COM0015 – Post #4 – Out of the Box

Google Logo

I know Google is a vast empire and suspect that it will eventually take over the universe. What I didn’t know until recently, is that there is so much more depth to Google than I could have imagined. I’m not talking only about Google search, which makes me bow down to the keyword gods when I write blog posts for my clients. I’m also not talking about Google+ as a social media platform. What I’ve discovered is mega amounts of information and apps that Google provides for free to help businesses with their online marketing and communications both internally and externally.
Entry Symbol to Google Tools

If you have a Google account, and you should in order to take advantage of all the free stuff, click on your suite of tools in the upper right corner (that little array of 9 squares) and be prepared to have your mind blown by the sheer number of tools available. I’m sure most of you are familiar with apps like Gmail, Calendar and YouTube.

But have you ever used:

  • Google Drive: Improve your productivity with cloud based office software similar to MS Word, Excel and Powerpoint. Store up to 15 GB of files in your account for free. Use your space for additional backup and feel more secure. Work on documents from any location on any device. Working from home? Edit documents with your colleagues in real time. Never email a document back to yourself again! Collaborate and streamline your workflow in ways you might not have imagined.
  • Google My Business: Get your business listed to show up on Google maps. List your website address, hours of operation and phone number. Ask your customers for a review.
  • Google Hangouts: An alternative to FaceTime and Skype. Chat, send messages, make a call or join conversations on air. Schedule and hold your own live Google Hangout, record it and post it on YouTube. Write a “How To’ script to showcase your services. The possibilities for marketing activities are endless!
  • Google Trends: Get found online by Google’s search engines. Research keyword trends that are relevant to your business and work them into your web pages and blog to improve search engine optimization. See charts and graphs of trending search terms. Get ideas for variations and rising search terms.
  • Google Forms: Build your own survey and find out what your target audience is interested in.

I’ve used Survey Monkey, but I’ve never used Google Forms. As an experiment, I just created a survey to find out more about one of my target audiences – small and medium businesses (SMBs). The interface in Forms is very simple and I was done in about 15 minutes. I’d love for you to get involved, so please complete the survey!


These are all FREE tools and I’ve barely scratched the surface here. You can get virtually lost inside Google’s platform learning and taking advantage of online marketing tools, business apps and documents.

Have fun learning and please let me know which Google apps you tried for the first time. I’d like to know if they were useful to you or your business.


COM0015 – Assignment #5 – Event Participation

Professional Development with Online Webinars

MoFlow Logo

MoFlow is a content marketing service geared toward not-for-profit organizations. I use information from MoFlow to come up with ideas for Inn From The Cold, where I’m a volunteer board member responsible for advising on marketing and communications. In addition, MoFlow helps me with ideas for writing my own blog and developing my own business.

The event I attended was a webinar presented by Marlene Oliveira called:

3 Steps to Generating Dozens of Nonprofit Blog Post Ideas

I’ve been a subscriber to MoFlow’s blog for a few years but have not been very engaged. I have great respect for Marlene as a content marketer. She does many activities to engage her followers, so I’m glad to have finally participated in one of her webinars.

A screenshot of the event in progress
MoFlow Webinar Attendance

How I interacted

I’d like to see a blog start on the Inn From The Cold’s website. So I asked the moderator how to find qualified volunteer bloggers to co-author so this task would not fall on the shoulders of just one person (probably me). She acknowledged that this can be tricky because you have to decide their level of involvement: Would they just write whatever they want (could be problematic), or would I become an editor, laying out their topics, deadlines and guidelines, plus editing the writing. This was a valid point. I hadn’t thought it may be just as much work supervising someone as it would be to write it myself.

In terms of actually finding a qualified person, she advised to always be open to people’s skills. Do they have good writing skills but need ideas? Or do they have lots of good ideas, but can’t write well? The best person, she advised, would have a combination of both skills.

She also recommended relationship building as the first step. She said, “Keep a lens on it” as you go about your business making contacts, and if you have a good, well-organized blog set up, most people will be flattered to be invited to co-author.

