This Is the End, My Only Social Media Friend, the End

When I first started this blog I called myself, in a self-deprecating way, a social media neophyte. Some three months later with a great teacher,  three assignments, multiple readings, hours of online research, and other classmates’ knowledge under my belt I think I have graduated from complete neophyte to advanced beginner.

I still won’t be applying for any type of job with social media in its title or job description but at least now I have a better understanding of what’s out there and how it works (and how it doesn’t work).

Since I was such a complete novice the simple procedure of opening a Twitter account was a new and important skill I learned.  Yeah, I know, loser oldtimer!

My Top Guns

While I learned many new skills, the three most important things I learned from this class were:

  1. outputs versus outcomes
  2. the role of social media for listening and engaging
  3. the role of influencers

I have to confess that I never realized social media had ways of proving its worth – that there were evaluation tools out there like google analytics, Klout, twitonomy, webtrends analytics for Facebook, etc. I never realized the number of tweets is not an outcome but an output, and the outcome is a direct measure of the objective you set out for your company/yourself.

I was honestly so naive I thought people just used these platforms to disseminate information.  Boy, was I wrong. Dissemination is actually the last thing a company or individual wants to do on social media.  By looking at really engaging companies in Hamilton, like Gorilla Cheese, I get the purpose of social media now – create conversations, a forum where people can let information flow freely in a timely manner.  While I cannot really see myself using Twitter to engage my followers, I love it to follow others and get my worldly information this way.  Traditional media like newspapers are going to have to figure out quickly how they can survive in the revenue/financial model in which they operate given most people don’t get information from this source.  CRAZY!!

And finally, I love the idea of these influencers out there online who can help you build your brand, advocate on your behalf and introduce you to a whole new world of people with whom you can connect.  It’s crazy and reminds me of the old Breck shampoo adds from the 70s – “and they told two people and so on and so on” (now I am really dating myself).  But it makes sense.  Why do all the work when you can get others to do it for you!

So thanks to Jared for a wonderful class and to my classmates for opening my eyes and ears to social media.  Not sure what else I want to learn as I am still digesting all the information from these last months.  Maybe after a summer vacation (finally) I’ll take some time to figure out what’s next for me and social media.

Thanks for reading!


Black Carbon Cranksets and Road Bike Chainrings, These Are a Few of My Favourite Things

And where would I go to buy these things?  A bike shop, of course!

The question then becomes, which store…

This post is the final installment on an assignment for a social media research techniques course that required each student to find a local business and research its social media presence.

Enter stage left – Hammer City Cycle – a fantastic new bike shop but in an industry with many players.   Their goal is to be the best bike shop in Hamilton so people will want to visit them to get their bikes serviced, make bike related purchases and for getting general information on cycling.   Social media can help achieve this goal.

Top communication objectives for Hammer City Cycle (according to me):

  1. Create awareness about the store
  2. Build a brand that establishes the store as the authority on all things biking
  3. Foster a love of cycling in Hamiltonians that will get them on the streets biking (and into the store for bike related purchases)

Coming Up With a Plan

To achieve these objectives a stronger social media presence will need to occur.  It needs to be more interactive, as well as integrated.  Also, relationships need to be built both within the biking community and outside of it.  Future cyclists exist in this city so engage with them now to draw them out in the future.

Get more followers on Twitter.  Start having conversations with followers instead of using this platform simply to broadcast messages.   To create awareness about the store they need people to know the store exists. They need to start conversations with groups like @ihearthamilton, @Hamilton_CA, @OSHamilton, @teamHamOnt, @TourismHamilton – just to name a few.  The conversations do not need to be centered on cycling all the time and can share views on life in Hamilton.  Build up followers and they can help market the shop.

Twitter Target:

  1. To raise Klout score monthly by adding 10 new followers a month and getting them to follow back
  2. Engage in conversations with followers and have @HammerCityCycle appear in Twitter streams of influential accounts (like those mentioned above) and in #groups at least three times a week

Start blogging.  The shop needs to set up a blog apart from the website but that is linked through it, Twitter and Facebook.   Move the news, reviews, and how-to’s from the website to here.  People can then interact, comment, ask for advice, etc on this platform.   Keep the website as the hub for advertising while the blog is for building public relations.  This is the space that will establish the store as the authority on all things biking.  The blog will be used primarily to reach more seasoned cyclists while Facebook will be used to reach new and/or recreational cyclists.

