Pay to Play: It’s a Whole New World

Social media algorithms in 2019 are all about connecting people and deprioritizing the organic reach business Pages used to enjoy.

Lauren McMenemy

It seems the age of free marketing using the organic reach of social platforms are over. In this post I will share three things you need to know about the change from organic reach to a world of pay to play.

How do we know we are moving to a pay to play world?

  1. Facebook and other social media sites are intentionally restricting how many of your followers will see your posts.
  2. Today’s brands are only reaching 6% of their fans with organic social media.
  3. In 2017 there was a 60% increase social media ad spend.

So what should a marketer do?

  1. Know who you want to reach, and figure out their interests and passions.
  2. Give it to them for free, (in the form of education, tips and tricks, techniques, lists, blog posts, and videos).
  3. Put paid promotion behind it, and use the tracking data to measure your ROI. Then adjust.

Is there anything else a marketer should consider?

  1. Facebook is promoting Groups and saying that they won’t be targeted by the same Algorithm. Check out Instapot and Peleton for examples of effective marketing using Facebook Groups.
  2. Make sure the ads you pay for are effective – the most highly rated ads are entertaining, followed by discounts and teach-me.
  3. Check out the Stories element of Facebook and Instagram.

Jackson, D. (2018, February 19). How to Maximize Your Social Media Budget in a Pay to Play World. Retrieved from

McMenemy, L. (October 18, 2019). How to Stand Out in the Pay-To-Play World of Social Media Algorithms in 2019. Retrieved from

Sellas, B. B. (2018, April 17). Social Media Advertising. Retrieved from

York, A. (2019, May 16). 7-Step Social Media Advertising Strategy to Better Performing Ads. Retrieved from

Why Social Media is ‘Pay to Play’ in 2018 (And How to Get the Best Bang for Your Buck). (2019, February 15). Retrieved from

Data, Data, Data Everywhere!

One of the great things about using social media platforms to market my small business is that the platforms can provide robust data. One of the worst things about using social media platforms is that there is so much data. What is a girl to do?

Well the first thing to remember is that I need to collect data that will demonstrate the effectiveness of the strategies I am using to reach my goals.

  1. Increase brand awareness and drive engagement with our traditional target audience of teachers.
  2. Increase brand awareness and drive engagement with a new target audiences – camps and event organizers.
  3. Build on our current customer relationships by getting them to re-order, and grow order size.

Setting SMART Goals generally requires having actual measurable targets, but I am having difficulty setting these numbers, because at first glance it seems like any growth will be good growth. The most important thing I need to remember is that the longer I have been collecting these metrics, the more useful they will be – its not a matter of absolute growth, but a question of the rate of growth.

The second thing to keep in mind is that how often I review my metrics needs to be balanced with how often I plan on posting. If I am only posting something new once a week, then a monthly review of my metrics makes sense.

Reach & Engagement

Reach and engagement means how many followers my account has, as well as how many likes, shares, comments I get.

Reach: Rather than focusing on the number of followers I have, I will look at the audience growth rate over time. The intent here is to identify what events resulted in the highest growth rate. What content was I publishing? What time of year was it? What hashtags did I use? What are the demographics of my new followers? I can then use this information to better tailor my content to my audience.


92% of consumers believe suggestions from friends and family more than advertising.

 88% of people trust online reviews written by other consumers as much as they trust recommendations from personal contacts.

Word of Mouth Marketing, 2019

Clearly engagements matter. Eventually I want to be able to measure the per post engagement rate – that is to say the total number of likes, comments, retweets/reposts divided by the total number of followers divided by the total number of tweets/posts, which will give me the per post average engagement. The goal is to see the per post engagement rate increase over time, as we build our social media presence.

When trying to decide how many retweets are good, bad, or in between, you don’t want to focus on the number of retweets in a time frame, but rather a percentage of retweets per impression. If I send out 30 tweets a week and get 50 retweets, well, that’s not outstanding but it is engagement. If I send out 10 tweets and get 50 retweets, that’s a whole new ballgame.

