COM0014 Blog #3 – Reaching a Diverse Target Audience

In lesson three, we learned that assessing your target audience is a critical step in designing a communications or social media strategy. By examining our current audience, we can gain insight into the audiences we would like to target.

I work for a spaceflight engineering company; as part of our social media plan we are working to encourage conversation around the critical benefits space research and technology has on our daily lives, in an effort to gain public support for Government investment in the space sector.  We are also using social media to attract and engage key stakeholders to demonstrate our position as a technology innovator and key player in global space activity.

Having two very different but equally as important goals mean we have a diverse target audience. On one hand, we want to appeal to the general public and on the other hand we want to appeal to government and commercial space organizations. Having previously identified who we want to target, I was interested to see if we were reaching the audiences we had identified.

Looking at the demographic breakdown of our Twitter audience, I was able to see that 49% of our audience falls into the 25 to 34 year old age bracket, 70% of our audience is male, 30% is female and 55% of our audience is Canadian and 98% speaks English.

Demographics_Twitter

Not surprisingly, technology, science and space were the top interests of our followers.

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If I were to build an audience profile, this information would lead me to believe that our target audience is an English speaking, Canadian male in the 25-34 year old age bracket who is interested in technology and tech news.  This profile isn’t surprising, and it is in line with a portion of our target audience.

However, we also have an ambitious goal of reaching our Federal and Provincial Members of Parliament. Examining our current audience and through my daily interactions with our followers, I know that we are not yet reaching the majority of this audience. In order to reach this audience, we will need too employ listening tools to find out where they are spending their time. I have added them to lists on Twitter so I can monitor their conversations. We will also conduct searches to see what groups and conversations they are active in and try and align our efforts to meet those needs.

Through monitoring the demographics of our audience, tracking changes to our followers and through listening strategies, we can work towards meeting the needs of our target audience and perhaps discover a new audience that we did not originally identify.

 

 

Elements for Effective Communication COM0014 Blog #2

Communication through writing requires the author to be clear, concise and give the reader all essential information in the opening paragraph. People are continually flooded with information via the internet and there is no shortage of material to read, so they skim over content making decisions about what to pay attention to based on a very quick glance. In this lesson we learned about “Inverted Pyramid Writing.” Using this method, the writer ensures that critical information goes at the beginning of their content so that if the reader stops reading after the first paragraph, they will still have the key information.

Writing in an active voice, impeccable grammar, spelling and punctuation all contribute to how readable your content is. If someone has to re-read what you’ve written to try and understand it, it isn’t very good content and they won’t want be inclined to share it.

Begin writing with a clear idea of who your audience is and how you want them to interact with your writing. In lesson two, we read that many successful bloggers end their posts by posing a question. Ending your post with a question keeps the reader hooked, encourages comments and engages the reader in a conversation.

Because there is no shortage of content on almost every topic you could think of, writers need to be cognizant of all of the elements that make good material. Communicating through writing requires writers to make their point efficiently but still provide value to the reader, what issues have you run into while writing content and how has this class helped you to address those issues?

COM0014 – Blog #1: My Cuban Vacation

Last May, I went on my FIRST vacation! Maybe this doesn’t seem that exciting or significant to you, but I am 30 years old and have never ever been on a vacation. Every year, my friends, co-workers and family all travel somewhere warm and I seethe with jealousy while I am left to enjoy Ottawa’s never-ending winters!  Let’s back track a bit to a few weeks before my vacation… One cold winters’ evening I was sitting on the couch with my husband complaining about the cold and snow when I received a group Facebook message. My sister-in-law and cousin were going to Cuba and they wanted me to come. I laughed as I told my husband about the message, I couldn’t afford a vacation, we have a five year old and no one to help out with drop off and pick up from school and daycare. But then they told me the price. For $700 I could eat, drink, tan, swim, READ (when was the last time I read a book) and relax….seven hundred dollars…..how could I say no?! So, with a little encouragement from my husband, I took a plunge and agreed to go (so not like me!)

