Connecting Virtually & Personally

In the past I’ve always thought of networking as a person-to-person, face-to-face activity – something that happens at business meetings and events, or work parties and conferences. These days, online networking is almost as important. Maintaining a up-to-date online presence and communicating a strong accurate message of who you and your personal brand are is so important, because you can be sure others are looking you up online and building perceptions about you.

Image result for online networkingI will admit to being a bit lazy about updating my LinkedIn Profile. This is something I am going to commit to doing over the next month so that when people look me up then can see the full breadth of what I have to offer. As well, I am committed to updating and maintaining my Facebook account where I work, as this task has fallen to the wayside as of late, and it reflects poorly on our department. I believe it is essential to add more photos, events and relevant content to stay competitive. I will definitely tackle these two major areas over the next month or two, and most definitely before any major networking event.

The online part ‘un-conference’ is an attractive option for networking as they are normally free to attend, and offer the benefit of connecting to others without the expense and logistical challenges of physically attending a conference.

Sometimes though, it is still valuable to do some personal networking – and practice makes perfect – so I plan to take advantage of these opportunities when they arise in the future.

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COM0014 – Blog Post 7 – Capturing the Human Side

In this age of Facebook, blogs, twitter, websites, thoughtful, effective storytelling has become uber important – essential, really, in our digital communications. There is so much content online, so many stories to be told, that in order to stand out, the stories you put out there have to attract and keep the attention of your audience.

human story

 

I think the ‘human-ness’ of an organization is where so much content and stories can be found. It’s these stories that can set you apart from competitors. To focus on the people that make up your business, the people who have an impact on others, whether it be by providing an impactful product or service (education in my case) is to focus on that part of your business that is relatable to others, is interesting, and sets you apart.

It’s not just ok, however, to talk about how Al in the mail room has a cute dog that he’s trained to do pirouettes. You first must figure out the purpose of your communication strategy to make sure your stories are relevant and appealing to your target audience. The stories must be relatable and address their situation to develop some trust and understanding.

I want to tell stories that are human, will attract my target audience, and that challenges people, makes them think, and encourages them to tell their side of the story, thus increasing engagement and interest. One of the best, most powerful things about social media is that it is a two-way conversation, allowing people to voice their opinions and tell their own stories, thus taking a much more personal approach to communications.

What kind of stories resonate with you?

COM0014 – Blog Post 6 – Caleb’s Story

I have the privilege of working at Algonquin College, an organization whose collective vision is … “to transform hopes and dreams into skills and knowledge, leading to lifelong career success”. The story I’m going to share with you brings this vision to life, and gives it a face.

This is Caleb’s story.

caleb baking

Caleb was born in the heart of Africa, precisely in the middle of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. About twelve years ago, Caleb’s father had the fortunate opportunity to come here to Canada in hopes of finding a better life for himself and especially his family. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but despite everything, he chose to leave and travel thousands of miles away to a foreign land. His father was a medical lab technician working in one of the biggest hospitals in the Congo. But he could see that future opportunities were limited, and because he had a vision of a brighter future, he held on to it and left Africa to settle in Ottawa, Canada. Seven years later, Caleb and his family joined him in Ottawa to start their new life.

From the time Caleb could speak, he always had a desire to learn English. So in 2011, he applied for and graduated from English as a Second Language at Algonquin College. That’s when he said he fell in love with Algonquin College. His experience at the college was so positive; as a person in unfamiliar surroundings he found everyone very welcoming and accepting.

Caleb had always been passionate about culinary arts and baking. He would always cook and bake at home, whether for fun or for a special occasion. So one day, he was thinking about what he wanted to do in life. He had so many ideas… he felt overwhelmed and didn’t know what to choose as a program. But one day, as he was talking to his friend, he was given some very sage advice. His friend said, “See what you’re really good at and do everything you can to be the best at it.” It was at that very moment that Caleb logged onto http://www.ontariocolleges.ca and applied for the Baking & Pastry Arts program at Algonquin College.

If you ask Caleb now if that was a good decision, he would tell you it was the best decision he’s ever made in his life. Caleb says the program “gave me more knowledge and all the equipment I needed to be ready for the real world. I will be forever thankful for all the teachers I had because each one of them have been a source of inspiration to me. When I could see they skills every time they did demonstrations, I always say to myself, if I work hard, one day I’ll be as good as them.

