COM0015 – Blog #4: Sad to say goodbye

I began my first course in Algonquin College’s Social Media Certificate program last January. After more than a year of part-time, online learning, I am finally writing my last assignment!

During the past year, there were nights I could not wait to sit down with a cup of tea and my laptop and begin reading the week’s lessons in the quiet of my living room, relishing in the subject of study and how it directly impacts my career. Of course, there were also nights that I dreaded finding the time to open up a Word Document and type up an assignment after a long day of work, cooking dinner, cleaning, running errands, etc. (We’re all busy, you get the picture…)

Since this month tended to fit into the “dread” category due to a challenging past few weeks, I really thought I’d be happy to finally cross the finish line of this certificate program, because it would free up some much-needed extra hours in my hectic schedule— but I’m actually sad to say goodbye.

I’ve really enjoyed the course topics, the class discussions, and reading everyone’s blog posts. It’s been a fun little journey in the world of social media and through this program I’ve really felt connected to kindred spirits.

I’ve learned a number of things in the Social Media Certificate that I have applied to my job. Although I had heard of these tools before, I had never taken advantage of them until I learned more from these course lessons; I now use Google campaign URLS to track event registration, I use Google Alerts to follow news and keywords, I conduct social listening on social media platforms, and more. I feel like I am more diligent and productive because of this.

Additional applications I have found in the field of online marketing and social media are Sprout Social and Planoly, both of which I love. I use Sprout Social at work to schedule posts, create reports, check and respond to messages, listen, and more. Outside of work, I use a tool called Planoly to schedule and write my Instagram posts for my Modern Girls Book Club account. I recommend Sprout Social (paid subscription) for larger organizations that have a lot to keep track of and are expected to post a lot of content, and I recommend Planoly (I use the free version) for small businesses and people who do it as a hobby to schedule consistent content on Instagram.

Scheduling my Instagram photos in Planoly

Thank you for being a part of this social media journey with me, and thank you Nelly for insightful and interesting lessons! What started as a bit of a whim to strengthen my credentials really became a game changer for me and I am really happy I made the decision to commit to this Algonquin College program.

What made you decide to enroll in this course?

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COM0015 – Blog #3: Not *trying* to network is my best networking technique

Throwback photo to my university days, when I bought my first work outfit, lived in a dorm, dyed my hair blonde, and took selfies using a point-and-shoot camera (nope, that isn’t a cellphone).

When I think of the word “networking,” I think of one of the most cringe-worthy, awkward moments of my career. I was an intern at TVGuide.ca and was so excited to be assigned to cover the premiere of a new Canadian reality TV show called Peak Season at MTV Canada, where I would get to meet professional entertainment reporters and MTV staff. As a journalism student at Ryerson University, where professors repeatedly told me that networking was the ticket to employment, this was a big opportunity for me and I could not wait! Recorder and notebook in hand, I walked through the doors at Masonic Temple feeling optimistic… and then dread quickly hit. Every single person in that room was part of a clique and I clearly did not belong. I felt awkward, out of place, and a total misfit at this event. I hovered around various groups trying to pipe in but failing miserably. Luckily, a friendly fellow intern from another entertainment website seemed to recognize my discomfort and joined forces with me; we bonded together to endure the event, both sharing in the other’s pain.

While my in-person deliberate networking attempt was a complete failure, my hobby actually proved to be a very useful networking tool for me. During breaks between classes, studying, interning and finishing assignments, I loved tweeting about entertainment news and blogging about pop culture. I genuinely enjoyed doing it and wasn’t viewing it as a networking tool, but it became a great way for me to connect with industry professionals, show my expertise in the field, and publish my writing without it being touched by an editor. Because of my tweets and my blog, I was offered freelance writing opportunities, connected with a mentor at Breakfast Television, strengthened my portfolio, and was able to demonstrate my social media knowledge when I applied for the full-time job I have now. Perhaps it was because I was genuine and authentic – and not trying to network – that social media served as such a great networking tool.

It’s funny how I didn’t view my entertainment tweeting and pop culture blog as networking at the time, but in hindsight it is so clear to me that those were such effective networking tools for someone starting their career. Which is why it’s also funny to me, now that I’m writing this blog post, that I thought I had shut the door on networking six years ago when I was hired full-time.

But I never stopped networking; I just changed the reason why I networked. I wasn’t networking to find a connection for a job, I was networking to do my job more effectively. As Social Media Officer at an Ontario college, I network with faculty, staff, students, and community partners. But I don’t network for work opportunities, I network to encourage more followers on our social media accounts, I network for content ideas, I network to increase engagement on our channels, and more. The more I network, the more effective I am at my job.

So now that I’ve realized that I have been effectively networking this whole time, I’m considering ways in which I can continue to develop my networks.