My best take aways

When starting a non-profit blog, participants were reminded to to ask themselves if they had defined 4 things first:

  • The purpose of the blog
  • The goals of the blog
  • The audience
  • The contributors

I often wonder how to find out more about the characteristics of a target audience. We have details from Facebook. But for a lot of personal descriptions, aren’t we just guessing? One of the best take aways from this webinar was a checklist for creating an audience persona. This came with the additional tip to choose someone you know in your target audience and interview them. For example, interview a volunteer to find a goldmine of information, such as their education, employment, religion, family status, likes/dislikes, hobbies, favourite topics, concerns and interests. After this, create an ideal reader in your mind.

Then go to work on another segment of your target audience, and build another persona – say, a major donor. In fact, we can accomplish building a persona while interviewing these people to write personality profiles as a blog posts.

A Quotable Quote

The moderator was answering a question about recycling content you already have in order to come up with blog ideas. She said,

“I recommend going back to the well.”

She said to look for the most popular topics, we could check our blog or web analytics to find out which links are clicked on the most and which web pages are most often visited. As for printed materials, look at specific pieces that are in demand and need frequent reprints. Good content is found all around each organization. It’s just a matter of pulling it out and repurposing it.

Future plans for similar events

I do occasionally participate in free webinars and I’m registered for a different one later this week. Some are very good like the one I attended today. Others I’ve found to be a waste of time. I will definitely register for another one of MoFlow’s webinars because the content is extremely useful to me and so there’s good value for the time I spend. If you are a communicator working at a not-for-profit organization, I’d highly recommend MoFlow’s blog.

COM0015 – Post #3 – Professional Networking

group of lions on a rock

I just have to admit one thing right from the start – I’m a social animal! I love networking, meeting new people, talking about business and digital media and attending educational or social events. This is especially true when there’s food involved!

I have found several in-person and online methods to get involved in networking events, including the use of some social media tools. My favourite thing about networking is when the in-person and online methods converge and strengthen relationships because of the combination.

Meetup Logo

In real life, I like to meet people through and wrote an article about this platform called Use the Internet to Get Off the Internet!

Eventbrite LogoI’ve also found it useful to network through Eventbrite, my local Chambers of Commerce, free social media seminars, my professional association (IABC), mutual business associates, and volunteering in the community. I’ve also done a short working stint for free at a local digital marketing agency.

I’ve found you can meet a huge number of contacts using these methods!

But there’s more to it than just meeting people, sharing a short conversation, and then exchanging business cards. I try to follow up with people after meeting them in person. I connect with them on LinkedIn and follow them on Twitter. I check out their websites. I join LinkedIn groups where my new contacts hang out. Sometimes it’s as easy as sending an email providing some information or a valuable tidbit regarding a conversation we had the previous day. The trick is to keep connected somehow, encouraging a fruitful relationship that can benefit both parties in future.

So my networking activity is already quite hectic. But I always think of more things I should be doing to strengthen my relationships so that one day, people I’ve met will say:

“Hey, Sheila’s into blogging and social media marketing – send her an email.”

My Networking Strategy for 2016

In 2015, I found networking to be easy and enjoyable. In 2016, what will put the “work” into networking for me? To do more in the coming months, I’d like to write some more interesting and informative articles on Pulse on LinkedIn. I’ve noticed my colleagues doing this and getting lots of comments. It keeps their names familiar to me, so I know it helps people remember their contacts. I would also like to send some simple “let’s get together” messages on LinkedIn to my connections.

Next, I’d like to get to know my professional association members better in person. If you happen to be a member of International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and an independent in Toronto, check out our group on LinkedIn called Professional Independent Communicators (PIC). This is a great group of people who share all kinds of information about what it’s like to be an indie in this business. Monthly meetings alternate between educational topics and social gatherings. Our next meeting is tomorrow night with a guest speaker to help boost our productivity in 2016. I’ve met some members who live nearby and we plan to get together for a coffee sometime soon, so I’m already making some headway regarding my 2016 networking strategy.

Do you take advantage of your professional association events? Local chambers of commerce? LinkedIn or event-based social media groups like Meetup and Eventbrite? Do you hold your own special events or workshops? If you haven’t already, why not try some of these groups for your own networking strategy in 2016. And please let me know if you find any new social media networking platforms like them.

COM0015 – Post #2 – Strong and Weak Organizations

An Example of Social Media Used Well


One of the best uses of social media I’ve found is by the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals  (OSPCA).

