Friday, 26 August 2011

How I have used Social Media to Develop Sign2Music

I am delighted to have had my blog post on 'How I have used Social Media to Develop Sign2Music featured on Bill McCartney's excellent website:

Below is a more detailed version of this blog!

How I have used Social Media to Grow Sign2Music?

When I first set up Sign2Music 4 years ago I had never heard of social media. In fact I had just purchased a computer! I started off by developing a very basic website with the main purpose of directing traffic to my e-mail address, which of course was a yahoo address set up for that purpose!

I first dabbled in social media when one of my new teachers mentioned Facebook and suggested it might be something that could be useful for Sign2Music. I wasn’t convinced, but when she asked if she could go ahead and set up a page I thought it would do no harm. Little did I know she was introducing me to a whole new world that would become such an integral part of my business.

My aim in setting up Sign2Music was two fold. As well as running classes and developing programmes my aspiration was to raise public awareness of the benefits of the benefits of signing with babies and toddlers throughout Northern Ireland. With a very limited budget, social media seemed a cost effective way to promote this fantastic communication, bonding and development tool.

In the past few years Sign2Music has grown from strength to strength, with 6 teachers now operating throughout Northern Ireland. Social media has contributed to a huge increase in public awareness about Sign2Music and the benefits of signing. Sign2Music now has 632 Facebook likes, 406 Twitter followers and 146 LinkedIn Connections. The Sign2Music You Tube channel with class clips, sign updates and videos of babies and children signing has proved to be a hit also.

Our Facebook page would be our most active social media platform. There are many businesses whose primary aim to get as many likes as possible. I have fallen into that trap myself. Then on reflection I realised that it is more important for me to have ‘likers’ who are genuinely interested in Sign2Music, enjoy our posts and communicate with us. Our 632 ‘likers’ are quality, rather than simply numbers, making our page attractive as it has so much interaction and information to share. Most ‘likers’ are parents who have come to our classes, parents who are interested in signing, friends of teachers and other businesses. I am pleased that our posts generate so much discussion. I also love the fact that parents will share their experiences on our wall and use Facebook to ask questions.

I am relatively new to Twitter. Until a couple of months ago I simply duplicated any Facebook posts on Twitter and didn’t use it directly. Then I received some valuable advice from a friend, Laura Berg who runs a successful baby signing business, My Smart Hands, in Canada. I have since tried to use Twitter differently and the contacts I have made have been amazing. I have met some great people, internationally, UK wide and from N Ireland that I never would have been able to have contact with had I not been using Twitter. These contacts have opened up so many new opportunities for me and for Sign2Music.

I would still see myself as relatively new and inexperienced in the world of social media but I have no doubt that it has benefited Sign2Music enormously. I have 148 LinkedIn connections and recently received 9 fantastic recommendations from colleagues. We received the endorsement of our service users when they nominated us in 2 categories in the What’s on 4 Little Ones Junior Awards 2011, having been made aware of the Awards via social media. Social media helped us gain support for our nominations, with many local businesses sharing with their followers and the Down News online newspaper running 2 great features. The nomination led to many features in local newspapers, including the Irish News which is one of the biggest newspapers in Northern Ireland. Largely because of this social media fuelled support we reached the final in the Best Local Activities for Under 5s category, making us one of the top 4 local preschool activities in the UK! We have also been nominated in category 6.4, favourite Northern Ireland preschool activity in the Northern Ireland Choice Awards 2011. Hopefully we will have the same local support for this nomination. These Awards are social media based. You can vote for Sign2Music by tweeting, writing on the Facebook wall or e­mailing I nominate Sign2Music category 6.4. Alternatively text to 07716711744 NITODAY AWARDS I nominate Sign2Music category 6.4.