In person, I will network through meetings, campus events, community functions related to the college, and local networking events for young professionals. Online, I will continue to use Linkedin, Twitter, and Instagram to network (I prefer to use Facebook for close friends and family).

And to grow my new hobby, book reviewing (here’s a shameless plug for my blog and Instagram), I will aim to post consistently (Monday to Friday on Instagram and a new blog post every Monday) and engage more with other Instagram accounts (comment, follow, like, DM) to grow a strong network in the Bookstagram community. I will also read more blogs on WordPress and comment on those of interest to get my name out there.

I think perhaps the secret to successful networking, for me in any case, is to not try too hard. When I went to that initial event as an intern, I was too eager and, well, too desperate. No one wants to chat with someone who is just there to collect business cards and harass for job opportunities; they want to chat with someone who shares a genuine interest in something and who wants to hear what you have to say.

Be authentic, be genuine and be yourself.

What is your secret to successful networking?

COM0015 – Blog #2: “The roses and thorn on social media.”

The social media landscape is flourishing, with some brands blooming under the gaze of followers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat, among other channels. These brands are given the care and attention they need to survive, and they are blossoming into something beautiful. Unfortunately, there are also brands that have been planted on social media that have been left on their own to grow without the resources they need to thrive, and passersby can see the wilting accounts while scrolling through their newsfeed.

The roses of organizations that show impressive social media strategy are: Staples and Wendys.

Staples: An office supply store is not a brand that springs to mind when you think of great brands on social media, but Staples will surprise you, which is what drew me to this organization.

They offer content that is useful to followers and relevant to Staples products, such as:

Staples, Instagram

They are all about follower engagement, like encouraging comments:

Staples, Instagram

And they cleverly take advantage of trending topics:

Staples, Instagram

Wendy’s: When I started brainstorming organizations that have a strong social media game, I immediately thought of the Queen of Sass, Wendy’s. The snark and attitude Wendy’s serves up on social media, specifically Twitter, has made this account one of the best. And Wendy’s followers agree, even volunteering to be roasted on #NationalRoastDay.

Wendy’s isn’t afraid to go after their competition, like McDonald’s:

Wendy’s, Twitter

and Burger King:

Wendy’s, Twitter

And their #FreshTweets hashtag helped spread awareness about Wendy’s only using fresh, never frozen, beef while encouraging engagement from their followers about things that are better fresh.

Sticking with fast-food, a brand I think could step up its game on social media is Country Style. They currently have a presence, but it is very corporate instead of authentic. For example:

Their Instagram photos look very Photoshopped:

Country Style, Instagram

Their tweets lack personality:

Country Style, Twitter

and their Facebook posts are very focused on sales:

Country Style, Facebook

While there’s nothing horrible about their social media work, it’s not outside-the-box and special like Wendy’s and Staples. I would like to see Country Style use their current accounts more effectively by being more authentic and engaging more with their followers. To implement this, I would like them to take more candid photos, use more fun hashtags, and ask their followers questions to encourage engagement. I don’t think Country Style needs to use any other social media tools, but I do think they can use them better to grow their accounts and generate more interest.

COM0015 – Blog #1: “The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”

Photo source: Indigo. Full disclosure: I didn’t purchase the mug at Chapters, but I’ve added it to my cart online.

I was searching for a new book at Chapters last Friday evening (yes, I am that cool that I spend Friday nights at Chapters) when a sweet little tea mug caught my eye. Written across the front, the mug says “the quieter you become, the more you can hear.” So very true! And as someone who loves to talk, this mug would serve as a good reminder for me to quiet down and listen up—there is a lot to be learned through just listening.

This quote is not only a good reminder for chatterboxes like me, it’s a good reminder for everyone who uses social media professionally. For those who manage social media accounts for a business, it is easy to just focus on what you’re posting because it is a lot of work just planning and creating content, however listening is just as important for your brand.

Why?

Listening helps you stay on top of the technology that is out there, news and events, what is trending and on trend, what your competition is doing, who your audience is, what content your audience engages with most, what people are saying about your business, and more. Basically, if you want to be successful on social media, you have to listen.

My two favourite listening tools are Google Alerts and Sprout Social:

  • Google Alerts: Google Alerts is a wonderful free tool that allows me to keep an eye on what is being said online about my organization. Google Alerts tracks the web for keywords I have entered, compiles web results featuring those keywords, and sends me a daily email with the results. It is a simple yet effective way to monitor what is being said about your brand online, with minimal effort on your part.
  • Sprout Social: I am a new Sprout Social user and I love it! Unfortunately it is not free, but if you are part of a large business or organization then I would absolutely recommend it. Sprout Social is a social media management tool that organizes all of your accounts into one content management system. In Sprout Social, I am able to view my social media inbox, which includes Facebook comments, reviews, direct messages, tweets, re-tweets, Instagram comments, and more. I can view the demographics of my followers across all platforms, I can write and schedule content, I can view how my content is performing, I can listen for target keywords and see what my audience is saying about my organization, and more. I am really happy with this tool and I find it is helping me listen more, and become more organized and strategic with my approach to social media.

