BusinessMarketingProductivitySEOShoppingSocial MediaWeb Development

build your own ecommerce website, be your own boss

I’m going to spoil this whole blog by telling you the three reasons you should build your own eCommerce website in this very first sentence: eBay, Etsy, and Amazon. That’s it, there you have it, that’s why you should build your own eCommerce website.

I know what you’re thinking: “Deborah, you’ve gone completely bananas. I couldn’t possibly independently compete with those three!”

Brick laughing with a banana
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a little bit off my rocker.

Well I hate to break it to you folks, but I went completely bananas years ago. You should know that by now. But that’s completely aside from the point and unrelated to anything I’m saying here. Just let me continue, and stop mentally interrupting me, OK? Thanks.

Even when you list your products on those sites, you are still competing with all of them. But let’s take a closer look.

Amazon

Xena, Warrior Princess
Darn it you guys, STILL not that Amazon.

Of these big three sellers, Amazon.com was founded in 1994. Who even remembers having the internet in 1994? My family had an Apple computer back then, but eventually switched to a PC. I think we got dial-up in 1995:

beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep ccccccccchhhhhhh doooooo-dee-doo000-beepbeep-boop-beep-dooop cccccccchhhhhhhhhh

dial-up internet
You know what I’m talkin’ about.

. . . and then that sweet sound of connection. It wasn’t long before I discovered Amazon.com. It used to be all books, all the time, and soon after, I could also get CDs and DVDs, and better yet, I could soon buy them used from other sellers! I’ll admit, I have Amazon Prime membership in both the USA and Canada. As a buyer, Amazon is pretty great.

But what about as a seller?

Amazon is complicated. Their fees are high. You’ve got a huge amount of competition, including people who buy and bulk, which isn’t great if you’re a smaller business. Not only that, but you are also in direct competition with Amazon itself.

Take for example the issue of AmazonEssentials products. Despite claims to the contrary, Amazon employees have used what is supposed to be private information about independent sellers on the company’s platform to develop competing products, going directly against their own company’s policy.

Speaking of competing products, several major brands have refused to sell on Amazon because they don’t police the grey market well enough. One brand even preferred to sell exclusively on Walmart instead. Not to dis Walmart or anything (loyal shopper here), but I kinda think that says something.

people at walmart crashing balls
Am I a Person of Walmart? That’s for me to know and you to find out.

eBay

cat selling a cat in a box
I’ve tried this with my children, but apparently it’s “against the rules”.

Ah yes, the wild west of online sales. Or so it seemed to be back in those first few years. eBay was founded only a year after Amazon, in 1995. It started simple enough. The first sale was a broken laser pointer to a fellow who collected broken laser pointers, who would’ve thought? Initially, listing an item was free, but the founder’s internet services bill got too high, so he had to start charging a listing free, which people found pretty reasonable.

(As an aside, my first year of high school, my school’s principal, Tom Sawyer (yes, that legit was his name, no relation to the real fictional Tom Sawyer, though), was an expert at calling auctions. You know, that really fast-talking thing. Everybody in town would get him to do live auctions. Pretty amazing. eBay should have hired him for . . . something.)

Thousands of people have found success on eBay, but more and more, people have become increasingly frustrated. In the words of one former seller, “eBay sacrifices its sellers to its buyers”. I know that “the customer is always right” is a good general policy, but eBay appears to take this a bit too far. According to this same seller, “eBay ‘insures’ purchases by resolving all disputes in favor of the buyer, and then forcing the seller to cover the costs. Paypal helps them by seizing the seller’s funds.”

So eBay runs on a guilty-until-proven-innocent-system where the seller can almost never prove themselves innocent. It also leaves the seller open to buyer fraud.

guilty!
Even if you’re innocent, you’re still guilty.

eBay can limit your sales very arbitrarily, despite your good record (and bringing in lots of income to eBay itself). An ill-intentioned person can give a seller a bad review, a postal strike causing a delay in shipment, or any other little fluke can lead them to limit how much a seller is allowed to sell. One seller whose whole business. You are subject to eBay’s whims. You may feel like your own boss, but you are at the mercy of buyers and eBay’s poor customer service.

Etsy

Etsy, the newest to the market. Launched in 2005 on the east coast, it’s the indie girl’s heaven for vintage, handmade, and craft supplies. Yes, I’ve purchased all of the above on there. Etsy has been great for sellers of these things, but in recent years, Etsy’s policies have changed for the negative.

where do you even find a a gold coke straw? etsy.
Seems legit. In a not really legit sorta way.

Etsy is no longer friendly to small business, you are literally competing with huge shops in China. It’s sad really — you see someone has designed something creative and lovely, and within a few months, other people are copying that design and it’s all being shipped from China. Sure, maybe it was handmade, but do you really think the worker got fair pay for the work they did?

