Blog #4 – Out of the Box

These days, there are so many influencers on social media, especially on Instagram, trying to gain new followers as well as product endorsements. But there seems to be a downside to this world. It seems that the more followers you have, the more “haters” you will have as well. One must not take anything for granted because it can be gone in an instant. The world of online marketing and social media can be quite fickle at times.

Recently, news broke of a college admissions cheating scandal, that saw parents pay huge sums of money in order to get their children into top-notch universities in the United States. One such parent who paid over $500,000 US to get her two daughters into the University of Southern California is actress Lori Laughlin. Olivia Jade Giannulli, one of Loughlin’s daughters, is a social media influencer and had cut deals with many partners to showcase their products on her Instagram feed and Youtube channel while bringing in extra revenue to companies but while also getting paid in return.

However, since the scandal broke, Giannulli has not updated her Instagram account and has lost major partnerships with companies including Amazon, Dolce & Gabbana and Too Faced Cosmetics. Her Instagram account is also loaded with angry comments from her followers. These companies had to protect their reputation and brand and did not want to be associated in any way with such a big scandal.

At this rate, there are a dime a dozen of the type of influencer Giannulli is, so from an online marketing standpoint, these companies will just pick the latest popular influencer with whom to market their products. Giannulli, now 19, has had an active social media presence since she was 14, almost 5 years. So it can be easy to see how things that took years to build can come crumbling down like a house of cards. Another twist in this story is that Loughlin herself was fired from the Hallmark Channel, where she acted in several series and movies.

Blog #3: Professional Networking now and in the future

As a public servant for the Government of Canada, there are plenty of tools available for networking. We have many of the tools mentioned in Chapter 5 available as resources and many more, including blogs, groups/project team spaces and an instant messaging tool. As well, the Government has its own social media platform called GCConnex, which is strictly for Government of Canada employees.

GCConnex allows you the opportunity to be part of different subgroups like “Women in communication” and “strategic communication.” The first step in my strategy would be to update my GCconnex profile and seek out people with similar backgrounds in communications, especially women. I would also join a working group that is of interest to me like “Women in Strategic Communications” and  seek out a mentor.

In person, I would task myself with participating in various seminars. Recently, there was a seminar titled HARD TRUTHS + FAKE NEWS: A timely bootcamp for users of democracy and defenders of press freedom held at the Carleton School of Journalism and Communication. One of the goals of the seminar was “frank talk and urgent collaboration as we ready ourselves for the 2019 federal election campaign.” The panel members, which included prominent journalists peaked my interest and I would have liked to attend but I unfortunately had a prior work commitment. These types of events allow you to meet like-minded people that perhaps have similar interests as you, while also allowing you to hear other points of view and allowing you to network and showcase your knowledge on the matter. If the opportunity would present itself again, I would definitely try to attend an event like this. On the other hand, there are always networking events at work that include mentoring and “coffee chats” with senior executives. Another one of my goals in the next 6-12 months would be to attend at least one of these events to get insight into how to help achieve some my career goals.

Blog #2: Strong and Weak Organizations

I love to bake – it is my hobby of choice and so I enjoy learning new baking techniques and looking at pictures of beautiful delicious baked goods, while also posting pictures of my own creations! As such, I follow a long list of bakers on my Instagram and Twitter accounts. I used to follow a lot more but quickly lost interest in some due to lacklustre posts. Let me explain…

Lacking a social media strategy

One of my favourite places to get a treat in Ottawa is the Sconewitch – they have the best scones I’ve ever had! I started following them on Twitter hoping to see some exciting posts but soon realized there was nothing fun in terms of content and posts were quite sporadic. I also noticed that for this past month there were a few more tweets than usual but before that there was not a single tweet since August 31, 2017! How strange? This is a definite sign of a missing social media strategy.

A couple of first steps they could take would be posting their flavour of the month scone. That would at least give them 12 extra posts a year. As well, they would be well served by posting a few videos of scones in the making. At their warehouse location, I was quite impressed seeing their “giant” rolling pin machine at work so I am sure others would be to. They could also benefit from interacting with their customers, perhaps taking a poll to see what their favourite scones are or taking a poll on customers’ favourite scone topping. Another strategy could be having some kind of contest where people could win a box of scones. These first few steps would definitely help get their social media strategy going and start generating more publicity for them.

Impressive social media strategy

On the flip side, one person that has a very impressive social media strategy is Mary Berg. Mary was the lucky winner of Masterchef Canada a few years back. Not only does she have a captivating presence and quirky personality but she lets that shine through on her Instagram posts. Mary posts frequently, but not annoyingly so. She also posts a variety of styles: pictures with recipes linked to her website, videos of test recipes as well as Instastories that are fun to watch. She also interacts with her fan-base and often has contests with prizes. She also posts videos of her personal life, which I think makes her more relatable too. As well, something that is unique to her is that she posts videos of “dough punches” when she makes bread and, as such, people have sent her their own “dough punches” which she often re-posts.

