COM0015: Assignment #1, Blog Post #5 – Event Participation


As part of Algonquin College‘s online Social Media Certification program, students are required to publish a number of blog posts. As I approached the end of my studies, I had one last post to publish. I was to locate, attend and write about a professional development and networking event.

I searched long and hard to find a suitable – yet affordable – professional development event delivered in English and that I could attend in person. Unfortunately, things in Europe pretty much shut down over the summer. In time, however, I realized that I already had the perfect professional development and networking event to cover – the Algonquin College Social Media Certificate program itself!

About Tara

My name is Tara MacDonald and I’m a Canadian freelance writer and communications specialist with a background in international development. Learn more…

I’m a big fan of continuing education and professional development. But because I tend to work contract to contract, it’s difficult to plan where I’ll be or for how long. As a result, it’s almost impossible to participate in traditional education or professional development courses.

Why Online Learning?

Algonquin’s online study option provides me with an opportunity to continue developing my skills and qualifications at my own convenience and on my own schedule no matter where I am in the world. All I need is a computer and access to the internet.

Now, it’s true that there’s plenty of free knowledge  you can access on the internet. But the great thing about online courses is that you don’t have to do it alone. You’ve got lesson plans to guide your study, deadlines to motivate you, an instructor to answer questions, a support team in case you’re having trouble with the technology, and other students to talk to, share with, learn from and network with.

Social Media Certificate

Over the past 8 months, I’ve been working towards my Certification in Social Media. The program gives you the tools you need to leverage the power of social media to engage your target audience and achieve your business goals.

The program explores 5 key areas related to social media:

You’ll learn how to evaluate social media channels, develop a social media strategy, monitor and measure results and create effective messaging. In collaboration with other online students, you will also learn how to apply social media to marketing, corporate branding, fundraising and within organizations to support employee engagement, retention and corporate communication.  Read more…

Algonquin’s ‘Blackboard’ | Learning Management System

Once the courses begin, you’ll have access to Algonquin’s interactive Blackboard platform. Blackboard is a Learning Management System where students can interact with their professor and other students in their program. Here you’ll find your lesson content, announcement and discussion boards, assignments and your grades, etc… Read more…


The Algonquin College Social Media Certificate WordPress Account

Throughout the Certificate program, you’ll be using WordPress for a number of assignments and blog posts. There’s no need to worry if you’ve never used WordPress before. You’ll be provided with an invitation to join by email and a number of resources to help you learn how to use the platform. The Social Media Certificate WordPress account is convenient and easy to use. You’ll be able to use your own account to create drafts, upload photos or videos, publish posts, manage comments, and monitor your views and engagement rates.

Are you considering registering for the Social Media Certificate program?

As with anything else, online learning is what you make of it. In my opinion, there are 3 ways to really maximize your learning potential in this program:

#1: Use the lessons as a guide for further exploration of each topic. The classes will give you a good base, but there’s so much more to learn. Use other online resources – such as Mashable and Hubspot – to help you go above and beyond the coursework while staying on top of new features, applications and trends.

#2: To take advantage of the discussion boards and networking forums to network with people in your industry, get to know your fellow students, learn from their experiences and share your own.

As you approach the more advanced courses, you’ll be asked to develop a number of case studies. The great thing about these assignments is that you have the potential to go beyond simple exercises by applying what you’ve learned and gaining practical experience with a non-profit organization. Which brings me to the 3rd piece of advice that I’d pass along to new students entering the program.

#3: I’d start thinking about which organization you’d like to work with early on so that you can start applying your lessons right away while building a solid relationship with your chosen organization. This is a great opportunity to gain practical experience, professional references and build your network while working towards academic credentials.

Online learning is a great opportunity – not just for expats – but for everyone. Algonquin’s online education options give you the experience of being part of a learning community even if you can’t be there in person. They open the door, but it’s up to you to walk through it. So come on, start building your future today.

Want to learn more?

This article was written as a requirement for COM0015: Applied Social Media in Business. If you’re interested in learning more, check out Algonquin College’s Social Media Certificate programme today!

COM0014: Assignment 1, Blog Post 7 – Personal Reflection (Tara MacDonald)

This post reflects on the lessons learned in Digital Communication (COM0014), available online through Algonquin College’s Social Media Certificate programme.

Why is storytelling important to creating great digital content?