The vacation was amazing – the beach was to die for, the food was plentiful, the drinks even more plentiful and the company fantastic. Our rooms were old and the food was bland but we had a blast. I am sure you can imagine the days on the beach, the pure bliss of no one asking me to do anything for them, no laundry, no lunch making, no messes to pick up, no dishes to do and tons of uninterrupted time to read.

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My favourite day of the trip was mid-week; we went on a day-long Catamaran excursion. If you’ve ever been to Cuba, I think you’ll understand that it feels like you have gone back in time, the rooms looked like they hadn’t been updated since the 1970’s and the rest of the resort was not all that much better, so the crisp white Catamaran on the beautiful ocean was an amazing sight. We traveled from Varadero to Cayo Coco. The music was blaring, the drinks were plentiful, the guides were fluent in many languages and the wind was blowing just enough to make us forget how hot the May sun is in Cuba. We stopped along the way to swim with the dolphins, and scuba dive in the middle of the ocean. I am generally not a fan of swimming in lakes so the fact that I was comfortable enough to get out in the middle of the ocean and swim with the fish and potential sharks was really just surreal. We had two hours in Cayo Coco for an amazing seafood lunch and then we sailed back to Varadero.

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Before I knew it the week was over and I was back home with my husband and daughter who I’d missed so much, a little burnt and totally covered in bug bites with only the memories of the hot sun, the places we’d seen and the friends we met on our trip. I wasn’t able to get away this year, but I am perhaps a little less jealous of those who have and very much looking forward to a trip with my husband and daughter next year.

Using Twitter Analytics to Improve Engagement

I have written before about how I am actively working towards increasing my company’s social media presence, the other day I was looking at the Twitter Analytics section of our profile and trying to make sense of them, so I thought it may be helpful for others if I discuss what information I discovered on how I can use Twitter analytics to improve engagement on our corporate Twitter account.

First of all, what is an impression? Your impressions, also referred to as “reach” are the number of unique individuals who saw your Tweet within their social media stream. This however, does not mean that same number of people read your post. It just appeared in their feed. What is a click? A click means someone saw your post and clicked on a portion of it – either to expand it, check out your social media profile or follow a link you posted.

Using Twitter Analytics, you can discover the following information:

  • Figure out who your audience is- If you go to the Twitter Analytics section of your account you can click on the “Audiences” tab. Here you will see what your followers top interest is. In our case, it is technology. You can find out what percentage of your followers are male or female, which geographic region they live in and more. Using this information, you can tailor your posts to meet the interests of your audience. Make sure to tweet, share and re-tweet authentic, trusted sources of information for your niche market. Regularly tweeting will increase your presence and in turn foster engagement.

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  • Look at the “Demographics” section of the Audiences tab. This will tell you where your audience lives, what languages they speak. By tracking where your audience is located geographically, you can plan to post content during their work day and evenings to connect with them better. In our case, 72% of our audience is located in either Canada or the United States and only 5% is located in the UK. If I want to increase our European followers, I may choose to post during their work day to connect with them, increase our social media presence and hopefully gain more European followers
  • If you click on the “Tweets” tab, you can look at your tweets. You can filter the information between a certain time period, check out your most popular tweet as well as see impressions and engagement rate for each tweet. Study the tweets that earned the most impressions- do they have any of the same characteristics? Do they include pictures, videos or links? Create new tweets using some of the characteristics of your most popular ones. After a day or two, look at the analytics for these tweets to see how they performed. Keep studying your tweets until you pinpoint the characteristics that encourage engagement with your followers.
  • Twitter Analytics has an “events” tab which you can filter by region. Depending on your business, you may be able to use this information to your advantage and tweet about events in your region or events that pertain to your market.
  • Outside of the Analytics section, you can simply track favourites, retweets and replies. If someone favourites your post, they’re letting you know they like it. If they re-tweet it, you know they like it enough to share with their followers. This may help you to gain more followers and certainly increases your reach. Since the key to social media is conversation, if someone replies to one of your posts, it is important to acknowledge and respond, this conversation could lead to a future client or partner and of course get other followers engaged in the discussion about your content.

