Friday, January 31, 2014

What I'm Reading - Owner Magazine

Just yesterday I wrote about how important it is to maintain a balance between selling yourself or your business and talking with others on social media.

Today, I read this slightly cheeky, but frighteningly familiar blog post, by Chris Brogan "You Can't Talk About Yourself Enough, Apparently". In the post Chris shares the fact that a large number of his audience have no idea what he does. To be fair, he does a lot of things, he blogs, he teaches online workshops, he is a published author (Amazon affiliate link), he is a podcaster, he is the co-founder of the unconference, PodCamp Boston. But the thing he is doing now, which he is surprised so many people don't know about is, is that he is publishing an digital magazine called Owner Magazine.

I follow Owner Magazine in two ways, through the RSS feed which sends every new article to a website which collects them for me, and through an email newsletter which gets sent to me with new articles.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Holistic Web Marketing - Step Three, Drive Traffic

In the words of Gary Vaynerchuk, this part is the Right Hook.

This is the part most difficult for businesses and organizations. When it comes to driving traffic to your website, building a list of leads, asking for sales businesses struggle to find a balance. They either do it constantly, or they never do it.

Driving traffic is about asking your network to take an action, usually called conversion. Business that do a great job of measuring the results of their marketing online keep track of many conversions, not only sales. A website visit, a request to join a mailing list, reading a blog post, watching a video, joining a webinar and more.

I'm not too proud to say I don't make mistakes :-0
Most of the time a business errs on the side of asking too much. A constant stream of tweets with links back to a business website or blog tells a potential follower that the business does not care about them or what they have to say.

Givers gain is a common mantra in the art of building a network. If all you are doing is asking something of your followers, but not giving them anything, you might as well be talking to yourself.

I know, I know, every blog post you write is full of knowledge you are giving away from free, but let's remember that the reason a person writes a blog is to make sure their website is visited often. That might be free knowledge you are giving away, but there is still a cost to the reader, you are still asking something of them. Stop looking so needy, "Come to my site, please!"

On the other side,there are businesses that can't quite understand how using a tool like Facebook or Twitter, or even writing a blog, will get them a sale. Sure you may know all of your followers favourite restaurants, their favourite tv shows and sports teams, you know who they are married to and how many kids they have, and they know the same things about you. But don't forget that you are here to get people to buy from you. Now that you've built trust with your followers, you need to ask them to do something once in awhile.

Just because your website is in your Twitter profile does not mean that your followers are going to click it. They might not have any idea what you do! Help them to understand.

There are  a number of different ratios I've heard around the water cooler of the internet. Some people love the Pareto principle and apply it to everything, so 80% of your posts should be about building your community and 20% about converting traffic or selling to them. I've heard of the lis-TEN ratio, 1 sales tweet to 10 replies. Gary Vaynerchuk argued to have his book called "Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook" since he feels it should be 5 jabs, or conversational posts, to one right hook.

I tell my clients they should follow these five steps, in order, on Twitter and Facebook
1. Reply or comment on someone else's post
2. Retweet or Share someone else's post
3. Be conversational - share something personable and easy to talk about
4. Share a piece of interesting or helpful content that is not owned by you
5. Talk about your business, share a link or ask for a sale.

Everyone has a different formula, but what you will notice is that the majority of what you do should not be asking for a sale, but you do need to ask for something. We are all busy people, help me out and make it easier for me to do business with you by letting me know what you can do.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

In Service, The Series - Wellington Waterloo Webmakers Meetup

I keep thinking that I am at the end of this series, but then I remember one more neat thing I am a part of. Like the Wellington Waterloo Webmakers Meetup, which might actually be the Waterloo Wellington Webmakers Meetup, I'm not really sure which W come first.

Of course that name is new. Until a couple of weeks ago the group was called the Guelph Web Makers Meetup, or GWMM.

GWMM has been running for three years and is a monthly meetup bringing together any person involved in making a website or app. It's a really inclusive group that includes coders, designers, usability experts, SEO specialists, content creators and anybody that has ANY part in creating a website.

I started attending and found that even though I'm pretty much just on the soft side of website creation (in the content area) I was really interested in many of the other topics we covered. Some nights the demos went way over my head, but the results of what people were live coding was always really cool.

My involvement in GWMM got me back to coding and I started learning HTML and demo'd a website I created from scratch (no templates here). Sure it was only four pages and ugly as hell, but I built it.

I'm adding this group to my In Service series because I have donated my time to help market the group. Tonight I was at the Guelph Technology and Design Showcase, held at the University of Guelph in the Science Atrium. It is basically a career fair where local technology companies set up booths and meet with the computer sciences students.

This is the second year that I have attended and worked the GWMM booth, meeting with students and encouraging them to come to our group meetings. There are so many jobs available to computer science students, so many fields they can go into. But it is also a volatile industry, with start-ups launching and failing every day and long time established companies being pushed out of the industry when they stop innovating.

Like I said yesterday, everyone needs a network of people they can go to for support, and in the technology field the more people you know, the more opportunities there are for you. A meetup group is a great way to build that network.

Last year, as I mentioned, I build a webpage from scratch, with the help of GWMM and presented it to the group. It was not pretty, barely functional and had no bells and whistles, but the people watching (most of whom could have built that in seconds) were incredibly supportive and some even reminisced about their first time learning to code. It could have been a terribly embarrassing demo, but instead they shared my excitement about building something that worked.

Not long after that GWMM took part in an event which happens in Waterloo called Family Hack Jam. It's an event for kids to learn coding and engineering skills. There was a module for building a video game, one for HTML coding to build a website about a unique animal, a section for building 3D boxes with paper, and a section for using a 3D printer.

I was asked to represent GWMM and help run the module on HTML coding and building a website.

I feel strongly that there is absolutely no better way to learn a skill than to try to teach it to someone else. I got to spend that entire day teaching kids some very basic HTML coding, more basic even than the website I built. And I got to see in those kids what everyone else in GWMM saw in me when I was showing them my website, pride and amazement when you hit that button and the page loaded just the way you wanted it to.