Digital storytelling combines the tradition of storytelling with digital technology and multimedia components (e.g. text, images, sound and video). Being able to tell a good story is one of the most important factors in creating compelling online content. Whether you’re promoting a new product or developing a public awareness campaign for your cause, using a storytelling technique is an effective way to connect to your audience, stoke interest in the content that you’re presenting and create a welcoming environment for audience engagement.

Digital Communications – Course Outline

COM0014 provided an introduction to digital communications. We looked at some of the most popular social media platforms along with listening techniques, audience identification, engagement strategies and various online communication styles. We also explored the personal and corporate branding, finding stories within your organization or business, the importance of linking stories to goals and finally how to create meaningful, relevant and compelling content through the use of storytelling.

Great stories get shared

Content created for the sole purpose of selling is ineffective because it fails to tell a story. People want content that informs, is relevant to their interests and entertaining. Bonus points if you can really connect with your audience and evoke an emotional response.

Digital Communication ‘takeaways’:

What kind of stories do you tell?

My portfolio covers a broad range of topics using a number of digital communication channels including e-newsletters, social media content, blog posts and web-content. In the future, I would like to add audio-visual content to my repertoire.

How will your content be guided by story?

Digital storytelling techniques are valuable additions to my communications toolkit. Storytelling is a powerful relationship-building tool that draws people together and keeps them engaged. This course was a good reminder to stop trying to sell ideas or products, and focus more on developing emotive content that appeals to human interest. Moving into the future, I will be applying the lessons learned to my personal branding and communications efforts as well as to the various communications products that I develop for my clients.

Want to learn more?

This post was written as a requirement for COM0014: Digital Communications. If you’re interested in learning more, check out Algonquin College’s Social Media Certificate programme today!

Do you have something to add?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Please comment below! 

COM0014: Assignment 1, Blog Post 6 – Do People Know Your Story? (Tara MacDonald)

The Old Days

My parents began their careers at a time when company loyalty and hard work were rewarded with a stable career and a comfortable pension. They never feared being laid-off, experienced the stress of working contract-to-contract or the insecurity that comes with frequent or long-term unemployment.

Nevertheless, my parents wanted better for us kids. They believed a degree was essential for “getting somewhere” – the key to a successful career and a good life. And maybe, for my parents’ generation, this was largely true. However by the time I finished university, the world was a much different place.

Ringing in the 21st Century

The 21st century brought mass unemployment and financial uncertainty. Growing up on the Ontario-Quebec border, we were first hit with the Bombardier layoffs (2001), then Domtar (2005) and Bell Canada (2008). People who worked the same job for 20 years or more suddenly found themselves unemployed and fearful for their future.

Broken Promises

With promises of career advancement through education, people entered university in droves. By 2010, the number of full-time students had more than doubled since 1980 (AUCC). Meanwhile education costs were rising, so too were under- and unemployment rates…

Riding the Waves of Job Insecurity

As the job market became less and less dependable, many of us found ourselves floating on a sea of never-ending change.

I wanted to work in development but it was a highly competitive sector. To get ahead, I took night, distance and online classes. I volunteered at home and abroad for practical experience and tried to embody the values of hard work and loyalty my parents taught me – but it was never enough. Permanent positions were few and far-in-between. I couldn’t afford to be picky; I had to pay the bills and put food on the table. As a result, I fell into contract-to-contract work.

Since graduating from my 1st degree nearly 20 years ago, I’ve held more than 20 jobs, 5 volunteer postings, worked in 6 sectors and 8 countries.

I’m not alone. According to Workopolis, Canadians can expect to hold roughly 15 jobs during their lifetime.

Job-Hopper Stigma

Disconnected from today’s job market realities, hiring managers are wary of job-hoppers. They question our motivation, skill level and ability to get along with co-workers. Sometimes we’re accused of being easily bored and labeled a “flight-risk”. Over-coming the stigma of ‘job-hopping’ isn’t easy. When I do get a interview, I spend most of my time explaining my past instead of focusing on my abilities, enthusiasm and suitability for the role.

The Road Ahead

I recently decided to embrace the role that I used to resent. Rather than accepting freelance positions, contracts and short-term consultancies as a stepping stone to more stable employment prospects, I’ve decided to re-brand myself as a freelance writer and communications consultant. Which is, in fact, what I’ve been doing for the most part of the past decade anyhow.

