social media: getting past the first date

Social media is the first date; it is how you continue to build the relationship after this first encounter that is the key to turning LIKES into CUSTOMERS.

You have a Facebook page, but do you know how to use it?  I will use Facebook as the social media channel of discussion for this post, but similar strategy should be deployed against any social media community that represents your business.

 

Building Customers out of Facebook: Tips on building good content

1. Clearly communicate unique attributes in your social media activity.

Narrower, more clearly defined posts cut through over a wide range of different content. Short, snackable posts are typically far more engaging for users.

2. Photos and Video content is key.

The Facebook newsfeed is cluttered with paid ads and other shared content making it even harder to stand out. Use images and video wherever possible to highlight your message.

[Insert cute cat photo post here.  Yes that is two chicks with a cat.  Very on-brand]

 

3. Collect & share compelling content from other users 

Sharing content from like-minded social media communities is a great way to reach additional audiences.

4. Use hashtag’s to tag content and cross-pollinate your messages.

On Facebook and on other social media channels such as Twitter and Pinterest. #hashtagswork

5. Once a strong Facebook community has been built, consider a campaign, contest or app be created to expand reach, with a website landing page as a call to action and as part of an overall digital media strategy.

6. You don’t own your customer on Facebook.

A good Facebook community should be used as a means to interact with your customer, and hopefully at some point to encourage a transaction.

7. Paid Social Media is a must:

While organic posts, curating good content, and conversation remain central to your social media activity, paid media buys now are key in boosting Facebook engagement. Remember, brands are renting the space on Facebook, and the platform needs to generate revenue.

Unfortunately brands that have organically built up strong engaged communities on Facebook over the past few years now need to invest in some of Facebook’s Ad products to ensure reach continues as it once did.

The organic impact of Facebook activity has been diluted.

We have seen this in the stabilization of growth in NEW page LIKES in the past year, the drop off of referral traffic to websites from Facebook in 2013 over 2012 in many of our clients. You are not alone – but don’t panic.

Facebook advertising products are highly targeted, relatively cost effective, and should be used to heighten reach and encourage fan engagement and reach. Facebook ads, promoted posts and sponsored stories are all options that should be considered as part of an overall media and campaign budget.

Measuring ROI in social media

The goal with all social media, once the customer is engaged, should be to convert them to become a customer.  All Social media initiatives should be built with an end-goal in mind for the brand.

Social media can be used to do the following:

1. Drive buzz and awareness for new product launches, or as a means of communicating with niche target audiences.

ROI Measured by: Content shares, overall reach of posts, number of interactions.

2. Referring traffic back to the website – the transaction point.

ROI Measured by:

Referral traffic sources in Google analytics or other website analytics tools. If you are investing resources in social media channels like Facebook, there should be a good amount of referral traffic back to the website as an indication of success.

3. Solidifying the Customer/Brand relationship.

ROI Measured by:

Converting Fans to sign up for eNewsletter’s for future promotion, special offers.

Consider adding a tab on the Facebook page to encourage eNewsletter sign ups, driving traffic back to the brand website to solidify the customer/brand relationship.

4. Increase Customer Communications. Social media as a CRM tool.

ROI Measured by:

Number of consumer interactions, media reach etc. Social media channels such as Twitter have become critical in crisis communications management. The brand must show it is listening to its customers.

KPI’s (key performance indicators) such as reach of posts, increases in fan engagement, and consumer question or complaint resolution, with social media acting as the connection between brand and customer are all measures of success.

Build the strategy for social media. Create good content. Engage with your fans and understand what they want to hear from your brand. Measure ROI [see above] and repeat.

Most importantly – understand how to get your FANS to share their love for your brand, and make it easy for them to buy your services or widget, or to reach out and communicate with your brand.  Successful marketers are using social media channels such as Facebook to listen and interact with their customers. This is key in the age of social media and an expectation of most consumers today.

Like any good relationship, the first date is only the beginning.

Join us April 7-9, 2013 for the annual Online Revealed Conference for more in-depth workshops and social media case studies on building and growing successful communities on Facebook and other social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube.  We look forward to getting to know you better on Facebook, Pinterest ,LinkedIn, and Twitter too!

 

What’s HOT in Social Media according to @acoupleofchicks (and other good sources)

Forget about the current heat wave in Ontario, lets talk what’s HOT in social media.  It seems like there is a new viral video, vine, keek, or tweet making Mashable.com and even offline news headlines every day.

Here is a roundup of some of the recent hot topics in social, and why we think they are important to take note of:

Tweet-able Soundbite’s…Should you care to share: 

(or for those who prefer to read article highlights in 140 characters or less. I get it. Note this is also located at the start of the blog post and not the end. You are welcome.)

– Smartphone penetration up 17pts in Canada in 2012 to represent 62% of mobile audience #HotinSocial @comScore @acoupleofchicks via www.ideahatching.com 

– What u need to know about #Facebook #Graphsearch #GSO (graph search optimization) + new FB Ad tool #PowerEditor @acoupleofchicks #HotinSocial http://www.ideahatching.com/?p=800

– Search #6secondpostcard on Twitter for examples of #travelvines @zoebfox @mashable @acoupleofchicks #Tourism #Vine #HotinSocial via www.ideahatching.com 

– 77% of LinkedIn users search for company brand pages, 65% of journalists use LinkedIn as a reseach tool #travelmedia #LinkedIn @acoupleofchicks via www.ideahatching.com 

– Hot in Ontario.  Really Hot. #melting #heatwave #sweating @acoupleofchicks via www.ideahatching.com

Facebook’s Graph Search is here

Get ready for Facebook Graph search to overtake your profile soon.  Graph Search is rolling out to users across North America and now making Facebook more of a social search engine than ever before.

Facebook hopes that now you will search restaurants and hotels that your friends (and friends of friends) LIKE on Facebook, and that this will become more important to users than what  the Google Reviews or Tripadvisor’s review’s say.  The searchable content will not be simply tagged status updates, but will also be links to posted pictures and videos of personal Facebook profiles.  The algorithms that go into that data-sorting I am sure would boggle the mind.

How many have actually looked back through the history of your Facebook life since you sent your first Poke?

There can be some pretty bad photos, and maybe even some embarrassing status updates.  What about those family photos posted from that trip to Disney in 2010.  Wasn’t that trip right after that horrible hair dye incident?!

  Chick Tip: Time to check those Facebook privacy settings friends!  

Hotels, travel destinations and brands, for more on Facebook Graph and how it will impact you,  refer to this recent article posted on Tnooz. The article some great insights on optimizing for Graph Search and gives a nice recap of GSO (graph search optimization) and what hotels need to know about updates to brand pages.

