As an entrepreneur looking to build a new business in the realm of Social Media, I have found a few applications that I feel may be helpful going forward. As I haven’t quite nailed down what that new business structure will be, I expect that it may involve paid online advertising for my own Brand and/or managing the paid online ads for other companies, in the capacity of a consultant/content creator/social media strategist.
Many applications exist that allow for content management and calendar scheduling. From my own experience, I can appreciate how time consuming and cumbersome it is to manage multiple platforms for a business without these types of apps. Sendible, is an application that allows you to manage the whole range of platforms for multiple businesses with unique inboxes that can be accessed by all team members. It has a feature that suggests new content topics, per Brand, based on the targeted search words and the profiles of your followers.
Qwaya is another application that ties in nicely with Sendible. For businesses that rely heavily on online ad revenue, this one allows for collaborative Paid Ad creation that can be managed and scheduled for your Facebook and Instagram.
Canva is an application that I discovered this year and use weekly for photo and video editing for my businesses social media accounts. It has a wide range of limited free tools and many more that can be paid for. It offers many free marketing templates and design tutorials to get any newbie started in creating effective online social media marketing content.
It may appear contradictory that a person who is enrolled and finishing up on a certificate in Social Media for Business has little to no interest in Social Media on a personal level. I am of an older generation than many of the people in this course. I value my privacy and personal space but I am also very at ease and friendly with people. I am definitely more comfortable interacting and networking in real life situations and environments. I just find it easier to connect in person. But, I also understand the necessity of being social, and appearing social, online. Before starting my next business which will be an online store & blog, I plan to find employment working for a company or organization for at least a year.
From the job listings that I have perused so far, companies want practical experience, not just a certificate or diploma. I expect that setting up a personal LinkedIn page & presence will be beneficial to that end. I’m also toying with the idea of taking on some small contracts with local small businesses to build a portfolio. These contracts may even be pro bono to start, but they will provide me with a showcase for my ideas and work.
As far as developing a professional network in social media, I will develop my online brand and start to build a client list. This will give me something to show potential employers and equally important, I will get some practice and experience at analyzing companies, determining their objectives, and then working with them to develop strategies to achieve their goals. Who knows, if it goes well, I may just become an independent contractor and do the store & blog idea on the side. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
I chose to research Pet Food chains for this blog post. As a former kennel owner, I was very familiar with Petsmart & Pet Valu. I believe that these two companies are doing a terrific job of using Social Media Strategy & tools to boost their sales, to engage with their audience, to build brand recognition and loyalty as well as to benefit their businesses overall.
One of the best uses of PetSmarts social media platforms is that they constantly encourage their audience to post their own pet pics and use the hashtags #PetSmart and #AnythingforPets for a chance to be featured in their social feeds. Their Twitter feed is big on audience engagement with tweets about current events like Pride Month featuring people celebrating with their animals. They ask questions, post surveys, offer tips and tricks for dog training or tips on traveling with your pets. They’ve even embraced current pop culture with their new exclusive ‘Stranger Things’ dog clothing and accessories. Something that differentiates their brand from the others is that they are big into Pet Boarding, Dog Training and Pet Grooming. They cleverly utilize their Youtube channel to offer ‘How To’ videos in relation to some of these best practices techniques and other content.
Pet Valu is a Canadian company that has long been associated with organic, raw and/or higher end pet foods. They work with local rescue shelters to arrange in-store pet adoptions. They use their Facebook and Twitter accounts as an informative platform to tell people about local events. They showcase posts from various Canadian franchise locations featuring their customers’ animals, and they do a fair bit of selling/promoting of products on those channels. They are supporters of Guide Dogs and promote their cause as well as promoting community initiatives like ‘Bark in the Park’ type of events across the country. They have a hashtag #LoveLivesHere that they use to encourage people to share their memorable pet moments on their Instagram account. It seems to have decent traction. Their Pinterest account gets almost a million monthly views and only features products for sale. Where they don’t have the volume of followers that Petsmart has, they still have engaging, interesting and informative content that provides value to their audience.
