COM0012 — Anybody out there?

Based on the introductions I’ve read from folks  in this course, some of us will struggle with some of the social media tools we will be learning about.  My least favourite so far is  WordPress, with which I have a hate/hate relationship.  However, as is so often the case, you have to play the hand that you are dealt, so I promise — no more grousing about WordPress.  Instead, I’ll learn to master it and add it to the bag of tools I bring to work with me every day.

As far as I can tell, there do not appear to be any posts in the COM0012 Developing a Social Media Strategy blog yet.  So let me kick things off with a challenge — find an article about social media that you can share with your classmates that will help us all learn, and share a comment or two about it with us all.  Here’s my contribution: 10 Surprising Social Media Statistics That Might Make You Rethink Your Social Strategy.

Most surprising for me was the first surprising stat, that the fastest growing demographic on Twitter in the last year was 55 to 64 age bracket. I just snuck in under the wire! (While I have had a Twitter account for some time, I have really only begun using it since I took the Intro to SM course in the Fall — follow me @tancommedia)  This is particularly relevant to me, since I am in the midst of introducing a SM strategy in an organization whose target audience falls smack in that range.  I never knew!



COM0011-521: Blog Entry #5 Good and bad social media campaigns

In this blog post I would like to share two SM campaigns with you, one that worked and one that did not. I will highlight “Lowe’s Fix in Six” using Vine as a success story, and Woody Harrelson’s efforts to promote the film Rampart as an example of how quickly errant stars can crash and burn.

First the good. In the spring of 2013, Lowe’s Home Improvement launched a social media campaign ( using Vine, a video-sharing tool only allows very short posts — six seconds, in fact. Sound like Twitter for video?  You got it — Vine is owned by Twitter. Lowe’s put up a dozen simple tips for homeowners.  Did you know you can use an elastic band and a drill to remove a stripped screw?  Or that a clogged shower head can easily be cleaned using vinegar, a plastic bag and a rubber band?   I didn’t either.   Lowe’s Fix in Six used time-lapse photography and was shot using an i-phone (if that’s spelled wrong that’s because I am a Blackberry guy!).  In the best traditions of slap-stick, the time-lapse photography adds an element of humour to the campaign.  It is not a hard sell at all — in fact many of the “projects” use objects commonly found around the house and would not require a trip to the store.  Instead, it seeks to build good will for the store. Vine has been a tough sell for many marketers, however based on the hugely positive reaction on Twitter (, I think it’s safe to call this one a success.

Ironically, six seconds is about all it took for Woody Harrelson’s rep to go down the drain when he agreed to do do a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) on-line appearance while promoting his film film Rampart in February 2012.  Initially questions focused on the film  but things went astray when someone made claims that Harrleson had taken a classmate’s virginity years earlier.  Harrelson insisted he was only taking questions about the film (wait a minute wasn’t this supposed to be an AMA?!!). A short time later a Quickmeme page for “Scumbag Woody Harrelson” appeared with images mocking the star.


Over the next few days the actor was savaged on-line, and YouTube viewers began disliking the film’s trailer. At last count, the dislikes outranked the likes better than 2 to 1 (1,423-629). Mainstream media criticism followed, with articles about the exchange being published in the New York Observer, the Huffington Post, Forbes and other on-line outlets.  Harrelson’s Google search interest  ( peaked a short time after the incident.

Moral of the story? Social media can turn quickly on you, particularly if you appear to be evasive and not willing to tackle tough issues.  This is particularly true for celebrities — lots of people want to bring them down a peg or two!  As a media relations practitioner I encourage my clients to engage with the media in safe environments, and generally to avoid call-in shows.   The social media equivalent can be just as dangerous!

COM0011-521: Blog # 6 Effective content for my organization


I have a particular conundrum that I am struggling with vis-a-vis Social Media.  Here is some background to start. Please forgive me if this post is somewhat lengthy.

I am presently doing some work for the Indian Residential Schools Adjudication Secretariat (IRSAS), which hears complaints about abuse suffered by former students, and determines if — and how much — compensation should be awarded to them.

For those of you who not are aware about Indian Residential Schools (sadly this seems to be most Canadians), the federal government had a policy of forcibly removing Indian children from their families and schooling them at institutions that were co-managed by churches.  The goal was to assimilate Aboriginal people by “removing the Indian from the child.” Over 150,000 students attended Indian Residential Schools starting in the late 1800s.  The last school closed in 1996. Students were not allowed to speak their languages or practice their culture.  Many students were horribly abused at the schools — accounts of sexual, physical and emotional abuse are widespread, well documented and widely corroborated.

