Archive for the 'Life' Category

29
Oct
12

Hurricane Sandy affecting Etobicoke

Lake Shore Blvd WestA street typically bustling with pedestrians is quiet amidst weather warnings of Hurricane Sandy “Well, I usually walk to the grocery store after work, but today, I called my dad for a drive.”  Tells an Etobicoke local.

And she’s not the only one changing her plans.  With threats of 100 kph wind gusts and hundreds of flights cancelled, thousands are left stranded away from home.
“Yeah, my wife was supposed to come home this morning, but her flight was cancelled and I’m thinking she’s gonna be stuck in Cuba for another day at least.” Says a neighbour.

And rolling up to the local supermarket, you can see that everyone seems to be taking this storm seriously.  The No Frills on Mimico Avenue at Royal York and Lake Shore Blvd West  is inundated with locals filling their shopping carts with bottled water and no-cook foods “Well, if the power goes out, I need to just be able to make sandwiches and stuff.”

But still, there are always those that are willing to take the chance.   One shopper reasons “I drive and live around the corner, I’ll come back later.”

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10
Jan
12

blogging for non-bloggers

I recently went to a writing workshop, and realized how many writers don’t blog.  Many claim to write everyday, but just can’t seem to grasp the concept of writing on the web.  The main problem?  “I don’t know what to write about.”

So, I figured that I would share some of the things I was telling my fellow writers to do.

#1 Write about what you know

This can be ANYTHING!  Whether you consider yourself a wordsmith or not, if you know what you are talking about–it doesn’t matter.  Just talk about it like you were telling an acquaintance what you do for a job/hobby/school.  That’s the beauty of the blog–it’s not about academia.  It’s about knowing something because you are actually doing (or learning how to do) it!

#2  Break it down

Break up what you are talking about into sections, so that you can write it down in about 500 words or less.  The other great thing about the blog is that it’s short and to-the-point.  People are used to logging in and reading short status updates or quickly skimming the headlines to figure out what is happening in their closest friends’ lives or the nation.  Keeping things short will make sure that your audience is getting the most amount of information, in the shortest period of time.  Plus, this will give you something to write about in your next entry and keep your audience coming back.

#3 Embrace multi-media

Pictures speak a thousand words, and a good video can make all the difference.  This is especially useful if you are doing a “How-to” blog.  Breaking up big chunks of writing with a great picture of you doing what you are talking about is a great way to keep a reader interested.  If there are heavy instructions, sometimes its best to add a video so it doesn’t seem so intimidating.  This is also great if you post pictures/videos of yourself.  People love to feel like they know the person they are taking advice from.  It builds loyalty and trust.  If you don’t have your own photos, it is totally acceptable to add one you found on Google.  Most blogging sites will allow you to post pictures and videos for free, or for a small fee.

#4 Share the blog with your friends

The days of getting people to sign up for newsletters are over.  Don’t get me wrong, you can and still want to get subscribers, but now you can let people know about your blog by posting it on your favourite social network site.  Blogs like WordPress allow for automatic posting on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.  That way, all you have to do is hit a button and all your friends and followers know they are welcome to take a gander at your latest blog entry.

#5 Keep it up!

This is by far the most difficult thing for me–posting consistently.  But this is how you will truly gain and keep your readers.  Most experts suggest that once a week is a good rate, but if you are just starting out, you can try for once a month.  The best thing to do, is to actually plan ahead.  Write down interesting ideas before you start on your first post.   So for instance, if you are blogging about photography, week one can be on choosing equipment, and the next could be aperture, then shutter speed, lighting etc. etc.  By planning it out, you won’t run into repeating yourself by accidentally talking about too many things in one post.
I hope this helps you get started on your first blog.

31
May
11

Google and Facebook–no friend to Groupon

Since 2008, aggregate coupon company Groupon has made a big name for itself.  According to Knowledge@Warton, this Chicago-based company is set to bring in $3-$4 billion in revenue this year alone.  That’s about $2 billion more than Facebook pulled in for 2010.

But success doesn’t come without imitators.  There’s Wagjag, and Living Social to name a few, but none have really interfered with the popularity if the original Groupon.  But now that Google and Facebook want and piece of the pie, Groupon might find itself getting a smaller slice.

Since Google’s reported $6 billion bid to buy Groupon fell through in December, Google has apparently been plotting to figure out a way to rival the coupon provider’s services.  Google Offers is testing it’s own version of an aggregate coupon option in NYC, Oakland, San Francisco, and Portland, Ore. While Facebook Deals has made it’s debut in Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, San Diego and SanFranciso. Wider distribution for each could arrive before the end of the year.

