COM0014 – Blog 3 – Spotlighting Canada’s Alternative Living Movement

When I was working as a reporter in rural Ontario, I had the opportunity to learn from several collectives of people who were living alternatively in every sense of the word. These individuals had their own way of cooperating, building homes, gardening, cooking, earning a living, as well as raising and educating children.

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I was in awe that a person could:

So much to share Kids

For the last decade, I have wanted to travel across Canada and tell these kinds of stories – stories of people living authentically alternative lives and teaching others to do the same. I want to use my blog as a platform for people to teach their skills of homesteading, community building and living simply to Canadians of all ages, who are from all walks of life. I want to visit families, individuals, newcomers and communities in both urban and rural Canada where life is being lived a little differently than the norm. I want to write stories, features and profiles, shoot video, take photographs and write lists on everything from “how to” and “try it this way” to “never again.” I will also promote products and services that are truly valued by the people I visit – everything from healthy recipes and products to mindfulness techniques. I want to facilitate daily social media engagement that will offer everyone a chance to participate and teach one another. I also want to hear who and what inspires readers to grow towards their greatest good.

Target audience

My audience will have a passion for sustainability, healthy living, taking care of their families, their property and living consciously. I know that like myself, most Canadians do not want to give up their cellphone, Internet, running water or jobs. Many of the blogs I see are targeted towards Millennials finding themselves after exiting the rat race and living like nomads. I want my blog to also reach those who want to continue living in the norm but who are curious about “doing things differently.”

Demographics

From my research, my audience profile is most likely betweeRrin the ages of 20 and 50; more often females with college and university degrees, who are holding managerial positions. My readers are modern, liberal, and innovative and often buck tradition. I feel the best way to reach my audience is through:

  • Captivating photography and video
  • Authentic, sharable and fact-finding blog posts
  • Product reviews
  • A directory of alternative businesses (grouped by region)
  • Lists! Who doesn’t love a good list in this demographic?
  • Social media – regular posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube

I hope to capture the attention of more than just my target demographic and help educate Canadians on the many ways one can live a good life.

 

COM0014 – Blog #2: Bite-sized content makes reading more digestible

COM0014 – Blog #2: Bite-sized content makes reading more digestible

Capturing and holding a reader’s attention in the digital age is requiring more and more imagination from today’s writers. With our busy schedules, many people often grab their snippets of news and entertainment while commuting, scrolling through social media or between commercial breaks. They don’t want to dedicate a lot of time to critical thinking – they want the Coles Notes version – and as writers, it’s our job to leave our audiences wanting more.

As an aspiring creative writer, I was thrilled to learn about a new mobile app called Tap that has recently been unveiled by the Toronto-based company Wattpad. The app offers short stories in a multitude of genres that allow you to feel as if you are observing another person’s private message thread in real time.

The stories are written just like a conversation – often quite witty and personable. With pictures and emoji’s abound, the stories leave readers tapping for more.

App to provide free social publishing platform

In the coming weeks, Wattpad Tap will give indie authors the ability to publish their own short stories and share them on social networks (similar to the original Wattpad platform). With over 125 million taps recorded in the past few weeks, the Tap app offers writers another venue to share interactive stories and generate a following. It also aims to get Hollywood involved, such as with these stories called Drunk & Hangry with Chrissy Teigen or Barack and the Trump Train. Like on Wattpad, interactive story writers can go on to sign book deals and even see their work on the Silver Screen as they have already proven to captivate millions (even billions) of followers. Unlike traditional publishing houses, Wattpadd offers a platform where 10,000 stories are uploaded every 12 hours and a diversity of creativity is available to everyone – anywhere & anytime.

The Future of Storytelling

Storytelling is ingrained in our DNA. It’s something that has allowed us to preserve our history, understand one another and stay connected. From Caveman symbols to ink on paper and now text-style storytelling, the digital age is undoubtedly changing the face of writing in the modern world.

There is no question people love entertainment and by making reading a socially pleasurable experience, we can leave today’s readers wanting more. Wattpad Tap is now hand-delivering us a new way to captivate readers with the written word – this time with bite-sized tidbits that are easy to digest.