Blogging Target:

  1. To create a blog and post one cycling related article a week
  2. Get 2 comments per blog  per week from followers

Keep it fun and light-hearted as it is now.  This style will attract new/recreational cyclists while keeping the seasoned cyclists entertained, also.  Daily musings on life in the Hammer can be added here so all levels of cyclists can participate in the conversation.  Include more pics of the store and rides of the week.  Continue to get more Likes and Comments.

Facebook Target:

  1. Add one funny video or funny pic a week (cycling related or not) and get 3 people to comment
  2. Add a contest or a poll  per week to drive readers to the website (to increase website traffic).  Have at least 5 people participate in contest/poll.

Final Thoughts

Hammer City Cycle should use social media to its full potential.  Success can be measured through increased exchanges and appearances on Twitter feeds, blog comments and Facebook active users. From this engagement comes increased awareness and reputation of a  store people want to turn to for information, advice, and ultimately cycling products and services.

Psst, Come Here. Wanna Buy a Bike?

Back in the 70s before computers and social media existed marketing strategies were simple and looked something like this:

Okay, maybe I exaggerate a little but the digital age has certainly changed how businesses can connect with consumers and this post is going to explore how social media is currently used by Hammer City Cycle, a Hamilton bicycle shop.  This post, along with a previous post, is an ongoing project for my social media course that is transforming me from bumbling social media idiot to quasi competent professional.

Who Doesn’t Use Social Media?

In this day and age most companies use social media.   The bigger question becomes, how well are they using it?

Hammer City Cycle, like a few other Hamilton area bike shops, uses a few of the social media platforms.  Facebook, Twitter and Flickr icons are found on their website and obviously link to their accounts.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Their Facebook page is by far the most interactive of the three platforms.  Posts are commented on, liked, & shared.  Pictures are used, information is given about product recalls, status of group bike rides, happenings at the shop, local riders in competitions, etc  The site is updated regularly, solicits followers to comment, and advertises contests.  People are exchanging ideas with the shop and with each other.  The site is light-hearted, entertaining and informative – all qualities, at least in my mind, that make Hamiltonians want to connect with Hammer City Cycle on FB.

Moving on to Twitter I couldn’t help but notice the wonderful banter and engagement found on FB between the bike shop and its followers is missing here.  The tweets are consistent and informative but are really just messages broadcast to its followers rather than a means of getting people to engage in conversations.  Hammer City Cycle has some good influencers following them, however, these influencers are not really talking about them, retweeting or engaging with them.  Their twitonomy profile (an anaylitics tool) displays this fact:

1,600 tweets from 25/09/2010 to 28/06/2012
2.49 tweets per day 148 retweets 9%
177 user mentions 0.11 32 replies 2%
731 links 0.46 49 hashtags 0.03
29 tweets retweeted 1.8% a total of 32 times 1.10

Looking at another metrics tool, their Klout profile has them as influencial on bikes (thank goodness) and vegetarianism, but their fairly low score of 20 indicates they “need to engage more with others or be more active to gain influence”.  Also their klout style is categorized as casual and listening rather than focused and consistent.

And finally, their Flickr account is really only one page of a few really cool photos but has no outside comments, no activity, no social engagement.

SWOT Team Would Look Great in Some Cycling Jerseys

Hammer City Cycling has some positive communications strengths like appropriate messaging with a humourous and entertaining style.  They never come off as pretentious.  More importantly their social media platforms are linked for consistent messaging.    Being a small shop weaknesses include a lack of time & resources to use the existing platforms to their full potential along with additional social media platforms.

Given the relative limited use of social media there are opportunities to create a presence on numerous linked platforms that establishes Hammer City Cycle as the place to go to get biking information and ultimately as the place to go to buy a bike and accessories.  Conversely, the threats include spending valuable time online that may not translate into an increase in reputation and sales.  Also, the followers and influencers might not want to engage on all platforms to help develop this reputation.

What Does It All Mean?

Hammer City Cycle has established a good social media base which can act as a launching pad for some more strategic objectives that will support their goal of being the place to go when it comes to cycling in the Hammer.

