COM0012 Blog#1 – WHY I enrolled in this SM course & HOW I intend to employ my newly learned skills

As a newly hired Programs Support Officer with the Canadian Armed Forces Transition Group’s (CAF TG) Military Transition Engagement and Partnerships (MTEP) team, I have been tasked to join our organization’s efforts in rejuvenating and modernizing our Facebook page, and assist our team in creating an MTEP Linked-In and Instagram account.

Due to my personal experiences as a thriving veteran, “Army brat”, former mil-spouse, and survivor of a fallen soldier, in tandem with the skills I offer as helping-professional and successful Veteran’s Affairs Canada Vocational Rehabilitation Program graduate, (Georgian College’s Fitness & Health Promotion and Algonquin College’s Social Service Worker Alum), I have been encouraged to take the lead on our team’s social media (SM) engagement.

My aim in participating in this SM course is to learn about the most optimal strategies and effective tools that will promote my success in engaging with fellow Canadian military veterans on a diversity of SM platforms. By employing newly learned skills, I intend on offering valuable information on CAF TG’s latest initiatives that address all domains of veteran-wellbeing, share my experiences to foster connectivity and network with national service-providers/support-agencies/institutions that offer valuable resources and opportunities to veterans, in effort to stimulate partnerships with our team.

COM0011 Blog #1: Navigating Negativity on SM & The Exhaustive Undertaking to Establish “Influencer” Status

Establishing a highly interactive and warmly engaging presence across Facebook, Linked-In and Instagram is an undertaking that blends my professional and personal goals. As the new Programs Support Officer with the Canadian Armed Forces Transition Group (CAF TG), a proud military veteran, empathetic Army-Widow, registered Social Service Worker, resilient cancer survivor and resourceful lone-parent, my aim in initiating this goal is strategic;

To effectively engage with fellow Canadian military veterans on Social Media (SM), offer valuable information on CAF TG’s latest initiatives that promote their success and wellbeing, share my experiences to foster connectivity and network with national service-providers/support-agencies/institutions that offer valuable resources and opportunities to veterans, in effort to stimulate partnerships with our team.

Having recently taken an oath to serve Canada as a full-time, federal public servant with CAF TG’s Military Transition Engagement and Partnerships (MTEP) team, I have been tasked to join our organization’s efforts in rejuvenating and modernizing our Facebook page, and assist our team in creating an MTEP Linked-In and Instagram account. Due to my personal experiences as a thriving veteran, “Army brat”, former mil-spouse, and survivor of a fallen soldier, in tandem with the skills I offer as helping-professional and successful Veteran’s Affairs Canada Vocational Rehabilitation Program graduate, (Georgian College and Algonquin College Alum), I have been encouraged to take the lead on our team’s SM engagement. YIKES! Both an exciting and overwhelming endeavour.

16 January 2023 – Photo I captured with my iphone after I took my oath to serve Canada as a Federal Public Servant

What is stopping me from engaging more on SM?

My reluctance in commencing this lofty goal with exuberance and the reasons I have yet to fully invest in SM engagement stems from two major factors;

  1. Negative commentary and unfavourable engagements
  2. The magnitude of creating content, posting interactive and engaging content, keeping up with trends, replying to comments and direct messages (DM), taking quality images, analyzing insights/engagement data, monitoring the platforms effectiveness and sticking to a posting-schedule. FEWF!

One way to avoid “negative” or unfavorable commentary all together is disabling comments on SM platforms. However, this can act as a means of suppressing the free speech of Canadian veterans, limiting their opportunities to express their viewpoints, offer their concerns, share their experiences and air their grievances. Secondly, turning-off the comments section also inhibits veterans from describing their positive experiences with a program or support service. Stopping our “followers” from commenting on the SM platforms of Canadian Government institutions/organizations/entities is not an option, nor do I think it’s a good idea. All voices matter. Valued veterans ought to feel safe, comfortable, empowered and welcomed to express themselves openly.

HOW can I navigate negative or unfavourable commentary?

I hope to garner more insight on this as the SM course progresses.

The following article offers some advice on this;

Although I appreciate the need and effectiveness of employing SM to optimally interact, inform, network and collaborate, I am concerned that in order to promote our team’s initiatives and establish a strong SM presence, a full immersement into the on-line world is required. Mindful that the more one invests their time and energy into SM, the less time they spend in the “real world” and that too much on-line activity can be detrimental to my Mental Health (MH).

Click this Forbes Article; “6 Ways Social Media Affects Our Mental Health”

My fellow Social Media course mates, I have a question for you!

COM0015 Blog #1: Tools and Sources

The tools that foster effective engagement for the Canadian Armed Forces Transition Group Teams

I’m not into Social Media (SM). I also don’t know much about the various platforms that showcase the latest trends, however, I do love a good Tik Tok recipe that my daughter shares with me, a sucker for the inside scoops on a decent doops, shared on the platform, to save money and sure, I have an IG account. Mostly to boast about my teen daughter who is so much cooler than Mom and I do enjoy seeing photos of what my friends and their remarkable kids are up to. Facebook increasingly got too political, negative and toxic for my liking, compelling me to delete my account many years ago.

