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What do I think? I think you should be more specific.

Most of you probably know that engagement is the key to social media success, but engagement is not, I repeat NOT following up a blog post, or social media post by asking your audience, “what do you think?” What do I think about what? The weather, my lunch, the colour of my shirt? Asking your audience what they think is one of the broadest questions you could possibly ask.

Be Specific

If you want to avoid silence, ask a specific question that directly relates to whatever it is you are posting. For example, if you posted a third party link regarding Canada’s Anti Spam Legislation, ask your audience what is one way the new CASL law will affect their marketing efforts or ask what one thing they hope CASL will do for marketers? By asking questions that directly relates to specific content, you better your chances of getting comments and creating genuine conversation.

Be Network Appropriate

Obviously, you can’t post an introductory paragraph before asking a question on Twitter, but you can on Facebook! If you are looking to engage on Twitter, try asking a question relating to a timely event, perhaps something everyone knows about. For example, if you are nearing a national holiday, such as Canada Day, ask your audience what their favourite Canada Day activity is. You could also tell them (in brief) what you’re doing to celebrate. On Facebook and Google+ you could include a link to Canada Day activities, ask what events they have attended in the past and also suggest activities no one may have thought of before – or ask your audience for suggestions. 

Be Prepared to Answer

When you do ask a question on social media that generates answers, reply! A lot of people on Twitter get frustrated when someone poses a question and they answer within seconds of the post publishing and their answers are followed up with… nothing. This tells your audience that your questions are not genuine and that your posts are scheduled. A good question will get an answer, so be prepared to answer in a timely fashion with more questions or information to keep the conversation going.

The key to engaging with your audience is to demonstrate that the questions you are asking serve a purpose. Why are you asking a question? What do you want to know? By asking a direct question regarding a specific subject you are telling your audience that you genuinely care about what they have to say and want to hear from them. If your question is too open-ended, you won’t get many responses because people won’t know how to answer. The more specific your questions are, the more answers you will receive.

What is one type of question you always answer? What’s the worst question you have ever seen asked on social media?



Social Capital Conference - Why you should be there

Social media is an opportunity to build relationships online, but getting together with people who work with social media on a daily basis is an opportunity to learn and make connections that will pump up your efforts in a significant way.

Social Capital is the conference we’ve been running for three years. It brings people together from all industries and levels of experience to share and learn from each other. Here are five reasons we think that you, as small business owners, should be there.

1) The sessions

We have great sessions this year (including Karen and I!) that will help you learn how to improve your social media efforts. We are going to be covering topics such as:

- Email newsletters

- Bringing the life back into your blog

- Not being selfish with your communications

- Case studies from small businesses

- Creating great content

- Canada Anti-Spam Legistlation and copyright

- Social media strategy

2) The chance to ask experts questions in small groups

Our roundtable sessions are always a highlight of the day. You get to take part in small groups with experts on topics you’re interested in and because the groups are so small you get the chance to ask the questions that apply specifically to you, and get advice and input from people in the know, as well as your peers.

3) The amazing keynotes

This year’s keynote speakers are delving into the psychology of social media. Understanding who you’re talking to is key and this year we’ll go a step further into figuring out why we’re doing what we’re doing and how to communicate effecitvely with our audiences.

4) The speakers

They come from all different industries and they really know what they’re talking about. Because of the size of the conference you get the oppotunity to meet them, ask them questions and then connect with them offline later and stay in touch. It’s what I plan to do. :)

5) Meet and hang out with awesome people

Seriously. One of the best parts of every conference for us as organizers is watching everyone at the conference come together, have fun and really connect. It’s amazing to watch and hear the stories of lasting business relationships and friendships that have come from the conference.

So there you have it, five reasons I think you should be at Social Capital this year. And here’s a bonus one: WWC20 will get you 20% off at checkout when you buy your ticket.  

I hope you’ll be there - and make sure to come and find us and say hi when you do!


The Professional Headshot: Your first chance to make a great impression.

As a professional photographer at Tripp Photography, I have been asked many times why someone should invest in a corporate headshot. Frankly, there are many reasons why you should replace that old social media avatar of you on vacation with a professional image. Firstly, unlike a “selfie,” a professional headshot will always be clear and if your photo is clear, it is more likely you will be remembered when seen on various websites, social networks or in person. Other reasons include:


A professional headshot helps keep your brand consistent – ideally, you should have a image that is consistent across all networks. This doesn’t have to be the same image, but it should be of the same consistency, clarity and professional level so people will know it’s you, even if the image is different.

