I may wear glasses, but my hindsight is still 20/20

Like 99% of the folks who are potentially looking at my blog posts, I’m a part of McMaster University’s Centre for Continuing Education (CCE) course Social Media Research & Techniques (SMRT).  The January-April 2012 course contained:

  • class discussion (sometimes carried over to on-line forums)
  • two independent assignments (on the same topic)
  • one small group assignment (for most, this was a new topic)

Throughout the course, I’ve posted some blogs that show my running commentary on things I’ve learned:

First Step

Cracks in the caterpillar’s cocoon

Audience Speaks Up on Twitter Feed #MacPirate

A little java goes a long way

Lesson Learned (SMRTCCE class week of March 23)

As a student who’s career straddles relationships with Public Affairs and Marketing departments, and who needs to engage a team of staff to creatively excel to meet organizational demand metrics, I came into this course with certain goals and no direct daily connection with social media.

Personally, I’ve learned to


  • letting other departments monopolize social media strategy at the office.
  • being hesitant to ask people in the community (face-to-face or on-line) … about what’s new, what works, how to engage etc.


  • creating a social media strategy for me and my team – to pitch to others – that brings the results we need and positions us as the Best Practice Site we’re often known to be.
  • sharing tidbits of knowledge with others (namely my staff) to build the framework for a strong internal social media network.


  • flexing my fingers on social media platforms; trying to stay connected (it will be difficult to prioritize at first, I’m certain), dialogue, and learn.
  • applying theory learned in class and spin relevant ideas (I work well with theory).
  • moving forward with social media knowledge.  I have to say, I did learn one heck of a lot and still appreciate it was just the tip of the iceberg.

With regard to the course curriculum and instruction (here’s some 360 degree feedback!), I’d suggest to


  • delaying S.M.A.R.T. individual feedback on assignments.  For me, a grade is just a number; coaching feedback is knowledge for growth.
  • taking 1.5 hours to talk about What’s In The News.  Yes, I find it relevant, enjoy the hardy dialogue, and see some parallels with course content.  I do however, see how 45 of those minutes could be better suited to other relevant and effective topics.


  • defining (or re-defining) the reasonable expectations for instructor feedback.  Let’s face it: mine wasn’t the only student blog that read as natural as eating a sheet of paper.  We produced a lot of content (at the same time).  Maybe commit to comment on 1 post/student assignment only.  Under Promise, Over Deliver.
  • presenting a greater variety of platforms, research resources, social media influencers etc.  Which strategies and tools do various markets gravitate toward.


  • reviewing the rubric for the group assignment and assessing how to better integrate ‘group’ involvement components with the objectives for all to have more ‘hands on’ time with various platforms.
  • creating a casual environment for good group discussion.
  • being approachable in class to address questions.
  • adding additional video content in class, showing new social media resources and links.
  • inviting the class to participate in other external activity e.g. DeGroote.
  • letting students pick topics that interest them (it helps with learning).
  • discussing the theoretical aspects of social media. Depending on learning styles, some may need to see more examples to help ‘connect the dots’.

All this to say:  I learned a lot. The course met my expectation.  It was my pleasure to meet and learn from Jared and those in the Wednesday night class.

Signing off,



Assignment #3: Tourism Hamilton

A shout out to Jared,

Lindsay, myself and Miguel – founders of L.A.M. Consulting Group – have completed our assignment and posted to our mother blog.     What better way to guide you through our work than by crafting Jared’s one-page tour guide within a social media press release format!



Lesson Learned (SMRTCCE class week of March 23)

Research. Educate yourself.  Know what you can and cannot do.

I may educate myself more on, say, how to run a social media contest without getting sued, fined or busted before setting up any nifty ideas.

This, so I don’t run into the same problem as SAS Airlines.

Promotions using social media can (even unknowingly) be illegally and/or unethically executed.  But, taking Facebook as a hypothetical example: there are still legal ways to do promotions on their platform even with their seemingly restrictive guidelines.  Rafflecopter’s blog breaks down the Facebook Promotions rules and what’s allowed.  I’ve –quite happily – learned:

You are allowed to announce to your fans that you’re having a sweepstakes or a contest once you reach a certain amount of ‘likes’ (so long as the contest follows all the other rules).