Caleb is currently a full-time baker at the Moulin de Provence located in downtown Ottawa ain the Byward Market. He used to walk by the window of the bakery and stare at the bakers inside, and watch how they were making all those breads. Now Caleb is the baker inside with people staring at him through the window.

According to Caleb, “I know some people might wonder, you get to wake up at 3am to go to work? For me, that’s the beauty of it because by morning, I see how the store is packed with people buying bread for breakfast! Nothing is more satisfying than seeing someone enjoying your bread! For me, nothing. And I just hope, one day, I will be one of the bread bakers that people will always talk about, like Chad Robertson.​

COM0014 Blog Post 5 – Brand Me

When considering a personal branding strategy, some self-reflection is required. You have to ask yourself what you would like to be known for; what differentiates you from your competitors, what you can offer that adds value.

personal branding

Once you have that cemented, as with any strategy, you have to determine what your goals are, both short and long term. At that point you can make a concerted effort to create your brand around your own personal mission statement. The way you conduct your business – and your life – will send a strong message to others about Brand Me. This includes how long it takes for you to respond to emails, the tone of your emails, posts and shares, even the way you introduce yourself to others or ‘work the room’.

My role as Faculty Marketing Officer encompasses many ‘specialities’ including marketing the College programs, planning, coordinating and organizing events, PR, creating promotional material, writing editing web content, social media and liaising between various departments.

I feel it is important to showcase my creative expertise as it differentiates me from my colleagues who are in the same role. I am able to create my own marketing collateral in-house, thereby saving money which is of great value to the department.  I am also proud that I am known as the kind of employee who ‘gets things done.’ Repeated feedback from colleagues and clients has confirmed that this is a perception, and it is one that I want to build on.

I will resolve to reply to emails promptly and will continue to provide quality, creative work in a timely manner. I will volunteer to provide assistance to colleagues who require graphic design or other creative help, thereby building the reputation that I want to achieve. This will help me stand out as an expert in this area. Clients and colleagues will know that if they deal with me, they will get timely replies and quality creative work on or before the deadline.

I also take pride in being able to delegate and coordinate with diplomacy and tact, and act somewhat as a team leader.

Image result for team leader

Building your personal brand is about showing and sharing your best self with the world. And that’s a good thing.

 

 

COM0014 Blog Post 4: Elation Centre: Proper SM Alignment; Only Minor Adjustments Required!

Since I am binging on yoga right now it’s only fitting that I choose Elation Centre for my case study.

Elation Centre is a well-established yoga studio in Westboro that has been around for at least ten years, and until a year ago offered running and nutrition classes, and of course, yoga.

Elation Yoga

The ownership changed last year and the new owners have changed things up a bit. They have re-branded the business as a yoga and pilates fitness centre, the website and studio has a brand new look and feel, and they have added more yoga class styles. Their new tagline reflects the new specialized focus of the studio:

at elation, we simply love yoga

The new owners have clearly have embraced social media. The studio has a strong presence on Facebook, and the look and feel of their Facebook page is consistent with their website and all other advertising. They have even painted the studio walls the same teal blue so that not only their web and social presence is consistent, but also their physical space. Pretty smart!

They post about five times a week to announce new classes, new promotions, interesting lifestyle articles and even yogi comics.

I feel the frequency of their posts is perfect: it is useful information, nicely timed to keep them top of mind without being annoying by bombarding you with information.

They have also added a ‘Reviews’ section on their Facebook page so that customers can provide feedback which is not only important for engaging their audience, but also serves as a testimonial since all of comments have been positive (so far!). This would also be a good platform to respond to any negative comments in order to help change the perception and show that they are listening and care about what matters to their customers. The studio definitely focuses on how their services can improve the lives of their customers.

Elation Centre uses Twitter as another social media channel on which to promote their deals and classes. Their posts are more sporadic here and perhaps should be synced with their Facebook posts so that both platforms are used automatically when they have a message to convey.

Their Instagram posts are infrequent – this is an area where they could definitely add more in the form of challenging yoga pose photos, class photos, inspirational yogi quotes, etc.