Not only that, but because of Etsy opening up their policy to this type of business, small business owners have faced lower sales volumes and increased competition due to the sheer volume of shop owners on the site, and it’s not exactly easy to differentiate your own shop from all the rest. You get a name and you get a logo. That’s about it. It’s very difficult to truly build your own brand.

On top of this, Etsy has their own weird SEO algorithms that work completely differently from most ordinary search engines, and at the same time, Etsy items don’t rank well in Google searches. And then there are the fees. They can arbitrarily hike the fees whenever they please, cutting into the profit margin of small businesses as well.

At the end of the day, is it really worth all this trouble?

Who are you really working for?

All three of these platforms make it somewhat easy to list your products in an online shop, but is it really worth it? How does it really benefit you as a business? Perhaps early on it might have been easy for people to search and find your products, but now they’re so over-saturated that it’s difficult for people to find you. You can’t truly build your own brand.

At the end of the day, with having to follow someone else’s ever-changing policies, very little control over how operations are run, and the inability to truly build your own brand while paying someone else fees, it sure sounds a lot like you’re doing a lot of work for someone else. You may have more flexibility than a typical job, but you’ve still got someone bossing you around.

But what else can a small business do?

Gosh, I’m sure glad you asked! The truth is, building your own eCommerce website isn’t that complicated. There are lots of options out there, though our two favourites are WooCommerce and Shopify. The great thing about your own site is you are in charge. You decide what your website will look like, your branding, everything. Nobody will tell you what kind of payments you will take, you get to decide that. You get to decide what shipping options you will offer, and where you will ship.

I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m pretty stubborn and don’t like being told what to do. I’m also a bit of a control freak, so being able to control every aspect of my business (or delegate to people whom I trust) is right up my alley. Both of these platforms offer countless tools to make it easy to do.

Zoolander like a boss
You can be really really really really really ridiculously good looking AND be your own boss at the SAME TIME.

How will people find me if I’m not on one of these big sites?

Google.

OK, that’s the easy answer, but not the only one. Look at it this way: you’re not just selling stuff, you’re building a brand. Do you have a Facebook page? Instagram? Most of these eCommerce platforms have integrations with both Facebook and Instagram (WooCommerce: Facebook, Instagram; Shopify: online sales channels).

Honestly, lots of the new stuff I discover is through social media, so build a following! Write blogs about your products, get other people to share your products and how great they are! Get in people’s heads. Build your brand. If you need any advice on SEO, social media, or digital marketing, talk with us. We are more than happy to help!

Back to Google though — this year they announced a new feature they are making available on their shopping search results. Currently their Google Shopping search results are all sponsored products, but this spring, in the US, they opened it up so that people could list their products for free (there would still be sponsored listings, a bit like regular search results).

This isn’t available in Canada yet, but one article suggests it will be quite soon for Canada, and another says that it will be global before the end of the year. I find this pretty exciting, as it’s another SEO opportunity for our eCommerce clients. It appears that already there are integrations for WooCommerce and Shopify.

OK, but what about the cost?

I’ll admit, there’s a bigger up-front cost with building a site yourself.

I take that back. Shopify isn’t all that bad, although they have monthly fees, because it is hosted, although the monthly fees might add up, but it comes with everything all-in-one full-meal-deal if that’s what you like. You can pay to have someone set it all up for you, have it match your branding and whatnot, or you can set it up yourself and you’ll probably get by either way. It’s a great option for someone who wants a store. Some pretty big brands use Shopify, including Hasbro, The Economist, Heinz, Crabtree & Evelyn, and Penguin Books.

WooCommerce is my favourite though. It’s a great option if you want a full website, more than just a shop. From what I understand the API is easier to work with, so if you like doing your own coding . . . stuff (sorry, I stick to html and css, disturbingly so), it’s a better option. I like that you can use their official plugins or third party plugins  to make it do whatever you darned-well please. Many-a-time a client has asked “but can you make it do this?” and I’ve said “of course we can!” then gone to one of our developers and said “so . . . they asked me if we can make it do this” to be told “weird but . . . I guess so?”

Why say no when it feels so good to say yes?
Right?!

As for cost, WooCommerce itself is free, though if you purchase it with a theme, it sometimes comes with other paid upgrades. There are paid and free plugins you can get for WooCommerce. Your main cost will be building the website, and then the monthly or annual fee of hosting it varies from provider to provider.

I may or may not be the Yes Girl, much to the chagrin of our CEO. (Sorry Kelly.)

Let’s do it!