What do you think of this style of creative writing? Do you think it’s something you would find pleasure in? Is it too simplistic or a great way to escape?

COM0014 – Blog #1: Different ships, same boat

It’s hard to imagine never having the opportunity to see a doctor. I often think about that when I start to become impatient after sitting for several hours in an emergency waiting room. I don’t know what I would do if I had to wait my whole life for a doctor to see me. For many people around the world, the doctor never comes. 2-boys

After spending a few short weeks in the Developing World, it’s difficult to return home without a broadened sense of appreciation for all that we have in North America. In 2008, I had the privilege of working alongside volunteers of the Guatemala Stove Project while we retrofitted a yellow school bus into a mobile medical clinic as part of the non-profit’s 10-year anniversary celebrations. The bus was supplied with health care necessities donated from hospitals across Ottawa & the Valley and was driven from Perth, Ontario to the highlands of Guatemala by some adventurous volunteers.

Every winter, the organization travels to the poorest regions of Guatemala to help build masonry cook stoves for Mayan families that traditionally cook and heat their homes with toxic garbage fires that are built in the main living and sleeping area of the home. The project helps alleviate the risk of individuals contracting respiratory illnesses (pneumonia, lung cancer etc.), blindness and burns by building vented stoves that are adapted to Mayan cooking methods. girl-with-light-2Project volunteers help hundreds of families each year with the support of generous donors and have expanded their aid to include microfinancing, building schools, supporting education programs, providing care packages to refugees and health care visits to extremely remote regions.

During my 10 days with the organization in Guatemala, I helped build masonry cook stoves for Mayan families and was honoured to hear the personal stories of the people we were working with. I learned that many of the Mayan people in Guatemala live on isolated reserves. The reserves have no running water or electricity and most families live in shacks and sleep on dirt floors. The Mayan communities are suffering from deforestation and lack agriculture, which results in most people living on a diet of corn and products derived from corn, like tortillas. Most of the of people I met were malnourished and many I’m told, die from respiratory illnesses by the age of 40.

One of the most heart-wrenching moments of my trip was meeting families who were living under tarps in a remote refugee camp. I was shocked to learn that they had lost their homes and communities during a mudslide caused by Hurricane Stan three years prior and still had no hope of rebuilding. refugee-campThe groups of citizens waited patiently to meet us and were excited to receive the little care packages we brought with us. They were very thankful for the gift of a new hair brush, tooth brush or toy. My heart broke having to leave them behind.

After a week into my trip, I had the chance to spend a day in the organization’s school bus medical clinic as it traveled into another rural community. It was evident from the moment we pulled up how dire the need for this clinic was. Teams of volunteer doctors and nurses worked hard to address each and every person who came in. Some patients had severe dental issues; others were covered in scabies from head to toe. I met a little girl who lost her ability to walk after she stepped on a piece of broken glass and her foot became severely swollen and infected. There was limited pain-alleviating medicine available to deal with these issues but the patients were so grateful to receive the help that they soldiered through. Health care is not something most people can afford in Guatemala. For those living beyond a major city, seeking treatment typically requires a lengthy journey to a hospital that the sick or injured cannot make.girl-with-cane

When I think back on my trip to Guatemala, I am reminded that my community is much bigger than my own back yard. I know the importance of showing solidarity to my fellow global citizens and the magnitude that even the smallest act of kindness can mean to someone who is struggling, whether near or far. In these current times of divisiveness and discord, I think it’s important to remember that we are all a part of the human race and our needs are the very same. In the words of Martin Luther King, “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” If we see a need in our local or global community, let’s do our best to meet it. Together, we can achieve greatness and make our world a better place.

Social media helps law enforcement extend reach and build public trust (blog 6)

Law enforcement in Canada is perhaps in need of some “rebranding” in the court of public opinion. Police officers across the country seem to be getting a bad rap in the headlines for their abuse of power, mistreatment of citizens and excessive use of force while vowing to “serve and protect” our great nation.

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Here are just few recent headlines that reinforce my point:

We all know how the negative actions of a few people can breed a sense of mistrust or prejudice about an entire group. Every day, police officers in Canada are putting their lives on the line to protect local citizens and most of them are doing a great job. In an effort to shine a more positive light on their public image, many police officers are taking to social media to re-engage with their communities, strengthen relationships and solve crimes.