 Power up your Facebook Ads with new Power Editor

Facebook now gives brands the ability to target Facebook ads to their current customers based on email, phone or Facebook user ID list. The new feature is called Custom Audiences, and is available through their new tool they call Power Editor.

Power Editor is a browser plugin created by Facebook as a way to manage and bulk edit ads. For more on Power editor and why you should be using it be have a read of this article we posted to the Chicks Facebook community page earlier this week.

Chick Tip: Time for a Social Network Refresh?

Are you sharing the types of updates tailored to the latest platforms, and suited for today’s digitally savvy and mobile connected consumer? Have you updated your profiles or brand pages lately?  Your social community profiles may be in dire need of a refresh!

With recent changes to major Social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, you may be missing out on using some great new ways to tell your story and connect.

It also may be time for a website design refresh, taking into account that many consumers are now online on tablets and scrolling through content in a different way then even a year ago.

According to a recent *comScore report on Canadian trends in the digital space, Mobile access is up 10% (2012 over 2011), with new research that shows that cell phone users are likely to also own a connected device such as an e-reader or tablet.

Consider that browsing content on a tablet such as an iPad is much different than browsing on a desktop, or even a smart phone. There are design and usability issues to consider when developing or re-developing any new website, but this is especially true now.

As an indication of changes in design and navigation, note that WordPress and Tumbler blogs and website page templates have become much more image rich, with less room for content, with more “Sharable” plug-ins.  Most new websites are also applying a more responsive design for easy scrolling navigation on a tablet.

 Let’s talk Twitter

Twitter has been busy working to make the platform more useful, secure, and apparently more fun.  The latest and greatest to hit Twitter is Vine.

Twitter Vine allows Twitter users to express themselves in short looping videos. Vines can be created via an App for iPhone and Blackberry, and now also on Android devices.  Check out some examples of travel videos on Vine by search on Twitter using the Hashtag #6secondpostcard.

Twitter has also announced a new Canadian headquarters with former CBC personality Kirsten Stewart at the helm! Welcome to Canada Twitter – and @kirstinestewart we are happy to have you lead the way!

Time to pay attention to LinkedIn

LinkedIn has taken the 3rd spot behind Facebook and Twitter as the most popular social media channel in Canada, up *38% in usage according to comScore’s recent trends analysis.  It is time to pay attention to your linkedIn profile, and your company or brand page on LinkedIn.

77% of LinkedIn users have searched for company brand pages, and 65% of journalists have used LinkedIn as a researching tool. LinkedIn company pages and profiles are indexed in search, and LinkedIn is quickly becoming the go-to network for business and professional networking.

This is not your momma’s job search/resume posting website anymore!

Authors Note: I cannot say “weather” or not that the title of this post was influenced by the incredible HOT temperatures currently being experienced in Ontario.  I reiterate. Hot.

Find me on Twitter @acoupleofchicks and let me know if you think that there is something we should cover next!

What's HOT in Social Media according to @acoupleofchicks (and other good sources)

Forget about the current heat wave in Ontario, lets talk what’s HOT in social media.  It seems like there is a new viral video, vine, keek, or tweet making Mashable.com and even offline news headlines every day.

Here is a roundup of some of the recent hot topics in social, and why we think they are important to take note of:

Tweet-able Soundbite’s…Should you care to share: 

(or for those who prefer to read article highlights in 140 characters or less. I get it. Note this is also located at the start of the blog post and not the end. You are welcome.)

– Smartphone penetration up 17pts in Canada in 2012 to represent 62% of mobile audience #HotinSocial @comScore @acoupleofchicks via www.ideahatching.com 

– What u need to know about #Facebook #Graphsearch #GSO (graph search optimization) + new FB Ad tool #PowerEditor @acoupleofchicks #HotinSocial http://www.ideahatching.com/?p=800

– Search #6secondpostcard on Twitter for examples of #travelvines @zoebfox @mashable @acoupleofchicks #Tourism #Vine #HotinSocial via www.ideahatching.com 

– 77% of LinkedIn users search for company brand pages, 65% of journalists use LinkedIn as a reseach tool #travelmedia #LinkedIn @acoupleofchicks via www.ideahatching.com 

– Hot in Ontario.  Really Hot. #melting #heatwave #sweating @acoupleofchicks via www.ideahatching.com

Facebook’s Graph Search is here

Get ready for Facebook Graph search to overtake your profile soon.  Graph Search is rolling out to users across North America and now making Facebook more of a social search engine than ever before.

Facebook hopes that now you will search restaurants and hotels that your friends (and friends of friends) LIKE on Facebook, and that this will become more important to users than what  the Google Reviews or Tripadvisor’s review’s say.  The searchable content will not be simply tagged status updates, but will also be links to posted pictures and videos of personal Facebook profiles.  The algorithms that go into that data-sorting I am sure would boggle the mind.

How many have actually looked back through the history of your Facebook life since you sent your first Poke?

There can be some pretty bad photos, and maybe even some embarrassing status updates.  What about those family photos posted from that trip to Disney in 2010.  Wasn’t that trip right after that horrible hair dye incident?!

  Chick Tip: Time to check those Facebook privacy settings friends!  

Hotels, travel destinations and brands, for more on Facebook Graph and how it will impact you,  refer to this recent article posted on Tnooz. The article some great insights on optimizing for Graph Search and gives a nice recap of GSO (graph search optimization) and what hotels need to know about updates to brand pages.

 Power up your Facebook Ads with new Power Editor

Facebook now gives brands the ability to target Facebook ads to their current customers based on email, phone or Facebook user ID list. The new feature is called Custom Audiences, and is available through their new tool they call Power Editor.

Power Editor is a browser plugin created by Facebook as a way to manage and bulk edit ads. For more on Power editor and why you should be using it be have a read of this article we posted to the Chicks Facebook community page earlier this week.

Chick Tip: Time for a Social Network Refresh?

Are you sharing the types of updates tailored to the latest platforms, and suited for today’s digitally savvy and mobile connected consumer? Have you updated your profiles or brand pages lately?  Your social community profiles may be in dire need of a refresh!

With recent changes to major Social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, you may be missing out on using some great new ways to tell your story and connect.

It also may be time for a website design refresh, taking into account that many consumers are now online on tablets and scrolling through content in a different way then even a year ago.

According to a recent *comScore report on Canadian trends in the digital space, Mobile access is up 10% (2012 over 2011), with new research that shows that cell phone users are likely to also own a connected device such as an e-reader or tablet.