So now that I’ve given you all the reasons why you really ought to have your own website instead of working for someone else, why don’t you give us a call, send us an email, or contact us through social media and let us help you get your business online! We can offer advice on what platform is best for you, or we can do all the work for you. Whatever level of service you need, we’re here for you.

Doctor Who: Just do it!
Don’t take my word for it. The good Doctor says you should too.
BloggingEducationMarketingMobile AppsSocial MediaUncategorized

Social media for your business

Most have a good understanding about what common social media platforms offer. Some think the more the better (target as many people on all corners of social media and you’ll reach more potential customers), but with social media this isn’t necessarily the case. The best way to approach social media is to find channels that are the most beneficial to your businesses unique needs. Each platform attracts different age, gender and even industry demographics. Depending on your target audience you want to be present on the platforms your audience is using most often.

Facebook: facebook

This is the best platform to start on for any business, it has the widest range of age demographics, and currently has 2.38 billion active monthly users. This is a great platform to make connections and build community. You can easily share important aspects of your business, and find potential customers. On this platform you want to post videos and curated content. Although if your business is targeting a younger audience, ages 13-17 this age group spends less time on Facebook than 18 and up.

 

Instagram:Instagram

Instagram has quickly become a massive platform, with 1 billion active monthly users. This platform is great for product based businesses, as it is highly visual and just recently released the shopping feature making it even easier for customers to buy your products. Instagram is focused on creativity and building community. If your target demographic is under 35 this is a platform you cannot skip. 63% of users are between the ages of 18 to 34, and to make it even better its virtually an even split between male and female users. On this platform you want to post good quality aesthetically pleasing images and stories, use this platform to become more personal with your customers.

 

Twitter:Twitter

Twitter is the go-to platform for being updated on the latest news and trends, it is fairly fast paced so posting often is key. This is another great platform for sharing interesting information, or contributing to a conversation about your industry. Studies show that tweeting content with visuals does significantly better than without, although other studies show posting your traditional “one liner” tweet is just as good (we’ll leave it up to you to decide for your business on this one.) This platform also tends to have a younger audience 38% user are 18-29. But with that said, still a high number of users age 30-49 are active on Twitter making up for 26% of adult users. Both male and females are active on Twitter so if your business targets one or the other, or both this is a great platform to gain exposure on.

 

LinkedIn:LinkedIn

LinkedIn is one of the best platforms for professionals. This channel is best used for business-to-business brands aiming to make interactions with the decision makers of a business. Gender demographics are well balanced here as neither male or females are more active on this platform. Businesses are looking for certain industries or job titles rather than ages or genders. This is a great place to post job openings, update other business owners and professionals on company changes and share professional content. 34% of users between the ages of 18 to 29 and 33% of users between the ages of 30 to 49 are active on LinkedIn.

 

Pinterest:Pinterest

Pinterest is a platform that is often overlooked as it used to be a community of home makers sharing recipes and DIY projects. While this is still true, the user base is more female dominant on this platform, 50% of new accounts are being made by males. Pinterest should be seen as a search engine more than a social media platform as 2 billion searches are made every month. It’s a great site to direct traffic to your website and gain exposure for blog post, and products. The content on this platform is highly product based, as users on Pinterest are usually searching for a product.

 

There are so many more platforms you can choose to be active on but these are the biggest ones you want to focus on as they are highly popular. Social media is a great way to reach more people and build rapport with customers. It’s a way to show off your aspects of your business that may otherwise be looked over.

Tip: remember to be social on the accounts you have, respond/leave comments,  and share things you find interesting. Whatever your company culture may be let your content also express this same energy to your viewers. Your account can be whatever you want it to be, not just what everyone else in your industry is doing!

BloggingMarketingSocial Media

social media management tips

A few months back we had a local business friend inquire about growing her Instagram. This business owner is well known in the local community and even award winning in her industry. She sent me a message along the lines of “Any suggestions what I am doing wrong here? I can’t seem to grow my following on Instagram even though I have these awards and am known in the community.”

This is something I hear often. “Why can’t I seem to grow my online following?”

But before I get into the tips for how to grow your Instagram, let’s first take a look at what your goals are. When I sit down with a new or potential social media management client, I always ask what the goals are for the social media. Is the goal for more sales online? Is the goal for brand awareness? Do you have a specific followers count number in mind?  Who is your customer you are speaking to online?

Armed with some of these answers we can create a game plan.

Personalize your brand

People are not inclined to follow accounts and companies that are all about the sales push. If you can connect with the people following your account through your personalization ,they are far more likely to follow AND to engage with you online.

A couple examples of personalizing your brand could be featuring people who work for your company. Share information about your staff, their interests and their jobs/experiences. At Panda Rose we do a weekly Feature Friday of one of our staff members and they are always a big hit. People like to know who is behind the work.

