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Social Media Week Vancouver 2012: Engagement, Authenticity, and Content

It's the fall...and it's time to get social!

Social Media Week Vancouver 2012

About Social Media Week 2012

On September 24-28, 2012, the Socialized team brought us Social Media Week Vancouver for the second year in a row. Social Media Week Vancouver in 2011 was a great hit and this year, they once again delivered another jam packed schedule including insightful talks and panels covering anything from crisis management, storytelling, business blogging, social media strategies to a media conference featuring Gary Vaynerchuck, social CEO's and their practices, even the Dragon's Den summit and more. This fall, 13 different cities across the world hosted Social Media Week, and as expected, the online and offline buzz generated created engagement, new connections, and lots and lots of discussions surrounding anything social media related throughout the entire week. I had the opportunity to attend several events and in comparing it with last year, I noticed some overlap and some emphasis on certain topics, which I'll share in three parts.

Engagement is everything. If you're new to social media, focus on engagement.
These days with the advancement of technology, consumers are becoming more verse with technology and the social media world and they turn to the internet to share their experiences with brands and not only do they do so, they also want to use these newer social media avenues to interact with their favourite brands and perhaps, other like-minded customers for exchanging ideas or simply to connect with one another. Many speakers and brand ambassadors mentioned that being a social brand was essential in order to have an open line of communication with their own customers, focusing on being available and engaging in a timely manner with inquiries, or in general discussions, using social media platforms to alleviate crisis issues or to be able to share the latest announcements without sounding too pushy. The consensus among several events was to be present, to listen actively and to be a participant - a two-way conversation, which as our own brand, we're a big fan of!

Authenticity makes you sound more human and more genuine. Use your human voice.
Being authentic was by far one of the themes that kept coming up over and over during that week. The message from speakers reminded us to interact as an individual, to let customers know who you were by showing customers that you were a real person behind a logo or a brand. To do this, it helps to immerse yourself in your company's culture, get to know your co-workers better, and let your voice on social media shine through. Trying to humanize a brand can sometimes be challenging, but that is why it's even more important to stay genuine when you're having conversations with your customer base, and remember that sometimes, mistakes can happen as well. This is social after all, and no one is perfect.

Content, content, content, it's all about content.
Last year, one component was for companies to be able to share their stories and this relates to this year's point: content. Many sessions emphasized the importance of having fresh content on your sites and especially, your social media sites. Customers are constantly looking for news, product announcements or overall content that will be useful to them and that could come in many forms like education, entertainment, etc. Creating frequent, new content can be difficult. One of the most interactive and useful tips during the business blogging session gave away some great takeaways through a simple customer service exercise. Customers come to you and ask you many questions, often times, they will be similar and redundant, therefore, instead of responding privately to that individual, you could turn those answers into a blog post and without too much effort, your content comes to you.

Social Canadian Web Hosting at Your Service

Here at Canadian Web Hosting, you'll continue to hear us talk about the community that we serve and our members vary across so many different industries and for us to be able to support so many of them is a true honour every day. We listen to our customers, engage with them constantly and as an online community, we appreciate that interaction that helps us understand their stories better as we continue to do business with them. Social Media Week reminds us that we're doing things right and both companies and customers are in this together as new media evolves in the future. In conclusion, if you're a current or a future customer, we want to connect with you.

If you attended Social Media Week Vancouver, what other trends did you notice? Please share your comments.

Kevin Liang
CTO / SEO Guru


How Volunteering at Lunapads Turned Into a Canucks Win

This post isn't exactly about our Canucks winning but please read on, this is about success and community.

Last fall during one of the Social Media Week panels, I had the opportunity to indirectly meet the two co-founders of Lunapads but it wasn’t actually until a few weeks later that we had the chance to bring our initial meetup offline. As previously blogged, meeting offline is important to further relationships with people in our local community. During EastVanLove, one of the two co-founders, Suzanne (on Twitter at @Luna_gal) was able to promote her own fundraiser for their trip to Uganda with a non profit organization called Shanti Uganda (on Twitter at @ShantiUganda). Their offices are next to one another in East Vancouver. Since they needed volunteers and more importantly, since Lunapads reached out directly to me to help the cause, I knew that I could help out. Back in September, they gave their time to share their social media experiences with a room filled with eager individuals from the education to the non profit world, from the finance to the tech industry, and so and so forth. In a way, volunteering for them was a way to say thank you for their own previous contribution that I had the honour to be a part of.


