Picture Perfect? Not Even Close.

It’s time for the next topic in my series of social media lessons learned while working at lululemon: posting photographs.

If you bother to track our store’s Facebook image history (don’t), you’ll notice there is a distinct shift in the photos used as I practice a deeper understanding of what it means to be posting for a company.

With a quirky brand like lululemon, it’s easy to get swept up in the creative freedom they take with their advertising and lose the distinction between fun/luxury and “on brand”.

Again, this is where creating a mission statement about what your product or page is really about comes in handy.

I’ve had pictures that are fun, quirky and, I think, show the personality of the store be vetoed by management because they didn’t represent the “brand”. In other words, they didn’t educate people about the function of our product.

And that was frustrating.

But I got over it.

Eventually.

Lesson: Sometimes what I think is fun really equals spam on someone’s Facebook home page. I had to realize the tendrils of the company’s page touches more than my friends who’ve kindly ‘liked’ it.

In other words, not everyone will think a picture of two coworkers decked out in lululemon garb waving while standing out my car’s sunroof is particularly informative about our new line of clothing… Go figure.

Yes. That’s a true story. Once again, my deepest apologies, lululemon.

Anyhow. I now ask myself three questions before I post any image (or words for that matter) on our Facebook page. Perhaps they seem obvious, but I need things spelled out. And, it’s okay to admit it, you probably do too – no judgment, this is a safe space. Welcome.

Caileen’s Top Three Questions to Ponder Before Posting Anything Ever:

  1. What purpose do these pictures serve? I’m considering things such as if they’re educating people about a new line, demonstrating something cool about a piece or highlighting our community. What’s the purpose of your page and does every picture support it?
  1. Are my images authentic? This means avoiding over-editing so the photos look like something off Instagram or your first Photoshop project in high school. And again, it means thinking about your company and if you’re upholding the values it represents. For lululemon, this means ensuring my pictures of someone showing off a running crop is actually running. And looks like a runner, not someone off America’s Next Top Model. Take off excess jewelry, put the hair up in a ponytail, wear proper running shoes – leave the wind-maker, body oil and jewel-encrusted beetle accessories at home. It also means being aware of the backdrop to your photo shoot. Would a runner, decked out in a rain jacket and neck-warmer, be running in the mall? Or even in the mall parking lot? Would they be wearing that outfit on a sunny day? Would a yogi practice their sun salutation in flip-flop sandals on the pavement outside Starbucks? Make it realistic.
  1. Are these photos “on brand”? The term “on brand” is loosely thrown around for a number of things, but once again it all boils down to representing the values of your company. In my mind, being “on brand” encompasses not only the authenticity question posed, but if the picture is of the best quality possible. Is it edited nicely, not blurry, free of weird photo-bomb-y-things in the background? If I organize pictures into a collage so they’re more easily visible, I avoid unnecessary (even if fun) details like crazy borders or filters because they detract from the purpose of my photos. If I make an album (which usually attracts more “clicks” on your page), I try to edit and explain each photo as best possible. These little, seemingly nit-picky, details go a long way.

Of course, like my title suggests, I’m nowhere close to fault-free. I often fall short in one or two (or seventeen) of these ponderings. I call it “practicing” social media because, like with yoga, I seem to be forever learning, tweaking, losing my balance and trying to stand on my head.

Oops...

From Fire Trucks to Tank Tops: my Social Media Shift and Lessons Learned

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post and there have been some shifts in my career path. Since last summer when I was working at a museum in Calgary, I’ve moved back to Ontario and am working at lululemon athletica – say ‘goodbye’ museums and ‘hello!’ retail.

My movement into retail began as a seasonal Christmas contract and my desire to stay with the company, and continue to keep a foot in the door of public history, led me to take my store’s Facebook page.

I told myself I had conquered the pesky TweetChats featured in my last post, while managing the Facebook page and twitter accounts for the Firefighter Museum of Calgary, so posting for one little store in a mall shouldn’t be so hard… Right? Right?!