Global Pet Foods is a Canadian company that has been around since 1976. It is a company that I feel would benefit from refining and implementing a more engaging Social Media Strategy. They feature high end Natural and Organic pet foods that support a Holistic approach to animal wellness and health. They tag themselves with their #GlobalPetFoods hashtag but don’t encourage their audience to tag them in animal photos.
One of their social media strategies that works well for them is regular free product giveaways, with rules attached. To be put in the ballot box you need to Like their Facebook page, name your dog or pet (or other specific task requirement) in their Comments section and, for a bonus ballot entry, Like them on their TikTok channel. They get very high engagement for these posts but otherwise the engagement is low. They use mostly stock animal photos in their social media feeds and rarely use a customer’s animal picture, except occasionally on their Pinterest platform. They use the generic hashtags #petlove and #cutecustomer on Pinterest where they mostly sell products. They have a Youtube channel that isn’t maintained.
As far as social media strategy, I would start with a redesign of their logo to help build Brand identity and recognition. Where I do like their tag line of Eat.Play.Love, their company logo print is small and difficult to read. The design is very generic, not giving any indication of what the business is about. I would create a clever new hashtag to encourage and support the sharing of tagged customer animal photos. I would put the Youtube channel to better use by creating, or just finding, good pet related videos that can be shared and posted, to increase followers. I would rework the free giveaway idea that they currently use and turn it into a new ‘daily free $25 gift e-certificate’ that is awarded to the best tagged animal photo of the day! They already use #giveaways and #contest and I would definitely continue to do that to get loads of new followers. They have a decent following on all of their channels but for ‘the largest Canadian-owned pet specialty retailer (food & supplies’), I think they could easily increase their audience by a few hundred percent. More eyes on the page should result in increased online sales and in store traffic. I don’t think it will take a total overhaul to improve their business dramatically. They just need to refine things a bit more to get a better outcome.
In relation to my business Simply Fruit Rice Puddings and my next business venture that will be an online store & blog, I have been using the Google Family of products including Trends, Alerts, Insights and Analytics for a number of months now and learning the Google Search Console as well. I plan to continue this area of study by working towards getting a Google Ads Accreditation once this program is completed.
As I didn’t have any previous experience with the Pinterest platform, I recently set up an account and have found that their Analytics tool is very helpful in identifying the Audience that is engaged with my free online recipe offerings. They do the demographic and psychographic analysis for you, while defining the actual percentage of the current audience linked to their various interests and then broken down into more specific categories. It is very detailed and takes a lot of the guessing and/or trial and error out of the equation. They also have a Trends feature. Of particular interest to me, is the subset of Trending Food & Drinks. I can see daily what flavor or product that people are searching for. It allows me to choose to post specific recipes that contain those ingredients.
The Google Trends & Alerts have not been driving much traffic to my website in comparison to the Audience engagement on Pinterest. I have started using the Pinterest Audience insights to experiment with my Google keyword searches and blog post SEO.
I have also had the opportunity to use the RSS Inoreader software. I enjoyed how I can access the latest updates and posts from competitors and industry leaders without having to go looking for them individually. I also liked Mention.com for its Top Influencers feature. It helps identify a brand’s top influencers.
I am not really a tech or gadget kind of person. My interest in Social Media is purely in relation to how it can assist in Communication, Marketing or Sales for a business or organization. I don’t really use it in a personal capacity. So my two best sources for news and updates are in relation to business news & trends, politics and science. For these updates and developments my GoTo would be the CBC.ca website and the TVO.org website and specifically ‘TheAgenda’ program with Steve Paikin.
Local & World Politics as well as Global Business are interesting to me as they directly relate to world Economics. Social Media and Tech Giants are often discussed under these 2 umbrellas especially since they drive all communications, across all industries. Domestic & Foreign Governments are often being hacked or are butting heads with the Tech Giants in some capacity as each side tries to set down some ground rules for co-existence and an equitable playing field for both camps.