Another part of listening means staying on top of news and current events. I used to visit websites like TheStar.com for news or pick up a hard copy of Vanity Fair magazine for in-depth articles, and I’ll admit that I was once an avid PerezHilton.com follower for celeb gossip, but now I just fully rely on Twitter and Facebook as my sources to stay up-to-date.

On Twitter, I follow journalists, news organizations, and personalities of interest to me that help me stay informed on breaking news, major stories, and articles of interest. I also look at the trending topics list and click on any that jump out as breaking news (i.e. not “#NationalComplimentDay,” although that is a nice thing to come across ☺) to ensure I’m not out-of-the-loop. On Facebook, I follow accounts and pages that provide me with news stories and information of interest, and my feed is regularly filled with links to in-depth stories (no need for a copy of Vanity Fair magazine anymore). Facebook’s trending topics list also catches my eye and I click on any story that seems significant. Similar to Google Alerts, once you organize your Twitter and Facebook accounts in a way that keeps you informed, then it is a pretty passive way to have the news come to you.

There was a time when we’d wait for the morning paper to arrive, getting newsprint on our fingertips as we sipped our morning coffee. Today, staying informed means checking our newsfeeds, getting our Google Alerts sent to our email inbox, using social media management tools, and more, at all hours of the day. Better pour myself another cup!

COM0014 – Blog #7: Content is King

Many have heard that “Content is King,” but what does that even mean? Through the Digital Communication course, I learned a lot about why content is so important when it comes to marketing and how I can create the most effective content for social media.

While I do have a strong writing background having earned my journalism degree, I have never written articles with the thought of “how do I want my audience to engage with this story?” I mean in news articles it just wouldn’t be appropriate, for example: “so…. that was a horrific car crash, eh?” would not be suitable. But it does make perfect sense when you’re writing for a business because you want to engage with your audience and you want to interact with them to build a relationship. Now, thanks to this course, I think about how I want my audience to engage with my story before I start typing. This piece of advice was great and I plan to continue using it!

Speaking of audience, I also never really thoroughly analyzed target audiences before or broke them up between demographics and psychographic (confession: I had never heard of the word “psychographic” before). Similar to “Content is King,” we all hear “Know Your Audience,” but how many of us really know what that means? I’m glad this topic was covered and I feel like I gained useful information from it that I will use going forward.

Storytelling is so important when creating great digital content because it creates a bond between the audience and the brand (or storyteller). It connects us and helps us engage with each other. I hope to create stories that will spark conversation (a.k.a. comments) and make people feel more connected.

Thank you for a great class!

COM0014 – Blog #6: Turning my hobby into a side hustle

Like Clark Kent, I have two separate identities. By day, I work in communications at a post-secondary institution; by night, I’m a nerdy bookworm who is building my brand – the Modern Girls Book Club – on Instagram.

Unlike Clark Kent, though, I always wear my glasses.

While I’m fortunate to have a full-time job I enjoy, I really love my hobby and secretly wish that it becomes a part of my career portfolio one day, even just as a small side income (a.k.a. “side hustle”).

In February 2017, I created the Modern Girls Book Club Instagram account and later launched a WordPress blog. The Modern Girls Book Club is an online book club for busy bookworms who are unable to join an in-person book club due to professional or personal obligations. My greatest achievement with the Modern Girls Book Club thus far is having the opportunity to interview writer Joy Norstrom about her novel “Out of Play” for my website.

My greatest challenge is time (or lack thereof). Currently I’m working full-time and doing online courses part-time to earn my Social Media Certificate from Algonquin College. However, once my online courses are out of the way, my goal is to dedicate that time to growing the Modern Girls Book Club, which includes: creating a new website, creating new web content, engaging more with the book community on Instagram, and uploading content more frequently on Instagram.

By this time next year, I hope to have accomplished all of these things and grow my Instagram following to 1, 000 followers (I’m currently at 305 followers, so I have a long way to go). My goal is to one day have partnerships with publishers and for my account to be viewed as a social media influencer.

Wish me luck!

COM0014 – Blog #5: A little bit about me…

Hi friend!

You may be wondering who I am, what I do for a living, and what is my “personal brand” (okay, probably not the last one in those exact words, but I’m sure some aspects of it are on your mind. No? Well now it is).

