After taking five courses on social media that all focused on best practices in the field, I can honestly say that there are many unexpected applications for online marketing and social media.
Prior to starting I assumed that at its core, social media really was only about personal use. Well, it isn’t – you CAN use it for broader marketing – as long as you put in the time and energy it takes. I hadn’t realized there was such a strong connection between marketing and social media, despite working in advertising. I know, I was a bit foolish.
The thing I have really taken from all of this is the broad application for both online marketing and social media to create stakeholder engagement – as in public participation. Yes, this is an odd observation as who spends there time thinking about public participation? Well, this girl does. (Way more than the average person I dare to admit publicly). And though I don’t work in the field any longer, it makes me realize that there is a lost opportunity. I went looking at the world leaders in public participation, IAP2, and well: they haven’t embraced any social media beyond the basics. So, I guess there is still a lot to learn.
Fundamentally this is social media at its core: it can be applied and used for anything, but hopefully we can harness it for good more often.
As time goes on social media will continue to evolve and how we use will need to keep up.
Where have you found unexpected applications for social media?
Okay, okay. I get it. Networking is important to further your professional. I guess.
Perhaps you feel like me and feel unease brewing in your stomach at hearing the word “networking”? Actually putting pen to paper and coming up with a plan of actions you can take when every fiber of your being doesn’t want to this is rather difficult. If not, goodie for you.
I’ve looked through the social media platforms I’m on, and realized for professional purposes only LinkedIn really works for me. I am a classic lurker – watching what others do and rarely engaging or sharing. It might be time to engage a little more. But I probably won’t do it.
In a previous class I had found Women in Communications and Technology who seemed to be well matched to my professional career. As of late they have stopped communicating events and activities via their Instagram channel, so I’ll need to keep an eye on them to see what is going on – and have started following them on LinkedIn. We’ll see if I remember to check my account more often. Maybe this will be the year when I become a member? I will actively consider it!
For work, the Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada (IAB Canada) is a network I need to tap into more. I have started to follow them on LinkedIn and I can commit to attending some of their training courses. These provide me the opportunity to network with others in the advertising field, should I wish to do so. I will continue to actively take part in the advertising training courses and information sessions offered for those working in advertising for the Government of Canada. I have found these sessions very informative in the past and have met some interesting people.
That all said, I do not foresee there being in-person activities I will take part in the next year. It just isn’t going to happen. And I admit to being tired of engaging in online activities. I may have had enough and simply need a break until the pandemic blows over. We shall see.
What are your plans to develop your professional network in the next year?
When looking at what organizations have impressive social media strategies and those that need to adopt a social media strategy, I just need to look at my Instagram feed to see what is working, and where there is room for improvement.
Impressive social media strategies
Ottawa Public Health (OPH), Ottawa’s pandemic darling, now most certainly has the right to boast about the success of its online presence – with their Twitter account described in MacLean’s magazine as an “account that could have been as dry, soulless and witless as government accounts almost always are, but is instead a finely-tuned antenna picking up on the collective mood of the citizens it serves and responding with humour, empathy and humanity” (Proudfood, 2021, para. 5). Yes, OPH has a tight social media account that addresses public health in a way that resonates with the young and the old. Their coup this year was how they managed to capture hearts with a joke post after the February Super Bowl. This one post ended up adding to their following, and was piled on with celebrities and regular folks alike getting in on the action – and managing to promote a discussion about misinformation. OPH covers a variety of topics, all with the same humour and kindness: COVID-19 vaccines, mental health, what to do during a thunder storm and the list goes on. I was reminded this week not leave food at the beach, or try to feed the birds for the sake of better water quality – the hook? Poop. It is a seriously marvelous account!
GoCleanCo, an Alberta-based cleaning enterprise, has found its voice on Instagram. It has, under what must be the guidance of its founder Sarah (such a good name) McAllister, brought their following to 2 million people. Think about that. An Alberta-based cleaning company has 2 million followers on Instagram. How did they get there? Through a sheer passion for cleaning and sharing tips and tricks with their followers. I have learned that Mr. Clean is an excellent degreaser that you can use to clean your stove hood filters. I would never have thought of this on my own. The feed’s daily in-house stories feature the good and the bad in everyday homes. Simply put: These stories resonate with people who appreciate a good clean house. I am almost at the point of buying powered Tide just for the amazing things it seems to do. And I have taken my dishwasher apart and cleaned all of its guts out. It was disgusting. And super satisfying. I am still cautious around bleach, but I have started to use it upon occasion.