Consider that browsing content on a tablet such as an iPad is much different than browsing on a desktop, or even a smart phone. There are design and usability issues to consider when developing or re-developing any new website, but this is especially true now.

As an indication of changes in design and navigation, note that WordPress and Tumbler blogs and website page templates have become much more image rich, with less room for content, with more “Sharable” plug-ins.  Most new websites are also applying a more responsive design for easy scrolling navigation on a tablet.

 Let’s talk Twitter

Twitter has been busy working to make the platform more useful, secure, and apparently more fun.  The latest and greatest to hit Twitter is Vine.

Twitter Vine allows Twitter users to express themselves in short looping videos. Vines can be created via an App for iPhone and Blackberry, and now also on Android devices.  Check out some examples of travel videos on Vine by search on Twitter using the Hashtag #6secondpostcard.

Twitter has also announced a new Canadian headquarters with former CBC personality Kirsten Stewart at the helm! Welcome to Canada Twitter – and @kirstinestewart we are happy to have you lead the way!

Time to pay attention to LinkedIn

LinkedIn has taken the 3rd spot behind Facebook and Twitter as the most popular social media channel in Canada, up *38% in usage according to comScore’s recent trends analysis.  It is time to pay attention to your linkedIn profile, and your company or brand page on LinkedIn.

77% of LinkedIn users have searched for company brand pages, and 65% of journalists have used LinkedIn as a researching tool. LinkedIn company pages and profiles are indexed in search, and LinkedIn is quickly becoming the go-to network for business and professional networking.

This is not your momma’s job search/resume posting website anymore!

Authors Note: I cannot say “weather” or not that the title of this post was influenced by the incredible HOT temperatures currently being experienced in Ontario.  I reiterate. Hot.

Find me on Twitter @acoupleofchicks and let me know if you think that there is something we should cover next!

Social Media Case Studies by A Couple of Chicks™

A couple of Social Media Case Studies from A Couple of Chicks™  Digital Tourism Marketing.

Enjoy some of our favourite client case studies from Travelodge Canada, Worldhotels, Ontario’s Finest Hotels, Inns and Resorts, and the Shaw Festival Theatre.   A “bird’s” eye view of our approach to planning and executing successful social media campaigns.

[Bird’s Eye pun intended

 

 

 

A Couple of Chicks Talk Travel: A Guide to Traveling Newfoundland

On the road to Trinity, NewfoundlandAs a Chick, specializing in digital marketing for tourism, I pride myself on being able to plan a pretty great vacation – when I am actually taking one and not working.  I have been across Canada and the US and experienced amazing tourism destinations, but I had never been to Newfoundland.

Like many others, I have been intrigued and drawn into the commercials and YouTube videos for Newfoundland and Labrador.  I can now confirm that the magical place depicted in the commercials does in fact exist.

As a first time visitor, referred to as a CFA, or “come from away”, I did have some help in pre-planning my trip.  The “townies” from Destination St. John’s were the perfect hosts, and provided recommendations that ensured that I did see the most beautiful places in Newfoundland, had a warm meal at the end of a day of traveling, a cold pint of beer, and somewhere to sleep with the sounds of the ocean floating through my windows.

I share with you some of my experiences in this beautiful Canadian province, and give to you some of my “need to know before you go” insights.  This part of Canada is a must do, and you need to plan ahead to make the most of your experience.

From what I had thought, pre-season mid-May, before the long weekend, would provide the best experience as tourists would not be overtaking St. John’s, and the operators in the remote towns on the Island would be happy to see early visitors just as the season was about to kick off.

I started planning my itinerary about a month in advance, and through my experience I have summarized some tips to ensure you get the most out of your visit.

Flying into St John’s from Toronto is easy as St. John’s has direct air access from many Canadian cities including Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and as far west as Calgary.  Direct air access is also available from some major US cities, and some European destinations such as London.

Explore the city of St. John’s, more specifically; George and Water streets.   The streets are alive with tourists and locals, live music, restaurants and bars, and of course a pub or 2, or 20.

Signal Hill, NewfoundlandA walk up Historic Signal Hill is a must do.  You can also drive to the top if the hike uphill is too much.  Signal Hill was not an easy climb after walking across downtown to get there, but well worth the hike to the top.  The view of St. John’s, the iconic painted houses, Cape Spear, and the ocean is spectacular.

Yellowbelly Pub and Brewery on Water Street was one of my favorite stops.  Their beer was also served on tap in many other restaurants and bars in St. John’s and across the Island.

O’Reileys Irish Newfoundland pub also did not disappoint, with live music starting late afternoon and continuing into the evening, and featuring traditional Newfoundland music, and even some tap dancing.  Ok, one lone tap dancer, but I digress.

The city also offers some fantastic finer dining venues.  After pub fish and chips, or as Newfoundlanders refer to it as “brown food,” a restaurant like Portobello’s provided for a perfect evening.  The scallops and trout were outstanding, but it was the appetizer of cod tongue with scrunchions (crispy pieces of salted side pork) and tarter that was the surprise favorite for me.

Although there are many smaller Inns and hotels to stay in around St. John’s, the Delta St. John’s was home base. A great location just at the entrance to George and Water Street, the hub of St. John’s – which according to Wikipedia, offers the most pubs and bars per square foot of any street in North America.

I can confirm that this could possibly be the truth.

 

After a weekend in St. John’s, it was time to see some of those vistas of the Atlantic Ocean; waves crashing up against rugged rocks, flowing clotheslines, coloured houses, and small inlet towns around the Island.

My friends at Destination St. John’s, the official visitor and convention bureau for the city, were quick to advise me of a few things as I planned my trip prior to my arrival in St. John’s.  It was technically pre-season for the island and we “CFA’s” need the help.

 

I had been dreaming of the cool breezes off of the Atlantic, and eating lobster fresh from the Bay since seeing Newfoundland and Labrador commercials and YouTube video’s.  As a digital marketing specialist for Travel, it is my job to ensure that the images, video’s and websites tell the story of what a visitor might expect when traveling.  The experiences I had in Newfoundland were everything that I had imagined and more.

As such, I have prepared a list of  “Things to know before you go to Newfoundland,” as I did encounter some surprises along the way, ones that can be avoided with the right kind of planning.

Newfoundland Chicks’ Trip Tips Preface: (try saying that 5 times!)

Cape Bonevista, NewfoundlandI consider myself to be an experienced traveler.  I have pretty good knowledge of how to plan travel online, and I had some help that prevented travel misfortunes (which may have included driving to Cape St. Mary’s, home to the popular Ecological Reserve – instead of St. Mary’s Bay, where I had reserved accommodations – 1.5 hours away).  To my defence, when one Google’s “Cape St. Mary’s,” the 3rd search result is a Tripadvisor listing and reviews for the “Claddagh Inn St Mary’s.”

