Archive for ‘Teaching’

February 19, 2015

5 ways to get thousands of Twitter followers


George W. Bush didn’t say this, I did. This is a visual representation of how I felt after responding to one of my students when asked about the number of Twitter followers I had.

This past week in my Social Media Management class at Algonquin College, one of my PR students, @MunnaAden, asked a question I had not really thought about before. She queried, “How did you get so many followers?”. A great question, but I didn’t have an answer readily at hand, so I came up with the classic “well, uh, I’ve been tweeting for a long time (since 2008), and I followed everybody back for a while (which is a bad idea).” After reflecting on that class session, I felt that I really should have had a better answer. Although there’s no sure-fire way to guarantee twitter followers, here are a few things that I have done over the years that I think played a role in the amount of Twitter followers I have.

1. Pick a niche and stick to it

The content I share focuses on only a few topics: Social media, communications, marketing, and education. Of course, these topics are complemented with some personal posts, or comments on the sports teams I root for, but for the vast majority of the time, you will be getting social media, communications, marketing, and education-themed tweets from @David_Hall. Try and think of your tweets as a service that you are providing to your readers, not an online platform for sharing every thought you have. The service you provide, just like any consumer service, should be focused, consistent, and predictable (to some degree).

The longer you tweet about a certain suite of topics, the more followers you will get. I feel that the sheer length of time I have been tweeting about my topics has had a positive effect on followership. It’s a lot easier to get eyes on content shared from a mature account than to get eyes on a new twitter profile that only has a few dozen, or hundred, tweets.

2. Follow relevant people in your industry

When I started tweeting, I was eager to see what other communicators were saying. Remember, this was back in 2008, so I was, like most people at the time, just trying to figure out exactly what the power of Twitter was. For each new marketing/PR/social media professional I followed, I gained access to their content, which was often great for retweeting. This retweeting helped me because it notified the original tweet sender that I was listening to, and endorsed, what they tweeted by sharing it with my followers. Telling people you like their content is a good way to make friends, and it can often result in a follow from the retweeted account. Retweeting great content from other accounts also helped my own Twitter presence because it gave me more great content on my account. It’s a self-reinforcing circle.

3. Be careful when following back

This one is a bit contentious, and I do not recommend it. When I first started on Twitter, I thought it would be a courtesy to follow-back any account that followed me. I thought of it as a nice little digital-hug while saying “thanks for following”. This didn’t turn out so well for me. Over the years, I have now followed or followed-back several thousands of users. As a result, my home feed is virtually useless. I now have to manage my twitter feeds through lists and keyword searches in Hootsuite to make sure I see what I want to see. This, however, ruins some of the serendipitous content discovery that I love about Twitter.

I do, however, believe that all this following on my behalf made me a great target for those looking for follow-back, meaning that the main reason they followed me in the first place was in the hopes that I would follow them back. I can’t say for sure, but I would wager that some of my followers would fall into this category.

Lessons learned: Don’t just follow back because you think it’s a nice gesture; your home-feed will be shot.

4. Curate great content

If you want to be a successful content creator, you should start by curating some great content first. Content curation becomes easier when you have purposefully done step 2 on this post. The idea goes, if you follow people who share good content, you have a virtually endless stream of relevant and shareable content delivered directly to your home feed.

Simply curating retweets won’t get you all the curated content you need, so I also have a few go-to resources when I need to find good content to share: Social Media Today, Social Media Examiner, Mashable (less so lately), Tech Crunch, PR Daily, AdWeek, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Academica, etc. Just find some blogs and newsletters you like to read and share their content.

5. Be a content creator

This is the most important step. My Twitter following didn’t really start to grow rapidly until I started this blog. I consistently created weekly content for a few years, and over that time my blog and Twitter popularity grew. Along with this weekly content creation, I also did an hour-long podcast for about 18 months focusing on social media and technology. I found that once I started creating, people really started to take notice and began to follow my account in higher numbers.

Munna, I hope this does a better job answering the great question you asked in class last week.