Social media strategy needs some work
Then there is Merivale Vision Care (MVC). I want to be impressed with their Instagram presence. I want to be wowed by the amazing eye glasses that they have (I have purchased from them – they have some of the most beautiful and unusual glasses in the city). Yet, meh. They keep trying to create personalities with their staff, when they don’t really have that oomph? Honestly, it just feels like a social media feed being used because someone told them they should have an online presence. I appreciate that I’m currently being educated about optometrists issues with OHIP coverage – certainly something to learn more about. But, have I called my MPP? Nope. Based on the success of OPH and GoCleanCO, MVC needs to find its voice and stick to it. They clearly want to have fun, but haven’t figured out the voice to take on. They need to figure out why they post and when. It is currently a mixed bag that leads me to skip right over their messaging. They can do better.
What organizations do you think have a great social media strategy that I should start following?
So you are asking me: What are two of my favorite social media trend listening/monitoring tools and the two best sources of news and updates of interest to me? You want me to explain why I prefer those tools over others and the significance of the source as they relate to my professional development or organization interests? Well now. That is a lot.
I have to admit, I don’t do a lot of social media listening or monitoring outside of that required for any courses. At work, someone does this for me, for the most part. Yes, I’m spoon fed this type of information. There is too much out there and I would be more overwhelmed than I already am.
It might not be exciting, but it has all the power that is Google behind it, so you really can’t go wrong.
Both of these platforms are fairly easy to use and that is a plus in my books. Why make it complicated when you don’t need it often? I can set them up to monitor new topics that work wants me to learn about, or I can ignore them. I ignore most often.
As I reflect on the past few months, I am reminded that once again good storytelling is at the core of all great digital content. We want to feel what we are reading, watching or listening to. And what hooks us on the feels is always going to be the story. Without a good story, no one will continue to read (especially on an exceedingly quick-to-judge platform). This does make me think of the six word story phenomenon, but I digress.
This does reinforce my own need to develop or tease out the good stories for my own content. And, I have to admit that this is not my forte. I want to be a great storyteller (I LOVE a good story), but I am not. Even with forced practice, like through a course, I struggle. I am in awe of those people who can pump out stories and engage their followers on a regular basis. I just don’t have the dedication or the skill. I suspect I could do it for a while, but I have no idea how I could maintain content that is worthy of my followers.
So, for now, I will continue my Instagram content of cute things my kid does, or things I find amusing. That is what I do best. And it makes my few followers exceedingly happy – they keep coming back for more!
I’ve found the current situation has pushed me back into some bad behaviours. Things like a drive to perform to an extreme: you’ll find me working at 11 p.m. just trying to finish up a few things (is work that important? No.). This is the worst part of who I am – I spiral into a state where I cannot focus on the things that really matter, like my family.
I am feeling it: I’m exhausted, sad and generally not functioning. Yet, I get up every morning, put on a smile and pretend. I’m living the “fake it till you make it” big time.
Where did I learn this? Years and years of therapy. I didn’t have the easiest of childhoods, and I have spent years working through this. One of the things that helps is to remind yourself what you need to do to take care of yourself.
So what do I do to cope? Well here’s my list
My book gang (the best gang out there)
Walking in my neighbourhood and on the amazing NCC Trails
I’m going to confess: The idea of personal branding makes my skin crawl. It makes me exceedingly uncomfortable to sell myself. Yes, I know deep down, it is not meant necessarily as a selling tactic, but it always feels like it is one. And I get that the more you know yourself, the more you can demonstrate how you stand out, the more likely you are to succeed in all aspects of your life. It still makes me uncomfortable. And I would argue it isn’t healthy.
I am known professionally as a very dedicated, thorough, compassionate, reliable person. I always come through; I always deliver even when the odds of getting a task done are slim. Since becoming a mother six years ago, that dedication has begun to hinder my own well-being. I am a poor work-life balance-er. I am well aware that I don’t necessarily take the time needed to focus on my family because I am so driven to demonstrate over, and over, that I am a reliable person. Everyone knows I am, except I still don’t feel like I am. So I am driven to continue to demonstrate it.