If you are a single person show or really small operation, you can offer some insight into your life. What do you like to do with some of your spare time outside of the office/work site? Do you have a family? Are you a foodie? Getting a bit more personal helps people connect with you and feel as if they are not always being sold on something.

social media management tips

Have clean/clear pictures

The occasional quote or meme can be fun, but too much of a good thing is well…. too much. Keep the photos you are uploading clean and clear. This doesn’t mean they have to all be done by a professional, but avoid posting pictures that are blurry, too dark and/or poor quality.  You can take fun courses online about photography if you really are wanting to get into it, but honestly there are a lot of bloggers and Instagrammers online that also use their phones for snapping pictures.

BE SOCIAL

I can’t stress this one enough. It’s called social media, not “put pictures up and don’t talk to anyone to get famous media”. Some quick tips for engaging online with others:

  1. Comment on other peoples photos that you follow and that follow you. Talk to the people who are already enagaging with you! This helps build a community around your page/brand.
  2. Search hashtags that are relevant to your industry/business. Are you a wedding cake baker in Edmonton? Search for #yegweddings and find and follow other industry people or couples getting married. Engage with them and be seen, but again also creating that community.
  3. Ask questions on your posts/stories. When you ask questions, people love to give you their opinions. They want to share in their experience with you and give suggestions and tips of their own. This helps with community building, relationship building, shows you are listening and at the same time gives you an in depth insight into your customer. What do they like? What do they want? What are their interests?

 

Make sure you connect with Panda Rose Consulting Studios Inc on Instagram! 

Panda Rose

BloggingMarketingSEOSocial MediaWeb Development

SEO for loans

Your online presence has bearing when it comes to getting a loan for your business.

According to Statistics Canada from 2016, 51.3% of small businesses request funds to help with their business. Over half of those people are requesting the money from financial institutions such as banks. Many business owners are looking to purchase equipment to speed up processes, hire employees, get into larger spaces and purchase high volume of items. Whatever the reasoning your business is looking to expand, you may need a loan in order to boost your business to take it to the next level.

“51.3% of small businesses request funds to help with their business.”

Last week we were lucky to have Tom Yeo from Scotiabank in Spruce Grove stop by to chat about the importance of your online presence when banks are considering you for a loan. When looking at getting a loan from the bank for business, there are a lot of factors at play, but as Tom explains, they always look online at your businesses website. Whether you sell online items or not, they look up your website.

So what exactly are they looking for when they look up your business online?

Tom says the first thing he does is look at the company website. He looks at the About Us section to see if it is up to date, relevant and if there even is one at all. He is looking to see that there is contact information and that its up to date. He wants to know that your company is going to have business for the next 2, 5, or even 10 years. Tom says then as he’s looking at the website he is looking to see “that it’s professionally done. That then shows that the company takes pride in what it’s doing and is actually invested in it’s image that’s out there.”

“shows that the company takes pride in what it’s doing and is actually invested in it’s image”

Your business’ online image is important for a lot of reasons. It’s important for potential loaners, investors, clients and even employees.

Tom goes on to say that “there was a company I recently decided not to do business with, because when I looked up their company online, what came up was employee reviews and they were all negative.” Now we all know that in business, we can’t make everyone happy. We also know that sometimes there are people out there that make a point to try to ruin a reputation of a company. When I asked Tom if there was any bearing in responses from the company on reviews he replied that it’s important to “manage you entire presence” and that replying to reviews has a “huge impact if done in a professional response.”

There is a bit of a process when beginning to look at funding options for your business, and managing your online presence is one of them. Look for:

  • Reviews.  Search your company online and find reviews. Respond to any concerns left by employees or clients. We even suggest responding to the people who left you wonderful reviews! It’s great for SEO and building community around your brand.
  • Your website information is up to date an relevant. Make sure your contact information is correct and that your products and services are up to date as well.
  • Your website looks professional.

Pop over to our blog post 5 Website Mistakes That Are Hurting Your Business for more tips!

About Tom: Tom Yeo is originally from the UK and moved to Canada a few years ago. He has been in the banking industry for approximately 10 years in a variety of roles including personal banking, business banking and investments.

 

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MarketingSEOSocial MediaTechnology

Panda Rose Consulting Joins Clutch’s Research of SEO & PPC Agencies in Canada

Every business values exposure. When companies are looking to expand their customer base, it’s very important that they find a marketing firm that can understand the intricacies of their business and target the right audience. Our clients trust that our expertise in digital marketing can help their business grow and they trust that we’ll always deliver on time. On our Clutch profile, which was created earlier this year, you can see what sets us apart as one of the best companies for your SEO, PPC, and general digital marketing needs.

