Social media doesn’t have to be complicated but it should be, y’know, social

These days it’s not hard to find examples of brands and businesses that are using social media well. I mean, yes, there are still plenty of examples of brands that are doing a terrible job, and even more that are just puttering along. But for the most part there’s a good group of them out there that recognize the potential of the tools at their disposal, the power of their audience, and the value of doing something with it.

As far as I’m concerned, a brand doesn’t have to launch a big, flashy, innovative campaign to be impressive (although those are undoubtedly cool). In fact, sometimes it’s the simplest things that catch my attention online, and usually all a brand has to do is put the “social” back in social media.

I always mean to write about some of the cool experiences that I’ve had with brands and businesses while living on the internet but, obviously, it hasn’t happened yet. So, because it’s on my mind right now, let me tell you about a simple bit of online brand outreach that I thought was pretty memorable.

In my work with The Let’s Go Ladies I spent a lot of time reading and commenting on other travel blogs. After all, networking is a valuable part of social media success. whether you’re trying to grow your readership or just want to create meaningful connections with other content creators, taking the time to network is a good thing to do.

“Time”, of course, being a key word here. Building relationships takes time – something many brands still don’t necessarily want to commit to.

But last week I read a post on The Travel Hack about things to pack in your carry-on luggage. One of the items the author highlighted was this neat travel scarf called the Trtl Sleepscarf. The wrapped tube-style scarf has built-in supportive ribbing that holds your chin up while you doze off. I’m notorious for falling asleep on long trips and this is SO much better than a neck roll, crushing your face against a window, or the classic “nod n’ bob” (which I’m embarrassingly close to perfecting).

I was instantly sold. There was only one problem: The UK-based company didn’t ship internationally.

trtl, travel, The Travel Hack, The Let's Go Ladies, Sara Hamil
I was crushed.

In love with the idea, I resolved to keep an eye on the site and wait for international shipping to open up. I was going to be ready.

I made that comment on Tuesday. On Friday morning I woke up to a tweet on the TLGL Twitter account from Trtl:

OH, HAPPY DAY!
I AM NOW!

 

To which I responded enthusiastically.

And they RT'd and fave'd it, OBVI.
And they RT’d and fave’d it, NATURALLY.

 

Guys, I was super impressed. I’m still super impressed. In fact, the only reason I didn’t rush off to buy one right away was because the chances of it arriving before I leave for B.C. were slim to none.  But you’d better believe I’ll be ordering one when I get back because, seriously, both their product at their social media savvy have won me over.

Sure, this method takes a bit more time. It’s also not a new concept. But is it effective?

I hadn’t tweeted them or sent a message begging for international shipping. They saw my comment on a blog and went out of their way to find me and let me know that my wish had been granted. It’s a simple approach but it works. Now I not only know that I can get the product I want but the company made me feel important in the process.

Well played, Trtl. I look forward to napping all over the world with your sweet Sleepscarf. I’ll tweet you the pics ;)

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Photo Fridays Projects

Photo Friday: Lest we forget

Sara Hamil, They Call it Gumption, National War Memorial, Canada, Ottawa, WWI, World War I, The Great War

 

On Sunday we took a day trip to Ottawa. We got super lucky – the weather was rainy and awful everywhere else but in the capital is was hot and sunny. We put on our tourist hats and made the most of our short time in the city. One of our many stops was at the National War Memorial. We took some quiet time to take it all in but it wasn’t until we were back home that we realized how timely our visit really was; August 4th marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I.

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Personal Projects Reflections

I just want to make things

unsplash_pretty tearoom

 

I just want to make things.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by unfocused creative urges. I see a notebook or a perfectly sharpened pencil and I just want to make something awesome happen.

I get these nebulous flows of inspiration that demand to be molded into something incredible.

There are just so many times that I want to gather my supplies together with my beverage of choice (coffee, team wine – each one had its own special place in my creative processes) and retreat to a cozy nook and not come back out until I have something to show for myself. A collection of meaningful drawings, a well-written book, an idea with a plan attached to it; something.

Most times I don’t even get started. I feel like I don’t have the stretches of time that I’d like to dedicate to whatever it is I want to do. Sometimes I worry that, because I don’t have a clear enough idea of what I want to do, I’d just be wasting my time. Often I wonder whether or not I really have anything meaningful to give.

But creativity is a lifestyle; it needs to be cultivated and nurtured like a habit.

