Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Guelph is my favourite city

Okay, to be fair, I've never really lived anywhere but Guelph, so I can't say without bias that Guelph is the best, but I can say that Guelph has a very awesome community online.

I can also say that Guelph has a very accessible group of leaders who respect each other and the people they represent. I don't know how many other cities have business leaders, city staff,  councillors, police chiefs and neighbourhoods groups having such open conversations on Twitter and doing such a great job of being neighbourly.

Today, I was tickled to see this exchange between the director of the Downtown Guelph Business Association, Marty Williams and a city councillor, Cam Guthrie happen on Twitter.

I love that what could have turned into an ugly and awkward flame war instead became two guys having lunch at a local business and sharing a few laughs.

Twitter is a great way to get your message across, but it's also a great way to build respectful and meaningful relationships offline.

Don't get caught in a back and forth on Twitter. Listen to people, share your concerns and if it needs a larger discussion, do it offline, in person where communication has so much more to it that 140 characters.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Something you might not know about me (but probably do already)

It's holiday time this month, so here's something fun from a person I respect (and had a crush on as a young teen).

Wil Wheaton writes:
From the Vault: things every person should have:
This is one of those things that I forgot I wrote, and when I was reminded I wrote it, didn’t believe that I actually came up with something that I think is kind of cool.
Things every person should have:
  • A nemesis.
  • An evil twin.
  • A secret headquarters.
  • An escape hatch.
  • A partner in crime.
  • A secret identity.
What else?
I'm not doing too well on this list. I do have a partner in crime, I may have a secret identity, I certainly have a secret headquarters, but I'm missing the nemesis, my evil twin and an escape hatch.

Won't someone help me?

Just in case you weren't positive of my geekiness, here I am with two Daleks!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The #failboat Speaker Series

Early this year I was approached by a connection on Twitter, Chris Chang, to sit down for coffee and chat about what it takes to make an event happen. I've been part of lots of events, having been on the committee that puts on a public convention every year for about 8 years, and having started my own monthly meetup. I was glad to offer some tips.

However, as our conversation progressed I became very interested in the idea Chris was presenting. After having answered all the questions he had and given all the information I could think of at the starting stages, I agreed to be a part of the steering committee, helping to make this idea happen.

So now I present the #failboat Speaker Series.

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently - Henry Ford

The series will bring in 5 speakers to talk about their experiences of failure, the bigger the better, and how it has changed their lives for the better. Each event will run two months apart starting in April.

We are currently looking for more people to join our team and help make this series of events happen. Are you interested?
all aboard the failboat

Monday, October 15, 2012

Connect with Your City

This morning I saw this photo posted on Facebook.

A little backstory, a local business person started a scavenger hunt in town a few weeks ago, the Royal City Coffee Hunt. Find the photo, take it to The Joint Cafe and redeem for a free coffee.

This morning's location was one I know quite well, even though I haven't spent time there since I was in secondary school. In fact, as I drove over there I was surprised to find the street I thought lead right to the spot actually stopped before it.

From the ages of 8 until 11 I lived on Peter Ave, and attended Waverley Drive School. Even after moving away from the area in grade five I continued at the same school for 3 more years.

This was my neighbourhood, I knew it well. Especially since I walked to school everyday, sometimes with different friends so we changed routes regularly.

So, I bundled up and headed out to get the photo since I wanted a coffee, and a treat. As I drove over the memories started, as they often do any time I drive through that neighbourhood. I always look down Peter Ave, to spy my old house. As I drove further down Delhi I thought about how far of a walk it must have seemed to me at 9 years old every day. I feel like kids don't walk so far on their own any more.  My parents stopped walking me to school sometime about grade one, or 6 years old. From then on I was on my own.

I recognized that spot in the photo, so completely because it is directly across from the intersection where I used to be a safety patrol, Waverley and Clive.

As I looked up and down the street I was overcome with a memory of walking down to Riverside Drive to watch the Olympic Torch go by in 1988. My and my friends walked the entire way from the school to the end of the street singing "Stand By Me" over and over again. Because of my enormous crushes on River Phoenix and Wil Wheaton that movie was on constantly.

I have lived in Guelph since I was 3 years old. And I mean lived! Not only did we move at least 7 or 8 times before I was 13 years old (thanks to my nomadic father), I went to at least 4 different schools and made new and different friends each time. My brother and I were active kids, always exploring neighbourhoods, some quite far from our home. As long as we could hear my mom's whistle we knew we were within range of home, and she has a loud whistle!

There are very few parts of this city that don't have memories attached for me, and there are very few "Guelph" experiences I haven't had. Guelph is very much more than the city I live in. It has shaped me and made me the person I am. To get really philosophical, Guelph is me and I am Guelph :-)

I've been lucky to live in the same city for so long, but anybody can start making memories and experiencing our city. Go out for walks. Today walk left out your door instead of right. Drive to the library branch at the opposite end of the city from your home, join a book club there. Shop in a different grocery store, or visit some schools public events, like fairs and performances.

Go to local events like Festival Italiano, the Multicultural Festival and Hillside Festival. Ask long time Guelphites to share stories of what the city was like before you arrived. I can tell you where streets stopped 15 or 20 years ago, and what it was like lining up for movies at the Odeon on Wyndham St.

Thanks to Rob Campbell for adding a quick and easy way to get to know Guelph every Monday. Take part. Watch for next week's photo and go looking for it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Host a Busy Event with the help of Social Media

This article was originally published in The Defacto Group's Quarterly Newsletter.

Fall and spring are popular times for yearly conferences. You might be looking at an event slated for November and worrying about the ticket sales, or just starting to plan something for April and want to ensure its success. Either way, here are some suggestions for getting buzz around your big event, hopefully picking up more ticket sales, and attracting bigger and better speakers for you next one.

John Morgan captures the audience at the B2Conf

The Basics

Set up a Facebook page for the host organization as well as a Facebook event.

Set up a Twitter account with an exciting and interesting description of the event in the bio and a link to your web page or registration page.

Make sure your venue is listed on FourSquare, or add it.

Consider setting up an event in LinkedIn, especially if it is a business related event and you see a large community of your targeted audience there.

The Meat of it

So you have all your accounts set up, you've been sending out posts with links to your registration everyday but you have only 15 likes on Facebook, one person has RSVP’d to your event and it was mom, and all of your Twitter followers are named SydneySmyth706 and ask you daily if you've seen this funny photo of you on the internet.

You need to put out compelling, interesting stories to make anybody care about your big conference. You need to stop sending out the equivalent of 10 second radio ads, without even the great radio voice. You need to be a caring person reacting to the everyday happenings of your community.

You community is made up of your attendees, your speakers, your sponsors, your venue, you local business and social clubs, you local media. These are the people you should be following on Twitter, and liking on Facebook. Then talk to them!

Help your venue promote their other events, RT their tweets and share their Facebook posts. If your speaker sends out a tweet about a great or bad experience in a coffee shop that morning, celebrate or commiserate with them. When your local media posts a good news story about your local economy let them know you read it and it makes you proud to be hosting your event in that city.

Social media is the place for conversation and reciprocity; it’s not the place for advertising.

The Payoff

After you've built your network of friends, fans and followers through chatting with them, then it becomes easy for them to buy from you, easy to promote you, and easy to come again.

Choose a hashtag so that your Twitter followers (hashtags also work on LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram and Google+) can find join the conversation about your event, and connect with other people attending. Promote it everywhere, online and offline.

Post visual content. Information is abundant on the internet, help people out by making it easy for them. Post a photo instead.

Tell stories about your sponsors and speakers. Were they on the local news, or better yet Oprah? Share a video.

Include a link to your main page or registration page as much as possible.

Don’t be afraid to ask people specifically if they are coming to your event, as long as you've had some sort of interaction with them where you've showed them you care about them.

Remember that promoting your event should start as soon as you begin planning. Involve people right from the beginning and they will help you succeed and maybe even join the planning committee for next year’s event!

The crowd gathers early in Market Square for Fourth Friday

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Twitter is your local pub

Or your local coffee shop, favourite breakfast place, golf or country club.

Just think of that place you go regularly that you feel comfortable in. You know all the staff, they have your drink ready for you before you even take your seat. You know the other regulars, there's the guy who comes to watch football games because his wife and three daughters don't like it, and the local artist who painted the amazing mural on the wall over there, the younger guy you didn't think you'd have anything in common with until the day you chatted over morning coffee about the ways the government is ruining the country.