Know what you can and cannot do.  Sleep soundly at night.

A little java goes a long way.

This morning I learned three things:

1.  Second Cup doesn’t care much if you loiter;

2.  I am easily persuaded to get off-topic;

3.  Our #smrtcce group is perhaps mildly over-enthusiastic in its attempt to improve Hamilton Tourism’s social media strategy.  Maybe our hashtag should be #keeners (actually no it can’t, it’s taken).


While we each break off to work on our respective tasks for the week (surveys, contact lists, overview notes) and read through Google Docs For Dummies, I’ve offered to transcribe my napkin notes here.


Things in Hamilton are worth doing/attending.

Many Hamiltonians don’t do/attend things because they simply don’t hear about all that’s going on. TEST: survey

Strategy:  Link people and businesses together better and start sharing.

Tactics:  Add more Followers on Twitter and Facebook.  Link with internal movers and shakers. Post topics of interest (calendar). Participate like a citizen and comment on events. Start the dialogue.  Prompt trivia questions and cross-promote prizes to build individual Followers and Likes.

People out of town (say, a 2-hour radius) may have a negative image of Hamilton and/or also don’t hear about all that’s going on. TEST: survey

Strategy:  Expand on internal (Hamilton) strategy and also address negative chatter.

Tactics:  See above tactics, and post to other cities and groups.  Create campaigns that speak to why people say they don’t come to Hamilton and then move them to action (that is, to come visit Hamilton).

Our RACE research and presentation ideas didn’t find room on my napkin.

Stronger social media plan to catapolt revenues in Hamilton

Social Media #SMRTCCE classmates Lindsay, Miguel and I are teaming up to tackle Lindsay’s Assignment #2 winner Tourism Hamilton for our next assignment.

Lindsay’s blog covers off a lot on Tourism Hamilton and it’s from her posts and our class discussions that I’ve picked out what I understand our focus to be as we develop this case study.  I’ll find out tomorrow morning, over a cup of java with the group, if I’ve been listening well enough to Lindsay and Miguel so far!

What does Tourism Hamilton want to be?

The Destination Management Organization that will really bring in more new and return tourist visitors to Hamilton.

How will they know when they’re successful?

One of their strategic goals is to increase visitors by 2% annually (a.k.a  more money coming in).

Why aren’t they there yet?

They know that one of their challenges is brand image.

Do they have any communications objectives to help overcome their image issue?

Yep.  One of their communications objectives is outreach to both locals and visitors: build a case for locals to stay and visitors to return.

Good thing then, that they’re already on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube (and to a lesser degree, Flickr, LinkedIn, and FourSquare).  But, there’ s more they could be doing on these platforms to get Hamiltonians and others talking and bringing folks to The Hammer.  That’s where we come in.

References: Tourism Hamilton Strategic Plan 2011-2014

I won’t quit my day job for Pinterest art

Pinterest photo that caught my eye:

Pinterest crayon art: user posted this from apartmenttherapy.com

The results of my attempt:

I’d like to blame the lack of resemblance to the original crayon art project on my 4 1/2 year old daughter and her friend (for whom I prepped this Family Day/Cottage Weekend craft).  But, they checked out shortly after picking out their favourite shades of purple. The hair dryer just wasn’t melting the crayons fast enough.
So, I guess I’ll blame it on the use of non-Crayola brand crayons, instead. Surely that was the only shortcoming.

Audience speaks up on Twitter feed #MacPirate

Where were you last Wednesday night?

I was at the Ron Joyce Centre in Burlington, engaging in a presentation by directors of the Pirate Group from Toronto.  “Engage” in a presentation? That’s right.  I and fellow classmates of McMaster University’s Continuing Education class Social Media Research and Techniques (#smrtcce) – and others- tweeted on the #MacPirate hashtag during the presentation and Q&A period.

Speaking up from the 8th row, centre (theatre-style seating)

I don’t know about you, but I’m not one to stand up and speak out amongst a crowd of strangers gathered to hear a presentation by top-notch professionals

Full House: Photo from Perth Convention Bureau: pcb.com.au

on a topic I know virtually nothing about. To boot, I’d need more than one glass of wine to convince me to blurt out my thoughts in the middle of a monologue.

