finally be the situation where Ontario breweries, regardless of @OntCraftBrewers membership realize they outweigh the government 260:1 on social media. Took you long enough.

What do you think? What other “little guy” stories can you think of where social media has helped them outweigh the “big guy?”

 The craft brewer vs the government – a story of the little guy on social media. #buckabeer #ontcraftbrewers

Goliath the government vs David the craft brewer – how does social media help the little guy?

Should our social media history haunt us?

Image from Psycho

Still from Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Psycho

Last week we were talking about personal brand, and the value of maintaining your personal brand through careful management of items that you post to social media. With that in mind, what do we do with posts that are from before we started cultivating a particular image? This is a question that I’ve been considering this past week thanks to two recent examples of social media past coming back to bite public figures where it hurts.

Example 1: Atlanta Braves pitcher, Sean Newcomb, has a great game and a fan on the opposing team goes digging through his Twitter history to find a few offensive posts from when Newcomb was a senior in high school. On a side note, following this, a Braves fan went digging through the Twitter accounts of all the Washington Nationals players looking to even up the score. (All the fun details are posted here in this article:

Example 2: James Gunn, director of the very popular Guardians of the Galaxy movies, has some of his old tweets called out for offensive language (You can read this one summarized here:

This is not an uncommon occurrence in this day and age. As noted in the above article, any agent worth their salt will take their first task upon hiring to go through their new client’s past history and delete tweets and anything that might have been posted when said person was young, and presumably, stupid. The author of the article, Barry Petchesky, went on to say, “This is not ‘covering up’ bad stuff, mind you, but a proactive acknowledgement of what players are currently admitting only after the fact: that they’ve changed and matured since high school.”

But here’s my problem with that argument – what if they knew better then and still posted the comments? Or, what if, even today, they don’t think there’s anything wrong with the comments? Sure, they trot out the old song and dance with the company about how bad they feel and the sensitivity and diversity training that they will take, but that doesn’t mean much if the person in question doesn’t really feel they did something wrong.

There’s another interesting element here that I want to discuss as well. In the second example, James Gunn was fired by Disney after the old tweets came back to light. Well, yea, of course Disney did. That’s standard company protocol these days, and Disney was likely expecting to be congratulated for it – similar to what happened when ABC fired Roseanne Barr a couple months ago. But here’s the interesting piece – many people, including the actors on the films who have a very public voice, derided Disney for firing Gunn and want him reinstated (“Marvel stars want James Gunn rehired despite his vile tweets“).

I can only imagine what’s going on in the executive suites there as they try to balance public opinion with doing what’s right.

So, we’re back at the question at the start – should our history haunt us? If something from our past comes back to life as we’re older and (one would hope) wiser, should we have a free pass because it’s from our youth, or is it something we should be held accountable for, even today? Or, even more challenging, does it matter what it was that we did/said?

Facebook Logo Should our history haunt us? Are we responsible for the ghosts in our social media closet?

Twitter Logo Should our history haunt us? Should we acknowledge our social media history or delete it? #socialmediaghosts