Building relationships online - an interview with Rebecca Stanisic

I've been trying to do a lot more video this year and this week I tried a new type - the interview video!  

Rebecca Stanisic, from A Little Bit of Momsense and agreed to let me ask her about how she has successfully built relationships online.

Rebecca started online with a personal blog and has since not only successfully monetized her blog, she also acts as a brand ambassador for several companies and helps other companies manage their social media.

As someone I have personally witnessed have so much success building relationships online, she was the perfect person to sit down and chat with.

If you enjoyed this video, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel and to like the video, as well as leave a comment here or on the video! Let us know what you have found works well for building relationships online.

Benefits of customers telling your story

Who doesn't want this?

Who doesn't want this?

Last week, Lara wrote about how you can invite your customers to tell their story. Taking this step may be slightly anxiety-inducing if you’re worried about what people will say. However, when your business is delivering high-quality and meeting the needs of clients and customers, the risk is minimal.

Customers who support your business and have a relationship with you or your organization will be happy to spend some time making recommendations. And, though some pretty sensationally bad customer service situations get a lot of attention, those instances truly are the exception to the rule. Even most complaints don’t make it onto the Internet.

There are two really good reasons to ask your clients and customers to talk about you:

  1. If they feel strongly enough to say something - positive or negative - they are more likely to talk about you with or without a prompt.
  2. Ask and you shall receive. It’s not always top of mind to relay a positive experience with a business. By asking, you’ve brought it to mind in the context of the positive.


I recently liked my chiropractor’s Facebook Page (Dr. Surbjit Herr). Within a day or two, I received an email from his assistant thanking me for liking the page and asking me to post a review. (Very smart tactic…hint, hint.) So I did! It was actually a very easy step, because I’ve been talking about Dr. Herr to anyone who will listen for nearly a year. However, I hadn’t thought to post anything online, so I’m really glad his assistant asked.

How many of your customers might have a similar story?

You will get access to your customers’ and clients’ network of friends, family, and associates.

We all know and influence different people. When I post about the experience I’ve had with Dr. Herr, my network will see it and (since I’ve been actively encouraging a few friends to go to him anyway) someone may finally take the plunge because of comments I’ve made in such a public place.

You’ll find out (sometimes surprising) things that are important to your clients and customers.

Every business puts a certain effort into delivering service in the way that they feel will be well-received by patrons. However, some of the little touches can mean a whole lot. For example, Dr. Herr ends each of my son’s adjustments by telling him to close his eyes. While Brandon’s eyes are closed, Dr. Herr gets a bottle of bubbles and gets ready. Brandon covers his eyes with a huge smile on his face and waits for Dr. Herr to tell him to open his eyes. He gets such a kick out of popping the bubbles and he plays along with the “surprise” even though he knows it’s coming. The trust and affection my son openly shows Dr. Herr makes me feel good about taking him for treatment.

When your clients and customers are willing to talk about you, it increases your credibility to those who don’t yet know you.

It’s easy to go to a grocery store and hand over money for things you need. The trust required is small. However, maybe your business (like mine) requires trust in a concept that invites skepticism. Or, perhaps your business (like Dr. Herr’s) requires a level of personal interaction and information that may be uncomfortable for some. Seeing the testimonials of others who have had a positive experience can help overcome doubt and uncertainty.


I challenge you to talk about one great experience with a business. Tell us in the comments who they are (share links if you can!) and why the experience you had was so positive - or post an online review for that business and then share the link with us. Then go and ask at least 5 of your own customers or clients to do the same for you!

Invite your customers to tell your story

There is little more powerful than someone else telling people what you do, or that you’re good at it. That’s why testimonials are so important. But there are many other ways that you can get your customers to help tell your story, both to their friends, and to yours. Today I’ll run through three ways that you can get your audience talking about you, creating powerful content, and taking some of the pressure of creating content off of you!