OK so that happened.  Make sure you know exactly which place you are trying to get to.  Google clearly does not know everything.

These are not the typical “things to do and see.” My list instead is “people to meet, and how to get to the right places, with a full stomach and a place to sleep.”  This list summarizes some of my experiences and highlights, with points of note for planning a trip to really experience Newfoundland as I did.

Book a car in advance:  Especially in pre-season.  Newfoundland is an island accessible by boat or plane.  Although the ferry access allows for cars, many tourists opt to fly in and rent a car.

There is no other way to get around the Island to experience drives like the “Irish Loop,” or to see remote town’s living on the edge of the Atlantic without a car, or a boat.  If you plan on taking in the coves and inlets along the coast, or you are planning a visit to Gros Morne National Park, or any of the many other spectacular sites, then you will need to rent a car.

In addition, be forewarned that some of the roads are still quite rough coming off of the winter season, and there is not a gas station or diner, or even convenience store on every corner once you veer off of the TransCanada 1 Highway.  This of course is part of the charm.

Book all accommodations (and some meals) in advance:  Innkeepers like Patrick and Carol, who run the Claddagh Inn in St. Mary’s Bay have done such an amazing job in telling the “story” of the experience through Tripadvisor and Facebook, that tourists are making this small fishing village located directly along the Irish Loop a preferred resting point.

St. Mary’s Bay is not a bustling tourist area – at any point in the season.  That being said, the experience that Innkeepers Patrick and Carol have created is well worth the stop.  The stories allow you to get a sense for the community, and what other small communities around the island are like for those who live there.

I was welcomed with a pint of Yellowbelly Irish Red in the small quaint pub before checking into my guestroom.  The Inn has 6 rooms, and Innkeepers Pat and Carol prepare and serve a homemade 3-course dinner for their guests, as well as a full breakfast.   Dinner included Crab from the Bay that was brought in that morning, homemade pea soup, and a window table to watch the sunset.

Pat and Carol shared stories about the town, the history of the Inn, and their adventures since taking over the Inn two years ago, in a town of people that had lived and worked there all of their lives.  The town mayor even stopped in for a Scotch and a chat.

Past guests of the Inn rave about the Claddagh experience online, so much so that they are booked months in advance for rooms, and with limited (or no other) accommodation available in St. Mary’s Bay.  Drop-ins in August, or even just stops for dinner without reservations are almost impossible as the dining room primarily caters to guests of the Inn.

Planning your journey around the Island is a must do for anyone looking to explore the small inlets and coastal towns, and make sure to pre-book not only your accommodations, but also your meals.  Those of us who are used to booking hotels on the day of, or waiting for last minute specials will not get the chance to experience the charming Inn’s and B&B’s in the smaller towns without reservations.

Reserving accommodations and even dining where you plan to stop will allow you to truly enjoy the ocean views, the people, the stories, and the peace and quiet of these small coastal towns and villages.  The Claddagh Inn provided a relaxing and quiet retreat after two days in St. John’s.  It also provided the cool ocean breeze through the window.

I found the Artisan Inn, located on the eastern shore in picturesque Trinity, by searching Google for “must go places” in Newfoundland.

The Inn and the town certainly deserved the accolades.  Trinity, a well-preserved and still populated town, surrounded by the Atlantic, and on route to Cape Bonavista, is reminiscent of a European village.  The town is a popular tourist destination in the summer, and the Inn and surrounding area have been the site for the filming of many movies.

Innkeeper Tineke Gow has been managing the Inn for 22 years, and is just as passionate about Trinity and the surrounding area as if it was her first.  Tineke’s daughter Marieke, who is a trained sommelier and very involved in the local tourism community, manages the Inn with her.  The passion for this place by those who live and manage it is inspiring.

Eastern Newfoundland was recently named a National Geographic Geotourism Destination www.nlgeotourism.com.  The Inn’s restaurant, The Twine Loft is also recommended and awarded an additional star in “Where to Eat in Canada” published annually by Oberon Press.

At breakfast, I spotted a seal in Trinity Bay just outside the window.  Not something you see over coffee and croissants in Ontario.

Trinity Travel Tip: Don’t miss breakfast or Tineke will remind you throughout the day of what you missed.  Freshly baked muffins and fruit are always a nice way to start the day.

Planning your driving route:  My advice is simple. Don’t count on Google Maps or GPS.  Ask the locals, and refer to the good old fashion printed map.  It is kind of fun to pull out the big paper map (preferably without hitting the driver next to you in the head).

A kind of throwback to childhood road trips before Google maps and GPS existed.

One pleasant surprise was the availability of satellite radio in the rental car, and in restaurants and pubs across the island.  This allowed for a customized soundtrack for the longer drives from town to town.

Access to cellular networks: To sum it up, if you are with Bell Canada or TELUS you are A OK for most of the populated area’s around Newfoundland. Rogers – not so much. This is where the access to WIFI in the Inns around the Island really came in handy as SKYPE or Facetime work to communicate – if you absolutely have to.

The experience and hospitality of the people of Newfoundland is unique and special. The people of Newfoundland are incredibly welcoming and proud of their Province, and will make it easy once you arrive “from away.”

On the Eastern shore of Newfoundland

As a coastal tourism destination, Newfoundland is still fairly raw – which is part of the charm and the authenticity of the experience.  A slower pace of life, friendly people with unique accents, live music, fresh seafood, breathtaking scenery, unpredictable weather, and charming tours from fishing boats, with local guides that are passionate about home are what made Newfoundland for me.

There are a few highlights that I won’t soon forget. 

 

The crisp moist Atlantic Ocean air mixed with the smell of lumber and campfire.

The goats.  I like goats, especially this one.

Watching the ocean crash against the rocks at Cape Bonavista, surrounded by nothing but the ocean and rocks.

Tales of lost coastal inlet towns from locals like Bruce Miller.

Alicia and Bruce Miller having some screetchBruce operates a unique tour of the Eastern shores around Old Bonaventure. With his fishing boat and stories of his life, he speaks passionately about the ocean, fishing communities, and the people of Newfoundland.

He speaks authentically of life in small fishing communities, and about his family who have lived in the area for decades, taking travelers by boat to pockets where small fishing towns no longer exist.   He started doing tours of the area 2 years ago so that he would be able to remain in Old Bonaventure, when many locals have been forced to leave for work.