Uganda in Africa: the travel destination

From their story page, “Lunapads [on Twitter: @Lunapads] International is a women-owned and operated social mission-based business based in Vancouver, Canada. Our goal is to help individuals have healthier and more positive experiences of their menstrual cycles, and by extension, their bodies overall. Lunapads' mission is to create more positive and informed relationships between menstruators, their bodies and the Earth. We embrace a global perspective, in terms of well-being and empowerment for women and girls, as well as toward our responsibility with respect to sustainability.” Their mission also include: pad donations, mentoring women entrepreneurs in the community, business community support and volunteerism in action.

The evening was fantastic. Everyone started trickling into the red themed office, and mingled over an extensive food spread including various cheeses, crackers, vegetables, several dips, savory and sweet pastries, chocolate and more. They also had different types of wine being poured throughout the event that had been donated. They had a silent auction in one room in which I even won a pair of Canucks tickets thanks to a kind, anonymous donor - that's the Canucks win I was referring about; talk about highlights! About an hour and a half after the start time, we had the chance to listen to both co-owners along with Shanti Uganda talk about their journey from the beginning until now, their trip expectations and goals. All of the speeches were very touching and heartfelt. They both mentioned and knew ahead that this trip would be life changing when they'd get to see their impact first hand.

Lunapads CoFounders

Lunapads co-founders: Suzanne Siemens (back left) & Madeleine Shaw (front right)

One of the most compelling moments of the night was when Madeleine (On Twitter: @Luna_Diva) spoke to the huddle of volunteers before things kicked off and the message was about being open, friendly, owning a sense of respect and common sense but most importantly, she was conveying her own appreciation towards the group giving back. It was exciting to know that through their trip, they’d be able to meet some of those girls and women that they help through their products. Being there reminded me that as a global internet company, we, too, have to appreciate the fact that our own products can reach and impact anyone in the world. It’s great to be aware that we have strong leaders running terrific social enterprises around us and that makes our city of Vancouver BC that much more vibrant.

As companies like Lunapads continue to grow and expand, we’ll be there watching and supporting some of the various organizations around us, as we remind ourselves that each entity is making its own impact. In the end, we also feel the same way about our customer base. We provide that ongoing support continuously to help everyone around us move forward and we help them be successful.

If you’re interested in following their current trip, you can join them on their Facebook page for photos and latest updates. On a final different note, go Canucks go! I had to throw that in.

Kevin Liang
CTO / SEO Guru


How Vancouver Entrepreneurs Can Benefit from the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs (FWE)

It’s already December which translates into the holiday season! Holidays typically mean spending more time connecting with those around us who matter to you. Why not apply that on a business level where we take more time to connect face-to-face and spend extra time getting to know those in your local community, whether you’re here in Vancouver or elsewhere in the world?

Continuing with our theme of networking offline and building a strong network when being a part of a community, I wanted to highlight one of our wonderful local non profit organizations in Vancouver: Forum for Women Entrepreneurs (FWE). You can follow them on Twitter at @FWEBC. Shortly, after Social Media Week, I organized an informal tweetup and their CEO, Jill Earthy (@jearthy), showed up with Lisa Niemetscheck, Manager of FWE Experience (@LNiemetscheck) and they were both extremely personable and full of information about local small businesses in the area. It was such an honour that they took the time out of their busy day to meet with myself along with Scott Dawson (@sdd).

What is Forum Women Entrepreneur (FWE)?

Right off their site, “Forum for Women Entrepreneurs of British Columbia (FWE) is for all who are entrepreneurially-minded. It is our mission to provide tools, energy, education and support to all women, encouraging them to become wildly successful entrepreneurs. All of our leading-edge professional programs aim to build long-term relationships and foster a strong bond between our members, advisors, speakers and high-calibre members of the business community. Women entrepreneurs and both men and women business professionals who want to support women entrepreneurs can become a member of FWE.”

What are some Benefits to Being Involved?
My next two thoughts are coming from a non-FWE member's perspective at this point in time.