Along came a pandemic
What little separation I have been able to manage in my life has gone out the window with the pandemic. Work – life balance? What’s that? My dining room is now my office. I struggle to keep a separation where there is no longer one. I have had to come to the realization that I matter more than my productivity. That is hard to say, but I have to remind myself.
I am at a cross-roads. Trying to relearn what my brand is. One where yes, I am still reliable – but for the right people and at the right time. We all need to be healthier and I am going to focus on this now: bringing the compassion to the fore and be a little less dedicated.
Engaging one’s clientele online is key to a successful, and often lucrative, social media presence. One of my favourite women’s clothing stores, Smoking Lily has done just that: created a community for their customers to engage with the clothing they love.
Based in Victoria, British Columbia, Smoking Lily embodies the Victoria lifestyle by creating comfortable and (mostly) affordable fashion. The store’s owner, Trish Tacoma, is very active on Instagram and also sporadically cross-promotes on Facebook. This year, during the pandemic, the company had the good fortune to have an enthusiast in the limelight: Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. Her wearing of their periodic table dress during a media conference caused quite the online stir (I, in turn, received many notes from friends as I have this same dress). This stir resulted in Smoking Lily bringing the dress back.
Under the @smokinglily handle, Trish and her staff promote their new or upcoming made in-house fashion, empathizing with their customers on what they want to wear – clothing with a conscience. They listen to feedback (not only did the periodic table dress make a comeback, but the pattern seems to be back in high rotation on other products too). The company often focuses on giving back to the community and how their fashion has as little waste as possible – creating clothing for children out of scraps, and yarn from that layer of scraps. They promote these activities and people respond with comments and questions online.
Over the past few months I have noticed Smoking Lily is not always as responsive on Facebook, and I suspect this is because Trish is so active on Instagram that Facebook is an afterthought. Trish’s use of Instagram stories means that her followers aren’t aware of how much engagement is happening, though they are quick to share with their followers when customers tag them – most often about the joy of a package arriving by mail.
Do you have a favourite clothing store that just “gets” you?
I have an idea for a travel blog aimed at families. I know that knowing who your audience is can make, or break, the success of your blog’s following. I had to stop and think a bit about who my audience would be.
Travelling blogs are very common, so I dug a bit deeper into the characteristics of my intended readers. This is the only way I can ensure I am reaching the right people, at the right time, in the right way.
I had thought the family angle was a bit different, but discovered in my research, that family vacation blogs are equally common. Just google “family travel blog” and bam – so many blogs out there:
Through research, I realized that most of these are for larger families. My niche is the small, three-people family; with no specific ethnic background; and a disposable income to put towards travel. Most of my readers would be the moms in the family. They will want to have the comforts of home while travelling, but also be open to some adventures.
Successful travel blogs tell a great story, use humour, and provide a value to their reader’s upcoming adventures. Moving forward I will need to ensure I also have eye-catching photos. To promote the blog I, like others, will harness Twitter to drive to my online content.
This week I re-learned that storytelling is at the core of who we humans are: stories have guided and entertained since the dawn of time. But the telling of stories has evolved, from basic cave art as a story; to oral history being passed from generation to generation; to the written word; to eventually tales found in thick tomes. And now? We blog and use social media to share our stories.
I would argue that the beauty of storytelling is not as prevalent as it once was. We have come full circle: back to simple, easily understood communications. The complex artform of storytelling is no longer. Do you agree?
Tell me more
Once upon a time people wrote epic poems about human adventures – say Homer’s The Odysseyor Dante’s Divine Comedy. Sure, this writing evolved, or even devolved, as people sought easier ways to be understood. Perhaps the thick read has run its course? Sure, people still read to escape. But when it comes to telling your story, emojis and limited characters have become the norm. Very clear, concise writing is needed as most people aren’t reading beyond an introduction. When was the last time someone shared a “great” online read with you and your response was “TLDR”?
B4 u go ☑ this
People seem happy to keep what they say to a 140-character count (or twice that). The magic of what was storytelling has lost its luster. But perhaps, like all things, what was old is now new. And we will return to what was old again. . . someday.