1) Create opportunity and reason to check in

Whether people are using Foursquare, Facebook, or Instagram, you want them to check in to your location and let their friends know they’re there, and you want to make it as easy as possible for them.

The first thing you need to do is make sure that you’re set up on all of the different apps so that when they try to check in, you appear. If I’m out and want to share my location with a picture, and the location pops up for me to tag, I do it. If the location doesn’t show up, I don’t. This is easy to do on Facebook (by putting in your address and making sure your page is listed as a place), and adding your location to Foursquare makes it available both there and on Instagram as well. On top of making it easy for people to check in, be sure to encourage them to do so - either by asking them to check in, or…

2) Have contests

Contests are a great way to get people to share content for you. Put up signs in your location or promote them online to get people to share photos, stories or quotes that have to do with your business. Create a hashtag that then ties all the entries together and that leads people back to your site or business.

Here are examples of the types of contests you can run:

Ask people to Tweet or Facebook their favourite thing that you sell. Let them know to tag you or use a specific hashtag, like this company did:

The contest will encourage people to post photos like this:

or this one:

Ask a social media question for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card with a hashtag that corresponds to your business (i.e., #AskWellmanWilson)

3) Ask for their story

People like sharing their story and are often willing to do it as long as you ask. There are many ways to do this:

  • Ask them to write a sentence or two describing what they like about your company or your product.
  • Ask for a guest post that details their experience with you or your product.
  • Send them a questionnaire they can fill out and then post their answers as an interview.

Being the voice of your business and telling the story of your brand is made easier when you invite your clients and customers to join in. Our next blog post will give you some of the benefits that encouraging your customers to tell your story can bring.

What are some other creative ways you’ve seen businesses invite their customers and clients to tell their story?

Is your content inclusive?

The language you use to communicate with your audience says a lot about your business. If you’re using language your audience is unfamiliar with then you are less likely to have your message heard, or if it is heard it may be misunderstood. Your online content is sometimes your audience’s first impression of who you are as a business and the last thing you want to do is leave them feeling excluded or confused.

So, how do you make sure that you are creating inclusive content?

Use plain language

When you use plain language more people understand what you’re saying. This means your message will not only be heard more often, but that it is more easily sharable between your current and potential audience.  Think about some of the greatest brand slogans, such as Nike’s “Just Do It” – it’s easy to remember, easy to type and easily associated with the brand. 

Use conversational language

Whether you’re creating content for your website, blog or social networks, keep the language conversational. This means avoiding convoluted terminology and using words that you would hear in every day conversation. If it isn’t a word you would feel comfortable using all the time, don’t use it, and the same goes for a word that you don’t know the definition of – if you have to look up the definition, don’t use it in your content.

The best thing about conversational language is that it is more likely to generate a conversation between you and your audience, which could result in great things for you and your business!

Write more like you would speak than in what would be considered a “professional” way. A great way to practice doing this is to draft your post orally and record it and then listen to it and transcribe it. This will give you a great starting point for conversational sounding content.

Don’t think of it as “dumbing down”

The following video from the Government of Digital Service in the UK explains it best:

The term “dumbing down” is offensive and just because your audience doesn’t necessarily want to read complex content doesn’t make them dumb (as the term implies). It simply means that your wording is confusing or it takes more effort to read when people want to be able to skim.

Using complicated language excludes people from learning about what it is you have to offer, which could result in loss of sales or revenue.

Think of your content as an extension of yourself.  If you were in a room surrounded by your ideal audience would you want them to feel welcome or excluded? Use language everyone can understand and relate to and you will better the chances of one-time visitors becoming a part of your loyal audience.

Leave us a comment and let us know what you think.  Do you prefer content written simply and in a conversational tone or does it feel too simplified for you?

Facebook account cloning: what it is and how to prevent it

Have you ever received a Facebook friend request from someone you are already friends with? If so, don’t accept it! Chances are your friend’s account was cloned and the cloned account wants to get a hold of your information. Accepting a friend request from a cloned account leaves you vulnerable to spam and often reveals personal details that could be used in identity theft. So, how do you avoid having your Facebook account cloned?

Check your privacy settings

Is your profile picture able to be viewed by your friends or by everyone? You can easily tell this by looking on the top right hand side of your opened profile picture – if you see a tiny icon of the world, this means your profile picture can be viewed in a larger format by the general public and in turn can be downloaded easily (and therefore re-used by someone else) – making it easier for someone to clone your account. Make sure your current and past profile pictures as well as all photos and photo albums you have uploaded and created are always set to “friends” and are never made available to the public.

Hide your friends list

It’s fun to scroll through the friends lists of other people, especially when looking to connect with past colleagues and school mates, but by leaving the list open to the public, or even just your friends you are leaving them at risk. If someone clones your account, the first thing they are going to do is try and befriend people on your friends list in an attempt to get ahold of their information as well.

Don’t accept friend requests from strangers

Consider this not talking to strangers online. If you do not who someone is, don’t accept their friend request or create a rule  - only accept a friend request if you have two or more mutual friends in common (Facebook typically shares this information with you at the time of the request).

Don’t accept requests from people you are already friends with

If you are already friends with someone, don’t accept a second friend request from them and be sure to report the cloned account to the original account owner as well as to Facebook. If you are unsure if you are friends with that person, double check your friends list. If you’re still unsure send a message to the original account owner asking them if this is them or not, but when in doubt don’t accept the friend request.

Don’t overshare

If you are heading out on vacation don’t post it as a status on Facebook and then have that status open to the public. At the very least make it only viewable to friends you wholeheartedly trust. You can do this by creating lists and only selecting those lists to share with. 

As with all social media it’s important to remember that whatever you post online is “out there” and even though you may think it is protected it doesn’t take much for complete strangers to access that information. The best thing to do is to take all necessary precautions when posting online and be mindful of what you are sharing and who you are sharing it with.

Five reasons you should start sending a newsletter

I’m a huge fan of newsletters (no surprise to you if you follow my content :) ). Newsletters are a great way to stay in touch with people in a reliable and regular way. Today I’m going to break down five reasons I think you should be sending a regular newsletter to your audience. 

1)   Who doesn’t check their email?

Almost everyone checks their email daily, if not 500 times a day (I admit nothing!). People check their email far more reliably and more often than they do any other social network so getting into their inbox means they are much more likely to see the information you want to share with them.

2)   They asked for it

People have a tendency to think of email as bothersome, but remember that if you have someone’s email address it’s because they gave it to you (if they didn’t, you need to make sure you make a few changes.) 

If you convinced someone that they want to receive email from you, they probably want to hear what you have to say and it’s not remotely a bother to them.

3)   You know they saw it

Advertising on social networks, or any other kind of advertising, will never guarantee that your audience will see your message. Facebook algorithms, and whether or not they’ve logged in to potentially see the message at all is a big unknown.

When you are sending someone an email they are almost guaranteed to have seen that you sent them something. That doesn’t mean they’ll open it, or read it (this is why subject lines are SO important), but it does mean that they saw something from you. This is much more reliable than any other way of getting in touch with your audience.

4)   You can measure the success

Newsletter tools have amazing ways to measure the success of what you’re sending. You can see who opened the emails and what they clicked on, you can run tests to see if you have more opens based on the time of day that you send or based who you’ve sent the email from (we’ve played around a lot with sending emails from “Wellman Wilson Consulting” vs. “Lara and Karen”). Metrics let you know if what you’re doing is working, something you always need to pay attention to in order to make sure that the efforts you’re putting into online marketing is worth it.

5)   It works

I can’t say this as confidently for any other online marketing tool. When I talk to people about the success of their newsletter, especially if it’s sent with regularity, everyone tells me it impacts not only relationship building, but also sales. An email newsletter gets results and that has to be the biggest reason of all to have one. 

Do you want to start an email newsletter but you’re not sure where to start? Join us for a free webinar on Tuesday, September 16th at noon EST. In this one-hour webinar we’re going to be covering the basics of why you need a newsletter, what you need to consider when starting a newsletter, what you should be saying, and answering all your newsletter questions. 

Sign Up Today!


Throwback Thursday - why it's fun for businesses too

Every Thursday I love going through my social network feeds and seeing old photos of my friends for Throwback Thursday/#TBT (Throwback Thursday is when people share old photos, primarily on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). I know I’m not alone because the likes and comments on these posts are all super high. So, what is it about Throwback Thursday that people like so much?

Who are you?

People want to know about you.  They want to get to know you.  They want to feel like they’re talking to a human being who they can connect with. 

That photo of you and your sister at the beach in 1986, or the photo of you at your high school graduation, it gives people a glimpse of you that touches an emotional point in them. Those old photos help make you seem more human to them, which makes them feel more connected to you.

It’s the story

All of this comes back to the idea that people love a story and Throwback Thursday is giving people another glimpse at your story. Who you are, how you became the person you are and how that relates to the people you deal with in your audience is always key.

Should YOU be sharing old photos?

If there are photos of you that you feel comfortable sharing and that you can relate back to your business, either because it has a direct link or because it lets you share a story that your audience will relate to, it’s a great idea to share the photo. I have shared a lot of Throwback Thursday photos on my personal Facebook timeline, but I am now inspired to share some here with you.

Take a look at this photo from 2010 of a gang of friends in a “Losing it in Ottawa” group (the first project Karen and I started together) taking part in Run for the Cure. We’ve done a lot of fun things together!



Or this photo, of my husband and I before we were married. It was taken for an article in Glue Magazine about couples who met online, proving I’ve been making online connections for a long time!


Or this one of me taking part in a workshop to learn how to make videos on my phone, which reminds me, I need to start doing that again!



These little glimpses into my world will hopefully make you feel like you know me a little bit better, and that’s what I’m always looking to have happen in my online communications. I want to build relationships with people so that when the time comes, you think of me if you’re ready to take the next step and learn more about online marketing. Spend some time and think of how you can do the same with YOUR audience.

Then leave me a comment and let me know if you share Throwback Thursday photos personally or for your business, and if you do, share a link - I’d love to come and see them!

Is the #ALSIceBucketChallenge a case of slacktivism?

If you’re online you have surely seen people pouring ice water on their heads over the last couple of weeks. It’s one of the most viral trends I have ever witnessed and that alone makes it worth talking about.

What is the #ALSicebucketchallenge

Simply put, the ice bucket challenge is a challenge where people pour a bucket of ice water over their head and then challenge three friends to do the same within 24 hours.  If they don’t pour the ice water over their heads they need to donate $100 to XYZ charity. Friends of Pete Frates turned the ice bucket challenge into an ALS cause. Check out this video if you want to find out more about how it happened.  

Is this slacktivism?

The challenge states that you don’t have to donate if you pour ice water over your head. That means that you’re getting OUT of donating by doing this. Because of this, and the fact that there are definitely many people who are taking part in the challenge and not donating, many have started complaining about this challenge, suggesting that this challenge was a case of slacktivism - making it seem like you’re doing something for a charity without doing anything at all.

However, it quickly became clear to me that this was more than just slacktivism because slacktivism doesn’t raise money.  Since July 2014 millions of dollars have been raised for ALS. The numbers are so big and growing so fast that I can’t even keep up with them.

When I looked on Friday night ALS Canada was about to hit three million dollars in donations. On Tuesday afternoon, they were over eight million dollars. Pouring ice water on your head HAS helped - enormously.

Isn’t it a waste of water?

I admit, this argument bothers me. Especially here in Canada, we have no lack of fresh water. Do other people lack it? Yes, of course. But we can’t send the bucket of ice water to the people who need it, so, in my opinion, using it to help a different cause is a great thing to do. In places where they have less water (like California) people are being discouraged to take the challenge.

