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SoJo officially joined the online world of social media one year ago this week. The past 365 days have been filled with lessons learned, challenges and proud successes.    

From the beginning, we placed heavy emphasis on understanding and effectively utilizing the available social media tools. With no prior knowledge of social media, efforts began with organically testing the waters to discover what conversations were being had, what kind of content was being shared and where SoJo might fit into the online ecosystem. Over the course of the Spring, we gradually moved up the learning curve by soliciting tips from some social media-savvy friends, experimenting with different messaging, and developed specific engagement routines.

In June, we drafted the first version of an online communications strategy. The evolving document would help us better understand our objectives and methods for developing SoJo’s online community. In mid-summer we changed our Twitter handle, as we were missing out of a significant volume of traffic. The move was important both a user acquisition and branding perspective.

In addition to learning to reigns of Twitter, we launched our first YouTube Video, and even created a custom-branded Facebook Page.

As we launched the private Beta in July, we began to more closely track some hard metrics from our online activity. The simple list included a weekly account of followers, friends, mentions, clicks and the like. In order to effectively measure our online efforts, we set a target to increase our Twitter followers by 5% a week. It was a reasonable challenge that provided a new framework for our community building efforts. Some weeks we succeeded, and many we didn’t; all the more reason to commit to fulfilling this goal in year 2 of our social media efforts.

A switch from using Twitter.com to the social media management platform, Hootsuite, made it more time-efficient and easier to stay on top of the interactions. In particular, the batch scheduling service allowed me set-up a roster of Tweets to reach different audience at different times of the day, enabling me to work smarter

Following SoJo’s public beta launch in November, we rode high on a wave of support from people across the world congratulating us on our soft launch and sharing content on the SoJo site. It was amazing to see the reach of our connections; something that would be near impossible to know without the likes of Twitter & Facebook.

Now, over the coming months, we expect SoJo’s interactions on social media will continue to grow, adapt to new changes in the online environment and continue to further our organizational objectives. We are keen to adopt new methods, explore new frontiers and discover the most effective ways to engage with our users, partners and supporters. Training a listening ear, finding a voice, building SoJo's online identity, and monitoring our efforts are each a unique challenge. It has taken time, but like each step in our journey, we are much further ahead than we were a year ago today.

If you’ve yet to connect with us online, please do so here.

Written by Trevor Gair, SoJo's Community Builder

 
 
SoJo's first video has been a work in progress for quite some time. We storyboarded the concept back in June (see earlier post) and it has been in production and post-production ever since! The team member who initially committed to producing the video, through trial and error, discovered that she was unable to produce a video to the quality that was expected. Finally, our designer Bill picked up the pieces to make this final product.

Once a video is viewed in its entirety, changes and deviations off the initial vision are inevitable. The challenge with working virtually is that each minor change needs to be made via email. There is lag time in between each email. With multiple iterations back and forth and many people involved, you can imagine how demanding it was to make changes. At one instance, the lack of clear communication caused two people to work on the same task at the same time, which resulted in unnecessary duplication of efforts. In other instances, broken communication loops resulted in no-one taking ownership over specific tasks and the video getting shunned to the back-burner.

After several iterations we had a video that we were pleased with, however it was created in a format unrecognizable on YouTube and many video players. After various consultations, downloading dozens of trial versions of software to convert this video, we were finally successful. Now that this amazing video is complete, it is our hope that it goes viral and inspires our future users: those with bold and innovative ideas to visit the platform and take action.

Some valuable lessons we learned getting here include:

Looks can be deceiving: The learning curve of making an animated video is steep. Although videos may look simple, teaching yourself how to make one is not so straightforward and requires an incredible amount of patience and attention to minute details.

Plan every detail to the T: Even with a storyboard, post-production took much longer than anticipated. Don't underestimate the importance of creating a detailed storyboard and the amount of time post-production will actually take.

Persistence is key: This 90second video felt like the never-ending project that dragged on. With multiple edits, technical challenges, duplicate copies and probably over 100 emails in total between all people involved. Without persistence, this project would have been on the chopping block multiple times and we wouldn't be able to share this amazing video with you!

