Let these Ryerson students school you in some social media strategy

An inside look at a partnership between Allstream and a university class to explore effective concepts in communicating brand value


At first glance, it’s hard to know exactly what his superpowers are. Maybe it’s helping accelerate a SIP trunking deployment, fighting off DDoS attacks or, in some cases, being a strong shoulder for frustrated network admins to cry on. Whatever the case, there’s no question the Unsung Hero is prepared for whatever challenges come his way.

The Unsung Hero was the first-prize winner in a competition Allstream recently ran with a Communications in New Media class at Ryerson University, offered by the School of Professional Communication, to get some ideas for its social media strategy. Students were encouraged to learn more about Allstream’s position in the B2B telecommunications space and develop a way to communicate its brand identity through emerging channels like Twitter, Facebook, and of course, expertIP. There were lots of great proposals, but the Unsung Hero was picked because it offered a fantastic way of showcasing Allstream’s behind-the-scenes work in enabling excellence in enterprise and small business communications.

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“Something that really spoke to us is that so many people have experienced Allstream but don’t even know it,” Natasha Graham, a marketing student at Ryerson who worked on the Unsung Hero team, told me shortly after the winners were announced. “It’s about using the character, a sort of personified version of the brand, to Tweet out advice and things that are valuable to the customer, whomever that might be.”

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The Unsung Hero strategy involved not only stunning (and hilarious) visuals but a proposed ad campaign, a LinkedIn profile based on the character, use of the character across Twitter and the chance for expertIP readers to nominate their own unsung hero of the week.

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Of course, Allstream isn’t the only company that’s trying to use social media more effectively. It’s also a challenge for a wide range of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), who may not have a large budget but could make use of the channels to reach their customers in a new way. Fayann Huang, a fourth year fashion design student, suggested that in some cases, less is definitely more if you’re trying to appeal to Millennials.

“I find a lot of people our age like quick ads, easy to to digest graphics, short Vine videos or Tweets,” she said, adding that it’s a demographic that’s often accessing social media through mobile devices.

“If there’s a bit of quirkiness or a sense of the absurd it will capture more people’s attention,” said Jantien Sneyd, a Ryerson theatre production student who was also part of the team. “If it’s too dry it will only hold someone’s attention for like, a second.”

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Tyler McLaurin, who’s studying arts and contemporary studies, was also the guy who wore the tights and cape in freezing downtown Toronto. He said that while different social media channels have their own unique benefits, it’s probably more important for SMBs to make sure they have a good message to convey first.

“Content has to create value, even if that value is just being funny,” he said, citing the Old Spice video ads that went viral, or comments that get fed into a discussion thread on forums like Reddit. “It doesn’t have to change your life.”

Exactly. It’s more about helping people in their daily lives. That’s how businesses can use social media to become their customers’ hero — unsung or otherwise.

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