 

Just don’t ask Bruce how long it would take by boat to get to Ireland, the first land from Newfoundland’s east coast you will hit by water.  He told me we didn’t have enough gas.

  A few other Chick Travel Tips:

1. Don’t ask the tour operators to “Guarantee” that you will see a Whale, a Puffin, or a Moose.  They don’t appear on command.

2. Eat the pea soup and try Cod Tongue

3. Get “Screeched In” on George Street.

4. Enjoy the fresh Lobster and Crab.

5.  Stop at the Bonavista Social Club.  It is completely off the beaten path, but so worth it.  I did not try the Moose burger, but I wish I had.

6. Plan your driving route, and where you will stop along the way.

7. Book in advance.

8.  If you are near Trinity or Bonavista, take the boat tour with Bruce, but don’t ask to use the bathroom.

9. Try the local diners.  The food is home cooking comfort food.

10. Take the lack of cellular service as a sign to totally disconnect.

11. Be ready to hit the treadmill when you return.  So worth it.

These are the real experiences that are reflective of Newfoundland for me.  It is the passion of people that really make an experience, and a tourism destination like Newfoundland so special.

The scenery is not so bad either.

 

 

Online Revealed Conference Highlights: Expedia's Hari Nair presents the Latest in Canadian Travel trends

There is so much to cover in reviewing the content that was expertly delivered at the 8th annual Online Revealed Conference held earlier this month.  Speakers from Expedia, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn + many other leaders in the digital tourism space brought unique perspectives, digital and social media case study’s, key learnings, and most important, tips on innovation, integration, and the importance of digital marketing strategy.

 

Online Revealed brings together the best and the brightest in the travel industry together from across Canada and into the US to share best practices, case studies and experiences in digital and social media marketing, with speakers hand picked to provide the best in online marketing education.

I will endeavour in posts to follow to provide some key insights, content from the 15 digital and social media marketing workshops that were presented, and trends and tips shared with delegates of the 8th annual event.

The first of our recaps outlines the Canadian Travel Trends that were presented by Expedia’s Vice President of Market Management for North America, Hari Nair.  The detailed report of Hari’s presentation can be found on the Online Revealed Blog, with some of the key insights outlined below.

Also, I would be remiss not to point to the reviews of the event by Hotelier Magazine, Restaurants and Hotels and Travelweek, who were among the delegates at the conference.

Expedia’s Hari Nair Presents Expedia’s latest research on Canadian travel trends.

Some key highlights included:

  1. Year-over-year hotel revenue by geographical source shows bookings on Expedia (for travel in Canada) are 32% from Canada, 25% from the USA, and 11% International.
  2. Rates are dropping closer to booking, but Canadians are shifting down from preferring luxury priced travel, to a value brand price points – where the International traveler has showed an increase of 182% in 4-star luxury bookings across Expedia travel sites.
  3. Consumers have increased same day booking by over 30% (noting the increase of mobile access as well as a caveat to this trend).
  4. Expedia’s data indicates that Canadians book travel packages, but Canadian hoteliers need to continue to package travel throughout the year (even in peak seasons) as consumers are willing to spend more, as long as there is perceived value overall.

The full article is available on the Online Revealed Blog with additional statistics and trends covered in the opening keynote presentation.

Hotelier Magazine also covered the event, and provided this recap of the conference.

“Experts at the conference agreed that when it came to travel marketing online, content was king. Travel Marketers need to optimize content on their online properties by utilizing a mix of tools, such as photos, reviews, blogs and social media that’s right for them. In addition, mobile was picked as the fastest growing trend with Expedia’s Nair pointing out that “You don’t want to just look into mobile, you want to invest into mobile.”              – Hotelier Magazine

Restaurants and Hotels.ca also provided some key takeaways with a 2-part conference recap:

“Marketers are spending 88% of digital marketing budget on PPC (pay per click), which yeilds 6% CTR (click thru rates), while 12%  (on average) or budgets are invested in SEO (search engine optimization), which yields 94% CTR”     –  Restaurants and Hotels Magazine

My next posts will cover some of the other speakers and takeaways from the 15 workshops, highlights from the annual Google eTourism Awards, closing keynote Mitch Joel, and key insights from the 2012 Destination Benchmarking program, which compared Canadian destinations in online performance to each other, and to International peers in NewZealand and the US.

Online Revealed Conference Highlights: Expedia’s Hari Nair presents the Latest in Canadian Travel trends

There is so much to cover in reviewing the content that was expertly delivered at the 8th annual Online Revealed Conference held earlier this month.  Speakers from Expedia, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn + many other leaders in the digital tourism space brought unique perspectives, digital and social media case study’s, key learnings, and most important, tips on innovation, integration, and the importance of digital marketing strategy.

 

Online Revealed brings together the best and the brightest in the travel industry together from across Canada and into the US to share best practices, case studies and experiences in digital and social media marketing, with speakers hand picked to provide the best in online marketing education.

I will endeavour in posts to follow to provide some key insights, content from the 15 digital and social media marketing workshops that were presented, and trends and tips shared with delegates of the 8th annual event.

The first of our recaps outlines the Canadian Travel Trends that were presented by Expedia’s Vice President of Market Management for North America, Hari Nair.  The detailed report of Hari’s presentation can be found on the Online Revealed Blog, with some of the key insights outlined below.

Also, I would be remiss not to point to the reviews of the event by Hotelier Magazine, Restaurants and Hotels and Travelweek, who were among the delegates at the conference.

Expedia’s Hari Nair Presents Expedia’s latest research on Canadian travel trends.

Some key highlights included:

  1. Year-over-year hotel revenue by geographical source shows bookings on Expedia (for travel in Canada) are 32% from Canada, 25% from the USA, and 11% International.
  2. Rates are dropping closer to booking, but Canadians are shifting down from preferring luxury priced travel, to a value brand price points – where the International traveler has showed an increase of 182% in 4-star luxury bookings across Expedia travel sites.
  3. Consumers have increased same day booking by over 30% (noting the increase of mobile access as well as a caveat to this trend).
  4. Expedia’s data indicates that Canadians book travel packages, but Canadian hoteliers need to continue to package travel throughout the year (even in peak seasons) as consumers are willing to spend more, as long as there is perceived value overall.

The full article is available on the Online Revealed Blog with additional statistics and trends covered in the opening keynote presentation.

Hotelier Magazine also covered the event, and provided this recap of the conference.

