Storytelling & Sharing: BCAMA Digital Storytelling Panel Recap

Content Vs Storytelling

Me in the audience ready for the BCAMA digital storyteller panelWhen panels are set up in an “A vs B” format, it’s not surprising when every speaker sits on the fence. Most of these events are set up in a way that if they didn’t, they would come off as either short sighted or just wrong.

This event was no different, but each speaker was able to how and why producing compelling content is key in today’s online world.

My favourite speaker of the group was Ashley Brooks (@ashjbee) from Hootsuite because she included the best takeaways. Her presentation was structured more like a lesson plan than a story, which was great for taking notes. For example:

The 10 Secrets to Shareable Content

  1. Design it to be shareable.
    When creating content think to yourself: Will people share this? If the answer is no, you need to ask yourself why. If the content isn’t worthy of a share, is it even worth reading? Is it worth creating?
  2. Tell a story (archetypes and story structure).
    Most people do not enjoy reading fact sheets. They like to be entertained. No matter what type of content you are creating, make sure that it is designed to be digested in a friendly format.
  3. Shorter is better (usually).
    TL;DR (too long; didn’t read). For the most part audiences are lazy. We can no longer expect people to be reading books, let alone 1,000 word articles, when they are used to reading only 140 character tweets. This also applies to videos. Only a fraction of people will stick around until the end of a two minute YouTube video.
  4. Visual/Video wins.
    If people are given the option of reading a story or watching a video, they will likely choose the video. If you aren’t telling your story in a format your audience wants, they will watch somebody else’s story.
  5. Secrets to Sharable Content

    People not Product.
    Don’t focus on the product. Focus on the people who will be using the product and how their life can be improved by it. This will make the story telling experience much easier for you and much more enjoyable for your audience.

  6. Make your customer the hero.
    As mentioned above, tell the story of the people. Tell the story of somebody in your target market saving they day. I don’t know about you, but I love stories where I am the hero.
  7. Remember search (YouTube is a search engine).
    The second biggest search engine! Be sure to include keywords in your video title. Better yet, think of what your audience will be searching for and name it that. Instead of “Brad’s Great Alarm Clock Product Commercial”, name it “How to Stop Sleeping Through Your Alarm Clock”. For webpages or blog posts be sure to include your meta titles and descriptions.
  8. Focus on evergreen content.
    This is content that ages well. This is content that is so great and valuable that in 3 years from now, you should be able to repurpose it and it will still be valuable to your customers. Evergreen content is great for SEO since it should attract a steady stream of visitors.
  9. Promotion/ distribution strategy is critical.
    Great content won’t find an audience on their own. You need to get it out to them. Sharing it throughout your social media channels is a great start. Also think about reaching out to influencers in your industry as well. A good link or share from a trusted expert could get you to hundreds of new views.
  10. 10.   Make it easy to share (share buttons).
    When people get to your content. Make it easy for them to share. As I mentioned earlier: people are lazy. Really, really lazy. If you make people cut and paste links into their own twitter or Facebook pages it could take them tens of seconds of their valuable time. If include sharing buttons on your site it will reduce it down to only a few seconds.The difference sounds small, but it will have a massive impact on the amounts of shares you get.

The Settlers of SEO

Before every game of Catan, I spend a lot of time surveying the board, trying to determine how I am going to compete in this world of sheep, brick, ore, wheat, and wood. Although every game is different, three key components always come into play when deciding my strategy:

  1. What resources are going to be hard to get this game?
  2. If you can’t get these resources, how will you be able to trade for them?
  3. Once your initial placements are down, where will you be able to build next?

Being the nerd that I am, I noticed these strategies aren’t that different that some SEO basics. When determining how to make your business’s website stand out from the rest and succeed, you must also ask yourself these questions:

  1. What keywords should be targeted?
  2. What social media outlets should you be using?
  3. What back links can you build to drive traffic to your site and increase your rankings?

This might be a bit of a stretch in actual terms, but it is a fun way to look at both Catan and internet marketing.

Finding Sought After Resource with High Probability or Keyword Research

You will need to take a long look at the board before placing your first settlement and road. Many people will look for the 6s and 8s to build on first. What is just as important is to look at where the 2s, 12s, 3s and 11s are. These are going to tell you what resources are going difficult to get. If one of the resources has two of these numbers, your plan better include finding other ways of getting it.

When building, or improving, your website for search. It is important to start with keyword research. You need to know what your market is searching for. Doing keyword research will let you know what pages you will need to include on your site as well as what words to use on those pages.

A great place to start your research is with the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. This will give you an estimate of how many people are searching for certain keywords. It will also give you an insight as to what the paid search competition is for each keyword. This isn’t necessarily a true representation of what the SEO competition is, but it is pretty close.

Longest Road Always Wins or Link Building

There is always somebody who I am playing with who will insist that they need the longest road. This can be a good strategy, but it can’t work on its own. Just building a road for the sake of it being the longest can be a strain of your resources and often leads to dead ends. When laying down your network of wood and brick, it is important that it will be going to places that will help you in the future.