Cycling in the Hammer

Hamilton, sadly, has a bad rap.  While we are no longer the “Steeltown” of years past, the reputation of that industry which led to polluted shores and poor air quality has been tough to shake.  Combine that with an underwhelmed (not a real word but you get the point) downtown core and it is no wonder people in the GTA look down on us.

Dundas Valley

However, what we have that kicks Toronto’s ass is miles and miles of beautiful trails for mountain biking and wide country roads for road biking.  I know because I love to bike.

And to take advantage of the great biking around here we need great bike stores.  There are six popular and established bike stores in Hamilton (amalgamated Hamilton) : Ancaster Cycle, Bicycle Works, Central Cycle, Freewheel CycleMain Cycle, and Pieriks Cycle.  With the exception of Ancaster Cycle, named for its location on the main drag in Ancaster, all the other bike shops have store names that could place them in any other city around the world (including Toronto).

Two years ago a seasoned bike mechanic left one of the aforementioned stores to open up his own shop, a shop that reflected his love of biking with his love of Hamilton.  Welcome Hammer City Cycle to the biking world!

I love Hammer City Cycle.  Why?  The owner, Jason, is cool.  He’s hip, he’s fit and he loves biking.  He won’t sell you something you don’t need and isn’t a bike snob that will make you feel uncomfortable asking questions about bikes or accessories.

Why Shop Anywhere Else?

Retail is a tough business and  Hammer City Cycle has to set itself apart from the other bike shops.   While they do carry fancy brand name bikes that can be seen in Le Tour de France, unique brands not found in other bike shops, custom built wheels made by Jason himself that are absolutely bomb proof, what differentiates them is their commitment to customer service.  As the website points outs:

“Anybody can sell you a bike or a helmet, but what else are they doing for you?”

Hammer City Cycle puts its money where its mouth is and if clients don’t receive the quality of service they think they deserve, they don’t pay for the service.

Become a (Bike) Lover Not a Fighter

Jason and the Hammer City Cycle staff are more than just retailers, they are trying to  help their clients grow their love affair of biking.  As the new kid on the block they haven’t built a reputation as the “elitist” bike store where regular people don’t want to shop or conversely as the “ma & pa shop on the corner” where seasoned cyclists don’t want to be seen.  They are in the unique position to establish themselves as the bike shop all Hamiltonians want to visit.

Located in the heart of the Hamilton Mountain on Upper James, Hamilton City Cycle is bike store meets modern art gallery.  Vintage-like posters greet curious eyes and uncluttered space greet eager shoppers.  However, their most important product is not what is hanging off the rack, but the friendly and knowledgeable atmosphere hanging in the air.

Biking + Social Media = Fun

So what does biking have to do with social media?  Well, I am combining my new found interest in social media (through my social media research techniques course) with my love of cycling and will be using Hammer City Cycle as my social media guinea pig.  My goal is to help this great Hamilton business improve their goal of building a reputation as one of the best bike shops in Hamilton where people go to buy bikes and accessories, get their bikes serviced, and find helpful advice about being a cyclist in the Hammer.

Do I have clout based on Klout?

So the social media neophyte strikes again!  This week I have learned about the online measurement tool, Klout, and took part in a debate on the merits and faults of this “standard of influence”.

Since I had never heard of Klout (told you I was a neophyte) I opened up an account through my Twitter account to find out my influence (pitiful) and figure out what exactly it was and how it operated.   Admittedly, upon first glance after setting it up my gut intuition was to dismiss this tool and its complicated algorithm as a waste of time – who cares about that silly score!

However, upon further investigation I began to appreciate its potential.  I came to realize that Klout is more than just a number but a tool to help you gauge who can be influential in your network  – who is active out there in the social media world engaging with others.  Even if you don’t care about your own personal klout score (me), engaging with these influencers in your network can help spread your story/brand/message if that is a goal.

Brian Solis

I decide to look to those individuals in the social media realm who are considered influencers to get their perceptions on Klout.  Brian Solis had an interesting perspective in a techcrunch article.

I am still wary of viewing Klout as an absolute measurement tool but it is a means of discovering who has created a wealth of “social capital”, as Solis calls it, and how you should be using social media strategicaly rather than indiscriminately.

The bottom line is this – Klout, along with other online measurement tools, has bugs and is still evolving BUT it appears to be part of the social media landscape as companies and people use it for hiring practices, brand management, and benchmarking so understanding it capabilities and limitations is important in this social media age.