Social Media Logos used by OSPCA

The OSPCA regularly uses a wide variety of digital media.

This not-for-profit in the Newmarket area is using a variety of platforms to extend their reach on many levels. Social media icons, linked to each platform, are featured prominently on the website. The platforms used are:

  • Instagram: 1.5K followers
  • Facebook: 46K followers
  • Twitter (OSPCA main): 17.9K followers
  • Twitter (OSPCA Events): 1.4K followers
  • Twitter (OSPCA Careers): 849 followers
  • YouTube: 880 Subscribers
  • LinkedIn: 0 connections
  • Google+: 126 followers

OSPCA also creates regular website blog posts and podcasts to engage their audience, give them more information, increase volunteerism, adoptions, donations and general awareness.

Frequent and regular Facebook and Twitter posts are used to drive traffic to the blog and “pawdcasts” housed on the website and the YouTube channel. Posts are varied containing links, images, clear calls to action, contest information (post a picture of your pet) and engagement posts such as voting polls in third party fundraisers. Instagram is used to its fullest extent with many pictures of cute animals to be adopted. Some OSPCA YouTube videos have thousands of views. The only platforms that do not seem well used are Google+ and LinkedIn with little information, no followers and no posts. Maybe these accounts have just been created.

There is a professional communications department at OSPCA with many years of experience in all facets of digital marketing, which probably explains their excellent use of all digital media. I liked the OSPCA’s website and use of social media so much that I applied for a communications position at OSPCA in the past. Unfortunately, my resumé must have dropped into File 13, as I was not contacted for an interview! Oh well, onward and upward I hope.

Social Media in Need of Development

Inn From The Cold Logo

Inn From The Cold (IFTC) is another not-for-profit organization in the Newmarket area. There is no formal communications department in this small organization. Recently, a social media coordinator has been hired to expand IFTC’s social media presence. The website is new. In-kind work and funds to create it were recently donated by a digital marketing agency and Canadian Tire in Newmarket. Tiny social media icons appear “below the fold”. These could easily be missed and should be more prominently displayed near the top of the page. The social media platforms are:

  • Facebook: 731 followers
  • Twitter: 258 followers

Because the development of social media is in its nascent stage, there is currently no formal strategy other than to post information on Facebook and Twitter about how followers can support IFTC. Posts focus on thanks for sponsorship, community meal volunteers, and retweets of Coldest Night of the Year, an upcoming event benefitting IFTC.

Newmarket is a very spirited, caring and tight community, so there is potential for an expanded social media presence to help IFTC gain supporters, volunteers and donations.

Objectives include increasing engagement (likes, comments, shares), increasing the variety of post types as well as increasing event registrations, sponsorships, and financial support. A standard template thanking sponsors is currently over-used. This is becoming thoroughly boring and could discourage followers from reading IFTC’s posts.

To further develop the use of social media, IFTC needs to find information that would be more interesting to its followers. Links to articles about homelessness, more images of service to guests, and engagement posts, such as polls should be developed. There is no blog on the website. If a qualified, committed blogger could volunteer to write engaging and informative articles, plus volunteer profiles and guest success stories, these could be posted on social media to drive traffic to the site and help achieve IFTC’s objectives.

If you have any suggestions for how IFTC’s social media presence could be improved, please let me know in the comments below!

COM0015 – Post #1 – Social Media Tools and Sources

So many social media platforms, so little time!

Facebook, Twitter, RSS icons stuffed in an envelope

Image Credit: Vertical Response

One of the biggest challenges I have in life is stepping away from my devices and taking a break. There are too many amazing social media sites and articles that constantly absorb my attention! It’s no wonder I had trouble choosing only two favourites for each of the tools and social media platforms to write about. My short list includes Facebook, Twitter, Meetup, LinkedIn, WordPress, Pinterest, Instagram, Social Mention, Hootsuite, Quora, Feedly . . . need I go on?

Social media listening and monitoring tools

One of the best social media listening tools I’ve found was recommended by an unlikely source. It was a volunteer at a not-for-profit who suggested I use Protopage. I’d never heard of it, but quickly found it to be an easy-to-use, attractive and practical dashboard.

