COM0015 – Blog Post #4: Out of the Box

The world of online marketing and social media is so much more vast than I every could have imagined. It’s been an eye-opening year for me since I started this certificate. As a Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat-addict, I thought social media was easy and mindless. I signed up for this certificate primarily to get experience with online communications, but also because I thought it would easy (shhhh!) paper-proof that I knew how to talk to people on Facebook.

Little did I know the world of social media I was about to enter. I was happy to learn all about how to apply social media to businesses, but I think the biggest takeaway for me was how to use social media to build my personal brand. Maybe this isn’t unexpected for a lot of people, but since I now realize how basic my social media use was, LinkedIn has been an amazing application for me to get to know. As I am finishing with my school career and starting to think more seriously about diving into the professional job market, LinkedIn is such a great tool to use.

I had heard of LinkedIn before starting this certificate, but I never realized its potential for me. I had always thought it was for high-up professionals for networking purposes. But as the entire world, it seems, is switching its day-to-day activities to online platforms, LinkedIn seems like a significant application to be familiar with. Not only does it seem important for networking, but also for job searching, resume building, and hiring. It’s a professional outlet, with a personal touch, that traditional resumes and networking just don’t seem to offer. I’ve had an account for a couple years, but, because of my predispositions, never took it seriously. Now, I’ve started building my resume and joining groups where I want to make connections.

Social media certainly has come a long way since I signed up for Facebook in 2006. I’m excited to continue learning in and about this ever-changing field, and finding more applications to use in my personal and professional life.

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COM0015 – Blog Post #3: Professional Networking Now and in the Future

Oh networking… One of this introvert’s biggest fears. It’s funny to me how I can be so comfortable and confident meeting new people at work as a server/bartender at a professional restaurant, but networking scares the **** out of me. If, in any conversation I have, the talk turns to my work or school history, I panic, make excuses for my (personally-perceived) lack of experience, and move on. One time a couple of businessmen were dining at my restaurant for dinner and were so impressed with my ability to sell them on the daily feature and upgrading their meals, that they gave me their card and told me to contact them if I wanted to discuss a potential sales position with their company! I figured they must have been joking so I chuckled awkwardly, thanked them, and walked away. Oops.

So, all that said, I don’t really have a strategy at this time for networking. I have always thought it’s what CEOs and other top dogs do to get new clients. I never thought it was something I could be or should be doing in my current state of my job/life. But now I realize it’s probably especially important because I am not where I want to be, and networking could help me go places professionally. Online networking seems to suit my personality better, and maybe at least it’s a better place to start to feel more comfortable reaching out to strangers for professional talk. It’ll take baby-steps to feel confident in myself, my abilities, and my experience to market myself face-to-face!

What will be my plan? Over the next few months, I am going to start by updating (i.e. completing) my LinkedIn profile. If I happen to meet anyone, especially through my job, and they were to look me up online, I want to showcase all my professional and educational experience and knowledge. Uh-oh…what if someone already has looked me up and I’ve missed opportunities because of my incomplete profile? I better get on this one ASAP!

Next, I want to find some online networking opportunities through my social media and online searches. There are probably a number of groups I could join and become engaged with. Who knows what people are also in these groups! I think starting online can also help me build the confidence I need to begin networking in person.

Finally, I am going to try to get over my introversion (at least temporarily) and start talking and meeting people. After all, I can’t hide behind a computer screen forever. Deep down I know I have valuable skills and experience, and I want to stop shying away from the possibilities or making excuses for myself. I have already started looking on Eventbrite and Meetup to see what kinds of options are available in the Ottawa area for networking events that interest me. I’m both anxious and excited to find out who I will meet and where it will all take me!

Are you an introvert like me? Have you had positive experiences with in-person networking? I’d love to hear how you got over your fears!

COM0015 – Blog Post #2: Strong and Weak Organizations

In the online world of social media, some organizations get it, and some don’t. Sometimes it boils down to availability of time and money, but even a small business, with enough dedication, can set up engaging social media accounts to attract a large following. Below I outline two businesses with successful social media presence, and one that needs a bit of help.

Strong Organizations

BarkBox

BarkBox is an online subscriber-based company that sends out unique boxes of toys and treats to dogs (care-of their humans) each month. The company is active on all the popular social media sites. One of the reasons I believe they are so successful is because they understand their own brand. BarkBox has truly been able to identify their target audience (crazy/obsessive dog-people) and communicates in a fun way, sometimes speaking to the dogs rather than their humans. What I find most appealing is that BarkBox does not push their products on their followers. Instead, the social media pages are FULL of light, fun, and humorous content, focusing more on maintaining their overall brand. This has helped them gain a substantial social media following, with the potential to turn these people (and pups) into customers.

