Snapchat for Dummies

I was at the SocialWest conference in Calgary last week and I came back with so much to think about. I was thinking I would do a blog post on the conference, but it turns out I am going to do several based on my major takeaways. The very first thing I am going to touch on is Snapchat.

I have had Snapchat on my phone for around 3 years and have done almost nothing with it. I probably joined out of curiosity, as I do with so many other things, but it never really drew me in. Last week at the conference I felt like maybe Snapchat is about to reach a tipping point. If we were to look at the diffusion of innovation model below, I would guess Snapchat is somewhere in that blue section, not yet at it’s peak but gaining mass traction. Heck even the Whitehouse is using it.



Kat Macaulay was the woman who spoke about Snapchat at SocialWest. She actually created her presentation using Snapchat! As far as who should be using Snapchat, here is what Kat had to say about that.


Credit: Kat MacCulay

Her chat and the enthusiasm of other conference attendees convinced me to really give it a go. So I have spent the last few days digging in, watching others snaps, creating my own, and reading the odd article here and there. This video covers the basics of navigating the app. I broke my own rule to keep these videos under three minutes. I think I would have had to pick out a single feature instead of tackling a whole app to keep it short.

As I mentioned in the video, this is only what I have learned in the last week. I’m sure there is lots of nuance I have yet to grasp. What do you love about Snapchat? Who do you like to follow? Have I got any of my facts wrong here. I would love to hear from you in the comments.

Follow Me:

Follow Kat:

Follow The White House

My New 3 Minute How To Series

I have got inspired recently to do a great deal more with video. To challenge myself and perhaps share something of value, I have decided to work on a video series called “3 Minute How To”. I will be trying to choose some topics that I think have a wider appeal and will always strive to keep them short and snackable.  This first one is about how to use photoshop to remove an element of a photo from its background and set it on another background. What do you think? Ideas for future videos? Burning questions about social media, marketing, content development? Comment below to tell me what you think or ask a question.

The Reluctant Writer

My mom has been telling me my whole life that I should write. I don’t like listening to my mom, however I will say she is right about things more often then I would like to admit. I was taking stock today and thinking about all the writing I do. I write for four blogs at present, and I write documents, emails, social media posts and more for work. I actually write more than I don’t write these days. How did this happen?

I liked writing stories and journaling as a kid. English class was always where I did my best  work surprising myself at times. And then, somehow I ended up as a English major. But in recent years I have found myself a little shy when it comes to putting my writing out there for the world.


You may laugh about the image above, but I have to tell you this exact thing happened to me. A few years ago I mistakenly used “you’re” instead of “your” in a comment on friend’s Facebook post. I know the difference; I’m also human. Would you believe me if I told you that a stranger, a friend of my friend, somebody I don’t know at all, felt the need to point out my error and smugly inform me on the correction in a comment below my comment. Wow. I was blown away. We all see people make grammatical errors and we may correct them because it is our job, because we are helping someone edit, or because we just noticed they overlooked something and we want to be helpful. But where is the value in pointing it out just to prove we are smarter?


The good news is despite my fear of the Grammar Police I power through. I choose to express myself, to refine my understanding of the rules, and to try and add value with the content I create.  It was my mom who gave me the book Writing Down the Bones; I think I was 17 or 18 the first time I read that book and much of it has stuck with me. The book offers many simple but powerful tips: keep your hand moving, don’t cross out, just get it on paper (or on your macbook), doubt is torture; don’t listen to it.

Yesterday I came across this which I found terribly refreshing. The article points out that so many “rules” are actually matters of style. What I take away from all this is that to be a better writer the best thing one can do is keep writing.

More Reading

4 Reasons Why Grammar Police Make Terrible Writers

Always Learning

I spent the day at a terrific event today. In my work I spend a lot of time at my computer, however given the opportunity I am uber enthusiastic to get social, as in face to face with social. Today’s event was a partnership with Seekers Media,  TELUS, and the Chinook Country Tourism Association. The workshop’s goal was “to empower you with tips and tricks to increase your social media following and offer solutions to grow your business through digital media”.

