Social Media Marketing Bootcamp comes to Edmonton

Vancouver-based Capulet Communications has been running a number of popular social media marketing ‘bootcamps’ in Victoria and Vancouver, and now they’re taking their show on the road. In addition to stops in Kamloops, Kelowna, and Calgary, Capulet will be in Edmonton on September 9th. Here’s what you can expect:

Adding social media into the marketing mix is increasingly important for marketers who want to establish an online presence for their businesses. Building on the sold-out course we taught for UBC Continuing Education this winter, we discuss the dos and don’ts of social media marketing; look at successful marketing campaigns; introduce the social media tools every marketer should know about; and cover online communications etiquette.

And a little on the instructors, who I know and definitely recommend:

We’re Julie Szabo and Darren Barefoot, the founders of Capulet Communications. With a background in technology and public relations, we’ve been running social media marketing campaigns since before it was called "social media". We’ve worked with the nation’s smallest startup and its biggest brands like Mountain Equipment Co-op and Best Buy.

Here are the details for the Edmonton event:

WHO: You!
WHAT: Social Media Marketing Bootcamp
WHERE: Metterra Hotel, 10454 82 Avenue (map)
WHEN: Wednesday, September 9th, 9:30am to 4:30pm
WHY: To learn all about social media marketing.
COST: $299 (or save $50 if you blog about it), register here

Darren also says they are looking for local marketing and communication groups to spread the word in exchange for a discount for members. If you’re one of those people, get in touch with him.

I’ve noticed a definite increase recently in the number of local individuals and organizations looking for help with social marketing. I think the City Centre Airport issue and the recent big storms have had a huge impact on increasing awareness of social media. People are naturally wondering how they can take advantage of it. I think Capulet’s bootcamp is a great way to get started, so don’t miss it.

Edmonton Stories – The First Month

Back on May 14th the City of Edmonton launched its Edmonton Stories website which aims to gather real stories from real Edmontonians for use in marketing. The City did a good job of getting the site started with around 60 pre-sourced stories, giving it some momentum out of the gate. I wrote at the time that while I thought the idea was good, it wasn’t without challenges. I mentioned three: quantity of content, regularity of content, and quality of content.

Were they able to feed off that momentum to overcome those challenges throughout the first month? Let’s find out.

It took about a week after launch for the first story to appear – Sheila Edmonds’ story about adventures in Edmonton was posted on May 22nd. Stories have appeared somewhat regularly since then.

Here are the stats for the period May 14th through June 14th (word counts use the Microsoft Word algorithm):

Total # of stories posted: 42 (6 by staff)
Total # of words: 16328
Average # of words per story:  389
Total # of stories with video: 4
Total # of stories with photos: 12

The longest story was Marie Drake’s My First Time on the Mindbender at 1034 words, while the shortest was Lucien Levesque’s Festival for Kids in St. Albert at 59 words (plus a video).

Here a couple Twitter-related stats, since I have them:

# of tweets mentioning #yegstories: 106
# of tweets mentioning edmontonstories: 163

Here’s a Wordle of the first month’s stories:

As expected, words like “city” and “people” are quite common. After all, it’s the people that make Edmonton great, right? I’m happy to see “bus” is larger than “car” 🙂

Edmonton Stories has been quite active online in the first month or so. They’ve amassed 247 followers on Twitter (posting more than 200 tweets), and 72 fans on Facebook. More interesting than that, at least in my opinion, is that they’ve been commenting on blogs. Here’s one example on Sharon’s blog. I think that’s smart, as long as they are making comments that add value (otherwise the strategy could backfire).

So, the verdict:

  • Quantity: I think 42 stories posted in the first month is fantastic!
  • Regularity: Not bad, but there’s definitely room for improvement here. At least one story per day would be ideal.
  • Quality: This is subjective, but I’d say the quality is pretty good. The average length of stories is about right. Most user submitted stories have been in the Living category however, which means the Working category seems a little less genuine. I’d also prefer that each story had a one or two line bio about the author.

Overall I’d say Edmonton Stories had a good first month – kudos! I hope they can keep it up in the months ahead.

I’ll (finally) be submitting my story this week!