“Experts at the conference agreed that when it came to travel marketing online, content was king. Travel Marketers need to optimize content on their online properties by utilizing a mix of tools, such as photos, reviews, blogs and social media that’s right for them. In addition, mobile was picked as the fastest growing trend with Expedia’s Nair pointing out that “You don’t want to just look into mobile, you want to invest into mobile.”              – Hotelier Magazine

Restaurants and Hotels.ca also provided some key takeaways with a 2-part conference recap:

“Marketers are spending 88% of digital marketing budget on PPC (pay per click), which yeilds 6% CTR (click thru rates), while 12%  (on average) or budgets are invested in SEO (search engine optimization), which yields 94% CTR”     –  Restaurants and Hotels Magazine

My next posts will cover some of the other speakers and takeaways from the 15 workshops, highlights from the annual Google eTourism Awards, closing keynote Mitch Joel, and key insights from the 2012 Destination Benchmarking program, which compared Canadian destinations in online performance to each other, and to International peers in NewZealand and the US.

A Canadian online travel marketing conference turns 8 and goes back to its travel roots

Patricia and I launched the first Online Revealed Canada travel marketing conference over 7 years ago, with an idea to educate Canadian Tourism professionals about how to market travel online.  At the time, we were all new to concepts such as Search Engine Optimization, writing content for the web, website usability, website analytics, and why we even needed to know about all of this as tourism marketers.

Looking back, we are amazed at both how the conference has grown, and how the tourism industry has changed to keep ahead of such a fast evolving new media world.

The first conference held in Ottawa in 2006 (in association with the Canadian Tourism Commission) drew more than 180 attendees, and had a focus on educating travel marketing professionals about ecommerce, and how the web was evolving as a key marketing and distribution channel for hotels, attractions and in destination marketing.  The inaugural event opened with a keynote presentation from eMarketer founder Geoff Ramsey, who once again made a guest appearance at our 5th anniversary event in Montreal.

Coming off of the success in Ottawa, we moved Online Revealed in May of 2007 to Toronto to reach further into the market. Over 200 attendees spent two-days learning about concepts from Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Content Syndication, Web 2.0, Revenue Management and more, with 15 workshop rotations and numerous keynote speeches and panels, with annual networking receptions, including the Travelzoo party becoming a must attend event, and the now annual Google eTourism awards.

2008 brought us to Calgary, Alberta where we hosted over 230 of Canada’s leading tourism professionals including Destination Marketing Organizations, Hotel Brands, Tourism Associations, Search Engines, Technology Companies and Tourism Marketing experts.  Yahoo! Canada was the premier sponsor, and the two-day event brought 16 workshops, 3 panel discussions and 3 keynote presentations addressing the critical issues influencing tourism in Canada.

2009 saw Online Revealed hosted in Niagara Falls with over 300 attendees, and high profile internet marketing experts from Google and TripAdvisor elevating the conference to new heights, as well as a keynote by well-known TV personality Arlene Dickinson of the Dragon’s Den.

In 2010, we celebrated the 5th anniversary in Montreal with over 250 industry Professionals attending, and Online Revealed 2011 in Toronto (the first year that the conference was co-located with the Canadian Hotel Association Conference).  The conference exceeded expectations with over 500 attendees, and incredible content including a keynote by the mastermind behind Google Maps; Michael T. Jones, Chief Technology Advocate, Google.

ORC 2012 Speakers2012 was the conference’s 7th anniversary, with record attendance and once again, held in Toronto, and co-located with the Hotel Association Conference.  2012 saw the launch of the Destination Marketing Online Benchmarking report with 16 participating Canadian DMO’s.  The report will continue to evolve moving forward to build a research-based approach to benchmarking online marketing successes against Canadian Destination marketing organizations, and against international tourism destinations such as New Zealand and the USA.

Conference content has expanded with innovative topics including; mobile marketing, social media marketing, and keynotes from both Nikki Germany, head of Industry Travel, Google Canada as well as Steve Irvine, Director of Facebook Canada.

The inaugural conference in 2006 produced by “a couple of chicks who knew what they were doing online, and thought they could show the rest of the industry,” has since evolved to become the go-to event for the travel and tourism industry in Canada to learn, connect and be informed about the ever evolving world of digital marketing.

Our focus from the start was to provide hands-on education, and actionable tactics for marketing tourism online, and a community of shared resources and support.

8th Annual Online Revealed Canada conference logoPatricia and I are excited to be back on the road, and back to our “travel roots” for the 8th annual Online Revealed Conference, which will be held this April 2-4th, 2013 in Windsor, Ontario at Caesars Hotel and Casino, with an anticipated attendance of 450, who will once again come together to connect, learn and share with industry experts and peers – successes, opportunities and strategies in marketing tourism and travel online.

In just 7 years, Online Revealed Canada and A Couple of Chicks™ eMarketing have produced 7 Conferences and 6 road shows educating over 1,600 industry professionals by providing over 100 workshops and presentations.

We would like to thank Tony Pollard, and the Hotel Association of Canada Conference, for co-locating our events during the past two years in Toronto.   We would also like to thank all of our past attendees, sponsors, partners, clients, colleagues and friends who have participated in shaping what this event is today.

Moving into our 8th year, we are busy preparing for our best event yet!  As we look forward to the next Online Revealed chapters, I wonder where the next seven years will bring us?  Mark your calendars for April 2-4th for Online Revealed 2013 and we will see you in Windsor!

Join the Online Revealed Community:  Online Revealed on Facebook

Online Revealed on Twitter                         Online Revealed Blog


Canadian Destination marketing online benchmarking report pilot project: Results and Key findings

As consumer buying behavior has shifted online, Destination marketers have had to adjust their strategies beyond the printed travel guides, brochures and information centre’s of the past, to provide perspective visitors engaging content such as; video’s and social media communities in order to entice consumers to visit.

The website has become the visitor centre.

From our work with DMOs, PMOs, RTOs and visitor bureaus, we along with Miles, our partners in this research project, know that DMOs small and large continue to be challenged in understanding how to adjust their dollars according to changes in consumer usage of the web.

In developing the Canadian DMO online benchmarking report, we had a goal to help improve the online performance, and build stakeholder confidence in DMO marketing programs.  As travel consumers continue to evolve in usage of digital and mobile platforms, Destination marketers need to understand how to adjust their marketing dollars accordingly.

We had an overwhelming response to the initiative with 16 participating DMOs from across Canada including:

Tourism New BrunswickOttawa TourismTourism Nova ScotiaTourism Hamilton and Tourism Yukon

Using Google analytics, and a defined set of key performance indicators, it was our intention to benchmark the online performance of leading DMOs, PMOs and CVBs from across Canada, and compare them to themselves, and against International destinations including New Zealand and the US.

Some of the key performance indicators used in the pilot study included:

  1. Website performance in terms of overall traffic
  2. Traffic by major domestic and international markets
  3. Sources of traffic
  4. Key engagement metrics
  5. Mobile metrics

I am excited to share some of the key findings taken from the aggregated summary report of the pilot study.  We measured the pilot sample with analytics from the 2011 Calendar year, aggregated the data, and provided each of the 16 participating DMOs with an individual report with recommendations.  In addition, we produced an aggregated report summarizing the data for the entire Canadian sample of DMOs measured, and compared them with the data taken from the samples in both New Zealand and US.

The resulting key insights from the pilot program of the Canadian DMO Online Benchmarking Reports include:

1. Trends in new audience growth:

  • The overall Canadian online audience growth (in new visitors) is slower than the USA, and New Zealand.  Are Canadian DMOs investing as much as international destinations in driving new audiences to their websites?

2. International reach of Canadian Destinations:

  • Canadian Destinations have less penetration into foreign markets, including the neighboring US, which provides only around 12% of Canadian DMO website traffic.
  • Also consider that major Asian countries such as China and Japan represent only very small percentage of users to the sample (0.14-0.17%), and yet each represent 1-2% of International visitors to Canada.

3. Mobile opportunity:

  • Canada is second (8%) only to the USA (15%) in users accessing DMO site via mobile device.  This will shift quickly as consumer behavior and use of mobile phones as well as tablets quickly take over.
  • DMOs need to be prepared for this shift with mobile friendly websites and content.

The pilot study clearly pointed to the need for mobile friendly websites (at the very least a more streamlined HTML 5 version of the primary website), with a consumer base that will be increasingly mobile connected, not only during the research phase of travel, but while in-destination as well.

4. Managing beyond the click: Measuring both quantity and quality

  • Canadian DMOs sampled had a slightly higher Bounce Rate (49%) than the sample from both the US, and New Zealand (47%), but all are higher than what is standard for a DMO website that is delivering content that is engaging to visitors.  It is not all about the number of unique visitors to the site, but also about how long they stay, and how deep they go into the content.
  • DMO websites should strive for around a 40% overall bounce Rate, 30% Home page bounce rate, 4:00 min time on site, and 5-pages per visit as a standard.  More engaging content will help to improve these metrics.

5. Measure and adjust:

  • Canadian DMOs are not utilizing Google Analytics (a free and mass adopted standard in web analytics, which now offers social metrics) to track the success of specific marketing initiatives such as eblasts, SEO, and Paid Search marketing campaigns.
  • The DMO benchmarking study utilized Google analytics as the primary point of measurement.

Destination marketing organizations require a high level reporting to stakeholders and members, and should ensure proper use of Google analytics conversion and goal tracking (or other analytics tools in combination), to better analyze and report on campaign performance, and key performance indicators over time.

The data collected from the report provides a measure of trends over time and gives early warnings of opportunities or shifts in strategy that should be considered for destination marketers. We are excited after an extremely successful pilot program, and with the endorsement of the Canadian Tourism Commission to announce the launch of the 2012/2013 series of reports.

We are calling now to Canadian DMOs, PMOs, RTOs and CVBs to participate in the 2012/2013 report series, and thank the initial 16 destination marketing organizations who participated in the pilot program.

About the Canadian DMO online benchmarking study:

As both A Couple of Chicks eMarketing and Miles Partnership specialize in destination marketing online, and continue to work with marketers to illustrate the importance of online positioning for DMOs, we collectively were very passionate about providing the industry with a standard in statistical measurement in order to help to support DMOs in getting buy-in from stakeholders, and to help to improve efficiencies and better educate marketers about the digital space.

Why benchmark online success for Destination Marketing?

1. To track Canadian destinations against key online performance measures. (to determine ROI in digital marketing initiatives), engage stakeholder support, and improve performance over time.

2. Provide benchmarking metrics amongst DMO peers – against themselves, and international DMOs to better understand where they fit in comparison to their peers.

3. To provide insight into trends and opportunities for improvement.  The online space is fast evolving and new media has changed the way consumers research and book travel.  DMOs must keep up with the pace of change, and to continue to evolve with the new consumer.

4.  The data provides a measure of trends over time and gives early warnings of opportunities or shifts in strategy that should be considered for destination marketers.

Thank you again to the 16 pilot project participants!

For more information on the Canadian DMO online benchmarking report series, visit www.acoupleofchicks.com

 

 

 

 

Marketing Travel and Tourism on Facebook

 

 

Last week Patricia and I had the pleasure of working with Facebook Canada to present a Webinar dedicated to marketing travel and tourism on the social media platform now accounts for over 15,000,000 active Canadian users, who are spending on average more than 20 min per day posting and sharing content such as; photos and videos, details of what they are listening too, what they are watching, what brands they LIKE, and sharing this with their over 190 facebook friends (on average per Canadian user).

How does this relate to how consumers research and buy travel?  Are consumers transacting on Facebook?  How do you measure the ROI on time and resources invested in building a Facebook community and managing it?

In preparing for the webinar, we worked with the team at Facebook Canada to produce content that would educate destinations, hotels, attractions and other tourism suppliers, not simply about how to advertise with Facebook, but how to build a successful brand page, engage Fans and amplify the brand message beyond brand champions to friends of fans and beyond.

Key tips and takeaways for marketing on Facebook:

Connect: Focus on building fans, and creating valuable and relevant content for them.  You may consider ads here to build fans, but you must make sure you have a good content plan to engage them once you acquire them.

Engage: Focus on good content such as photos, video’s, ask questions and have conversations with Fans.  The better “liked” and more “shared” your content is – the wider your reach into your Fans’ newsfeeds and the more likely they are to share your content with friends.

Amplify your message:  Encourage Fans to Like, comment and share your content to ensure your message is reaching beyond Fans to friends of fans.  Once you have built a good community of active Fans who appreciate what you have to say – then it is time to think about the next stage in your facebook strategy.

Here you might consider sponsored stories and other advertising solutions to push your fan base to the next level, and to ensure your brand stories are reaching the right target audiences.  Ensure that your efforts are strategic, and or campaign specific and have a goal, whether it be to drive traffic to a website, build more fans, or to promote a specific offer.

Influence: Be good at it!  Make sure you have a content strategy, and a plan for your facebook brand page.  Ensure you have a voice that is consistent and metrics in place to determine the success of your efforts.

Use Facebook Insights to measure and adjust:   Facebook Insights allows community managers to assess how well they are building their Fanbase, weather or not they are increasing their influence and reach, and the quality of individual posts of content to ensure adjustments are made on an ongoing basis to improve performance.