January 27, 2015

3 lessons learned from writing 100 blog posts


With this being the publication of my 100th blog post on, I think it’s time to reflect upon a few lessons I’ve learned since my first post in 2011. When I started this site, I shared many of the ideas that I had about how to be a successful blogger in a three-part series about starting and writing a blog (part 1, part 2, part 3). Primarily, these were lessons that I had learned through research, and a bit of my own blogging experience. Each of these posts was written before I had a full year of experience blogging. Although (I think) that three-part series still offers good tips and information to people thinking of starting a blog, here are three more things I’ve learned after being in the trenches for a few years:

1. Consistency is key

We all know this. Post regular, quality content, and you’ll be successful. The problem is, this is very hard to sustain. I’m not a professional blogger; I don’t get paid a cent for a single word. That’s OK, because that’s not the purpose of this site. I measure the success of my site by views, comments, and shares. It took about a year of me blogging at least once each week for traffic on the site to really increase. As I continued the one-post-per-week model for another year, traffic nearly tripled.

In January 2013, my wife told me that we were pregnant. Fantastic news! I decided to focus on the immediate tasks at hand and willfully neglected my blog. I didn’t publish another post until about 9 months later (I wonder why). Most of 2014 was spent with my new son, only blogging sporadically. I loved this time, but my blog traffic certainly didn’t. This lack of new content really hurt traffic on Now in 2015, my goal is to resume the one-post-per-week model to see what happens.

2. Build shareability into your content


Example of the Facebook thumbnail that requires blogs to have embedded multimedia in order to work properly.

As you are writing every post, think about trying to make it as easy as possible for your readers to share it. To do this, I focus on three main components.

First, be timely. My most popular posts are the ones that are published (or promoted) during times of the year when people want that content. If it’s Christmastime, find something interesting to connect your topic to that observance. Same idea goes for the Super Bowl, first day of school, or even shark week.

Second, always include at least one image in your post. Make sure it’s not awkwardly proportioned, too large, or too small. I also try and put it right at the beginning of the post. I do this because, yes, it’s nice to see an image above the fold when landing on a website, but more importantly, many social media share buttons automatically grab an image from your post to accompany that link when it is shared on your personal network. The most visible example of this is the Facebook thumbnail; Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ also do this.

Finally, forget Facebook; the headline of your post is your best promotional tool. It’s important to try to convey one interesting message from your post in 100 characters or less. Try and get one key fact or statement into your headline. It doesn’t have to be a summary of the whole post: just a key point, statistic, or opinion that may get people to click. During the 6-week blogging assignment in the Social Media Management course I teach in Algonquin College’s PR program, I encourage my students to think of the headline of each of their posts as a tweet.

3. Always think about your audience, but you won’t always satisfy them

You need to be comfortable with writing content that nobody likes. If you haven’t published a failure of a post, you haven’t blogged. I’ve written some blog posts that have gone nowhere. Back in 2011, nobody was interested in what I had to say about Trendsmap and finding geographically relevant tweets. Only about 50 people viewed it right after it was published, and now 4 years later, it has a whopping 160 views. According to the viewership, comment, and social sharing statistics, that post is garbage. I still love Trendsmap, so I’m good with it.

You won’t know who your readers actually are until you publish for a few months, better yet a year, and pay attention to your site’s analytics that tell you what countries your viewership is coming from, what search terms are referring  to your website, and what social media networks your viewers are finding you on. My readers, for example, are primarily Americans who work in the Marketing / PR world. This doesn’t meant that I don’t get plenty of readership from my home and native land, but it does mean that I write posts with the majority demographic in mind.

Useful content is sometimes better than thought-provoking content. I try to be helpful to my readers by posting how-tos, infographics, and resources that I have found useful in my own life. Posts of this nature, along with the timely ones, tend to get the most viewership. I do also write for myself. These pieces don’t generate great traffic, but they do give me an opportunity to think through a few ideas and try to organize them in a somewhat articulate fashion. I imagine that this post won’t be wildly successful based on views, but it’s important for me to write it. I have gone through the experience of writing 100 posts, and without reflecting on it, it would be a personal learning opportunity missed.

January 11, 2014

The art of Re-Blogging

You’ve probably noticed recently that posts, or re-blogs, from different authors have been appearing on, and may be wondering what the deal is.

Re-blogging is quite simple. Essentially I am sharing a post from another WordPress blog on my site, with a few additional comments of my own. Once I find a post that I think my readers would be interested in, all I have to do is click a little button, add some text, and it’s done.


