Wrapping up my SMRTCCE Course

Lessons learned

Back in May I started this blog as part of the Social Media Research and Techniques Course at McMaster University. Blogging, Facebook, Klout, Pinterest and other Social Media platforms were for me just unknown territory. During this course, our instructor Jared walked me through my first blog, first Social Media profile analysis and first Social Media Case Study (thank you Laura, Dawn and Brent)

Coming as a newbie in this world I consider the following to be the most important things that I learned:

Lesson 1: Blogging

It is proven that companies that blog have around 55% more visitors on their websites than those who don’t. Creating this much of a difference cannot be ignored but blogging, as simple as it may seem  has its own challenges:

1. Research

Writing a blog that is not well documented will not attract repeat visitors and will not serve its purpose of informing the audience.

2. Writing Style

After the 1st assignment I was surprised to see that my blog writing style was too “complicated” for the general audience. I learned that a blog has to be well formatted, clear, easy to read and that proof-reading is crucial.

3. Citing the sources

A blogger needs readers and for readers to follow a certain blog a relationship has to be built. To build that relationship a blogger needs credibility and this starts with ethics. Referencing all sources and giving the authors credit for their work is a must.

Lesson 2: Engagement is key

Not all customers will come from Social Media sources, but they definitely have a new channel to reach companies. Answering questions and most importantly having people discussing about a product or service on Twitter, Facebook or blogs has become a real asset. Engaging will connect businesses with customers and the people who influence their decisions.For that reason I consider the social media engagement as a key element in a company’s success.

It is important for brands to listen to the customers’ voice and they should pay a lot of attention to those who actively engage with them. Identifying and using the right influencers can boost the attention and engagement of an audience.

Lesson 3: Measuring Social Media ROI

Measuring Social Media’s ROI is a difficult but important task. We are expecting material values but benefits like improved brand image or enhanced customer service experience aren’t easily put into dollar amounts. When focusing on sales the calculation of ROI would be straightforward but even then, it could be difficult to calculate how much social media brings in compared to other channels.

Still, the measurement tools exist, and with specific goals in mind, a well planned campaign, the right strategies and tactics, the outcome of a Social Media Campaign can be quantified.

SMRTCCE to be continued

Having learned all this, I still think there’s lots of room to improve. I still have questions  related to the variety of platforms used today. To this extent, I would probably want to study a lot more on Social Media and the emphasis would be on the optimization of Social Media Platforms.

Why? Because companies have limited resources and focusing on the right platforms will in my opinion increase their efficiency and productivity.

Social Media, FOOT TOOLS’ best friend

Note: This assignment represents an exercise during the SMRTCCE course at McMaster University and is being written by a student.

The online presence of FOOT TOOLS’ is efficiently divided between their commercially designed website and Social Media.

Social Media Platforms

The ”communication window” situated in the middle section of the webpage, simply called Social Media incorporates four logos: Twitter, Facebook, WordPress and Pinterest.

Present on all platforms for quite a while, the most appealing tool for their audience is not Facebook as I was wrongly anticipating but their one year old WordPress blog with 679 followers. Let’s take a closer look at how they stand and interract on these platforms:

Facebook:

  • Joined – July 2009
  • Likes – 144
  • People talking – 32

Twitter:

  • Joined August 12 2009
  • Tweets – 2,360
  • Following – 304
  • Followers – 328 (~1,000 through lists – Twitonomy)

WordPress:

  • Joined April 2011
  • 679 followers
  • Multiple blogging activities per month

FOOT TOOLS’ Facebook account has been active for 3 years and still the number of likes is in average less than 50/year. A possible cause for this could be the sale oriented posts that don’t exactly encourage people to join the conversation.

Their Twitter page (@foottools) is customized and their tweets show how different they are from other stores. They touch on community subjects, product discussions, nutrition advises, regional and national running events. They tweet and retweet multiple times a day, seven days a week and get retweeted fairly often. They follow running gear brands, professional athletes, local buisnesses, similar sports stores and even competitors. Some of their followers are huge influencers and according to Klout FOOT TOOLS influences 121 people. The same source states that FOOT TOOLS’ style on Twitter is the Socializer and that they are influential not only about running but also about money, Burlington, sales.