I do social media for a living. What sets me apart from my competition is that I have a journalism degree and, since content is king, my ability to communicate effectively comes in handy. I also enjoy photography and finding a good story to share, which is great for content creation.

To stand out, I am continuing to learn and grow in my profession. I am earning my Social Media Certificate from Algonquin College and have recently started using Sprout Social, which is helping me with strategy and planning.

My colleagues would say my best trait is my winning personality and humbleness (I kid, I kid). But in all seriousness, I would say my best trait at work is my ability to work well with everyone in all departments on various projects.

What I am most proud of is that a full-time social media position was created for me. I truly love what I do and enjoy going to work every day, so I am very grateful for the opportunity to do what I do.

What is your profession and what do you love most about it?

COM0014 – Blog #4: No Frills makes a grocery store feel like a friend

No Frills was not a brand I grew up viewing as cool, fun, or young; No Frills was a grocery store with lower prices and less glam (or “frills”). Simply put, No Frills was No Cool. However, that image has changed in the last few years all thanks to their very cool social media.

No Frills uses social media effectively to promote Business to Consumer (B2C) transactions, and are reaching their audience through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. They present consistent branding across all channels by using the same cover photo on Twitter and Facebook, and the same profile picture on all platforms, and they make use of their signature yellow brand colour in their social media posts. They host contests (like this one for a TV), share information (like the PC Plus and Shoppers Optimum partnership), and promote their sales. But the reason No Frills is killing it on social media is their winning personality.

No Frills has achieved something many brands fail at: they relate to their customer, they make them laugh, they pull at their heart strings, and they feel like a friend.

How many grocery stores can say that?  

No Frills watches your favourite TV shows, like this “Arya ready for tonight?” Game of Thrones shout-out and this Eggos for 11 cents deal to celebrate Stranger Things; has great conversation starters to invite audience engagement, like this post asking followers to “Have some fun by describing your summer using a movie title. We’ll go first: One Crazy Summer; plus, they are funny (“Shake what your mama brought you”) and up with trending topics (“#NationalPastaDay.”)

No Frills is earning amazing engagement on their posts because they are fun and authentic. It feels real and that is why I think this approach is working for the brand.

COM0014 – Blog #3: Targeting bookworms

I love to read and discuss my favourite books, but unfortunately I don’t really have time to commit to an in-person book club. I figured I can’t be the only one, so I started an online book club for busy bookworms earlier this year.

The Modern Girls Book Club is targeted to women in their mid-20s to late-30s who, due to professional and personal obligations, cannot commit to an in-person book club, but still want to engage in great book club discussion. The goal of the blog and Instagram account is to earn high engagement, especially comments, among followers. And while gender and age are specifically targeted, there is much variety within this audience; there are single women, married women and divorced women, there are stay-at-home mothers and career women, there are women from different backgrounds and religions, the list goes on… The more perspectives the group can offer, the better the discussion!

For psychographics, my audience are introverts (bookworms aren’t known to be party animals), but there is an influencer side to them because they do recommend books to their friends and followers. Most are middle class, as they have a bit of a disposable income to spend on books, and many enjoy the occasional vacation where they can pack a good book in their beach bag.

To effectively communicate with my audience, I plan to share engaging content on the blog and Instagram account, and to participate in existing online groups and discussions about books. Communities I can communicate with include: GoodReads.com, BuzzFeed Books and CBC Books Facebook Pages, the #AmReading hashtag thread on Twitter, #Bookstagram and #BookCommunity hashtags on Instagram, and #Booklr on Tumblr.

If you are a bookworm, where is your favourite place online to recommend great books?

COM0014 – Blog #2: Take Action

Comment, sign up for a cool event, share the post, or create something new—what action do you want your readers to take?

In Lesson 2, I discovered that my writing should be framed around what action I want my readers to take. This was such a “Eureka!” moment for me because I never considered planning my writing this way.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to learn something new this week. I spent four years earning my Bachelor of Journalism degree at Ryerson University, so I’ve already covered Inverted Pyramid, active voice, grammar, spelling and punctuation. But what I didn’t learn in journalism school was how to interact with readers.

That’s because traditional journalists didn’t need to. They were taught to be neutral, conduct thorough research, and inform readers on news items. They certainly didn’t ask readers for their thoughts (“So what do you think of this gruesome car crash?“) or encourage them to sign up for an event (“I’ll continue to cover this murder trial. If you care to join, meet me at the courthouse!”) But that is why reporting class writing is not fully transferable to blogging (however Inverted Pyramid, active voice, grammar, spelling and punctuation always come in handy).

The best part of social media is that it’s a conversation and you get to interact with your audience, so why not take advantage of it? Lesson 2 really opened my eyes to how I need to alter my writing style for social media and how “action” must be top priority before putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, that is).