Edmonton Stories

The City of Edmonton just launched a new campaign called Edmonton Stories. The goal of the campaign is to offer citizens an opportunity to share their stories about Edmonton with one another, and with people around the world. These stories will then be used in targeted marketing to attract labour and visitors to the city. There are two aspects to the campaign – the Edmonton 2030 video/vision that was unveiled at last week’s State of the City address, and the website.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to an Edmonton Stories preview earlier this week with a dozen or so other community members. Project lead Mary Pat Barry took us through some background information and a walk-through of the website. She explained that the City has done a lot of research into how Edmonton is perceived both internally and externally, and they found a big discrepancy. It turns out (according to their survey data at least) that Edmontonians view their city far differently than people who live elsewhere do. In fact, it’s almost the exact opposite. And across almost all measures, Edmontonians view their city positively. Hence the push to get Edmontonians to share their stories.

Here’s how it works. They’ve seeded the website with roughly 60 stories covering a variety of topics. Anyone can go on the site and submit a story of their own. All entries are moderated, but the goal is a turnaround time of less than 72 hours for each one to be posted. In addition to text, you can attach images or video. Currently the site is focused on the city itself, but the entire capital region is a goal and input is not currently limited to any geographic area (in fact, “Calgary” was the default in the demo…minor glitch I’m sure). I haven’t been able to try it it yet, but posting a story looked simple enough in the demo.

Roughly $1 million was approved last year for the 2009 campaign. Most of that money is being spent on the website and the team of people who will manage and curate it. The website was built by Parcom Marketing Inc. and Yellow Pencil, and will be managed by the City of Edmonton and Parcom. I think it’s very attractive and well designed, but it’s not without flaws. For instance, there is now an RSS feed, but you really have to look for it. Also, there should be one for each category. I’m sure everything will be sorted out shortly, however.

I think the City is on the right track with Edmonton Stories. Despite being yet another place to create content, I can see how it serves a specific purpose. There are probably a significant number of people who have a story or two about the city to share, but not enough to warrant creating a blog. Edmonton Stories gives them a place to share a few things.

That said, I think Edmonton Stories faces some challenges:

  • Getting people to post stories is the key challenge. Will enough Edmontonians head over to the site to share something?
  • Ensuring stories are shared over time is another issue. To continue to have an impact, the site can’t go stale.
  • Maintaining a certain quality will be a challenge. What if many of the submissions are just a few sentences long? On the flip side, what if a story is clearly a marketing piece for a business or other organization? The moderators have their work cut out for them!

Not insurmountable, but challenges nonetheless.

Edmonton Stories is a more creative approach to the problem of how to market our city than the typical branding/marketing campaign, so kudos to the City for the concept. Now we’ll see how successful it is, and if it resonates with Edmontonians or not.

Take a look at the site and read the about page. What do you think? Also, you can follow @edmontonstories on Twitter.

UPDATE: There are more details on the campaign at the City of Edmonton website.

Edmonton Transit (ETS) – The Every Day Way

As you may have noticed, Edmonton Transit (ETS) has launched a new marketing campaign in conjunction with the grand opening of the McKernan/Belgravia and South Campus LRT Stations. I’m not sure which agency created the concept (or if it was done in-house), but I love it!

The Every Day WayThe campaign uses simple, bold wording and color schemes to convey a simple message: ETS is the every day way.

This is the right message for ETS. They need to get across the idea that you can use public transit as part of your daily routine. That transit can fit into your life in a positive way!

So far I’ve seen three:

  • The every day way to go green with a new routine
  • The every day way to save $5500 a year
  • The every day way to South Campus

Here are some others that could work:

  • The every day way to save money on parking and gas
  • The every day way to achieve a less-stressful commute
  • The every day way to reach your destination safely
  • The every day way to the Edmonton Eskimos

A second stage of the campaign could have real people in the ads, to try to eliminate any negative perceptions attached to riding the bus. I’m thinking “The every day way for Don Iveson” with a photo of him, that kind of thing. They don’t all have to be local celebrities, but a few wouldn’t hurt!

So far I’ve seen the ads in fluorescent green and pink on bus shelters, benches, and billboards. I’d really love to see the campaign expanded to other mediums also. How about radio spots? Internet ads? It’s a simple message that can be shared very easily.

What do you think – does the new campaign hit the mark?

Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues (EFCL) and Social Media

Can an antiquated organization use social media to become relevant to younger generations? The Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues (EFCL) may soon give us an answer. They’ve started to create a presence on Twitter and Facebook, and promise that more is on the way.

First of all, what is a community league? From Wikipedia:

A community league is an organization of community residents who represent their community at large in communication with a municipal government. Community leagues are organized to provide such services as providing recreational opportunities to the community, addressing municipal issues which address the community directly, and keeping community residents up-to-date on happenings within the community.