Unfortunately, some of my other volunteering has gotten in the way of my regular involvement with the webmakers meetup. It's the one technology event in Guelph that I truly miss when I can't attend it, and it's been a long while since I've been to a meetup. So when the opportunity came to go represent the group tonight I jumped at.

I think the GWMM has been one of the most beneficial things I've been involved with and has both introduced me to a network of people I can go to for help, and taught me how to do things I used to think were beyond me. I was happy to put in 4 hours of my time tonight and tell the comp-sci students how much they can gain by attending a meetup.

And you can bet I will be at the next one, February 12th at Symposium Cafe at 7pm. See you there, maybe?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Holistic Web Marketing - Step Two, Network Building

We've already talked about one of the first benefits and goals of creating an online presence and that is controlling the message people receiving about your brand.

Today we will talk about the next benefit anybody can achieve using online tools and that is building a network. Depending on the client we call a network an internet army, brand advocates, referral partners, and even friends.

Offline people rely on a support network for many personal and business goals. Parents rely on trustworthy neighbourhood kids to babysit. Men and women rely on other club members to fill in their golf foursomes. Business people rely on BNI or Rotary or Chambers of Commerce to get referrals. Some people even rely on the people they meet at pubs to come over on weekends and help them build decks and fences.

Any person in your life that you ask for help from is a person in your "network". The word networking has a bit of a bad connotation, bringing to mind smarmy used car salesmen types with business cards they hand out everywhere from their kids choir recitals, to funerals. In reality it is every single person you know, some are smarmy, and some are genuine and lovely people.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Be Happy

Today has not gone as planned. That's not to say I haven't been productive, or that I'm not proud of the work I produced today. It is to say that I planned my day to the minute, but the execution did not work out. I blame bad math.

In actual fact, of the dozen or so tasks I had on my list, I only got about half of them done. And most of that was before I took a lunch break. Since coming back from lunch, however, my plan tanked. Two of the tasks on my list took way more time than I had allowed for them.

Which is why it is almost 9pm and I'm only just writing this post now. I had a plan for tonight's post too, but it involved research and planning. It was a doozy of a blog post... But for now you will have to live with this one. And so will I!

Yesterday a friend posted this infographic on Facebook and I really took it to heart. Of the 10 items on this list of simple things to live a happier life, I've enjoyed 8 of them today.

I woke up after a great night's sleep well rested and ready to go.

I got more than 7 minutes of exercise, outside, enjoying my commute from my home office to my man's home office. And despite the science which says 13.9C is the happiest temperature, I really, really love temps well below zero. This is my happiest season.

I regularly give time to not for profit organizations (see my In Service - The Series posts), and this morning's highly productive start included a number or tasks for those organizations.

I took a lovely (and slightly long) lunch break with my man, and practised smiling with the owner of the restaurant, the smiley Bobbi.

And I practiced gratitude by being thankful for a number of friends who helped edit my work today.

I will also add my own personal thing to the list, which is to forgive myself for not getting everything done.

Choose to be happy. Everything else is a bonus.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

My Tool Belt - Google Alerts

The world wide web moves pretty fast - if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. - Ferris Bueller

At least I think I he said something like that.

As we learned yesterday while listening to Stuff You Should Know, the web is a huge place, and growing at a massive rate. How are we supposed to keep up with everything posted on the net? How do we know if someone has mentioned us in a blog post, a tweet or a news article?

This is where a tool like Google Alerts comes in handy. I know, I know, Google has let us down recently by closing some features that were super handy (I will forever miss you Google Reader), and they even let us down two days ago by having a major outage across a bunch of their features like Gmail, Google+ and Blogger. Some people even complain that Google Alerts is not as functional as it used to be, and expect it to be the next thing Google stops providing.

But for now, Google Alerts are great at keeping you up to date about the topics you want to watch.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

What I'm Listening To - Stuff You Should Know

If you can only listen to one podcast this week I would say you should listen to Mitch Joel's Six Pixels of Separation episode on Content Shock - the idea that humans are consuming the maximum amount of content possible, but marketers and entertainers keep making more and more. But since I recommended you listen to Mitch's show last week I will make a second suggestion.

Photo from
If you have time to listen to two podcasts this week the second one should be Stuff You  Should Know's new episode on the Deep Web.

Stuff You Should Know is the first podcast released by the How Stuff Works emporium that I ever listened to. I have almost never been disappointed in an episode. I learn from each episode. I laugh with each episode.

Friday, January 24, 2014

What I'm Reading - The Pomodoro Technique

What happened to this week?

Last week I was about halfway through Gary Vaynerchuk's new book Jab, Jab, Jab, Jab Right Hook. Today, 7 days later I don't know that I'm any further.

It is so easy to run out of time in a day when it's not scheduled in. And I've been very bad about scheduling in time to read.

Last week I was often writing a blog post in the evening, and then retiring to the couch to read a bit before heading to bed.

I'm not sure where that system went wrong... I had a few late night over this week, and a couple of very early mornings and a couple of days over scheduled with meetings.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Starting a Twitter Account, Step One

Okay, so it might not be the first step since you need to register an account, choose a username, upload a profile picture and header photo, write a bio, add a website and change your background photo.

Those are the basics. Search "How to start a Twitter account" and you will get pages and pages and pages of these steps.

But the most important step is the next one. It is the step I make every client take and I insist on it. If they don't do it there is no reason to keep working with me, and no reason to have a Twitter account.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Importance of Taking Lots of Photos

Day 21 of my 30 day blogging challenge and I'm having inspiration troubles for the first time.

I have no idea what to write about. It's Wednesday so I don't have a theme already picked out, like my Friday and Saturday posts. I have a series started and a few other posts to fill in the series, but I don't have the focus today to write an informational blog post.

So I'm going to go through my photos and see if some thing stands out to me. Hold on, I'll be right back.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

In Service, The Series - CMHA WWD Family Education Group

Wow, now that is a lot of letters in that acronym! Let's break it down:


In early 2013 the CMHA in the region merged with another agency in the region Trellis. Before the merger Trellis was an organization working with clients suffering from mental health disorders or developmental disabilities. What was unique about Trellis was that they also had a small budget and one staff person who took on clients who did not have mental or developmental disabilities, but was a care giver to one.