I’ve also learned – the hard way – to trust my gut intuition and be more picky in the jobs that I accept. Today, I would rather accept a low-paying job outside of my chosen field where I feel valued, appreciated and respected than accept a short-term contract in my chosen field for an organization that  wastes my time, leaves me feeling under-appreciated, or tries to devalue my skill set, academic background, professional experiences and expertise.

I don’t regret the past because it’s made me who I am today. I’m worldly, resourceful, educated, flexible and willing to try new things. I’ve eaten mopane with the Saan and drank tea with Afghans. I view the world through a multi-coloured lens, quickly transition into new roles and make a big impact in a short time-frame. I am open to new ideas, eager to learn, willing to accept when I’m wrong and always strive to do my very best no matter how big – or small – the task. In the end, I like who I am and I hope you do too.

Are you a ‘Job-Hopper’?

Please share your story in the comments section.

Want to learn more?

This post was written as a requirement for COM0014: Digital Communications. If you’re interested in learning more, check out Algonquin College’s Social Media Certificate programme today!

COM0015: Assignment #1, Blog Post #4 – Out of the Box (Tara MacDonald)

When an 8.1Ms earthquake struck Nepal last April, I found out about it through Facebook. Facebook was also the first place that I checked to find out if my friends living, working or traveling in the area were safe.

The April 2015 Nepal Earthquake (also known as the ‘Gorkha Earthquake’) marked the first major test for Facebook’s Safety Check feature, which was rolled-out last October. The feature prompts users located in dangerous areas to send a notification to Facebook friends and family that they are okay. For many Facebook users, such as myself, it was our first introduction to the new feature and how it’s used.

According to a post by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, more than 7 million people used Facebook’s emergency Safety Check feature. That’s almost a quarter of Nepal’s entire population (27.8 million). To give some perspective of how important this new feature is, let’s take a look at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The ICRC has a missing persons database where people can:

  • Search through the list of missing persons and of those who have responded that they are alive,
  • Register names of persons who wish to inform others that they are alive, and
  • Register names of persons with whom they have lost contact.

Before anybody goes off on a tangent, the ICRC does incredible work around the world and their missing persons registry has helped locate countless people who were missing as a result of war or disaster. Nevertheless, the number of people registered on the ICRC missing persons registry for Nepal currently stands at 886.

While many criticize Facebook’s Safety Check feature, it can’t be denied that they were able to do something that our aid agencies and governments don’t yet have the ability to do. We now live in a time when social media outranks traditional news and information sources. With more than 1,415 million active users, Facebook is the most powerful social media platform in the world. Within the first 24 hours after the initial earthquake, I learned that 5 of my friends were alive and ‘safe’. That wouldn’t have been possible without Facebook.

How do you feel about Facebook’s Safety Check feature?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions.

Please comment below! 

Want to learn more?

This article was written as a requirement for COM0015: Applied Social Media in Business. If you’re interested in learning more, check out Algonquin College’s Social Media Certificate programme today!

COM0014: Assignment 1, Blog Post 5 – Tara MacDonald, M.A., Personal Brand

What’s Your Personal Brand?

For a long time, the concept of branding was linked almost exclusively to companies, but today almost everyone has a personal brand. While we might not consciously realize it, we are constantly cultivating our brand. Every tweet, status update and picture shared contributes to our digital footprint and helps form our personal brand.

About Me

My name is Tara. I’m a travel enthusiast, freelance writer and communications specialist with a passion for international development, photography, good food and interesting company.

My strongest features are loyalty, determination, perseverance, an excitement for learning and the desire to help others.

While working towards financing my Master’s degree in International Development, I used the opportunity to try my hand at a few different types of work. I quickly discovered that I really enjoyed writing and was actually pretty good at it.

I’m most happy when I can combine my talents for writing and communication with the skills and knowledge that I’ve learned through my education, volunteer roles and life experiences in the pursuit of helping others.

Some of the things that I appreciate most in life are my ability to adapt to different environments and cultures, the lessons learned while living overseas and the extraordinary people that I’ve met along the way.

These days you can find me living in the small market town of Gols, Burgenland. In the spring of 2015, I launched a consulting company which supports the communications efforts of local businesses and helps them attract a greater share of English-speaking tourism markets. In my free time, I’m  working on a regional guidebook that highlights local cuisine and the culinary traditions of Burgenland.

What’s your personal brand?

Please comment below! 

Want to learn more?