When it comes to metrics, Twitonomy offers the following data about @foottools (6.26.2012):

Despite a constant tweeting style, there is a clear increase in the volume of tweets, in the July-September period, mostly because of business seasonality.

FOOT TOOLS’ most successful platform  seems to be the WordPress blog, with 679 followers in less than a year since its inception. The secret could be the specialized subjects and quality information that is being discussed and trusted by the members of the running community. It certainly looks like FOOT TOOLS has something to say about it and that their opinion is relevant.

SWOT

Although successful on most platforms there is definitely some potential to grow.

Strengths

Constant communication on Social Media platforms, educated articles and raised interest within the running community. Excellent blog with many followers (http://foottools.wordpress.com/).

Weaknesses

Relatively small Facebook feedback if measured by the number of “likes”. Average number of followers mostly because of reduced area of influence (Hamilton-Burlington).

Opportunities

By engaging and educating more people, and considering that Social Media has no borders, their recognized expertise could support the idea of expansion in other cities.

Threats

By trying to use traditional marketing on Facebook and being focused on sale they could create a turn off within the existing or potential followers.

To summarize this analysis in a few words, I would say that for a small company, with a relatively new social media presence FOOT TOOLS manages to successfully engage and raise interest online.

This Tim Bit is making me thirsty!

What a day!

Exhausted, spent 2 hours in traffic driving to school for my SMRTCCE course, didn’t even have time to stop for a snack but .. surprise!

Social Media jumps in to help a wandering spirit.

First it was a movie presentation when lights went off and most of us had a chance for a quick nap.

Second, the instructor feels my pain, invites me in front of the class together with some coleagues and makes me an offer that I can’t refuse: a Tim Bit. It is the thing I needed, litterally the sweetest snack I have ever had and I love it.

Love Social Media!

NB: This was an in class assignment where we had to write a blog in 10 minutes and tweet about it.

FOOT TOOLS – a runner’s best friend

FOOT TOOLS is a company established in 1997 in Burlington, Ontario, primarily specialized in selling professional running gear. The company has a unique personality and approach to this business.

Products and Services

FOOT TOOLS carries the usual structured and cushioned shoes like many other sports stores and big retailers, but what sets them apart is the fact that they always provide the latest selections of high performance light weight trainers, racing flats, and track and field spikes. (www.foottools.ca)

In addition to the products sold, there are a few services that FOOT TOOLS offer to a runner other than just shoes: information on racing, a place to hook up with training partners and groups, information on beginners’ workshops, marathon training advises and a meeting place for Wednesday evening runs (http://www.burlingtonrunners.com). Their personnel is highly educated and active in the running world and they always take their time fitting the new runner as well as attend to the high performance athletes. A number of FOOT TOOLS clients are provincially and nationally ranked in track and field, road racing and triathlons.

What sets them apart

FOOT TOOLS is aware that the choice of running shoes can make the difference between having a good or bad experience, running in comfort or pain, and, most importantly, whether staying in health or getting injured.

For a beginner, choosing the running shoes can be an overwhelming task given all the high-tech shoes available today and all the special features that they claim to have. The biggest and most common mistake new runners make is to bargain shop for an inexpensive pair of running shoes right off the clearance rack of a retail store. FOOT TOOLS is the total opposite of this kind of selling, emphasizing the importance of choosing the product that fits the anatomy and running style of each customer.

FOOT TOOLS is actively involved in numerous local and regional road races and track meetings like the Golden Horseshoe Cross Country Series, the Copps Indoor Meets and they work together with The Burlington Runners Club in organizing and supporting the famous Robbie Burns Race.

Goals

Analyzing this company as part of the SMRTCCE McMaster University program, my assumption is that FOOT TOOLS’ main goals are to become the main local provider of running equipment and to encourage more people to be active in running, triathlons and other outdoors activities that they support.

Given the challenges that runners face, FOOT TOOLS’ goal of becoming the “go to place” for running gear is very realistic. People prefer speciality stores for all the products they buy so why should it be different for running? In addition, the big chain stores will never be able to provide the same level of focused and customized service that a specialty store can offer.

Encouraging and educating people to be more active in running and outdoor sports will basically create a mutually beneficial bond where more people from the  Hamilton-Burlington area will join the runners’ community. By doing so, educated runners will be looking for the advise and expertise of  professionals like FOOT TOOLS.

