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Webcom Montreal

May 8th, 2011 · Event, Montreal

This Wednesday is Webcom Montreal and I’m thrilled to be an official blogger for the event.  This biannual event features 32 speakers from Canada, the U.S. and Europe in five tracks and two languages. French language sessions make up the bulk of the conference, but there are some amazing English sessions on the roster that I’m looking forward to seeing:

Ask Away

Can’t make it to Webcom Montreal? What would you like to take away from these sessions? Send me your questions, and I’ll do my best to report back the answers.

Running concurrently is WebCamp, an un-conference for developers to discuss the trends and issues evolving in web technology. (Sold out.)

There’s still time to register for Webcom tickets. The event is free to enter starting from 4 pm.

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DC Dental Society Nation’s Capital Dental Meeting

April 2nd, 2011 · Event, Social Media

Today, I gave a 3 hour session to dentists at the DC Dental Society‘s 79th Annual Nation’s Capital Dental Meeting in Washington, DC about creating content for social media. We talked a lot about marketing basics and the difference between strategy and tactics.

They were a great group who had lots of questions. Many of those in attendance had certainly experienced the let down that happens after you set up a Facebook page, get a few initial followers and then interest drops off when no strategy is in place to continue to engage fans of the page.

I also talked quite a bit about what to do when the shine starts to wear off the “Ooo! New Shiny!”. It’s hard for businesses of all sizes, but particularly small businesses with limited resources, to manage social media outreach when that is not your area of expertise. I commend all of the dentists and practice managers in my session today for understanding that they need to know more, and being open to hearing me bust some myths and shoot down the hype.

Here’s the slide deck to my session. It is applicable to most small and medium-sized businesses, not just dental practices. And, perhaps refreshingly, it stresses how to define your strategy based on your organization’s goals and objectives. Have a look and tell me what you  think.

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The Big Think

April 2nd, 2011 · Business, Personal

Under CC licensse: Horial Varlan

I’ve taken some time off from blogging this winter to have a Big Think.

It’s been 4 years since I left my job and started my consultancy. A few years prior to leaving my employer, I’d immersed myself into the world of social media, learning everything that I could, convinced it would revolutionize the marketing profession. I remember pitching the VP of Sales on the value of producing a podcast. That was December 2004. The first Canadian podcasts only began in October of that same year. Needless to say, my timing was a little early and my pitch was not accepted.

In the spring of 2007, Twitter was only one year old and Facebook was not nearly as mainstream as it is now. There were few social media practitioners and agencies and we educated clients about the need to “join the conversation”,  a much-overused expression. Back then, we taught people how to use tools and why applying old-style marketing techniques to social media was the wrong approach.

Factions broke out. There were the Zealots – those who held themselves and everyone else to a moral high ground, insisting you couldn’t participate in social media unless you were utterly transparent and that every CEO should blog for their company – often a naïve and unrealistic blanket approach. And, there were and the Capitalists, who applied standard issue make-money-on-the-internet, secrets-of-success, increase-your-followers-for-$109 approaches.

Somewhere in between, I knew that I could help people understand and use social media to transform their businesses. I knew that I could use my  20-years of marketing experience and pair it with my knowledge of social media to make a difference and make a living.

As more agencies started popping up, and the large agencies started to train their people in social media and take the plunge themselves, larger clients didn’t need to use a specialty consultant like me. They could just stay with the agency they used for PR, for web, for advertising.

As social media has become mainstream, the number of people offering “social media strategy” has exploded. My specialty is now a commodity and I am lumped in with those who happen to know how to build a Facebook page.

Take this story for example:

Recently, at SXSW while waiting with a group of strangers, one person turned to another and asked, “What do you do?” The other replied, “I’m in IT consulting. We primarily did email consulting, but as that’s all moving to the cloud, we’re repositioning to offer social media marketing and strategy instead.”

It seems everyone thinks they can do it.