In Spring 2011 I became a client of this staff person and I was accepted into the Family Education Group. I learned so much about my relationships with family members and friends both with and without mental illness and even more about myself that I offered to volunteer for the next group starting in the fall.

Since then I have volunteered for every Family Education Group that has gone through Trellis, and now CMHA WWD, probably around 8 groups, I've honestly lost count.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Holistic Web Marketing - Step One, Brand Awareness

One of my favourite things about using the internet as a marketing tool is how versatile it is. For some people using social media and having a website will only ever help build their brand awareness, but for others being online will lead directly to sales. And then their are all the steps in between.

Let's explore those steps, one blog post at a time!

Step One - Brand Awareness

An online strategy should be a complete, holistic look at how your business is represented on the internet. The first step of any business looking to get into marketing themselves on the web should be to Google themselves.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

My Tool Belt - HootSuite

Who doesn't love the owl?

Many people know that Twitter is my favourite social network. I've been active on Twitter since 2008 and made many friends and business connections there. Not only that, I've been able to speak directly to authors, actors, musicians, chefs, and film makers I respect.

But I don't use Twitter. I use HootSuite.

HootSuite is a tool called a social dashboard. It is an in-browser tool when on a computer, and an app when on a mobile device.

With HootSuite I am able to post to Twitter, my personal Facebook profile, my business Facebook page, my Google+ profile, LinkedIn, as well as all the other Twitter accounts, Facebook pages and Google+ pages I manage for my clients.

I never need to log out of my own account and log back in as someone else. If I see something on my personal Twitter feed that I think I'd like to RT from a different Twitter account I simply click a button and select the account.

Until recently I only used the official Twitter page for two reasons - for advanced search and for lists. But now HootSuite supports those as well!

In fact, using the geocode feature in HootSuite when I'm trying to filter search terms in tweets works way better than entering a city in the location section of Twitter's advanced search.

Lately I've been experimenting with the HootSuite auto-scheduler. In the past I would either choose random times, or take a look at my Facebook Insights and see when more people were online. HootSuite has now integrated a scheduler that it claims automatically posts things at optimal times. I know how much data HootSuite gives me with it's analytics package, so it might very well know better times than I do.

Speaking of the analytics package I love that feature! I use the HootSuite link shortener to share all of my links so I can see how often they are clicked. It always amazes me to see which one gets the most visitors, but helps me know what my friends and fans are interested in.

I'm also really impressed with the ability to create teams in HootSuite and assign responses to people. In larger companies or organizations there might be a few people working together on an account. They might even be from different parts of the company, like marketing or technical support or customer service. If a tweet or facebook message comes in that can't be answered by whoever is online right then they can send it a team member and ask them to answer it.

And lastly, I love how many other social networks HootSuite has apps for so that I can do almost everything in my dashboard. I can check my Instagram feed, I can watch YouTube videos from all of the people I follow, I can scroll through Reddit and Tumblr. I can have one tab open and do almost everything on the internet!

If you haven't played with HootSuite yet, if you only check Twitter on the official page, or god forbid still use TweetDeck, you should open an account and have a look at how easy it is to use.

One more reason I love HootSuite - look at all the fun Owly characters they have! Here are a few of my favourites.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

What I'm listening to - Mitch Joel

My love of Mitch Joel and his podcast Six Pixels of Separation can't be stressed enough. Not a single episode goes by that I don't become smarter.

I was in heaven getting to meet Mitch and hear him speak at Tweetstock last spring.

Mitch is a very data driven marketer. Sure, he works in digital, which people (and even some other digital marketers) claim can not be measured, but Mitch disagrees.

I was going to talk about Mitch Joel and his podcast because it was his interview with Gary Vaynerchuk that actually made me want to read Gary's new book. I just wrote about Gary's book yesterday and thought it would make sense to share the reason I chose to read it. And while I stand by the fact that of all the media interviews GaryVee was doing for his new book, this one with Mitch Joel is the only one that actually made me want to read the book.

However, I think I'd rather go back and re-listen to a couple of older episodes. In the spring Mitch did two episodes, one right after the other, that dealt with data and making marketing and business decisions based on data. It's a couple of fascinating conversations because they delve into data vs humanity, what is the correct decision for the bottom line and what is the correct decision for the interest of your brand in a human world.

You might need to be bit more on the nerd side of things to really appreciate it. You might have to be one of those kids who was fascinated by Data from Star Trek and spent hours thinking about the singularity.

But if you aren't that type of person, you might simply find it interesting to know that there are some people who believe there are ethics to the science of collecting and using your personal data. It might make you challenge your ideas of privacy versus personalization.

In case you are wondering, I am 100% for personalization with my own data and digital experiences. But I understand that many people are not.

Friday, January 17, 2014

What I'm Reading - @GaryVee

It's Friday again, which means I start moving into relax mode. I've been working hard for the last few months to make more of an effort to enjoy the weekend instead of just using Saturdays and Sundays as catch-up on work days.

So I do more reading, cooking, watching of movies and shows and spending time with this guy when I can on the weekends.

As always I have both non-fiction and fiction books on the go, one non-fiction which counts as "business" and one which is for fun.

This week I've been reading my very first Gary Vaynerchuk book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy, Social World (Amazon affiliate link).

While I've certainly known about GaryVee for a few years now I neither follow him on any social media, watch his videos - Wine Library TV or have read any of his previous books. I have friends who almost consider Crush It!: Why Now Is The Time To Cash In On Your Passion (affiliate link) to be a lifestlye book rather than a business book.

I have nothing against GaryVee and I very much agree with what he says. It's just that for me I've never found his delivery style enjoyable. If you don't know GaryVee than go check out a video right now. He is very big. I appreciate that, he's very passionate and gets other people fired up as well. I have nothing against this style of deliver either, in fact one of my favourite people, Scott Stratten, would be described the exact same way.

Maybe I only have enough room for one loud mouth in my circle. Either way, I've never felt a strong need to read either Crush It! or The Thank You Economy (affiliate link). However, Gary's new book #JJJRH, I've decided to read.