Link building strategies are crucial to boosting your websites visibility online. Directories are a great place to start, especially if you are a business is local. Google+ is a great place to start. Claim your local listing and complete your profile as much as possible. By placing keywords into your listing, it will help your site rank when people are searching for those terms. There are a number of other free local listings out there that can also help get you noticed.

Just as it doesn’t make sense to build a road to nowhere in Catan, it doesn’t make sense to build, or even buy, low quality links from irrelevant sites that don’t have any traffic related to your business. In fact, if Google notices you have a large amount of low quality links, they will even punish your site for this.

When building links think to yourself, “Would somebody who cares about my business click this?”

Winning by Trading or Trading to Win

The best part about Catan can be the haggling that is done near the end of each turn. The trading. The deals that your opponents can’t pass up on. The unavoidable “wood for sheep” jokes. A good trade in the beginning of the game can set you up for the rest of it. A number of good trades can lead you to the win. On the other side, sometimes these trade offers fall of deaf ears, or can lead somebody else to victory.

If you can find where your target market is online, social media can do this for you too. Finding the right platform is crucial to your social strategy. If you are selling crafts, Pinterest might be a good place to start. If your company is B2B, LinkedIn will be where your leads will research your business before reaching out.

Once you find your audience, be sure to give them something they will value. Like making a self-serving trade in Catan, if you are just selling your product online, nobody will listen.

IABC Event Review: “How Networking & Brand Building will make your Career Go Boom”

This event turned out mostly about blogging. So this is a blog about blogging. I fear I will have a lot of these if I start to enjoy blogging and run out of content ideas at the same time.

The event featured Jonathan Anthony (@ThisMuchWeKnow), who had a great presentation on using personal branding to grow your network. He admitted he lost his original presentation, so he compiled his most recent tweets into a blog post that represented his personal branding instead.

At first this sounded lazy to me, but it actually turned out amazing, which made the idea seem even more brilliant.

My main takeaways were:

  • Get blogging
  • Share rather than save
  • Get networking

Get Blogging

Autoposing blogsOver the past few years I have been a big supporter of blogging for businesses for many reasons. One of them being that it establishes you as a thought leader your industry.

This is no different for personal blogs. If you want to reach an audience, have your voice heard, and have people think of you when they want advice on a certain topic, it helps if you already have a library of posts answering their other questions.

Getting the motivation to write on a consistent basis can be difficult. After the presentation I asked Jonathan if he had any tips. He said that he would normally write a few posts at a time and autoposts them. It also helps if you don’t nap.

Share Rather Than Save

When you have great content share it. It used to be that if you had something great, you would protect it and keep it internally within a company or within your inner circle. This would protect it and help you out perform your competitors.

Now when you have something great, or are working on something great, it’s better to share it with the world. This will help you expand your network. By sharing great work you are doing, you attract likeminded people and help set yourself apart.

If you keep your uniqueness to yourself, it won’t do anything for your brand.

Get Networking

Since this was a volunteering appreciation event for a professional networking group, he was preaching to the choir.

Having a large professional network can help you stand out as a go getter, create more business leads, and can help you find work if you are looking for a job. Most jobs these days aren’t awarded to those who have the best resume, but those who have relationships with somebody else in the company.

This has been my second year volunteering with the IABC and I haven’t regretted a minute of it. I have met a lot of other communication professionals, both established and fresh out of school. It has also helped me find the job I currently have and I assume networking will help me find my next position.

Web Design Research in Vancouver – 2014

Amount and size of companies?

Too many to count. Tech Vibes listed over 750 companies that were involved in web development on their site. Not all of these do strictly web development. Many of them are simply large companies that have their own in house developers, such as Clearly Contacts or Amazon Vancouver.

Business in Vancouver had an article ranking the biggest web development companies in Vancouver (by number of employees), and there were 26 companies with staff larger than 10.

Most of those offering web design and development services are contractors working on their own. This means that the quality and amount they will be willing to charge to vary greatly.

Costs of web development

The costs of having a small (5-10 page) website can vary depending on what the client wants, and also how the designer/development company charges. An article developed by estimated that the average estimate for a 5 page site would be $1236-$4,020.

The main costs that are incurred for sites this size are:

  • Conceptual design – The web designer will give you designs based on your needs and your company’s branding.
  • Programming – Once you are happy with the design, the design will have to be programmed with HTML and CSS into a template for whichever CMS program you are using.
  • Hosting and domain – unlike the one-time costs mentioned above, these costs will be ongoing. You will need to secure whatever domain you are after, as well has pay for your site to be hosted online.

Threats to web developers

Free WordPress Templates

WordPress sites are relatively easy to use and there are many free templates you can download, and upload your company’s logo and braded colours to make it your own. There is also a lot of support online such as ‘how to demonstrations’, ‘instructional videos’ and support forums’ to help users learn the ropes.