A Project lead is imperative: This video did not have a clear owner, and as result no-one took accountability to ensure the project got complete. Over the course of this project, 6 individuals were actively involved in getting the video prepared. Everyone worked on individual tasks, however someone was needed to bring the entire project together and hold all other team members accountable for their individual parts.
 
 
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SoJo is an online platform that is community driven. Our goal is to reach as many people as possible and to make it easy for potential users in need of SoJo to find us. We imagine that most users will not come to SoJo by typing our website in their browser, but rather get linked to us from other sources/searches. Optimizing our presence online is thus key to realize our goal of the #1 referred site to help youth in their journeys of creating social ventures.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a science. There is a thriving industry of companies that have figured out how to crack the system and ensure your search results come out on top. SoJo doesn't have money to spend on SEO, so we have opted for a more organic, do-it-yourself approach. Attached is our Strategy for our pre-Beta launch phase.

Our SEO efforts will go hand-in-hand with the organization's goals. Until the site is in open Beta, we want to increase Beta tester sign-ups, traffic to this blog and buzz around SoJo. Not knowing what to do, we created a strategy to provide some order to this process. Once the site is live, we will create a Strategy on indexing the content so that it appears in searches online.

SoJo comes from SocialJournal and unfortunately there are many sojos online. We struggled to come up with a unique name that is meaningful (see earlier post) and therefore decided to hedge our risk of using a more common name by mastering SEO to come out on top.

Earlier today I typed "SoJo" in Google and our landing page was hit #5 and blog was #7. This is impressive, because last time I checked we were no-where to be seen. Soon enough we will be #1.

Kudos to our Shad Intern Vishal who spearheaded this process! We still have tons to learn and it is an evolving process, but I am fairly optimistic that SoJo will master SEO in due time.

 
 
Late last night we changed our Twitter handle from @_SoJo_ to @The_SoJo. Changing twitter names is highly frowned upon in the online world, as we've been spending the past few months building credibility and gaining publicity around our old name. We were noticing many incorrect references to our name, as tweeters (including SoJo team members) would forget to include the _ at the end of our name. This lost traffic was unacceptable and thus a change was made. Ironically, @The_SoJo was part of our initial brainstorm list of names. We stuck with @_SoJo_ to create a language-neutral name, however since our website will be housed on http://theSoJo.net, it makes most logical sense for us to be consistent on all of our outlets.

Although it will take time for our new Twitter name to get widely adopted and picked up in online searches, we are optimistic that this move will be beneficial for in the near future and beyond. We also learned from this experience that nothing is really set in stone, so although not advisable, it is still possible to make changes to almost everything - including a Twitter handle.

Our advice to you: Do not have an underscore (_) at the back of your name. It is very easy for people to forget to include the _ which translates directly to lost traffic.

Click here to read an earlier post on how we set up our twitter account
 
 
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Since we first started interacting on social media channels via the SoJo account back in March, we’ve slowly climbed the learning curve.

Now, we have completed a first draft version of SoJo’s online communication strategy. Click here to view our Strategy.

The strategy is an explicit account of how we interact, who we interact with and what types of conversations we aim to hold. There are a few important elements to our communications strategy. It is an evolving document. We have finalized this version of the plan with the understanding that we will review and revise it a various intervals in the future. Next, the first version concentrates on only two mediums of communication; namely, Twitter and Facebook. This is because have decided that it is more important to engage well on a narrow range of channels rather than risk spreading our efforts too think over too many mediums at this point. It is new. We are excited to learn and interact, but want to give ourselves the best opportunity for success.

Having a communications strategy is important in the early stages of any venture as it will help you internally comprehend and externally articulate your objectives, audience and intended messages. After all, if your messages are getting lost and are consistently misinterpreted, it will be a struggle to gain credibility and support for your project.

At this point, Trevor is still the only person Tweeting from the SoJo account; however in coming months, we aim to have others join the online communication efforts. On that note, if you aren’t already following, please follow @_SoJo_  and ‘Like’ us on Facebook. Send us a message. We’d love to communicate with you!