Edmonton was the first city in Canada to adopt the idea of a community-based organization, according to the EFCL history page. The Crestwood Community League was formed way back in 1917! Today, there are 150 community leagues under the EFCL umbrella.

So far, EFCL have created a Twitter profile and a Facebook page. They are “slowly slipping [their] toe into the waters of social media.” I contacted Michael Janz, EFCL’s Marketing Director, to ask for his thoughts. He quickly corrected my initial assessment of the organization:

“I would challenge the notion that EFCL is ‘antiquated’ – I think ‘established’ is a better word. EFCL has been here for 80 years. People know what it is and what EFCL can accomplish.”

He did concede that the younger generations are much less familiar with the EFCL however, which is what I meant by “antiquated”. The organization’s main membership drive kicks off in September, and the goal this year is to have a more coordinated promotional effort, making use of both traditional and social media. Michael told me that the EFCL is getting on Twitter and Facebook now to be prepared. They are “moving to where the puck is going”, Michael said.

I asked Michael about the challenges EFCL faces with adopting social media, and learned there were other, bigger challenges: “As of March 2008, only 50% of our leagues had websites. We’re now up to 70%.” Clearly having a web presence is an important first step before making the jump to Twitter! EFCL’s mandate is to serve the community leagues, and helping them get websites and email addresses setup is the focus for now. Social media tools will follow.

The first community league to follow that trajectory is Crestwood. They have a regularly updated website, full of information for members. Recently, they joined Twitter and have been posting an interesting mix of tweets – some community-specific, some related to Edmonton as a whole.

I think it’s great that EFCL is mindful of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media tools and services. They’re fortunate to have someone like Michael on board. I look forward to following their progression in the world of social media, first in September for the big kick off, and beyond.

New Business Cards

For most of 2008, I didn’t carry any business cards with me. It was sort of an unofficial experiment to see if I could simply say “Google me” when asked for one. Of course, it wasn’t a very good experiment because I have no way to measure how successful it was. I did get the impression that people like something physical however, so I decided I’d once again carry cards in 2009. I now have three:

New Business Cards

I received both the Techvibes and Questionmark cards in December/January. There are times when I am specifically representing one or the other, so they’re good to have.

I just picked up my third card, pictured front and back on the right side, this week. It’s a little hard to see in the photo, but the front is white and the back is a light grey. What I tried to do with the design was make it as “webby” as possible:

  • MasterMaq is in big letters and matches the header of my site. Hopefully people just type it into Google, click to my website, and see right away that they’ve arrived at the correct place.
  • There is no phone number because I prefer email. If someone really wants to call me, they can find my number on my website.
  • There’s a nice big tag cloud on the back with the words I hope people associate with me. My thinking is that if someone is looking at the card, wondering where they met me, the tag cloud will jog their memory.
  • The tag cloud also serves as a quick way for people to discover other things I’m up to. Plus I think it looks cool.

So far I’m pretty happy with the card. I’m bringing a stack to Northern Voice with me this weekend, so I’ll update this post if I get any comments one way or the other. For the designers reading this, I used the Philly Sans typeface for “MasterMaq” and everything else is Helvetica.

What do you think?

Great Marketing: Techie Crunch

For the most part, I’d say that Tech Days 08 went as expected this week (in Calgary). Lots of people showed up, some were more interested and enthusiastic than others, and there was a mix of great content and average content. Another thing you can typically count on at a Microsoft event is a bag full of swag. Tech Days attendees did in fact receive swag, but it didn’t come in a bag!

I can’t tell you how many bags I’ve collected at Microsoft events over the years. It’s the same thing, over and over – a bag (sometimes paper, sometimes fabric) filled with marketing materials, a pen, trial software, and sometimes a book or full version of an application. The contents were similar at Tech Days, but the packaging was quite unique:

Techie Crunch Tech Days 2008

Maybe a little over-the-top, but I love it!

Techie Crunch is “Brain Food for a Healthy Mind” and comes complete with a “Free Brain Warming Toque”. It looks just like a cereal box, with all the graphics and marketing you’d expect, a fake UPC code, and my favorite – Nutrition Facts and Ingredients! As you can see they did some work with the contents too, including the toque and a plastic spoon (actually a pen).

This must have a been a fun project for the marketing team to work on. It might seem like a small thing, but it’s details like this that turn an average experience into something more memorable. Well done!

You can see a few more photos of the box with my other Tech Days photos here.

Podcast Spot: What would I have done differently?

podcast spot Last night I presented in the VenturePrize Seminar Series with James Matsuba of IdleTime. The seminars are meant as a primer for this year’s competitors on business plans, building a company, and pitching ideas to investors (and judges). When I attended the seminars back in 2006, I found the most useful part was getting to hear the experiences of other entrepreneurs.