You come to your local, your place, on a regular day at a regular time for different reasons. Sometimes it's to catch up with the other people, sometimes it's to just people watch while you work on a project, sometimes it's to watch the football game too.

Imagine one day you are sitting in your local with the server, and one or two of your people and a clean cut guy wearing a suit and tie, carrying a briefcase walks in. He sticks out immediately since he's over dressed for the atmosphere, but hey, maybe he's early for a meeting, or he's had a tough day and wants a quick break. So once he's ordered his coffee and asks if he can join you at your table, you and your friends give him the benefit of the doubt. There was a day not too long ago you walked in here for the first time.

Except, he's taken advantage of your friendly welcome, sat down and immediately opened his briefcase full of trinkets and baubles. Believe it or not he starts telling you guys about how great his baubles are and how you can save money or lose weight by using his trinkets. And when you quietly ignore him and turn your back, without asking him to leave the table, then he starts tapping on your shoulder, "Don't you want to buy my baubles?"

You just want to enjoy the company of some pals, relax and do business tomorrow. And this guy keeps trying to get you to buy from him right now. Some of his baubles might even be interesting to you... maybe tomorrow you will stop by the bauble store and buy a few, but not right now.

Nobody wants to be sold to when they are looking for friends, laughs, information or entertainment. There is a time and a place for that.

Don't be the bauble salesman. Don't post consistent advertising messages. Don't DM your followers with an offer to discount your services. Talk about the weather, the football game, the news. And when your new friend comes into your bauble store tomorrow, he's gonna be surprised and happy to see that his new friend, the guy he trusts, is the one selling them.

It's gonna be the easiest sale of your life.

Monday, September 24, 2012

On being busy and Lunch Up Guelph

September is such a hectic month for everyone, and I'm included.Personally for me, it's like waking up from a hibernation. Summer is a difficult, energy draining time for me. Come September I feel an rush of excitement come over me and I plow into tasks that have been on the back burner for months.

So far this time around I've started courses on deeper use of Google Analytics, I've attended at least half a dozen webinars on a variety of topics such as building better metrics retention systems, becoming more efficient in posting to online networks, creating content. I even attended my first virtual conference, which was intriguing, though I didn't take advantage of networking with any of the other attendees. Maybe the next time I jump into one.

For my own business I've had great meetings and headway on my website (which is something I've been neglecting for ages), I've started a Facebook page, and started setting more targets to measure what I'm doing.

New clients have been contacting me regularly this month. I suspect they are all in the same headspace as I am... new year, gotta get moving on these goals. And people I've been working with over the summer are now ready to move forward with projects we've been talking about for months.

All this to say, September is a busy month for me. And it always has been. Looking back to last year I was so busy in September that I hadn't gotten a chance to relax with any of my Twitter friends all month. Such a change from the slower days of summer when everyone seems able to grab a quick coffee anytime during the day, or take a long lunch and chat for hours.

On this day last year, I reached a wall where I realized I was going like crazy and wanted, needed, to spend some time with friends that had nothing to do with business and was purely social. So I tweeted out an invitation to get together for lunch, thus starting Lunch Up Guelph unexpectedly.

This month would be the anniversary of Lunch Up. That is if I had planned anything. Which I haven't.

It takes me roughly 6 - 10 hours of planning, organizing, and spreading the word each month to host Lunch Up. The most difficult part of planning is dealing with the restaurants, deciding which one, getting in touch with the owners, convincing them to host our event, organizing the menu etc. And the reality is that's just not a 2 person job. Involving more people would actually make it take longer. I know because I've tried 3 - 4 times to conscript help with the planning.

In short, I don't have 6 - 10 free hours in September. If I did, Lunch Up would probably never have started to begin with!

So, based on the first year of having Lunch Up monthly, I realize that instead of trying to plan and host events for July and August, which had very small attendance, that time might better be used planning September and October's lunches and then having a great handle on the entire years worth of lunching with friends!