How A YouTube Video Changed the Face of Social Media and Law Enforcement

In November of 2006 a young man named Ryan Milner was murdered on the streets of Hamilton. Surveillance video captured two men of interest. The Detective Sergeant involved in the case, Jorge Lasso, had a very unconventional idea for the time. Rather than provide the video to news outlets he uploaded it to YouTube.  Not only did  Hamilton Police Services catch the murderer (he turned himself in), but as CTV then reported, it was “a move that was viewed as a first for a Canadian police force“.  In fact, it was such a novel idea that the story even got coverage in the New York Times.

Here’s Scott Mills (aka Twitter Cop) talking about why YouTube is such an effective crime fighting tool:

Social Media is Taking A Bite Out of Crime

Hamilton Police Services, like most police forces, has officers who use social media daily to fight crime and to communicate to its citizens.  As the Hamilton Spectator commented, Sergeant Jay Turner “ tells stories about policing in 140 characters. Follow him (as 900 people do) and you’ll get photos of seized drugs, instant traffic updates, refreshingly honest and civil debates about policing and a glimpse of the quirky folks beat cops meet“.

Scott Mills in his blog wrote a post in January 2012 entitled:  A Case Study: Social Media Key To Crime Stoppers Programs’ Success & Community Safety.  In his last post of April 30, 2012 he discusses social media & homicides. He explains why social media can prevent crimes by educating the public and sharing police knowledge, as well as providing a platform to help crime victims.

Clearly social media has provided law enforcement with tools to solve & prevent crimes along with a means of communicating with its citizenry in an open & timely manner.

What Does It All Mean?

Using social media by the law enforcement industry has the potential to create a safer community while providing a transparent and engaging relationship with its citizenry.  This relationship will then support a positive reputation of the industry and will persuade citizens to become more active against crime.  Unfortunately, as Hamilton Police Services has discovered, “It [social media] hasn’t always been an easy sell. Not all commanders buy into this idea of letting the rank and file speak publicly. Police are notorious for keeping tight controls on who can speak and what message should be sent.

In order to reach law enforcements highest potential, police forces are going to have to fully embrace the collaborative and open nature of social media and change current police culture. As Scott Mills offers in his blog:

 I firmly believe that if we [law enforcement community] speak more with the public about our investigations and experiences, we will create a more informed community and a safer world. Social media is merely the vehicle for this extreme change in police culture. I have thought about this post for a long time. I have heard my Deputy Chief Peter Sloly speak several times and say that police culture can be a barrier to the success of police use of social media to effect our mandates.

Here’s to a bright future of tweets, uploads & posts by Canada’s Twitter Cops.

I Fought the Law and the Law Won (thanks to Social Media)

So I have a new best friend.  I found him online.  I’ve never met him and don’t know anyone who knows him but he has proven to be invaluable to me.  His name is Scott Mills and he is a Police Constable with Toronto Police Services.

Twitter Cop

He carries more than a badge and a gun – he carries the tools to upload, tweet & blog.  Known as the Twitter Cop, Constable Mills “was one of the first Canadian cops with the title of social media officer.”   In an interview with the Toronto Sun in 2011, Constable Mills spoke about the role social media played in helping police investigations in Toronto.  Toronto Police Services sees the value of social media in helping with investigations since it offers an opportunity to engage with the community in ways that traditionally provided barriers including “fear and cultural issues”.

In fact, law enforcement in Canada recognizes the importance of social media and has a conference on it (constable Scott Mills was a recent speaker at the conference this past March in Vancouver).   The SMILE conference – Social Media the Internet and Law Enforcement – provides police officers/police forces with the opportunity to get all the technical hands-on skills and the practical knowledge to enter the social media world with confidence.”  Why?  Because social media can be a powerful tool to “improve law enforcement and engage citizens“.

In my last post I asked if the law enforcement industry was using social media to help serve and protect and it seems that this industry, like so many in Canada, have recognized the value and power of this form of ubiquitous communication and engagement .  Thanks to pioneers like Toronto Police Services and Scott Mills citizens can take an active role in helping our police forces keep our communities and country safe.

Here are a few twitter resources that Hamiltonians can use if they want to follow some police forces: