COM0015: Blog 1 – Tools and Success (W2017)

My favorite social media monitoring/listening tool is Social Mention. This tool monitors approximately one hundred social media sites. I like it as a listening tool because once you select the time frame and who/what you wish to monitor, it displays top keywords, top users, hashtags and sources that allow you to follow up. For example, if there were mentions on WordPress, you simply click on a link that Social Mention provides to read the entire blog.

Social Mention also encompasses data analysis, and measures four categories of influence on your company or any competitors you wish to monitor:

  • Reach: the number of unique individuals mentioning the brand compared to the total number of mentions
  • Strength: the overall likelihood of the identified companies themselves being discussed in social media
  • Sentiment: the ratio between generally positive and negative comments
  • Passion: the measure of the chances of individuals commenting on the company repeatedly.

The options this tool gives me to further explore social media comments for a specific organization or topic are invaluable. They provide me with insights on how people are thinking and what they are saying and I can take as much or as little time to get ideas on how to better gain more passion, reach and strength.

The second tool I am learning to like is Hootsuite, although as it is a very personalized tool, and collects an enormous amount of personal information (even on its free version).  This tool will help focus me on my future goals, something I do need to do as I am thoroughly enjoying my experiences in the world of full-time learning.

I’m in a unique situation (for me) since May 2016 in that I am studying full-time and not currently working. For personal development, I am looking at two main streams, along with a third that is more hobby-related but could evolve into a business (abstract art).

I will continue using Social Mention as I look deeper into what it takes to become a social media professional, as well as an accomplished editor and writer. I hope to be able to find workshops, online or otherwise, more easily through these tools, as well as discovering organizations and associations that could benefit from my knowledge and creative ideas.

 

High Society

“Society” Gossip first, social media later. (by mlg)

Blog 7 – COM0014 – Personal Reflections

The concepts delivered in this course were quite varied. They included communications tools; two-way communications; storytelling styles and development; assessing target audiences (psychographics: love, love, love this tool!); connecting with diverse audiences; using appropriate tools for desired outcomes; and identifying communications challenges.

“Facts tell, but stories sell.”[i] Storytelling is important to create great digital content as human interaction is widely based on exchanging stories. Stories are social in nature. We all look for stories that can answer our questions, touch us or call us to action.  Creating stories where people are key will help create an emotional bond, initiate feelings and possibly trigger an action from target audiences.

Storytelling can be defined as the art of meaningful communications which it must be based on the creation of good narrative and relevant content, geared toward a defined target audience to inspire them to connect with you. Stories give purpose, transfer knowledge and build connections. In digital content, storytelling should also leave a take away message for the target audience to start a meaningful conversation, drive web site traffic and promote sharing.

Content will be guided through a strategically thought out story and creative writing. It will be authentic, not superficial. I will spend time where the target audiences are, (websites, groups, forums, blogs), listen to their stories and focus on what they want to hear and what they share, to write content specifically addressed to them. Ideally, it will also address any questions they have and provide information potential customers might need or might not even know they need.

By continuing to dig into the art of storytelling and human emotions, the kind of stories I want to tell will reflect openness, transparency, trust, relevance and invite participation. The storytelling will aim to awaken emotional appeal, which will make the story more likely to be shared on social media. I will try to gain that appeal from the target audience by using easy to remember, humorous or useful stories which address real, relatable problems.

whats-your-story

 

[i] Bryan Eisenberg (Founder & CMO, Idealspot, co-creator of Persuasion Architecture)

COM0014 – Do people know your story?

What we want to communicate to our target market is first and foremost that, as a national association, our brand is about their experience when dealing with us. We will deliver the benefits we promise, add value to what we offer and deal with any problems through follow-up and outstanding customer service. At first glance, this appears to be an easy message to convey. However, as a federation of engineering regulators, we do not have direct access to the 280,000 individual engineering professionals across Canada. This creates problems both at the provincial level and with implementing new programs and services which do not fit major suppliers’ business models.