I also think a blog would be a great addition to their social media presence. Various teachers could post about their experiences, or healthy vegetarian recipes, etc.

Overall, I think Elation Centre has acheived the proper alignment in social media. Only a few minor adjustments required!

COM0014 – Melting in Montreal

Sometimes it’s nice to get out of the city – your city. To — another city!

My boyfriend Peter and I decided to escape the kids & dog routine and spend the weekend away last summer. Montreal was our other city of choice and we were not disappointed. What a great city to explore… people-watching, culture, great food, and European flavour… all just two hours away.

montrealInstead of driving, we opted to take the train, so we could relax and enjoy the scenery. We stayed in a smaller hotel the first night, right in the centre of the Quartier des Spectacles, the cultural heart of the city.

We enjoyed strolling along the artistically lit streets that were alive with people, music, and colourful fountains. It was a treat to stay right in the middle of the action, and be within walking distance to quietly slip away from the activity to our own retreat.

mtl digNext day, after cappuccinos and croissants, we ventured out to the Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History. The museum takes visitors through centuries of history, from when Natives camped here to the present day. It was a fascinating look at an archeological dig that unearthed 14th century encampments, and fueled my imagination!

Feeling sufficiently cultured, we headed to rue Ste. Catherine to shop and eat. We made our way to our second hotel, this time a more luxurious variety, off the beaten path. I am lucky to be with a man who not only loves to shop, but also enjoys chick flicks, so we happily drank wine and devoured a LOT of chocolate while watching ‘Chocolat’ before turning in.

chinatownDay two began with coffee on our terrace overlooking the already steamy city streets. We spent the morning in Montreal’s Chinatown, a feast for the senses and a wonderful place to peruse and explore. It was the perfect place to end our getaway weekend.

Have you ever spent time in Montreal? What are your favourite haunts?

COM 011 Blog Post 6 – Building Customer Loyalty with Social Media

Having the right followers is key.

In many social media campaigns, there has been an emphasis on how many followers or how many ‘likes’ your brand has. These figures have turned into a kind of ‘scorecard’ used to track the success of your social network posts. Quality is always more important than quantity. Companies that get so consumed with these numbers often end up with the wrong ones because they do things like give away prizes to people to “Like” their Page or even worse, pay for followers. How many times have you ‘liked’ a product or company on Facebook just because doing so would offer you the chance to win something? I know I’m guilty. Do I really care about the company or what they have to say? No.

While it is indeed important to have a large following, how to turn these followers into customers should be the primary focus of any campaign. So how do we do this? First, you have to figure out how these followers are interacting with you, and at what level. Not all of your social media followers are exactly the same. Do they ‘like’ and share content? Do they engage back with you and ask questions to get more information, or provide feedback? These are the followers that are gold. These are the ones you want to keep happy by giving them what they want. You can also use this opportunity to personalize your connection with your them.  Comment on something they’ve written. This simple engagement may make a lasting impression in the mind of the follower, and may help to make a loyal customer out of them.

The other major type of follower is like a silent lurker; they occasionally ‘like’ your posts; you know they are out there, and following along, but rarely engage more than this. Besides being vaguely interested, it is hard to measure the level of interest in your product or service. But they have the potential to become engaged loyal customers, so they are also valuable.

Both types of followers may be interested in your company/product/service for different reasons and are all most likely at different stages of the buying cycle. So it’s important to post content that speaks to every type of follower. You don’t want to focus too much of your time and effort on followers that are still in research mode because you might miss an opportunity to sell. At the same time you can’t concentrate all of your efforts on closing the deal because some followers are still just looking for information. I think this tells us that we should post content with both types in mind – what we post  should be a balance between the two so that you cover all of the bases.

 

Com0011 Blog Post 5 Does Social Media Improve Our LIves?

It seems there are two schools of thought on the subject out there today. The first one (let’s call the group who hold this belief Camp A) being: social media enhances my life. The people who believe this to be true are the ones that carry their smartphones with them where ever they go, whipping them out to capture and share photos of meals, babies or fall leaves. These users find joy in using Facebook to reconnect with people they have not seen in a while, or with those who live far away.  They stay up-to-date on current events and news through their feeds, and look forward to checking in with friends and RSVP’ing to events online.