Integrate:  Your Facebook brand page is not home to your brand.  The website is still the cash register, and consumers are still actively using search engines to find and organize content on the web.  Ensure that your strategy is properly integrated, and that metrics are in place to properly measure and adjust.

Facebook may not necessarily the place for direct response advertising, unless you are looking to drive traffic to a website, or specific campaigns.  Social media is definitely the place for your brand to be present and actively communicating when consumers are sharing, commenting and reviewing the destinations they have visited, or want to visit – the experiences they have had, and the places they recommend to family and friends.

Finally, stay the course, done is better than perfect!  Please share this post with all your friends on facebook!

The Chicks' with Nick Sergeant and Alfredo Tan - your Facebook Webinar dream team

 

 

Thank you to our friends at Facebook Canada for inviting the Chicks’ and for making the post webinar Q&A such a lively one, we look forward to next time!  Cheers from the Chicks!

 

Images are the new black in social media: New Facebook Timeline, Instagram acquisition + Pinterest show social media shifting again

With the new Timeline design, the aquisition of Instagram by Facebook, and rapid growth of Pinterest, it is safe to say that images are the new “status update,” or if you want to go retro – the “new black”.

The game changer is in the rapid adoption of image-sharing social media platforms including;

PINTEREST – a social media site which allows users to create virtual pin boards around images that describe who they are and their interests.  Users then comment, share and like “pins” and collaborate using images around interests and topics including everything from gardening to clothing to infographics (which are getting far too complicated in my opinion to actually illustrate a concept..but I digress).

Mobile App based INSTAGRAM – which essentially allows Apple iPhone and iPad, as well as Google Android users to edit and share images from their devices (with no web-based platform at all),  and also to  share images to their Facebook and Twitter communities.  Instagram is a user-focussed app based social platform that simply built a photo sharing community around Apple and Google Android mobile users, and made it easy for them to edit images, connect with each other, and to share photos with their other social media places.  Instagram was also recently acquired by Facebook (for a reported 1 Billion dollars!), which illustrates that both image sharing and mobile are important to Facebook as the media giant continues to evolve. (Marketers take note here).

Facebook’s introduction of TIMELINE has also made users and brands think about the image(s) we use in our profiles that best illustrate who we are.  The generously large cover image at the top of the Facebook profile page, and on Facebook brand pages now gives users the opportunity to carefully present themselves in images.   I don’t remember the last time that I read a Facebook user’s “about” information – and I am not the only one of you who scan photos, comments and articles when scanning content. (also known as creeping).

Photo sharing has always been important to users of Facebook, but initially it was the status updates that drew attention to facebook user profiles.  Now, Facebook users view content from brands and people including images, articles, video, comments and discussions with status updates taking a back seat.  A big shift from the Facebook profiles of the past which only allowed for small images appearing in albums and at the top part of the profile.  You might even remember that initially there was only one image on the left hand side of a users Facebook profile, with wall posts and status updates dominating the page.

What is the takeaway here?  

The digital space has evolved quickly and has made marketers adjust often. The bottom line is that consumer usage of social media has made us focus on content marketing.  Content including blogs, social commentary, video’s, articles, and photos that illustrate who we are and what we are about.  Simply stated, we need to insert ourselves into the social chatter, and contribute and share content as part of our efforts to engage with our customers.

Is it time to add an image marketing plan to your overall marketing initiatives?

It is certainly time to ensure that within your overall marketing mix, whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, on a brand Pinterest page, or on your website – that photos and images are an important part of the marketing mix.

Who knew that images would continue to be the way we express ourselves – beyond the instant camera and the polaroid picture. Kodak and Polaroid were not available for comment on this post.  🙂

 

The collective social story one post, tweet and ping at a time

I am feeling especially reflective as we approach the end of 2011.  It has been quite a year.  It was not the Christmas music, and sappy TV commercials that brought me to this place; it was actually Facebook’s introduction of Timeline that triggered my pause for reflection – that and a Twitter exchange between myself and one of my esteemed Twitter colleagues.

We were musing [within our 140 characters complete with hashtags of course] about how Social Media has made us into “Life Scribes” as it were, documenting not just pop culture and news applicable to the masses, but also the daily life, relationships, work, connections, the desires and dreams of well…everyone on the planet.

I was reviewing Mashable’s most memorable tweets of 2011,  amoung them of course were tweets reflecting on the death of Apple’s Steve Jobs.  I personally will always remember where I was when I read that first tweet.  As I shared this experience with millions of others; celebrities, and just every day you and I people,  I realized that I was using my iPad to watch and listen to reflections on the life of one of the people who made this all possible.  Of course I had to offer my thoughts on his passing as a contributor to the conversation, [because thats just what we do…we just can’t help ourselves anymore] and my iPad allowed me to take part in the collective sentiment that was shared by millions – as it happened.

Social media and our ability to always be connected and interconnected has made us all story tellers, journalists, photographers, artists and sometimes therapists. The devices that connect us to our social networks have enabled us to participate in our world far outside what we were able to do only a few years ago.

Consider that we are now getting birthday wishes from people from all area’s and times of our lives on Facebook.  Well wishes posted to our walls from childhood friends, to business colleagues, to family and friends –  allowing us a connectedness to people and experiences that would have been impossible to maintain and grow in the past.

This summer, I also experienced the sudden passing of a dear friend and mentor through social media.  Through posts on Facebook, I shared and heard from others who Clive Hobson had touched throughout his life, people and sentiments I would have never known in attending a service or reading an obituary.

We are sharing music, personal photo’s, locations, and are able to express ourselves with words; comments and reflections [and sometimes overused quotes from dead philosophers, Deepak Chopra and Oprah…but I digress…], but more importantly, we are now contributors to the collective story and not simply passive observers.

As a self proclaimed “Life Scribe“, I feel especially responsible to reflect on my highlights and observations of the past year as they played out in our digital world…so here they are:

1. Google tries to catch up:  Google+, and changes to search algorithms reflect consumers adoption to social media.

2. Tablets are the new black: iPad2, Blackberry Playbook, Amazon Kindle +++ make their way into our homes and offices and become a go-to device, and allow us to connect like never before.

3. Twitter found its place: The social media platform with the most nay-sayers found its place in the world this year as the place to be and be seen – and for up to the minute news, updates and access to celebrities and brands.

4. Mark Zuckerberg: Yes the man behind the machine is still working it out in his hoodie – with a few more public appearances this year keeping us all guessing what’s next.

I wonder where our new collective narratives will take us in the coming year…all I can promise is that I will do my part in documenting it.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
alicia.whalen@gmail.com
905-401-2249

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