Twitter posts make Toronto cop one of the most likeable public servants

Toronto Police Inspector Chris Boddy is gaining national attention for his social media use. Now being called “Toronto’s Twitter Cop” by city media outlets, Chris is working hard to “humanize” his department through relatable posts that demonstrate a genuine care and coChris Boddyncern for local citizens. His magic formula for engaging his community and more than 26,000 Twitter followers is humor, authenticity and likeability.

This fall, Chris received a retweet from Katie Couric about his back-to-school hashtag, which encouraged kids to extend their kindness to fellow students who were sitting by themselves in the cafeteria. Last year, Chris also had another viral tweet – my favourite by far – about the mysterious tunnel that was found near Toronto’s Rexall Centre and York University. The sophisticated mystery tunnel was called an “unusual find” by Toronto police for its seven-meter distance, reinforced ceilings and lights powered by a generator. Chris’ tweet on the matter read: If you built a tunnel near the Rexall Centre in #Toronto give us a call, k? 416-808-2222.” By demonstrating his sense of humour with these kinds of tongue-in-cheek remarks, Chris is building a loyal following online, in the media and out in the world.

Social media broadens community reach

When it comes to law enforcement, social media’s reach is “absolutely unprecedented” and as such, police forces are using it more than ever to ask for the public’s help. Through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, police departments across Canada are notifying citizens about missing persons, amber alerts and wanted criminals through the release of video security footage and images. They stress that civilians can be more forthcoming with information and tips on social media channels rather than over the phone or in person. They also say that people want to help and when it comes to something timely and gripping like an amber alert, it doesn’t take long for these matters to end up trending on several social media sites.

Departments are also using social media’s connectivity to raise awareness about things like impaired driving and also to alert citizens of potential dangers and public safety issues. Check out this Kindersley RCMP funny rap battle written to the tune of “Ice Ice Baby” that was used to raise awareness about snowy road conditions in Saskatchewan.

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Social media used to help solve cold cases

In 2014, Toronto’s cold case homicide investigation unit took to social media to help generate new leads on more than 500 unsolved murders in the city. Cc9haMvUAAAElcUOn Twitter, the unit is drawing attention to some of the case’s anniversaries and victim’s birthdays. This new technique has been shown to have some success in solving cold cases and bringing closure to some victim’s families.

Conclusion

Social media is proving to help police departments generate more trust and good will in the community and is surely providing another helpful resource to draw from. Now that many community police departments have amalgamated into larger units, the relationships between officers and local citizens are not as close. In this case, social media can help to increase visibility of a police department’s positive influence in the community, including their successes and public-outreach efforts. It also allows the community to directly reach out to local departments with questions, concerns and even tips about how police departments can better serve and protect the public at large.

Do you feel social media is being used effectively by police departments?

Would you feel more inclined to provide anonymous tips online then over the phone?

Do you think social media can help solve cold cases?

 

Virtual reality to change the face of social media (Blog 5)

Every winter, I watch my social media news feeds fill up with pictures of my friends who are travelling abroad. I watch with envy as they post about their seaside vacations, their mojito day drinking and the glorious sunsets that can be seen from their beachfront hotels. Outside my window there is another 20 centimetres of snow set to fall. It just doesn’t seem fair right?!

Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the world that virtual reality (VR) is about to change the face of social media forever. With the help of new VR technology, Zuckerberg says we will never have to miss out on these kinds of social opportunities again. In fact, we will have more opportunities available to us than ever before.

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“Pretty soon we’re going to live in a world where everyone has the power to share and experience whole scenes as if you’re right there in person,” he said in USA Today. “Imagine being able to sit in front of a campfire and hang out with friends anytime you want or be able to watch a movie in a private theatre with your friends anytime you want. Imagine holding a group meeting or event anywhere in the world you want. All these things are going to be possible.”

In 2014, Facebook paid $2 million to purchase Oculus Rift, a VR technology company, which has partnered with Samsung to produce virtual reality headsets and gear that will be available later this year. The social media giant now has teams working on social apps centered in virtual reality that will allow friends, loved ones and business associates — no matter how far apart — to feel like they’re conversing in the same place together.