This book is very much more hands-on, crunchy even. Gary is talking about how to effectively grab a social media fan and turn them into a consumer. He's doing it, chapter by chapter, and network by network, with actual posts from brands and breaking down what works and what doesn't.

This is way more helpful than a blanket statement of "Be more human". The reality is, some people really aren't good communicators and what seems like common sense to someone who is good at it is not to someone who doesn't have the skill set to write a post or take a picture. And I'm sure we all know people who say the wrong thing in every social situation.

"Be more human" and "Engage more" are very wishy washy statements.

I've talked about creating a podcast that is more based on what I do and part of the plan was to breakdown good and great marketing and explain what works about it. Give people some tangible advice. It's definitely needed, and more helpful.

I definitely recommend Jab Jab Jab Jab Right Hook to any person, business or organization using online media to spread the message about what they do.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

My comic life

Click to read the fine print

Last fall I was pleased to bid on and win a free comic drawn by my friend Steve Mills of Worth It Online.

Steve has been writing a comic based on characters who live, work and play in Guelph for a few years. Every once in awhile he features a business as part of that world. He also does commissions, like mine above, that are strictly pieces for a business.

We had a great meeting to talk about my business and what I most wanted to say to people about what I do. I hope that the comic speaks for itself!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

In Service, The Series - #BleedForGuelph

This will be a short blog post since I have limited use of both of my arms right now.

Tonight I gave blood at Canadian Blood Services. The reason both of my arms are unusable is because I learned that the veins on my left arm are tricky to find. So I was stuck twice, once on either arm!

It's the first time I've given blood since 1995,which seems like at least 3 or 4 lifetimes ago.

My good friend, Dr. Mark Kubert, is a chiropractor here in Guelph. Shortly after him and his wife relocated to Guelph and started their practice they began giving back to the community. Besides giving free information sessions all over the place on eating well and staying active, he started a regular blood donation club through Twitter (though Facebookers are welcome also) called #BleedForGuelph.

If I remember correctly, this is the third time the #BleedForGuelph group of donors has booked a bunch of appointments at Canadian Blood Services and given.

I've been wanting to join them every time, but for reasons each time I had a conflict, until tonight.

It was packed at CBS tonight, those nurses were cooking! As well there was a recipient of blood transfusions at the clinic all night meeting people and thanking us for giving. He told us that because of liver failure he went through many transfusions, and I'm not sure I've got the time frame correctly, but at his worst he went through 44 transfusions in 24 hours.

I've been reading Blood by Lawrence Hill and interestingly just yesterday I read the section about blood donations, the scandals, the discriminatory practices, and the fact that people donate without ever knowing or seeing how their donation impacts someone's life. But at CBS tonight, everyone was able to meet someone whose life has changed because of people who take 30 or 40 minutes out of their day and donate blood.

The wooziness and potential for nausea is totally worth it.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Effect of Blogging Daily

So, it's been about two weeks now that I have been writing a blog post every day. I joined this challenge not because I wanted to kick start my blog, but because I wanted to practice the writing muscle.

Because of this I haven't really done anything to promote my blog, or my posts. What's interesting is the effect of writing has on the website visits, and on me.

On the day before the challenge started I posted a link on my Facebook Page, and one more time a week ago to remind people I was taking part. But other than that I've done nothing on Facebook to share my posts and boost visitors.

I have said nothing at all about the challenge on my Twitter account. But I did share a link to a specific blog post from 2011 as part of a conversation.

Because my blog is hosted by Blogger that means Google integration, so each post automatically gets shared on Google+ via my personal account. I've received a couple of +1s and one comment from a friend on one of the shares.

Despite that complete lack of promotion, the number of visitors to my site has jumped in a pretty big way.

I hadn't written a blog post in months, and in fact 2013 was pretty dismal for posts, only 5 for the entire year. So my traffic was at basically nothing on January 1st, but as you can see that changed. The mere act of having content on there regularly makes a significant difference to visits.

More importantly I have found that my energy levels have been really high since I started blogging daily. I have had incredibly productive days for a couple of weeks and always feel super motivated to get more done. This feels great! And I hope to continue this rate of motivation throughout the rest of the month at least, if not longer!

Monday, January 13, 2014

You Do Social Media, Right?

My favourite question, which isn't really a question, is when people who haven't worked with me say "You do social media, right?"

I mean, I guess it's a question, or it usually leads to a question about either something they read or heard and are considering doing, why should they tweet, or they wonder how I make money "doing social media".

Yes I "do social media." I do it as part of my marketing strategy for my business Circle of Media. What my job is, the way I make money, is that I teach businesses and organizations how to market their business on the internet.

I always try to see this question as an opportunity to teach someone and maybe gain a new client, but honestly, some days it bristles. Let me help you understand before you ask me the same question.

After decades, and in some cases a century of advertising with print, radio, television and outdoor advertising people have become very comfortable and good at communicating for those mediums. But as we all know (and some people think heralds the end of the world) we have a new communication medium now which is the internet, the world wide web, cyberspace, online, digital - however you want to call it.

The rules online are different - mostly in that there are no rules save one - the consumer is in charge.

So I help my clients understand and navigate this new world.  I teach my clients how to use the tools there are, like Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, Blogger, Google, and more. All of these websites have their own design and put buttons in places you might never look for them. I do hands-on tutorials to teach people how to use the websites.

I also help my clients understand how and what to communicate in all of these places. Twitter is a networking event, Facebook is a family or neighbourhood picnic, blogging is all about entertaining and informing readers, Google is about understanding what your consumers want from you. You cannot write your newspaper ad copy into a status, a blog or even into a display ad and expect to get people to buy from you.

So, yes, I do social media to meet and stay in touch with my clients, and to keep learning from my mentors, and to make life long friends. My job is to help you understand how to do the same thing and more.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Did Twitter create a Frost Quake?

I spent the bulk of today with friends celebrating the marriage of our friends Shane and Robin. I came to know Shane because he is the host of an online game review webseries. Him and my man Nick often work together on videos.

