Social Rider

2 finalists in the search for my motorcycle
2 finalists in the search for my motorcycle


When I bought my first motorcycle in 2000, I did lots of online research and ended up with a great starter bike: 2000 Buell Blast.  I sold the Blast 2 years later for reasons of practicality, but kept riding in my dreams. Cut to 2014, ready to get back on the iron horse, I did online research once again (click here to see Julia Austine’s Pinterest Board “Motorcycle Mama”), but was having trouble deciding between the two top contenders: Suzuki Gladius or a Yamaha FZ-07. I was leaning towards one over the other, but I wanted some opinions from outside my head, so I posted the above split pic on my Instagram account (click here to see @juliaaustine on Instagram) and tagged all the people I knew on Instagram that rode motorcycles. What’s interesting about this is that while some of these people I do know in real life, some I’ve only conversed with through Instagram!

My moto comes home with me!
My moto comes home with me!

After test riding both bikes, I made the final decision and went with the Suzuki Gladius. The first thing I did after I rode it home was to post a picture on Instagram and thank everyone who’d shared their thoughts on my bike selection. I shared the same photo on my Twitter account (click here to see @juliaaustine on Twitter)

Date Ride
Date Ride

Some of my first rides were with my husband, and since he has only had his bike and his license for the last 2 years, this was something brand new for us! I recorded images of these rides and created a hashtag for our “date rides”: #VeronicaandOctavius (the names I’d given our motorcycles) and again put them up on Instagram. As I’d run into friends and acquaintances in the real world, that had Instagram accounts, they would ask about my motorcycle or comment on my big bike decision. It’s fascinating to see how our online worlds and our daily lives overlap and combine until they can become as blurred as the trees by the side of the road.

Helmet Selfie
Helmet Selfie


Though not a big selfie taker, I did want to capture the chubbiness of my cheeks and the glint in my eye caused by suiting up for a ride by taking a “helmet selfie”, which I shared on Instagram and then used as my personal Facebook profile pic, to announce to my Facebook friends that I was back on two wheels. I also updated my Facebook cover photo to a shot of my Suzuki Gladius. My workplace wanted to share in the fun and posted a pic of me leaving for the day on my bike on Instagram! (click here to see @fiitfu on Instagram)

Moto Commute
Moto Commute

While riding a motorcyle can be a solitary pursuit, all this facebooking, tweeting and instagramming was making me feel much more connected to the two-wheeled community near and far. How have you used Social Media to “meet up” with others who have shared interests?


Social Vacation

Calm Camellia
Calm Camellia

Sometimes it’s good to take a break. My family recently went to the opening of a brand new restaurant in Vancouver, Burdock & Co, at the beginning of the week and I had to set my phone down and pick up my fork. I was very excited to go to the restaurant and I had been tweeting about it on my food blog, Kitchenette Finds, Twitter account. After sharing a photo on Instagram and Twitter of the table setting and looking up to two pairs of blue eyes, I knew it was time to give it a rest. They tolerated me taking photos as the dishes were presented and I appreciated that. We had an amazing night with fantastic food and I’m glad that I was truly present to enjoy it.

First night @BurdockAndCo Looking forward to deliciousness. Beautiful space!

Don’t be afraid to unplug from the online world. It will always be there waiting for you. The real world should always take precedence over the virtual one. Twitter is not the only way that the world can reach you. If you are truly needed, you will be tracked down.

Pink Blossoms Blue Sky
Pink Blossoms Blue Sky

When your Twitter feed is suddenly filled with a tragic breaking news event, this is a good time to give your marketing messages a rest. The focus should be on the people affected and sharing information through your network. It’s not about shutting off and tuning out, it’s about respect and support. Your messages will not be given the attention you would like and there may be a negative association made with your brand.

When do you know it’s time to take a step back from your online communities?

Stay Social

Spanish Banks
Spanish Banks

In order to get the most out of your online social networks and social media, just remember that the word social always comes first.Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are communities built on the principles of give and take, and if you expect people to take the time to view your content you need to do them the courtesy of giving them your attention as well. This is not necessarily a one to one ratio or an exactly even exchange, more of a way of operating. If you just blast your info and message out without considering or connecting with your audience, they will quickly tune out. The great thing about social media compared to traditional media is the ability to have immediate interaction with your audience, don’t let that go to waste!

Point Grey
Point Grey

If you want comments, likes and retweets, you need to be dishing them out as well. Plus, if you ARE getting all these wonderful things make sure you are showing your appreciation.  Sometimes I wait until Friday to thank a week’s worth of re-tweeters or new followers on Twitter with a Follow Friday tweet or two. Sending a thank you in a direct message may seem more personal, but getting a public shout out is usually considered more valuable.