In 2007, as part of the largest class action suit in Canadian history, the Courts set up IRSAS, one of several components of a comprehensive settlement agreement for former students of Indian Residential Schools.

Communicating with claimants has been a challenge.  For one, they are mostly elderly, and generally have a low level of literacy.  In many cases they do not speak English or French. Many live in remote areas where Internet connections are difficult (if they have access to a computer). About 85% are represented by lawyers, which means we cannot communicate directly with them — we must work through their counsel.  Many of the claimants are emotionally fragile as a result of the abuse they suffered; there is a high level of alcoholism and substance abuse.  Many of our urban claimants have lived on the streets or have been incarcerated. In short, not an easy audience to reach.

So, I find myself wondering whether to invest in Social Media as a tool to reach them, and what type of content would resonate.  There are several hurdles to overcome.  First, the need for confidentiality — as an organization we cannot even confirm or deny whether an individual is a claimant under our process because of the nature of abuse they suffered, which was frequently sexual. Literacy is another issue — basic literacy and computer literacy.  And, there are limited funds — communications are already stretched thin in an organization that communicates primarily on a reactive basis rather than pro-actively.  So, do we spend more money and adopt SM?  What is is our ROI in a process that will end in four years, once all of the claims have been heard?

In terms of content, I think it must be very simple, and accentuate what claimants can do if they need help.  In formulating a SM strategy, I am considering two, perhaps three vehicles.  YouTube will help us get around the literacy issue, but quality video is expensive to produce. We have invested in a professionally produced film that we will distribute on a YouTube channel, but I don’t see the capacity to produce many more.  If we are able to produce anything else, it will likely simply be a few short video clips.  I’d love to have claimants who have been through the process talk about their experience, but most are reluctant to speak publicly of the abuse they suffered.

I am also considering Facebook and Twitter, but our strategy would be to use these tools to target those who help and support  claimants — their children, family members, health support workers, counsel, Friendship Centres and others that work with Aboriginal People.  Our goal with these tools would be to listen, educate and drive traffic to our website, where additional information is available.

I am aware that Twitter was used to great effect in Idle No More movement, and that young Aboriginal People are well connected through Social Media.

We would start by doing some active listening through various channels to determine how and where we could best intervene.  The strategy is coming together in my head, my client seems open to the idea of delving into Social Media, but I have no clue on the amount of resources would be required — I have to think it would take at least one person working a third to half time to make any type of impact.  I’d appreciate any thoughts you may have on this!

BTW, I remain shocked and saddened that so few Canadians are aware of this sad chapter in our history.  If abuse of this magnitude were to occur to any other group in Canadian society there would be outrage and quick action. Most observers acknowledge the IRS system as the root of the many social problems that our Aboriginal People experience today.  Can you imagine never receiving a hug as a child?  Or never having your birthday celebrated? Not being able to speak your language, being robbed of your culture, your heritage, your way of life?  I encourage you all to educate yourselves about this issue, because reconciliation with our First People is everyone’s responsibility, and will make us a stronger country.

COM–11-521 Blog # 4 Future trends in social media

There is no shortage of opinions as to where social media will go in the next few years.  The one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that SM is an ever-changing creature that will continue to evolve in both predicable ad unpredictable ways.  Many observers feel that big business and big brands will continue to lead the stampede towards the further adoption of social media, and that new industries that have shied away from using it to date will get on the bandwagon (See

In an article in (, Adrienne Grubb argues that the prevalence of cameras (google glass, smart phones, wearable sports cameras and other recording devices that stream live video to the Internet 24/7) will fuel an explosion of what she calls “a life logged.”  Coming to a screen — large or small — near you soon.  Soon spying on your neighbours will be even easier.

I feel that we will see an acceleration in convergence in social media, much as we have seen it in traditional media, with the bigger players buying up emerging companies that develop promising tools or technologies.  Look no further than Facebook’s move on Pinterest and Instagram for evidence of this.

I also feel that Social media will extends its inroads into the e-commerce world, and the importance of images and videos will continue to grow as SM evolves into an increasingly more visual medium.