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Zuckerberg says he sees a future where users can scan through their Facebook feeds while playing a virtual game with the help of VR eye glasses. For now, Facebook’s Oculus technology is being demonstrated with the use of 360 Video. The high-definition videos unveiled on Facebook last year, allow you to experience scenes from every angle and feel like you are fully present in that moment, such as in this clip from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Oculus VR recently released a new virtual movie-watching app called Oculus Social Alpha for use with its VR headsets and Samsung smartphones. The app will allow users to pick their own avatars and to “sit” with each other in a virtual theatre while taking in videos in real-time. In 2016, Facebook says we will see more publishers and brands creating video content with this new technology, which is hoped to pave the way for more VR-driven content on social media platforms. It is thought that ads featured on VR heads sets will likely grab more attention than standard video ads and will eventually become an advertising method of choice.

Recreate your image with the use of Avatars

Creating an avatar with VR technology will give users an ability to present the best version of themselves in a virtual world. It will provide the option of creating younger, slimmer or more glamourous-looking “twins” of ourselves. It can also map out our facial expressions, as well as mimic the movements of our faces, heads, hands, and our walk and even allow us to make eye contact while having a conversation.

Avatar

VR technology will additionally give users the option of creating entirely imaginary avatars and will facilitate social interactions in both “real” and fictional places – some even beyond our imaginations. Unlike in video games where you have to participate from the outside looking in, you can become completely immersed in the 360-degree experience of a virtual reality setting.

Is VR the best or worst development in technology?

Many people believe virtual reality will soon become the most addictive form of technology, as it will give users the ability to escape their daily lives and transport themselves to irresistibly amazing places and seductive experiences. Social virtual reality will also have the power to unite us like never before, but if we’re not careful, it could isolate us even more from real life.

Although still in the development stages, Zuckerberg says the marriage between virtual reality and social media won’t reach its full potential for about 10 years but he’s hoping VR will roll out to Facebook as soon as possible.

No matter how far away we are from adapting our daily lives into a new and exciting virtual world, you can bet this new technology will change the way we do just about everything. I, for one, am excited to see the limitless potential that virtual reality will have on our life experiences. I’m also looking forward to that long-awaited mojito on the beach. Or how about from the moon? That’d be one hell of a status update.

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Are you excited to try out VR technology?

How do you think VR technology will impact social media use/marketing in the next decade?

How do you think virtual reality will impact our future daily lives?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

 

Should we keep a better eye on kid’s cyber lives? (Blog 4)

I can only imagine the fear today’s parents must be experiencing around their children’s social media use. When I was growing up, the Internet was just becoming a household commodity and in many ways, parents and children were discovering this new frontier together. At that time, I don’t think many of us really understood the potential dangers lurking on the other end of our screens. As kids, we were trusting by nature and our parents, for the most part, were fairly removed from our online activities.

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As young teenagers, my girlfriends and I spent countless hours hiding away in offices and bedrooms so we could message back and forth in chat rooms and have real voice conversations on ICQ with people from the UK, Australia and Greece. In high school, one of my best friends began travelling up to five hours away to meet potential dates online. I often feared for her safety when she would lie to her parents about where she was staying and make her way to the city (she would jump on a Greyhound without anyone knowing). On one occasion, she was physically and verbally assaulted and even held against her will. Thankfully she’s made it out okay.

Today, there seems to be many more risks associated with young people using social media without parameters. We hear so much about cyberbullying, sexting, sexual predators, oversharing and the collection of personal information by companies and total strangers. Kids today can communicate with their friends online without their interactions ever really being seen or heard. They can take their smart phones to school, out in the world and behind closed doors and use apps like Snapchat where their activities are shared, then “deleted” in no time at all.