Steps Away
Steps Away

Commenting on blogs that share a similar subject is a great way to bring traffic to your own blog and broaden your readership. Encourage more people to comment on your posts by replying to comments, even a quick “Thanks for the comment” will usually do. You may also have noticed the links to other related articles at the bottom of my posts, It’s simple to add these in WordPress, as recommendations are provided in a handy little box in the Edit Post screen. I’ve been introduced to some fantastic articles and incredible bloggers through this one little thing and I always appreciate (and comment) when other bloggers link back to one of my posts.

Sky framed by branches
Sky framed by branches

To increase viewership, when I post a new image on Instagram, I add several relevant hashtags so people who don’t follow me can find my pictures and maybe click the “follow” button. Then I will click on one of two of the hashtags in my comment, which goes to a search for other photos with that hashtag, and “like” or comment on the ones I admire. This generates many more likes and comments for my pics, it also causes more spammy comments, but those are easy to clean up.

It’s all about engagement and the best way to make people care about your message is to show that you’re listening to what they have to say as well.

How do you show appreciation to your followers and likers?

Hashtag Hullabaloo

Pacific Central edited with Picfx, Instagram & Wordphoto
Pacific Central edited with Picfx, Instagram & Wordphoto

If you are on Twitter and Instagram, you have probably noticed, and hopefully used, hashtags (#). On your phone it’s known as the pound key and looks like a mini Tic Tac Toe game, apparently it is now a baby name as well. Hashtags were first used in the late 80’s within Internet Relay Chat networks to label topics and groups, and the practice was adopted by Twitter users in 2007. Chris Messina (@chrismessina) claims to be the #godfather as it was his tweet that started it all and Wikipedia backs this up. In 2009 Twitter turned all hashtagged words into hyperlinks to search results for that keyword, making it even easier to find connected tweets.

Aki & Alex of Ideas in Food at #blogherfood

Hashtags are used on Twitter to highlight keywords to group tweets so that discussions, events, groups and trending topics can be searched. When I attended Blog Her Food 2012 in Seattle, the organizers chose #blogherfood as the official hashtag and listed it in all their media. This was adopted by most of the Twitter users when tweeting about the conference, but some attendees still used #blogherfood12 or #blogherfood2012. By using these hashtags, it was much easier to find, follow and ReTweet or reply to our fellow conference goers and made for lots of interesting and hilarious interactions.

Bay Leaf Bonanza by Kitchenette Finds
Bay Leaf Bonanza by Kitchenette Finds

Instagram also uses hashtags as searchable keywords that users can use to tag their photos. When I started using Instagram I didn’t use hashtags and I only received likes or comments on my photos from people who already followed me. Once I started using hashtags in the comments my likes and followers increased. My number of spam comments increased as well, but it’s easy to do an Instagram Comment Cleanup. I recently posted the photo above on Instagram and one of the hashags I used was #herb, as bay leaf is a culinary herb used to season soups and sauces. When I checked out the profiles of some users who liked THIS photo, to see if I want to return the like or follow their images, I found a specific segment of Instagram users was liking it: pot smokers!

Spotted #SouthGranville "whimsies" only $22 #seriously #forreals #justwrong
Spotted #SouthGranville “whimsies” only $22 #seriously #forreals #justwrong

Hashtags can also be used to add a touch of humour, emotion or context to a tweet or a photo with no intention of categorization or search-ability. Yes, you can just make up your own!

So, don’t be afraid to use a hashtag or two, just try not to go overboard on Twitter unless it is for comedic effect. The accepted etiquette on Twitter is a maximum of two hashtags per tweet, these can be added to keywords already used in the message or tagged on at the end. On Instagram you can go crazy with the hashtags, but I suggest creating a second comment to load up, especially if you are sharing to Facebook and/or Twitter. Hashtags are not that useful on Facebook for categorizing, but the humour does translate, just not to your grandparents’ generation… at least not yet.

What are the best/worst hashtags you have seen/used?

Instagram Comment Cleanup

@zenijaesmits on Instagram
Instagram post that had a spam comment

Usually, having a follower post a comment about your photo on Instagram is a desirable thing. But like everywhere else on the internet, there are bots, spammers and just your everyday jerks roaming around the Instagram network. So, what to do when an unwanted comment pops up beneath your latest and/or greatest image that you have decided to share with the world? It’s a simple fix, but maybe not so obvious to the casual user.

My friend and social media protegé, Zenija (who inspired this Meat of the Message post as well), had shared an image of her tongue firmly in cheek Valentine’s cards from her aptly named Say It With Sarcasm store on Etsy. It didn’t take long for comment to appear that was salacious as well as spammy. She didn’t know how to delete it and hadn’t invested the time to figure out how it could be done.