Another tool I’ve used for social media listening is Buzzsumo. This site provides details on the most shared articles and posts for the keywords or topics you’re researching.

Why they’re the best tools for me

Protopage example

“Content Marketing News” on Protopage

With Protopage, you can add lots of tools to your dashboard to keep track of different topics for different clients. If you’re a digital marketer, why not create a separate Protopage for each client related to their industry. Check out my Protopage by clicking on the image to the left. I customized my feeds and added various widgets, like RSS news feeds, bookmarks, calendars, weather reports and more. I chose “content marketing” and “digital marketing” as my Twitter search terms.

Buzzsumo search for "Content Marketing"

A search on Buzzsumo for “Content Marketing”

As a content writer always looking for ideas, I take advantage of Buzzsumo. It’s a great source of articles that helps me ruminate and discover what’s most shareable. If you have a truly dead boring topic to write about, try popping in a keyword and see a bunch of relevant articles that have been shared on various platforms. You might be surprised to find an entertaining or interesting angle. I tried an experiment and entered ‘toilet paper’. The most shared article, complete with drawings and measurements, was on the debate about whether you should pull the paper from the bottom or the top!

Social media sources of news and updates

Twitter logo

Twitter: The “BOMB”

Hands down, for news, search and just plain old entertainment, Twitter is the “BOMB”. What turns my crank the most is the search function. Plus, I’m always amazed how easy it is to find out what’s happening right now by checking the trends. News breaks faster on Twitter than any other social media platform. Reporters use it to pick up breaking news stories, beating the clock better than any other research method. I also use Twitter for distributing blogs, articles and images.

LinkedIn Logo

LinkedIn: The ace up your sleeve.

If Twitter is the bomb, then LinkedIn is the ace up your professional sleeve. There are so many features you can take advantage of on LinkedIn, it makes your head spin. Besides having a resumé and connecting with similar professionals, you can research companies, join groups, get involved in industry discussions, try your hand at blogging on Pulse and send messages with its internal email feature. LinkedIn is an absolute must for all communications professionals.

Social Media impact on professional development

On Twitter, I recently discovered that my use of the hashtag #digitalmarketing was drawing attention. What happened next surprised me. Other Tweeters started following and adding me to their lists of digital marketing experts! I didn’t have the heart to tell them I wasn’t really an expert. So I just said “Thanks for adding me to your #digitalmarketingexperts list”. That made even more people add me to their lists. I thought it might become a runaway train and was quite pleased with myself, until I took a break from tweeting. Then all the following and list activity came to a halt. It just proves that you have to keep at it continuously when trying to build a business and connect through social media.

On LinkedIn, I had another unexpected experience. In real life, I belong to a group of writers called ‘Professional Independent Communicators’. At our meetings, the organizers try to get more participation on our LinkedIn group, which is not well used. Because I’m trying to promote my social media expertise, I thought I’d create discussions in this group. I wrote simple thoughts and questions that group members might relate to, and finally, there was a bit of discussion! Instead of using LinkedIn to meet our connections, we used real life connections to become active on LinkedIn – a reversal of what you’d expect. I hope our LinkedIn discussions will complement and deepen our real life connections, leading the way to develop future business alliances and friendships.

COM0014 – Personal Reflection

Reflecting on the concepts presented in this course

I think the most important aspect of this course was that communicators should not forget the research phase. Listen to what people are saying online and discover their needs before beginning to write. Describing the target audience is an extremely important part of research and must come before developing key messages. Communications styles must be considered first. Then the story can start to form around these pillars.

Storytelling: Its importance in creating great digital content

Everyone loves a story. They look for details or incidents that are familiar to them. They love to say “did that, been there”. My goal is to tell a story that allows the reader to relate so they nod their heads in understanding, and keep reading to find out what’s coming next.

My content guided by storytelling

Since I’ve been working in marketing for many years, thinking about everyday life experiences in business should be easy. The challenge will be finding situations that others can relate to and finding a way to weave a story around them. I intend to use experiences from my past work at different marketing agencies and tell stories that provide lessons for readers in this field. I plan to develop stories  around real cases consisting of what worked, what didn’t work, and why.