I came away feeling pretty inspired to try some new things with video. Prior to the workshop there were some recommended apps for downloading, one of which was iMovie for the iPhone. I have used iMovie on my Mac previously but hadn’t worked with it on my phone. It is my new favourite app! Here is a quick little video I made to experiment and sum up the day.

Lots of other good little nuggets came from the day:






4 Things You Need to Know About Facebook


I spend a great deal of time studying social media, and when I say “studying” I mean endlessly double-tapping on Instagram. In all seriousness I spend a lot of time on social media trying to understand how things work. What are the settings? How do permissions work? What makes people share things? What things make you look savvy or stupid on a particular network? These are rabbit holes to fall down for sure; there are endless things to discover and as soon as you discover something it’s likely to change. 

When it comes to Facebook I want to share with you four things I think you should know, and that you should review when it comes to your own profile.

1. See How Your Profile Appears Publicly

For me, and I think for others,  Facebook is a somewhat more personal space than LinkedIn or Twitter. I like to ensure that the photos and updates I share are visible to the friends, family and even acquaintances that I have approved. What I know from looking at a lot of FB profiles is that many people either intentionally or inadvertently have a lot of their photos, updates and details shared publicly.  If you are wondering what you might be sharing with the world via Facebook, use this quick checkup to take a look. I actually check this one annually just to be sure what might be visible.

First go to your profile. Where you see the ellipsis “…” click and you should see a dropdown that says “View As…”.

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Next check out what you timeline looks like to the publicScreen Shot 2016-02-21 at 11.19.19 PM.png

As you can see Facebook will also let you see how your timeline looks to specific people. So if you are concerned what either Grandma or your ex-boyfriend might see on your timeline, this is one way to verify it.

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I just did it today and found old things showing up that I didn’t see a year ago. I have to chalk this up to FB’s ever changing settings.

2. Customize Privacy On a Post

Next to any of your posts you will see an icon that shows whether you are sharing that post publicly, with friends, with friends excluding acquaintances, with yourself (essentially a private post), or with “custom” settings. The custom settings presents you with unique ways to share. The way I most commonly use this feature is to share with a custom list. I created a list called “Lethbridge” (the city I live in) so that when I post a local news story or share a fundraiser for a local charity I don’t have to spam my friends from California to South Africa.

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This setting also comes in handy when you also want to keep specific people from seeing a post. For instance if you didn’t want your dad to know about a surprise birthday party but you wanted to tell everyone else on FB about it, you could exclude him from seeing the post. I also recommend this setting to exclude your co-workers if you are silly enough to post pictures of your epic ski day, when you called in sick to work.

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3. Designate Trusted Contacts and Legacy Contacts

These lesser known settings help you establish further security over you account. First choose friends who can help you regain access to your account should you ever have a problem.  Second choose a legacy contact who has permission to manage your Facebook page after you die. This one would be easy enough to skip because who wants to plan for FB after death, but it’s an inevitability for anyone with an account. You can also opt to have your FB page removed permanently after your death.

First choose “privacy settings” (the lock icon on the top navigation). Go to your security Settings to see your options for these two. I actually designated 3 people as my trusted contact. For your Legacy contact you will only be able to designate one person.

First go to settings.


Next choose “security”.


In you security settings you will see the option to choose your “legacy contact”.

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4. Save Posts to Read Later

I absolutely love this feature. This is a great way to save articles, videos, recipes and anything else to review later. I think its great because you don’t always have the time or might not be in the mood for the content your friends, or the pages you follow are posting but you may genuinely be interested in it. Reviewing some of your saved posts is a akin to  leisurely reading the Sunday paper because you have the time to sit back and take it in.

To use the feature, click the drop down at the top right of any post shared in your newsfeed and choose “save Link”.


When you want to go back to your saved items, access them on the top left nvtigation on your newsfeed page.

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Here I can see all the things I have saved.