Those of us at our table (the rowdy table) would be most commonly referred to as "Creatives". We were a table of animators, videographers, writers and such. So naturally the conversation turned to movies.

What began as a discussion of the positives and negatives of recent B movie Sharknado quickly turned into the script writing of the best B movie a bunch of people at a wedding can come up with. Needless to say, it's involving sharks. I won't give it away because hopefully you will see it one day as one of the Syfy Originals.

Which is how I come around to some weather events that have taken the twitter world by storm and sound like the titles of their own B movies - Frost Quake! Polar Vortex!

Many of us have lived in Canada for decades and never heard of these terms which are describing weather we've not often had a chance to experience, or at least those of us who live closer to the US border.

Despite our confusion, and BS metres sending up flares, these are not new or made up events. What's new is the immediate communication tool we all use to validate ourselves. Think back a few years to before Twitter and Facebook. Did you ever have an experience where you thought you might have felt an earthquake, or heard weird sounds, heck for the conspiracy theorists, even seen strange lights at night. Who did you tell? Did you wake your neighbours and ask them if they too felt, heard or saw the same thing you did? Did you maybe turn on the radio or the television to see if they were reporting strange events? Did you ever actually take a moment and call the media yourself to report something?

I'm betting the answer to most, if not all of those questions, is no. The most you might have done is mention it at the next neighbourhood potluck asking if anyone else noticed something. Or more likely, you just convinced yourself it was nothing, you didn't even notice it. Life went on after the sound or lights or shake just like it did before so who cares what happened? You've probably forgotten.

But not now! Now we have an immediate validation engine in social media. Every experience whether banal or extraordinary is shared with our friends and followers. As gregarious human beings we like to know that we are not alone in the world, so when the power goes out we take to Twitter to ask if anyone else's power is out.

Sure, there are the 1% of us who take to Twitter to inform the hydro company or the city that something is amiss, but I know when I post about something weird it's to validate that my experience was not in my head, that I am not the only person in this position.

So twice this winter season in Southern Ontario we have had extreme cold coming just after mild temperatures which has caused groundwater to freeze at a quicker rate than usual. Water expands as it freezes, so the quick freezing puts a lot of pressure on the ground and makes very loud noise, which us regular folk have been hearing. Off to Twitter to make sure everyone else heard it too. And now you have thousands of people talking about something only meteorologists usually discuss.

Frost Quakes, Polar Vortex, even false death rumours are not new things, they are just more quickly spread through social media.

Tip - don't immediately believe things to be false or true when you hear about them on social media; take a few moments to look into it before you deny or share.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

What I'm listening to - Stuff To Blow your Mind

I listen to a lot of podcast. A lot!

Browsing through my iTunes you will see that I am subscribed to well over 70 podcasts. Not all of them produce content regularly, or even at all anymore, but I would say that I listen to around 30 shows which do post regularly.

Most of the podcasts I listen to are between 30 and 60 minutes long. I became such a huge consumer of podcasts when I had my retail food store. I worked there at least 12 hours a day, often by myself and often doing manual tasks like cooking. Listening to podcasts was a way to pass the time, a way to learn and laugh while still working.

Nowadays I still often put in 12 hour days but I'm usually doing work that engages my brain a bit more. I can't listen to podcasts as much as I have in the past, but I still am pretty good at listening even while browsing through articles.

I don't give the podcasts I listen to enough love. I never email the hosts, I rarely comment on posts and I have never given an iTunes review. Seeing as how, as a podcaster myself, I am constantly asking for these things of my listener, I could do a better job of giving.

Ten days ago, I started a 30 day blog post challenge in the hopes that I could create a habit of writing more often. Not long after that the folks at Stuff To Blow Your Mind put out this episode on breaking or changing habits.

I'm sorry to report that the long believed adage "21 days to change a habit" is a piece of mythology. It turns out every person is different, and every habit is different. Some are easy to pick up, some are hard to get rid of.

I've been writing a post every day for ten days and it feels pretty good. I never need to remind myself to write. I tend to write at the same time every day, around 7 at night. I've been lucky for the last 10 days that I have not had anything that takes me out and away in the evening. But that changes next Tuesday.

Will writing at a different time of the day break my mojo? I sure hope not because I feel really good about this habit and I want it to continue.

Friday, January 10, 2014

What I'm reading

Last week I posted my three words for 2014 and one of them was Read. This word is a holdover from 2013.

When I was a kid my nose was always in a book. I was one of those kids so addicted to reading that at the breakfast table I would read the box of cereal. In fact, my grandmother often tells people about when she would read to me at night and be out of books I would go grab an encyclopaedia and ask her to read that to me.

Somewhere in the last 4 years I've realized that while my rate of reading hasn't gone down (in fact it has probably gone up), the majority of what I was reading was online, whether through friends blog posts, news articles, or social media postings.

While there is lots to read, learn, and communicate through short form reading and writing, there is something very different about devoting hundreds of pages and hours to one piece of work.

Originally when I chose Read as a word for last year it was influenced by a project someone suggested about reading only 3 books in one year and really learning from each book. Acting on every idea, exploring every train of thought the writing brings you in. That did then and continues to feel like something I could never do. I get bored with things regularly. I like a lot of variety. The idea of reading only 3 books in one year sounds like torture to me.

But I was attracted to the idea of more completely comprehending what you are reading. Having joined a book club last year has really reminded me how much more deeply a book can move you when you are able to talk about it with someone who has different thoughts on it. I've also been reminded how much more deeply a book can move you when you take some time to process it.

So, while I have challenged myself to read even more than I read last year, I'd also like to get more out of my reading. I've decided in fact to combine both the word Read with my other word for the year Create. I will make an effort to write a few words about each book I am reading. No matter if they are fiction or non-fiction.

I usually have one fiction and one non-fiction book going at the same time. Right now I've been working
my way through The Complete Sherlock Holmes (Amazon affiliate link). I've already read A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of the Four and am just beginning The Hound of the Baskervilles.