The urges are there and I can’t pretend that they’re not. I wouldn’t mind having a bit more focus but there’s no denying that I feel so alive when I’m pouring creative energy into some kind of project. It’s why I blog, both here and over on The Let’s Go Ladies. It’s why I love brainstorming with brilliant people and why I need to jot everything down. I think that’s why I gravitated to PR and marketing and, ultimately, to social media. These industries always require you to be thinking and strategizing and making things happen. I’m a list-maker, a day dreamer, a builder of both the meaningful and the random.

I just want to do more of it.

I want to always be busy making cool things.

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Photo Fridays Projects

Photo Friday: Hooked on a feeling

Guardians Of The Galaxy, Awesome Mix Vol 1, soundtrack

Last night I saw Guardians Of The Galaxy. Today I’ve listen to the film’s soundtrack no fewer than 5 times and counting.

The movie was as good as I had hoped it would be (and so funny!) and I am absolutely obsessed with the throwback of a mixed tape that is its soundtrack (something that turns out to be fairly significant to the plot). I’ve been grooving along all day, filled with memories of my dad’s old record player and trying very hard to not start yelling “OOGA CHAKA! OOGA CHAKA!” out loud in the office.

But, really, would that be so horrible?

I don’t think so.

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Personal Professional Reflections Work

Hold your horses, Summer

I’m having an exceptionally difficult time coming to grips with the fact that today is the last day of July.

Like, I know that I always complain about time moving too fast but it honestly feels like summer just started. Or, based on the temperatures we’ve had this week, like it hasn’t even started yet (it’s been WAY to cool for July!)

As we launch into August, I feel the same sense of unease and grumbliness that I usually associate with a Sunday. Just like Sundays are the last day of the weekend and bring with them the foreboding of another Monday (not that I dislike the work week but who doesn’t lament the end of time off, amirite?) August marks the end of summer and the end of my downtime. Autumn and all its busyness looms and a part of me will always want to fight it off.

They Call it Gumption, Sara Hamil, August, summer

It’s been years since I’ve gone back to school as a student but the season still brings waves of change to my life and routine. September is like our “New Years” at work and for me personally it also means that it’s time to get back in the classroom and start teaching my Social Media and Emerging Technologies course at Loyalist College.

Again: It’s not like I dread either of these things. When it’s busy at work it means that things are happening and being created and it’s invigorating! And goodness knows how lucky I am to have the opportunity to teach. It’s just so hard to bid adieu to a summer that flew by too fast, y’know?

The good news is that August is going to be a powerhouse of a month. I’ve been proactively preparing for the fall (which is a great accomplishment for a serial procrastinator like me) which has helped in alleviating some of the end-of-summer anxiety. Plus, in exactly two weeks from today I’ll be heading off to B.C. and I’m so crazy excited about it!

There will probably be some more camping in the mix and definitely more time spent with friends and family. Summer may be in a hurry to get out of here but I’m going to fight to make the most of it while it’s still here, dammit.

How will you be making the most of what’s left of summer?

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Photo Fridays Projects

Photo Friday: Travel Massive Toronto

Sara Hamil, Candice Lee MacAulay, The Let's Go Ladies, Travel Massive Toronto

Last night, Candice and I checked out the monthly Travel Massive meet-up in Toronto. We went to do a bit of promo for The Let’s Go Ladies and chat with other folks working in the travel and digital marketing industries. We had an awesome time, met lots of cool people, and were spoiled with food and drink courtesy of the fine people at Pure Michigan. Definitely looking forward to the next one!

Slightly unrelated: Damn, is the reverse camera on the iPhone 4S ever terrible…

 

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Brave New Year Experiences Personal Projects

Golf: Fine, I see the appeal. Are you happy now?

I went golfing yesterday.

Not mini-put or anything like that but legit hey-that’s-a-nice-collared-shirt-you’ve-got-there-here-are-your-clubs-and-the-keys-to-your-cart-don’t-run-anyone-over kind of golf. I even drove the cart for a bit and it’s every bit as fun as movies and TV make it look.

But that’s not the point. The point is that I went golfing for the first time and I actually quite enjoyed it.

Okay, so it was actually the second time I’ve golfed but the first time hardly counts. I was twelve and golfing in someone else’s family reunion tournament. When it was over I won a trophy for “most improved player”, which was a little baffling because I most certainly did not improve over the course of that game (I seem to recall dissolving into frustrated tears at the last hole because I couldn’t sink that ball to save my life). Later I found out the trophy had previously been the “worst golfer award” and was only changed because the same person kept winning it year after year and was pissed off about it. That made significantly more sense to me.

Again: I was twelve.

It’s not like golf was a game I’ve always been desperate to try. I do, however like trying new things.

Some background: Kyle and I are headed to BC for a couple of weeks next month. Along with visiting his family (he’s a long way from home, after all) we’re also going to be playing in a memorial golf tournament that he and his cousin have organized.