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After reading the article “WestJet Got It So Right For This New Dad” I click the “x” on the right of the saved posts and it is then sent to my archive folder. Best feature!

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What are your Facebook, tricks, tips or favourite features?

No Excuses For Bad Images

No ExcusesDisclaimer: I am not a graphic designer and will never claim to be. That said I have a lot of fun seeing what I can come up with when it comes to photo editing. I have taken some photoshop classes and I like to dabble with some of the many entry level tools that are out there. 

So when it comes to sourcing images for blogs and social media I have a strong opinion that there is no excuse for bad images. If I am being truthful I would say that these are tools I think everyone could and should use. Just about everyone could use a some better imagery if not for their business related profiles, for some of the personal ones.

One of my current go-to tools is Canva, where you can create many things either for free or for a minimal charge (about $1) . Canva also has a ton of stock imagery priced at $1

In the example below I had a quote from Winston Churchill and my idea was to overlay it on an image of the man himself. I first sourced the image using Google Images, further narrowing the search to usage rights that allowed reuse.

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One of the first things I like about Canva is all the presets for different types of images. Need a Twitter header, a YouTube thumbnail, a Facebook Event Cover Photo? Canva has you covered. Of course you always have the option to enter your own custom dimensions, but the presets offer an easy approach to getting started on some of the most common formats. Especially because the specifications for image sizes change often, these presets make it easy for newbies and the experienced.

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Just a sample of some of the presets you can choose to start creating with Canva.

Taking my Winston Churchill photo into Canva I started with a present for a Facebook post as that was my intended use for the finished product. I then selected one of their template layouts as it had a clean layout and fonts that I liked.

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The Canva Layout (template) I started with

Next I dropped in my photo and made necessary adjustments to the text and then filters.

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I ended up with something respectable but I was still not completely satisfied. I didn’t like the text over his face and I didn’t want to shrink the text down too much so I ended up switching things up to another layout. This was the final result.

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And after that I did another. All in less than a half hour.

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Canva actually has a really cool design school where you can learn more about everything from typography to design layout. I’ll admit I might need to be stranded on a desert island before I have the time for design school. I’d highly recommend just diving right in and learning along the way as its just so simple and satisfying to use. Some other similar tools I haven’t played with as much but that work similarly are:

Steve Jobs Biography

I just finished reading Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. It’s taken me many months to complete this book. Summer has been busy with work, travel, and home renovation projects; moments with a book have been infrequent. Don’t get me wrong this book is a great read, it’s just not a page turner because you know how this one is going to end. I always enjoy a good biography and learning more about the twists and turns of the lives of people. The story of Steve Jobs is an incredibly interesting one. It’s a classic story of a man who wouldn’t take no for an answer; when told something could not or should not be done, Jobs would do it. His work was game changing and has had an impact on most all of us today.

I am not sure Steve Jobs is someone I would have wanted to meet in person. Known for his prickly personality and his drive to innovate at any cost, he was never afraid to loose a friend in the pursuit of progress. I think the thing I was most struck with, with his story was his total adherence to aesthetic and design to the exception of people. He was able to do the incredible things that he did because of his conviction, his powerful ideas and his and unwillingness to settle. What would easily be perceived as egotism was his greatest asset when it came to setting his products apart and changing the world. He would have never done some of the amazing things he did if he had been any other way.

The most interesting things I learned about Jobs in the book: He was a major force behind the movies of Pixar Studios, of which there are many I love. He was adopted. He credited taking LSD as being one of his life’s most profound experiences. Jobs got married at the Ahwahnee Hotel, in Yosemite National Park, where I worked for a number of years and met my own husband. Prior to getting married, but after becoming very rich he lived in a house that was hardly furnished, because he was so particular about furnishings and design. His commitment to simplicity and tendency toward exceptional design total was reflected everywhere in his life and work, from his signature black turtle necks, to what he decided not to do with his products, to his interest in and practice of zen meditation.

Ultimately this was a really interesting read about an major icon of our time. This book gives me a whole new appreciation for my iphone and how it came to be.