My favourite response with regards to water is from Matt Damon who I think does a great job of making serious issues fun with his organization He did the ice bucket challenge by using water from the toilets in his house. His toilet water is cleaner than a lot of drinking water is in other countries, making the clean water message come through without sounding bitter, all while doing the ALS challenge.

What made this so successful?

This is one of the most successful fundraising campaigns ever, and the reason for that is because it wasn’t started by a charity, it was started by people. People decided to do this and they challenged their friends. They combined this with something that is fun to watch (videos of people dousing themselves in ice water are funny) and easy to do (we all have access to water and ice). It’s a story, it’s personal, and it doesn’t feel like it’s driven by someone just asking for money.

I doubt this will be reproducible for ALS, but for now, they are getting more money in donations than they ever have before and if they can keep even a small percentage of their new donors engaged to give again in the future, this is a HUGE win for them.

What I would love to see is the world getting behind causes like this on a regular basis. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if influencers with as much of an audience as Mark Zuckerberg and Will Smith got behind a charity on a yearly basis? I have no idea what the next funny challenge will be or if we’ll ever see something like this again, but it has been fascinating to witness and speaks volumes about the amazing potential that the internet and social media has for doing good.

My turn!

I could hardly write a post about this without doing it myself so I took the challenge on with two of my kids. We also made a donation. Here’s the video!

Your turn! Leave a comment and let me know if you’ve done the ice bucket challenge, if you’ve donated to ALS and if you think this is a worthwhile cause.

The Value of Recommendations and Endorsements on LinkedIn

There are a lot of great features on LinkedIn.  It’s a great way to connect and network, to find great information and it’s a great way to get social proof on whether someone is worth working with.

Because of that last point I think the recommendations and endorsements are really key.


Recommendations are the equivalent of testimonials on LinkedIn.  They are given by people who have taken the time to write out why they have liked working with you, working for you, or having hired you.

3 tips for getting and using recommendations

1)   Ask for them.  LinkedIn makes this easy, but make sure to tell people what you’re looking for, and only ask people who could easily give you a testimonial (don’t ask people who have never worked with you!)

2)   Ask people who have given you recommendations if you can use them in other marketing materials and on your web site.

3)   Give recommendations to others.  This is not only a nice thing to do, it will often encourage the recipient to do the same for you.  

Here are a few of my recommendations.  They’re really nice to have :)


Endorsements are a way to tell people what you do and prove that people know what you do.  You set up a list of skills and people will click if they agree that you do that.

It is important not to think that these are testimonials.  Most of the people who endorse you haven’t even worked with you.  Instead it is a way to know if what you’re putting out into the world is what you want.  The important thing is to take it all with a grain of salt.  People will likely endorse you for things they’ve never seen you do, or for things you don’t even do.  Take it as an overall measure of what you’re projecting to the world.  

For example, if you are a mortgage broker and you are being endorsed for planning events then you need to figure out how to put more information about your ability to help with mortgages.  If you have skills that you wish weren’t there at all (maybe someone added them or you’ve changed your focus) you can edit them.



1) Make a list of 3 people you could write a recommendation for.  What are the key points that you would share in a testimonial about them.  Go write them now!

2) Go to LinkedIn and endorse 5 people.

Leave us a comment here or on Facebook to let us know you did it!

Social Capital Conference: Four years of fabulous

Saying goodbye with a smile.As some of you may know, Lara and I announced a couple weeks ago that this year would be our last organizing the Social Capital Conference. As two of the founders - and since Lara had the idea in the first place - I’m sure you can imagine that it was a difficult decision. It’s something we’ve been talking about for two years, in fact. We could see that long ago that we’d have to do something that far back. 