Always learning, that's me!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Bits of Wisdom From Books - Return on Influence

Gini Dietrich on using video and being personal in her marketing
The thing I like about this kind of content is that you either love me or hate me. And if you hate me, you save both you and me a lot of hassle because you already know you don't want to work with us. It's a fantastic qualifier for new clients.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Warning - A Personal Post

So, there's a thing called Baby Fever which supposedly happens to women about my age, particularly when all the other women around her start having babies, which my friends are.
I do not have Baby Fever. I have always loved kids, certainly want to raise children, but have wanted to adopt them since about the age of 10 or so. Recently I've watched close friends and family members go through pregnancies and birth... still do not want.

I do however have House Fever

Unlike getting married or having kids, having my own home has been something I've dreamt about for as long as I can remember. Growing up I used to read all those House and Home style magazines. We had lots of home builder catalogues at our place as well so I would pour through them choosing the best log cabins to live in and the best suburban 3 bedroom bungalows.

It has reached a fevered pitch however. I find myself doing double takes at every For Sale sign I see on lawns in the city and then when I get home checking out the listing online. 

Almost 10 years ago, I made a decision to own my own retail store and started working towards that goal. I knew it was essentially a choice not to own a home, but it was the decision I made at that time. And I don't regret it. When I did get my store opened officially in 2005 I defined success for me and my business when I could afford to own a home. Unfortunately that time never came and I chose to close the business in 2009.

Well now, 3 years later I'm making a choice to buy a home, soon. The financial mess a failed business makes is a unique challenge I will overcome to get to the place I want to be.

While I have enjoyed, and sometimes loved all of the places I have lived in and rented over the last 15 years, none of them have completely satisfied me, none have felt truly mine. And I'm at a point where I'm realizing how much of an emptiness that has left me with.

So, time to sort out my financial affairs and get me my house. Like maybe this cute little bungalow on a huge lot! Or this place right on the river, which has been a dream of mine since I moved to Guelph.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

I'm stranded on an island!!

And by stranded I mean please don't come help me!

I'm heading to my family cottage on Lake Nipissing for the first time in 2 years. While I will have cell phone service, thus some connection to the internet, I really don't plan on using it except to show off pictures and videos of my time there.

I'm also going to attempt to read a book on basic HTML coding on the beach. This will either go great and the surroundings will make it that much more possible for me to comprehend it, or it will go horribly as I won't have a computer to try things out on and I will simply need to re-read the book when I get home. I'll keep you posted.

Otherwise, I also plan to spend time with family as two sets of aunts and uncles, my grandmother, and the many family friends we've made over the decades of vacationing at the same spot are all on the island as well.

Keep an eye on my Instagram account and my Viddy account (username cinn48 on both) to follow all the fun I'm having, along with the occasional tweet letting people know who won cribbage, or horseshoes that afternoon.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I will never sell you snake oil!

Lately my schedule has been wacky crazy, and so has Nick's (TMISW). So, to help find time to spend together, we've started combining work and quality time. We now have a rule that every time we sit down for a meal together Nick will ask me about social media and I will answer his questions. Yes, we've basically become client and consultant, but I promised I wouldn't charge him my full rate ;-)

So, yesterday's question of the day was "Okay, so now there's Pinterest, and Tumblr, and Google+, why should I be on all of these?" And my answer was simple "You shouldn't be".

I am on all of them, and so many more (check out the incomplete list here) but I don't suggest anybody try to be everywhere.
First you need to decide what message you are trying to send, what results you want and who your market is. Then you talk to someone like me to discover which networks are where your clients are and how you should be talking to them there.

Second, even if you decide you need to be in 3 or 4 or even 5 places you should only do a couple of them at a time. Start with one or two and master it, then move on to the rest. It takes roughly 21 days to form a habit, so commit fully to one network at a time for 3 weeks until it stops being work, and becomes second nature, then move on to the next network. If there is any other marketing that gets results in less than 3 weeks please share it with me. I'll buy immediately.

After having this conversation with TMISW, in which he gave me exactly 60 seconds to respond, I listened to an old episode of Marketing Over Coffee which basically says the same thing. This is definitely my favourite marketing podcast I've found. I've been going back a few months and listening to some older episodes. Loved hearing them talk about the exact 1 minute speech I gave last night.