As an association, our greatest flaw has been the inability to connect with the younger generation of engineers; we have not yet focused on communicating effectively with our ‘ideal’ customer base. Because of this, one of our challenges revolves around the aging population base of engineers who participate in our programs and services, with no substantial increase in younger participants.

The association needs to become the go-to place for anything an engineering professional would want: guidance, legal advice, personal and professional insurance, and other services. With the creation of three new vice-president positions, staffed by forward thinking women, as well as a lawyer, our association is ready to face its latest challenge. With these new thinkers came an acknowledgement of the importance of the perception that our association can meet the needs of engineers from graduation to retirement. This is being worked on in two ways: generational affiliations and content that everyone can relate to.

A new approach to marketing began one year ago, taking into account feedback from three different focus groups: Generation Y, Baby Boomers and foreign trained engineers. These groups taught us many things, including presenting information on programs in clear, graph-like formats so that the message can be understood at a glance; the most important take-away, in our view, was the affinity between Gen Y and Boomers.

Our new approach to promote our brand is to use Boomers to relay messaging to attract Gen Y to the suite of products offered by our association. Boomers and Gen Y face remarkably similar challenges; boomers have concerns about finding purpose in retirement after decades of being defined by their work. In parallel, the Gen Y generation is searching for its own identity in a world of uncertainty, and struggling to get a foot into the job market. Both have a growing sense of the need to create memories and experiences, as opposed to needing materialistic things.

Taking this into account, we began a series of interviews with baby boomers who eagerly share parts of their life stories and also speak about the assistance they received over the course of their life time from our association. Full interviews are a click away from the advertorial-style clips and anyone listening is welcome to contact the story tellers for more information and/or share their own story.

Our story telling will encompass messages with content that appeal in some way to everyone. According to the Content Marketing Institute there are 21 types of content we all crave. The following are some of the types of content we will use to effectively tell our story:

  • Dreams can come true
  • You matter
  • There is more
  • Fresh points of view about common things
  • Inspiration to take action
  • Education through entertainment
  • Encouragement to never give up.

We are hopeful our new approach to telling our association’s story will help garner the attention and interest of a younger generation of engineers to our brand so that we can successfully continue to deliver the benefits we promise, add value to what we offer and provide an outstanding customer experience to them and their families.

COM0014 – Blog 5 – My personal brand

I polled eight co-workers via email asking them for one or two words that described my best traits in a work environment. In order to keep the request casual, I added, P.S.: Please resist the temptation to call me cranky or stubborn or sexy! I need to keep it positive and clean! Their answers were similar and included trustworthy, knowledgeable, kind and quiet intelligence.

Although I am ambivalent about this aspect of my job, the personal qualities I believe set me apart from others are discretion, trustworthiness, empathy and good listening skills as a “customer service representative”.  I am good at problem resolution, although it can be draining.

I care about people’s points of views, their problems and their search for fairness, or what they consider the right way to be treated. I approach customers with patience, openness and trust. That trust is repaid when they allow the major companies that we endorse or sponsor to share information with me from their personal files without hesitation. Surprisingly, even those who do not divulge the whole truth to me will grant that permission!

The outcomes of my interventions on behalf of customers are easily measurable by success or failure in my representation of their cases to those companies. I find the high percentage of customer satisfaction with my services remarkable, whether the outcome is positive or not. Customers are grateful that someone listened to them and did their best to make a bad situation better.

My proudest moments come from obliterating corporate red tape when it is crucial to do so. Because of confidentiality, I cannot recount in any detail some of those situations but an example would be getting a quick, partial settlement for an out-of-country vacation accident, to allow a family to deal with subsequent medical expenses, without all the required medical reports from the foreign hospital.

 

Blog 4 – COM0014 B2C Case Study – Best Buy

“Be Smart. Be Respectful. Be Human.”