The conference was born out of a need for an opportunity to learn more about social media without having to travel far and wide to do it. We wanted to focus on learning and partnered with uOttawa and then Algonquin to support that focus. It worked. Year after year, we’ve had such amazing feedback on the sessions and the vibe of the conference. We’ve even had people fly in from both ends of the country to attend! It has been wonderful to be in the position of helping people learn more, inspiring people to progress to new levels, and bring them together to make connections. (If you’re not meeting people in person that you connect with online, you’re really missing out - I promise.)

This year, we’ve been seeing a lot of growth in our business and it was as clear as it could be that it was time to step away from Social Capital. We made the decision and we have no regrets or second thoughts. Our final conference was a success that we’re very proud of - we’re leaving this chapter of our work on a definite high note. 

I must admit that I was nervous going into this year’s conference. The growth we’ve experienced in our business made it harder to give the conference the attention it deserves and needs. It has been a fabulous problem to have, but it was still a problem. It was also the catalyst for finally letting go. We managed to pull off the day successfully and I hope that our divided focus wasn’t too painfully obvious. 

The speakers I got to see (Ariadni Athanassiadis, Mel Coulson, and Jenna Jacobson) were all really good. I learned more about Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation and other intellectual property concerns in social media from Ariadni - and had a chance to whine a wee bit about how frustrating it all is. Mel was so funny and engaging and gave amazing examples of great content and advice for creating great content. (Also, because she’s a professional writer, I was just wee bit nervous that she sat in on my writer’s block session! But I learned after it was over that she’s a very good live tweeter.) Jenna Jacobson, our closing kenote (sadly, logistics caused me to miss Trefor Munn-Venn’s in the morning…sigh) gave such a fun and informative overview of what “social capital” really is. I was excited about her presentation and she did a great job. I also think I want to get a PhD in information just like her. Because the things she’s studying sound incredibly fascinating (and also very cool)!

The networking is always my favourite part of the conference. Unfortunately, I get pulled in roughly a million different directions, so I miss out on a lot of the time for networking throughout the day. Maybe next year - if someone else takes it over - I’ll get to spend more time talking with all the amazing people who come.

To everyone who has supported us these last four years in any way - thank you, thank you, thank you. It’s been such an amazing experience for me and I’ve learned so much from the various speakers we’ve had as well as all the attendees who’ve come each year to learn with us.

Using social media for good

We have all read or experienced the negative side of social media: the bullying, the trolls and the negative publicity, but in recent months we have noticed the good side of social media. In particular, organizations such as Kindness Canada and Thank You Ninjas have shown us a more compassionate side. It’s easy for people to hide behind a computer screen and criticize companies or individuals, but what about the good things those same companies or individuals have done?

Compliment don’t complain

When we are angry at a department store or airline, it is easy to take to our social networks with our hundreds or thousands of followers and complain about them, but how often do you do that when a company goes out of their way to do something great? For every complaint that you tweet, why not send out two compliments? 

Become a part of the social media good

Submit a story to Kindness Canada. They promote kindness by asking their audience to submit something kind they did or that they know someone else did. By sharing stories of kindness they hope to inspire others to be kind. How nice. 

You could also send an anonymous “thank you” postcard to someone using Thank You Ninjas. It can be for something as small as holding a door open or as large as a kind paramedic who helped you out during a car accident. Thank You Ninjas believe that the more thank yous people send the better the world will be. They even list ideas on their website as to how people can secretly thank someone:

Think before you tweet

Before hitting “tweet” or hitting enter on that Facebook status, ask yourself if what you are sending out to the world is nice. Ask yourself if there is anyone that might be hurt by the message. If so, you might want to think twice about hitting that button.

Instead of using social media to broadcast a negative experience, use it to promote something good as well. Share the good things in life and respond to others who do the same. We all know there are bad things going on in the world and on social media, but there is a lot of good too.

If you are attending this year’s Social Capital Conference, you can start participating in social media for good by helping the Thank You Ninjas secretly thank people throughout the day. For more information on that check out the SoCap blog post about hem:

Do you know of any other social media accounts or websites that are designed to do good in the world? Leave a comment below and let us know.