Then there is the other way of thinking (Camp B): social media represents an online life that is not ‘real’ and is a waste of time. These people think that interacting with people over Facebook is not enough and is sometimes a cop-out for not seeing or interacting with this people offline. It’s the lazy man’s route to send an online birthday card when you would make a much more personal connection by hand-delivering a card. These people also believe that people post photos and share things on social media that are waaay too personal, and feel this violates their privacy.

Camp A believe that social media increases their connection with others, while Camp B believes the opposite to be true; that the more people are plugged in, the more they are disconnected from the real world, and from interacting with others.

Which camp do you belong to, and why?

COM 0011 Blog Post 4 – Optimal Frequency to Post on Facebook & Twitter

(Or how not to be that annoying neighbour who won’t go away)…

Let’s face it. You don’t want to be that annoying neighbour. You know, the one with the shrill voice who shows up at odd hours on your doorstep asking to borrow a couple of eggs… or the annoying Top 40 song that plays on the hour every hour that now sounds like nails on a chalkboard and you are horrified that you find yourself humming it despite yourself.

The same can be true with social media. How often is too often to share with our audience?

 

“We have technology that for the first time in human history, allows people to maintain rich connections with much larger numbers of people.”  Pierre Omidyar, Founder, eBay

In order to keep these connections ‘rich’, we have to be careful not to over-saturate our followers with messaging. Social media marketers have the challenging but important task of finding the balance between being top-of-mind and … annoying. After all, we don’t want to drive away followers; we want to connect with them.

Here’s what the research says:

Posting once per week on Facebook is too little in order to maintain a connection with your audience. Posting more than twice per day was bordering on annoying. A 2011 study by Socialbakers (the most popular provider of social media analytic tools, statistics and metrics) found that the sweet spot is five to ten posts per week.

Their research also shows that ‘when a brand posts twice a day, those posts only receive 57% of the likes and 78% of the comments per post. The drop-off continues as more posts are made in the day.’

And what about Twitter?

They found that brands start seeing a huge increase in engagement when they post three tweets per day. Three was also the magic number when it comes to number of replies, retweets and favourites. Alternatively, another analytics firm, Track Social, found that five tweets a day was optimal for response. Basically, if brands tweet within these guidelines, there’s a higher chance of a positive engagement with your followers. Keep in mind too, that a tweet has a relatively short lifecycle – it’s engagement powers suffer a demise around the 18 minute mark– hence the need for more frequency.

Facebook response frequency

What is your saturation point? The point when you want to slam the door in your annoying neighbour’s face or throw your radio out the window??

Are you going to schedule more or less Facebook posts/tweets?

 

Sources

 

 

COM0011 Blog Post 3: Images, Our Impactful Social Media Attention-Getters

pic_thousand_words
A picture is worth a thousand words. There, I said it. The phrase is overused for a very good reason – because it is true. And pictures on social media are a perfect fit. There is so much data to support the value of using images on social media platforms. Images leave lasting impressions, taking up more newsfeed real estate, drawing attention, boosting our response rates, therefore engaging more people.
Our time is limited today; there is so much digital content out there that we don’t have time to read everything we see and, even when something peaks our interest and we click on a website, we usually read about 20% of the text on the page. More than ever, we rely on visuals to inform us what content is worthy of our valuable time.

These numbers don’t lie:

On Facebook, posts with images generate 84 percent more engagement than text-only posts.

On Twitter, tweets with images generate 35 percent more retweets than those without.

 Here are some more interesting facts:

impact-3

Alright. We’ve established that images are an extremely important engagement tool in social media. So what photos should we post? Because these images attract so much attention and speak volumes about a person, product or service, they’d better be communicating the right message.

I think we have to ask ourselves, ‘What story am I trying to tell? What message about my brand am I trying to convey?” One way to approach this is to think about your mission statement. What images would visually support your statement? What themes come through your statement, and how would you best convey them visually?

If we stay true to our brands and stick within their thematic bounds, our marketing will be more accessible, and more impactful. Our followers/customers will have a very clear sense of our brand, which will in turn lead to more opportunities in our careers and in our fields.

Resources:

Constantcontact.com
MIT News http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2013/
socialmediaexaminer.com
blogsumall.com