Wrong.

I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.

Important side note: Despite the route this post seems to be taking of whining about the “woes” of social media, developing lululemon Mapleview’s Facebook page has been a deeply beneficial experience. This is merely a reflection on the importance of developing a social media “game plan” before diving into the online world. Because, believe me, it’s not as easy as it looks!

Side note #2: I made every mistake possible to learn the following lessons. Forgive me, lululemon!

Side note #3: I’m going to make more mistakes… Sorry again.

So. On that note, here are some things I’ve learned so far:

  1. This is not your own social media page. You are representing the “voice” of a company. Before you start posting with a thousand smiley faces (guilty), punctuation marks (yep, did this too), addressing your readers with pet names (oh yeah. That happened) or affectionately referring to your lululemon team as “lemons” (true story), think about what you want your voice to be. Break it down to the smallest details, things you would never think mattered, but really do. Things like:
    1. How many total exclamations can be used in a post? Is it one? Two if they’re sandwiching a sentence with a period? Be consistent and keep the overall company’s “brand” in mind.
    2. How do we address the people who like our page? Are they “friends”? “Lemon lovers”? Your “peeps”? Where does the line between cutesy and too casual start to cross? Draw that line and stick to it.
    3. How long will each post be? Do you want to create a loose sentence limit? I personally don’t believe many people read past the first three lines (I don’t… Even on my own posts… Juuust kidding…), so you either must be sure you’re writing something attention grabbing, or keep it short and sweet. No one wants to read novels (like this post is surely becoming…).
    4. What hashtags are appropriate? And how many per post? As a company, lululemon has created hashtags to be used, but our store is working on creating our own. We keep it to one or two hashtags a post. But again, the hashtags must be consistent. (The creation of a hashtag is a blog post all in itself so maybe I’ll save that for the next one I write – just give me a year and I’ll get to it.)
    5. How many times should you post a day? I think this question relies heavily on two things: the first would be how many followers you have and how engaged they are in your posts. Maybe you’re not “big” enough to post twice yet and it’ll irritate people when you’re constantly popping up on their feed. Gage this by how people like your page and how active they are on it. The second thing is the simple matter of do you have enough people working on social media to post twice a day? If you’re just one person who is also working in the store, maybe posting twice is too much. How many times a day and how many days a week you’re posting is something that should be worked out in advance. And then stuck to.
  2. Once you’ve developed some guidelines on what’s okay and what’s not, communicate. It’s important to make these guidelines clear so every post looks like the same person made it. If I’m writing every post, I need to make sure the next person to take on social media can also write in the “voice” I’ve created for the store.
  3. Make a schedule of posts. Yes, this seems obvious, but sometimes it gets buried under the pressure to “just post something already!” and never gets done. A calendar keeps every one track and ensures some consistency in your posts. Guest should be able to say, “Oh, hurrah, it’s Friday! Let’s check Facebook and see what new product lululemon Mapleview has going on.”
  4. What’s the point of your Facebook page? Most of us have a Facebook account and it’s used to share pictures of your super awesome life and make everyone jealous of the super awesome fun you’re having. It’s easy (or at least it was for me) to carry this thinking into the company page. But, in reality, our page is there to educate about our product and a healthy lifestyle. Make sure every single one of your posts relates to this goal. Maybe create a mission statement or a mantra so you can ask yourself: “Does this post support the _____ mission of the company?”
  5. Make the page yours. While keeping it the company’s… Cool. Got it? Me neither. But I’m getting there. When developing our social media calendar, we spoke to other stores, looked at their pages, looked at lululemon’s guidelines and ideas and then brought in ideas of our own. One person we work with co-owned a restaurant known for its unique smoothies so we plan to utilize his knowledge and create posts about delicious smoothies. There’s something new. We also have athletes of all types come into the store on any given day and we talk to them, say how cool or interesting they are and then they leave. We decided this wasn’t enough and started asking interesting guests or community members for their contact information so they could be featured on our page. Not only does this give people a chance to be recognized for their athletic accomplishments, but it adds a personal flair to our page and encourages people to ‘like’ us. Try to think outside of what’s already being done to make your page stand out.