The kind of stories I want to tell

I want to tell stories that make people want to hire me as a writer or digital marketer and showcase my skills in project management, organization, idea generation. I particularly enjoyed the last lesson of this course which told the legend of the Golden Spruce. There was great symbolism providing a lesson about always looking forward, and not looking back in case of being frozen in the past. This inspired me in writing my last post in which I discussed some of my disappointments and how I handled them. After finishing this course, I plan to write stories that:

  • Use humour
  • Create anticipation. People love the “Aha! moment”.
  • Inspire my target audience to take action
  • Reiterate legends that provide lessons in business and life in general
  • Relate to marketing and communications, using possible case studies

Hopefully, I’ll be able to incorporate the human element into each of them and draw readers in who connect to me and recognize that they need a personable and competent digital marketer and writer.

COM0014 – Telling the Story

          The Near Miss

One of my biggest fears in business is that I might miss a great experience or opportunity. But sometimes it’s a good thing. Has this ever happened to you? Last week, I was driving home when a car pulled out from behind a parked truck and almost hit me head on. The tires screeched and my adrenaline pumped. We didn’t crash – it was a near miss. We paused, looked at each other in relief for a moment, then went on our ways. But what if we’d hit? How would life be different right now?

Sometimes near misses happen in business too. I once found what I thought was the perfect career opportunity. The job description fit my skills and it was just what I wanted. The interview went well and I liked the big boss. I thought an offer was just around the corner, then suddenly . . . nothing. Pure silence. The opportunity fizzled out and I was left empty-handed. A few months later, a friend in the know told me that I’d had a lucky escape. It seems it was just another form of the near miss. My life might have been miserable working for that big boss.

I remember a time of great disappointment when I didn’t get a new client signed on. He seemed so eager to work with me that I started writing his blog before we’d sealed the deal. In a couple of weeks, he replied that some unforeseen circumstances had come up and the timing wasn’t right for his digital media strategy. Was it a lost opportunity or a near miss? Maybe he would have been a difficult client. I may never know.

Does life ever hand you loss or disappointment? Can you reframe some of your life stories and start to think of them as good luck? You might just find you’re grateful for those near misses.

COM0014 – Personal Brand

SG BA 2005 cropped

Hi, I’m Sheila. Nice to meet you. I’m here to help you grow your business using a detail-oriented, well-managed approach and digital marketing and communications. I hope you’ll allow me to add remarkable and distinctive value to your business through blogging, social media, workshop events, writing for your website and email marketing. I’m nerd chic in several departments and proud of it!

Here’s a sample of what I’m all about:

Foreseer of Needs

A long time ago in a galaxy far away, I became a digital packrat. That is, I developed a knack for collecting data about stuff. Any stuff would do. The number of hours we spent monthly on something, the price of stuff this year and last year and the year before that, the ideas everyone came up with but didn’t have the time or money to execute. You name it, I collected it. Usually on Excel spreadsheets so I could play with the data in ways that made me smile. This might seem like a waste of time until one day when you ask me something like this:

“Sheila, do you know how many jiggity-jiggets we made in April 2011?”

I give you the answer within two minutes and apologize for being so slow.

Error Sleuth / Assassin

How do you spend your time during an evening of eating, drinking and making merry? Know anyone who enjoys finding errors on restaurant menus when out for a night of fun? If you said no, then you’ve obviously never been out to dinner with me. Just ask my family members who somehow tolerate the game I call “Magic, The Gathering . . . of Proofreaders”:

Sheila: “Did you see this?”

Family: “WHAT?” (anticipating some sickeningly bizarre food item).

Sheila: “Look how they spelled ESCARGOT! Jeeeezzz!”

Family: “Uh yeah” (rolling eyes), “that’s just awful. Have you decided what you’re ordering?”

When this pastime of mine is used in business, the errors have no chance. They’re hiding. And I guarantee you, they are there. I will find them and chop their heads off before they have a chance to go out in public. They are dead meat when I’m proofing or editing your stuff.

Chaos Tamer

For a Chaos Tamer, this is where business gets really fun:

Your business is a zoo and someone has to control the critters with the big claws. Are you the CEO of a small company or not-for-profit and have more ideas than staff to execute them? Do you switch gears every five minutes because you just can’t NOT do something every time a thought pops into your head? Do you use nouns like “planning – schmlanning”? If yes, then you need me. I will tame the crazy-factor and force you (temporarily) to stop being a visionary while we decide how to execute the last ten ideas you had in the same number of hours. Some people think organizing and planning is a waste of  time because there’s work to do. Those people went out of business. Don’t be one of them.