1) Gaining Relevant Knowledge about Key Topics during their Events
I have attended two of their last events. One was called “Women in Politics" which was a nonpartisan event. Some of the community leaders that we heard from were:

  • Suzanne Anton, NPA
  • Elizabeth Ball, NPA
  • Sandra Garossino, Independent
  • Cherie Payne, Vision
  • Andrea Reimer, Vision
  • Ellen Woodsworth, Cope

Here, they covered thoughts on what it was like to be a woman in politics, the challenges and benefits of being in these highly visible roles, and especially the role of leadership. One of the most relevant topics when you listen to a group of politicians is that you really gain a strong sense of what is really happening within your local communities including the public challenges that citizens are trying to resolve and the solutions that they’re bringing forth to solve those problems. These individuals are some of the most connected people to get to know. Everything is relevant and everything is key. No one was promoting their own parties instead they were sharing their personal stories with us. From an individual standpoint, you get to learn the hardships that others have gone through and it makes you appreciate progress as a whole and perhaps, in your own endeavours, whether they are professional or personal.

2) Connecting and Expanding your Own Understanding about Local Businesses
The very latest event was called “Virtually Possible: How to Monetize Online Platforms & Platforms & Boost ROI.” The moderator, panelists and sponsor representatives included:

Here, this type of event brings various small business owners from around town to connect with. There was a Q&A panel that covered answers regarding how to drive online traffic to your sites, SEO and online content, and online reputation. Afterwards, we were broken in different rooms for a roundtable discussion with one of the panelists. This was a great opportunity to learn more other local businesses that you may not have heard of otherwise.

Closing Thoughts
If you are in the Vancouver area and looking for new business connections, or simply want to expand your professional knowledge, I would recommend that you get involved with the FWE. You will gain something out of this depending on your purposes. Most of their events are in the evenings and they usually include some small bites, coffee and even some great wine. You may even make new friend connections there too. It’s all about putting your business out there and building relationships in the process. We have a fantastic entrepreneurship community here and this non profit organization has been supporting our community successfully since 2002. Check them out and get involved.

Kevin Liang
CTO / SEO Guru


Two Reasons Why Offline Networking are Important for You and your Business

This past September during Social Media Week in Vancouver, one of the most profound comments that I encountered came from Scott Dawson (@sdd), a local mortgage broker, who strives to meet someone from Twitter offline on a weekly basis (I'm not certain if he still does now) and a few weeks ago, his comment indirectly rang true when it came to offline connections. At a recent technology event, the advanced computing & technology divisions from Ingram Micro (@IngramMicroInc) discussed how Cisco and EMC technology can help lead clients with utilizing a converged infrastructure path to create a flexible, scalable IT infrastructure of a next generation data centre. There, I met an IT staff member from the University of British Columbia (@ubcnews) with whom we started discussing startups and technology.

He made me think about our connections within our community here. Once again, the community topic comes up. As a company, we spend our time helping our customers host and build websites that connect their own customers to the virtual world and all of our business and most of their business occur online. Oftentimes, we  seldom get to connect offline with people. Locally, there are many events to attend to make those offline connections and build or further relationships with your peers in your industry, prospective clients or other professionals within the area. The opportunities are everywhere.

It's good to leave the internet alone once in a while.

While there are many reasons why you should spend time offline with your own community, here are two main thoughts as to why building offline relationships are important:

1) Connecting with the Human Side
When you interact online with your customers or peers, a lot of time is spent over emails or perhaps, the phone or even texting. For those of us who love social media, that communication occurs over platforms such as Twitter and/or Facebook or many other platforms. While we can interact online and learn more about one another via those mediums, there’s nothing like shaking someone's hand and being able to view their body languages as we interact offline. As most of us know, communication happens visually rather than with vocal words. Online or even over video chat, it's almost impossible to have a sense of the physical energy between you and a person. For example, if you were making small talks and happened to make a joke, there wouldn't be anything like watching that person smile and laugh in front of you. It's important to take the time to make those offline connections and leave technology behind to feel human once in a while.