Clutch is a Washington, DC-based B2B research and reviews firm. They look to connect business buyers with the best service providers worldwide, using a thorough research methodology based on client feedback in the form of unbiased and accurate reviews. To collect reviews, Clutch actually calls our former clients and interviews them about their experiences working with the Panda Rose team. We have our first review on our Clutch profile, and already the feedback we’ve received from our wonderful client Krista Rumberg has been more than we expected. Check it out:

SEo       

Because of our commitment to our clients and our expertise in SEO, Clutch named us as one of the top SEO companies in Canada. We’ve also been recognized as a top-performing firm on Clutch’s sister sites, The Manifest and Visual Objects.

The Manifest’s content includes lists of top performing companies, articles on trends within the tech industry, and helpful guides for business owners. We are included on their list of the top 50 social media marketing companies in Canada.

Visual Objects is Clutch’s newly launched site that acts as a central hub to view the portfolios of creative firms. Visual Objects features firms from a variety of industries including app development, web design, and branding. You can find Panda Rose listed on their list of the top digital marketing agencies in 2019. We’re happy to be one of the first firms featured on Visual Objects and we’re excited to see how the site evolves.

With the new year underway, we’re extremely appreciative of our clients for taking the time to speak with Clutch and reflect on their experiences working with us. To get honest and verified feedback through a third-party source is a great opportunity for Panda Rose and we look forward to seeing how much more we can grow our presence on each site until we’re considered the very best digital marketing agency in Canada!

 

We thank all of our clients and would love if you could also take a moment to leave us a review as well.

Panda Rose SEO

BloggingMarketingSEOSocial MediaUncategorized

social media for business

Social Media has been an important part of business for a while now. It’s not going away any time soon and will continue to be a player in business. However, not all social media channels are created equally for business. Each has their place and purpose, especially depending on your businesses industry.

But where do you even start?

Sometimes it can feel like a daunting task looking at all the different platforms and thinking about signing up for, creating accounts for and content for all of these accounts.

The good news is; well you don’t have to do that. Yes, there are many platforms, and yes it would be amazing if you could be active on them all. However it’s not necessary. So let’s take a look at how to figure out what social media platforms are best for your business and how to keep them active.

There are many platforms but generally here are the major ones:

First, take a look at who your demographic is? Who is your client/customer? Do you service other businesses? Maybe a platform like LinkedIn and Twitter are a better place to spend your efforts connecting to other business people and building those relationships. Do you sell a product or service for a younger demographic? You are more likely to find them on Snapchat or Instagram. Do you sell craft supplies, fashion items or nearly anything you ship worldwide? Pinterest might be the place you put your time and energy.

Once you have defined your demographic and where they might be hanging out then you can start to develop a plan around building that platform. Find content related to your business or your client and start to post. Post often (3-7 times a week) but not too often (3-7 times a day!). You can share your own blog posts, ones you love, photos or memes.

Most importantly BE SOCIAL! Social media is about being social. Post things, but also engage with the people around you. Like and comment and have conversations on other peoples content as well. Did you read a funny meme someone shared and it actually made you laugh a bit out loud? Let them know! Was an article or blog post shared that you found great information in? Share your views on the topic.

Once you feel like you have got a good handle on a platform or that it’s performing well/has a decent following, then you can work on tackling another platform. This helps prevent a little bit of the burn out from social media channels and the overwhelm!

 

Panda Rose

MarketingShoppingSocial Media

instagram symbol

Instagram has become a way for brands to personalize themselves before their customers. This is thanks to micro-influencers.

instagram symbol

Micro-influencers have become a powerful presence on the platform.

What are they?

A micro-influencer is someone who brands to their audience based on their own personal likes and interests. This strategy works well because these influencers are branding honestly. They aren’t always paid for what they do and still they are able to convince their followers that their favourite product needs to be yours too.

The audience of a micro-influencer may be small. But they achieve something celebrities and giant brands can’t: They create relationships. They also have much higher rates of consumer involvement opposed to celebrities.

cactus

A celebrity can have everything anyone could want materially. Tons of money, the perfect bod, being paid to attend events or workout. (We would all be in-shape if that was the reality for the rest of us, am I right?) You follow these famous people on social media, love and support them. But the lifestyle these people live is not a reality for most of us. The fraction of celebrities in the world is less than 1%. So when they tell us we need a certain product, it’s hard to take them seriously.

1. Because they were paid to sell the product — not genuine.

2. Maybe they do love the product but it still didn’t cost them anything to use the product.

3. They have everything you want anyways, what’s one more cool product they have that you don’t?

This is why the micro-influencers are so successful. They aren’t millionaires, they are real and they choose who they brand for.

