AC/DC Tacoma WA
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cobweb

Blowing off the cobwebs

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Is this thing on? Can anyone hear me? Have I completely lost the legions of people who kept coming back here for more?

You know what I hate? Checking in on someone’s blog and seeing sporadic posts—one every three or four months— apologizing for being absent, for not writing, for not having anything to say.

Now look at my post history. I wrote something last July and then again in November when Shep got sick. It isn’t any better on my adventure blog, Our Great Escape.

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Calgary flood 2013

Twitter: is it still optional in communications?

You seem to like Twitter a lot. Should it be part of our communications strategy?

It was a question posed to me during a recent job interview. Many of my friends should be surprised to hear I responded ‘not really.’

The company for which I was interviewing is based in a smaller city, one where social media — at least Twitter — hasn’t really taken off as a business communication tool.

Sure, I said, the competition is using it and that means we should be listening and posting when necessary. Twitter should be a bit player in the overall strategy, I said, but our key communications tools should be traditional media.

It made sense at the time.

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beer cans

Getting the cold shoulder on Twitter

Imagine for a moment that you’re looking for a specific item.

You approach the salesperson in your favourite store or boutique and ask, “Do you have any navy pencil skirts?”

The salesperson responds: “All of our skirts are on the second floor. Just go up those stairs.”

That doesn’t feel very helpful, does it? You were probably hoping she might lead you to the correct spot and even say “Can I help you find something in your size?”

The helpful reaction isn’t just what I might expect while out shopping. It’s a reaction I have gotten, which made me happy to spend hard-earned money in that store.

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A Walk on the River 041
hands texting on smartphone

A time to Tweet … a time not to Tweet

I Tweet. A lot. Often. About almost anything.

My friends know this. Many of them love me for it.

After all, I first ‘met’ most of them on Twitter.

I Tweet about my workouts, my dog walks, my shopping, hockey games, whatever pops into my head.

I support live Tweeting events. I promoted live Tweeting TV shows to my former employer when I was its social media strategist.

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Twitter bird at Christmas time

Just one day

In 2009, I started a Christmas tradition for myself.

Some might call it “quirky.”

Others might call it “old-fashioned.”

You might even want to tell me to get with it, because “social media doesn’t take a day off.”

All I ask is that for one day — Christmas Day to be exact — I don’t have to read your advertising bullshit on my Twitter feed. I remember the first account that started it all … a realtor was pimping out his repossession listings.

Ugh, I thought, that’s in bad taste.

And I unfollowed that account. In years since, whenever I see a business Tweeting anything advertising-ish, anything outside of “Merry Christmas to all our followers,” I ditch ’em like a hot potato.

Because, you see, that’s the beauty of Twitter. If I don’t like what you’re Tweeting about, I can unfollow you. The same goes if you don’t like my posts.

I did, however, mention it to one of the accounts I stopped following, knowing that I “engaged” with the account in the past and I knew who was behind the Tweeting. I simply said, “Take a day off, eh?”

Two days later — today — I received a reply. Social media doesn’t take a day off.

No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t take even a second off, unless we’re faced with the mighty Fail Whale (which makes several people I know suffer panic attacks). But it’s up to us to use our accounts wisely and responsibly.

“Sometimes entrepreneurs don’t get a day off, xmas or otherwise. You were there reading the tweets!”

Yes, yes, I was. But on Christmas Day, I wasn’t working. I wasn’t Tweeting links. And I wasn’t trying to convince my followers to hire me for my writing, editing or community management skills. I also wasn’t Tweeting on behalf of any of my clients, giving their followers a day off from the chit-chat (even the Australians who were already done and done with Christmas).

Yet amid the joy of following along with friends and acquaintances as they tweeted their gift openings, I got blasted with: Blog it up for you (sic) business! We will set up your WordPress blog for free!

OK, sure, the grammatical error irked me wildly. The slammers (news room speak for exclamation marks) made me wince. But come on, we can’t take one day off?

We can’t give our followers a break, maybe just wish them merry Christmas and good tidings of the season?

It just seems like a Christmas-y thing to do.

We’re blasted by Christmas from the second the Halloween decorations come down (in some stores, it’s even before that!) and Santa barfs all over everything for at least two months, leading up to Dec. 25.

I’m no religious zealot. I don’t even believe in organized religion, so Christmas isn’t a Christian pursuit for me.

I do believe Christmas is a wonderful time for love and family and joy and sharing … even sharing on social media.

But not for pimping your business.

Just give us one day off.

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Kamloops Fire Rescue needs your Facebook love

They’re so close.

So close.

Kamloops Fire Rescue needs — at the time I hit Publish — just 33 Likes to hit 1,315 Likes on its Facebook page by New Year’s Eve.

What’s the big deal?

KFR is in a race to get 1,000 new Likes, meeting a challenge by the Kamloops McDonald’s franchises. In exchange, McDonald’s will hand over $1 for every new Like up to $1,000. It all goes toward KFR’s new inflatable safety house.

The story goes back a few years, says KFR’s fire safety educator, Capt. Shel Guertin. (Sidebar: his email says Sheldon but he called himself Shel in our Facebook message exchange, so that’s what I’m going with.)

KFR had this clunky old trailer they carted around from school to school, teaching the local kids about fire safety. But you know, Kamloops is all hilly and twisty and turny and stuff. The bloody thing became a right old pain in the ass to get places. KFR pulled it off the road in 2003.

“When I became Fire Safety Educator in 2009, I was asked to do something about it,” Shel says. “What could I do? I thought about putting the trailer on a permanent mount but then who would pay for the kids’ bus rides to the trailer? And what school is going to let them be out of class for four hours, including bus rides and the two hours of learning?

“We had to take the education to them.”

What else was there to do? Enter the internet.

Shel did a search and came up with an inflatable fire safety house. I don’t know if this the right one but it sounds an awful lot like the one Shel described:

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Cool, huh?

Shel says he went for the Binford model (insert Tim Allen grunt here) that’s about 7,000 square feet and has a second floor with a slide. Throughout the house are fire safety messages about candle safety, cooking safety and more. The kids get to the top floor and slide out. If they want to go back in and learn more, they have to tell Shel one thing they learned while they were inside.

“It’s fun, it’s safe and it’s interactive,” he says. “It’s a great place for the kids to learn how to stop, drop and roll, or how to crawl under the smoke. It’s one thing to have a truck and talk to kids about fire safety, but who wants to stand around and listen to me the whole time.”

Now he just had to figure out how to come up with the $33,000 to get it — that includes the dolly, a generator, some tables and some other stuff.

It’s Kamloops. People are naturally generous. Interior Savings Centre came up with $10,000. Other organizations dropped off amounts of $5,000 and $2,000. Along with the impending McDonald’s donation, KFR has enough money pledged and they’ve ordered the house. It will be here the first week of January.

The idea for the Facebook challenge came from Aleece Laird of Fresh Ink Marketing. She’s done work with Shel before and she proposed the  idea.

Shel had already recognized the power of social media — we’ll get to that in a minute — but, boy, is he having fun with it now.

Especially as he watches the Facebook Likes climb towards the 1,315 milestone for the full McDonald’s donation.

“You know, I took all these courses about social media and the two big rules I learned was ‘never self-promote’ and ‘never hijack other brand pages,” Shel says. “I break both those rules all the time.”

Whaaaaaat? Breaking rules? Perish the thought, I says!

Negative. Rules are made to be broken. In fact, I’ve long believed there are few — if any — rules to using social media.

Shel agrees.

“I’m all about shameless promotion and I’ve gone on the Blazers page, TRU and others asking for support,” he says. “Our Likes go up every time.”

Oh, the power

Yep, we owe Tim Taylor a prop here.

Shel didn’t just go for the Binford model of the fire safety house. He knows there’s power (if I knew how to type out a Tim-esque grunt here, I would) in online networking.

He uses Facebook and Twitter to talk about fire safety.

“Facebook is a great way to reach people and promote our safety programs,” he says. “We get people thinking about fire safety.”

And more power?

The numbers.

“Oh, I love tracking the stats … male vs. female, age groups … the insight is incredible,” Shel says. “It tells me what posts people like and any negative feedback seems to come from our popularity and showing up on everyone’s walls as a Like or a comment.”

His audience skews heavily female (63%) and young adult (25 to 34). Since his programs typically reach young kids and senior citizens, Facebook is letting him hit one of the ‘holes in the middle,’ he calls the demographic.

The analytics also let him prove the value to a once-reluctant management level. (Don’t worry, Shel. We’ve all been there.)

And then there’s Twitter. The KFR account, @KamFire, 756 followers.

Shel uses it to post quick, newsy messages. He likes that the media can follow him, so he’s not constantly answering phone calls when there’s a fire. The reporters can just check his feed — he even posts pictures and videos — and give him a shout when it’s out.

And, since he’s right on the scene, we’re guaranteed to get the most accurate news.

“It allows me to correct a lot of misinformation that gets out there,” he says. “Some people Tweet from the (police) scanner, so they don’t really know what’s going on. That happened a lot for the Glenview fire.

“But I’m on the scene. You can get a picture of what’s really happening from me.”

More, please

The more Shel uses social media, the more he wants to use it.

It would be hard for me to disagree with him. Facebook and Twitter are addictive tools and, when you’re doing it for professional reasons, you get so driven by the numbers and the engagement, always wanting more.

“The more I use it, the more I wonder what I can do with it,” he says. “It’s great that if I’m at home at night watching Duck Dynasty, my phone will buzz and I know that someone is asking a question that needs answering … like your Facebook message for this interview.

“It’s just a fun way to do my job.”

Now, since Shel only needs 33 more Likes to get to the goal, I’m wondering what you’re still doing here. Go click a button, eh? Let’s get them there. Today.

And … if you’re in the Kamloops and B.C. Interior area and want to promote your social media campaign, hit me up with an email.