This post was written as a requirement for COM0014: Digital Communications. If you’re interested in learning more, check out Algonquin College’s Social Media Certificate programme today!

COM0014: Assignment 1, Blog Post 3 – Targeting Audiences (Tara MacDonald)

About Us:

Face 2 Face Consulting Services (F2F) is based in Burgenland, Austria. We offer writing and communications services to small- and medium-sized businesses. We also offer social media management and sector-specific language training.

* Website coming soon!

Audience Identification:

As we gear up for the official F2F launch, identifying potential customers and finding ways to attract their business are our top priorities.

What do we know so far?

Burgenland’s economy is dominated by small- and medium-sized enterprises which provide a range of products and services, especially in the hospitality and beverage industries. Our target audience includes businesses-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) enterprises wanting to attract English-speaking clients and a greater share of foreign markets.

During Stage 1, we will focus on wine producers located in and around the market town of Gols. Gols is the heart of Burgenland’s wine producing industry and – due to proximity to our home office – makes face-to-face meetings easy.

Demographic Characteristics:

Demographics is the study of a given group of people. Here, you might look at age, gender, ethnicity and marital status. For businesses, demographics help you understand who buys your products or services.

Our target audience share a number of demographic characteristics, such as:

  • German-speaking with strong family roots in Burgenland;
  • Mostly Catholic with a few Protestant communities;
  • Largely family-owned and operated businesses with several generations working side-by-side;
  • Businesses appear to be headed by men, but women play a strong role in day-to-day operations and management.

Psychographic Attributes:

Psychographic attributes – or IAO variables – include  Interests, Attitudes, and Opinions. They could also include lifestyles, personality and values. For businesses, psychographics help you understand why customers buy your products or services.

According to Mandl & Dorr (2004)our target audience share a lot of IAOs such as:

  • Those active in traditional fields rarely use the internet to access external knowledge, especially entrepreneurs over the age of 30;
  • Follow ad-hoc or reactive planning for continuing education and marketing activities (i.e. after a problem has arisen);
  • Develop too few forecasts and strategies as a direct result of lack of time;
  • Tend to concentrate on existing competences and dismiss important industry changes;
  • Growing awareness of the importance of competence development (e.g. marketing, soft skills, industry-specific education).

Online Activity:

During the planning stage, our research discovered that:

  • Only 22% of wine producers had bilingual websites (English / German), while more than 25% had no website; and
  • 26% of accommodation facilities featured bilingual websites, while almost 20% had no website.

 Communications Strategy

Building a brand in a rural environment requires a unique blend of personal and professional strengths. It’s expected that timeliness, quality of relationships and social status within the community will be as important as quality of products and services.

Since traditional marketing methods are still very popular here, F2F will be promoted through face-to-face networking, business card distribution and mail-outs. We will also be listed on business directories and registered with the local Chamber of Commerce.

Supporting our face-to-face efforts, our website will feature information about our products and services as well as an introduction to my personal and professional background. In addition, our social media campaign will include: an industry blog, e-newsletters, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. These features will offer learning resources and help build our reputation as an industry specialist.

Do you have something to add?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions.

Please comment below! 

Want to learn more?

This post was written as a requirement for COM0014: Digital Communications. If you’re interested in learning more, check out Algonquin College’s Social Media Certificate programme today!

COM0014: Assignment 1, Blog Post 2 – Storytelling & Digital Communication Styles (Tara MacDonald)

Everyone has a story to tell. Let us help you tell it.

In this article, we explore storytelling in the digital age. We look at changes in the ways stories are told, how stories are framed in an online environment, and tips for creating engaging web and social media content.

Storytelling in the Digital Age

An important feature of every culture, storytelling can be traced back thousands of years. However, while the act of storytelling isn’t new, the ways in which stories are told are changing.

In the digital age, storytellers have enormous creative power and flexibility. The number of resources you can incorporate into a story and the potential reach is greater than ever before. Along with technical advances, audience needs and interests are also changing, placing brevity and innovation at the forefront.

What is Digital Storytelling?

Digital storytelling combines the tradition of storytelling with digital technology and multimedia components (e.g. text, images, sound and video). A digital story can be as simple or as creative as you want. Anyone with a computer can create a digital story; it’s easy, fun and a great way to tell your story.

10 Tips for Digital Storytelling

Consider these 5 basic tips for creating a digital story:

  • write your content like you’re telling a story,
  • keep it short, clear and concise,
  • check for grammar, spelling and punctuation errors,
  • use an active voice, and
  • encourage audience engagement.

Once you’ve mastered these skills, it’s time to think about creating compelling content. Being a successful digital storyteller means putting yourself in the shoes of your audience. Think about what your audience is interested in, how they want to learn, where they want to find information, and ways to encourage participation and sharing.

5 tips for attracting and promoting audience engagement:

  • Create an immersive experience; use multimedia resources that appeal to different senses (e.g. photos, video);
  • Have an actionable goal and create ways for your audience to be a part of that experience;
  • Just ask! Questions are a great way to encourage engagement. Ask your audience for advice on content ideas or what they would like to see from you in the future;
  • Harness the power of social sharing. Make your stories easy to share for effective social media marketing;
  • Experiment with different ways to tell your story and don’t be afraid to take risks!

Do you have something to add?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions.

Please comment below! 

Want to learn more?

This post was written as a requirement for COM0014: Digital Communications. If you’re interested in learning more, check out Algonquin College’s Social Media Certificate programme today!

COM0014: Assignment 1, Blog Post 4 – B2C Case Study (Tara MacDonald)

B2C Case Study: New England Confectionery Company – NECCO

Social Media Campaign: #Tweethearts

Media Budget: $0

Finding the Social ‘Sweet Spot’

Finding the social media sweet spot means finding the marketing approach that best aligns company’s goals with what consumers want. Cutting through the noise and finding that ‘sweet spot’ for your brand means finding the right approach to spur your followers into action.

Developing successful social media campaigns isn’t easy. Check out the following case study to see how New England Confectionery Company found their sweet spot with #Tweethearts, a customized social media campaign promoting their almost 150 year old candy, Sweethearts.

New England Confectionery Company (NECCO)

NECCO is most famous for its seasonal Sweethearts candies, although older generations might remember them as Conversation Hearts. These small heart-shaped candies are printed with affectionate notes like “Kiss Me,” “Be Mine” or “XOXO.” NECCO produces 100,000 pounds of Sweethearts each day in order to meet Valentine’s demand, when 8 billion candied hearts are sold in just 6 weeks.


#Tweethearts, created by advertising and marketing agency Hill Holliday, found the social sweet spot for NECCO’s Sweethearts. Released in late 2013, #Tweethearts was a customized social media campaign with a platform that allowed fans to tweet to their ‘Tweethearts’ with personalized candy hearts.

A dedicated website ( invited candy lovers to send personalized tweets to @tweethearts. After tweeting your message, you would get an image back that spelled your tweet in candied hearts. You could then forward the message to someone special or order a 1 pound bag of custom candies to be delivered within 5 business days. To push the campaign, Hill Holliday produced an animated rap music video explaining how #Tweethearts works.

#Tweethearts was an instant success. With a media budget of $0, the campaign generated more than 2,000,000 impressions and 1,405 re-tweets, 2,464 users created a Tweetheart (almost 2.5x the original goal), and average time on site was 50 seconds. The campaign was featured on BuzzFeed capturing another 53,000 views and attracted press coverage from the New York Times, Forbes, USA Today and more.

The campaign made The Shorty Awards finalist list for ‘Best Twitter Campaign’, ‘Best Use of Social Media in Real Life’ and Media Maven Awards‘ Best Use of Social Media. #Tweethearts was also featured in Postano’s 14 Best Social Media Campaigns of 2014.

Best Practices and Lessons Learned

NECCO’s #Tweethearts campaign illustrates how companies can successfully harness the power of social media by aligning corporate goals with consumers wants. NECCO added value to the conversation by sharing content that solved a problem and made their target audience’s lives easier (e.g. last-minute Valentines ideas that are unique and low-cost).

Best practices from the #Tweethearts campaign include:

  • Easy to Measure,
  • Unique and easy to share,
  • Solves a problem,
  • Simple, fun and refreshing marketing idea, and
  • Turning digital into something physical.

Check out the Video:

What do you think about #Tweethearts?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Please comment below!

Want to learn more?

This post was written as a requirement for COM0014: Digital Communications. If you’re interested in learning more, check out Algonquin College’s Social Media Certificate programme today!

COM0015: Assignment #1, Blog Post #3 – Professional Networking Now & In The Future (Tara MacDonald)

My name is Tara MacDonald. I’m a Canadian writer and communications specialist with a background in International Development. While I grew up in Canada, I’ve worked, lived and traveled around the world. These days, I’m based in Austria.

Living and working abroad presents unique networking challenges. In this post, we’ll look at some of the tools that I use to assist my professional development and online networking strategy.

Online Networking Tools

LinkedIn: With more than 350 million users, LinkedIn is the largest professional networking site in the world. It’s easy to use and basic membership is free. Creating a LinkedIn profile, joining industry sector groups and participating in discussions enables you to access knowledge, insights and opportunities at the click of a button.

Facebook: A great way to keep in touch with friends and family, Facebook is easy to use, makes uploading and sharing photos a snap, and it has built in chat and email functions. Today Facebook boasts more than 1.35 billion users. That means if Facebook were a country, it would be the most populous nation on earth!

Twitter: Networking starts with finding the right people. Twitter can help you find, monitor and interact with key influencers in the areas you’re most interested in. The search and #hashtag features allow you to zone in on local news, events and the conversations that are most relevant to you.

Skype: Wherever you are, you can use Skype for calling, video chatting, group calls, conferencing, messaging and information-sharing with others for free! You can also make Skype to landlines calls although for that you need to provide your credit card information and pay a small fee. For convenience, connect Skype to Facebook and on various mobile devices.

InterNations: Internations is the leading networking site and local guide for expats in 390 cities worldwide. Locate and connect with fellow expatriates at social or professional events and get valuable tips and advice for living, finding a job and doing business in a foreign country.

Algonquin College: Algonquin College helps you develop your professional skills by offering a wide range of online learning topics available through full- or part-time study. Use the blackboard to introduce yourself to instructors and fellow classmates and the discussion board to ask questions and share your thoughts.

Networking Strategy:

In recent months, I’ve been very busy with online classes and preparing to launch my consulting business. As a result, my activities have been confined to education-related networking, creating a listening strategy and building a list of potential clients. Next steps will include the following activities:

  1. Update networking profiles with recent photos and account information;
  2. Introduce myself to fellow classmates and invite them to connect via LinkedIn;
  3. Review networking invitations, thank contacts for endorsements and introduce myself to new contacts;
  4. Evaluate my listening, monitoring and engagement strategies for ways to improve efficiency;
  5. Further develop my consulting website and begin implementing my social media plan;
  6. Research local networking opportunities, make a list of important events and key influencers and establish a list of goals and potential outcomes for each event;
  7. Create a spreadsheet to keep track of networking contacts, events, goals, outcomes, etc.;
  8. Balance office work with outside activities, including social and networking events.

Do you have something to add?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about networking abroad.

Please comment below! 

Want to learn more?

This post was written as a requirement for COM0015: Applied Social Media in Business. If you’re interested in learning more, check out Algonquin College’s Social Media Certificate programme today!

COM0015: Assignment #1, Blog Post #2 – Strong & Weak Organizations (Tara MacDonald)

Non-profits make a real difference in the world and they deserve support and recognition. But in order for your organization to be effective, you need to attract and engage the attention of those who share your vision, care about your cause and can make meaningful contributions to move your work forward.

In today’s online world, social media is a non-profit’s best friend.

As social media continues to change the way people communicate, it has become an increasingly important tool for non-profit organizations. Learning which social network appeals most to your target audience, how to master the unique tools and features on each platform, and how to listen and engage with your audience is essential. The sooner your organization masters content distribution and engagement on social networks, the more likely (and faster) your fundraising and marketing efforts will result in success.

Case Studies

We’ll look at 2 social media case studies to show you how non-profit organizations are doing social media right. We’ll also take a look at a small organization that recently started using social media and point out ways they can build their online presence and garner support.

Case Study 1: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

UNICEF is leading the pack when it comes to creating powerful social media campaigns and rallying online support. With 4.9 million Facebook fans, 4.02 million Twitter followers and more than 64,000 YouTube subscribers, UNICEF is the 3rd highest ranking non-profit organization on social media.

What are they doing well?

While brand recognition certainly played a role in garnering support and becoming a powerful social media influencer, UNICEF also takes a front-seat when it comes to implementing best practices. They create compelling content through the use of visual and audio-visual storytelling methods, respond promptly to community feedback, and harmonize their various platforms with common goals by seizing every opportunity to direct users to donation, information and action pages for their initiatives.

Best Practices

Within an increasingly ‘virtual’ world, most activist groups and non-profits were using social media to capture public attention and rally support for various causes. While other organizations were racing to attract followers, fans and likes, UNICEF took a radically different approach making this bold statement: “Like us on Facebook, and we will vaccinate zero children against polio.”

UNICEF’s campaign ripped open the debate between slacktivism – or  ‘armchair activists’ – and the need to contribute in a more meaningful and tangible way while highlighting the fact that social shares aren’t enough.

Their risky approach was recognized by as one of the Top 4 Non-Profit Social Media Campaigns of 2013 because they used social media in an unexpected way, drove home the fact that monetary donations make a greater impact than social media likes and motivated people to donate rather than simply clicking a like button.

Case Study 2: CARE

CARE is one of my favourite international non-government organizations and I was fortunate enough to volunteer with the Canada office during the summer of 2008. They do amazing work around the world and they have a good handle on using social media as a platform to build awareness and support fundraising initiatives.

Due to the organizational set-up, CARE’s social media efforts are not quite as unified as UNICEF. However, they did place 42nd is the list of highest ranking non-profit organizations on social media in 2014.

What are they doing well?

CARE’s individual country webpages maintain a similar layout and design with an attractive home page featuring their most relevant initiatives around the world catagorized by type of project. This enables visitors to find the type of work they’re most interested in quickly and easily.

Best Practices

CARE makes extensive use of storytelling in their online campaigns. Stories show visitors what it’s like to work on the ground and invite us into the lives of the people they help using vivid and compelling photography, videos, quotes and personal interviews.

While CARE has an exemplary online presence, there are areas where they could improve the efficiency of their social media efforts. For example while they do provide compelling content and provide space for visitor engagement, they lack a demonstrable call-to-action. CARE would be wise to take a hint from UNICEF’s campaign by including a handy ‘donate now’ button at the end of each video. While increased awareness is a worthy pursuit, a clear call-to-action will increase the likelihood of turning ‘armchair activists’ into potential donors.

Case Study 3: Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force


The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force facilitates community partnerships to advocate for poverty reduction and elimination. Their values include:

  • Collaboration / Partnership – Building trust and respect across community stakeholders through dialogue and purposeful partnerships;

  • Understanding Poverty Issues and Each Other – Working together to educate each other, share creative solutions and develop a common understanding of issues related to poverty;
  • Equality / Justice – Working to improve lives within the community, while ensuring the services are accessible, affordable, humanitarian, equitable, and provides choice;
  • Advocacy – Acting in partnership to leverage our community knowledge and expertise to advocate for change;
  • Com(passion) for Change – Acting with compassion to make meaningful change for individuals and families when they need it most;
  • Collective Synergies – Recognizing that our collective energies are greater than that of any individual. Individually we can do little, together we can move mountains.

In terms of online presence and social media engagement, the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force represents the tail end of the spectrum. With only 133 Facebook fans, one active and one inactive Facebook page, no Twitter or YouTube account and a WordPress site that flickers between private and public settings, the Task Force has no where to go but up.

Many of Task Force’s values – e.g. collaboration, partnership, advocacy, awareness building, public education – combined with lack of financial resources available for traditional advertising and marketing campaigns make social media an ideal platform for achieving success.

Some immediate objectives the Task Force might consider implementing in their social media approach include:

  • Determining how they would like to be perceived and developing a vision for their organizational brand;
  • Developing a social media strategy with well-established goals and clear objectives;
  • Explore different social media platforms to discover where their audience is most present and engaged while identifying a list of topic influencers to follow;
  • Determine which platforms best suit their organization’s vision and goals and developing a list of measurable key performance indicators which they can monitor and evaluate;
  • Create a digital filing system to store content, find creative ways to re-use or re-vamp content and develop a content distribution plan;
  • Listen to their communities and begin to engage in the conversation.

As a small advocacy and awareness group, the Task Force faces a number of barriers, such as a small staff responsible for multiple tasks, lack of a dedicated social media or communications officer, etc.

To help overcome these challenges, I’ll be working with the Task Force to get their website back online, providing an evaluation of their existing social media efforts and helping them develop a social media strategy that they can carry forward into the future.

What do you think?

Do you have any other Social Media tips for Non-Profits?

Please comment below! 

Want to learn more?

This post was written as a requirement for COM0015: Applied Social Media in Business. If you’re interested in learning more, check out Algonquin College’s Social Media Certificate programme today!