Alright. That’s enough for now. My mind is overwhelmed with all these instructions and I’ve started questioning if I’m doing any of the above or if I’m a big ‘ol hypocrite (I probably am).

More to come from this girl when she starts practicing what she preaches.

The Twitter. Continued.

I left my last post at the climax of discussion concerning my adventures with TweetChats and the Firefighters Museum of Calgary.

Despite a significant delay in completing the tale (I’ve been busy!), the long wait is over and here comes part two of Twitter-Pated to Twitter-Stumped.

This post will follow up on my previous post and discuss what worked and what could be improved from me when starting a TweetChat from scratch.

First, some background: the first chat (#muselyfe) yielded six participants and this number remained relatively consistent throughout the 10  weeks worth of chats.

Those participating also remained generally the same…

Okay. Confession time. I must be honest here: the majority of the participants, those who were reliably there each week, were members of my program whom I could harass and cajole into joining.

That being said, new people did join on and off and my friend also introduced her friend to the chat, adding some new voices almost every week.

Okay. Background over. Now for what worked and the kinks. I’m not going to say things “didn’t work”, because that’s not true! There were just some things that worked better than others! I’ll start with those:

Worked:

– Asking friends to promote the chat within their institution.

– Choosing broad topics so all areas of heritage could participate. For example, the most successful chat was #redlyfe. We discussed everything from the importance of red in history to its use in exhibits.

– Asking members to pick the topic for the following week. Just ensure you have a backup idea handy!

– Promoting each chat under an umbrella hashtag (in our case, we used #museumchatter). This made it easier to search the chats. It did occasionally cause slight confusion at the beginning as to which hashtag to use during the actual chat, but I rectified this by quoting any of those tweets and adding the proper tag.

– Using TweetDeck to monitor all tweets. I set up the museum’s account, my account and both #museumchatter and the hashtag of each week on the main screen so I could keep tabs with extreme ease.

– Limiting the chat to 30 minutes. Conversation flowed for about 20 minutes, leaving about five minutes to suggest a new topic and wrap up.

Kinks/Things to Improve:

– Narrow topics. This was probably the biggest issue. Topics would seem broad when suggested (such as #floodlyfe, where we discussed the impact heritage sites can have during national events like the 2013 Calgary floods), but quickly proved to be limited in what could be discussed.

– Along the same lines, chats such as “what do you love about your work?” or “what have you learned” went very well to start, but also tend to lead to a dead end after everyone has contributed. Awkward…

– Promotion of the chat could have been expanded. I was hesitant to post the chat and topic weekly in Facebook groups for fear of nagging, but perhaps this would have helped.

That’s all I can think of right now!

Overall, it was an incredibly interesting experience and something I would recommend more institutions and heritage sites start implementing. Not only does it promote sharing ideas, but it is also a great way to network across the country.

So there! That’s what I have to say about TweetChats, if you were to ask me. Which no one did. But I shared anyways. You’re welcome!

Twitter-pated to Twitter-Stumped and Back: the Evolution of my Museum TweetChat

Today’s topic (as you, my dear intelligent readers, may have guessed from the title) is related to Twitter. Ohhh Twitter.

Over six weeks ago, my supervisor at the Firefighters Museum of Calgary suggested a grand idea: why don’t we host a TweetChat for all Alberta summer students working in public history arenas?

“Oh. My. Gosh,” I thought, “that’s a brilliant beyond brilliant idea!”

To be honest, I didn’t actually know what a TweetChat was when she first suggested it, but once I found out, I thought it was even MORE beyond brilliant – past the land of awesome and heading into the planet of extraordinary, if you will.

A TweetChat, for those like me who don’t already know, is a scheduled “tweet-scussion” (tweet discussion) that falls under a pre-determined hashtag. So anyone can tune in to that hashtag when the conversation is happening and follow along or add their input (being sure to use the common hashtag so the tweet is linked to the discussion). COOL, amIright?!