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.

Should you be on Instagram?

Should Wellman Wilson Consulting be on Instagram? I ask myself this question a lot.  I’m still not sure what the answer is but today I’m talking about Instagram and why every business should at least consider it as a tool.

Where is your audience spending their time? 

So far, my very informal polling of the under 25 crowd has led me to believe that they will choose Instagram over Facebook every time.  They may not be giving up Facebook, but they LIKE being on Instagram more.   If your audience is younger and that’s where they’re spending their time, that means you should be considering spending more time on Instagram as well.

The over 25 crowd is there too though, especially foodies.  Food in particular does really well on Instagram. 

Is your business visual?

In the world of online content, pretty pictures almost always win the day for fast and easy engagement.  If you have the opportunity to share visuals of what you do, you should be considering Instagram as a tool for your business.  Or can you share fun images that will make people smile while still thinking of your brand?

Words make beautiful images too

If you don’t sell food, or clothing, or a product, does Instagram make sense for you?  There are lots of ways to share messages without having a product to show.

Let people get to you know

As with all the social networks, the human side of your business is really important to share too and Instagram is a really natural way to do that.  Letting people know what you’re doing day to day helps them relate to you and feel like they know you better.  

You can share what you’re doing, who you’re meeting with, events you’re going to or things you’re excited about (like media coverage!)

So.  Should Wellman Wilson be on Instagram?

I’ve decided to commit to posting a tip a day of some kind (I think I’ll do a mix of images and video) on Instagram over the next 30 days.  I’m going to conduct the experiment as myself (giving you the opportunity to get to know me a bit better at the same time if you’re interested) and would love some feedback from you guys.  Is that somewhere you’d like to see more social media tips?  Are you already spending time on Instagram?  

My theory is that Instagram isn’t the #1 spot we should be (which is why we focus so much on our blog, the newsletter and Facebook) but that it’s definitely a space that could also work for us.  Talking to your audience and experiments are the best way to really figure out if a new tool is worth your time.  Please leave a comment and let me know what you think and if you use Instagram!

Should you be on Twitter?

Recently people have noticed that I’m not talking about Twitter very much. They’re right – I’m not. Is it because I don’t think Twitter is a good tool any more? No. It’s because for most of the people I’m talking to, I just don’t think it’s the right tool for them. At least not in the beginning.

I love Twitter. Don’t get me wrong, I think it has huge potential and can make a lot of difference in any business, but I also think that it is one of the tools that requires the most time and effort to do well. I know how busy business owners are, and when they are just starting to use social media they aren’t going to be ready for the time commitment required to take advantage of the potential on Twitter. 

I’ll elaborate a bit more on why:

Twitter is about relationships

Most people think that Twitter is about telling the world what you had for lunch (by the way – I totally think you SHOULD do that). But it’s also so much more than that. Twitter is an opportunity to have conversations. It’s about interacting with other people. It’s about sharing ideas and thoughts, and learning from experts.

While some people use Twitter as a newsfeed, so many more only pay attention to the people they know and have built relationships with. If you aren’t talking to people, you’re never going to be one of the people others are really paying attention to.

Short story:  Last week I was at the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association National Conference in Toronto and I met a ton of great people. How can you build a relationship a step beyond meeting in person? How about a selfie, that you tweet and tag? It’s the small things that help build relationships.

Twitter is about getting to know people 

Did you know that Karen and I met on Twitter? There are so many opportunities to find the kind of people you’re looking for. Maybe those are customers, maybe they are people to partner with, maybe they are mentors. The point is that you can find and have conversations with and really get to know people you never would have had access to before.

Twitter is an amazing networking tool. I’ve made friends, I’ve gotten media coverage, and I’ve gotten clients by getting to know people and having regular conversations there. This takes a lot of time. It can be well worth it, but it’s going to take a commitment far beyond sending out a few tweets a day.