My ignorance and lack of experience, knowledge and insight on the effectiveness of SM engagement and the optimal strategies to employ a diversity of SM vehicles to collaborate, network and inform is exactly why I enrolled in this course.

As a new Programs Support Officer with the Canadian Armed Forces Transition Group (CAF), our various advocacy and program development specialist team’s are expanding our SM strategies and optimizing SM platforms to best inform veterans (who are transitioning to civilian life) and their families about services and supports accessible to them. Our teams will also employ SM engagement on Facebook, Linked-In and Instagram to network with national service providers that offer valuable opportunities, services, programs and goods to veterans and collaborate with stakeholders who partner with the CAF. It is imperative for our team members to keep up with SM trends, familiarize ourselves with SM operations and invest efforts in mastering SM engagement styles to best serve veterans.

Two Fave Social Media Listening & Monitoring Tools

The two effective and widely-used platforms our veteran transition support-team employs to garner insight into what veterans need/want and vehicles that reveal their strengths and challenges are; Facebook and Linked-In.

Admittedly, our team has a long way to go in modernizing, rejuvenating and optimizing our Facebook page. Precisely why a new SM team has been established to re-vamp our page in efforts to improve our SM engagement and best serve, inform, collaborate with and support transitioning veterans. The comments section, data revealing details of the demographics

The most intriguing information yielded from this week’s course content, highlighted in Module 1, stimulated my commitment to explore, develop and establish our team’s mission when it comes to how and why we are listening to our veteran-followers;

  1. Define why you are listening. Are you hoping to find influencers? Do you want to respond to customer feedback, comments and inquires?
  2. Find out where your audience is. What channels will you monitor? Is your audience more likely to be on Facebook or a specialized community?

I also learned from this SM course that Facebook offers an Insights tool that reveals valuable analytics on the page’s performance, the various ways in which our veteran-rich audience is responding to our posts and details of the demographic of our followers. With this vital information, I am committed to investigating this tool, familiarizing myself on ways to interpret the data and frequently review the findings to establish and continually our Facebook page’s engagement strategy.

Facebook is a valuable engagement vehicle tool for my veteran-support organization for a few reasons. Typically, a retiring veteran who is transitioning to civilian life is an older SM user and Facebook is widely used by and older demographic of Canadians. Facebook has also been around for almost two decades, yielding a massive user base. Facebook offers a platform where images, information in the form of interactive posts and real-time videos can be shared with veterans. A private direct message option and comment section also affords users various opportunities to ask questions, share experiences and collaborate with transition advisors. Like most SM platforms, Facebook can be accessed via cellphone ap, offering an easily accessible, mobile and convenient means of engagement.

Our CAF Transition Group’s “Military Transition Engagement & Partnerships” (MTEP) team is currently developing a strong Linked-In profile and presence to employ an effective and fitting “listening” measure for three main reasons.

Reason 1: We are currently working on three major initiatives aimed at promoting the success and wellbeing of valued military veterans and their resilient families; The National Canadian Veterans Resource Directory (NCVRD) The Canadian Military Veteran & Family Connected College Consortium (CVF3C) and partnered with Veteran’s Affairs Canada (VAC) to roll out a National Veterans Employment Strategy (NVES). In order to collaborate and partner with Canadian service providers that offer goods, opportunities, services, and supports to veterans and their families and add these partners to our resource directory, we require a means to inform, engage and connect with them. Linked-In acts like a Facebook for professionals and many national service providers employ Linked-In to network.

Reason 2: Canadian Community Colleges also effectively employ Linked-In to recruit, collaborate and inform the public, affording our team the opportunity to interact with these academic institutions and welcome them to partner with us.

Reason 3: Lastly, both job-seekers (veterans who are transitioning out of the military) and employers alike are active on Linked-In to search for rewarding and meaningful employment opportunities and to post job-advertisements. Our team can effectively reach out and connect with both types of users to promote our NVES, encouraging the success of veterans.

I love Linked-In and have been developing a strong presence on this platform since graduating from Algonquin College’s Social Service Worker program, for which creating a Linked-In profile was a communications assignment. Engaging with employers and sharing my skills and credentials on this SM platforms that appeal to professionals, I was able to secure full-time, permanent, federal government employment.

6 employers that reached out to me recently on Linked-In to discuss employment opportunities shared that they were intrigued by the experiences, skills and viewpoints I share on my profile. An aspect of Linked-In that makes this engagement vehicle so powerful, lending to it’s effectiveness in affording users a “listening” opportunity in gathering information of value, is that profiles go beyond the resume. This platform offers space to share extra details that do not fit on a resume and offers opportunities for users to showcase their personal attributes that employers may be seeking.

Two Best Sources of News & Updates of Interest

CTV News IG page is a frequent got-to for me because it is a convenient, mobile, up-to-date news source and offers a quick way to check in on developing stories. I also enjoy the live IG stories that offer an insider-view at events, political engagements and crisis in real-time.