Not only was this a great opportunity for my resume,  to say I organized such a thing, but it was the first I’d ever heard of a small Canadian museum taking on a TweetChat initiative.

And so began the researching process.

First, I looked into exactly how a TweetChat worked (this YouTube video was particularly helpful) and different ideas for chats and advertising.

With background research, my supervisor and I started floating ideas. I suggested taking the chat beyond Alberta and inviting students working in heritage across Canada to participate.

With this in mind, and a date chosen for the first chat (Thursday, June 27th from 12:30-1 MST), my supervisor e-mailed a posting about the chat to the Alberta Museum Association, as well as the Canadian Museum Association.

I began posting about the chat on Facebook and Twitter. I also e-mailed the director of the public history program at Western University and asked her to post about the chat on the Public History Alumni Facebook page.

She Tweeted about the event and suggested another Facebook group called Emerging Museum Professionals, so I joined this group and spread the word on their page.

My supervisor and I had created the hashtag “#museumchatter” (which I registered on Twubs) as a common feed for those interested to follow and find out what each week’s topic would be.

BUT! This hashtag couldn’t function for an actual TweetChat because it didn’t give any hints as to the weekly topic. Thus, I began pondering a topic for the first chat and a catchy hashtag to accompany.

I figured the first topic needed to be broad so everyone felt they could participate and there wasn’t too much pressure to think and be, well, deep about one’s tweets. Something like “a day in the life of a museum worker” or “behind the scenes at the museum”… But how to make that a hashtag?

It had to be short so it didn’t take up too many of those pesky 140 characters…

It had to be “hip” since I clearly need to look cool…

I thought about “#museumlife”…

And then I thought about “#muselife”…

And then I went even hip-per and took it to “#muselyfe”. And there it stayed. A chat about cool or interesting things one has seen or done so far at their heritage job. Post pictures, stories, links – I was open to all mediums.

When the first chat came, I was ready with everything organized through TweetDeck and my first tweet composed by 12:25, my curser hovering over “send tweet” on my computer screen, ready to click come 12:30…

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Just kidding, there’s more to say on the topic, but I think I’ll save it for another post. You know, preserve the mystery.

Stay tuned and until then, my friends!

Crafty McGee

It has been a while since I’ve posted about my job at the Firefighters Museum of Calgary, but that’s only because I’ve been waiting until this particular topic had enough images and information to truly convey how amazing my job is. What topic you (probably don’t) ask?? CRAFTS!

I’ve always considered myself mildly crafty in my own right (making cards and taking art in grade 12 high-school, of course), but this job made me bring my crafting skills to a new level. My co-worker Megan and I really put our artistic skills to the test.

For a little background, I should maybe mention we are an extremely child-friendly museum and have an amazing play area and “education station” for the little ankle-biters who frequent our establishment. Along with this, we offer a 1-hour program for children ages 3-5 every Wednesday called “Wee Wednesdays“. Some kids refer to it as “firefighter school” because we teach them a different thing every week in a three week cycle. If the children sign up and complete all three weeks, they “graduate” with a badge and a certificate. It’s all very cute.

The education develops as follows:

Week one: Be a Firefighter

Week two: Stay low and go

Week three: Fire Trucks and More!

Intrigued? Many Calgarian parents seem to be because we’ve had kids signed up for every week so far! Our first cycle of “firefighters” just graduated last Wednesday, much to our pleasure.

Now. To relate this back to the important topic of crafts: every week, along with teaching them about a firefighter’s gear, fire safety and the different types of trucks, we also have them do a craft. Which means WE (Megan and I) do the crafts in preparation. Win.

When brainstorming, we decided each craft should be something interactive the children can play with or wear, etc. We also knew the crafts should relate back to something learned during the program and should be different and exciting.

Okay. Enough with the background information no one really cares about! Moving on to what I promised from the very beginning: CRAFTS.

