Ian: : Welcome to the Business Coach Podcast, an advice-oriented series for Canadian entrepreneurs. I’m Ian Portsmouth, Editor of PROFIT Magazine and I’ll be your host as we tackle the hot issues and opportunities facing Canada’s small businesses. We’ve developed this podcast in cooperation with BMO Bank of Montreal. Over the course of the series I’ll be drawing on experts in a number of fields including some BMO experts in order to provide the credible information and prescription you need to run your small business better.
Facebook, My Space, Flicker and Twitter. Surely you’ve heard of some of these things but what are they really and what do they mean to your business? Here to help us decode the esoteric and rapidly-evolving world of so-called Social Media is Mitch Joel. Mitch is a leading blogger and podcaster on the subject of digital marketing. He’s also the President of Montreal Based Twist Image, an award-winning digital marketing agency. Mitch welcome to the Business Coach.
Mitch:Hey awesome to be here, thanks for having me.
Ian: : So tell us what is your definition of social media?
Mitch:Yeah I always say my favourite definition of social media is one that I stole from somebody in Vancouver, his name is Rob Conningham from a blog called Signal to Noise, and he explains it like this. He says, you know the old web was about eyes, all you could look and sort of click around but that’s all you could really do is like look at like text and images and social media, the new web is really all about hands, it’s about doing things it’s about creating. And the sort of by product of that is by doing all of that we’ve created all of these really interesting and unique conversations that are taking place online and from a marketing business point of view what we’re really looking at is moving away from that interruption model, that whole thing of you know you’re reading a magazine and boom there’s an ad, you’re watching TV and we’re going to (about) announce Canadian Idol winner is, back after these messages. And we’re trying to engage in all these unique conversations and getting beyond that. So it’s about peer-to-peer conversations, and it’s about breaking down the walls between the sort of pre-existing notions that we have of sort of like the master, which is usually the brand and then the general consumers which are the slaves.
Ian: : So in a small business context, how might entrepreneurs be using this?
Mitch:Oh you know I think it’s probably one of the easiest, fastest and most cost effective things for a small business to be doing. I mean I just think at this point it’s one of those things that is so cost effective, I mean there’s so many powerful ways that small businesses can leverage social media to be more effective. The first thing is obviously by doing this stuff like blogging by podcasting, by being a part of these communities you really do become recognized as an authority which is a huge sort of leap forward, it’s taken companies years to become known as recognized authorities in their spaces. The other thing it does, just by speaking in a human voice, people obviously like hearing stories and like hearing that human voice, so it helps people really connect more effectively. And I mean I think probably the primary thing and the biggest chunk of it is the fact that you can start building community around your products or services and your business which is the most important thing. If you look at statistics on what communities mean to net-net revenue, it’s huge. I mean I’ve seen stats where e-Bay will tell you that their community members, people who feel part of the e-Bay community will spend 54% more than those who are not feeling like they’re part of the community. And I mean these are people who typically visit stuff like 9 to 10 times more often and stuff like that. So you know there’s so many applications of it and I think that if there was every a perfect fit it’s probably social media and small medium size entrepreneurs.
Ian: : Can you provide a couple of real-life examples of this and feel free to mention how Twist Image uses social media?
Mitch:Yeah you know it’s funny because I mean we’re, you know we’re a 50 person shop here based in Montreal and most of our business based nationally or internationally and people will say to me all the time like how do you guys market yourselves and how do you do it? And the reality is it’s literally you know the chunk of it, there’s three things. One is speaking which sort of doesn’t fall in the social media realm but the other two are blog and are podcasts. We started blog and podcast, they’re both called Six Pixels of Separation, and we did it 4 or 5 years ago long before the idea of conversations and social media was popular but we wanted to speak in a human voice. I’m a writer, my background was journalism, I love marketing communications, digital media, online marketing, and we just thought what a great place for me to sort of spill out my heart and soul in terms of what’s happening in the space and how things are connecting. So you know when people say like wow you guys are so, so successful or I can’t believe how often you’re in the media I always sort of smile and chuckle because it’s actually because of the social media that we’ve had that success. If you Google a bunch of random key phrases you’ll probably see us close to the top because we rank on those key words and we use that content to connect. We, and then you know there’s tons of other things that we’re doing. We’ve worked with companies as big as the Scotia Bank which is you know doing some podcasting and stuff like that. We helped the Canadian Marketing Association launch their Canadian Marketing Blog and I mean you just see it across every single segment from B to B or B to C, people are just using the blogging platform, podcasting channels, they’re evening leveraging things like social networks like Facebook and (Linkdon) to build their profile and connect with business. And every day I see amazing examples and applications of it that just constantly stun me.
Ian: : Now let’s talk a little bit about Facebook. A year ago My Space was the big thing, You Tube was the big thing, just because they had been acquired by major media and tech companies. These days we hear that Facebook, depending on what some large companies are rumoured to be paying for it is worth $10 billion. So why is business rushing to Facebook all of a sudden? And maybe tell us for those in the audience who don’t know what is Facebook?