Writing this has made me reflect on the huge transformation I have made in the past couple of years from someone who didn’t own a computer into someone for whom Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, etc are very important and an integral part of my daily activities. What I have realised though is that social media is by no means a free or easy option. While it doesn’t cost money it is costly in terms of a more valuable commodity – time! To develop Sign2Music’s social media strategy to its current level hasn’t been easy for a non-computer savvy person like me. I have spent an inordinate amount of time, and many many late nights and early mornings, in front of my computer, getting to grips with how it all works. A lot of this time has been productive. However, if I am honest some of it hasn’t been. It is so easy to get distracted. Farmville on Facebook was almost in danger of destroying my social media strategy for a while, as I kept getting sidetracked when my crops needed harvested!

Bill McCartney, from Net4Wise Owls,  facilitated an excellent workshop for the Sign2Music teachers at our annual Sign2Music Conference recently. It did make me realise I should have done this much earlier, rather than jumping into social media without a clue and spending so much time stumbling around trying to find my way!

I am certainly not a social media expert but have been able to use social media to grow my business and hope to continue to do so. I have made many many mistakes along the way! If I was to give advice to anyone starting a business who wants to dip their toe into social media I would say:

1. Put the time into developing your strategy before jumping in. If you can get the advice of an expert such as Bill it is worth doing so.

2. Do not think this is a panacea and will be the making of your business. It can help enormously but requires a significant amount of time and effort to make it work.

3. If you work within a team have a shared strategy and approach.

4. Do not spread yourself too thinly between various social media platforms. Concentrate most on the one that works best for your business.

5. Support other businesses, who in turn will support you.

6. Be genuine with your business connections. It is easy to spot someone who is trying to get something out of you for nothing!

7. Spend the time making your page or updates worth liking or following you for.

And Finally 8. Do not go near Farmville!!

If you require further information contact 07874742704
or see:

Good luck!! Deirdre J

Magazine Article

Was delighted to receive a very special 'tweet' and e-mail yesterday morning from Mums Baby Magazine saying 'your article's up'!

Had been waiting on that message for a long time. Great article in a super magazine! Let me know what you think.

Deirdre :)

Monday, 15 August 2011

10 things You Didn't Know About Me!

Just saw a blog from my friend and baby body language expert, Vivien Sabel entitled 10 things you didn't know about me. She had been tagged and encouraged to participate by others who had done the same. I decided to be brave and join in too so here goes!

I know my life is such an open book that many of you will know most of this but you never know!

1. Family: I was born in North Belfast and moved to West Belfast when I was 6 years old. I am the oldest of a family of 3 with 2 younger brothers. I have 3 children, twins (Eoghan and Aine) aged 15 and Cara aged 4. I also have 2 lovely nephews, Daire and Fionn.

2. Parents: My parents are still quite young (both are 63 years old). They both developed disabilities at a very young age. My mother has fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. My dad was in a serious motorcycle accident over 30 years ago and was seriously injured. The brachial plexus injury he sustained has resulted in chronic pain and disability. He has recently been diagnosed with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).

3. School: I attended an all girls convent grammar school, St Dominics in Belfast and achieved 12 O Levels and 3 A Levels. It was an excellent school and I have many many happy memories. However, my experience was that how pupils were valued by some teachers was based, not on ability, but on parental social status. This has influenced my values and beliefs to this day.

4. Further Education: I went to Queens University Belfast and gained a Degree in Pychology and a research based Masters Degree in Medical Science. I completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work several and later did my Post Qualifying Award in Social Work. I have completed Family Therapy Foundation and Intermediate level training.

5. First Job: I worked part time in the audio visual department in Boots in Belfast for 4 years during my university years. On my first day I didn't realise you had to put albums into their sleeves and sold everyone album sleeves only! Needless to say I got a bit of a ticking off when they all returned them the next day!

6. My Fears:  I am not as confident as I may appear although have conquered the crippling shyness I experienced in certain circumstances when I was younger. When I was sent to the canteen for my first tea break on my first day in Boots I was too embarrassed to walk in among strangers, so sat in the toilet for half an hour! I am also seriously claustraphobic and will avoid concerts, underground trains and lifts at all costs.