(Excerpt from Best Buy’s Social Media Policy)

One of the main B2C priorities, in my opinion, is a business’ ability to create more engaging content for online audiences, followed by being a good listener. Best Buy uses many social media vehicles to do exactly that and does an excellent job of reaching out to consumers. It uses several approaches to listen to its audience and to respond to it. My favorite is its IdeaX forum, followed by its innovative Twitter approach. Although it also has a presence on Facebook, which remains the top vehicle for effective social media strategy, I found that consumers primarily used that forum to write nasty exchanges about poor customer service at specific stores, using somewhat aggressive language, but receiving interested and calm corporate responses nonetheless.

Best Buy runs two important forums for consumer. The participatory Community Information Forum includes staff information, photos, changes to staffing, product discussions and information related to Best Buy new features. A second forum, IdeaX, encourages its customers to share, vote and discuss ideas and ways Best Buy can improve its business, allowing Best Buy to get valuable feedback from its customers in a friendly, non-intrusive, and voluntary manner.

Best Buy’s “@Geeksquad” on Twitter allows customers to connect to a regular employee to get information or knowledge about tech products. It also has a presence on YouTube, and uses casual, humorous, well thought out content to promote the Geek Squad, present employee stories, show pranks played on employees and  give technical advice on its products. The videos speak to a wide range of age groups, from youth (tweens) to seniors (boomers).

Regardless of its financial ups and downs, Best Buy’s social media interactions are progressive and relevant. Its response time to questions on all social media channels is 14 minutes, according to Controversial, a customer service manager for social media for various companies, including Groupon. Results from the same study noted that Best Buy was also ranked the highest out of forty companies in percentage of customer satisfaction with its social media interaction.

COM0014 – Blog 3 – Target Audiences

Lending a helping … paw

Our daughter-in-law, Caro, was visiting us a few days ago; she talked about her dream: owning a grooming salon in the Outaouais. She’s a talented groomer and laughingly acknowledges she knows the pets she grooms better than their owners – she told us that when she’s shopping, people will stop to talk to her and she’ll instantly remember the pets’ names but not the owners’!

Caro wondered if she could successfully open a shop, offering a multitude of high-end services while keeping her personal touch alive with both pets and their owners. She already has a small but loyal and growing customer base who book appointments for her “salon on wheels”. Caro drives to their homes to groom their pets in a retrofitted Winnebago.

Even knowing about existing competition in the area, she was curious about how to decide whether or not this was a good idea.

After this discussion, I looked into the pet grooming industry and I think Caro’s on to something! I read Statistics Canada reports and the Canadian Pet Market Outlook 2014, among others, and discovered some interesting facts:

  • 57% of Canadian households own pets, (32% have dogs and 37%, cats);
  • Higher income households represent 21% of the population and 25% of pet owners;
  • The Outaouais ranks fifth out of 27 metropolitan areas with higher average income households;
  • 46% of adults between the ages of 45 and 54 own dogs (47% own cats);
  • More than 50% of those households have children aged between 12 and 17, with a whopping 58% owning dogs and 47% cats;
  • Over 12,000 pet owners attend the Ottawa Pet Expo annually.

Pets are serious business! Pet parents take their responsibilities seriously. Twenty-one percent of those between the ages of 45 and 54 will spend more for foods that are less processed and have fewer ingredients as they believe their pets should get their nutrition from food, rather than supplements, much as they themselves do. Fifty percent of them purchase expensive toys and dress their pets in clothing .

According to an article on multibriefs.com, the trend of pet humanization will increase demand for premium foods, upscale products, and more specialty services, as well as a return to smaller salons or shops to fulfill these requirements. (http://www.multibriefs.com/briefs/exclusive/pet_businesses_will_prosper)

So, to my daughter-in-law,  “I say go for it! Customers will always continue to pamper their fur babies. Work on a marketing plan aimed at the 45 to 54 age group of pet parents who consider pets an important part of the family, to incorporate specialty foods and services as you have always talked about doing. You are more than capable of offering customized products and services to meet your most demanding pet parent’s requests. And don’t forget to reserve a booth at the Ottawa Pet Expo once you are ready to make your presence known!”