It takes a lot of effort to filter through the noise

Most people follow a lot of other people on Twitter. I follow about 3500 people and if I didn’t use lists I would never see the content that I want to see. 

Why don’t I just unfollow everyone but the people I’m interested in? Because I have different interests on different days. By following lots of people and by creating special lists for different interests, cities, topics, etc., I can spend my time on Twitter talking to and about the things I’m focusing on at that moment.

It takes a lot of time to set up those lists and filters, but once it’s done your time on Twitter is much better spent. 

So, should you be on Twitter?

If you’re new to social media and you feel intimidated by the idea of spending time on Twitter every day, it may not be the right starting place for you (I still think you can get off to a great start in ten minutes a day, but you’ll do better with a bigger commitment).

If you aren’t the kind of person who likes to chit chat, it might not be the place for you. 

If you’re looking for opportunities to network, find new communities and really jump in to conversations, you absolutely should and there are tons of great opportunities for you. 

Not every social media channel makes sense as a starting place for every person.  Figure out where your audience is and what you feel comfortable with. That may or may not be Twitter - and that’s okay!

Crazy for Twitter chats

Lately we’ve been taking part in a lot of Twitter chats. In fact, they’re currently my favourite way to spend time on Twitter. So, today I thought I would tell you a bit about what Twitter chats are and why I think they’re so great. 

What is a Twitter chat?

A Twitter chat is a scheduled time (usually one hour) when people get together on Twitter to discuss a topic. They do this by using one specific hashtag. By using a hashtag, people can read only the tweets that have that one hashtag for the duration of the hour, and get to talk about all kinds of interesting topics with a group of people also interested in that topic.

How do you filter out tweets with a specific hashtag?

There are various ways to do this:   

  • The simplest way is to click on the hashtag in one tweet. It will pull up all the other tweets with that hashtag. You can then keep refreshing this list.

  • Create a stream for your hashtag. This is similar to the first way of doing this, but you can create a permanent stream in a tool like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to follow a hashtag. 

  • Tweetchat is an online tool built for you to log in to and follow a specific hashtag. It also automatically populates all your tweets with the hashtag so you don’t have to keep re-typing it.

  • Nurph is very similar to Tweetchat, but it has a few add ons I really like, including retweeting and a playback feature.   

What do you talk about?

During a Twitter chat there is a host (or several hosts) who tweet out a series of questions. Anyone can then answer these questions. People often start breaking off into discussions with each other over the answers to those questions.

A Twitter chat is a great opportunity to learn more about a topic and find other people who are interested in that subject.

What’s in it for me?

  • Twitter chats are a great place to find people who are like-minded. By finding a chat that is centered in your industry you have the opportunity to connect with all kinds of new people that you could end up working with.
  • Twitter chats are a great place to learn. I take part in a lot of business related chats and I get to learn from the people hosting the chats as well as all of the other people taking part. They often have great insights into topics I don’t know a lot about or they broaden my knowledge on that topic.
  • Twitter chats are a great place to prove your expertise. By taking part in a chat about a topic that is of interest to your audience, you can show that you know what you’re talking about and that you’re worth following and getting to know better.

Twitter chats are too fast - how do I keep up?

Twitter chats ARE fast - no doubt about it. Here are a couple of tips to help you ease your way in:

1) If Twitter chats feel overwhelming, watch a couple of chats before trying to take part. Most chats have a rhythm and once you’ve witnessed a couple you should start to feel comfortable jumping in. You can even check out a past chat on Nurph and watch it at the speed that feels most comfortable to you.

2) Don’t worry if you can’t read all the tweets. Do your best and then skip to the next question. 

Give one a try!

There are so many reasons that Twitter chats are great. Google search for twitter chats in your industry or ask your friends if they take part in any chats and check one out. They are a lot of fun and they have led to not only a lot of learning and making new friends, but to new clients and sales for us. We’re having a Twitter chat for Social Capital this coming Thursday at 1:30pm too - we’d love to have you join us with hashtag #socapott.