Twitter Analytics offer good insight into what is getting your audience excited and can help you to develop content that encourages audience engagement and a greater following.

Lessons Learned

Taking a class as an adult is so much more difficult than it was when I was in University. Back then, I just had me to worry about…if I ate Mr. Noodle for supper, didn’t clean my apartment or had to stay up until 3am working on an assignment, it was no big deal. Fast forward six years and now I have a full time career, a husband, a young child, a dog, house work and the list goes on and on. To be honest, I didn’t put much thought into taking this certificate program. One morning, my manager asked me if I’d be interested in taking it so I could roll out an effective social media strategy for the company I work for so I said sure, why not! The weeks fly by and every time we have an assignment or blog due, I find myself scrambling to get it done at the last minute. I thought it would be easy, and take very little effort but as it turns out, it’s not as easy as I thought it would be. However, that wasn’t the only surprising thing, I really am shocked at how much I have learned and how much I am looking forward to taking the next class.

The principal lesson I am taking away from Introduction to Social Media is that everything we post on social media is part of our brand and that it will never go away…once it’s on the internet, it’s there to stay. Before taking this class, I never gave any thought to my personal brand and I am still having a hard time reconciling the personal and professional aspects of my life. My Facebook and Instagram accounts are strictly personal and are mostly filled with pictures and posts of my family life. I don’t ever post anything about work and I don’t really have too many colleagues on Facebook or Instagram. My LinkedIn profile is sorely lacking and I don’t really use Twitter personally. However, through the personal branding assignment and course readings, I have realized how I could leverage social media to build my reputation and I am actively working towards doing this…time is always the issue, I need 10 more hours in the day!

All of the lessons have been really informative. I’ve learned that there is so much more to social media then I ever thought. Something I never really considered before is that perhaps my company doesn’t need to use so many different social networking sites. I have begun “listening” like we learned in lesson four and I have noticed that many businesses like ours use Twitter and LinkedIn but don’t have Facebook profiles. Interestingly, Facebook was the tool I was using more than any other because I was so comfortable with it, but through monitoring other businesses I realized that most the conversations happening in our industry are happening on Twitter, so now I am using Twitter as our main social media tool.

Overall, I think this course was a fantastic overview and introduction to what social media has to offer my organization. I think what I learned about personal branding will be put to good use as I establish myself as the expert in social media at work and I am really looking forward to taking the rest of the courses so I can put together an awesome social media strategy for my company.

My Modern-Day Village

I am a mom of a five-year-old little girl… I would consider myself a reasonably knowledgeable parent but for some reason when my child gets sick, all rational thinking goes out the window… I find myself in a panic that she has some rare disease that popped up when I googled her symptoms. For the past five days, I have had one sick girl on my hands, high fever, aching body, sore throat, cough, stuffed up, vomiting…you name it, she has it. My little lady is quite a high strung child, so when she is sleeping all day, it is pretty worrisome. This is the first time she has had a fever that stuck and around for longer than a day so where did I find myself looking for answers on what I should do to ease her discomfort? My mom? My Doctor? Google? Nope! I found myself turning to Social Media for answers…particularly a Facebook “Mommy Group.”

This particular Facebook group is called “Everything Mom and Baby.” It’s based in North Bay and it was a group I joined soon after I had my daughter. I don’t even live in North Bay anymore (and haven’t in almost three years) and she is now five and not really a “baby” anymore but for some reason I cannot seem to unfollow the group. This got me thinking about why I have such an attachment to this group and why Mommy Groups in general are such a phenomenon. This particular group has over 3,000 members and is a combined information and buy and sell group for baby/kids items only. Now that I live in the Ottawa area there are plenty of other Mom Groups I could have joined but for some reason, I really like this one.