I’ve developed a spreadsheet where I will keep track of my data from each of the platforms I will use. This spreadsheet has headings for Content, Reach, Views, and Engagement and will keep track of the numbers each month. Over time I will be able to use these numbers to establish rates of growth. I will also keep track of as much demographic information as possible including things like location, age, and gender in order to better target our mailing list, which so far has been the bulk of our marketing efforts.

As our use of social media grows I expect I will need to develop a more detailed plan for analyzing the data I can generate through each of the platforms.

What is one metric you think that you can’t live without? Share your comments in the comments below.

Word of Mouth Marketing in 2019: Effective Strategies Examples. (2019, July 24). Retrieved from

Social Media Audit for a Small Business

Practically every article about digital marketing has some amazing statistic about how many people use social media and the incredible potential it has as a marketing strategy. According to a 2018 CMO survey, 42.3% of marketers believe that social media has a great impact on their businesses, while at the same time only 23.3% of marketers are able to prove the impact of social media marketing quantitatively. This discrepancy reprensents a big problem for small businesses like mine, where both time and money is tight and everything we do needs to be leveraged to ensure the maximum impact.

In her article about Social Media Audits, Christana Newberry highlights how conducting an audit for our small business should be a key part of developing, or updating a social media marketing plan. This will let us see what we have done, highlight things that are working or not, and hopefully identify new opportunities for marketing our business using social media.

I made my own audit plan using a post from Sprout Social and one from HootSuite to conduct an audit on my small business, and did in fact discover some interesting things.

Step 1: Create a spreadsheet to keep track of all our information.

My spreadsheet included the following information:

  • A list of each social media platform our business uses
  • The URL
  • The User Name or Handle (with the password, and admins)
  • Date Created
  • When was the last post (and a link to it)
  • The number of followers on each platform as of today

Already this simple step highlighted that we have a link to G+ on our main webpage, which is no longer supported! I also noticed that our username on Twitter isn’t the same as our business name, which is something to look into. We will also have to consider if creating a Pinterest account is useful as a marketing tool.

Step 2. Make sure each account is complete and on brand.

On a new page in my spreadsheet I put the “About/Bio” information for each account. Once I had them side by side I could see that the wording on each of these is different, and somewhat awkward. A goal will be to rewrite these, and ensure that they have the same messages across all three platforms. I will have to learn more about how to optimize the words I use for key word searches. Otherwise the branding is good, with a similar feel for each platform and links back to the Webpage on each. We will have to look into why the handle for Twitter is not the business name and if anything can be done about it.

Step 3. Analyse posts and engagement.

Five years ago we hired a marketing firm to help us create some marketing materials including our Webpage, Facebook page, Twitter account and YouTube channel. There was a flurry of activity in the six or so months we worked with them, and then pretty much nothing has happened on any of the accounts since then. As part of their work the marketing company did create eight high quality blog posts and seven videos which we have posted on our website, and on our own YouTube channel. Nevertheless, a closer look at each of the accounts does reveal some important data about each platform:

  • Webpage: We need to set up the proper tools to better monitor what is happening on our webpage. Right now we can hardly get any data at all.
  • Facebook: We have less than 100 followers, and even when we were posting we hardly had any engagement in terms of likes, comments or reposting.
  • Twitter: Again, we have less than 100 followers, and even when we were actively posting, we rarely had any engagement in terms of likes, comments, retweets or mentions.
  • YouTube: Of the seven videos we made, two have over 2K views, one has 1.5K views and the rest are lower than 100 views. A more careful analysis of the differences between the videos reveal that the top three videos appear in the top two choices for a Google Search “all” or “videos”. We will have to dig more deeply into why this is happening, but a casual glance shows that two of our videos are so poorly named that they couldn’t ever come up from a Google search.

It’s clear that we will need to think more closely about our content mix for each of these channels. Some preliminary recommendations:

  • Maximize our created content by linking to it on each of our accounts.
  • New created content needs to have a link back to our website.
  • Stratigize what kind of content we need to create moving forward.
  • Curate content on each of our platforms.
  • Emphasize engagement by setting goals for responding to viewer engagement.
  • Identify call to action.