While at SXSW, I got to chatting with the old timers of Twitter; people I’ve known since 2007 and whom I met at SXSW in 2008 who are also social media practitioners. I must have heard something like this 6 times: the market is too crowded and if you didn’t become a super A-lister  early on or get swallowed up by a big agency, it’s time to either get out or become very narrowly focused to survive.

The industry has evolved. As we’ve been saying for 2 years, Twitter and Facebook are as common as the telephone and email. The shift moved us from teaching the tools to developing strategy, defending ROI, and conversation monitoring for business intelligence and lead generation. This sector is constantly refining and in flux, racing to keep pace with the frenetic pace of technology development.

Now, beginning my 5th year on my own, I’ve been thinking a lot about where the industry is going and wondering about my place in it. There are new things for me on the horizon, but it’s a little too early to talk about them right now.

But, just in case: Does anyone out there have a spare crystal ball they could lend me?

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Social Networks Ranked for Canada

November 29th, 2010 · Social network, Stats, Uncategorized

A new report from eMarketer looks at social network usage in Canada.

Canada boasts some of the highest internet penetration and social networking usage rates in the world. Social network users view social media as their online home—a hub for communication, entertainment and information.

The report also states that in some cases Canadians are adopting social media faster than in the US. It estimates that about 15.1 million internet users in Canada will have visited social networking sites at least monthly, up from 13.6 million in 2009.

The rankings of social networks by usage (via comScore) is not without some surprises, particularly Windows Live Profile as #2 and DeviantArt as #6.

More information about the report and additional stats can be found here.

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TOS: The (Con)fine(d) Print

October 19th, 2010 · Business, Communication, Death and Digital Legacy

Caution: Confined Space

This photo is licensed Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic

My research on digital legacy issues over the last 18-months has led me to explore the area of content ownership, copyright, data portability and that dry, dusty thing that everything online has: Terms of Service.

When was the last time you read the TOS of Twitter, Gmail or Facebook (whose TOS has more words than the U.S. Constitution)?

Chances are very good that you’ve never read the legalese that is buried in the bowels of the least-frequented pages of a service. These backwaters are often filled with paragraphs in ALL CAPS, a contractual practice that predates the connotation of yelling online, yet still makes me think a lawyer is vigourously wagging a finger at me.

Let me save you some moments of your life that you’ll never get back. Here’s the gist of what most TOS contain:

You’ve just signed away the exclusive rights to your content.

You may still own the copyright. You may still own the intellectual property. But, that service where you just clicked “I Agree” upon sign up can likely do what they want with your stuff, without compensation, in perpetuity.

Will they actually use it?  Will they profit from it? Will they use it in a way that is not how you wish it to be represented?

Maybe not. But, you need to be aware that they now have the legal right to.

What does it mean for business and marketing?

Let’s talk photo sharing for a moment. Say you are a professional photographer and you use Flickr because you know you can set the level of copyright from All Rights Reserved to a very open and flexible Creative Commons license, depending on your needs and intent.

Did you know that by simply sharing a link to your photo on Twitter its content now falls under their TOS, regardless of the TOS of the service your photo resides? And that they can sub-license it?

Neither did I. Until I read this post.

This means you can no longer legally sell exclusive rights to anything you link to on Twitter.

Is Twitter Evil?

If they are, then so are thousands of other online services. I don’t believe that someone at Twitter is masterminding profiting from your linked content. It’s simply a case of services needing to cover their digital behinds. In comparison to analog printed works, where the process itself made content scarce, and therefore, containable, the flow of data is raging torrent that’s out of control.

Without this type of TOS, would Twitter be open to rights infringement simply by displaying the link to your content? What if your tweet, and its associated content on Twitpic or Flickr, were featured on CNN? Without the right to sub-license it, is it conceivable that you could sue Twitter? Possibly.

The letter of the law has not caught up with the sharing frenzy that is inherent to web 2.0. My feeling is that it will take nothing short of a revolution to change the status quo so that we control exclusive rights to our data.

Call me a cynic, but, more likely exclusivity is lost. Revolutions take passion and ignorance is bliss.

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