And yet, I spoke! I shared my reactions to commentary and asked questions on Twitter, using the #MacPirate hashtag. I watched my and others’ tweets on a live scroll in front of me (above the presenters’ heads).  It’s ironic, finding it liberating to hide behind the virtual curtain.

I was as equally interested in the presentation itself as I was in following the opinions of others (in the crowd and remotely).  As an attendee, I found the basic narrative of events somewhat distracting.  Tweeting from my Blackberry, I didn’t want to take time away from listening to search out other links/resources to post.  I noticed a few others posted links but almost a week later, I haven’t gone back to check them out.

R.I.P. #MacPirate

The #MacPirate hashtag has gone virtually silent since the event.  No one’s commenting or dialoguing on tweets made.  When I look back on the Tweet-trail now, I see the relevance of those basic narratives I had found distracting sitting in my seat.  The presentation itself flowed from theme to theme, but the #MacPirate stream is missing the flow of those topic headers and (some) transitions. There are lots of questions posted without answers.  To me, the full experience of the event isn’t translated through #MacPirate.

Done Well, Do Better

When it comes to using Twitter at events, I’d say:


  • Going the traditional route of pre-planned Q&A doesn’t align with the goal of audience engagement.  Sure, Jim Letwin, President and CEO of JAN Kelley Marketing lead Q&A Wednesday and asked one question from the Twitter feed, but that was it.
  • Try to keep the hashtag alive by responding to posted questions after the event.
  • Link the dialogue with other groups to build the conversation.  Isolating a hashtag doesn’t keep the discussion alive.


  • Appoint one or two social media event leads to tweet reports on the presentation headers, discussion themes and transitions on the hashtag for those following remotely or reviewing afterward.  This will keep information accurate and reduce redundant posts.
  • If you can post a live video stream of the event at the same time – do it.


  • Promote the hashtag and participation prior to an event and post the live Twitter feed for the audience.  The audience does engage more than they would without this social media tool.

FUSION (fyoozhen): The merging of different elements into a union

Assignment #2 #smrtcce

Right now, no one is organizing on-line to connect Hamilton’s DIY “indie” potters with each other, other ceramic artists, and related community links so that this group can get more of what they want.

If FUSION takes the lead on this and successfully creates more on-line activity with these prospective members, it stands a greater chance of achieving the goal of more new members.

Communication Objectives

  1. Get more people to “Like” the FUSION Facebook page, by requesting invites to members of the Potters’ Guild of Hamilton and Region. Also, connect directly with Guild members at their monthly meetings to promote awareness.
  2. Start asking questions on FUSION’s Facebook page, Twitter, and Ceramics Art Daily (via a video) targeting the DIY “indie” potter, to clarify needs and start discussions.  This builds accessibility and the basis for an effective strategy.
  3. Link all audiences to FUSION’s website forum and engage existing members to launch discussion topics.
  4. “Like” more Hamilton community pottery and art businesses and events on the FUSION Facebook page (after locating the basics, pursue the members’ interests on Facebook).

Surmountable Hurdles

Rolling out this approach in Hamilton may alienate other communities in FUSION’s Ontario catchment.

There’s an opportunity to apply these strategies in all areas to expand connections and conversations (and new membership!)

FUSION’s volunteer member base has limited resources to execute social media strategies.

There’s an opportunity to send a call out for more volunteer members to support an active and effective social media strategy.


A potter gets more value from being a paid FUSION member (via its other deliverables).

This is a basic assumption. The social media strategy is going to make FUSION more accessible and offer a free value-ad.

Increased social media activity might not lead to increased membership.

Sure, this is an obvious risk.  However, Olivier Blanchard relates how social media can connect not-for-profits with greater ROI and Robert McLean reports on his blog that having conversations and building relationship with people is a value-add and a key way to gain and maintain membership within associations.

Love is in the Air

“Indie” potters in Hamilton should be excited.  Their community is about to come together; they’re about to experience a whole new level of learning that will build their skills, connections, confidence and future sales.  FUSION’s getting exited too.  They’re embarking on a modern approach to member recruitment and retention; their members are going to love being members.

Hamilton DIY “indie” potters fall into cracks

Assignment #2 #smrtcee

Who else is interested in pottery?