I often have one, sometimes two non-fiction books on the go. Usually one that I am reading to push my business skills, and the other for my book club. Which means right now I am reading both Do Cool Sh*t: Quit Your Day Job, Start Your Own Business, And Live Happily Ever After  (affiliate link) and Blood: The Stuff of Life (affiliate link)

I've already completed two books I started before the New Year so I'm well on my way to having 30 books read by the end of 2014

Thursday, January 9, 2014

In Service, the Series - Limited Release Podcast

Photo by Sharp Goat Photography
Okay, so this might not be considered serving to other people. Some people consider podcasting to be a hobby, some to be a marketing tool, some to be an art, and some probably do consider their podcast to be a community service. What it isn't though, is a not for profit organization for which I am volunteering. It is a project, which may become for profit, or may not, for which I am putting in work.

For those not sure, podcasting is a techno-babble word which means a radio show that is released on the internet and can be downloaded and listened to at any time. Podcasting certainly existed before the pod part became a standard part of it's name. I've been listening to mp3 and wav audio files since I joined the online world in 1996, but stumbled across my first series in 2005, Movies You Should See.

The hosts of the show quickly started to feel like my friends, and as I got to know them more through their episodes I realized that they were no different than I. I realized that there was nothing stopping me from starting my own podcast.

Well, it took me about 5 years from that time to finally begin my own show. I found a person with whom I had interesting conversations with, a person with whom I could discuss the ins and outs of a favourite movie, book, television show, a person with whom I did not agree all the time or at least with whom I felt like I always wanted to argue the other side, Nick.

It took a year of convincing, but finally he agreed to be a co-host with me on Limited Release Podcast. I was happy with that, but he felt like the show needed some definition. He didn't want to just start a conversation and record it and release it on the internet. There is nothing wrong with that type of show, and there are literally thousands of podcasts that are exactly that. But Nick wanted to provide an audience with a compelling reason to listen to us. At the time we were both enmeshed in the world of web series (another fancy word which simply means television show released on the internet), he as the cinematographer and visual effects supervisor and me as the marketer of a show Mind's Eye Series.

We realized that these shows have very few ways of creating audiences, winning legitimate accolades, or even having a name everyone can agree to.

Nick proposed the idea of finding and reviewing web series to help people decide what to watch.

And that's what we've been doing roughly every other week for just over 3 years. We just recorded and released our 75th episode before the New Year.

Our podcast has helped me to make friends with people all across the continent, and some even in other countries, listeners, other podcasters and the people who make the shows we review.

Our podcast has let me meet people in the entertainment industry I have respected (and adored) for years, like Jane Espenson. It has allowed me to travel to new places and conventions like DragonCon in Atlanta, Georgia and GenCon in Indianapolis, Indiana. I would even say that it has brought me work.

To anyone who thinks they may have something they want to say, do it. Start a podcast. It is dead easy to record and release a podcast now. You may not become the most downloaded show on iTunes, but if even one person says they listened you will get a rush.

But I warn you, starting a podcast is a lot like getting a tattoo, you will want more once you've got the first one. It sounds absolutely ridiculous to anyone who has neither, but those of you who have already taken the plunge, you know what I mean!
Photo by Sharp Goat Photography

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

In Service, The Series - Green Party of Ontario

I was 12 when I first started understanding politics, parties and elections. I was in Grade 7 and there was a federal election happening. Our school, might have been just our class or our our grade, held a mock election where we the students got to vote just like we would if we had been over 18.

After being taught about the platforms and giving it thought, I voted NDP. So do the majority of the rest of the people. In the 1988 Canadian election Ed Broadbent became Prime Minister, at least according to Waverley Drive P.S.

Of course, that's not the way it happened in the rest of Canada. Much to my chagrin, and my work. That year I started an argument with my dad which persisted until I moved out of his house. "No, you absolutely can not put lawn sign in your window supporting the NDP." He didn't want our neighbours to think he was voting NDP. As the conversation continued for the next 7 years I realized that my Dad is one of those people who feel his vote is 100% private and does not want to tell anyone.

I did not grow up with those values. At 12 I started volunteering where I could for the NDP, and tried as I could to get around my Dad's rule and show my support for the party.

But somewhere around 2007 I started to realize they didn't support me anymore. I had become a small business owner, paying wages to employees. I became the enemy.

Thankfully Ben Polley was our local candidate running with the Green Party of Ontario. He was a small business owner who believed in local and sustainable. He spoke well about every issue, and most importantly, the Green Party platform supported raising the minimum wage (all I could afford to pay my employees) while lowering the employer portion (the part that was really making it difficult to continue employing my staff).

I've voted Green ever since, and occasionally supported them, mostly by providing food at events. That is until the 2011 provincial election when a friend asked me to join the campaign team for our local candidate Steve Dyck. We did not win, but I learned a lot.

Photo by Temara Brown
In late 2012 the same friend asked me to meet the leader of the party in Ontario, Mike Schreiner. He was thinking of running for a seat here in Guelph. Our provincial government has been on a tether since Dalton McGuinty, leader of the Liberal party and premier resigned.

I've been working as part of the communications team and the larger campaign team since then. Just before Christmas I went really crazy and promoted myself to Communications Team Lead. It's easy to get a promotion in a volunteer organization, you just say you'll take the role :-)

I am looking forward to my new position, however. I will basically be in charge of a content creating team. I will get to play with all media - earned, owned and paid. I get to play in traditional and digital media and make sure they all have the same cohesive message and look and feel.

And count this as my partisan line for the day - if you are an entrepreneur, start-up or small to medium sized business you might want to meet Mike and hear how the Green Party wants to make business easier (pdf file) for us.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

In Service, The Series - Give Back Village

I often commit to more than I can handle. This isn't news to me or anyone else. While working on the business plan I decided "No more volunteering!" I think 5 things to give my time to is a nice round prime number. And I told people that 5 would be my limit.

And I've sort of stuck with that... sort of.

The folks at Give Back Village got in touch with me over the summer. I had already used their service and fallen in love with their business concept - online shopping for local stores and services at a discount with the revenue raised going to local not for profit organizations. We had a great meeting, turns out the founder and acting ED is the mother of someone I've gone to school with since Grade Two! We decided to work together.