I view it as a win-win-win situation for everyone involved:

  1. Readers of get fresh content from a different viewpoint.
  2. The original author is clearly credited for their work and has it exposed to a new audience.
  3. I get to share new voices and topics on my blog that I otherwise would not have had the opportunity to, in turn creating a better site / collection of posts.

The bloggers that you are reading in these re-blogs are students in the Social Media Management course that I teach. Their major project in first semester is to create a blog related to Public Relations, start publishing posts, and promote their work. Originally, I hadn’t planned on re-blogging their posts, but some of the posts were so interesting / well done, that I thought readers would find them to be a valuable read.

January 17, 2012

Give me wi-fi or I ain’t coming: 60% of college students demand free wi-fi from their schools [Infographic]

With a freshly-minted semester just underway at thousands of post-secondary institutions around the world, takes a look at technology usage and the expectations of students walking the hallways of higher-learning this year.  There’s a lot of information in the infographic below, so grab a coffee and settle in for a few minutes. Here are a few things that caught my eye:

Wi-fi internet access is critically important. And so it should be…Here are the numbers:

  • 90% of students feel that wi-fi is as essential to an education as a classroom or a computer
  • 75% of college students say that wi-fi access on college campus helps them get better grades
  • 60% of students would NOT attend an institution unless it had free wi-fi.

The availability of free wi-fi is more often becoming the expectation, not the exception.  I’m always on the prowl for free wi-fi, whether it’s college or university campuses, private businesses who offer a free guest connection, coffee shops, pubs, etc. I consider if a restaurant has free wi-fi when I’m contemplating places to dine. I’ve even emailed to ask about wi-fi so I can blog, watch the game, and perhaps enjoy some hot wings.

In the not-so-distant future, we will see more emphasis on college campus wi-fi performance speeds and up-time. Nothing frustrates me more than when I get an email advising of an “unplanned outage on campus”. Unplanned outages are major inconveniences for college students and faculty, and these outages are a cost of billions of dollars in lost revenue in the private sector, so it should be taken seriously.

Google and Wikipedia are essential sites. 47% of students named Google or Wikipedia as their “one site they can’t do without.” That makes sense. What I find more interesting is that only 8% of students listed Blackboard as their top site. Blackboard is a learning management system that allows professors and students to connect online.  The challenge with Blackboard is that it is only as good as the professor can make it. Sure, a few can really make the tool shine, but I would wager that most students would describe their blackboard experience as a place to view grades and look at old PowerPoints posted by the professor.

Most students don’t want to connect with their professors on social media, but it’s a close split three ways. 39% of students felt that it was not appropriate to friend their instructor, 31% thought it was OK, and 30% didn’t seem to care either way. I imagine that students are choosing to mitigate the risk of sharing their online image with their professor rather than displaying a genuine disinterest in their professor’s content. Perhaps a subscription would work better  in this case.  In the next study, I would be  interested to know how many professors want to connect with their students via social media. That figure may be even more telling.

Technology Use on the College campus
Via: Online Colleges Guide

October 26, 2011

MOvember social media strategy from CKDJ 107.9 [Video + Interview]

The idea for this post first struck me when I saw this YouTube video:

Pretty great, right? As you can see, CKDJ 107.9 Ottawa’s New Music (a station run by Algonquin College’s Radio Broadcasting students) is once again joining the Movember campaign to raise money and awareness for men’s health issues. Their hook? Get Canada’s Prime Minister to grow a mustache and be a “MoBro”.

After watching CKDJ’s campaign unfold over a few days, I noticed that it relied heavily on social media to get the word out. Given that this is a student group whose primary focus is NOT marketing or communications, I thought the campaign was being handled quite well.

I wanted to talk strategy, so I tracked down the man in the video (@RyanPaulGibson) for a quick discussion. We had a great conversation, and I was rather impressed by the thought and effort that went into this campaign. Here are a few of the highlights from our conversation.

Q1. Before we talk about your strategy, what are your goals?

First of all it’s about raising awareness for a good cause. My family has been impacted by prostate cancer, and it’s something that is not talked about enough. If we can raise a little money along the way, all the better.

Q2. What metrics determine your success?

We want:

Even if we don’t get the Prime Minister to grow a mo, we would have still raised awareness by creating content that engages our audience.

Q3. Did you really create a social media strategy, or is this stuff just common sense for CKDJ?