I often hear that Mom Groups are full of drama and catty women and absolutely; that’s true to some extent but at the same time, how lucky are we to live in a time when we can get answers to questions and find support instantly? We all know the saying “it takes a village to raise a child,” in this day and age living in bigger cities where people generally keep to themselves, with both parents working full time and with extended families spread all over the world, sometimes you can feel really alone in your parenting journey and a resource like a Facebook Mom Group can be that village you use to help raise your child.

Before Social Media really took off, there were online forums you could join and participate in, what pregnant mom-to-be wasn’t part of the Baby Centre birth month clubs? But, I never found myself joining in and asking questions. People were MEAN on those forums and I would often see them attacking each other. I think there is something a little more personal about Facebook groups, because generally people are using their real name and profile and in my opinion are less likely to be a total a** without that barrier of anonymity.

So for new moms or moms who aren’t part of a Mom Group here are my top seven reasons to join a Facebook Mommy Group:

  1. It puts you in contact with tons of people who have gone through all of the things your experiencing emotionally.
  2. You can get reviews on literally everything from which foods to feed first, to which daycares, gymnastics or dance academies are recommended!
  3. You can find great deals on items you might not want to spend full price on buying brand new.
  4. Support! Seriously whether your kid isn’t sleeping through the night, you need breast feeding support or encouragement, you want to know which name brand formula is the same as which store brand formula, what you should do about your crazy sister-in-law…there is always someone to answer your questions and give you advice!
  5. Friends/Social Connection- I met some really great friends via the Mom site. We started by meeting up for a walk with our babies and ended up becoming really close. This was awesome when I was a new, young mom with no family or friends with kids close by. Sometimes, when I couldn’t make it out of the house because I was too tired or overwhelmed or the baby was napping, just knowing I could log on to Facebook and connect with some other people like me made me feel better.
  6. An ego boost! Seriously, when you post a craft you did or share an experience, getting tons of comments and likes makes us feel good. It makes us feel connected which can be key for someone who is at home and feeling isolated from their pre-baby life.
  7. You will learn to be more accepting of others. I don’t know about you, but before I was a parent I thought I had it all figured out. I was going to breast feed and baby wear and co-sleep. My kid was never going to talk back and throw tantrums because I would teach her manners and respect! LOL …. well then reality hit and I realized I had no clue what I was doing and that there were people out there who knew more than me who could help. I read through many people’s opinions and solutions for what worked for them and I realized that none of us really have it totally figured out and that everyone is generally doing the best they can.

So back to my original question, why am I still part of Everything Mom and Baby? I think it is because of the connection I feel to these women who have been answering my questions and whose questions I’ve been answering for the last five years. They have truly become part of my social network, this Facebook mom group is the equivalent of my “village,” I probably wouldn’t have gotten through these last five years as easily without the help and support of these ladies. What about you? Is there a group on Social Media that you wouldn’t want to live without?

Social Media & Data Collection

While browsing the CBC news website last week, this article piqued my interest. To briefly summarize, the article discussed a new project being carried out by the University of Ottawa called “social web mining and sentiment analysis for mental illness detection.” This project was recently granted $464,100 in funding by the Federal Government. The project is going to explore the use of social media data in screening for individuals at risk for mental health issues. According to the CBC article, Diana Inkpen who is spearheading the project, said her team’s goal is to create a set of tools that can be used by doctors, psychologists, school counselors and research groups, among others, to flag concerning patterns in posts made by social media users.

The team at Ottawa U uses text-mining algorithms to pick up different patterns within the public data sets and to predict what these patterns mean. The article states that a doctor whose patient has agreed to be monitored in this way could receive an automatic alert should concerns like extremely negative emotions or negative emotions that appear repeatedly over time arise. This whole concept seems bizarre to me, I personally don’t like the idea of being monitored like this, but I can see the value in how this kind of data could truly help people and I think as long as the patient consented to this type of monitoring, then there really is no harm in it. However, the article really got me thinking about who collects our social media data and what do they do with that information?