I trained the ED and three staff on using Twitter and Facebook, put together a calendar with guidelines on what and when to post, helped them target a more local crowd on Twitter and helped them understand how to use Google Analytics better to track where traffic to their e-commerce site is coming from.

Not long into our working together did it become clear that there was certainly a lot more I could offer and more help they could use, being only a four person team (with two of them being part time!). They knew I was at a maximum for volunteering and I knew they were at a maximum for budget... Where to go from here?

Then Joanne, the ED, made the ask that I'm sure she has become very good at making thanks to her years of working with not for profits, "We have an opening on the board, would that interest you?"

Well of course, that changes the equation. We are no longer talking about giving time, we are also talking about taking ownership over the success of the organization. Despite my ban on volunteering more, I was in fact looking for a board position somewhere, but hadn't found the right place yet.

Right question, right time I guess!

I've been on the board with Give Back Village now since September. I'm super excited about it not only because I love the concept, but also because it is a start-up, arguably still in the first year of operation, and because I am really stretching my skills!

Since I've joined the board I've taken part in both the marketing and the technical side which is exciting to me. I've had years of experience in retail marketing but e-commerce is another beast entirely. I've gotten to dive more deeply into website analytics, coding, design, as well as infrastructure.

And I realized that saying "No more volunteering" doesn't necessarily serve me well. There are times when I can get even more out of a volunteering opportunity than what I'm giving. From now on, I only take on more unpaid work when it lets me learn, test or practice something new.

I definitely have more to say about Give Back Village, about the great concept, about the value it provides to local business, not for profit organizations and consumers, but that's it's own post for another day. That shouldn't stop you from going and buying something right now though :-)

Monday, January 6, 2014

In Service, The Series - Ignite Guelph

Yes, I give a lot of my time, so I need to make a series of posts to talk about the groups and events I volunteer with.

Yesterday I wrote a bit about Lunch Up Guelph again to start introducing this series, so we will call Lunch Up Service One.

Service Two (these aren't in any order, except maybe the order I'm taking part in them this week) is Ignite Guelph.

I teased about Ignite yesterday, in fact that afternoon I had planned it to be my blog post for the day until I realized I couldn't tell the back story without figuring out how I knew the rest of the people involved.

Through Lunch Up Guelph, and the Twitters, I became good friends with Sean Yo, who has this ability to suggest great ideas and then find a bunch of people to execute them. He would make a fabulous Volunteer Coordinator, and if he isn't careful I'm going to put his name forward for the role with another group I work with.

Because we are both busy people a lot of great ideas have come and gone between us because we just didn't have the manpower to make them happen. Luckily Sean was already part of a small group of people here in Guelph trying to bring a very cool event to our city. Ignite is a worldwide, volunteer run speaker series. Waterloo has been hosting them for a few years, as well as Toronto and London.

But as we know, here in Guelph we are a little different. Sure there are some great speakers and interesting topics covered in Waterloo, London and Toronto, but we like our entertainment a little more homegrown here.

There was already a team of about 6 or 8 people involved when Sean asked me to join. It's easy to say yes when there are a bunch of fun, reliable and competent people already on board.

We held our first event last spring, in April and had such a great time we dove right into the next one, which we held in October and already we are planning number three for March 11.

I also spoke at the first one, and while I loved talking I kind of wish I hadn't jumped the gun and could have enjoyed a few other talks before giving my own.

However, I will definitely tell you that giving an Ignite talk was the most exhilarating thing I can remember doing since I last was at Canada's Wonderland. I can't urge you enough, dear reader, if you have a topic you are passionate about you should consider getting up there and sharing your passion. Art, music, food, running, beer, energy, travel, fair trade and wages, we all have something we think will make the world a better place if everyone only understands how amazing it is. Tell us, change our world.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

These crazy people I call my friends!

I've written previously about Lunch Up Guelph, but I need to talk about it again.

I need to talk about it because I want to talk about another event I am a part of and as I was mentally making my notes for a blog post I had to think back about how I came to be a part of the group. And just like any good story, it started a few years ago, with Lunch Up Guelph.

For those of you who didn't click the link, Lunch Up Guelph was an accidental success. I had had a very busy month and realized I hadn't talked to some of my favourite people in real life lately, only through Twitter. I put out an open invitation, on Twitter natch, to join me for lunch later that week.

While I had always used Twitter to meet and chat with new people I more used it then to keep in touch with friends I had in real life, who also happened to spend time on Twitter. And I missed those people. Because no matter how much time you spend online, or even on the phone or in a video chat, there is something about spending time together around a table, looking at a person's face while they are telling a story, hugging them hello and goodbye, that simply can't be duplicated online.

And that was what I missed. So I set up a lunch so I could spend time with my friends. As it turns out, a lot of people were feeling the same way, and we ended up having an intimate afternoon for 32!

I mention this event again because it was the event where I really met both Sean Yo and Danny
Williamson. Both were people I knew through Twitter. Both were people I knew very casually in real life because they worked with people I did know. One for sure, maybe both are the reason I am part of  Ignite Guelph now.

Ignite Guelph was what I was going to write about, until I realized I wasn't sure how I came to call the people who sit at the table with me at the meetings my friends. I had to do some backtracking and realized I can blame it all on, I mean thank, Lunch Up Guelph and Twitter.

I help people understand how to use online media, especially social media, to improve their business. But the great bait and switch of what I do is that using Twitter will also improve your life.

How does an adult make new friends? It's not like our parents set up play dates for us anymore. We don't go to school and find a collection of peers who might befriend us. Most of us don't even hang out in bars or clubs anymore, lowering our inhibitions and making it easier to talk to strangers. I grew up with parents who had few friends but many work colleagues and until I became an adult I never really understood that.

When people ask me what my favourite social media network is, I say Twitter, without a doubt. The people I spend the most time with, the people I rely on, the people I love came to me through Twitter. And those people help me make my choices everyday. They help me to find the groups, events, clients and friends I want in my life. And sometimes I curse them, because there is just So. Much. Awesome. in Guelph.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

My Why

This summer I spent some time working on my business plan. The nuts and bolts of it, you know, who my customer is, how many of them there are, where to find them, that part happened really quickly. But the tricky part was understanding why I do the work I do, why I chose the clients I work with.