Absolutely we created a social media strategy. If I just posted the video on YouTube, I don’t think it would have done much. It would have gotten lost within the thousands of hours of video being uploaded to YouTube every second. If we didn’t use social media to promote it, it would not have been picked up by mainstream media, and the dominoes wouldn’t have fallen into place. If you want to get your message heard, you need to find a way to get it out there to the people who will get it on another channel.  Sometimes you just have to light the fire a little bit.

Q4. Boil down your strategy and tactical approach for me

Well, step one was make the video, and then promote it on Twitter. I tweeted (and emailed) 40-50 news organizations and around 100 journalists that I follow or knew existed. I also tweeted key cultural figures, such as George Stroumboulopoulos (@Strombo), Alan Cross (@AlanCross), or Algonquin College graduate Tom Green (@TomGreenLive), in hopes that they would retweet the message and share the video. I even sent our news release to some press secretaries on Parliament Hill.

Within our Twitter strategy, we created a hashtag (#MoHarper), and added the hashtag for #Movember. Then we made sure that every single tweet was sent with our station’s handle (@CKDJ1079) and the @MovemberCanada handle so that everything we did was noticed by Movember Canada. Next thing I knew, the phone rang and it was one of the head organizers of Movember Canada calling me from Toronto. He thanked me for being involved and gave us the heads-up on some things that they were doing this week to help build momentum. But if I didn’t use social media to reach out in the first place, the video would have just sat on YouTube with a couple dozen views.

Ryan Gibson and his 2010 "Mo"

Ryan Gibson and his 2010 "Mo"

We’ve also created a Facebook page where we share our events, media coverage, and news about the campaign. It’s turning out to be a great place to connect with our audience.

Once I had the social media structure and protocols established to manage our brand, I then looked to other students in the program to leverage their social networks and share our message about Movember beyond just the social media properties owned by CKDJ.

Q5. Did you look at social media and traditional media as separate, or complementary?

This is the first time I’ve tried anything like this; I’ve never even run a campaign before. At first I saw them as separate, but as I started to implement the plan, I saw for the first time how those properties overlap.

Q6. Tell me about the YouTube video

It stemmed from the professors here at Algonquin College telling us that the skill-sets needed to succeed in a career in media require expertise in a variety of sectors including video, audio, writing, social, and web. With that in mind, this was done very quickly, very guerrilla, and very unsophisticated. It was shot in one take with big signs and fake mustaches. We wanted to keep it simple and include a call to action to sign our petition and visit our Facebook page. Ninety seconds is all the time you have to deliver your message online; a video any longer than that often drags.

Q7. How can people can get involved?

It’s easy:

There you have it, a quick behind-the-scenes look at how some Canadian students are leveraging social media to raise money and awareness on men’s health.  During our conversation, Ryan and I touched on a number of best practices, but his understanding of where social media fits in an organization was spot on. Social media strategies are not something you create for campaigns; they should be created and integrated into your everyday business operations.  Using social media needs to be baked into everything your business does.

Are you a “MoBro” or “MoSista”? Let us know if/how you are getting involved in Movember this year.

September 6, 2011

Social media can be your key to better grades this year [Infographic]

Today is the unofficial end of summer in Canada, and many places around the world, as students from kindergarden to post-secondary return to school for another year of study. Social media is often demonized as a classroom (and workplace) distraction that negatively affects students. Early research from the Whittmore School of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire shows that this isn’t the case at all. It turns out that social media doesn’t mean lower grades; it actually helps create the environment that encourages discussion and knowledge transfer, ultimately resulting in higher grades for students who engage in social media the most.

This research has been captured in the infographic below, thanks to, and a few things really jumped out at me when I first saw it:

1. Better grades: It is interesting to note that this research suggests that better grades aren’t simply tied to whether you use social media or not, but it found that the more hours a student spends using social media the more likely it would be that they had higher grades.

2. Increase of peer-to-peer learning: When teachers integrate social media in the classroom, this research shows learning through discussion increases and students achieve higher grades. Often, this can be as simple as a Facebook page where students can discuss course content and assignments, Twitter accounts to send students reminders, or even YouTube videos of past lectures.

3. Use for education: After social media’s social and entertainment value, this research indicates that the third most common thing students use social media for is education.

Have your grades changed since you began using social media?


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