The pictures they post are taken by them opposed to sponsored ads. They don’t have to brand for products they don’t like, meaning their reviews are genuine. They can use their account to be real with their audiences and create relationships.

succulents
Succulents, because Instagram loves succulents.

From experience I know that it is very possible to become attached to an Instagram account.

I follow a girl on Instagram she is an artist who is still in art school and she takes pictures of mostly her art. In some cases she will advertise for her pieces. Otherwise she is just a student with amazing fashion sense who posts cute pictures with positive captions. I love it. She could convince me to buy products, no doubt. And she isn’t even a legitimate influencer!

(She is influencing me though . . . maybe she’s just that good, I don’t even know she’s an influencer! 😅)

How do they do it?

They have charisma.

Just like writing a book or script for a TV show, the characters need a distinct personality. What is the character’s family like? What is her obsession? What is his weakness? How do they present themselves at work opposed to in front of their friends? What is their favourite food.

The answer to these questions are found not because the TV show literally says what their favourite food is. Instead you learn by watching the character get excited to eat when they find out there is going to be waffles and strawberries. You learn that they had a spoiled childhood because of the way their parents disapprove of their current lifestyle. Etc.

young people excited about something in natureThe same goes for micro-influencers. They are characters. They either have to come up with who their character is, or exaggerate their real personalities. This way people can grow attached to the perfectly molded character.

People don’t want another brand being thrown at them based on their likes and shares on the platform. They want to know what they need because their favourite influencer can’t remember what it was like to do their morning routine before this amazing product.

Not only do consumers get to hear from likeable people what products they recommend. But the good micro-influencers share the experience. They can give the why, who and how these products have worked for them. Not only are they characters, but storytellers themselves.

young woman on rocky trail in mountains

Micro-influencers have the ability to make their audience feel sorry for them when they have a hard day and rejoice when the micro-influencers can tell their faithful followers good news.

I mean, influence is in their title.

Maybe your small business could use a micro-influencer or you could be that person for your company!

If you see the value in your business having a micro-influencer but you find that you lack the creativity or time needed for such a job, you can find someone to be the influencer for you. Check out this blog for info:

Being a micro-influencer sounds rather glamorous. I love the idea of a job consisting of posting on Instagram, sharing my likes and interests, having a valid opinion, taking beautiful pictures, influencing people and being paid to do it!

branch with leaves in vase

As lovely as that all sounds, I know that it would all take a lot of work. To critique your compelling voice, to make sure you state your opinion strongly without offending others. The dedication and effort would take hours upon hours and money, at least for the beginning.

Who knows, maybe you are up for the task.

Tess Houcher

1161 views
HolidaysMobile AppsSelf-ImprovementSocial Media

No I didn’t go anywhere. But I was away. I deleted my social media apps from my phone for a week. Therefore, I was away.

If you want to know why I left for a week, check out my previous blog here.

During my time off from Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat (which I deleted from my phone two days into my week off of these other two apps.) I noticed a few things that I would love to highlight for you.

First off, it is challenging for the first 3ish days. The rest of the week wasn’t that bad. (So you could do it too!)

Yes, people did end up saying “Good for you.” After that first response there were a few different comments to follow. Some told me that they may try a week off from social media as well. Another person made sure I knew that just because I was doing it, that didn’t mean they were going to take a break too. Then there was just the eyebrow raise.

One unpleasant drawback was during down time in a group setting everyone ended up on their phones. In my attempt to bring my friends attention back to the world around them and not the ones on their screens is when I got those last two responses. This part of the social media cleanse was extra difficult. It also was a major eye opener to the norms of my life and of my peers.

It’s easier to go with the flow.

Another thing I learned about myself during this week is that I definitely had been prioritizing social media. Before I couldn’t tell if social media was really taking up that much time in my life. I realize now that it was, and that I now have time! Time that I no longer want to spend scrolling endlessly to fill empty time space.

During the week I was definitely hit with the cravings. I wanted to take a video on snapchat of my friends being stupid, I wanted to post the beautiful sunset over a lake on Instagram (with an inspirational quote of course) and I wanted to share the videos from my last concert on Facebook as I had said I would in a previous post.

If you didn’t post it, did it even happen?

These cravings made me realize how obscure my thought process had become in my years of social media and I am quite young! Why did I care to post all of these things? The people I love and care about and vice versa would find out about the truly important moments in my life. So why would I care about the likes on a post that is barely significant to even me?

It’s called FOMO- Fear of Missing Out: anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening where you are not, often stimulated by social media. I see FOMO as a mindset that believes the grass is greener on the other side- the inability to be satisfied.

We are always teaching people to not care about what others have to say about you and your life, so why have we trained our brains to crave online feedback in an unhealthy way? A little contradictory don’t you think?