I am not someone who has ever treated a pet as one of my children, although every pet I have owned has been part of the family. I was sad when my pets died but definitely not devastated. What do you think about the idea of the “growing trend” in pet humanization? Is it real or simply trendy?

To end on a lighter note, there are several Facebook pages and YouTube videos devoted to commercials in which animals play a huge role. One of my favorite is from Subaru and can be seen by clicking here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvaQMzh7B30.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COM0014, Blog 2 Writing to Attract Web Readers

Writing to Attract Web Readers –

Oh wait, web readers don’t really exist!

So you want to learn how users read on the web? They don’t![1] It’s a well-known fact that the majority of internet users read by scanning. They are in a hurry. They have low attention spans. They tend to skim the first one or two sentences of each paragraph or scan until they find something interesting that speaks to them. How, then, do you attract readership to your blog or web site?

To attract and keep attention from an internet user for the story you want to share, here are some important tips:

  • Develop blogs or web articles that take a user from simply scanning to actually commenting on what you have written;
  • Write in concise, scannable, grammatically correct and objective language;
  • Use bulleted lists to enable easy retention of the information you deliver;
  • Present one main idea or topic per paragraph to keep users interested; and
  • Use the inverted triangle approach.

Using the inverted triangle approach to writing means including all the important details you want to introduce in your post in the first paragraph. It’s a valuable way to allow readers to decide whether or not to read your blog as well as scan all the key details quickly. Having the most relevant information at the beginning of the page is good for both the user and you, for getting traffic from search results on search engines (SEO).

The inverted triangle writing style dates back to the appearance of newswire in the mid-19th century where it was essential to put the most important information into the title and the lead paragraph of the story. Isn’t it humbling that the best method to attract readership and attention to your story in the 21st century took root over 160 years ago?

 

 

[1] Nielsen, J. (1997, October 1). How users read on the web. Available online at: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9710a.html

COM0014: What I did on my vacation

Following a difficult and anxiety-ridden year for me, my husband, Roger, suggested we visit my brother and sister-in-law in Kamloops, British Columbia for our summer vacation. After speaking to my brother and his wife, we started planning our trip. This vacation was obviously meant to be as it only took two attempts on Aeroplan’s website to successfully redeem points for the dates that were feasible for us, receive our electronic tickets and be booked in business class for almost every leg of the trip. We had forgotten one small detail: when you travel for free on Air Canada, apparently direct flights between Ottawa and Vancouver do not exist. Our itinerary involved a long, up and down voyage to get to our destination, including wait times every step of the journey: Ottawa-Toronto; Toronto-Calgary; Calgary-Vancouver; and, finally Vancouver-Kamloops.

Once we arrived in Kamloops, our ten day vacation flew by in a whirlwind of activity, sprinkled with quiet times to reconnect, reminisce, talk about what are grown-up children were up to, retirement plans, future travel, read and relax.

The view from my reading spot on the balcony &  Sisterly love: Teasing the dog to disrupt my brother’s nap

One of my husband’s passions is wine tasting. He has worked diligently over the years to be able to identify aromas and tastes in various wines and to identify a wine’s region, and can now do well in blind taste tests. If you are a wine lover, you can probably relate to the work involved in this pleasurable pursuit of knowledge.

Knowing this, my brother Mike took us to visit many wineries, three of which we really loved, beginning with Harper’s Trail Estate Winery (not related to the federal election campaign at the time, by the way!). The winery was named for the cattle drive trail of pioneer rancher Thaddeus Harper. It was the first winery in Kamloops, built on the banks of the South Thompson River.

Harpers Trail

 

Inside Harper’s Trail Estate Winery

 

We then headed to the banks of the North Thompson River, where we visited Privato Vineyard and Winery, a Double Gold Award winner for its 2012 Pinot Noir; Roger also liked its Chardonnay and Rosé wines.  Take a look at their beautiful property at http://privato.ca.

Our favorite stop was lunch overlooking Quail’s Gate Winery’s vineyards in West Kelowna. At the winery’s outdoor café, each menu item came with a recommended wine pairing which made it difficult to keep the cost down but made lunch an unforgettable experience!