Note: This assignment represents an exercise during the SMRTCCE course at McMaster University and is being written by a student.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, Canada

And the chosen race is … Ironman Mont Tremblant, Canada. (Quebec, j’arrive!!!!)

I chose a race that was not even mentioned on Triathlete Magazine list only because this year will be the first-ever Ironman event that takes place here.

Located in the beautiful Laurentian Mountains, the region of Mont Tremblant will welcome the inaugural IRONMAN event this August. Between Mont Tremblant’s local support and stunning scenery, this event is sure to become a favorite race among athletes and spectators as well. More than 2,500 participants from 30 different countries are expected to attend this IRONMAN World Championship.

It will not be a flat course at all, it will actually be quit hilly, but the advantage is that the 180 km bike course will cross the Mont Tremblant village twice. This way, the athletes will not be alone in the woods and they will have the constant support of the crowd. I can tell you from my own running experience that on the last kilometers of a marathon or an ultra-marathon race, crowd’s cheering can really get your adrenaline working and give you a boost of energy.

To get a feeling of what next year’s race is going to be and to start preparing for this endeavour I volunteered for the 2012 Ironman in Mont Tremblant where I will work in the transition areas. It’s not only a great way to gain some experience but it also gives you priority in registering for next year’s race. With all spots sold-out in less than 3 hours this year, I will have to be very lucky to catch a place for 2013 without volunteering.

For those who would like to join me this year in volunteering for these great athletes, here is the registration page:

http://www2.eventsonline.ca/ironman_volunteer/jobs.php?e=15&langid=1 

“Au revoir!”

The Ironman – What race to choose?

After running a few marathons and ultra-marathons,  I felt the need to explore more of the unknown territory of my physical and mental limits. I did my research and last week I decided that my goal will be to complete an Ironman Triathlon by the end of next year. For those who think that Ironman has anything to do with the superhero movie character, they are wrong (see below the 4 min presentation movie)

The Ironman Triathlon is a race consisting of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bike and a marathon 26.2-mile (42.2 km) run, raced in this order and without a break. Most Ironman events have a strict time limit of 17 hours to complete the race, where the Ironman race starts at 7:00 AM, the mandatory swim cut off for the 2.4-mile (3.9 km) swim is 2 hours 20 minutes, the bike cut off time is 5:30 PM, and all finishers must complete their marathon by midnight.

My Ironman adventure is underway, as registrations for the race have to be made a year in advance. The quest for choosing the best race for a beginner has already started. After talking to a few people that have actually completed such an endeavour (like my SMRTCCE colleague Christine), after hours of browsing and reading forums on the internet, I am still undecided on what race to choose.

Even if the list below is more than a year old, I thought  it’s worth sharing it. Triathlete Magazine selected the most outstanding triathlons in the world. The competitions were grouped into various categories like the toughest, most economic, most anticipated, most beautiful scenery, etc.. I want to choose one of the best but it’s so hard to do it:

Best 140.6 Miles Races:

Ford Ironman World Championship
Location: Kona, Hawaii
2010 Date: Oct. 9
Distance: 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
Website: Ironman.com/worldchampionship

Quelle Challenge Roth

Location: Roth, Germany
2010 Date: July 18
Distance: 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
Website: Challenge-roth.de

Frankfurter Sparkasse Ironman European Championship

Location: Frankfurt, Germany
2010 Date: July 4
Distance: 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
Website: Ironman.de

Subaru Ironman Canada
Location: Penticton, B.C., Canada
2010 Date: Aug. 29
Distance: 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
Website: Ironman.ca

Beach2Battleship Triathlon
Location: Wilmington, N.C.
2010 Date: Nov. 13
Distance: 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
Website: Beach2Battleship.com

Full Vineman Triathlon
Location: Guerneville, Calif.
2010 Date: July 31
Distance: 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
Website: Vineman.com

Israman
Location: Eilat, Israel
2010 Date: Jan. 29
Distance: 2.6-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
Website: Israman.co.il

Elbaman
Location: Elba, Italy
2010 Date: Sept. 26
Distance: 2.6-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
Website: Elbaman.it

Chesapeakeman
Location: Cambridge, Md.
2010 Date: Sept. 25
Distance: 2.6-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
Website: Tricolumbia.org

Iron Punta del Este
Location: Punta del Este, Uruguay
2010 Date: Dec. 5
Distance: 2.6-mile swim, 114-mi bike, 26.2-mile run
Website: Ironpunta.com

One thing I know for sure: it’s not going to be The Hawaii Ironman. Even though it is the greatest and most inspiring race, it is also the most torturous race on this planet.

