The Knit Cafe connects on Ravelry

I’m no knitter, but I love the fact that knitters have their own social network. Ravelry is a meeting place where knitters, crocheters, spinners and weavers can discuss their crafts and sell their patterns and yarns.

Ravelry

Screenshot by Social Butterflies.

It makes sense, then, that The Knit Cafe, a knitting space/cafe on Queen Street has a presence on Ravelry. What better place to sell their patterns and lure knitters to the store to pore over yarn? Do you have a favourite niche social network?

Sunnybrook Hospital adds Google Plus into the mix

I didn’t think I’d find very many organizations with active Google Plus accounts, but I was wrong. Sunnybrook Hospital is one of many Toronto not-for-profit organizations that are using Google Plus. They are mostly sharing health tips (“3 ways to boost your mood in winter”) and news from the hospital (“New medical tool is ‘almost like a PlayStation.'”).

Sunnybrook

Screenshot by Social Butterflies.

The content is very similar to the content Sunnybrook shares on Facebook and I had to do a bit of research to figure out why an organization would want to invest in both social media. It turns out, one big advantage of being on Google Plus is search engine optimization. The more Google Plus followers an organization has, the higher it ranks in search results, even when those followers are not signed in.

Posting, of course, improves search ranking further, because Google Plus posts make it into search results and when people click “+1” on your content, their connections find out about it as well. For an organization like Sunnybrook, which does a lot of fundraising  and recruitment online, staying high in the search results is crucial. Does your organization use Google Plus?

The Meeting House spreads the Gospel with podcasts

I work for a church organization, so I couldn’t resist including at least one church in my examination of organizations online. The Meeting House says it is a “church for people who aren’t into church.” It emphasizes compassion, peace and community. At the heart of the Meeting House’s activity are its teachings or sermons, which are produced at the head office in Oakville. They are then shown in rented movie theatres in various locations in Ontario. Yes, it’s church in a movie theatre!

The sermons are also archived on The Meeting House’s website, both in video and audio, and can also be downloaded free on iTunes. This way, The Meeting House can reach people who cannot make it to church on Sunday and those outside of its current geographical area. It also allows people to share the sermons through social media and download them to their mobile devices. The Meeting House is certainly not the only church to share its sermons online, but its approach is particularly sophisticated. What is your religious or spiritual community doing online?

Bishop Strachan School cultivates relationships on LinkedIn

This week, I wanted to write about LinkedIn and I was racking my brains for an organization that is doing a great job on this social medium at the grassroots level. Many smaller organizations have a rudimentary presence on LinkedIn and post jobs when they are hiring. Not many have a more rounded presence, which is why the Bishop Strachan School, an independent girls’ school in Toronto’s Forest Hill neighbourhood, stands out.

In addition to jobs, they post regular updates and news from the school and use the LinkedIn Services tab to list the programs they offer: Junior, Middle and Senior School, boarding program and summer academy. It makes sense for an elite educational institution like the Bishop Strachan School to invest in LinkedIn. First of all, they can stay connected with their alumnas, or Old Girls, as they are called, and cultivate relationships that the school can tap into when it needs financial support or even speakers to come to the school. And second, that same network can also be a source of new students for the school.

Is there a company whose LinkedIn presence stands out for you?

Photographer educates on Instagram

Another post about You Grow Girl. I am obviously very impressed with what Gayla Trail is doing on social media. It’s not surprising that as a photographer, she is on three photo-sharing websites: Pinterest, Instagram, and Flickr, with the bulk of the action happening on the latter two.

spider-plant

Photo by Social Butterflies.

As a non-photographer (though I did take the one above), I had to do a bit of research to understand the differences between them and the advantages of each. Turns out that with Flickr, users get a terabyte of free photo storage space, so they can store their photos at full resolution. They can curate photos into sets, share them via social media, and get comments from other Flickr users. Perhaps best of all, they can be part of Flickr’s lively photographer community. Trail is using Flickr like many photographers would, to publish high-quality photos of her travels, plants, gardens and craft projects.

Many of the same photos make it onto her Instagram and that’s where the socializing happens. This spring, Trail is making an effort to educate new gardeners about growing without chemical products and is encouraging followers to share organic gardening tips with the tag #hecknomiraclegro. How do you share your photos?

Urban gardener creates engagement on blog

My balcony faces east. In the morning, my apartment is full of light, but shortly after noon, both the balcony and the apartment are in shade. The good news is, my apartment never gets too hot during Toronto’s sweltering summers. The bad news is that I cannot grow tomatoes. But I can dream!

It was while planning my future vegetable patch that I stumbled upon You Grow Girl, the gardening blog started by urban gardener, writer and photographer Gayla Trail. You Grow Girl is an online community for “gardeners, plant lovers, explorers, cooks and eaters, readers and writers, walkers, lookers, wonderers and wanderers, collectors, creators, tinkers, savers, builders, and those born curious.” It is also a way for the author to promote her books, which include You Grow Girl: The Groundbreaking Guide to Gardening and Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces.

I am particularly impressed with the creative way that Trail is engaging her blog readers. Many bloggers ask questions to prompt discussion, but Trail has taken it much further. She has created the Grow Write Guild, a creative writing prompt series for people who love to garden. Grow Write Guild
Every two weeks, she posts a prompt, such as “Write about a houseplant,” or “Write about the moment when you knew you had become a gardener.” Writers are encouraged to post their writing on their own blog, with a link to the original prompt, and also to leave a comment under the prompt post with a link to their writing. Trail even provides “Grow Write Guild” graphic badges (above) that participants can use on their blogs. I love the heart-felt personal stories community members share. Is there a blog where you comment regularly?

The Royal York makes things right on Trip Advisor

Used to be that when I was preparing to travel, my first trip would be to the bookstore to get the Lonely Planet book for whatever place I was visiting. I still do that, but now I also use Trip Advisor to see what people have to say about my hotel.

Royal York Trip Advisor

Screenshot by Social Butterflies.

I am always impressed when a hotel makes a point of replying to customer reviews on Trip Advisor. It makes me trust them more because it looks like they care. Since this blog is about Toronto businesses, I checked out a few Toronto hotels on Trip Advisor. I was surprised to find that a place like the Fairmont Royal York is doing a better job of engaging on Trip Advisor than some funkier Queen Street boutique hotels. They make a point of replying to almost every comment.  If the review is positive, they post a thank-you; if it’s negative, they apologize and explain what happened and how they will do better in the future.

“Thank you for your feedback,” they wrote to one customer who had a mixed experience. “While it’s always wonderful to hear that our location is the best in the city, we are concerned that your hot water knob did not shut off properly and agree that this is not a charming feature and should have been repaired before the room was made available to you. We will follow up with our maintenance team.” In some cases, they note that they have contacted the customer privately to resolve an issue.

I’ve never stayed at the Royal York, but this is the sort of engagement that would make me more likely to do so. I wonder if it is fair for me to judge a hotel for its level of engagement online, though. Is it necessarily true that a hotel that does not do so cares less about its customers?