Each service is targeting the masses’ love for social media.  Google Offers is like a combination of Groupon and Foursquare. Once you sign up, you’ll get localized offers sent direct to your inbox.  Check in with Google Places, and any available offer will be revealed to you.  Google wants to be not just a service, but to be seen as a shopping companion.

Facebook Deals is planning on adding insignia to users’ home screens.  When you click on them, it will show all currently available offers.  If you “Like” or purchase a deal, it’ll show up in you news feed.  You’ll also be able to share deals directly with your Facebook friends.

02
May
11

Time to vote!

Now that the Royal Wedding is out of the way, we can focus on somehting a little closer to home.

It can’t be stress enough that it is a tremendous privilege to be able vote and that we should take this opportunity to have our voice heard!

To anyone who usually says:  ”Ah, it doesn’t matter, what’s one vote.”  Please remember that it only takes a straw to break a camel’s back and you could be that straw that tips an election one way or another.

To anyone who says:  ”Ah, I don’t like either one of the leading candidates, so voting for the party I really want won’t matter, it’ll be like throwing my vote away anyway.”  I implore you not to think this way.  We are not the politicians, and we should not be playing “politics”.  We want to show the parties, whether they have the most seats, or the least, what we really think is important.

And, to anyone who says:  ”Ah, I don’t really know enough about the parties to vote.”  Simple–just Google it.  It is easier than ever to get information on party platforms and you can even take quizzes that will tell you which party you agree with most.

So, take the 15 minutes to drive to your local voting station today, on your lunch, or after work, (they’re open till 9:30pm so you can even stroll over after dinner) and just go vote.

15
Oct
10

Shopping, as good as porn!

“I get such a rush when I find a deal!”

Shopaholic everywhere can relate to that statement–but do you know what that “rush” is equivalent to?  A recent study at the University of Westminster finds that special offers ignite the same level of emotional excitement that someone experiences from sexual arousal.

The study says that bargains make people so happy that it fires off the same neurotransmitters as when watching erotic films.

Researchers measured brain activity in the emotional parts of the mind of 50 volunteers.   By studying their emotional responses in the body including eye movements, they were able to determine which of several activities evoked the most excitement.

They found that giving participants a coupon or free gift with a loaf of bread or a jar of the delicious British spread Marmite induced the same level of excitement as being exposed to porn.

Well, we always knew sex sells–but who knew coupons had the same effect?

06
Aug
10

How embracing social media can save your business

A big, established corporation doesn’t need social media–it’s just for the small, new companies, right?

Unfortunately, the recent “wheelchair incident” with our nation’s most popular airline proves just the opposite.

Air Canada suffered a huge lashing via Twitter the other day because of a disabled boy’s broken wheel chair.  The boy’s aunt had tweeted:  “So. @aircanada killed Tanner’s wheelchair. We’re now stuck at La Guardia. #tutusfortanner”.

What followed was a community of tweeters appalled at the lack of action @aircanada was taking to right the wrong.

But Air Canada had taken action–almost immediately.  They had sent out the wheelchair to be fixed at an open-all-night repair shop.  Within 24 hours, the wheel chair was in working order, delivered to the boy at his hotel–and a bonus dream trip to Disney World for him and his cousins.

So why does Air Canada still seem like the bad guy?

Because for 24 hours, while thousands of micro-messages were floating around on Twitter about how terribly insensitive Air Canada was–there wasn’t one single positive comment assuring his customer (and their community) that appropriate actions were already underway.  Not on Twitter, not on their website, and not on Facebook.

This is an important message to Air Canada that times are changing, and to keep up with  younger, hipper competitors such Westjet and Porter, you must embrace social media.

So what should they have done?

For one thing–they should have listened.  They should have been aware that customers were concerned about what happened.  There are many tools out there that can help with listening.  One example is Google Alert.  Once the alert is set up to notify the company of mentions–it can be used to track any negative or positive comments.  This not only allows a company to quell any notions of bad service, but appreciation can also be shown for those customers that express satisfaction for the service.

What can still be done?

Well, first things–stay on top of your social media!  Make sure the sites are being monitored at all times to respond to feedback and promote any special events.   Information and “news” about the company should be current and highlight any affirmative actions.  Post pictures, videos, interviews, press releases:  Include board members, employees, and happy customers.   This provides a way to develop a relationship with patrons.

