My roles and responsibilities revolve around our online presence, including our website, our social media, online video and other communications.
Social media is part of my broader portfolio. United Way is about community, so we work, fundraise and provide programs in the community, and social media offer the perfect way to engage, because you build connections and resources. It's something that has evolved and become part of my responsibility as a broader online communication strategy.
I did my first degree at George Brown College in graphic design and web design, but I had a major accident and ended up going to the University of Toronto and studying history and political science. I then took some marketing courses at the Schulich School of Business at York University.
Social media is so new that a lot of it involves self-teaching and researching. You have to be researching all the time, keeping an eye on the news about technologies, how they're changing and how you can use them. Five years ago there weren't any courses in social media, but Humber College offers one in social digital media, and some of the marketing bodies such as the Internet Advertising Bureau and the Canadian Marketing Association now offer social media seminars and courses.
I lost my right hand in the accident, which made it very difficult for me to do graphic design in the traditional sense. But the computer revolution has allowed people with physical disabilities to do some of the things that required two hands, so I got back into graphic design and decided I really enjoyed marketing, communications and technology.
The online component of my first education helped in understanding how the technology works and how to use it. History, political science and marketing gave me an idea of communications and how to write and convey a message.
Writing skills are important, particularly with Facebook and Twitter, which are written media. A desire to connect with people is also crucial. If you're working in the field as part of a company or organization, a marketing background is valuable because you need to know about marketing and segmenting. Understanding who your audience is and how you want to engage them to get a better understanding of what they need is very important.
It's a communication medium, so just as when you talk to someone over a cup of coffee, misinterpretations can happen, and sometimes people are downright belligerent. It's something you have to deal with if you're in social media, and how you deal with it helps define you as an organization. Plus, it's all open for the entire public to see online.
I love working in social media, because it's such an evolving world. It's a whole new way of communicating and connecting with people. It's sort of like when the internet was young; everybody's still trying to figure out how this is going to grow and change. We've seen it used for everything from simple marketing to Twitter's being a vital tool for communication during the Egyptian rallies that overthrew the government there.
It's an amazing time in the technology world, and that's the thing I love about it - seeing what's next.
WHERE TO STUDY
Algonquin College (Ottawa) Social media: $358/course. algonquincollege.com
Fanshawe College (London) Internet applications and web development: $1,856/semester. fanshawec.ca
Humber College (Toronto) Public relations (includes social and digital media): $5,602/year (plus fees). humber.ca
University of Toronto (Toronto) Web writing and social media communication: $695/course (plus fees). utoronto.ca