COMM011-521 – Blog #3 How SM is being used in my industry — good and bad

As a former journalist, I am always interested in new developments in my former industry.  I manage to stay in touch with the industry as a media relations practitioner who has been fortunate to have worked on a number of fairly high profile issues. 


Recently I did some work for the Military Police Complaints Commission, which held a public hearing into the suicide of a soldier at CFB Edmonton.  The hearing received a fair amount of national coverage, mostly driven by the work of Chris Cobb, a journalist with the Ottawa Citizen.  Aside from his daily articles in the Citizen and on the newspaper’s website, Chris sent out a steady stream of tweets as various witnesses testified.  It was almost like a live feed of the highlights of the hearings.  His tweets helped drive traffic to the Citizen’s website and generated a number of leads on other stories that Chris was able to write about.


More and more journalists are tweeting directly from news conferences, accident scenes, inside Parliament or other places where news is gathered.  But they are not all adept at using good judgement in choosing their content.  Recently in Philadelphia, a Fox news employee thought she could ride the Breaking Bad finale buzz and promote some “hot” news on her program that evening with the following tweet:


Thought “Breaking Bad” was hot last Sunday? @FOX29philly See who’s breakin’ bad in SW Philly leavin’ 6 people SHOT – Tonite at Ten! (Joyce Evans (@JoyceEvansFox29) October 7, 2013)

Yikes! Needless to say she was pilloried because of her tasteless attempt at sensationalism.  She compounded the problem when she tried to apologize:

Last tweet NOT AST ALL A JOKE. Very real life drama was the point as oppose to one that end on tv. That was my point.

Uh, no – I think her point was to try capitalize on a tragic mass shooting.

COMM011-521 – Blog #2 Things I have discovered about on-line communities

Since I have been sampling social media, I have learned a number of things.  First, it’s important to be aware of the source of any information that you may come across on social media platforms.  As a former journalist, I was trained to always be balanced in my reporting – this rule does not apply in the social media world.

Politicians and political parties are frequent users of Twitter to push an agenda, shape public policy or generate discussion on a particular subject.  Whatever you views are on the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, Justin Trudeau certainly did an effective job of starting a sustained conversation in Canada on this topic recently with a number of SM interventions.

In other cases, SM content might be an outright lie or a hoax.  For some goods examples of this, check out

I recall one wag saying that social media is the talk radio of the Internet – many people engage without any particular knowledge on a subject.  Consumers beware!

Fact checking is often a casualty of the need to communicate quickly.  In the rush to be first, even respectable media outlets have been caught with their pants down – dozens of news organizations  jumped all over a Tweet that originated in Ottawa in 2010 and reported that Gordon Lightfoot had passed away (See  Not true (although many of those who saw him recently at the Ottawa Folkfest might wonder.  But I digress).

It’s important to be critical in assessing SM content to determine its veracity, and to understand what the author’s intent was – to inform, misinform, create public discussion, or that perennial favourite, engage in a little bit of mischief.

Finally, don’t post anything on social media that you don’t want the world to see – even if you just have a handful of friends, as British PM David Cameron’s sister-in-law learned earlier this month (

COMM011-521 – Blog #1 My Favourite Social Media Tool

It’s funny how some of us get dragged into the social media world.  I dipped my foot into Facebook waters a number of years ago and came away wondering what the big deal was.  Then my two kids – now 20 and 24 – started using Facebook, and suddenly it became one of the most effective ways for mom and dad to keep in touch with them. “You wanna’ figure out where I’m at Dad, you’re gonna’ have to do it on my terms.”  Indeed.

I have found that a number of folks in my age group — north of 50 – were drawn into Facebook for the same reason. It’s a way to keep in touch with children who are away at school, have moved out or who hate talking on the phone.  Pick any two of those and chances are a disdain for Alexander Graham Bell’s “old technology” will be on your list if you have, or had, teenage children.

Nonetheless, over the years I have grown to appreciate the usefulness and broad reach of Facebook, and now count myself among those who have more than one Facebook account.  I have one that I use for personal contacts, and a second one that I use to reach a key client group for my photography business – teenage hockey players (

Along the way my list of Facebook friends grew to include siblings, relatives, business associates, and other like-minded people whose paths I have crossed.  I find it a useful way to keep in touch with people that I don’t see very regularly, those that I am not inclined to write a “hi, how ‘ya doin’” e-mail to.