Mitch:So Facebook is an online social network, and what an online social network simply means is each individual can go to this website, create their own unique profile, and the way they connect through the social network is by adding friends, peers or business people to it so each person has their own page and they add a friend as the case in Facebook and linked into connection so it depends on which, which social network you’re in, and it’s become wildly popular. I think the primaries or basis for it that people should know is that it started off, I think it was actually Harvard where it was, it was only for people who had a .edu e-mail it was for either alumni or people in university, that was the sort of core of it. They opened it up a couple of years later and that’s what really sort of lead to the floodgates being opened. Canada has been very, very unique for Facebook, we’re talking about 2,424% growth in Canada alone from April to April so April 2006 to April 2007, the company had 2,424% growth according to Com Score which is just over the top. And look I think businesses are rushing to it because of that number. So I look at, people look at that number and go well it’s a fad and of course those numbers are so crazy cause it’s so hot right now. But that’s not what that percentage tells me. That percentage actually shows me why businesses are rushing to Facebook. One is there’s critical mass now. There’s actually this isn’t the dot com bubble from before we didn’t have critical mass online. The other huge component of this is broadband penetration right in Canada we’ve got close to 90% broadband penetration, so people have the ability to get bigger chunks of information sent to them. Based off of those two factors, you know we pretty much know that anybody who wants this stuff has it, I mean the internet, so the people are online and the bottom line is if you compare Facebook to let’s say something like a Classmates.com ¦ it’s popular and people are rushing to it because it’s easy to use and the stuff works. This isn’t the sort of a beautifully wrapped gift with nothing inside. So there’s this huge, you know when you have those three things it’s such a perfect storm. You’ve got critical mass you’ve got a great broadband penetration and you’ve got this (inaudible) easy and fun to use so people are just rushing to it like crazy, and you know there’s so many opportunities within it from creating events to creating groups to building a profile, to I mean there’s just so many things you can do within it so people are just really excited to sort of have this freedom to connect and do this. Um recently literally I think yesterday a study came out from, I’m going to say Ipsos-Reid that showed something like 30% of all online Canadians have an online social network profile. So I mean how could businesses ignore that?
Ian: : And they really are staggering numbers. Why don’t you tell us just a tiny bit about your personal use of Facebook, because you’re there and, and you’ve got a thousand friends?
Mitch:Yeah well people always say to me like a thousand friends, that’s crazy, and I have to always either correct people or sort of move them in the right direction. And what I’ve come to realize in being online for the many, I mean I’ve been online since, you know there wasn’t even really an internet when I first got online, and I’ve been on so long that there’s just so many search results if you search for my name, if you search for Mitch Joel on a search engine like Google you’ll see there’s like 140,000 results because of my writing and all this stuff I’ve done, so I’ve pretty much resigned my privacy in that sense. And what I use Facebook for is it’s a media channel for me, it’s a place where people who want to connect to me can and when the connect to me they can get all sorts of stuff. So I started Six Pixels of Separation Podcast Society Group where I can post the links to the latest podcast, I can put up images from events that I hold, I do stuff like geek dinners and attend un-conferences, and get a chance to meet some cool people. So I allow people to connect, there are actually today was, was a huge milestone, we had over a thousand members to the group today which is pretty cool too. So, and a lot of them aren’t even added to my personal profile, they’re just people who like the podcast, maybe don’t know me personally and are there. I’ll put up things like images from appearances I’m at, there are some great applications in there. So for example I read a lot, I follow things through my Google reader which is an RSS feed reader where I read my blogs and my news sites and things like that and you have a, there’s a functionality in that called shared items. And what I can do is anything that I find really relevant I just hit share and what it does is it links it to a unique URL so anybody can go to this unique URL and see all the stuff that I find interesting. Facebook created an application where it shows those shared items in my Facebook profile or on the group profile. On all the stuff I tag in Delicious, I use Delicious for my online social book marking. It’s got an application for that too. So Facebook as literally become this mini portal to Mitch Joel to Twisted Engine to Six Pixels of Separation. It just enables people to connect to it if they’re interested in it. So it’s um, it’s been really exciting for us to just open up and have this other media channel.
Ian: : And the great thing for small business owners is that something like Facebook, it really is a very simple to use web interface and a content publishing platform.
Mitch:Yeah I mean it’s so, I mean it’s so crazy when I do, I do full-day seminars for the Interactive Advertising Bureau on social media marketing, and I think what freaks people out the most is when I go to my section on tools of the trade stuff, I use like Facebook and Google Reader and Delicious because people sort of get like intimidated by it but when they see it and they see how it ¦ these are life hackers right, they make your life so much easier and so much less complex. People are like how do you have so much time to read everything? When you see me work in Google Reader I mean you can literally put everything into that and then feed it through Facebook and it’s, when I say that it probably sounds like oh it’s technologically complex, it’s really as simple as saying like I would like the Google share items on my Facebook thing and when you click that it’ll say what is your user name and password. You put it in and that’s it. I’m actually like technologically not that great believe it or not, I know people I think I am but I’m not. And I tell everybody you know why do I do all this stuff? Cause I’m lazy. So just follow me, make your life easier and use this stuff. There are so many great applications in Facebook. You know I really look at it and think like it’s shocking to me that not more small businesses and medium size businesses are rushing to it because what a great way to build some critical mass and some interest in your business.
Ian: : It really is easy to use and I would certainly recommend that everybody get out there and test social media. Mitch, thanks for joining the Business Coach.
Mitch:Hey man thank you.
Ian: : Mitch Joel is the President of Montreal based digital marketing agency Twist Image, and you’ll find his podcast and his blog Six Pixels of Separation at what is the website Mitch?
Ian: : Thanks very much.
Ian: : Thanks for listening to this episode of The Business Coach Podcast. I hope you discovered a few insights that will help you grow your business. You can download this podcast series at bmo.com, profitguide.com and from iTunes. Until next time I’m Ian Portsmouth, Editor of PROFIT Magazine wishing you continued success.