 
 
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Written by Monique Elliot:
Earlier today, I once again learned the value of being part of a team. SoJo is a virtual team,  meaning most members communicate with each other mostly through Skype and email. So being able to visit the SoJo “office” in Toronto and meet Madeleine and Kanika in person for the first time really emphasized the difference in dynamics compared to my solo work environment in Ottawa!

I’ve been working on creating SoJo’s first multimedia video. The objective of this video is to introduce potential users to SoJo and encourage people to sign-up for our Beta test. Before today’s meeting, I came up with a rough storyboard of some potential concepts for the video. But once we started brainstorming more ideas as a team, it became obvious that this first video could be something even more inspirational…

For a good chunk of the morning, Kanika, Madeleine and myself shut ourselves in a boardroom that had whiteboards for walls and got down to brainstorming as soon as I arrived (after taking an overnight bus – talk about Energy!). Our ideas were flying up on those whiteboards so fast, it’s no wonder we needed more than one marker (and besides, a little colour keeps it fun!).























This picture may look like gibberish, but this is the inspiration behind a video that will be incredible!

We wanted to keep the video simple, and really showcase SoJo as the best online resource that will not only connect individuals passionate about starting projects for social change with each other, but also help inspire people to take action! The challenge is creating a 90 second video that will appeal to many different people at different stages of their journey.

PASSION, EXCITEMENT, and EMPOWERMENT are all emotions a person should feel on their journey to becoming a social entrepreneur. We will base the video on those emotions and arranged our story around them to show how SoJo can help maximize the joy of the process of turning an idea into action.

As a journalism student, I’m constantly immersed in all types of media, and it becomes very obvious very quickly that consuming media is so different from producing it… especially when you’re still learning about the tools!

While my expertise lies in writing, I have a growing interest in producing multimedia content. This will be my first attempt at creating a multimedia video using some software I’m unfamiliar with, so wish me luck!

 
 
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Our first post as the newest members to the SoJo team!

Last week, the three of us eagerly anticipated our start at SoJo; all individually curious as to how the journey would begin. That’s when Kanika and Trevor introduced us to the opportunity to volunteer with Net Change Week - which turned out to be the perfect start for our journey!

Over the past two days, we participated in Net Change Week at MaRS. With attention-grabbing sessions such as ''Oops, you raised awareness but forgot to raise funds,'' ''#FAIL: Biggest Online Mistakes and How to Avoid Them,'' ''Google Analytics: Business Intelligence for Non-profits,'' this conference emphasized the potential of social media in generating interest and support for progressive social causes and charity/nonprofit organizations. Holding video interviews with representatives from various organizations around Canada and live-tweeting information sessions about implementing social media to gain awareness, visibility and fund raising, we witnessed social technology in some of its most advanced and innovative forms. These past few days have been a whirlwind of information, educating us about the exciting new forms of online communication while opening our horizons towards the innovations that are sure to follow. This was undoubtedly the best (free) training anyone could receive and we’re all more confident to assume our roles in making SoJo truly amazing!

Our time at Net Change Week also brought to light the massive reach of social media, with twitter as a rising star. Gone are the days when twitter was thought of as simply a site for senseless rambling of the celebrity kind. Instead, twitter has proven to be a platform for critical mass, through-provoking conversations, skill-sharing and a medium to amass social change. Social media are what you make of them - in a hash-tag-heavy and @-sign-filled 140 character package, of course!

What became apparent from attending the conference is how social media are powerful tools with great potential. Through the participants met and the connections made, Net Change Week reiterated the extent to which the breadth of social media surpasses the previously inescapable generational and geographical boundaries. Social media can yield remarkable results if you have the initiative, creativity and passion to make use of them to better push social issues. Be fearless about your social media ventures. We all make mistakes, we are all learning, and, as this is a new and upcoming form of communication technology, we are all forging the paths of social change through these ever-evolving networks of online media. Through social networking sites, information is being transformed, providing opportunities for relatable, personal, and collaborative stories that may help change the face of how we receive, convey and share information about social issues and how to tackle them.