The image should represent YOU. You represent your brand and your business – and as such, so does that image. A professional headshot shows others that “you mean business.”


A professional headshot builds trust. If I receive a new friend request on Facebook and the person is local, has several mutual friends and has a quality professional image, I typically do not hesitate to accept their friend request.


Keep in mind that a professional headshot should be re-taken every few years, because if your photo is more than five years old, believe me, your friends and clients will notice. We have all seen photos of Realtors who had their picture taken in the 70’s and STILL use that same image! No one is brave enough to tell them that it needs to be updated… well, here you go, “It needs to be updated!” Think about it: there is nothing worse than someone not recognizing you at a networking event even though you have been “tweeting” them for months because they were expecting someone much younger.


If you own and operate a business and your profile picture is low-quality, has someone cropped out of it (but you can still see their hair and a shoulder), was taken with your iPhone, has a harsh shadow on the wall behind you, is pixelated, has been over-edited, or is of a cartoon version of you, then you could be saying to potential clients and connections: “I am not a professional. I am brand new. I am not making enough profit to afford a professional photo. I am afraid to show my real face (I have confidence issues). I don’t care. I think my old one is good enough. I am lazy. I am a procrastinator. I just don’t know any better.”  

A professional image is simply another way you can invest in your business’ future. Taking the time to get a professional headshot done tells people you take your business seriously, you are confident, and that you are trustworthy.
If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email at    

-Christine Tripp

Christine Tripp became a professional photographer in 2001. As an instructor, Christine has helped hundreds of eager new photographers learn how to use their camera properly and has shown them how to make money with their photographic art. Whether she is behind her camera or teaching how to take great pictures, Christine’s proven skill, talent, patience and friendly demeanour is just a few of the many reasons she is a well-known and much-liked Ottawa photographer. Connect with Christine on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

Where is your online audience?

It is easy to say that your audience is online, but where online is your audience? Contrary to popular belief not everyone is on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn and even if they are, is your audience engaging or do they just have an account for the sake of having one?  Where your audience is often depends on what your business is and who you are trying to reach; for example a plumber may not have as much success on Pinterest as say a florist because their audiences are not the same.

Before you Start

Before creating that Facebook page or Twitter account ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • Who is your ideal client or customer? Are your audience teenagers, post-secondary students, parents or seniors? Are they small business owners, contractors or teaching professionals? Ask yourself who will express the most interest in your product or service. Who do you want to reach? This will help you determine where your audience is “hanging out” online.
  • What kind of content best suits your audience?
  • Do you want to post pictures, video or text? When thinking about what kind of content you would like to post, it is not only important to consider what kind, but also your time constraints. Writing a sentence or two about your business takes a lot less time than creating videos about it, even though video may be more beneficial to your business’ overall marketing plan.

Where to Start

A quick Google search will result in a plethora of websites all claiming to know what social networks various audiences are using, but the best way to know for sure is to test a network yourself.  Start with one or two social networks and give yourself time to build up your audience by engaging and posting quality content.


Every business has a competitor. Look them up online – what social networks are they on? Which ones are getting the most engagement? How are they drawing engagement – what is their main source of content, pictures, video or something else? Also look at their website, is there anything that differentiates them from competitors, including you?

How do you know what social networks to test?

Think about it. Is your business visually based, i.e. a florist, makeup artist, cake decorator or photographer? If so then you want to start with visually-based social networks such as Instagram and Pinterest where you can post images of your work.

If your business has to do with writing, editing, or bookkeeping you might want to look at conversational social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn where you can post tips, articles and advice. 

And if your business is more hands-on or instructional, such as a life coach, chef or nutritionist than you may not only want to look at places like Twitter and Facebook where you can start a conversation and give advice, but you might want to also create videos on YouTube, Instagram, Vine and also pin them to Pinterest.

There are no fool-proof guidelines as to what social network will work for your business. Sometimes what works for one business, will not work for another – even if they are the same kind of business.  Remember – your audience is not the same as my audience. While finding the right audience has always been challenging, it’s never been easier to build one, as long as you’re willing spend the time, be patient, keep track of the results, and be persistent.

How did you find your target audience? Leave us a comment and tell us how and where you’ve targeted your audience(s) and how well it’s worked for you.


Email marketers: CASL is coming - are you ready?

Businesses that are using email marketing (or voice, text, video, or audio messages) to promote their business to individuals are going to have brand new rules to follow when CASL comes into effect on July 1, 2014.

What is CASL?