I find the CBC and the TVO reporting to be of a higher standard and less biased in comparison to other news outlets. They are also active and engaged on their social channels. TVO does a lot of interviews with thought leaders and well respected international reporters and keeps things timely and relevant.
When I think of talented storytellers and great content creators my favorite author, John Irving, comes immediately to my mind. The qualities that I admire the most about his writing are his amazing character development skills and his off-the-wall sense of humor. He always defines his colorful characters in such elaborate, detailed fashion, each complete with their inherent quirkiness. But ever present, in each of his books that I’ve read so far, is his humanity and compassion for mankind.
Using storytelling to create great digital content is no different. With it, we allow the outside world to see our inside world, through our own unique perspective. Storytelling adds a human context to our stories that we couldn’t achieve, if we were to simply make a list of the main characters, timelines and events of our subjects and subject matter, in bullet point form.
I aspire to write in John Irvings’ style utilizing the full gamut of human emotions, a humorous perspective and lightness, with a constant peppering of compassion, throughout. My stories will be personal, original and thought provoking. I would like to present hidden aspects of our personalities, in non-threatening ways, to inspire people to be kinder to one another and to themselves. Storytelling will help me to express my thoughts, ideas and experiences in a relatable, easy to understand fashion. Presenting a unique perspective that is new, but not foreign, will hopefully encourage a broadened mind. To quote a Margaret Atwood line, ‘We understand more than we know’.
The other day, I was sorting through the library of books stacked in piles around my office. I came across my dog-eared copy of The Night Circus. The name triggered a bizarre memory about a summer trip to the Fair. As a young girl, I was unfortunate to have multiple small warts on my hands. I remember being so frustrated because the more that they bothered me and the more that I tried to eliminate them, they just seemed to multiply.
During this trip to the Fair, I remember standing in line for one of the carnival rides. The operator stopped the ride at my chair. I was young and not particularly tall. He grabbed my hand to help me up onto the ride. As he looked down at my hand, he rubbed his finger over the warts that were visible on my extended fingers. He looked at me and said, ‘They will go away’. I just looked at him, not really thinking anything at all about his comment. I had all but forgotten about him until about a week later. As I washed my hands, I realized that the warts were gone.
That moment was the catalyst that sparked my curiosity about the power of our minds. It’s not a wonder that Buddhism struck such a chord with me, when I came across it. How we create crap for ourselves and how to un-create the same crap by mastering our minds, of course made good sense to me. And yes, that all goes back to that stranger at a fair.
I think our biggest moments are defined, well after the fact. How can we possibly understand the long term importance of something or someone? It is unknowable.
Among a list of my personal qualities I would include my ability to identify and navigate stress with a calm, clear head. My oldest dearest friend described my best personal quality by saying, ‘Mel, you are a doer! You say you’re going to do something, and you do it! You don’t deliberate it for months & years then change your mind’. I suppose that is true. I just couldn’t see it.
My colleagues tell me that I have a wonderful ease with everyone. I am an effective relationship builder and I treat everyone as equals. In regards to ‘Value’, I would say that I approach my life and my work from a broad perspective being aware of how each interaction affects the well being of the other person or business. I don’t see things from a limited personal perspective that focuses more on ‘what’s good for me’.
As far as what I am most proud of, I would say that I try not to add to other people’s worries and fears. I don’t encourage people to spiral into old thought habits. I always try to bring people back to the present reality insofar as they allow me to. But, ultimately, you can only lead a horse to water. You can’t make them drink it. That too is a strength that I have spent much time working on. Knowing and accepting that you can’t do the work for someone else. It has to come from them. There is great freedom in not feeling the need to fix people and accepting things as they are.
If you are an Indie movie buff living in Ottawa, ON, then you have surely heard of the Bytowne Cinema on Rideau Street. This is an ‘old school’ cinema that opened its doors in 1988.