You can follow quick-quips from sessions via twitter through the hashtags #ncwk and #mcc11, or follow us at @MadeleineGBlyth, @Monica_E_G, and @KaleHowe. Additionally, NetChangeWeek has uploaded all slides from session and presentations that can be found on their website.

Till our next adventure,

Madeleine, Monica and Kailee

 
 
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Can you use a pepper grinder to learn to bowl?
Don’t scratch your head too hard…because, you can’t.

But, as I recently found out, you can use Twitter to learn Twitter.

After SoJo joined the bursting social network ecosystem earlier this month, it was time to develop our voice. True, the first tweet was out of the way, but then there was the second one…arguably even more difficult. And really, we needed a plan.

As a team we held a couple of discussions about how we wanted to engage on social networks, what kind of posts would be most important at this stage and really what SoJo could add to the social media space. By the end of the chats we emerged, with a list of questions that would put a frown on the face of even the most dedicated Walmart greeter (ok, maybe an exaggeration, but you get the point).

A central theme when translating an idea into tangible action: there will undoubtedly be moments where key knowledge is missing and cannot be found within members of your team. Indeed, we quickly discovered that instead of banging our heads, we had to find people who had that knowledge we were lacking...

Out of curiosity, I was randomly scanning through SoJo’s follower list on Twitter and picked up on key words in people’s Twitter profiles related to social media expertise… I quickly connected the dots and sent a DM (Direct Message) to a couple of SoJo’s followers. Within half an hour I received my first reply. “For sure, happy to help. Please see your inbox :)” replied Tom of StartSomeGood.

Via email, I asked him a few specific questions whose answers were very helpful in developing our social media strategy. I made sure the queries were short and to the point. He responded a few hours later with some great insight, tips and strategic experience.
[Tip: When asking for help, frame your questions in a way that makes it easy for the respondent to answer]

Sometimes its amazing how the answers you are seeking happen to be right in front of your eyes. In this case, we were trying to figure out how to most effectively use Twitter as a tool to build early support for SoJo. Turns out it was Twitter that taught us how to Twitter!

[Tip: Be creative and don’t be shy to reach out to your extended online social networks for help… SoJo will provide more tips & tricks on social media and everything else you ever wanted to know when we go live, stay tuned!]

 
 
Hi, I’m Trevor – normally a student on Canada’s west coast – I am currently volunteering on a community tourism project in rural Guatemala. Yesterday SoJo launched its social media campaign, and I hope you follow me as I document the evolution of our social media efforts on this blog.

This is really where my journey with social media begins. I do not have a tech background; in fact, I often suffer the brunt of family jokes when it comes to all things ‘computer’.  I am not a social butterfly who is always first to spread the news that John broke up with Jessica; in fact, Jessica will probably have a new boyfriend before I make the connection. Finally, I love the offline world; spending more time in front of a computer screen is daunting.  In other words, I never thought I would be leading the social media charge for an online start-up. Here we go!

Although I was an early adopter of Facebook, and signed up for Twitter over a year ago, I never really entirely understood the value of social media networks and what it all meant. In the Fall of 2010, I initiated a forum on social entrepreneurship. In a drive to host a successful event, I reignited my curiosity for these powerful online social media outlets. In the months that followed, I casually continued to explore the tools.

SoJo is bigger than anything I’ve ever gotten myself involved in. As I started working to help roll out the vision, in particular by leading the social media efforts, I felt some pressure to at least have some idea of what I was doing. So, I did some intense micro-research and started stalking cool people online to get a feel for their virtual behavior. Looking to add some science to the art, I even reached out “social media experts” to get their advice.

Earlier this week, I drafted multiple versions of SoJo’s first tweet and asked other people for their feedback. That’s right, I put a significant amount of effort in crafting a 140 character message…knowing that once you tweet, you can’t take it back, made me feel like I had traded my laid-back open air “office” in Guatemala for a stuffy final exam room! Our first tweet had to be perfect. We’re now live and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that all goes well.

Please follow @_SoJo_ on Twitter, like “SoJo” on Facebook and drop us a line. We’re here to stay!