CASL is the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation that was passed in December 2013. It’s considered to be the world’s toughest anti-spam legislation. The law applies to all commercial electronic messages (including emails, texts, audio, video and may even apply to private messages on social media) for any organization that:

  • is located in Canada,
  • uses an email provider based in Canada,
  • or have recipients that live in Canada (or an email address that ends in .ca).

Here are some key facts:

  • Personal relationships are exempt; also charities and political parties
  • Not-for-profits are not exempt (e.g., community associations, soccer clubs)
  • Fines up to 1M for individuals; 10M for organizations (per incident)
  • Burden of proof to establish consent is on the sender
  • CRTC will publicize the list of complaints (like PIPEDA)

The legislation was passed with a built-in three year transition period for implied consent (unless revoked). However, complaints will be taken right away. Therefore, it’s important for businesses to be ready on July 1, 2014.

COMPLIANCE - what you need to know

A huge component of the CASL is consent. Consent cannot be opt-out (pre-checked box); double opt-in is ideal (submit email address, confirm with subscription by clicking on a link). Consent also may not be tied to the terms of a sale.

Implied Consent

There are provisions for implied consent to be obtained in the legislation. However, there is a significant downside in that proving implied consent will be administratively onerous to track and manage. Implied consent exists when you have a business relationship with the subscriber - clients, associates, networking group contacts).

Because consent is implied in these relationships, documentation of the start and end of the relationship must be retained. When, where, and how you met should be recorded, particularly if the relationship develops through a networking group.

The biggest challenge with implied consent is that consent expires 2 years after the end of the relationship. This can be challenging to define depending on circumstances. It may be even more challenging to administer given that you may be unaware that the relationship has ended (e.g., the person doesn’t renew their membership to the networking group where you met).

Express Consent

The gold standard of consent is express consent. It is the embodiment of permission marketing, which has been the best practice in email marketing since Seth Godin coined the phrase. Express consent means that an individual has specified in some way (verbally, in writing, web subscribe form) that they want to be on your list.

The biggest advantage of express consent? It doesn’t expire, unless it’s revoked!

Like implied consent, documentation of express consent is required in case of a complaint. For verbal consent, send a follow-up email, or enter the email address into your website’s web form if you are set up for double opt-in. A note in your organization’s customer relationship database (CRM) or email marketing system is also sufficient when enough details are given (date, event, brief description).

Email marketing compliance

There are several other requirements to achieve compliance with CASL.

  • The sender identity must be clear. It needs to be easy to tell who has sent an email - whether it’s an individual or organization. There are several places where identification can be shown: sender email name, branding in the email header, and/or in the email footer with mailing address and other contact information.
  • A mailing address (can be P.O. Box) must be listed in all email marketing. The address will give your business more legitimacy and home-based businesses have the option of using a P.O. Box to preserve privacy.
  • Your emails must have an unsubscribe mechanism (one-click is ideal). Even some multi-step unsubscribe mechanisms may be considered in contravention of the law if they are deemed too onerous for users to complete the unsubscribe process. Revoking access to someone’s email address needs to be easy.
  • Unsubscribes must take effect within 10 days (immediate is best). Most email marketing systems work immediately. If yours does not, or if you have a manual process, it is imperative that the process be completed within 10 days. (Consider eliminating any manual processes related to email marketing subscriptions by using an email marketing system.)
  • All emails must include a permission reminder. A permission reminder is a short statement of why the recipient received the email: “You are receiving this email because….” Including such a statement can help prevent unnecessary complaints.

What you need to do to prepare

There are a lot of different factors involved with the CASL legislation; here are a few basics to get you started:

  • Get permission - always.
  • Make it easy to unsubscribe.
  • Clean your list(s) before July 1.
  • Use a proper email marketing tool (Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Aweber, Infusionsoft - not Outlook or other web/desktop email clients).
  • Run a win back campaign (ask for re-subscribes; give incentive). These campaigns can only be run prior to July 1, 2014.

Want to learn more?

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation is detailed and may be require fairly complex compilance measures for some organizations. The following resources can give you more information about your organization’s specific situation.

The Email Marketer’s Ultimate Checklist for Canada’s Anti-Spam Law Update [PDF], WhatCounts 
CASL Survival Guide, Elite Email
Canada’s New Anti-Spam Law: CASL, Cornell On Law
Canada’s New Anti-Spam Legislation: What you need to know to comply, Gowlings (Webinar recording; requires registration)  

If you have questions about Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation and your email list, join our email list for a special offer to help you get ready! We can help assess your organization’s readiness for the changes.

A version of this post first appeared on the Women’s Business Network of Ottawa blog.