Golf may just be a game but I really don’t want to make a fool of myself in front of his family (I mean, I’m sure I will but I’d rather golf not be the reason). So, when my brother, Shane, expressed interest in giving the game a try and Kyle enthusiastically promised to teach him (I thankfully wasn’t alone in my beginner-ness) we decided to book a tee time. After all: practice makes perfect.

Or, y’know, at least it makes one decent enough to get through a whole course with a somewhat acceptable score.

Hopefully.

Sara Hamil, They Call it Gumption, golf, Oak Hills Golf Course, Stirling, Ontario
For those “in the know” we golfed the “Highlands” course.

Along with learning how to golf, I learned a few other things about the game yesterday:

  1. It’s much harder than it looks. I mean, people get paid good money to play this game so I guess it isn’t supposed to be that easy. Right?
  2. Your form matters so much. No wonder it takes golfers so long to set up their swing. Shot? I don’t know, people. I’m new here.
  3. You only yell “FORE!” when you’re at risk of hitting someone. Apparently. Huh.
  4. I may be right-handed but I swing left. What the?
  5. I need a LOT more practice before we head to BC.

Everything said, I really did have a great time. On the drive home I felt like I was in a bit of a daze all because I had tried something so different and, didn’t do too badly at it in the end after all (or at least that’s what Kyle said, but who knows – he might be biased).

Sara Hamil, They Call it Gumption, golf, Oak Hills Golf Course, Stirling, Ontario, Kyle Harms
LOOK, MA! I’M TRYING!

This weekend we’re all going to hit a driving range to work on those swings. Who knows – maybe this will become a new hobby! If not, at least I can add a new skill to my resume.

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Personal Reflections

Airing out the empty nest

Do people who’ve never had children get empty nest syndrome? Yes? No? Maybe?

I started mourning my weekend around 7 pm last night and I’ve been in a melancholy funk ever since.

“It probably sounds stupid but I always feel so weird after big weekends like this one,” I complained to Kyle last night. I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t even want to do nothing, I just couldn’t seem to bring myself to try.

“Are you feeling sad because everyone is gone?” he hit the nail on the head.

It was a family-filled weekend, with one brother coming down from Ottawa with his boyfriend to crash in our living room and the other back from his most recent work set in Alberta. It’s so incredibly rare for all three of us Hamil children to be in one place (although, oddly, we definitely see each other more now than we did when the two of them lived closer. What gives?)

Sara Hamil, They Call it Gumption, family, brothers, pool party

On Saturday we had the whole clan over, the guys and I thrashing around in the pool all afternoon like a bunch of unruly kids. Our parents joined us for a barbecue that evening and, even though it rained and we wound up eating our burgers in the living room (why do we even have a kitchen table? It’s basically a glorified mail table), we still enjoyed the food and company. The evening eventually dissolved into round after intense round of Extreme Jenga. Note to anyone who may end up play Jenga against, well, any of us – we don’t mess around and apparently won’t hesitate to throw you under the bus. Apologies in advance.

To cap off the weekend, we all met in Campbellford yesterday for lunch. We discovered that The Stinking Rose Pub has a genuinely awesome local craft beer selection but their food menu is a bit sparse for what we were looking for. Of course, we didn’t want the bartender to know that we had screwed up so we totally played it cool by sampling and ordering pre-lunch pints (mushroom beer: It’s WEIRD. Like, I can’t even tell you whether or not I recommend it, it’s that weird) before slipping next door to Capers. Our food there was delish, our waiter was hilarious, and the weather granted us one perfect afternoon for sitting and laughing on the patio.

Sara Hamil, They Call it Gumption, Ontario craft beer, Lake of Bays Brewing Co, pint glass, tiny turtle, The Stinking Rose, Campbellford

I know: none of this probably sounds all that exciting. But I love it. I love spending time with my family and I love when we can all be in one place. My brothers and I were really close growing up and, while I don’t always notice it, their absence leaves a particularly distinct hole in the fabric of my life.

But I guess this is just what adulthood looks like, though; families grow up and move apart. Kids become grown-ups and build their own lives and, while they all love each other, they see less of each other because that’s just how life gets. I guess I’m just glad that I can appreciate those rare times that the family is all together, jumbled around a coffee table as we may be. I’m grateful for every visit, every toppled Jenga tower, and every meal.

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Photo Fridays Projects

Photo Friday: My heart is full

Sara Hamil, They Call it Gumption, boyfriend, dog, family, love
My boys, keeping an eye on the neighbourhood.

It’s been a “nothing to report” kind of week. Probably the most noteworthy thing to have happened was the car needing to go in for yet another repair. Thankfully this one didn’t cost $800.