Every day tens of millions of people post things to social media, and that data is collected and analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends and associations relating to human behaviour and interactions. Every minute, there are 2.5 million new Facebook posts and 1.7 million Instagram likes. The data collected is analyzed and used for marketing purposes, to study the health of a specific community, to pinpoint flu outbreaks and so much more. So, who is collecting this data about us? Pretty much everyone, from the manufacturers of voice activated TVs, the government, corporations and individuals. This is a good reminder that everything…EVERYTHING we post on the internet is PUBLIC regardless of privacy settings.

In 2012, Facebook came under fire for an experiment they conducted where they manipulated the news feeds of nearly 700 000 users to see if the content posted in the feeds would have an effect on the user’s future posts. http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/facebook-manipulated-700k-news-feeds-to-study-emotional-contagion-1.1891631. People were angry and questioned the ethics of manipulating users accounts and using people as subjects in an experiment without their consent.

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So, the question can be asked, is it ethical for scientists, businesses or the government to conduct these types of studies using correspondence from people’s social media conversations without their consent? I think many of us (myself included) would say no, but to the researchers who are given unlimited amounts of data for virtually no cost, this is a huge opportunity. What do you think?

As we move towards a world increasingly ruled by technology, we are going to have to start making more and more decisions as consumers whether to buy “smart” products which our personal data can be collected from or that can be hacked for negative purposes and we are going to have to be even more aware that our internet activity and our activities on social media are being monitored and used for all kinds of different objectives.

 

The Need for a Social Media Policy

166295-ashes-memesSocial Media marketing is a popular topic around my office, we’re just beginning to establish a formal social media marketing plan and recently the question of whether we needed to develop a corporate social media policy came up. With the popularity of social networking sites, employers are finding themselves dealing with employees who are posting on social media to the detriment of the company’s brand.

A quick google search for social media disasters brings up pages upon pages of social media screw ups. This means it’s happening on regular basis. The frightening thing for a company is that all it takes is one little mistake, one wrong statement or one bad review and within minutes it’s been shared over and over again creating a major public image disaster in its wake. And once it’s on the internet…. it’s never going away.

Here is a list of three well known social media disasters that had a negative influence on each company’s image.

  1. Chrysler’s “F-Bomb” – Someone with access to Chrysler’s twitter account accidently posted the following tweet on the company’s account: “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f**king drive.”
  2. Furniture store, “Habitat UK” tried using trending hashtags to get more followers: Habitat used popular hashtags that had absolutely nothing to do with their posts or brand to get people to notice them. They did get noticed, but not in a good way. They were called out for their spamming technique and consequently deleted their tweets.
  3. KitchenAid- during an American presidential debate, a KitchenAid employee tweeted an offensive comment about Obama’s deceased grandmother to KitchenAid’s 24 000 followers instead of to their personal page.

While a disgruntled employee is always a wild card, I would wager that most employees (even the ones in the above mentioned scenarios) aren’t intentionally looking to damage their companies image and many are even afraid to engage on social media on behalf of the company for fear of doing more harm than good. While, I am a big believer that there should only be one person in charge of managing social media, all employees are potential spokes persons for the company. A social media policy can not only protect the company from potential harm it can also give the employees guidance on how they can leverage social media to help promote the company’s brand.

In order to safeguard their brand, businesses should put together a social media policy with clear guidelines so their brand is enhanced by employees talking about their business on social media and their reputation is not soiled.

Check out these tips for help in putting together your own social media policy:

  • Outline who is allowed to post on social media on behalf of the company. If everyone is allowed to associate themselves with the company, make it clear they should brand their posts as their own personal opinions.
  • Outline what is considered confidential information.
  • Outline how to engage with people politely and diplomatically online.
  • Let people know that if they do make a mistake, they should contact the social media manager immediately so the situation can be rectified as soon as possible.

We have policies for health and safety, confidentiality, appropriate behavior in the work place and more, so it only makes sense that companies would develop policies to protect their reputations in an environment where one little mistake could cost them so much.