As a very busy Mom to an active teen athlete and army cadet, a full-time professional and part-time student, who also volunteers in my community, life is hectic and I am always on the go. Sometimes, when unwinding on the couch before bed, after a crazy day, I check the TMZ IG page for sheer entertainment. Catching up with the lives of my favourite artists, actors and the rich & famous is a fun way to take my mind off work for a few minutes.

COM0014 – Blog #1: Waves Washed In Memories of Us

December rolled around once again. Taking our Christmas tree out of the box would have killed me. I could not bare to decorate for the holidays. It was the first Christmas since he died. The pain of his absence, the memories we shared, deterred me from feeling festive at all. Our daughter Olivia, far too young to fathom the magnitude of our family’s loss, was only 15 months old. Prime age to destroy the wrapping paper on her gifts from Santa, with great exuberance but I could not bring myself to put up our tree and engage in the traditional holiday fun, without Daddy. Home from the battlefield for two weeks was the last time the three of us were together, excited to bake cookies, wrap presents, watch Home Alone and cuddle up by the fireplace with Olivia nestled between us, cherishing every moment. My fondest memory is Scotty, a new Dad, home from war, enjoying his very first Christmas with his pride-and-joy, our newborn daughter, tickled pink to unwrap his very first present from under the tree marked; “To Daddy, Love Olivia”. He wore his new snazzy, white hat and cozy, soft scarf around the house with his pjs all day. He was happy, he was proud, he was loved.

Standing over the box that contained our Christmas tree that following year I thought; Nope! Can’t do it. “Christmas is cancelled this year!” I later announced to my supportive, selfless and encouraging family, who’s lives were also gravely impacted by Scotty’s passing. They got it. We all knew that life would not be the same, as we all experienced grief in our unique, ever-changing ways. That year, we would skip all the traditions. Forgo the ugly sweater party, the turkey dinner, gift opening and church service and take off down south. The sun on our faces and sand in our toes was a welcomed treat for us all. Our Christmas 2009 season was spent in sunny Jamaica.

Amongst the waving palm trees, to the energizing beats of Jamaican music and around the dinner table adorned with fresh. local, jerked chicken, we laughed together as a family for the first time in a long time…the first time since a Canadian Armed Forces padre knocked on my door at 6:12 am on March 20th 2009, to inform me that my life, my full, rich, happy life I was so grateful for, as I knew it, was over. The sun, sand and ocean sounds, just the medicine we needed to take pause from pain. A Christmas-cancelling, family vacation to reflect on our lives and an opportunity to create new lasting memories.

Dad would take Olivia to the pool to splash around and graciously offer me time alone. Holding back tears and fully investing in planned activities, desperately avoiding the question; “are you ok?”, not wanting to be the black cloud on a beautiful day was exhausting. My Dad, without prompting a discussion, without the need for me to ask, just knew when to extend his loving arms, take Olivia from my hip and welcome me to be solo with my thoughts for awhile.

As I rested alone on the quiet beach one evening, watching the Caribbean sea, laying still, quiet and hoping to hear his voice, hoping to see him walk out of the water and into my arms. The waves washed in memories of us. Our first date when he held my hand on a summer’s eve walk in the park, the way he checked to make sure his beret nestled perfectly on his head before heading out the door, the sound of his motorcycle as he pulled in our driveway, his face when I told him we were having a baby, his elation while running down the airport stairs to squeeze me tight when he arrived home from Afghanistan.

Each wave a memory, each wave a dagger into my heart, each wave bringing in cherished moments and taking away a piece of me. I allowed myself to break, to feel the pain, to acknowledge my loss, to let my old life go. At Christmas time, a year since the last time I enjoyed a holiday with the love of my life, alone on the beach in Jamaica, I accepted that he was gone.

Our Christmas-boycott vacation was filled with fun too! Peppered in with the moments of sorrow, were thrilling experiences like an exhilarating zip-lining adventure, for which I plan to mimic this upcoming March break with Olivia. Laughing, having some fun, being playful, spontaneous, care-free and genuinely content felt good. My family took my lead, admiring the stunning island scenery, embracing our togetherness, enjoying the fresh sea water and creating new memories.

When I returned from our much-needed vacation, Christmas 2009 behind us, I was different. The grief was still debilitating at times, I would still wake up thinking it was all a dream from time to time and there were days I did not have the strength or motivation to get out of bed. I did, however start welcoming the good back into my life. I began to return my friend’s phone calls and messages. I left the house more often, I allowed myself to smile and experience happy moments without guilt. The meaningful time spent with family, the quiet time, just me and the sea, to remember, mourn and come to peace with what happened to me and Olivia, acted as a sort of re-set. As I navigated new chapters in the following years, I would sometimes think back to the pain I let take over me, alone on the beach and reflect on how far I have come.

Grateful for my life and my family.

I am happy, I am proud, I am loved.