Kyle and I almost took a last-minute, completely unplanned trip somewhere overseas but the Universe told us to cool our jets and so we are. I did take my mom to see How to Train Your Dragon 2 on Wednesday though, and that was pretty great (my family supports my animation addiction).

It’s nice to know that, even when things are quiet or not going as (un)planned, I’ve got a pretty good deal. I need only look at my family and smile. Everything is awesome.

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Love it Personal

A fabulous food weekend in Quinte

I have recently emerged from a delightfully food-filled weekend. The rest, relaxation, and time spend with friends was wonderful. I was even rooting for Germany to win the World Cup so there was that too. But if you ask me what I remember most fondly about this past weekend it would have to be, without a doubt, the food.

And the drink.

A little bit of both, really.

While it may not necessarily be the first place people think of for good eats (drinks definitely – the Prince Edward County wine region is heaven, especially when you live within driving distance) but those people would be surprised. This weekend actually wound up being a collision of experiences, some you can experience whenever you want and others that you’ve got to wait patiently for. I just feel very lucky (and full) that it all happened at the same time.

The Routine: Belleville’s Farmer’s Market

As a general rule, Kyle and I sleep in on Saturdays before leashing up the dog and wandering down to Market Square in downtown Belleville to peruse the Farmer’s Market. We love this routine but, because of a busy series of weekends, we haven’t been able to indulge in it for over a month so we were eager to get back. Since we were there last, the summer-loving vendors have come out en mass (the market runs Saturdays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays pretty much all year but only a few brave souls set up shop during the winter months). It was a beautiful Saturday to wander the stalls – fruit, vegetables, preserves, ready-to-eat treats and handmade goods everywhere. We remembered to take a bag and wound up doing most of our grocery shopping while we were there (fresher and cheaper than at the store no less!)

 

The Special Event: Belleville’s Waterfront and Ethnic Festival (30th Anniversary Edition)

There is a small part of me that waits all year for Waterfront. Among plenty of vendors, live music, and activities probably the main attraction at this community festival is the ethnic food village. This year there were eight countries represented: Italy, Barbados, Tibet, China, India, Mexico, Poland, and Portugal (these booths fluctuate each year; I remember Korea and Greece representing at previous years). Each booth sells a sampling of dishes unique to their own country and, let me tell you, it’s all delish. We went both Friday and Saturday night and tried pierogis and schnitzel from Poland, momos from Tibet, and the coveted Portuguese chicken (easily the festival’s fan favourite – be ready to commit anywhere from 20 minutes to almost an hour for it but believe me when I say that it is SO worth it!)

Sara Hamil, They Call it Gumption, Belleville Waterfront Festival, Portugal, Portuguese chicken, piri piri chicken, ethnic food, noms, food porn, delish
I wish I knew where I could get this stuff the rest of the year! It’s SO good!

Also available for sampling although not nearly as culturally significant (or remotely good for you) was the “bloomin’ onion” (an onion sliced like a pizza and then deep fried where it “blooms” – basically onion rings but DIFFERENT, DAMMIT), deep fried Mars bar, and freshly made mini-donuts from the Midway. Yes, we had it all.

Live without regrets, my friends.

 

The Wise Choice: Three Dog Winery

Back in the spring, Kyle and I went down the Picton for their annual Terroir Wine Festival. We sampled wine from many of the County’s wineries and gourmet foods from local shops and farms. There were a lot of winners that day (mostly us) but we were particularly smitten with a new winery called Three Dog Winery. We’ve been meaning to go out and visit their location in Demorestville ever since and on Sunday, despite the crappy weather, we did it.

Sara Hamil, They Call it Gumption, Three Dog Winery, Prince Edward County, PEC, wine, vinyards, golden retrievers, Ontario
Three Dog Winery is such a cute place!

Three Dog, named for the owners’ three golden retrievers, is a small winery with a lot of character and a truly interesting history. There’s one small building on the property where the wine is both made and sampled/sold/consumed shamelessly. They also apparently have yoga in the vineyard on Sundays (SO GOING), lots of hiking trails (you can bring your dog!), and barbecue lunches with live music on weekends. We were especially excited to be able to grab some Seed to Sausage products (also discovered at the Terroir Festival) to go with the couple of bottles we came home with (Dog House White and their new Gamay to be precise).

 

It’s Tuesday now and I’m still kind of feeling full but if I had the choice, I’d do it all again. Good food and drink consumed in good company, is always a good choice ;)

What are some of your favourite foodie experiences? Do you know of any places here in the Quinte area that are worth checking out? Tell me about it in the comments!

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