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Currently, you only have to be 13 years old to access Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Because you only need to fill in your birthday to start an account, it’s incredibly easy to fake your way online. As a result, millions of underage children are creating social media accounts and many are doing so with their parent’s consent.

social-media-age-restrictions

According to a 2014 study, more than 52% of 8-16 year olds on Facebook ignored the age limitations; 43% had messaged strangers, starting from the average age of 12. The poll pointed out that 21% of children had posted negative comments, starting at around age 11 and 26% had ‘hijacked’ another person’s account and posted without their permission. Of the parent’s surveyed in the study, only 32% said they felt ‘very confident’ about helping their children stay safe online.

This year, Sweden is eyeing the possibility of restricting social media access under the law on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to children as old as 16. Before this age, social media sites may only be accessed after a parent’s authorization. The regulation under review says that “children deserve specific protection of their personal data, as they may be less aware of risks in relation to the processing of personal data.”

Many parents feel that denying their children access to social media sites is unnecessary and even futile because there really is no way to stop them from getting online. But here are a few things to consider:

  • Companies may be collecting your children’s pictures, addresses, phone numbers, emails and physical location (which they wouldn’t legally be permitted to do with underage kids)
  • Social media photos have been found on websites containing child-exploitation material (innocent images can be photoshopped & sexualized)
  • Kids are less likely to talk about their troubles online if they are lying or are embarrassed
  • Hurtful comments online are proven to have lasting effects
  • Children are apt to make mistakes online because they don’t fully understand the consequences of their actions (how can what they say or do at 13 impact their college career?)
  • A child’s sense of curiosity is far more developed then their sense of caution

Precautions you can take

If you feel your child is ready to take part in social networking there are precautions you can take.  Here are a few pointers from parents who have real-life experience:

  • Discuss online safety at an early age & often
  • Don’t let young children browse unaccompanied
  • Learn how new applications work. If your child joins Snapchat then you should too
  • Ask to see who your children are following and what comes up in their news feeds
  • When a new social media app is downloaded, ensure the privacy settings are turned on
  • Explain that even temporary pictures and videos are not truly temporary and can be shared easily
  • To avoid disclosing your child’s location within a city block, ensure your location settings on the phone and apps are OFF

There’s no doubt many kids today know technology better than their parents do. In my day, it was important to teach kids about having street smarts but in 2016 we need to do more. Kids need to develop “web smarts” for their cyber lives and it appears the sooner we can prepare them, the better.

don't give up phrase on blackboard

Do you think age limitations are necessary for social media sites?

How do you talk to your kid’s about potential dangers online?

At what age would you let your children join Facebook, Twitter or Instagram?

Is your Internet usage under Ctrl? (Blog 3)

 

I have never fully embraced social media. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy having a connection with my friends and colleagues and staying informed about current events (both in the world and my personal network). I love tapping into a World Wide Web of music, art, culture, comedy, news, activism and conversations. However, I am always cautious about the capability social networking has to become a thief of time.

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After graduating from college in 2002, I began working as a reporter in rural Ontario. It took me awhile to embrace the slower pace of life but I soon became fond of living back in time. I learned to welcome chopping wood, living with a spotty Internet connection and no cellphone service. Many people I knew didn’t own TV’s and spent most of their “down” time working on hobbies or outside. I didn’t mind if the power went out because I could cook on the woodstove and in the summer, I grew my own garden and ate out of the blueberry patch in my backyard. Life had never been sweeter. But, however much I loved living in the wilderness and dreaming of becoming a pioneer, life took some twists and turns and I had to follow the money trail back to the city.

When I re-entered “modern society” in 2008, I noticed something strange had happened since I left. Everyone was on their cellphones ALL the time. I noticed that many people could no longer enjoy their own company and a cup of coffee in a café, or take the bus and appreciate the view, or catch up with friends without texting or checking Facebook. I watched couples sitting side-by-side at dinner (even at restaurants) scrolling through their news feeds and not really “being” with each other. I saw real-life moments passing people by and “quality” time falling by the wayside. I wondered when life had become so different.

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Fast forward to present day. After putting off getting a cellphone until 2012 (I know I’m one of those weirdos – honestly a good one though!) my work now requires me to carry a “smart” phone and be in touch all the live-long-day. As a result, I am now struggling with many of the same behaviours I once found so strange. When I wake up in the morning, I immediately check my phone for emails and texts and my social media for messaging. I spend breakfast scrolling through a newsfeed while my fiancé does the same. I spend parts of my afternoon and evenings getting distracted online. I continue to try and silence my phone after work but I still feel tethered to it. When it’s off I get anxiety about how many messages I’ve not responded to. I can only imagine what life would be like if I was connected to more than three social media sites.