In this specific case–Air Canada should concentrate on the outcome.  This story had a happy ending–show that.  Post the pictures of the smiling customer–a video of Air Canada presenting the wheel chair and plane ticket to the boy and his cousins.

Luckily, it doesn’t seem like this particular incident will set off any boycotts–but going forward, companies of all sizes should pay more attention to social media sites and recognize the power of a community.

04
Jun
10

Step-by-step on how to attract more followers on Twitter

Twitter.

If you are a celebrity and already have thousands of followers–you won’t need this.

But if you are a regular person trying to get your message through to as many people as possible, then read on.

Social media has taken the world by storm.  Whether you are a corporation, politician, or a not-for-profit organization–Twitter is a great tool.  Within minutes you can have people talking about what you are saying, simply by posting 140 characters or less.

But if you are like many of us lone tweeters, the only people we have following us are our parents.

So how to get more followers?

There are many ways you can improve your Twitter following, but many cost money.  If you do a search for ‘social media’, you are sure to get many sites telling you just what to do–but if you aren’t so tech-savvy, you may find yourself lost in the web.

After going through the process myself, this is what I did:

1.  If you don’t already have one, register for a Twitter account.

-Very simple, just go to twitter.com and sign up.  It’s completely free and step by step.  This is the platform where you will post your messages to the world.

2.  Set up Google Alerts.

-Go to google.com/alerts and register.  You can enter in search terms for alerts on topics that interest you, just the same way that someone will be able to get alerts on your blogs/tweets (I will explain more later).

3.  Get a Twitter Feed account.

-Same thing, go to twitterfeed.com and sign up.  This is an automated way to ensure that your messages don’t get lost in the world wide web by automatically posting messages every hour (more to come about this).

4.  One more account you will need.  Bit.ly shortens long urls into little ones so that you can maximize your 140 character tweet.

Now that you are all signed up:

5.  Go to your Google Alerts account.

-Go to ‘manage your alerts’
-Hypothetically speaking, lets say you are interested in dog toys.  Hit ‘new alert’, enter in ‘dog toys’.
-Under ‘deliver to’, change from ‘Email’ to ‘Feed’.
-It automatically changes the frequency to ‘as-it-happens’, but you can still change how many results you get up to.  Click ‘create alert’.
-Right click on the word ‘Feed’.  Copy the link.

6.  Go to your Twitter Feed account.

-Hit ‘dashboard’, then click on ‘Create New Feed’.
-Under Feed name, put ‘dog toys’, then paste the link you copied from Google Alerts below in the ‘RSS Feed URL’.
-Click ‘Advanced Settings’.  You can set how frequently you want posts to go up and how often it searches.  Typically two to four/hour is appropriate.  You can change this at any time.

-Under ‘Post Content’ include the title only.  It would be too long to include the description too, remember we are only dealing with 140 characters.
-Check the ‘Post Link’ box and shorten link with ‘Bit.ly’.  Click on ‘bit.ly settings’.  Because you have a Bit.ly account, you can put in your account info.
-Go to your Bit.ly account.  Click on your name (log in name you created for the account).
-This brings you to ‘Settings’.  Copy your API key and paste it in the ‘API Key’ box on Twitter Feed.  Hit ‘Continue to Step 2’.
-Under ‘Available Services’ on your Twitter Feed account page, click on ‘Twitter’.  Hit ‘Authenticate Twitter using OAuth’
-Then hit ‘Allow’ when it asks for access to Twitter.  This is so that Twitter Feed can publish articles, found in Google Alerts on to your Twitter, with the links shortened by Bit.ly.  Hit ‘All Done!’

You should be all set up now.  So every hour or so, Twitter Feed will look for relevant articles on Google Alerts and post it on your Twitter.  This should generate followers as you will be posting up articles that people who are interested in ‘dog toys’ will want to read.  Also, you can post your own comments about the articles so that you aren’t just pointing your followers to others, but actually expressing your own ideas on ‘dog toys’.

If you have a blog of your own, you can post shortened links to your site.  Simply copy and paste your long link into the ‘Shorten Link’ box on your Bit.ly page.  Then copy and paste the shortened link onto your Twitter message with a short headline about what the article is about.

Once you get the hang of this, you can also look into Social Oomph, which is another social media site that sends out automated welcome messages to new followers.

Good luck!




Follow Jinny on Twitter

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