Week one: Be a Firefighter.

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A “fire helmet”! Maybe not the safest, but definitely adorable. Mine is the pink one- I really worked on my capital letters for it.

So their first Wednesday of “firefighter school”, the kids walked into the museum to see the tables set up like this:

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After our activities, they all came and sat down to decorate their foam badges and the headbands with markers and sticky foam pieces. We then used a hot glue-gun to glue the badge to the headband and give it back to the children. First step towards being a firefighter COMPLETE!

Week two: Stay low and go.

This week emphasized fire safety and what to do if there’s a fire in the home. Rather than “stop, drop and roll”, children are being told to “stay low and go”, which means they crawl as low to the ground as possible to the nearest exit.

Not the easiest thing to create a craft for (if you, fellow readers, have any ideas, please feel free to share!). However, we also have “story time” each week and the story for this week is “No Dragons for Tea: Fire Safety for Kids and Dragons”, by Jean Pendziwol. A fun and educational story about a child who brings a dragon home for tea.

So. After Megan finishes the book, I ask the kids: Would you like to create your OWN dragons to bring for tea?” and that leads into our craft of paper bag dragons:

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Rawr!

Hopefully a little safer than a real dragon…

Megan and I also created this “pet” for our pug-loving supervisor, Rebecca:

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Ruff!

Fun times at work!

And finally, we come to Week Three: Fire Trucks and More!

This craft for this one seems obvious, no? Airplanes!

Just kidding, we made fire trucks. Out of egg cartons – recycling AND creative! Here’s the creative process broken down for ya’ll:

Our egg cartons lids...

Our pile of egg cartons lids…

Our pile of PAINTED egg carton lids...

Our pile of PAINTED egg carton lids…

The assorted bits of paper soon to be made into fire truck parts...

The assorted bits of paper soon to be made into fire truck parts…

A fire truck! Almost... Just needs a fewwww adjustments...

A fire truck! Almost… Just needs a fewwww adjustments…

Presto! Fire trucks!

Presto! Fire trucks!

And that was our creative process. Pretty creative. And! You may not be able to see in this picture, but Megan and I took pictures of ourselves wearing fire helmets and then put them on the computer and cropped them so it looks like we’re driving or co-driving the trucks!

We also did this for the kids, having them line up in front of a blank wall before the program started and taking a quick head shot of each of them. Then, while the kids did a different activity, one of us printed and cut out the images to give the kids so they could glue them onto their own firetrucks and personalize them.

We also cut out a series of images, words and faces from magazines and let the kids glue these onto their trucks to make up the rest of their “crew”. My personal favourite was the boy who had a squirrel driving his truck.

And there you have it! Another exciting update on the life of a museum assistant! To learn more… COME VISIT!

Storage Wars

I said in my previous post I’ve been working with open storage at the museum in anticipation of the upcoming museum opening. So what? Just shove a bunch of things in there and be done with it? If only it were so easy!

Museums are using open storage more and more so visitors can still see things that may not be on display. It’s a way of making sure everything gets its chance to shine, even if it’s not necessarily prevalent to current displays.

For the Firefighters Museum of Calgary, their open storage is located in a trailer next to the museum. Fun fact: this (see below) narrow trailer used to be the actual museum!

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Now this trailer has been converted to open storage and Megan (the other summer student working with me) and I were given the task of filling it.

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Empty shelves for us to fill!

I was pretty excited about this opportunity and Megan and I attacked it with the enthusiasm of… something really enthusiastic.

We took a bunch of artefacts from the museum and brought them in. We also tried to bring in as many photos as possible to put on the walls and in the display cases.

We took pieces of black foam and cut them to line the top cases. It was quite the process. Especially since Megan and I are not very skilled at cutting a straight line through foam with an xacto knife – the things they DON’T teach you in school.

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Our pile of foam just ASKING to be cut into pieces…

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Our attempts at “measuring”… with duct tape… It’s a science, don’t worry about it.