Resources:

http://socialdriver.com/2013/07/09/6-biggest-social-media-fails-and-what-you-can-learn-from-them/

http://mashable.com/2011/03/09/chrysler-drops-the-f-bomb-on-twitter/

http://blog.hirerabbit.com/5-terrific-examples-of-company-social-media-policies

Are We Really Who We Say We Are?

Social Media can be a powerful tool to deliver information, to make people feel like they are part of a community and to instantly share moments and snippets of our lives with the people who follow us. Social media has the power to make us feel connected and part of the day-to-day lives of our online “friends.” As we are learning in this class, our posts, our pictures, the stories we choose to share all work together to create our own personal brand. Social Media has allowed us to control the way our stories are conveyed in a way that we’ve never been able to before. With this ability to control our brand or social image we are also given the ability to make others feel “less than.” While it can connect us, Social Media also has the power to isolate us and make us feel that we aren’t as successful, as good of a parent or in as good of a relationship as the people we are friends with. It can make us really believe that someone’s life is as perfect as the pictures that they post.

I think the saying; “you can’t believe everything you see on the internet” perfectly applies to social media. Appearances and our personal brand are everything on Social Media and rarely are we as perfect as we appear. This article written by R. Kay Green raises the question of whether we really are who we portray online. The article discusses the differences between our ideal self and our authentic self. The author poses the question “are we really presenting who we are or are we presenting a hyper-idealistic version of ourselves?” As a society, we have become obsessed with sharing snapshots of our lives. With the popularity of smart phones, we are able to instantly share what used to be “private” moments. Babies first minutes alive, first smile, first solid food, first steps…all of these things are documented by parents on my Facebook feed every day. We share pictures of the Pinterest inspired crafts we made, funny little quotes by our children, pictures of our trips to tropical beaches, the flowers our husbands bring home and the awesome night out we had with our friends. We almost exclusively share the best moments of our lives…even if those moments aren’t really as perfect as we want them to appear.

Exclusively sharing the best moments of our lives can create a false sense of perfection. How often do we share the pictures of our messy house, the unhealthy supper we fed our kids or our ever-mounting credit card balance? Have you ever been yelling at your kids and spending the day fantasizing over a few minutes to yourself while simultaneously posting a picture of the awesome time you are having playing at the park? I have! I think many of us are guilty of presenting the ideal version of ourselves rather than the real version. It’s easy to do, it boosts our self-esteem and makes us feel like even if we don’t have it all together, at least we appear to. However, with this phenomenon of sharing the best parts of our lives also comes an epidemic of people who feel bitter or upset when they scroll through their social media feeds. A recent study discussed in this article asked 600 adults in Germany about their feelings while using social media. A third of the participants said they felt negative feelings like frustration which stemmed from overwhelming envy while using social media.

Social Media certainly has its place (isn’t that why we are all taking this class?) but in many ways it’s making us less social in “real life.” When we are constantly refreshing our apps, taking pictures and documenting every “first” it disconnects us from the very people we are trying to prove we are having such a fabulous time with. Our kids will be the first generation to grow up on the internet, to have their every moment documented and photographed and recorded. I wonder what that is going to do to their self-esteem and self-worth? Will they only feel as important and loved as the number of likes their photo gets?

Social Media can make us feel like part of a community but if you give too much weight to these cyberspace connections you can lose yourself in that reality, which as it turns out isn’t really “reality” at all. So what do you do if you’re struggling with social envy? This article discusses seven negative effects social media can have on your self-esteem and offers ways to cope with them.

Nobody knows what is going to happen in the future, currently sites like Facebook and Instagram are extremely popular, but with a growing number of people suffering from negative feelings and depression because of these sites, their popularity may not last forever. If nothing else, we should all take a break and unplug every once in a while. Enjoy a day where you don’t take pictures, tweet or update your Facebook status…put down your phone, turn off your computer and enjoy yourself without feeling the need to document it.