2) Having a Reason to Unplug
This point is straightforward and says it all. Especially in our world, we spend so much time online for various reasons including reading the news, listening to podcasts, watching all sorts of videos, interacting with friends, families and our customers, calling one another across the world for free, playing online games and the list goes on. In my case, I attend and organize many tweetups and rarely put my smart phone down; I'm also guilty of this situation. When unplugged, even though, you may miss a few things happening online, the action of being unplugged allows you to really take in your surroundings and pay close attention to the live conversations happening around you. If you're on your phone the entire time, you will miss something, in the physical world.

Closing Thoughts
Once in a while, we even have to remind ourselves to unplug as a team which is sometimes a challenge when you think of our webhosting world that goes on 365 days a year, 7 days a week and 24 hours a day. For that, we can feel reassured that thanks to our excellent support staff, we can allow one another to take those breaks offline and connect with one another whether it's over coffee or a team lunch. So think about turning off your electronic devices and leaving the internet alone once in a while and go get some fresh air, say, at English Bay, or if you are on Twitter, you could also ask @downtownvan; they're full of ideas.

We'll see you there.

Kevin Liang
CTO / SEO Guru


Let’s Bring GiveCamp (@GiveCamp) to Canada!

I was tweeting with a fellow Vancouverite about an annual weekend-long volunteering event called Givecamp that occurs internationally over 15 cities. This year, the event occurred during October 21-23rd. You can follow the latest news and updates on Twitter at @GiveCamp.

What is GiveCamp?

Here's an overview of what this organization accomplishes: "GiveCamp is a weekend-long event where software developers, designers, and database administrators donate their time to create custom software for non-profit organizations. This custom software could be a new website for the nonprofit organization, a small data-collection application to keep track of members, or a application for the Red Cross that automatically emails a blood donor three months after they’ve donated blood to remind them that they are now eligible to donate again. The only limitation is that the project should be scoped to be able to be completed in a weekend."

Who should care about this event?
If you are a software developer, designer, database administrator, a project manager or even a social media consultant, you could donate some of your time for a cause that you believe in. Every event is run slightly differently, however, I was able to attend the closest one in the Pacific Northwest at the Seattle GiveCamp (@seattlegivecamp). The first night on Friday, as a volunteer, you had the chance to listen to 17 non profits go over their missions and their needs. For example, a lot of them needed website redesign, one wanted a social gaming app (one of the most rigorous project requiring the biggest team), others needed e-commerce tools added on, and some even needed some social media marketing support. The non profits ranged from health to food, from music to books and it went on. As unique as each individual is, there was a cause for everyone.

More on the agenda and event format
In the following two days, some volunteers taught some workshops throughout the day including: WordPress 101, Social Media 101 for Non Profits (which yours truly co-taught), SEO 101 for Non Profits, Using Microsoft Access Databases, and for Non-Profits. In tandem, the software developers, designers, database administrators, and project managers worked in nearby conference rooms around the clock from Friday at 6 pm through Sunday at 4:30 pm when the project hand-off occured. It was a very long and fulfilling weekend to say the least.

Why should you care?
Around the office, we still talk about community very much, like during Social Media Week Vancouver or during Startup Day, and we feel that it's important to inform the rest of the community of other great events happening "close" by to home. While each of us continues to become busier and busier throughout our days and weeks, it's important to step back and think about non profits and the other organizations who are trying very hard to promote their own communities through sometimes, means that are more difficult than wanted.

Spotlight on Music for Life also known as "The African Childrens Choir."
Dawna, the Donor Relations Coordinator, was on sight and drove all the way down to Seattle from Langley to be part of this weekend. Her project workplan was to re-deploy her website using CMS and while we can all read the WIKI notes, the most amazing part is to view the before-design and most importantly, the amazing after-design work. I had the chance to chat with her about social media and it was very enjoyable to drop some Canucks commentary during my social media workshop with her. Her organization made a great effort to attend, and other volunteers like myself, cared very much to give back some of our time to the community at large. If you are interested in this local organization, you can follow them on Twitter at @acchoir or on Facebook at African Children's Choir.

As that recent conversation over Twitter came up, it would be great if Vancouver could also join this movement next year and be the first GiveCamp in Canada. Why not? On the other hand, which are your favorite non profits to follow and/or be involved with around here?

Kevin Liang
CTO / SEO Guru