Their monthly schedule consists of mostly independent international films that don’t make it to the Big Box modern cinemas. Their feature films are often plucked from the various international film festivals and many of them feature subtitles. Marvel type movies and big budget Hollywood ‘shoot em ups’ are not their normal offering.
Their clientele ranges in age between 30 and 75. They have a slightly larger percentage of female customers, but only second to couples. They cater to the cinephile who doesn’t just wish to be entertained, but who appreciates the art and craft that makes for a great movie.
They regularly contribute to their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. They post a lot of video clips about upcoming movies, festivals or awards shows. They don’t use TikTok or Youtube, as their customer base is more likely to be found on Facebook, Twitter and on their website.
This cinema conducted a recent online poll of their customers to see if they wanted them to continue requiring vaccine passports and wearing masks. The audience asked them to continue and they have. The management was mindful of the more mature age group of their clientele and knew that health and safety would be an important factor to them.
As this target audience is more affluent and has a large number of retired customers, they have more time and discretionary income at their disposal. I believe that this business is effectively targeting and marketing to their audience. I am hopeful that this cinema will be around for another 20+ years.
I chose to do some target market research on one of my own businesses, Simply Fruit Rice Puddings. This is a small micro food producer that sells gluten free, vegan and nut free fruit rice puddings at local Farmers’ Markets and in specialty retail stores. The current audience is made up of roughly 90% women, between the ages of 25 and 54. They are very enthusiastic about the everchanging weekly menu offerings and enjoy trying new fruits and rice pudding flavors. The majority of this demographic are parents with young school age children and University age kids. The majority are married. They are interested in a fresh and healthy food offering to take to work as a snack and to give to their kids in their lunches. Many of the parents have kids with food sensitivities, so this is a perfect product for them. They are also into yoga, the gym, being active, buying local food and eating healthier diets. Many enjoy traveling to visit family and cottaging.
Click image to see the RECIPE for Cranberry & Lemon Fruit Rice Pudding
Effective tools and strategies.
This audience is active on social media. They follow the social platforms for Farmers’ Markets. Since the start of Covid, the company has taken a hiatus from the markets and recently started offering their recipes for free, on their blog and social platforms, so people can make their own fruit rice pudding. This is another way to engage with their audience, to offer value and to build a loyal following. Cooking videos that demonstrate the various aspects of making the puddings or that educate the viewer on working with new and exotic fruits would also be effective. Perhaps starting a YouTube channel with full How To Recipe Videos and short TikTok videos would appeal to the younger set. This switch to becoming an online free recipe resource is a work in progress and is providing me lots of opportunity to experiment with my new found Social Media repertoire.
I enjoyed reading the content in Module 2 this week. I was especially interested in the description of the Syntopical Level of Reading. I can see parallels between How we read and How we interact with people in our daily lives. ‘Communication’ is a huge umbrella. Everything that we do, say and think is a form of communication and expression. Even when we are alone.
People engage with one another and understand one another on many different levels too. We can choose to glance at a person and then continue on. We can stop and acknowledge them by a simple gesture or salutation. ‘How are you? How are things?’ and end it there. We can take time out of our day and sit down to give some importance and semblance of interest to someone. Spend some time with them, ask more personal questions and perhaps share some of our own experiences, Or, we can truly try to understand their perspective and experiences, even the tricky stuff, with compassion and an open mind, without judgment. If asked, we may be able to offer the person a new perspective or, we may take a new perspective away with us.
From a young age, I was fortunate to love reading. If I came across a word or concept that I didn’t understand, I would stop and ask my mother. She, being the wise woman that she is, would tell me to ‘Go look it up in the dictionary’. I am very thankful that she encouraged me to be interested, curious and to look for my own answers. In this ultra fast throw away world that we live in, people often don’t see the value in taking things slow and investing the time. Many live superficially.