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As much as our online networks connect us and create immense value, this connectivity and convenience comes at a cost and it seems we are losing our discipline to unplug, even for a short time. In the beginning, technology and social networking was supposed to help free up our time but in many ways it has had the opposite effect. More places to communicate = more time communicating. Instant accessibility = constant availability. Turning off = feeling left out and having to rationalise your need to take a break.

Once again, I’m not against the use of social media or technology. I’m for being in balance. Whether we’re working, sleeping, shopping, socialising or eating out – there is always potential for too much of a good thing.

Internet dependencies are on the rise all over the world. Take China, as an example. In 2014 the country implemented approximately 250 military-style boot camps to help teenagers ween off their Internet addictions (in large part to online games). The camps, led by former soldiers, were created to help teenagers regain their ability to participate in a normal life. Some kids cited playing online games for three days straight with only one hour of sleep.

In the UK, a study done in 2015 showed that young people aged 16-24 are spending just over 27 hours a week online – a statistic which has tripled since 2005. Other studies show that Canadians are the biggest Internet addicts in the world, spending 36 hours a month online. I don’t know how true these statics are but they do point to one thing – social media and the use of technology is on the rise and like any addiction, can start out as an occasional thing and quickly manage to take over our lives.

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Do you ever wonder if less screen time would make you happier? If you had more balance would you take more time for self-discovery and development? Are you losing touch with the outdoors, your food, your community or your loved ones?

According to some experts, you can create a better balance between the online world and real life by exercising some simple discipline.

  • Instead of having numerous social media accounts, focus your attention on only a few – the ones that are most important to your business or brand
  • Set a time for social media use and stick to it (an hour at breakfast or an hour after dinner)
  • Make sure to give yourself a daily timeout where you can disconnect completely and devote time to other important areas of your life
  • Keep your phone out of the bedroom
  • And lastly:

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Word of mouth – the most credible form of advertising (Blog 2)

blog 2 picWhen it comes to my purchasing decisions, I look to word-of-mouth recommendations more than anything else. Whether I’m looking for a new product or service, I often survey those around me or search out the opinions of others online. I’ll even go so far as to ask a perfect stranger on the street where I should get my hair cut on a whim (I travel a lot for work) and most often, I’m steered in the right direction. If I want to go out for dinner and try some new cuisine, I’ll read local “foodie” blogs, search through menus and follow up by reading customer reviews. I fully enjoy having my community weigh in on these decisions, even if my community is sometimes made up of total strangers.

Apparently, I’m not alone. For Millennials (consumers aged 18-34) word of mouth is a bigger purchasing influence than traditional advertising, which tends to have more of an impact on Baby Boomers. People of my generation are also more inclined to purchase items off social media websites if they see products “liked,” “shared” or “favourited.” I know for me, this definitely has an influence. Just last week, my friends were sharing experiences online about Paint Nites, Chef’s Plate, The Revenant and Joseph Gordon–Levitt’s collaborative production company, hitRECord. I have not actually bought any products off of social media sites thus far but do notice peer recommendations having a persuasive effect. I’m headed to a Paint Nite next week; I will definitely not be seeing The Revenant; I will be spending the weekend playing around on hitRECord but I am still up in the air about Chef’s Plate.

Social media buyers beware

At Christmastime, I continued to see Black Friday sales for Canada Goose jackets advertised on Facebook and it was hard not to take notice of such a great deal. I decided to do my due diligence and research the deal online. I learned that Canada Goose Jackets never actually go on sale and that the ad was a scam. My friends on Facebook relayed they had been swindled by this deal last year and that when they called their credit card companies, customer service agents responded with “Oh, the Canada Goose scam!” I posted a warning in the comments section of the ad on Facebook and saw that thousands of others had done the same. Despite this, I continued to see this ad running on Facebook until after Christmas. Social media sites have yet to build my trust when it comes to online shopping because it’s clear there are still kinks to be ironed out. However, I imagine I will change my mind about this sometime soon.