Step 4. Establish social media goals.

Once I started working on this step I realized that we don’t have a clearly articulated mission statement or objectives for our business, and this is affecting our goal setting for our social media marketing plan. Once we have taken the time to articulate our business Vision, Mission and Goals we will be better positioned to identify goals for our marketing plan, with a focus on social media marketing. This Buffer article provides a nice list of possible goals for our social media marketing plans, as well as suggestions for how to ensure we get the right metrics to monitor our success.

Step 5. Use customer persona and social media demographics to identify the platforms we want to use.

We are marketing to US and Canadian teachers. The next step will be to bring together the demographics for each social media platform with our customer persona in order to decide which channels are right for our business. Each nature of each platform should have a clear link to our social media strategy (Newberry, 2019).

My audit didn’t include all the possible steps in performing a social media audit, in part because we don’t have a very well developed social media presence at this point. But we did have the chance to make some observations about what has happened so far, and to begin to think about what we want to happen next.

The CMO Survey: 2018. Retrieved

Jackson, D. (2019, August 19). How to Perform a Social Media Audit (Free Template Included). Retrieved from

Lua, A. (2019, January 15). 9 Social Media Goals You Can Set for Your Business (and How to Track Them) -. Retrieved from

The Rise of the Complainers

“While still primarily a way to connect socially, brands/companies are starting to get some traction. While good news for marketers, that interaction comes at a price as so many will use social media to complain and spread the bad word. Brands/companies will need to be diligent in addressing issues and complaints as they arise.”

Dawson, 2019

I recently had an experience where I tried to use social media in an attempt to escalate concerns I had expressed to my representative. My concerns were long term, and despite the fact that I had shared them with the senior manager, and also the business owner, I never received any responses from anyone at the company. In frustration I wrote a one line review on Google:

Slick show to get you to sign on. Then nothing but disappointment and despair.

The response on Google was so fast it is clear that it is generated by some sort of AI. This is what they said:

Hi Kirsten, we are sorry to hear you had a disappointing experience with our company. Our passion, our “why” is building life-long relationships with our clients and tenants, so we would encourage you to reach out to your Property Manager or their assistant, we’d love to see what we can do to improve your experience.

Seems good. However, what they did in the background left me flabbergasted. Within 24 hours I had received an email terminating our contract and giving us one month to find a replacement. I tried speaking with my representative, with the manager, and the owner (I reached out to them) to see if we couldn’t resolve our problems, and their only response was

I am not prepared to go into this with you.

And that was it. Obviously the experience left me with a terrible feeling about this business. But it also started me thinking about how businesses do and should respond to customer complaints on social media.

The section in the Research Report 2019 Social Media Insights about the increase in customer complaints on social media caught my attention.

Growth in complaints on social media outpace growth on social media use.

The numbers are striking:

  • In 2019 54% of social media users used the platform to complain, up from 37% in 2016. That is a huge rise in a short amount of time.
  • Restaurants, telecommunications, and e-commerce were the top three industries people complained about on social media. Of note for my own marketing strategy is the growth from 9% to 14% between 2016 and 2019 in e-commerce.
  • Generation X and baby boomers were the most likely to complain, and these are my target market for my product.
  • 24% of complainers expect a response and a resolution to their complaint, 15% hope for a response to a complaint, 13% are venting with no expectations and 48% want people to know they did a bad job. These expectations were roughly the same for Millenials, Generation X and Baby Boomers.

My experience using social media as a platform to complain about a business seems to indicate that there is still room for growth in terms of how businesses handle customer complaints on social media. Research conducted by Insights West would seem to support this as well:

Only 9% of companies reported always/almost always responding to complaints.

34% of companies said they never respond to complaints on social media.

Based on my own personal experience, and these statistics I think it is important that any business develop a plan for how to deal with customer complaints on the various platforms they use. Things to think about are including a disclaimer for the wait time for responses to complaints, making sure to monitor all channels to avoid missing complaints, as well as developing an over all strategy for how to speak with unhappy customers.

Have you ever used social media to complain about a business? Were you happy with their response? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Dawson, C. (2019). 2019 Social Media Insights. Insights West: Simplified Understanding. Retrieved

Social Media: Who’s Doing it Right?

For this assignment I decided to look at Ottawa Public Health’s use of Social Media. They are present on the following platforms:

Organizational Mission

Their webpage has the following mission statement:


Ottawa Public Health (OPH) provides public health programs and services to individuals and communities while advocating for public policies that make our city and its residents healthier. OPH is a teaching health unit and works with all post secondary educational institutions in the area.


The website also has a page dedicated to describing its social media protocol. In addition to outlining expected behaviours it also provides this information:


Are you looking for reliable local health information? Do you have questions or comments? Connect with the City of Ottawa’s official source for health information.

If you follow us, you can expect content related to:
Ottawa Public Health awareness campaigns, programs and health promotion;
Newsworthy events involving public health organizations and health initiatives; and
Timely notifications that affect residents and partner/stakeholder organizations.


Target Audience

Given this mandate they have a very large target audience: anyone living in the Ottawa area. Looking through their various platforms I can see that they are targeting the following groups in particular:

  • Families
  • Seniors
  • Sexually active
  • New comers to Canada
  • Minority groups

Organizational Goals

Any good Social Media Strategy begin with the organizational goals. In this case Ottawa Public Health’s organizational goals would be related to the following:

  • Providing a broad range of health services to people living Ottawa
  • Providing education and advocacy on a broad range of health related topics
  • Advocating for public policies that support healthy communities

Strategic Marketing Objectives

I think that the following would be appropriate Marketing Objectives:

  • Increase Reach
  • Increase Credibility
  • Maintain Visibility
  • Develop Stronger Relationships With Customers

Social Media Objectives

In the case of Ottawa Public Health Social Media Objectives might be to:

  • Build an online community of your target market
  • Increase conversions from visitors to participants
  • Demonstrate thought leadership
  • Become a media resource
  • Increase online visibility

What Are They Doing Well?

 Content Creation

This is an example of an original Tweet created by Ottawa Public Health to educate it’s audience about how to protect themselves from West Nile virus. It has a simple message, uses #hashtags effectively, an eye catching image and a link back to it’s main web page where readers can find out more.

OPH Tweet

You can see how Ottawa Public Health uses various platforms differently. In this example it put the same post about West Nile on both Twitter and Facebook. Someone asked a question on the Facebook post about Lyme Disease, and OPH followed up with more information and a link to their page on Lyme Disease.

OPH Facebook Post
OPH Facebook Post

Again, you can see here how OPH is changing how it uses different social media platforms to reflect the kind of content, and also the expected audience. Their Instagram account uses a combination of infographics with text and #hashtags. This platform also has many more images of OPH workers at events throughout the city, creating a more friendly and welcoming vibe for readers.

OPH Instagram

OPH Instagram post part 2

Content Curation

Their feeds on each of the platforms contain a good balance of original created content (with the purpose of providing information, and also sometimes pointing back to its own webpage, or promoting services it offers), curated posts that point to other relevant service providers, retweets and posts from other organizations, and finally event retweets of retweets.

Here is an example of another tweet, this time pointing to information from another organization.

OPH Tweet

Creating Tone and Using Humour

Another strength in how Ottawa Public Health uses social media is their distinct sense of humour. Here is another example from their Instagram account. Users on this platform tent to be younger and will find the simple, not preachy message of this joke funny.

OPH Instagram

After having looked at how Ottawa Public Health uses its various platforms and the kind of original and curated content it uses I think I have a much better sense of how I could manage content for my own business. I am looking forward to reading about other organizations that use social medial well on everyone’s blogs.

Social Media Content: Creating, Curating and Collaborating

socail media stats

As the infographic shows there are * a lot * of people using social media platforms. Clearly, social media platforms can be a powerful platform for marketers to reach their audience.  But what kind of content should marketers be posting on their platforms?  

Before we think about what we want to post, we should think about what users want to see. Nancy Smith suggests that people use social media to be:

  • Connected to family and friends
  • Informed
  • Entertained 

There are three different kinds of content that can inform and entertain:

Original content that you CREATE.

Try to think broadly here.  Of course you will want to post content that informs readers about the business, product or service that your are marketing.  But readers will soon get tired if all you ever post are promotional materials. So try to think broadly here. What kinds of other things might your customers be interested in?  If you run a bridal shop maybe they are also interested in make-up trends, how to buy your first house, and articles about maintaining healthy relationships.  

When you are creating new content it is important that you understand your audience and what tone they will want.  For the bridal shop your customers may want a tone that reflects the specialness of the event, romance, high pressure and even how expensive weddings can be.

Ottawa Public Health has found an excellent balance between sharing important information and humour:

ottawa health

Content you create should also always have a Call to Action.  This can be as simple as a link to your home website, an Order Now button.  See this article for examples of highly effective Call to Action buttons you could use in your own posts.  

Don’t forget that social media can be a powerful tool for providing customer service. For example, Xbox has a dedicated social media handle @xboxsupport dedicated entirely to answering customer questions.  


If you are using your social media platform to interact with your clients it is important to ensure that you monitor the platform regularly and respond promptly. Nothing is worse to a customer than making a complaint and then not hearing back. Downy has some good examples of how to interact with your customers:

This may all sound like a lot of work to create this much content, but fear not because you don’t have to do all the work. 

Content you CURATE for your audience. 

This means reposting, linking, tagging, and liking content already on the web. If you run a daycare you could share information from the local health authority, a blog with kid-friendly lunch menus, and safety recalls on children’s items.  

When you are curing content from other sites it is important that you have carefully vetted the site before you re-share.  Make sure the site shares your values and conforms to your branding policies. You should also think carefully about what to re-share on each platform you use. Instagram is not the right place to share links to YouTube videos! 

Here are two examples of content curated by Ottawa Public Health.  You will notice that the first one is a retweet of a post TBay Public Health made linking to Ottawa Public Health.


Finally COLLABORATE to create new content.

Are there similar businesses or organizations that you could work with to create new content?  Or, what about soliciting user generated content? Sharpie’s social media strategy is an excellent example of this.  A significant part of their twitter feed are retweets of posts customers have made using their product. For example, here is a compliment on artwork made using Sharpies:


George Couros is very good at engaging his audience with simple requests for participation like this one below – you can see he already has 391 comments!


If you do this, make sure you think very carefully about how requests of user participation might go wrong, and how you can limit your risk.

This video created by American Bridge 21st Century using generic video released by a group supporting Senator Susan Collins, hoping it would be used by other PACs to create more promotional materials.  Unfortunately for them, it didn’t quite work out that way!

The last thing to think about is how much of each kind of content you should be posting.  Hootsuite suggests the following:

  • ⅓ share posts to promote your business, convert readers, and generate profits
  • ⅓ share posts of ideas from influencers in your industry (or like-minded businesses)
  • ⅓ share posts of personal stories to build your brand

While the 411 model also seems to be popular:

4-1-1 is a simple rule of thumb that divides the information you share into three types:

  • 4 pieces of curated content, shared from external sources
  • 1 piece of original content, produced by you
  • 1 piece of promotional content, aimed at making sales

Whatever you decide it is important you have thought about it, and try to remain consistent so that followers know what to expect. 

There is so much to think about when planning social media content strategies its easy to get overwhelmed, but don’t forget to have fun! 

What do you think are the most important things to think about when planning social media content?  Share your thoughts in the comments below, or Tweet them to @KirstenTB #BMC312

Choosing Social Media Usernames and Handles

One of the most basic things to do when starting a Social Media Marketing Plan is to set up profiles on the Social Media platforms of your choice.  I’ve been using a few different platforms for a while now, so I found the technical aspects of this easy enough.  What has me stumped right now is trying to think of a user name for my business that will work across multiple platforms.

I found this article How to Choose a Twitter Handle by KerriLynn Engle at the Blogging Wizard was a good place to start.  Two key pieces of advice are to use handles that are consistent across platforms and to be closely related to your brand name so that its easy for your audience to recall.

Here are the rules for usernames on some of the platforms I am looking at:


domain is the address, or main URL, that people type in the browser to get to your Web site. Think of a domain like an address to your house. When someone looks for you, they can find your address. A domain name allows your site to be easily remembered by your readers, look more professional, and change Web hosts or hosted blog solutions at will.

A blog name can be anything, but try to think of something that

  • Matches your blog name.
  • Is based on your topic keywords.
  • Is humorous or memorable.

You can find technical advice on how and why to register a domain name here.


username, or short URL, lets you easily promote your business or organization in a variety of other channels, including TV, radio, and print. If you don’t have a username, the frustration of having to remember a long URL means you’d lose a lot of potential customers. Your username appears after when someone views your Page.

  • Usernames must be at least 5 characters long.
  • Your username can only use upper and lower case letters, numbers,and periods.
  • They can’t contain generic terms or extensions (.com, .net).
  • Here’s a link on the technical stuff for creating a Facebook Username


Airbnb                                                                                                                                 @Airbnb

Your Instagram username is how you are recognized on Instagram: All activity, from the content you post to how you engage with others, is associated with your username. The username is at the top of the profile.

  • Usernames can be up to 30 characters long.
  • Your username can be upper or lowercase letters, numbers, periods, and underscores.
  • You can’t include symbols or other punctuation marks as a part of your username.
  • Find advice on the technical stuff for creating an Instagram Username here.



  • Your username can be 3 to 30 characters.
  • The only characters you can use are upper and lowercase letters and numbers. NO spaces, symbols or punctuation.
  • You can find the technical stuff for creating a Pinterest Profile here.



Your Twitter name has power and influence on search engine optimization (SEO), which translates to how close to the top of a search results list you appear in a search engine such as Yahoo! or Google. If you’re a business, consider using a valuable keyword as your Twitter name.

  • Your handle (the part that follows @) can be up to 15 characters.
  • Your name (the part that comes under the handle) can be up to 20 characters.
  • The only characters you can use are uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and the underscore character ( _ ).
  • Here’s a link on the technical stuff for creating a Twitter Handle

And of course, the most difficult thing about all of this is that once you go to set up your profile, you may find that your name is already taken! You can use a service like to help you see if your choice is taken across multiple platforms.

What other things do businesses need to keep in mind when choosing their username(s) for the various platforms?







Introduction for Social Media Essentials 312

Kenai River July, 2019

Hi everyone, my name is Kirsten. I am from Calgary originally, where I was a primary school teacher.  In 2014 I moved with my husband and two boys to Copenhagen, Denmark.  We spent the next five years traveling around Europe every chance we could get.  I think we made the most of our time, and actually visited 35 countries!  This past January we all moved to Anchorage, Alaska.

I’ve held various volunteer positions, and a few work contracts since we moved.  My two areas of focus have been in educational program design and in event planning.  This year I am chairing a yet-to-be-determined event to raise funds for a non-profit organization that supports people with physical challenges participate in winter sporting activities here in Alaska. I also volunteer at a Women’s shelter, and am finishing up my Certificate in Adult Education here at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Continuing Education.

I am taking this course so that I have a better understanding of the various social medial platforms, and can take the Social Media Strategies class in the fall.  I am also a partner in a small business selling kite kits to educators and we would like to grow our market.  We are hoping that a well planned social media marketing campaign can help us reach our goals.

I created this blog a few years ago for a course, and then never used it.  Maybe I’ll be inspired to post more often now!  My twitter handle is @KirstenTP – I was very active when I was teaching, but haven’t used it much either since then.

Finally, here is a video from our first Fourth of July celebration – a car launch!  We literally sat in a valley and watched as they launched about a dozen old cars over the cliff.  Very Alaskan!

I’m looking forward to “meeting” all of you.