Wonderful afternoon at Quail’s Gate Winery

 

In between visiting wineries and relaxing, we participated in Mike and Marilyn’s passion: geocaching. Promoted as the world’s largest treasure hunt on geocaching.com, geocaching is defined as searching for and finding hidden objects with the help of GPS coordinates. My brother and his wife started geocaching to encourage one another to get more physically active; it has evolved into a daily, routine activity for them.

We spent many pleasant hours, seeing parts of Kamloops and outlying areas that we would never have thought of exploring, all for the sake of finding and recording the caches we uncovered on a website. Surprisingly, it was a lot of fun, albeit a bit competitive between siblings – so much so that we now own a hand held GPS and have convinced our kids and their partners to share in the fun with us! I would love to hear if any of you have experiences and hints to share about geocaching as we are novices in this pastime.

Here are a few of the awesome sights we came upon on these treasure hunts in the Kamloops area:

Art inwoods

Unexpected art in the woods

 

Beautiful scenery in Lac Du Bois Grasslands Provincial Park

 

On the last week-end of our summer vacation, we spent time downtown, first at the Farmers’ Market to purchase Kamloops and area home made products such as jerky, salmon and chocolates to bring back east with us. We then spent time wandering through Riverside Park, listening to musicians participating in the Music in the Park events and enjoying the summer day.

Our community statue
“Our Community” sculpture, Riverside Park

And we topped it all off by satisfying everyone’s passion: collector vehicles, in the annual downtown Show& Shine event, inventing scenarios and day dreaming about which vehicle we would drive if ever there was nothing else we needed to spend money on!

 

Our trip home ended with the same upbeat and positive energy we had experienced for ten days: once we landed in Vancouver, we were paged and asked if we could possibly take a direct flight from Vancouver to Ottawa, rather than a Vancouver-Toronto-wait two hours-Ottawa one! Needless to say, we graciously accepted!

I hope you get the chance to visit this beautiful area of Canada one day! And if you have any tricks and tips about wine tasting, food pairing or geocaching, please feel free to share them with me!

Living, dying and in between

We are all born to live. Some of us do so full of excitement and vitality, being adventurous and tackling anything that crosses our path with patience and determination. Of course, all of us experience negative thoughts from time to time but these experiences are usually surmounted with confidence and hope.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are those born into a life of chronic negative attitudes.  These people tend to avoid excitement and adventure and take for granted that life is boring and predictable. They look for happiness in the wrong places and spend a lot of time thinking of “what ifs” and focusing on things they don’t have which once again makes their everyday life boring and unsatisfying.

Then there are what I call the in between people; people like myself and my husband; not fully adventurous but willing to try new experiences; working every day for years to provide for our children and ourselves; finding joy where we can; celebrating milestones in personal, social and work contexts. The majority of people I know fit well into this category: happy, with a chance of negativity and problems surfacing, then clear and happy again.

All of this to say the second known truth which follows born to live is, of course, born to die. Growing up I was terrified of the evil monster called dying; it had a lot to do with how religion was taught in school back in those days, the God vs Satan imagery terrified me as a young child as I hadn’t quite mastered the definition of the type of bad that would send me off to the devil!

As a young mother, I feared death and prayed that I would live long enough to see my children grow up. That wish was granted. I am now, however, watching my worst nightmare come true; my daughter, a 38 year old mother of two small children, a fiancée, a granddaughter, a professional chemical and environmental engineer, is dying from inflammatory breast cancer, IBC, a rare form of breast cancer which accounts for 1 to 4% of all breast cancers. She was diagnosed at Stage IV and after 18 months of treatment including chemo, radical mastectomy and radiation treatments, her chances of survival over a five year span are estimated at about 11%.

How to cope with a loved one dying? After the shock, denial and panic, the best thing to do is to lead with your heart, let them know you love them, notice little things you can do for them, respect their decisions about their own care, accept they are dying without giving up hope that things might turn around and death might be postponed.