Any suggestions for what would the best race be for a first Ironman?

Pushing the Limits

With next assignment due in more than 3 weeks and a little time to breathe I thought I would try a poll on a subject that dazzled me:

A year ago, while climbing to Everest Base Camp for the Everest Marathon, my cousin met 3 british climbers that were returning from “the top of the world”. They chatted for a while (here is the actual chat recorded) and he found out that one of them had trained for the climb by rowing alone across the Atlantic for 110 days! “For some reason” I thought that this was a big hot pot of what some would call BS.

Meanwhile, I went back to James Ketchell’s website and saw a movie about his life and his adventures. It turns out that everything is true. In 2007, after a motorcycle accident, he broke his leg and ankle and doctors gave him no chance of full recovery. Three years later he crossed the Atlantic rowing, then he reached the top of Everest.

In 2013, the 29 year old adventurer James Ketchell will attempt to repeat these two adventures, and in addition, to cycle around the world, nearly 30,000 miles – all IN LESS THAN ONE YEAR.

I invite you to watch the movie (a remarkable example of will and courage) and vote:

You can follow James and his adventure on Twitter @captainketch

References:

http://www.exceedpossibility.co.uk/2012/02/pushing-limits.html

http://www.jamesketchell.net/

http://andreirosu.me/2011/11/20/alte-povestiri-din-jurul-lumii/

The Effect of Social Media on the Music Industry

A little history

  • Few decades ago, Beatles, one of the most influential bands of the history came to America. The band was known through radio and only privileged ticket owners had the honour of joining the “closed circuit”.
  • 50 years later, one of the most influential bands of the digital age, U2 , was sharing live a concert on YouTube, first time in music history.

What changed?

Simple, internet and later on, social media took control of what, when and how things happen.

If your favorite band is coming to town today, through social media platforms you’re linked with everything they’re up to. You can find lists of upcoming shows, download songs, buy tickets, interact with fans, being aware of all the updates.

Applications and websites allow us to find new music.  They are great ways for niche marketing because bands can advertise concerts, promote their music and reach their fans.

Radio stations now broadcast online trying to keep up with the online music phenomenon.

Music isn’t only found in specialty stores anymore, but in online stores, file sharing websites, online playlists and mobile applications.

Why is Social Media Important for the Music Industry?

Because if you want to succeed in the music industry today, Social Media is the most important tool needed for success.  On top of talent, you need content marketed through Social Media, being relevant, connected, engaged and interactive, and success is sure to follow.

Today, rather than just browsing websites to read, watch or listen, anybody (fans or musicians) can customize a social profile with no programming experience. These profiles give the users places to share their personal music interests. By syncing their accounts with Twitter, Facebook, Youtube  on all mobile devices, fans and artists can continuously be connected and communicate.

A lot of artists today have their official Youtube page where they upload concerts, new releases and interviews. The presence of digital content in online stores is mandatory for musicians and iTunes is the Mecca of them all because it gives exposure to hundreds of millions of potential buyers.

What are the challenges?

This global online sharing experience comes with the big threat of piracy. Torrents, file sharing programs like Napster, Limewire, Frostwire and even Google  can cause record companies losses of millions of dollars through illegal downloading.

Consequently, the impact on the music and record industry may prove to be lethal for many record companies if they fail to adapt and incorporate the uses of social media into their business operations.

Social media sites like MySpace and Facebook have reinvented the digital music experience by integrating it into a more accessible and useable form for its users. Myspace, for example, allows its users to listen and sometimes even download music for free, offering an easier and more enjoyable way for people to listen to the music they love.

Regardless, record companies should focus on accepting Social Media and adapting to the changing environment of the music business because social media is a fundamental shift.