My Instagram post with unwanted comment
My Instagram post with unwanted comment

It’s a simple fix, but not immediately obvious, so I though I’d share a quick little tutorial using my own Instagram image. My photo didn’t get spammed but a user who had commented on my image had deleted his profile on Instagram, which resulted in all his comments disappearing as well. This made my reply seem out-of-place and I wanted to tidy it up.

Selecting Instagram comment for deletion
Selecting Instagram comment for deletion

Tutorial for Deleting an Instagram Comment:

Select the image that has the unwanted comment and then tap on the “Comment” button below (with the little speech bubble), as if you were going to add another comment. Once you are in the “COMMENTS” screen as shown above, swipe your finger  from left to right on top of the comment you wish to delete and a little garbage can and a reply arrow will appear. Tap the garbage can and two options will show up: “Delete” and “Cancel”. If  you want to go through with it, tap “Delete” and the comment will disappear, if you have grown attached to the comment and want to keep it, just hit “Cancel” and all will stay the same.

My Instagram image post comment cleanup
My Instagram image post comment cleanup

It’s a sweet little way to sweep away unwanted comments, whether it’s a comment you made on another user’s photo or one that was posted under your picture. So, now you can clean up your Instagram comments as easily as you turf the half eaten chocolates with dubious fillings after Valentines Day!

What tips or tricks have you discovered or find yourself still trying to figure out for Instagram?

Social Picture Progression

IMG_2172My last post was about Four Fab Photo Apps that I’ve been using on my iPhone 4S as well as my iPad. I find that I’m regularly using more than one app when editing and sharing photos, so I thought it would be interesting to share the journey of a photo from the lens to the internet.

I have a food blog at and food oriented Twitter account @kitchenettefind where I share recipes, reviews and food photos. I was about to sit down to enjoy  my lunch one day and I was taken by the mix of colours in my cilantro slaw with guacamole dressing. There was nobody around to share the beauty of the healthy rainbow I had created in my bowl, so I thought I’d share it with the world.


1. iPhone 4S

Having my phone handy, as always, I snapped a pic of the bowl near the edge of the table with the fork adding a dash of asymmetry to add interest. But, it’s still just an image of a bowl of stuff, not share worthy… yet.

20121218-220411.jpg2. PicFX

The colours needed some punch, so I cropped and filtered the image in PicFX. The app now allows the option of keeping the original aspect ratio (rectangle instead of square).



To add some flair to the photo, I used Bokehful to emphasize the gorgeous colours in the salad with a cascade of stars. Now it’s starting to look like an image fit for the internet!


4. Instagram

Instagram is my mobile location-based image sharing network of choice, so I gave the image a final filter adjustment to add drama and a frame to finish it off. Then I shared it to my social networks on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.



So that’s the story of how I shared my lunch with the world. I didn’t just do it to make people hungry, I hope that it encouraged at least one person to make a healthier food choice or try a new app.

Now, the sequel would be about how I used the PicFrame app to make the photo at the beginning of the post and how I’m sharing this tale with you through WordPress.

Would you rather that people share unedited photos, fancified or photos or just kept their lunches to themselves?


Four Fab Photo Apps

Science World in Vancouver edited with Picfx
Spacey Science World edited with Picfx

Photography has been a passion of mine for a long time. I’ve played around in a dark room, manipulated Polaroid emulsion transfers and I bought a digital camera when 4 mega pixels was a big deal. One thing I was not quick to embrace was cell phones with cameras. I saw it as a useful tool to capture data, but I was not open to the artistic merit angle. I usually carried a camera with me, so I never relied on capturing essential images with a phone. Well, that all changed when I switched from a Blackberry to the iPhone4S last year. It finally dawned on me that it was not the technical specs that was the key feature of using the camera on smartphones (though finally it was on par with point-and-shoots) it was the share-ability of the images captured. Rather than waiting to download scores of images to my laptop (usually late at night) and then finally getting around to putting them up on Facebook, I could instantly share what I was seeing with friends, family and all my social networks. Over the last year I’ve gotten more creative with the images I share and here are the top four iPhone apps that I have used the most:


Victoria Cityscape edited with Instagram
Victoria Cityscape edited with Instagram

I started using Instagram mostly as a way to share images with Facebook, Flickr and Twitter and I played around with the filters, frames and blurs. Lately, I’ve been more interested in Instagram as a social network as there are some amazingly talented and creative people who share their creations through Instagram. I’ve started using more hashtags on my photos under @juliaaustine and I’ve seen the number of likes and comments go up as well (also the amount of spam, but I figured out how to delete those comments).


Powerful Sky edited with Picfx

After using Instagram for a while, I noticed that people’s images were going beyond the manipulations offered there and so I started looking for ways to add more effects to create more dramatic images. I downloaded Picfx (paying a whopping $1.99) and haven’t looked back. With over 100 effects and the ability to layer effects and control the intensity, there are a mind-boggling amount of combinations that can be created.