Starbucks

I have been following Starbucks for the past year or so, and have done a lot of work for this certificate program focusing on their success in the world of social media. Starbucks is at the top of their game when it comes to customer engagement – they even made Forbes’ top 20 list of companies to follow on social media for this reason. They ask questions, create discussions, and make sure to respond to every individual comment, whether it is positive or negative in nature. They do a lot of advertising on their page, but nothing feels forced. Mostly their advertising comes in the form of posting tantalizing pictures of their beverages that at least make ME crave whatever I see! Coupled with this, Starbucks offers special promotions to their loyal followers. It has helped them maintain a steady following, which I have seen increase over the past year.

Weak Organization

Local Lansdowne

After checking out their social media pages, I think Local needs a new social media strategy. Even though the new Ottawa eatery’s pages do have decent followings, they are not using them to their best potential. Posts on the restaurant’s social media pages are very inconsistent, with days and sometimes weeks in between posts. I do not find any of their social media presence very engaging either – the posts are rather generic, especially after compared to BarkBox and Starbucks. Local is only in its second year of business, and they face high competition from many other restaurant in the vicinity. By adopting a social media strategy, they can market themselves as the unique, trendy restaurant they are, get people excited to experience it for themselves, and choose them over their competitors.

To begin a very basic strategy, Local should focus on three key areas. First, they need to start by identifying their target audience. Who exactly are they trying to market their brand to? Next, they should ensure they are posting on all social media pages consistently. They need to create a plan on how often they want to post (daily, or every two days) and stick to it. Otherwise, their pages looks tired and worn out. Secondly, Local’s posts need to foster engagement. They need to create discussions, post contests, and come up with creative content (ideally relating to their products/services and maybe even to the local Ottawa area) to get people talking on their page and sharing it with others. Hopefully for the restaurant, they will see an increase in (engaged) social media followers and an increase/steady business flow.

This would just be the beginning for Local. And at the risk of rambling on for too much longer, I’ll end it here. If you’d like to hear my thoughts on the next steps for Local’s social media, let me know in the comments 🙂 I’d also love to hear about your favourite “strong” organizations. I’m always looking for new examples of what to do!

COM0015 – Blog Post #1: Tools and Sources

I’m 27 years old, but sometimes I still feel like a stranger to social media. I use it casually for personal use, but I am not in a place (yet) where I need to or can be using it professionally. My reason for taking this certificate though is to hopefully be able to apply what I have learned in a future career. In terms of social media monitoring tools, I’m really just starting to dip my toes in the water, but I think I have found good starting points.

I came across both Google Alerts and HootSuite during COM0013, when I was creating a social media dashboard for one of the assignments. Google Alerts was one of the tools we were asked to use for this assignment. I found it to be a great introductory tool, coming from a beginner status like mine. It’s free, which is a great bonus, and it’s also easy to set up key word searches. I also like that it can be used for anything from keeping tabs on personal interests to monitoring professional subject matter.

I stumbled upon HootSuite while working on my dashboard while trying to learn more about what a social media dashboard actually was! Again, I found it a great basic monitoring tool. It’s a step up from Google Alerts though because you can manage all your social media accounts on it, and they also provide you with an analytics summary report each week to show your traffic, clicks, etc.

As for my news sources, I generally stick with websites like CBC.ca, but I started using Google Alerts for subject matter that interests me the most. This way, I am notified of any new articles pertaining to my personal interests and I don’t have to dig around the internet too far. It’s also been great practice for setting up RSS feeds!

I also use Facebook as a source of news. It’s obviously not great for real-time news like Twitter may be, as most of the time the stories are shared from other sources, but my “friends” always find interesting news items from across the city, country, and globe that I likely would never think to find or even look for.

Since I’ve admitted my beginner status, I’d love to hear from some more advanced listeners/monitors! What types of user-friendly tools would you suggest I learn next?

COM0014 Blog #7 – Reflections

What a course this has been! In September, I started out expecting somewhat of a repeat of the previous social media courses I have taken, but was pleasantly surprised and learned more than I ever thought I would. I would never have guessed how important storytelling is for social media, marketing, and branding, and how many components there are to telling our stories effectively.

Throughout history, humans have used storytelling to communicate thoughts and ideas. The advantage to using stories over other forms of communication is that they grab the audience’s attention and can inspire actions. I have learned that storytelling is a handy tool to use in marketing, even in this world of online (social) media. We can tell compelling stories full of clear and concise content to market our personal and professional brands and ideas. One great advantage to storytelling is that our words can grasp the audience’s attention right off the bat, increasing our following, helping us to create relationships with readers/customers, and leading to engagement with our audiences.