7. Sign Language: My interest in Sign Language started about 20 years ago when I started working as a volunteer for Sense NI. This involved helping out on holidays and saturday clubs for deaf blind children. I stayed with Sense for a number of years and completed BSL Stage 1 and later Stage 2.

8. My Other Job: As well as being the founder and owner of Sign2Music I also work job share as a Manager in a government Agency working within the Youth Justice field.

9. Failure: I have never failed an exam in my life but failed my driving test 7 times!

10. Claim to Fame: My recent appearance on the SevenThirty Show was not my first appearance on TV! I was on Songs Of  Praise when I was 12 with my school choir, singing 'O Come All Ye Faithful', looking gorgeous with my ringlets! I also featured on a BBC Newsline trailer with Donna Traynor and the rest of my BSL class. We all stood together and signed 'Your BBC, Your World'. Cringe!

Sandy Signs on You Tube

Some new videos added to Sign2Music You Tube Channel:

Cara's Bike

Fun in the Sun

Hope you enjoy them! We are doing these weekly videos as part of Sandy's Sign of the Week series. Feel free to make suggestions for future videos!

Deirdre :)

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Baby Communication on the Radio

Just listened to this great interview on blogtalk radio by Dr Rosina McAlpine interviewing Vivien Sabel about her groundbreaking research into infant communication. They discussed so many interesting topics including the benefits of signing with babies and children. I am hugely fortunate to be able to call Vivien a lovely friend and a great inspiration. Some of the Sign2Music parents are currently involved in her groundbreaking research in preparation for the publication of her book. I can't wait to read it!

SIlent Sunday

#Silent Sunday. No words needed!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Sign2Music Teachers Conference 2011

Our 2011 conference took place on Sat 30 July in Belfast....and what an amazing day it was!

It started a little late of course. For anyone who doesn't know me timekeeping isn't exactly my forte! The ironic thing though is that I had sent a message to the teachers on Fri evening asking them to try to be prompt as the conference was only lasting a day and we had a HUGE agenda. Well that was before 'donglegate'. I needed internet access for the conference and on Friday became the proud owner of a 'plug and play' internet dongle. Plug and play? I don't think so! At 3am on Sat I was still plugging.... but no playing! I got up at 6am and tried again and gave up! So I arrived late AND exhausted...

It didn't take long for my spirits to be lifted and tiredness forgotten. The warmth and enthusiasm of the ladies was infectious. It was so lovely to see everyone together for the first time. Last year we were only 4. Thanks to Bahia and Laura we are a 6 piece this year! Even more fab ideas to put into the pot. Brilliant!

Of course we had technical hitches with internet and projectors and laptops... but no technical hitches affected our vocal chords - they were well used on Saturday!

We were joined by Bill McCartney from Net4WiseOwls for a fab, friendly and informative presentation on social media. He also helped us develop our social media strategy. I loved the fact he was so honest about not only our strengths but also areas for development. His forthright approach has made me reflect on my approach to social media thus far. It made me realise that, until now, I have missed the opportunity to harness the skills of the fab teachers to fully engage in social media. So I will tentatively be starting to let go of the reins....... and am so excited about what's to come!

We were lucky to be able to continue to chat to Bill over lunch, which was a team effort, and quite frankly scrummy! And of course we managed to squeeze in a couple of photos.

After we said goodbye to Bill we had so many topics to cover so got down to business. What a productive afternoon! We shared ideas about the new website that will be launched this week and covered various other topics relating to our current programmes and plans for development. It was a brainstorming thunderstorm! So much information and ideas shared.

I headed home exhausted but elated. I had a smug smile on my face as I am so proud of the Sign2Music team. We all have such different but complimentary skills. And yet the values and ethos which is the core of Sign2Music is shared by every one of us. Now that's what I call a team!!!

Can't wait to see what next year will bring......

Deirdre :)