Sun Forest edited with Picfx, Bokehful & Instagram

One of my favourite effects from Picfx was the different bokeh light layers. The only problem was that it was static, you could adjust the intensity but not the placement. Enter Bokehful. For 99 cents, I could not only control the intensity and placement, there were colour palettes and shapes literally at my fingertips! I keep reminding myself that less is more so that I don’t go overboard.


Diner Desires edited with PicFrame & Instagram

A photo may say a thousand words, but sometimes that’s not enough! From the same designers as Bokehful, ActiveDevelopment, I turned to PicFrame to solve this dilemma. By dropping another 99 cents, I’m able to put multiple images together with a variety of frames and labels that I haven’t tired of yet.

Though I mostly use Instagram to share the final images, I’m finding that to create the effect that I want I sometimes use ALL of the above apps to tweak the original shot before sharing it. So get creative and take a boring pic that anyone could capture and make it your own!

Please let me know what your favourite photo app is as I’m always looking to add to my image arsenal.

Soda Social

Some people jump into Social Media and make up the rules as they go along, some people fall in and flub the rules as they go, others are lucky enough to have someone to guide (read: drag) them in and teach them the ropes. At different times I have filled all these roles: Jumper, Flailer, Dragee and Guide. That’s the thing about social networks, we all have to start somewhere and the more the merrier. I’d been pushing my friend to be more active on Twitter and a weekend trip to Seattle seemed  the perfect time to give her a gentle shove.

She’d recently discovered Instagram and with her visual arts and design background it was a more comfortable fit than just simple text-based Twitter. One night, while enjoying a delicious dinner at Lark in Capitol Hill neighbourhood, we were really impressed by the flavour of the cucumber soda from a local company called Dry Soda:

We were so taken with the one Dry Soda we’d tried that we tracked down a sampling of their other flavours and hauled them back to our hotel room. After polishing off the Wild Lime, I arranged the bottles on the window ledge, my friend shot and shared through Instagram and the image above went out on Twitter:

A couple of days later it was retweeted by @drysoda:

After getting her permission, they then shared the image on their website. This is something they do regularly and is a great way to encourage and connect with fans of their product.

I retweeted the image with my food blog Twitter account, which was then re-re-tweeted by Sharelle Klaus the CEO of Dry Soda on her Twitter account, @CEOdry:

I just think this is a really fun example of how brands can interact and build relationships with fans and customers on Social Media.

Have you had any interesting online run-ins with businesses or brands on Twitter or Instagram?

Social Media Takes the Cake

Can Social Media take the cupcake to another level? Cupcakes have been a food trend ever since the Magnolia Bakery in New York was featured on Sex and the City and this hilarious SNL video. Since then cupcake specific bakeries have been popping up all over the world. Some have disappeared and others have managed to outlast the fad. I have tried to sample as many as the cupcake offerings in British Columbia as possible, it’s only fair to the cupcakes. While all were very attractive, there is only one bakery that has cupcakes so good that I think about them daily and will pay a bridge toll just to taste them again: Frostings Cupcakery in Langley. Part of the reasonI think about them every day, besides their sumptuous cupcakes, is their presence on social media.

I shared the photo below on Twitter and Facebook through Instagram last week and it was retweeted by @frostingcupcake with the comment “Hey, we recognize those :-)”. While I did pay for the regular size ones, the little mini red velvet cupcake at the bottom was a freebie I earned by checking in at their store using FourSquare. They have three specials set up through FourSquare, including 10% off for the mayor (it pays to be important). On Frostings’ Facebook Page they share their daily line up of flavours, so because I’ve “liked” their page, it pops up in my home feed tempting me every day.

Using Social Media to engage, reward and remind their customers, Frostings has created a loyal following. Let’s compare the stats for Frostings to another more established cupcake bakery in Vancouver: Original Cupcakes on Denman.

Frostings Cupcakery Vs. Original Cupcakes

2009 – year established – 2002

1449 – Facebook Page Likes – 527

98 – people talking about them on Facebook – 21

2736 – number of Tweets – 602

1355 – Twitter Followers – 3702

618 – Following on Twitter – 46

233 – FourSquare Checkins – 338

40 – Klout Score – 37

Though Original Cupcakes has been around seven years longer and has more than double the amount of Twitter followers than Frostings Cupcakery, Frostings’ followers and fans are much more engaged with their more active and interactive Social Media presence. If you think that’s impressive, wait until you taste their cupcakes!

Update: June 13, 2012

When I tweeted this post I included Frostings’ Twitter handle @frostingcupake and got the nicest reply: