COM0011 Blog #5 – Retelling History in the Digital Age

When news breaks it’s everywhere – the facts aren’t always right, but that’s a whole other blog – but within minutes the world is talking about events. School shootings, bombings, political events and even celebrity gossip are delivered to the masses by the second. With the Twitter, Facebook and the rest of social media the news world has changed. But, what happens when news from years ago is retold on social media.

Is this compelling? Is it something the masses will be interested in? Are you interested?

Recently, the BBC has started their look back at the First World War by ‘broadcasting’ the events of June 28, 1914, the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand, as they would have had the events occurred today. Linked to a micro-site the live tweets and breaking news delivered a history lesson that could resonate with younger audiences as they experienced the events in a more modern style.

Screen Capture from the BBC 1914 Live.

As the site takes readers through the day, including providing them with details about the Archduke’s hotel, they experience what it might have been like today. The BBC is not alone in using social media to share history. On June 6 the CBC piloted ‘CBC D-Day Live’ a Twitter feed which invited followers to “Imagine June 6, 1944 – D-Day – if it were covered today. Follow us to relive the day moment by moment, with a focus on Canada’s role in the historic invasion.”

Private George Kellett

Private George Kellett

The CBC’s initiative collected more than 10.2 thousand followers as it shared photos and tweets of one of the most infamous days in Canadian history. Prior to either of these movements the diaries of a soldier began appearing on Twitter in the form of excerpts from the diary of George Kellett. Kellett’s diary is a bit less famous, with slightly over one-thousand followers, but shares a Tweet or two a day matching diary entries from the front lines. For the Wakefield Council Museums this is a perfect example of using your resources to create news that would otherwise not exist.

As a history buff I love these types of posts. I think they show the versatility of social media and the ability to create content from virtually anything.

Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

COM0014 Blog 2 – Catching Fans with Words

They say you catch more flies with honey than vinegar and to always start with a joke but communicating for the web is such an expansive topic how do you know if you’re reaching your audience properly? With a history that reaches back thousands of year’s storytelling is at the heart of human communication.  A good story teller can catch and captivate his audience, lock them in with a compelling and informative story and leave them wanting more and asking questions. To be a great story telling you need to be able to modify your writing style, change your tone and always remain engaging.

Simply enter ‘writing for the web’ in your favourite internet search engine and the number of tips and articles you’ll find that claim to share the secret is daunting. Every audience, every topic and every day brings new demands for those writing for the web. But, if story telling hasn’t changed in centuries there must be a few transferable skills which still apply today? Inspired Mag once offered “27 Ways to Write Better” and lead off with many of the same things mentioned above; know your audience, catch their attention, be compelling, get the details out of the way early, make them think, etc. But, what stands out most is where the article continues.

hipshakespeareMore thought provoking suggestions come out later in the article challenging you to think about your writing.  Such as number 15: Substitute Short for Long, a suggestion that the author, or story teller, should avoid long winded phrases when a single word will do. I wonder, if someone had asked Shakespeare to do such a thing, would our language have as much depth as it does today? Either way, there isn’t much Shakespeare being willingly read by teens, so perhaps this point makes itself.

But why am I choosing to share the thoughts of someone else, this doesn’t really seem like great story telling does it? From hieroglyphics, to Shakespeare and even J.K. Rowlings there are lessons about writing for your audience everywhere. What’s your style or your favourite tip? Personally, I love my version of the KISS principle, keep it short and simple.

COMM0014 Summer – A Week on the Beach!


Drop off the bags, it’s time to go!

I’m a beach guy, there’s no question in my mind. Offer me the chance to sit by a pool or on the beach and I’ll take the sand between my toes any day! So of course, when it was time to take a vacation, my honeymoon in fact, we chose a beach. Choosing seven days of sun and sand in Punta Cana gave us an idea. Rather than stress over choosing a new destination or resort we took to Facebook and posted a question “Who’s been to Punta Cana?” It was amazing how quickly the results came in. Following a few suggestions from family and friends we chose a nice resort and booked our trip.

The afternoon after our wedding we were off to Montreal a quick night’s sleep at a hotel paid for in part by Air Miles and it was time for a Monday morning flight to Punta Cana. In what felt like no time at all we arrived, and boy was it fantastic. As I’d learned on my last trip South the highlight of the beach in Punta Cana is always walking down to see the ship wrecks. A long walk from some resorts the ship wrecks along the beautiful white sand beach is an interesting tourist point. What a surprise it was to walk down to the beach after lunch and stare straight at this beautiful sight. For the next week I’d settle in, camp out and taking breaks from various books to marvel at the beautiful ocean.

Cut off from social media, during the day, we’d escape to the lobby in the evenings either before or after dinner to check for wedding photos. Scrolling through the news feeds and walls of our friends I had a thought, ‘We should have used a hashtag!’ Trying to find wedding photos is tough, guessing who might have posted photos online and checking your various email accounts for a glimpse of how other people enjoyed our night was difficult. A simple hashtag could have tied all those photos together.

I’m sure this brings up another question though, about social media on vacation. How connected is too connected? It’s a tough one and I know everyone is different. Personally, I like to let my family know I’ve arrived and shut it down. Seven days on the beach with a breeze and a book is heavenly to me. Not to mention buffets, beach side grills and a variety of other great spots to eat and drink. If it had not been my honeymoon I don’t think you ever would have found me checking in on Facebook, looking for photos.

As it always goes, seven days was not enough, by the time we were packing back up to leave I’d finally started to really feel relaxed. Five hours later I was home, well rested but sad, it will be some time before I get to see this beautiful beach again I’m sure.

What a beautiful view, can't wait to go back!

What a beautiful view, can you see the ship along the horizon?

COM0011: Lead by Listening

Mr-Potato-Head-toy-storyHave you ever gone on one of those reading kicks, where book after book seems to flip through your hands? I’ve been on one lately and it feels invigorating. I’ve noticed something though, I tend to be reading about leadership. Yesterday, this topic drew me to a business article about the five skills of amazing listeners.

Listening is important, and we always ask how to listen, what to measure, how to listen, but are you listening effectively? Is it okay to read, or as the article above suggests, do you need to be there. Nothing seems more important to me in the five step list than number one. ‘Be Present.’ Have you ever gone in to speak with your boss and felt like he wasn’t there? Was her phone in her hand? How does this apply to social media?

Maybe it’s worth asking yourself. Were you there? Are you aware of issues when they start to arise, even before they arise (especially if their annual questions)? Or is your engagement process a ‘follow-up’ process.

I’ve always been impressed when a company starts Tweeting, Posting or Sharing a week before an event with their own FAQ. Establishing hashtags, opening up conversation and producing answers before they become reactions is essential to establishing yourself as an open an understanding company.

The problem with this of course is the time. Do you have the time to be there for your audience? If you don’t have you considered using Alerts?

Share your preemptive listening techniques in the comments to help us all lead by listening!

COM0011 – Blog #3 – Jim Watson: Leading by Example

Lately I’ve spent a lot of my time looking at how influential people use social media then I was reminded, by a bit of course content, that politicians do it too. It didn’t take me long to get a reminder of this, I flipped to Twitter and BAM! Jim Watson! Not only is Jim Watson the Mayor of Ottawa but he’s also a one-man Twitter machine.

Jim Watson photo courtesy of Metro News.

Jim Watson photo courtesy of Metro News.

In an interview last year with Ottawa Rickshaws Watson answered a number of questions about how he uses Twitter, Facebook and Vimeo and what he sees as the benefit for the community. It was refreshing to hear him say he saw it as an opportunity to help grow the city.  In the article Watson admitted that social media has become so consuming in his way of life that “it’s very hard to imagine not using it.”  It doesn’t mean he’s a role model user, but his activities sure do inspire.

Months away from an election Watson turns to Twitter to communicate with his followers, answer questions and ‘joke around’ with colleagues. In the middle of his term, during the 2014 Olympic Winter Games Watson became a nation news story. As athlete’s around the globe were speaking out on Russia’s anti-gay laws leading up to the Olympics Watson and company in Ottawa raised the Pride Flag as a sign of respect. When a follower felt the urge to call these actions “a stupid waste of time” Watson struck Twitter gold. His response: “If you have that point of view, I really don’t want your vote”.

It’s difficult to suggest what may help or hinder a political career, and how social media impacts those factors. But it can’t be denied that for a man like Jim Watson, who’s made himself so available on social media, it can only help. Sure, there are risks to being open on social media, but a smart, savvy approach can really make a difference. (Did I miss any major risks here? Let me know in the comments!) As Watson moves forward into the next election armed with Tweets and Blogs he’s aligned himself with a new audience, reaches a new demographic of voters and shows  a human element which can only help him generate grass roots support.

How do you feel about politicians and social media? Do you feel a stronger connection to someone who Tweets or posts to Facebook?

COMM0011 – Blog #2 – A blog by any other name…

I settled into my work week this morning, opened a few emails and got my weekly update from Buffer. I have to admit, like I normally do, I scanned the subject line to determine whether or not I had the time to read this now, and it caught my eye! “The Anatomy of a Perfect Blog Post:…” I was intrigued. How could a perfect blog be broken down into a simple systematic template?

I caved, I clicked the link, I read on. Once I’d landed at the article it didn’t take long for Buffer to lose me. Not because it was too difficult to read, or because I didn’t quite understand the message, but because the article presented a list, and like many lists, one item stood out the most.

1)      Headline: the 6 words that count the most

It’s true, we’re all guilty of it, every day we see countless blogs, articles and news items on Twitter, Facebook and across the internet, the ones we read are often defined by the headlines. The article referred to Copybloggers 80/20 rule, 8 out of 10 people will read your headline but only 2 out of 10 will read your content. So, how do you go about converting those browsing headlines into those reading? How do you make the window shopper a customer?

What tricks or techniques do you use to catch a reader’s attention? Be sure to comment below and further the discussion!

It’s been well established that creating regular social media content can be the most difficult thing for some businesses. Having the time, staff power or content engaging enough to be deemed worthy of social media is challenging enough. In 2010 Heidi Cohen wrote “expanded use of social media marketing strategies will enhance overall performance.” This suggests that if a business can find the time and energy to leverage social media they will be ultimately successful.

With all that in mind, isn’t it time your titles worked for you? Buffer suggests that readers tend to absorb only the first and last three words of a headline. Now, I know what you’re thinking, writing a six word headline is difficult, and often times impossible, so how do you manage to have those six words count? Think about the links you’re most likely to click, what stands out? Numbers, adjectives, a bit of rationale and a catch all wrapped into a short little Google safe title goes a long way.

If Google truncates titles over 55-characters, it’s important to keep your title organized in a way that it meets all those criteria. See for yourself:

Blog Titles Truncated

Above is what happens when you search ‘tips for writing blog titles’. Ironically enough, it’s my inspiration, the blog from Buffer, which is truncated because the title is too long. In a quick review of both titles we can find flaws. The first doesn’t necessarily pass the 6 word test, as scanning the first and last three words leaves something to be desired. While our blog from Buffer meets the 6 word test, despite the fact that the title is truncated.

Obviously, there are a number of tips and tricks to writing great headlines for your content.

How important is a headline to you? Do you think one of the other tips was more important? Let me know in the comments below!

Going Viral – COMM011 Blog #1

Going Viral

Water skiing squirrels, momma bears saving their babies off busy highways, soap ads and Super Bowl commercials, we’ve all seen them. In fact, millions and even billions of others around the world have seen them too!
So, what determines how a post goes viral? Why are dancing cats reaching more users than posts meant to raise social awareness or create change? This question has been on my mind a lot recently.

I have been fortunate enough to meet a number of families in minor hockey, but perhaps none more welcoming, united and outgoing then the Maveety’s. Three years ago I had the pleasure of coaching their son Brett while the family began to go through some hardships. His father, Jim, had an infection reach his heart 15 years ago during a bout of pneumonia and as my season with Brett wore on Jim’s health deteriorated. Today Jim waits for a new heart.

The family and friends have rallied together and started a campaign in hopes of spreading the message of organ donation in the community. As the team at Jim’s Hearts reach out to the community to raise awareness about organ donation is their message being heard?

Jim’s Hearts has a group of 109 friends and family on Facebook, a blog and use their own individual social media accounts to share their message. At first glance it appears they are sharing their important message only amongst themselves, with their friends, family and co-workers. But perhaps there is more to the numbers than they appear? Janet Crain, who maintains the Jim’s Hearts blog, acknowledges that some of their posts, including the one that spawned this blog, have reached tens of thousands of people, through Facebook, their blog and various other social media outlets.

Coming up with original content is difficult, making sure it reaches the people you hope it will is a full time job. But perhaps getting the message to the people you need to should be what matters more than the number of people it reaches? People will click like or share for whatever they wish, be it something cute, funny or heartfelt; some posts will reach millions and others only thousands. At the end of the day, if the message is spread to the people who need to hear it the most have you not done your job?