Galleries Pottery supply stores, publications General public
Community art shops Hobbyists Ceramic students
Councils, organizations DIY “indie” potters

With a focus to increasing new membership, I narrowed down the Hamilton audience to DIY “indie” potters.  These folks are more than hobbyists, but may not have a formal Fine Arts education or currently run a full-time professional business as a ceramic artist.

Who are they again?

  • male and female (2/3 female)
  • between 35-65 years of age
  • have an average 7 years (part-time) experience doing pottery
  • 33% have sold in a pottery sale
  • another 33% are interested in sales in the next 2 years
  • 2/3 are members of the Hamilton Potters’ Guild
  • on-line, they prefer videos (48,000 on YouTube, 100 on Ceramic Art Daily)
  • almost half have a Facebook account
  • barely anyone in this audience has a blog or Twitter account; some are on LinkedIn
  • they aren’t dialoging about pottery on-line

I came to this audience after directly surveying the students in my college pottery class, researching the 100 Hamilton members of Potters’ Guild of Hamilton and Region (total 361 members), searching key hash tags on Twitter, and scouring LinkedIn.

On Facebook, some Guild members are connected with other potters, and many have varying links to ceramic organizations and art events (no one I searched was linked with FUSION). This audience likes to look and listen, but they’re not talking about pottery very much.

I found myself stopping to check if all potters where this shy but no, there’s an active About.com forum and UK craft forum; #pottery and #ceramics hash tags are active, to list a few sources.

What do Hamilton’s DIY “indie” potters want?

  • learn different techniques
  • be inspired by others’ work
  • learn about glazes
  • connect with others via workshops, artist profiles
  • build an audience (for bi-annual pottery sales)

Besides their list of wants, the tone among students was of neutral apathy towards FUSION.  They aren’t aware of what FUSION has to offer, and they don’t think they’re ‘good enough’ to have a FUSION membership (one student had a membership, but that’s only because she won it).

Time to fix the cracks    gaps.

photo courtesy of Listverse

Guatemala's 2007 sinkhole (source: Listverse) FUSION's gaps aren't quite this big.

FUSION is an association that services its members.  In Hamilton alone, there are about 166 Guild and non-Guild DIY “indie” potters. These folks watch videos and quietly keep abreast of art and artists, with desires to sell their wares at local sales.

Right now, no one is organizing to connect this group with each other, other professional ceramic artists, and their various community links.  If FUSION can successfully leverage social media to connect with the DIY “indie” potter audience, they have an opportunity to show more people the benefits of membership.

New Year’s Resolution: Fix the cracks

Assignment #2: #smrtcce

It Ain’t Broke…

Running as FUSION: The Ontario Clay and Glass Association (FUSION) for over 25 years, it’s easy to argue this not-for-profit is certainly doing something right for both its artists and community.  Professional artisans are getting value in their membership: work is showcased, judged and written about; artists’ names are getting out to the public and, they’re getting a few good deals on the supplies they need for their craft.

This past year though membership, and the revenues it brings in, is down.

..But It Could Be Better.

The 'cracks' in Raku pottery are often admired; more, to be certain, than my amateur work.

I’m proposing that one of FUSION’s goals moving forward be to focus on increasing new membership (and expand the value-ads it currently provides) from those other than professional artists.  Since I live in the Hammer, I muck around in pottery myself, and my time to devote toward research is finite, I’ll go so far as to define at the outset the audience FUSION should focus on

  1. resides or regularly participates within the city of Hamilton
  2. enjoys pottery

But wait! Besides professional ceramic artists,

Who else in Hamilton is interested in pottery?

What do they want (that FUSION could provide)?

Redesign Specialist

To solve The Mystery of the Prospective Member, I’m going to head straight to

  • my college ceramics class
  • the Hamilton Potters’ Guild
  • local social media hot spots for potters/ceramic artists

I’m sure to dig up some quality dirt that will help FUSION build on its 25+ years of success and create a social media strategy that suits the demands of 2012 and support the goal of increased membership.

A quick stop on YouTube and I located a short, 3 1/2 minute cartoon video titled Potter at an Art Fair that has me identifying who is not the audience FUSION is after!