Mistress of Ideas / Content Creator

I’m a writer. I have no idea where these ideas come from. They just keep popping into my head. Sometimes my fingers hurt because I can’t type as fast as I think them up. It’d be such a shame to waste all this great stuff. Let’s use these cool ideas to tell the stories you want your customers or donors to know. Whatever they need – information, training, entertainment, a call to action – you name it. I’ll cast my spells while we develop a relationship with them and keep them returning for more. They’re going to be your biggest fans.

And now, a little game for all you copywriters and proofreaders out there. Let’s play Spot the Typo! Somewhere in this post is a teensy-weensy error. Tell me in the comments if you find it!

COM0014 – B2C Case Study


In 2014, one of the biggest online craft and gift sales platforms in the world – Etsy – implemented a successful campaign that truly celebrates the essence of what makes social media so powerful:


Etsy put the power of sharing into action using Pinterest, the visual pinning and sharing site. They began with the obvious tactic of sharing Etsy shop items on their Pinterest boards, but did not stop there. They also included merchandise from other sites if the item types were trending with their Pinterest followers.

Pin It button

They also added the Pin It button to all the pages. This broadened their reach to other online communities using Pinterest. While pinners improved trending items, they helped increase Etsy brand awareness.

Extending the campaign even further, Etsy invited guests to pin on their Pinterest account. Guest pinners such as Etsy shop owners, popular bloggers and brands like Martha Stewart were given their own boards to showcase their products on the Etsy account.

What makes this tactic so successful is that the social media gurus at Etsy were able to broaden the scope of their audience while providing valuable connections and opportunities to all their target audiences: Etsy sellers, shoppers and external brands.

In deciding on this approach, Etsy’s social media editors recognized several things:

Etsy & Pinterest Social Media Case Study

Their important target audience, Etsy shop owners, could benefit in a huge way from being showcased on Etsy’s Pinterest account.

Their shopper target audience had broad needs and interests.

Etsy knew they had to research trending items to understand what was important to their audience so that they would share pins.

Everyone needs to promote their own items or brand and this can be done in partnership instead of competition.

And, no business should operate in a sales silo as if theirs was the only one that needed to generate revenue. Inspiring your followers, truly understanding their interests and attracting similar businesses with common interests can benefit everyone.

Displaying the true spirit of providing value to the wider online e-commerce community, Etsy’s campaign proves to be one of the better uses of social media, sharing and community building.

COM0014 – Target Audiences

One of our goals at Inn From The Cold in Newmarket, Ontario, is to increase the number of volunteers and donors supporting the organization. The Board Chair and I have been providing a PowerPoint presentation to community service groups over the last few months and have been well-received.



Hopefully these presentations will translate into the support we need. However, it’s hard to find groups that will have us. I’d like to know more about how to approach similar groups in a way that will make them welcome us as presenters.


So my target audience is charitable community service groups in York Region, Ontario, usually consisting of tight knit groups of people. People in these groups are individuals with an interest in:

  • giving back
  • community development
  • social activism

Reflecting on this group and incorporating what I know about our existing volunteer and donor base, as well as the attendees at previous presentations, I expect this group to have the following demographic characteristics:

  • married
  • middle class
  • even split of male/female
  • 40 to 70 years old, may be retired and have grandchildren
  • member of a Christian faith

In researching the target audience, I checked a few platforms. A search for homelessness on WordPress reveals that there is a huge interest in the topic. I had my eyes opened while searching because of this blog, which provides some insight about a specific audience I hadn’t previously thought of – the LGBT community.

Further insights came from Facebook pages: The Homeless Hub (an Education Website) and Raising the Roof (a non-profit organization). Either of these sites could be a good place to become engaged to increase our presence on social media and reach the target audience.

Homeless for 10 yrs

Raising the Roof has conducted a successful online campaign to create an awareness about homelessness. One of their YouTube videos, in which homeless people read mean tweets, currently has over 1.3 million views. There is a great deal of engagement in the comments, so this may be a good place to begin an effective conversation as well.