It took me a few months of working on the mechanics of the plan to get to the part where I was able to put into words my why.

I love Guelph. I've lived here for 34 years and have never wanted to leave. Many people who live in this city talk fondly of it's quirkiness, it's Guelphness. I believe what makes this city unique is the incredible diversity of people who live here.

Guelph is made up of one community which has strong academia, a varied manufacturing sector, a prosperous small business sector, an Italian tradition that permeates, a Scottish tradition you see in the stonework, urban and rural agricultural sectors and the list goes on. In fact I challenge you to find something that Guelph is missing.

I feel that keeping this city the way I want it, providing me business opportunities, arts and entertainment, intelligent discourse, clean water and parks, local food, means supporting those things I love.

Making sure that Guelph continues having a large and varied industrial core, unique events and a strong community means that I get to keep the city the way it is.

So, I work with those industries, events, and organizations that contribute to the city and make sure that they stay in operation.

Guelph's economic and social diversity is important to me and I want it to continue to flourish. So I help build businesses and events and organizations market themselves online. My why.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Words for 2014

Two years ago I came  across a habit created by Chris Brogan and picked up by most of the people in the media and marketing industry I most respect, like Mitch Joel and Christopher Penn. At the turn of the calendar, rather than making resolutions, you pick three words that will help guide your entire year. It's not concrete goals, I feel like it's more an invitation for something to happen.

On that first year I only heard about it when people started posting their words. I loved the idea, but felt I didn't have enough time to put thought into words for my year. Many people start thinking about them a week before the new year, some even earlier in the month.

Last year I decided to try, but mostly I could only come up with one word. Maybe I wasn't ready yet, or maybe that one word Read was so important to me I wanted to focus on it.

This year I have three words.


I love C.C. Chapman's book Amazing Things Will Happen. I've seen him speak and he talks about how important it is to consume content. I love his assurance, but I feel like I've done nothing but consume for the last 3 years. I know that's not entirely true, but the rate that I consume is way more than necessary. It's time for me to switch my focus to creating.

I had decided that Create was one of my words for 2014 before the holidays and was already planning for some ways to do that when I found the 30 Day Challenge. And so this is the beginning of my creations for this year.

But writing isn't the only way I hope to create this year. I also want to create more videos and a podcast, and while I've always been pretty quick to pull out my phone and snap a picture I want to be more purposeful with my pictures and learn more editing skills.


Why break a streak? Last year I vowed to read more, which seems counter to my previous word about consuming less content but I still maintain that reading blog posts and articles, even white papers and e-books is not the same as a full book.

About halfway through last year I realized that Goodreads has a reading challenge as part of their app,
so I set a goal for myself to read 25 books before the end of the year. I didn't challenge myself too much, I was already just over halfway through my goal and felt pretty sure it was manageable. But by the beginning of December it was looking tough, I was still 4 books behind. I changed tactics and read a number of graphic novels I've had kicking around and managed to just squeak through the year with all 25 books read.

This year, I am definitely challenging myself. I've chosen to set a goal of 30 books


This one I struggled with. I struggled with being able to find a word that described a feeling I've been having.

Since 2005 I have been pretty transient with my living situation. I lived with family for about 3 years, I lived with a bunch of friends for a few years, and now, I live in a small basement apartment with a lifetime's worth of stuff I can't seem to get rid of. Not only that, I have a man in my life who has his own place which means I sometimes live out of a bag.

I had a hard time choosing this word because it started as a clear goal with no deviation. I want to live in a shared space with my man. And while that is certainly the best outcome I can think of, it's certainly not the only one, and it's also not something that is completely in my control.

The feeling that I have is that I want to be able to be settled. I want to put things up on my walls. I want to have anything I'm keeping in storage actually, you  know, in storage, not in the way. I want to be able to invite people to my place and not apologize for anything.

I don't know what that looks like, I don't know where that will be, I don't know who else might be there, but I want to make a home for myself.

Create. Read. Home.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Challenge! The first of 30

I've been taking on 30 day challenges for the last few months, some with better results and some with not so great results. In December I decided on two challenges which is probably why I ended the month completing neither one.

First I took on a plank challenge starting the beginning of the month at 20 seconds and ending the month at 5 minutes. I was doing really well with that one until I hit the 2 minute mark around the middle of the month. After a break day on a Saturday I just never started again. Oops.

The other challenge I took on was to write something every day. It was a loose challenge I made for myself. I keep a completely personal, agenda free Tumblr account and started posting there every other day or so. My writing challenge wasn't a formal challenge with any type of plan, so I didn't feel too bad if I went a day and forgot to write.

I also write blog posts for my podcast and figured I would count those towards my writing. Mostly I just wanted to up my writing so that I can practice since I need to write copy for my website which is suffering from a pretty serious case of the "cobbler's children".

But, of course, without a plan it was very easy to deviate from it. Also, "write every day" is a pretty wide open directive, what the heck am I going to write today? I may have managed a week of writing regularly before I just forgot to go back.

So, here I am again, planning on writing every day. But this time, I've got a plan, or at least the beginnings of a plan. I've got just under a week of posts already decided on, a few regular posts that will come out weekly, and more importantly, somebody watching.

I've joined Hubspot's 30 Day Blog Challenge. That part wasn't planned, but I saw an announcement last week for the event and after a day of thinking about it, I decided I needed a bit more of an incentive anyway.

I'll warn you right now, the next 30 posts aren't all going to be winners, they aren't necessarily all going to be about online media, marketing or even business, but I hope they will at least be entertaining and more importantly they will force me out of the analysis paralysis that is my go-to form of procrastination!

So, in preparation, I spent the last three days at a cottage on the Trent Severn Waterway and did absolutely nothing but eat, be merry and visit with friends and family. And now, I put my nose to the grindstone and churn it out for the next 30 days. Love the grind!
View from the deck of the cottage, overlooking the river