References:

http://socialsteve.wordpress.com/

http://www.saltywaffle.com/social-media-a-double-edged-sword-on-the-music-industry/

Social Music and the Music Industry – Live Performances and Purchase Processes

Live Performances

Tiesto Twitter Concert

Tiesto Twitter Concert

In the light of the previously discussed changes in the music industry, artists are continuously looking for other channels to promote their music and engage with fans. Live performances are one way for musicians to reach out and create a bond with the audience. In the traditional way, this could have been creating conversation in between songs during a concert, but in the digital age there are a lot more opportunities. Twitter for example has become an outlet for music promotion through live performances.

Twitter has now enhanced ways of incorporating banners that sit across the top of the page and the ability to ‘pin’ tweets. These tweets give the brand the flexibility to highlight specific media and information.

Using the new brand page format, HP and Intel teamed up with international DJ Tiesto to host the first-ever live stream of a concert on Twitter at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Fans were able to interact with others on the site while watching the live stream  via the hashtag #TiestoLive.

With enhanced brand pages for Twitter available to everyone, artists can now engage and reach out to their fans more directly and faster. Performances can be broadcast directly through Twitter and fans can Tweet with other fans about the performance. The same engagement can occur on other social media platforms like Youtube (as discussed in one of my previous posts on U2’s Concert)

This activities create conversations and generate more exposure which inevitably lead to  increased album sales.

Purchase Processes

All the topics previously discussed have one major thing in common and that is that at the end they lead to generating more sales. Together with all the social media changes, a new trend is facilitating the music purchase and that is the online purchase. iTunes is the pioneer of the digital online purchase but many other platforms like Amazon provide a variety of finished music products. People seem to focus more and more on High Definition music and sites like hdtracks.com offer crisp quality music for audiophiles who demand the best sounding experience.

Although cd buyers still dominate the world market, the online digital purchase is the general direction. The main reason why people still buy CDs is for sustaining local artists or for the superior uncompressed sound of the CD compared to the mp3|mp4.

For those who have a decent pair of headphones and want to hear the difference between an mp3 and a high definition format, I encourage you to download a free sample of Hi-Def music from HDTracks. Let me know what you think!

References:

Myxer’s BoomBox Study Shows 74% of Users Still Buy CDs, Radio Remains Most Popular Way to Discover New Music (prweb.com)

http://mashable.com/2012/01/06/twitter-dj-tiesto-concert/

Social Media and the Music Industry – Interactivity and Collaboration

Interactivity and Collaboration

How about the way that people interact with music? The classic way used to be that people purchased an album, some of them made mix tapes or CDs but that was the end of the story.

Now, services like JamStudio.com allow users to make online mixes of their favorite songs and share them online.

Radiohead took it one step further with the release of their single “Nude” and later on with “Street Spirit”, “Separator” and other songs in which they allowed users to purchase the tracks separately, make their own remix, upload it to radioheadremix.com and share with their friends. This was brilliant on Radiohead’s part, they not only sold each of the tracks for $.99 on iTunes, increasing the revenue from the single, they engaged their audience in a relevant way. They leveraged them to drive traffic to the site, and got an incredible amount of coverage from news organizations and blogs.
People were spending their time carefully crafting remixes and rallying their friends to vote for them on the website.
User-generated competitions are a great way to build momentum and engage with fans. Here is an example of a great remix:

Most social music sites are based on playlists that users can create and share with their friends. Some of the most popular are Playlist, Mixpod and Jango.

But Social Media and the Internet bring up as well a lot of chalenges for the music industry. Piracy and torrents, peer to peer sharing hugely impact the bottom line of the great players of the industry. It all started with Napster in 1999 when its technology allowed people to easily share their MP3 files with other participants. Its ease of use led to massive copyright violations of music and film media, as well as other intellectual property. Although the original service was shut down by court order, the Napster brand survived after the company’s assets were liquidated and purchased by other companies. It then became an online music store when it merged with Rhapsody on December 1st 2011.

Today there are more than 157,400 torrents online and many other sharing engines. Just like Napster, Limewire, a well known file sharing application that was immensely popular until 2 years ago has been closed on October 26, 2010, by the US federal court.

References:

http://www.pastemagazine.com/blogs/lists/2011/07/10-great-radiohead-remixes.html

http://diymusician.cdbaby.com/2010/08/has-the-internet-really-destroyed-the-music-business/

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