From this course, I have learned first and foremost to determine who my target audience is for my online content. Ultimately I want to create content surrounding environmental issues and I need to consider what demographic I want to reach out to. I also want my content to be personal. I think the most successful stories are not only captivating but also authentic. I want to show my audience I am a human with ideas and emotions, which will hopefully lead to meaningful relationships, conversations, and inspirational changes.a

COM0014 Blog #6 – Do People Know Your Story?

I try to live a life with no regrets, and be proud of the choices I have made. However, if I sit back and reflect on my 27 years on this earth, I may have to say I have one small regret, and that is the order in which I have made my big life choices.

Finishing high school I wasn’t given the option to do anything but university. That was okay at the time for me because I studied environmental studies, a major interest of mine, then and now. I had always felt a passion for preserving our planet, which included nagging my parents about recycling and water conversation before they became “a thing”! In my undergrad I loved what I learned and I love that I was given the opportunity to take part in the coop placement program. I gained great work experience and financial independence at such a young age.

After graduation, I was influenced by some friends and got caught up in the idea of living a free and adventurous life. So unlike my classmates who were on the search for careers or off to do a Masters degree, I spent the next few years travelling Canada and overseas to Australia. My only responsibility at the time was making enough money to pay for boarding and food. I had incredible experiences and met so many wonderful people from across the globe that have had a great impact on my life. I will be forever happy that I had those years in my life.

But reality soon kicked in and I realized as a (then) 25 year old I needed to making some serious decisions about my future. I needed to settle down and find a career, but the job hunt was more difficult than I anticipated having been out of school now for three years and no professional experience since.

Now 27, I still am not in the job I want and consider myself underemployed. Money is never an issue (thankfully), but I’m still searching for a job where I feel valued and where I feel I am making a difference. I look back and I wish I traveled before university. I wish someone told me that was an option. I wish I got that bug “out of my system” so that when I graduated university, I was ready to start settling down and armed with recent work experience on my resume. I wish I planned out my future just a bit better where I wasn’t approaching 30 and still don’t have the office job that I so strongly desire. However, my path in life led me here for whatever reason, and I certainly am not giving up on my goals. I am hoping this social media certificate will be a good stepping stone towards a happy future!

COM0014 Blog Post #5 – Personal Brand

No matter how many times I am asked to talk about my personal brand, I always end up with an uncomfortable pit in my stomach. I can’t think of many people who like to talk (or brag) about themselves, but this is completely out of my comfort zone. I guess I’ll just get right to it to avoid and more anxiety over just the thought of writing this!

Over the last two years, I worked as a restaurant manager. It was a brand new experience for me but turned out to be a great success. In my days, I have worked for some managers that leave a lot to be desired. I was determined to be everything those people weren’t, and to be a good role model, leader, and friend for my staff.

I think the three qualities I took away from that position and that stand out most for me are my dedication, communication, and approachability. I was committed to that job (as I am with any job I am given) and would put in tiring hours each week to help the restaurant operate. I would never leave my staff with chaos or messes, rather I’d stay to help them through the rushes and help keep the restaurant clean. Sometimes it meant putting in multiple 12 hour days (with no break) in a week! I never yelled, even during stressful times. I never lectured anyone if something wasn’t done to meet my standards. I didn’t complain if I didn’t like something. If an issue needed to be addressed, I could sit one-on-one with my staff and problem-solve with them to find a solution. My staff knew they could come to me with their questions and concerns, and I would always do my best to help them.

I’m a calm person, and I know people do not respond well to lectures or snappy comments. I treat everyone I’ve ever worked with and out in the world with respect and as an equal. It’s nice to hear when people are talking behind your back they are saying how nice of a person you are!

So what am I most proud of? If I think back to that job as a restaurant manager, one of my proudest moments was having multiple staff at multiple times come to me and tell me how I really turned the restaurant around. Many had expressed to me they were ready to leave because of poor leadership in the past, but I had made their jobs and work environment fun again. On top of that, I was able to retain every staff member managed and hired under my authority, which over the course of two years in the restaurant industry is a great accomplishment to me! I never considered myself a leader before that job, but I now carry that interview ammunition with me for the future!

COM0014 Blog Post #4 – B2C Case Study

I may not like their coffee, but I can’t deny Starbucks is winning with their social media game. I don’t even follow their Facebook page, but my newsfeed is constantly bombarded with posts that all my “friends” are liking, and I have to admit, I like what I see sometimes!

