The way we communicate has changed. When I first began my career in corporate communications more than 20 years ago, personal computers were still relatively new and the World Wide Web was in its infancy. It was suddenly much simpler and faster to get our messages in front of stakeholders. As technology continued to advance, communications professionals kept pace and embraced the convenience and reach of the new tools.
Fast forward a number of years and the rapidly accelerating pace of change made it difficult to keep up. Ironically, there wasn’t enough time in the day to use the abundance of all the tools available. Suddenly digital communications was becoming a niche subset of corporate communications. Where we once had specialists in media relations, internal communications and issues management, we now had experts in social media and digital strategy. Recognizing that I was woefully inexperienced in many of the new digital tools, I set out on a journey to contemporize my resume and buff up my skills.
To familiarize myself with the various social media platforms out there and to develop hands on skills using new digital tools and technology, I enrolled in the Foundations of Digital Strategy and Social Media course at the University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies. This blog assignment provided an opportunity to explore a new form of storytelling and to build an audience base by promoting the blog through social media.
After years of shaping corporate narrative and telling others stories, I now had the opportunity to tell any story I wanted. Uncertain that anyone would be interested in anything I had to say, I struggled to think of an idea. In the end, my daughters suggested I write about our family and my life. These were the stories I had been sharing with them verbally for years.
The goal of SpinMeisterBlog, therefore, is to document anecdotes, stories and insights from my own experiences that others could relate to. My intended community is my family and friends and perhaps others who might see a bit of something from their own lives in my stories and be inspired to follow my blog.
Strategically, I saw a number of opportunities in pursuing this blog concept. I would be able to create a family diary that would provide a documented record of family stories that might otherwise be forgotten or lost over time; I would pursue two of my passions – writing and family; and I would have the opportunity to showcase another side of my writing talent for would-be employers and perhaps build new friendships or relationships. The downside is that people are busy enough with their own lives and would unlikely be interested in the ramblings of some unknown, middle-aged woman. Another potential risk is that people may not like what I have to say and make comments in social media that damages my reputation with people whose good opinion I seek.
Adopting the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based) formula, my primary objective is to develop and publish a minimum of 10 blog posts by the end of the course on April 12, 2017. A secondary objective before the completion of the course in April is to establish an audience base that exceeds 10 and extends beyond my immediate family members and classmates. Another objective within the same timeline is to see some evidence of engagement by my blog readers with at least one-third of my blog posts (three) receiving at least one like, share or comment.
My strategy to achieve this objective is to build and leverage a presence on social media to promote my blog and drive followers to my posts on SpinMeisterBlog@wordpress.com. Specifically, the tactics of my promotional plan would comprise no Paid or Earned media but instead would focus on Shared and Owned tactics.
- Develop and publish minimum of 10 blog posts, with images/videos/links on SpinMeisterBlog by April 12, 2017
- Develop, edit and publish minimum of two videos on YouTube channel and to be embedded on SpinMeisterBlog by April 12, 2017
- Promote blogs on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook
- Publish videos on YouTube
I do not intend to put a lot of money into my blog. I have set aside $500 to cover any incidental costs that may arise related to the maintenance or enhancement of my blog (e.g. purchase of images, software or upgrades).
SpinMeisterBlog will run at least for the duration of this course and will likely continue for the duration of my sabbatical and perhaps longer.
I met all of my objectives by the April 12th deadline and exceeded some:
- I delivered the 10 post minimum required
- 26 people have subscribed to my blog either through WordPress or by email and these comprise some immediate family members (4) and classmates (10) but also include extended family, friends, and colleagues
- 6 of 10 posts were Liked and 5 of 10 received Comments, exceeding the one-third goal I set for myself
- According to my WordPress Insights stats my first 10 posts on SpinMeisterBlog received 820 views, 351 visitors and 15 Likes and 21 overall comment/interactions.
- The most viewed post was on March 1 What a leapling does in a non-leap year and my most popular post was my March 14 post on How my birth order got it right – sort of with 5 Likes.
- I also know that there are many more people who follow my blog regularly via social channels but have not yet subscribed.
To subscribe and have my next blog post land directly into your email in-box please go to the sidebar and Follow Me.
I learned a lot by just doing. Before starting this course I had no Twitter or Instagram presence and the only social media I used was Facebook but not regularly. I had a basic LinkedIn profile but rarely looked at it. Today, I have 75 Twitter followers, 115 Instagram followers, 200+ Facebook friends, and 500+ LinkedIn followers. I found out that the more I post on any of these channels, the more followers I get.
For my blog, I decided only to focus on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook as I wasn’t sure I wanted to showcase my blog yet in a channel dedicated to professional networking. Perhaps later but not while I was still getting my feet wet. However, as part of this exercise, I cleaned up my LinkedIn profile, started Liking and Sharing stories and found that more people started to connect with me and two even reached out to see if I was interested in working on some projects with them.
By far, I generated the most engagement through Facebook with multiple Likes and Comments from family and friends in the UK, Netherlands, and North Carolina, some of whom I hadn’t connected for years. My grade 3 teacher even commented on my Born and Bred in Victoria Village post and going to a visitation for a family friend, the first thing two of my husband’s cousins said to me was “I love your blog” and I hadn’t known they had been reading it.
The main thing I’ve taken away from all of this has been noted by others – “If you build it they will come.” By putting myself out there I have found new connections interested in the same things.
I struggled initially with the theme of my blog and I have to admit I still struggle with the relevancy of some of my story ideas for all my followers. What I’ve rediscovered is my love of history, my passion for storytelling and my commitment to Toronto. I’m now starting to follow blogs and organizations related to these concepts and have generated new followers with some of my social media shares and interactions.
The biggest challenge for me is not only the Creation but the Curation. I’ve learned it is not only the story we tell but how we package and redistribute content that shapes our theme and builds our brand. I haven’t figured it all out yet – I’m still defining my theme and refining my brand – but I’m glad that this course has helped to provide me with some of the tools and the insights to set me on my journey.
Not sure what the future holds for SpinMeisterBlog but I do know that I will continue it for at least part of the duration of my sabbatical. I recognize that it takes a lot of time, imagination and commitment to establish a presence and generate a following. I have taken a first step, founded a profile of sorts, and re-energized my interest in storytelling about things that matter to me. If I can turn this into a viable career I might. All I know is that there is still lots for me to learn and the journey is only beginning.
Thanks to instructor Alison Garwood-Jones and my classmates for a great 12 weeks.