Sticking to the food theme, another winner in my opinion is Farm Boy, a local grocery store chain. They often post on Instagram pictures of their new products with dates and locations of when they can be sampled. Several times, I have found myself enticed to try new products that they advertised on their Instagram feed. They also post videos and often publicize contests on their Instagram feed. However, they don’t saturate you to the point of not wanting to follow them on social media anymore. In addition, I found that when someone posts a comment with a negative undertone, they are quick to reply to the customer’s concerns in a polite and courteous manner. Other companies would perhaps delete the comment immediately not to attract negative attention.



Why Twitter is my favourite social media platform

Blog #1 :Tools & Sources

Favourite social media trend listening/ monitoring Tools

My absolute favourite social media tool is Twitter. There are many reasons why, but mostly because I work in communications as a media analyst and Twitter is, arguably, the best source for getting real-time updates – something that other platforms (including print and broadcast media) don’t provide. Twitter is also a great tool for listening, especially in terms of a conducting a Twitter search on items so see what is being said about the said searched item. You can get an infinite number of opinions just from searching various terms!

However, you must be careful in terms of believing everything you read on Twitter. Just like the internet, some people (foreign agents and bots) are keen on disrupting the flow of real facts so it is essential to get information from reputable sources. That said, some reputable sources can unknowingly proliferate fake news. This was the case with the “MAGA Kid” a couple of months ago. In this case, people were spreading untruths about teen Nick Sandmann and ultimately, he filed  a $250M defamation lawsuit against the Washington Post.

As well, Newscan is a tool I like to use at work. It provides various information including graphs based on news articles filtered by social media platforms, hashtags, authors as well as mentions. With these results, it is once again easier to understand your audience’s engagement and search for specifics required for reporting purposes.  Other tools that I like include Keyhole and Tweetdeck, which allow you to track information by various metrics including hashtags.

Best Sources of News/Updates of interests

As previously indicated my favourite social media platform and source of news is Twitter. The reason is because you can get information and latest updates in real time. As there are constant developments to news stories it’s easier to track down the latest information in real time from eyewitnesses present at the scene.

Another one of my favourite social media platforms for personal interest content is Instagram. I love to bake and cook and also seeing what the latest trends are. what better place to get a visual of that than Instagram! I follow many experts in the field including several chefs like Mary Berg, Martha Stewart, Nigella Lawson and Cooks illustrated. I also find it motivating when followers leave comments with their opinions on how they would modify the food dish presented on Instagram. Feel free to follow my cooking journey on Instagram at @shireenaliott!

COM0014 – Blog #7: Personal Reflection

Why is storytelling important to creating great digital content?

Storytelling is important to creating great digital content because it lets us connect with our audience. In order to do this, content must be clear and concise and should have subject headings and sections. Content should also be balanced by having enough detail.

How will your content be guided by story?

The fact that there are different styles of storytelling lets us interact with different types of audience. Different types of content can be guided by the style of the story and storytelling. Different stories require different styles. This allows us to decide how we want to communicate either by having a passive or active voice. Another method used is the inverted pyramid. In this method, it is important to put the most important information at the top and gradually follow with the lesser important information.

What kind of stories do you want to tell?

Since I really enjoy Christmas and baking, the types of stories I want to tell will likely include Christmas baking. I already post pictures of food and baked goods on Instagram and Twitter. Why not take it to the next level by posting step-by-step pictures and recipes. As well, since Halloween is wrapping up, what better time than now to start the Christmas cookie countdown!

COM00014 Blog #6: What Choices have you made that you regret?

What you post on the internet will stay there forever!

We often hear people say “Be careful what you post on the internet, it will be there forever.” That really stuck with me. So I was always leery about posting anything online in any social media platform. While all of my friends would talk about pictures or posts they had uploaded to Facebook, I would just sit there and listen.

I wasn’t worried about the pictures I would post of a night out because I know I have good judgement. But I was mostly worried about my friends posting unflattering pictures where they would tag me. Some of them liked to party hard and that famous saying “Be careful what you post on the internet, it will be there forever” would always come back to haunt me when I thought I was ready to create a Facebook account.

Social Media Late Bloomer

Fast forward several years and there was so much talk about social media. I thought to myself, I better get on the bandwagon before it’s too late. But what social media accounts should I create? There were so many choices, so many options and I thought well, I don’t have to pick one, I can pick two or more! I started with Instagram, then Twitter. I carefully studied and learnt from my colleagues what I should and should not post and how much personal information I should divulge. I set boundaries with Instagram: never post faces of anyone, including myself. I wanted to maintain some element of privacy and well that was one way of doing it, without making my account private. On Twitter, I am careful of the comments I “like”, especially when it comes to politics. I feel like I’ve done well so far but my one regret is that I wish I had jumped on the social media bandwagon much earlier.

COM0014 Blog #5: Personal Branding

What’s your personal brand?

When I asked colleagues and friends to describe some of my personal qualities or characteristics, I was described as ambitious, bilingual, hard working and outgoing. The later of which, I was told is my best trait.