“Buy it buttons” provide greater consumer access

Pinterest has recently rolled out a “Buy it button” on millions of “hand-picked” products. This, I’m admittedly excited about because of the added social networking component. I really enjoy getting a visual on what my friends are cooking, reading and creating. If my friends and I are planning a camping/road trip in the near future, we can share ideas about what to bring, where to stay and then directly access those items. We can arrange ideas for dinner parties, gift exchanges, work out routines and DIY projects. “Buy it” buttons are now available on a variety of other social networking sites including, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. I think they’re a brilliant idea and are a practical vehicle for word-of-mouth recommendations.

Office deliveries offer a built-in audience

A shift is now happening with online shopping delivery locations, which is increasing opportunities for word-of-mouth marketing. Instead of front-porch and mailbox delivery, many people are choosing to have their online purchases shipped to their workplace and companies are taking notice. With this shift, co-workers can become a “built-in audience” where products are connected to a person’s network in a tangible way and endorsed by trusted colleagues.

This word-of-mouth marketing opportunity is so simple yet so intelligent. Many of today’s consumers enjoy shopping online but still want to get a feel for the products. In the process, they look to their friends or online networks for opinions and advice. Still, many of us would rather test products out before buying, especially if they are expensive. Office delivery is a fantastic opportunity to do that. Some companies are now designing packaging with this in mind and including “wow factors” inside the box to drive more conversation in the workplace.

Impact on communication strategies

In my opinion, word of mouth is the most credible form of advertising available because often the people making recommendations or expressing judgement have nothing to gain. Most of us share our experiences with others because we want to help those around us make more informed choices and enjoy life. I, like most people, also enjoy hearing personal experiences with particular products and services (the storytelling component) and again, I’m not alone. Personal stories make reviews feel more trustworthy, even if we don’t know the person attached to the story.

I recently paid money to take part in a prison break at Ottawa’s Escape Manor because everyone around me (on and offline) was sharing their experiences about this new “form of entertainment” and I was convinced it would be fun. To be clear, I paid money to be locked in a tiny jail cell with five other people trying to solve obscure puzzles so we could break out and go back to the bar. I’m a perfect example that word-of-mouth marketing works. I would never have decided to do this on my own but didn’t want to miss out on something fun — something everyone was talking about.

With social media networking, global connectivity can occur at almost light speed6a00e55197a0e188330168e82dd69b970c-500wi. If companies want to widen their consumer base, they need to drive ongoing conversations online and at home, not only by starting discussions but by joining them. Creating relationships and encouraging customers to share their experiences is key to word-of mouth-marketing. Whether through email, phone, video, picture, Tweet or text, we are social creatures who love to share. All companies have to do is get us getting us talking. This strategy has worked for centuries and will continue to remain tried and true.

What product or service have you seen on social media recently that has you intrigued?

Do you trust word-of-mouth marketing more than other advertising channels?

What are your thoughts on “Buy it buttons?”

 

 

Still too taboo – How social media strengthens mental health advocacy

Last suFinal Taboommer my dad lost his battle against mental illness. Since my childhood he had struggled with a severe panic disorder, bouts of deep depression and alcoholism. As his family, we felt helpless in getting him the support he needed. After suffering for decades, my dad finally gave up.

In his early 40’s, my father began receiving regular therapy for his anxiety and depression and was whisked on a rollercoaster ride through a series of medications. There were times when he lost days of his memory from new drug trials and presented abnormal behaviours that not even he knew he possessed.

Once my dad finally received the right combination of medications, his panic and depression remained under control for many years. And for several stretches of time, his drinking did too. He attempted to hold down a job on many occasions after that (he even tried his hand at entrepreneurship) but couldn’t continue working for any length of time. When I was growing up, my father was a highly-functioning person – an iron worker, fisherman, gardener, water-skier and social butterfly. But after developing mental illness, he had trouble adapting to his new “normal.” He needed tools to conquer his fears and negative thought patterns but was scared to be re-medicated and to put his family and himself through hell once again. He had terrible experiences with the mental health system and was horrified of how experimental “treatment” still was.