It all sounds like good advice. My husband and I want nothing more than to show her how much we love her, to help out emotionally, financially and physically. But seven years ago, our daughter disappeared from our lives and will have nothing to do with us, except to send me an occasional email like the one I received over three years ago informing me that I was going to be a grandmother , accompanied by the message I love you but this doesn’t change anything. What put our world into a tailspin was a second  email sent two years ago advising me of her diagnosis and including a link to the Canadian Cancer Society where we could learn about IBC. The email ended with her standard line, I love you but this doesn’t change anything .

After all the chaos that ensued, the ongoing  counselling, the love and support from my spouse and three sons, today I can accept that “death is as normal as birth: we just haven’t been trained to see it that way” (J. Johnson, Life Coach and Interfaith Minister). The stage of “what ifs” has been successfully navigated, the self-criticism about how I might have done things differently in the past is slowly dissipating as well. Neither my husband nor I will ever understand how she can say that she loves and respects us but will not attempt to tell us what went so wrong in her mind concerning her relationship with us.

lessons from past

I believe I am 85% back to being an ‘in between’ person after all the pain and confusion that has been part of my life for what seems like an eternity. I long to see my daughter, hold her, tell her I love. I still check my personal emails with hope and anticipation, just in case she’s had a change of heart; but as one of my sons told me a while ago, I should really start to focus on returning the love to those who show it to me and support me every day and I am following his advice.

I wanted to conclude by reminding you, as so many Facebook posts repeat every day, Cherish every moment and every person in your life because you will never know when it will be the last time you see someone. Unfortunately for my husband and me, this statement applies to someone we love who is living and breathing, battling to stay alive for her small children and, according to friends who still see her, giving cancer the finger while she still can.

Everything can change

COM0011: Personal research and social media – discovering new pastimes and learnings

I have never thought of myself as particularly original or creative. However, tuning into social media has allowed me to discover facets of myself that were unknown to me. I take great pleasure in researching on the net, regardless of the subject. I always end up finding new territory to discover. Researching using social media tools has been very useful for me in most instances.

I love to cook and bake and I have discovered a multitude of recipes from the 1950s that everyone who tastes falls in love (at least in like) with; I have also mastered some lengthy, labor intensive Asian dishes which are very much worth the effort. One of those old-fashioned meals has become a family favorite, Chicken Divan, made the longer, traditional way (no canned cream of whatever soups allowed!)Chicken Divan

I also find that the more I research recipes for main courses, the more creative I become… I never imagined I could invent a dish, inspired by many hours of researching food over time, by using mango stir fried with garlic, bok choy and chives to liven up pork chops, for example. The colorful food looked awesome! Over time, my family eventually got over their “oh no, she’s getting interesting ideas again!” when it was meal prep time. I love the fact that whenever I need or want information relating to food and cooking, it’s readily available to me. Discovering that I have the ability to adapt the ideas and make healthier versions of whatever recipe appeals to me on any given day was a bonus.

mango

Other sites have helped me pursue my interest in essential oils and their uses and benefits. I am starting to be able to recommend various oils to those who know of my interest in the matter. For example, my son Alex who attends university now swears by rosemary oil which he finds quite stimulating and beneficial for memory retention, as well as helping him stay focused and alert; he uses a dab of it at a pulse point regularly for long study sessions. I sometimes rely on frankincense, a tree resin, which has been used since ancient times for its medicinal, aromatic and spiritual applications. I find it very helpful when I am feeling anxious and need grounding. Then there are the combinations: blending and testing essential oil blends and then diluting with carrier oils. There are so many excellent sites and so much information available on the topic of essential oils that I cannot conceive of mastering most of the oils and their uses.

Rosemary-Oilfrankincence

There are a multitude of subjects that I research and follow-up on via social media: guided meditations, yoga, science, books, marketing, current affairs… Please share some of the things you rely on social media to provide to you…

I am looking forward to a semi-retirement of sorts in a few years; the additional freedom will allow me to continue discovering and following up on existing and, without a doubt, new passions.