I would once again like to mention that I still think social media can be a great thing. Communicating with loved ones, friends near and far and enjoying the features available on the social media apps are all great.

But, too much of a good thing is where we get in trouble, just like most aspects in our day to day lives. There needs to be a balance. Post that picture, share the funny dog video, like and comment all that you want to. Just don’t become dependant on these apps.

It’s like food. Go ahead, eat the cake, taste the cookie dough, and share a big bag of chips with your friends (… or don’t share. ;))

BUT, you and I should not need the cake, cookie dough or chips. There is a difference between treating yourself and becoming dependent on the things you do not need.


Social media is the way of the world, there is no denying that, but if you agree that the addiction of social media is a little too mainstream for your liking, maybe try working on your balanced social media diet like I did.

Now this is the hard part, I want to continue to not need social media but I do still want to keep my social media accounts active. I plan to leave the apps deleted from my phone. But I am going to allow myself to get the apps back when I want to post something. When I do this, I will also go through my feeds and probably creep a few friends then delete the apps once again.

This setup won’t last me forever, it is just a way to reteach my brain how to think. How to not need my news feeds whenever I am bored or in an awkward situation. I am still not sure if this applies to Snapchat too. (To better understand my thoughts on Snapchat, my previous blog can be found here.) But I guess I will see how my thoughts are directed and decide if I need to treat Snapchat the same as the other two apps or not.

Well there you have it, if you have read this whole blog post then whether you like it or not, you now have an idea on what it is like to not be consumed by social media. What are you going to do about it? The choice is completely yours.

Let me know if you have tried a break from social media or just your thoughts on this topic in general. I hope to hear from you soon!

Tess Houcher 

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Mobile AppsProductivitySelf-ImprovementSocial Media

If you and I were having a conversation and I said “I deleted Instagram and Facebook.” I think it is safe to say that you would respond by saying something along the lines of a “Good for you.” We all seem to understand that really, we could do better without the pressures and time consumption that comes with social media. But then why do we struggle so much to give it up? Or have we given up on trying to give up.

As a society, we have been diagnosed with an addiction of social media. We know we don’t need it, we are aware of all the time it consumes, we can imagine the peace that comes with a lack of the worldwide connection.

So why haven’t we quit yet?

First off, social media is really good at branding itself. It is a business and we are its loyal customers. They will convince us that to be connected and have a good quality of life we need social media. This is not at all truth, but it seems to be the reality for many.

Not only is social media good at convincing us we need it, we end up convincing each other that we need social media without even saying it out loud. There is an underlying pressure to keep your profile up to date and to like the posts and updates of your many friends.

Side note: My Nana actually does tell me to keep my otherwise useless Facebook profile up to date so she can know about my life… so I guess in some cases, I am literally told to post more on Facebook.

And once again, we seem to be addicted. These factors create a situation which has found to be quite difficult to escape.


Spring Break of 2016 I went to Mexico with a group of high school students and a couple adult leaders. The main reason for the trip was to help the people there. We went to a couple children centres, did maintenance and rebuilding at a couple different locations. We were there for a week and had no way to contact our families back home or use social media the entire time.

The trip was obviously amazing but the part that I will highlight now is my lack of connection with the whole wide world for that week. As stereotypical as it sounds, I felt free and at peace. I had no way to connect with anyone who was not next to me.

I loved how we never went on our phones to avoid awkward conversations, we were always present. The fact that there was no way to use our phones made it so we didn’t miss them. We were able to forget. It did help that we were in a mindset of helping others, being selfless and in a different part of the world.

It was very weird to cross the border, stop at a coffee shop and see all of the notifications I had received over the past week. Instantly we were reminded of what our reality feels like. As great as it felt to see all the texts from my loved ones, I was slightly repulsed at my instant urge to be connected again.

After spending a week with people who never feel obligated to post their thoughts, opinions, likes and tags, it was very odd to be back in a culture that does. I became aware of my selfishness. And what did I do about these feelings? I posted all about my trip on Facebook and Instagram awaiting the likes and comments.


It’s been over a year and a half since that trip and today I finally decided to give Instagram and Facebook a break again. Now how did I make this decision when I am so good at ignoring the issues that come with social media for me? 

I had a great talk with a friend last night. She told me it has been about a year since she has been on Facebook and about five months since she has used Instagram. With her decision to take this break she told me that she has more time. Not meaning she is always spending her time on productive items, but she does have more time.

She feels that she is now more connected to the people who really are apart of her life and she can invest more time into those people. She also appreciates that the urge to constantly be connected, to post, like and comment is gone.

I don’t think she has sworn off social media forever but for the time she is without it, she is definitely not missing it.