Based on these descriptors, my personal brand statement is:  Fluently Bilingual Ambitious Government Communications Specialist.


What sets me apart?

Although there are many ambitious bilingual communications specialists –what makes me stand out? Well for starters, a few items including receiving a certificate of appreciation from the Prime Minister for work done on a special project as well as significant experience working closely with the Prime Minister’s office, including with two very different governments. These experiences set me apart from the pack, show that I am able to work under pressure & evolving scenarios, and am a team player.


What have I done lately?

As with most government organizations and departments, mine is in full charity campaign mode. To stand out, I organized a candy bag sale to raise money for the Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign and, with my idea, my section raised over $600! Not only did this make me stand out but it also displayed some of my personal traits like being outgoing. I had to visit different buildings and publicize the sale of the candy bags. As well, I had to have a good slogan and, of course, it had to be bilingual!


Enhancing my brand

To enhance my visibility, I network on various social media platforms including the government’s own version of LinkedIn called GCConnex.

GCConnex has opportunities to be part of different subgroups including Women in the Canadian government, government communications, strategic communication, etc. Not only do these groups enhance my visibility but also my ability to network and meet new like-minded people.


Candy Bags


During the week, I rarely wear makeup but if I am going out, then I go the whole nine yards: primer, eyeshadow, mascara, blush, bronzer, lipstick, gloss, etc. You get the picture – right?




About a year ago, I was looking to get makeup online at Sephora but the products I was looking for were sold out! As I googled to see where else I could find them, I came across a US website called UltaBeauty. Not only were the prices cheaper (even when converting to Canadian dollars!) but they had so much more variety and, everything I wanted was in stock!




I started following them on Instagram and subscribed to their makeup tutorial emails. As well, they often have wonderful contests and their customer service is super!


Last year, one of my orders arrived damaged as one of the bottles broke and its content went all over the other items. I was surprised to find out that they were going to credit me for the entire purchase and I could keep the other products! That was over $200 worth of makeup free!




Like its main competitor Sephora, Ultabeauty has an immense following on Instagram of 5.1M. As big as it may sound, Sephora has three times as many followers and roughly three times as many on Twitter.


So why is Ultabeauty better? Even as a big company, they still make you feel like a valued individual customer. This encourages customers to keep shopping with them. As well, they do a great job of listening on social media. They often have polls to see what products people are looking for and they follow through by stocking those products. I also like that their social media target audience is varied as their models are both men and women, young & old and of every skin tone.

COM0014 – Blog #3: Christmas Is Just Around The Corner

Christmas is my favourite holiday and I’ve been collecting Hallmark ornaments for over ten years.

I am part of the premium ornament collectors groups, for which, one of the perks is being part of an ornaments chat group. Because this is one of the perks of a paid membership, the group is very much geared towards people who have a specific interest in the company’s ornaments.


I have looked at other member’s profile and their demographics appear to be significantly different than mine. They are mostly located in the US, specifically the Midwest, where the headquarters of the company is. They are also typically female, Caucasian, retired and are mostly churchgoing grandmothers. Based on some of the comments they post, they also seem to espouse traditional Christian values. Given that Hallmark ornaments are collectors’ items, some can be quite expensive so I would say most of the group’s households belong in the medium to medium-high income bracket.


Since most of the group is older and not as social media savvy, several still use Facebook as their main social media platform. They do not appear to use newer ones like Twitter and Instagram.

Instagram would be ideal for my target audience as it is easy to use and they could take pictures and easily post them. On the flip side, most people use Instagram from their smartphones but that demographic does not usually have such devices.

I would use Google trends and Google alerts to identify the kinds of things people in my target audience are searching for in order to build a bigger audience.


There are other companies that sell Christmas ornaments, including Carleton Cards and Martha Stewart. While they have beautiful ornaments and are social media savvy companies, the quality is not quite up to par with Hallmark. However, they cater to a slightly different audience.


COM0014 – Blog #2: My Storytelling and Communication Styles

This week, I learned a fair deal on my storytelling and communication styles. I already know that I have a very expressive personality, am approachable and am somewhat vivacious – not annoyingly so like Steve Erkel! But I learned, in terms of online communication, that I mostly use an active voice and am often an analytical reader, but the latter is probably due to the nature of my work as a communications analyst. As well, in terms of my online interactions with my audience, I need to be more engaging.

A friendly face in a sea of unknowns…

Whether I am at the grocery store or at a coffee shop, whether in Montreal, Ottawa or New York, all sorts of people have always approached me and started random conversations. Many have been older, perhaps lonely and looking for a friendly conversation, while several others have been around my age. I’ve been asked all sorts of questions, ranging from current events and politics to the weather and fashion. My friends have always said that I have a friendly face and that’s why people approach me. I feel that those personality traits shine through when I write on my blog.

However, I should be asking more questions, including links and writing shorter, more concise paragraphs, as well as actively requesting feedback. What type of writer are you? What areas of your online communications do you think you need to improve?