In early 2014, when my dad finally went to seek treatment again, he was told there were no psychiatrists in our area taking on patients. He was told there were lengthy waiting lists for programming in the city and so he threw his name into the hat. By the time they called him for an appointment he was already gone.

In the fall of 2014, my dad’s panic disorder was in full swing and by December he’d completely retreated to his bedroom. His medication was not effective anymore after being on it for 20 years and he was waking up nightly with what he called “symptoms of a heart attack”. Doctors ran the full gamut of physical tests on him and concluded it was “all in his head.” He couldn’t catch his breath throughout the day, was often sobbing and was scared to death.

Eventually my dad got an appointment to see a psychiatrist over the computer from our local hospital (Tele-Health). The doctor made no changes to his medication and scheduled no follow-up appointments. When spring came, he drank heavily, forcing my mother to take a leave of absence and eventually leave her position of 36 years. He lost more than 50 pounds, could no longer walk, was becoming more delusional, depressed and even unpredictable. He refused to go in an ambulance when they were called and because he was cognitive, they couldn’t force him. He said he had given up and wanted to die at home. He wanted us all to honour his wishes. He threatened to hurt us if we committed him.

So instead, my mother found a group of friends, including doctors, nurses, addiction counsellors (even Jehovah’s Witnesses who continued coming to the door) to help care for him at home for free and for several weeks on end. My dad managed to ween off alcohol with a community of support around him, but he never recovered. In June, he was finally taken out by ambulance. At this stage, we learned that he was in liver failure – cirrhosis.

After being admitted for several weeks in our local hospital, he came around mentally (once the poisons in his liver were flushed out). I spent a great deal of time by his side and actually got to see my dad more like his true self again. We had some great talks. He apologized for his behaviour and said how sorry he was. He didn’t remember much of what happened. In July, his organs shut down. He took his last breath.

Facts about Mental Illness

Approximately, 20% of Canadians will experience mental illness in their lifetime (about 1 in 5) and the cost to our national economy is in excess of $50 billion a year. Mental illness encompasses a number of disorders such as anxiety, mood, eating, psychotic, impulse control and addiction, personality, obsessive compulsive and post-traumatic stress.

Approximately 2 out of 3 people in Canada suffering from a mental illness will not seek out the help they need because of the fear of being judged (stigma). Many times when they do, they are discouraged and fall through the cracks because of accessibility to services and overall affordability. What’s disheartening is that a Canadian Medical Association poll found that 51% of Canadians said they would not socialize with a friend who has a serious mental illness. Friends and family need to champion and advocate on behalf of their loved ones, otherwise they may never navigate their way through the mental health system and get the help they need. Loneliness and isolation exacerbate hopelessness.

Every day, approximately 11 people will take their own lives in Canada. Most people who attempt suicide want to live but cannot see another way to handle a situation that is overwhelming (90% of those who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental illness). I’m not sure if this statistic includes the slowest of suicidal tactics, alcoholism.

How social media can raise awareness and hope

The No. 1 way to improve the stigma of mental illness and increase funding in Canada is through education. Through the Bell Let’s Talk awareness initiative prominent figures like Olympian Clara Hughes, Comedian Howie Mandell and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are publically sharing their own struggles with mental illness. Through this awareness campaign, Canadians are also encouraged help end the stigma attached to mental illness by starting their own conversations online, at home and at work. Through education and openness (making personal struggles less invisible), we can create a supportive dialogue with each other and a stronger voice for mental health advocacy in Canada. It’s hard to deny the facts once you hear them.

The next Bell Let’s Talk Day is Wednesday, January 27, 2016.  Every time you Tweet a message of hope using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk or share the Let’s Talk image on your Facebook page the company will donate five cents to help fund mental health initiatives across Canada. This also applies to Bell customers who text or make long-distance phone calls that day. Bell’s aim is to raise $100 million for mental health programming by 2020. #BellLetsTalk was the #1 Twitter trend in Canada and worldwide on Bell Let’s Talk Day 2015.

How has mental illness affected you and your family?

Do you feel mental health services should be more of a funding priority in Canada?

Will you help continue the conversation?

Additional statistics provided by: http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/end-the-stigma/