Don't create another internet marketing graveyard! You don't need to be everywhere, but you do need to be where your customers are and you need to be present.

John and Chris quickly moved
right on to the Snake Oil salesmen of internet marketing. You know, the ones who charge you a ridiculous amount to set up your pages and post a certain number of posts a week. I never recommend hiring someone to do the job for you, unless it's a community manager who actually works in your company. There is nothing wrong with wanting a little extra help while you get going until it becomes a habit, but you are the best representative of your company. You have the knowledge, the passion, the personality. Nobody can duplicate that on your behalf. Please don't think using social media is some specialized skill that only some can master. You can do it, I promise.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

How To Make A Viral Video*

Turns out I have close personal ties with someone who has the secret on how to make a video go viral. Also turns out I have close personal ties with someone who gets to spend two nights watching Marvel superhero movies and call it work.

The man I sleep with (see first footnote here) was asked to make a fan trailer for the new Avengers movie coming out on May 4th. And in that moment the balance of who had the cooler job switched. So he spent some time and cut up a 2.5 minute trailer that I really enjoy.

And it turns out a lot of other people really enjoy it too! As of today, 3 days after it's been posted, it's received almost 10,000 views. Granted that's not huge, but just imagine if 10,000 people paid attention to what you were doing. That's roughly 100 times the people that would ever give a crap about you.

I've learned two key points here, on making a video that goes viral.

#1 Partner with someone who has already laid the groundwork. Screen Rant is an online film news site that has been around for 9 years. That's roughly how long it takes to become an overnight success. Screen Rant has a heavily trafficked site with lots of committed fans who comment and share their content everywhere. By having that committed group of people watching the trailer and sharing it that multiplied the number of views significantly.

#2 Don't be afraid to be bold or controversial. Reading through the comments on either the original Screen Rant post, or the actual YouTube video you will see a general trend to either hate or love the music. There are next to no comments on the actual content of the video itself, save some quick comments like "Loved it!", "Best. Trailer. Everywhere." The longest and most well written comments are on how the music either did not fit the trailer or was epic.

*these are not guaranteed to help your video go viral, but really they can't hurt right?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Short notes on things I've noticed lately...

Nick and I recorded an episode of Limited Release late Saturday night. Nick uploaded it overnight so there it was Sunday morning when I turned on my iTunes. We had thought about changing release days to Friday and I want to try that before deciding, but releasing on Saturday sure has been amazing! I noticed this morning that there have been almost as many downloads of that episode as there have been all month of the last episode we released. It seems lots of people sit down and open iTunes on Sunday. We haven't even written a blog post, or announced that the episode is available yet.

What I've learned from this... paying attention to numbers and checking regularly can give you interesting information and change the way you've been doing things.

Pinterest is the next new exciting social network. Seems everyone is pinning things obsessively. I have my own Pinterest account which I use sporadically. However, the amount of engagement is high, very high. I'm constantly surprised by how often I pin things and they get re-pinned or liked, by complete strangers, people I am not connected with whatsoever.
Pinners seem to be really, really willing to share when they like the content. This could really work in people's favour if they can figure out how to make their message interesting and fun. I love that every pin on Pinterest comes with a link back to the site it was pinned from. It makes it so easy to share because as a Pinner I'm not worried that I won't credit the creator. It's so easy!

Of course, when I talk about engagement on Pinterest and the amount of liking and re-pinning of my posts, I admit that nothing more comes of this right now. Most of the re-pinners don't subsequently follow my boards, and I don't follow many of theirs either. So they aren't really engaging. Except for a nice feeling that people like me, I don't get much else from each individual pinner who shares my stuff. Yet.

What I've learned from this... Just because it's new and looks like a lot of other things out there don't discount it until you've tried it. Also, don't jump to conclusions, a re-pin, a re-tweet, a +1, a like don't really count for much unless it leads to conversation.

And one more thing... I'm going to start a new blogging project called How To Keep (or Lose) Your Man With Food. I
found this great pamphlet in a collection of old cookbooks that offers many man-pleasing recipes. I'm going to make each one for my man, and any other who is willing to eat the food and
rate it (I may have opened a door I will never be able to close there). I need to come up with a bit of a rating system, a rate of frequency and a platform to do this on.

Any ideas are very welcome.