I’ve looked into Starbucks a little further past my newsfeed and it came at no surprise to find they are using a variety of social media tools – Facebook and Twitter being the top two, but also Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and more! Their approach is very relaxed and humble. They never appear to be over-selling anything; rather they’ll post a picture or video of seasonal drinks that I suppose subconsciously make you want to get cozy with a cup of their coffee.

Starbucks knows how to engage with their audience. In their posts, they ask questions, poll their fans, and really listen to what their customers want to see for new or returning products. They take the time to respond to every comment made on each of their posts, which adds a great personal touch. Customer relations seems to be the top priority of the company, and they’ve succeeded in creating a wonderful online community of supporters.

I think their biggest flaw is not posting on a regular basis. I’ve learned in previous courses that a good social media strategy should follow a calendar for posting, so the audience knows when to check back in for new content. But perhaps since they are already a successful business, they can get away with a weekly post here and there.

I would have to say their approach is definitely working. Their “likes” and “followers” grow daily and the overall sentiment around their products and brand is very positive. It may not sway a stubborn non-customer like myself, but I think they are a great example of how to use social media to gain internet success.

Target Audiences – COM0014 Blog #3

For those of you who have read my blogs from previous courses, it will come as no surprise that I care deeply about the environment. I love finding new ways to alter my own lifestyle to become more environmentally-friendly, and I would love to inspire others to make their own changes to protect our planet. I don’t strive to be a hippie, but to live my “normal” Canadian life with a smaller impact on the earth every day.

One day, I hope to make a career out of this passion, but if not, I can always turn this personal interest to a social media hobby, sharing what I know and love with others. I have tips for an eco-friendly home, bath and beauty products, transportation, and more. But who do I reach out to? For this, I need to consider my target audience.

Lesson three for this course talked about finding a target audience for online communications. First, I will consider the demographic and physiographic characteristics of my audience. My conclusions for these characteristics are based on my education, work experience in environmental outreach, and social media use.

Demographic:

  • female and/or young adult (18-35) (more receptive to change, more active on social media)
  • homeowners/living on their own (those who do more cleaning, shopping, and general housework, I can speak from personal experience and relate)
  • university education (for critical thinking purposes)
  • marital status of all types: single, married, with or without children (environmental choices impact everyone)

Physiographic:

  • liberal, trendy
  • middle-class (like myself)
  • may own a vehicle
  • followers (who want to learn how to make changes, hopefully will share with others as well)
  • interested in social, political, and environmental issues

Now that I have defined my target audience, how do I communicate with this group? I will need to “listen” and find out what social media groups they are apart of and how they communicate with one another. So far, I have found Twitter and Facebook pages and blogs with numerous followers that fall into my target audience characteristics. I will have to become active in these groups to get involved in conversations to introduce myself, and become engaged and helpful to gain credibility.

Do you identify as my target audience? Are you interested in learning how to limit your environmental impact on the world?

Storytelling and communication styles – COM0014 Blog #2

Storytelling has evolved over the course of our history, from face-to-face communication, to pictures, to the written word in all forms. These days, we have the wonderful tool of social media to help tell our stories. Before we even post our content, we can really think about what we want to say, creating clear and concise content, and then share it automatically with millions of readers at a time.

Blogging and online story-telling always seemed like a no-brainer to me, but I have learned a few important lessons I should keep in mind every time I write. Here are my top three tips to help perfect the art of story-telling:

The inverted pyramid

The inverted pyramid approach is the most important lesson of all for me. It directs us, as writers, to put our most important information at the beginning of our articles/blogs/paragraphs. If our reader is simply scanning our post, they should understand what we are writing about without going into detail. This is an important lesson for me as I can sometimes create a huge build-up to what I want to say, to create anticipation or excitement, but I have learned that my readers may miss the point of my story if I use a faulty approach like that.

Beginning with an end goal

We need to set goals before we write our story, and decide what we want our audience to take away from us. Whether we want them to share our story, comment, or ask us questions to engage more conversation, we need to establish this before write so we have a clear path to encourage our desired action or reaction.

Grammar, proofreading, and the importance of active voice

Finally, grammar and spelling is extremely important for online story-telling. We want our readers to look at us for information and inspiration, share with others, and return to us for new content. What we say is important, but how we say it can be even more critical in portraying ourselves as professionals. Use proper punctuation and spelling, and consider writing in the active voice to keep readers interested and engaged.

Do you have any other important tips for storytelling? What has been most helpful for you?