Social media as a replacement

Some companies opt out of Website’s completely and rely on their social media platforms instead. Instead of driving visitors to their website, they can visit their FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google + Business page instead.

This could be a good option for small startups, who are looking to keep their costs low in exchange for the added time it would take to manage the multiple sites.

Thinking about volunteering selfishly

Volunteering is a great way to give back to the communities you are interested in, causes you love, or charities you care about. It’s also a great way to better yourself in the process.

Volunteering can be used as a tool build new skills, broaden your social or professional network, or simply to fill up your resume.

Volunteering for the Experience

I am just coming to the end of my volunteering term as the Membership Secretary for the Vancouver branch of CAMRA BC. When I signed up for this position, my selfish reasoning for it included the benefits of having an excuse to drink a lot of delicious craft beer.

Beer was only the start of it. I also was able to learn:

  • How to be a part of an executive,
  • How to manage a growing membership of over 1,000 people,
  • And many other aspects of how a volunteer advocacy group works.

Volunteering for the Social Network

I have also been an active volunteer for the International Association of Business Communicators of British Columbia. The association is the largest professional communicators group in BC and is a great way to learn more about the industry and meet the industry experts.

In my first year in the IABC/BC I volunteered in a number of different positions. Being a volunteer allowed me to:

  • Learn new skills such as writing styles for the web, as I volunteered to write copy for their new website,
  • Meet industry leaders and establish yourself as somebody who takes themselves seriously professionally,
  • And I also believe volunteering with this group had a strong impact in landing me my current job.

Volunteering for Resume Building

As I was finishing up my Public Relations program at BCIT, I wasn’t able to find a job that I was qualified for or an internship I was interested in.

So I emailed the Marketing Director for Vancouver Craft Beer Week, an organization I was very much interested in, and offered my labour as their marketing/public relations intern.

They were more than happy for me to do the undesirable tasks that need to be done. In exchange they all gave me great references. References that definitely helped me get my next job after VCBW was over.

Things to Consider When Choosing Where to Volunteer

Not all volunteering positions are great. In fact I think there are a lot of terrible positions out there if you don’t really care about the organization.

If I only cared about the beer in my CAMRA position, it definitely would not be worth it. With the amount of time I put into the membership role, I could have worked minimum wage somewhere and bought way more craft beer than I had for doing the position. It was worth it of course for the other reasons I mentioned above.

The most important things that you need to take into consideration are:

The benefits. These include the skills you will learn, knowledge you will gain, people you will meet, and anything else you can take away from it like a job or beer.

The costs. The biggest cost of volunteering can be the time. Make sure you aren’t committing to more time than you are able to, or are willing to put in.

And of course there are the altruistic aspects of volunteering. If you are volunteering for a children’s foundation or a charity that means something to you, it will be worth it for completely different reasons.


If you find this post to be useful, useless, or even distasteful I would love to hear from you in the comments.


Using page titles and meta descriptions–the ad copy of SEO

When asked in an interview “If you only had only five minutes to work on a website’s SEO, what two factors would you work on?”, the answer did not come quickly to me. In fact I kind of panicked, thinking what possible answer he was looking for… title tags… H1s…  proper keyword research… internal linking…

After babbling off some longwinded answer,  showing I knew a number of factors that contributed to SEO, but not really answering his question, the SEO vet told me the answer he was looking for. The page’s title and meta description.

SEO page title meta descriptionSEO page title meta description

His answer makes perfect sense to me now, and will be the answer I give if anybody ever asks me that again. The title tag and meta description are the only parts of the page that will be shown to the user on Google (or bing or yahoo). He said it was similar to the Headline and description lines in Google Adwords copy. Without compelling, interesting copy, you will end up with a lousy click through rate and Google will punish you by burying your website under other pages that took the time to write proper meta descriptions.

Getting Longer Titles in Adwords


If your ads are getting the top spot in Google Adwords, its important that you are getting a high click through rate. Not only will this help drive more business to your site, but it will also help you maintain your top spot.

One way to do this is by having an attractive longer title. To do this all you need to have to do is have punctuation at the end of your first description line. See in my example of my fictitious online beer company (I think selling homebrew online is illegal, but just go with it).

Normal sized Adwords titles Without punctuation, the top ad just has a longer description line and a regular sized title.
Long Adwords titles With punctuation, the title is much longer and the user has twice the area to click through to your site.

Hope this was helpful!

Pros and Cons of Google Adwords Enhanced Campaigns

Google recently unleashed their new “Enhanced Campaigns” for Adwords.  The main difference is that all mobile, tablets and desktops all in the same campaign. At first glance, I questioned the use of the word “enhanced” because I would have to combine my mobile, tablet and desktop campaigns.  I had spent a considerable amount of time separating my campaigns by device, like all best practices told me to.

Was all this for nothing? Is the “enhanced upgrade” going to be worth it? A Pros and Cons list needed to be created.