For that reason, I have been more than happy to go back and share my own experiences from the competition and beyond. Last night I talked about the VenturePrize process and making it to the finals, and James talked about his experience last year in the student competition and gave his presentation from the finals too.

As a presenter, I think the most enjoyable part is the question and answer period. Both James and I answered a ton of questions last night, but one stuck with me. After I had explained that we were shutting Podcast Spot down, someone asked what I would have done differently.

I didn’t have to think about it for very long, probably because Dickson and I have talked through this a number of times. There’s a ton of things I might have done differently, but two things in particular:

  1. I would have avoided using the word “podcast” in the name of our service.
  2. I would have focused on sharing audio and video for a specific niche.

I personally have nothing against the word podcast. I don’t think we hitched our wagon to the wrong horse or anything, because the underlying technology is sound and in use by millions of people around the world. The word itself has always been confusing and misleading, however. I’ve written many times that podcasting is just a word, but unfortunately most people don’t see it that way.

I also think it would have been a good idea to target our service to a specific group of people. As a service for anyone and everyone to share audio and video, we were a little too much like a YouTube clone (even though our feature set was quite a bit different). I think we could have executed more effectively with a smaller target customer base.

The follow-up question is, of course, why didn’t we do those two things? That question is much more difficult to answer!

Windows 7 will be called…Windows 7

windows logo Microsoft announced yesterday that the next version of Windows will go by its codename when it is released, a first for the operating system. The successor to Windows Vista will be called simply, Windows 7:

Over the years, we have taken different approaches to naming Windows. We’ve used version numbers like Windows 3.11, or dates like Windows 98, or “aspirational” monikers like Windows XP or Windows Vista. And since we do not ship new versions of Windows every year, using a date did not make sense. Likewise, coming up with an all-new “aspirational” name does not do justice to what we are trying to achieve, which is to stay firmly rooted in our aspirations for Windows Vista, while evolving and refining the substantial investments in platform technology in Windows Vista into the next generation of Windows.

Even though I’m somewhat surprised by the decision, I think it’s a good one.

Most people call Windows XP just “XP” and Windows Vista just “Vista”. By the time Windows 7 comes out, it will have been ten years since we’ve had a version with a common moniker that includes the name “Windows” (of course, that would be Windows 2000). I suppose it’s possible that people may refer to it as just “Seven”, but I think “Windows 7” will be used more commonly. That’ll be good for the overall brand.

I also like the idea of evolving and refining Windows Vista, though it’s less clear how consumers will make that connection based on the name alone (I doubt most people think of Windows Vista as version 6). I think Windows 7 strikes a nice balance between “Windows Vienna” (or whatever other aspirational name was thrown around) and “Windows Vista R2”.

I wonder if this is a new trend for Microsoft? They also just released Silverlight 2 (not Silverlight 2.0). Maybe the next release of Office will be called Office 14 (they are skipping 13 due to superstition).

A version number is simple and easy-to-understand. It’s immediately clear that 7 came after 6. And removing the minor version (7.0) makes it less geeky. It also divorces the software from a yearly release cycle, which means Microsoft can focus on quality before making a new release.

I hope this decision is a sign of things to come for Windows 7. Simple and effective.

Canadian Do Not Call List goes into effect today

do not call Starting today, Canadians can add their numbers to a national Do Not Call list. Nearly four years have passed since the Government of Canada announced that they would introduce what eventually became Bill C-37, legislation which empowers the CRTC to setup and manage the Dot Not Call List and to dish out penalties to violators. You can learn more about the history of the list at Wikipedia.

To sign up for the list, visit the DNCL website or call 1-866-580-DNCL (or 1-888-DNCL-TTY). I just added my number online, and it was a quick and painless process. Two things caught my attention:

  • Your number doesn’t remain on the list permanently. My registration will expire on October 31st, 2011.
  • There are quite a few exemptions, including registered charities, political parties, newspapers, and businesses you are already doing business with.

According to CBC, so many people tried to add their numbers to the list today that the website went down and the phone line was constantly busy. Global TV reported tonight that over 1 million Canadians have already tried to register. The CRTC originally projected that 16 million numbers would be on the list within the first two years.

Michael Geist has been one of the DNCL’s most vocal critics, and setup iOptOut to help Canadians create and manage a personal DNCL. I don’t know how effective the list will be, but I figure it can’t hurt to get my number on there.