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Megan getting right into it, making magic happen!

Originally, we had the foam in the top AND bottom cases (and had set up the artefacts all artfully – see below…)

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Beautiful, right?

Buuuuttt… then we figured out the glass panels inserted on the front of the shelves actually only covers the tops shelves. So we had to move all the artefacts around and place heavy things that wouldn’t be stolen in the bottom shelves.

At first I was disappointed to have to change what we had done, but the turn out was worth it! We were able to go through the museum’s working garage and pull heavy and interesting items to display, which was a very interesting opportunity.

We ended up with:

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The fire hose was my stroke of brilliance (modesty)!

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Those wooden artefacts are made out of match sticks!

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And that was a days work! I mean, there were some other things in there too – lunch, answering the phone, tweeting, etc – but, that took the majority of the day.

Well. There you go. Done. Time to move on…

Ha!

Oh no, no, no, we weren’t done yet. The next task was hanging the pictures on the wall. This was saved for another day, which is a good thing because it also took the majority of the work day. Possibly because we kept getting it wrong… It was a learning process!

I was working with a museum volunteer this time. We had a pile of framed photos collected, (which I had spread out on the floor the day before and organized in some semblance of an order and interesting display), my cell phone and access card for space measurements, a hammer, a pencil, a blank wall and some wall hooks and nails. Cue Macgyver’s entrance!

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Where to start? We were unsure, so we just dove right in and started putting pictures up, beginning with images of horses and moving towards images of fire trucks.

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Our first line of hanging pictures…

Rebecca (the museum supervisor) came in at this point, took one look at our work and carefully suggested we try again. Which was good advice considering everything was crooked and uneven! We were hoping for an eclectic, hodgepodge look… We changed that approach.

We removed those pictures and started again by hanging the first image, removing it, drawing a line from the centre of the hook down the wall with a tape measurer, putting the picture back, measuring a key-card-distance down from the bottom of the frame and marking it so we knew where the top of the next picture should hang, nailing the next hook, putting up the photo, seeing if it was centred and the right distance, and repeat.

It took a while. Especially since we kept nailing the wall hooks too high or too low and having to take them out and start again. Eventually, all the pictures blurred into one, I swear! This is why I don’t hang things in my home.

But it was worth the effort! Look!

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And that’s just the start! I’ll add a final image when it’s all done.

Those of you who thought open storage was going to be a piece of cake (me) now know the truth. This whole “museum” thing is harder than one might think! So much thought and time goes into every area… I love it!

Hot Times, Summer in the City!

“Hot times, summer in the city”… A catchy song, yes, but also relates to my current summer historical adventures. Why? Because it’s hot outside? Now that would just be too obvious. Not to mention I’m living in Calgary at the moment and it never seems to be truly HOT here. Nothing on Ontario humidity, at least!

No, the connection is a little more hidden than that… It’s hot because I’m working at the Firefighter Museum of Calgary as a museum assistant. And fires are… HOT!

Fine, it would’ve fit better if I were talking about the weather, but my creativity is waning after a day of work.

I started work on May 6th and the past week has been a whirlwind of adventures! I’ve set up Instagram for the museum, re-started it’s twitter feed (and brainstormed ideas to keep it fresh!), worked on it’s open storage space, been to the opening of Fire Hall 40, programmed for the museum’s “Wee Wednesday’s” hour-long session on firefighting and fire safety, and moved a seemingly never-ending amount of things from one place to another… and sometimes back again. The days definitely fly by! So much so, I sometimes alllmostttt forget about lunch.

While the museum is small, it has a lot of potential for growth and is extremely interesting.

For example! Did you know firefighters used to find their masks too annoying to use in fires (they impaired vision and generally didn’t work very well!), so they would wet a sponge, put that in their mouths, and breathe through that… Crazy, right?! And that’s just the start of things I’ve learned so far.

Stay tuned here for more updates on my life in the fire department (and more about the things I’ve moved one place to another)!