So, this morning I woke up and without over thinking anything, I deleted Instagram and Facebook….

iphone at sunsetI really don’t know how long I will last as my excuse to keep social media has always been that I love posting! I will start with a week without these two social media apps and then I will see how I am doing after that. I know I will get the apps again as I love to share posts when I am traveling and I don’t plan to stop myself from doing that.

This blog is not here to paint everyone with the same brush in saying that everyone is addicted to social media. I know many people who have these social apps but they are not at all addicted. I do however hope you are aware of the power of your self will. That you know that there is a life full of purpose and connections without social media. If you do take a break, you won’t regret it.

Tess Houcher

 

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MarketingMobile AppsSocial Media

Snapchat was a one of a kind app which was created to be nothing like Facebook. People complain that the two apps are nothing alike and yet that was the point, and I will show you how the two differ. I use both apps and personally like that they are completely different.

Facebook was created to connect people. It connects you with your best friend from eighth grade who you haven’t talked to in years, your travelling aunt who is currently in Rome and your best friend you see every weekend. Facebook was created so that you and your friends could still be informed and active in each others lives without actually needing to have a personal conversation with them.

Facebook is a place to document the best moments in life, and a place to find support in the worst. Facebook has morphed into a place to play online games with your friends, a place to keep up with your favourite brands, celebrities, news sources and entertaining videos. Facebook is full of advertisements but it is “free and always will be!”

Snapchat is created for intimacy. Snapchat does not make it easy to find people and it does not make it easy for other people to find you. The posts you make on Snapchat are temporary, meaning people feel free to be their imperfect selves instead of painting a picture of what they want people to see. These factors make most users choose their friends carefully depending on their comfort level.

Snapchat was created around smartphones and their cameras, for documenting the events you experience in the moment. These moments can be shared to make others laugh, to show off you and your friends enjoying a night out, to share a selfie featuring a filter that can expresses your emotion, to add to a public story and be apart of the bigger picture. The uses for Snapchat stories are endless.

People love them because the people who can view your carefully constructed stories are specially chosen by you! Even though you love Grandma, she won’t be able to comment on your story and explain her concern over you being out so late in the middle of the work week for all of your friends to see.

Another ability of the latest updates on snapchat are that you can share your location or view the locations of your friends. This is if you have allowed the feature on your phone, re-establishing that snapchat lets you call the shots.

This is quite different from Facebook, where you were forced to download Facebook Messenger and are constantly notified to update information on yourself for your profile until they know everything about you.

What’s with the pushy attitude Facebook? Of course, to this question they would answer by explaining that in order to market best to you as an individual and to make sure that you are as connected as possible, they need to have all the information about you that you are willing to give.

But no one ever said they wanted to scroll through advertisements before getting to look at their new baby cousin’s photos. On Snapchat, I am advertised to when looking at the channels or between the stories of my friends. These ads I can choose to watch or tap to skip. Meaning I chose when I look at content other than stories.

SnapChat Logo

Another perk to Snapchat, is that the app is trendy. Snapchat is always updating, adding new filters and features and has a direct connection to the most popular magazines. This is not a quality of Facebook. Facebook is known for its use and influence of the older generations. Thus steering young people away from the social media platform.

Some people I know, myself included, don’t bother posting much of anything on Facebook because with too many Facebook friends, we don’t feel like we can post anything real about ourselves. Everything that is on Facebook is simply the image we want people to see of ourselves.


Obviously this article has expressed my favour for Snapchat. But I do still appreciate Facebook. I like that I can reach many people at once with a post. I love the usefulness of buy and sell pages, and my friends group chats. I don’t even mind some of the advertisements as they have been selected for me based on my likes, shares and other information they pick up.

I believe that Snapchat and Facebook have two very different uses and that if one app works for you while the other doesn’t, use the one. Use both of them like I do if you enjoy having two different audiences for your posts. And to my friends who disregard social media completely, enjoy your peace and quiet for me. 🙂

Tess Houcher

Interesting side note:

Before I had finished my article I went onto my snapchat to look at the BuzzFeed channel and all of its stories for the day and I was very intrigued by the voting poll of the day. For those of you who don’t know, Snapchat’s channels will often have quick polls. They usually ask questions that would help them figure out how to entertain their viewers better. For example: Which dessert is the most satisfying to watch being made? Then we are given a few choices and can click on one. I usually vote for these polls for two reasons. One, because I like to let the channels know what I am interested in so they can entertain me better. And two, they show you the current results of the poll after you vote and I find it very interesting to see what the rest of the world thinks. Anyways, the other day Snapchat had a poll asking if you use Snapchat or Instagram filters. I found the results quite interesting…

But is it real…?

Let me know your thoughts on Snapchat, Facebook and this poll in the comments! 

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