Does Canada need American Collegiate Football?

Canada, specifically Calgary, has a problem. In my hometown, there are constant cries about a lack of community and constant debate on how to build one. It’s not an easy challenge. Calgary is a relatively new city and a very transient city where residents don’t have very much in common.  I experienced my first Buckeyes game day in Columbus this month and I realized that Canada needs collegiate football.


You’re laughing, I know. I thought I didn’t like football. However, it’s more than just the game. It’s the restaurants and living rooms filled with friends, discussion and laughter. It’s the strangers willing to invite you to their tailgate party because you’re Canadian and they want you to enjoy it as much as they are. It’s the sea of school colours entering the stadium and it’s the buzz in the air.


This feeling of community doesn’t happen by itself, it gets indoctrinated early. I’m told the day before games, lower school students are encouraged to wear Buckeye colours (grey and scarlet, if you’re wondering) and they sing in first period. Before big games, like Ohio State and Michigan, they have a school wide assembly.


We can make fun of Americans for their college pride, but aren’t they the ones laughing? We’re continually facing budget cuts in post-secondary education, our athletic programs are pretty close to non-existent (no offense, Dinos) and I’ve never even considered going back to the University of Calgary to support an event and I live about 15 minutes away.


Americans regularly make the trip back to their alma mater for important games, to catch up with friends and cheer on their team. They pay for tickets to routinely fill massive stadiums to capacity, donate large sums of money to the schools they graduate from and belong to a community.


I know we do things differently up in Canada and school spirit isn’t something that happens overnight, but isn’t it a model worth taking a look at?  Can we start somewhere? If we borrow the best parts of American culture, we might be able to improve our own. Also, Thanksgiving will happen twice a year. Think about it.  




The good, the bad and the people just trying to make a living

I’ve been thinking lately about people’s perception of others online. Specifically, does your negative perception about someone affect your social network?

I started thinking about this after sitting around with a group of Internet-active people. Everyone at the table had someone they refused to interact with. Most felt so strongly about their arch enemy, they advised against anyone else interacting with them as well.

What interested me most about this is that there was no common enemy. Often, one person’s nemesis was another’s best friend. How does this happen? Has the Internet made us too sensitive? Is there too much room for misunderstanding in online communications?

I have a feeling this post is mostly about questions. I really don’t know the answers. I worry about them. I think about the people that make my life miserable and I want to tell my friends not to talk to them. The reasons range from shady business practices to hurt feelings, but is it up to me to decide that for others? Good people can make bad decisions just as bad people can do good deeds. I have a theory that the serendipitous nature of the Internet means the latter scenario is more prevalent. Here are the main groups of questions I’d like to explore:

1. As your social circle expands, how do you determine who to let in?

2. We are all influenced by the people we know. If an influencer tells you that someone else is bad, do you believe them? Do you find out for yourself? How much would doing business with this person affect your relationship with the influencer?

3. Do you ever tell people not to work with, or befriend someone else? Why? What led you to that decision? Is it always black and white? If it’s grey, where is that line?

4. On the Internet, is someone’s worth determined by the sum of their actions, one bad deed or their potential to do something great?



So you want me to read your blog…

You’ve decided to blog, that’s great news! Stop harassing your friends to read it and make a plan to get legitimate readers that are interested in what you have to say. No lies here, blogs are hard work. Having a plan and sticking to it doesn’t really make it easier, but it does grow your audience, which makes it all worthwhile. To start, answer these questions: 

Who is your audience?

If you haven’t figured this out, you don’t have a blog, you have an online diary.

What do you blog about?

Wait, you just blog about anything? This might be why you haven’t found your audience yet. The best place to start is to either blog about something you are passionate about, or something you are learning. You can explain, teach and explore your passion, or keep track of your progress while learning something. Both are an easy to understand format for people coming to your blog to read.

What is your goal for the blog?

Your goal should be directly tied to what you blog about. There are many different reasons to have a blog, but you need to know why you have yours. Otherwise, it’s to easy to not update it on a regular basis. Reasons can range from chronicling adventures, becoming a thought-leader, finding friends, helping customers or even just becoming a better writer.

How often do you post?

If you’ve figured out the above, sooner or later, you will have a loyal following of people looking forward to your next post. If you update your blog ‘whenever you feel like it” you risk upsetting the people that love you. Blogging on a schedule might seem a little type-A, but it helps build fans. If people know you post every Tuesday/once a day/the end of the month, they know when to expect something. Perhaps, they’ll even look forward to it. Don’t disappoint them!

Are you expecting feedback?

Don’t fret if people aren’t commenting on your blog. Think of how many blog posts you read without writing a response. If you are really looking for feedback, ditch the complete post with the “what do you think?” tacked on to the end. This is the online equivalent of delivering a soliloquy at a dinner party and then expecting people to jump in. Instead, write a shorter post on something you are thinking about, but haven’t fully figured out yet. This encourages conversation – just like in real life.

Note: One of my favorite things about the Internet is that the community around you isn’t based on location. Keep in mind that not all of your friends will find your blog interesting and that’s just fine. There are plenty of people that you don’t know that will find it interesting. 




How to win friends and influence people through your social network

– or – How to meet people through your social network that you wouldn’t mind hanging out with…

I’ve embarked on a year of travel around North America, one month at a time. I’m lucky enough to be able to work from any where, so I’m not in need of employment, but as these cities are what might be my future home, I am looking to get a feel for each. As a fan of social media, I took it upon myself to figure out how to meet people in each city, through the Internet (Internet friend dating never really took off, despite my million dollar idea from a few years back,

Have you ever looked at the top users for a city on any social network? Whether you sort by volume or by perceived influence, the list doesn’t often yield good sources for connecting with like-minded people.* The trouble is the most active user, even the most popular user isn’t necessarily the person you want to go for lunch with. How do you find people that matter to you?

3 ways to connect with people that matter in your area:

  1. Follow people that check into places you enjoy. Some of you like Foursquare, some of you aren’t sold yet. Regardless, when you go somewhere interesting, it is a great way to meet people like you. Check-in somewhere you like, find out who else checks-in there. Follow them. You’ll quickly learn about other places to enjoy, without having to do so much trial-and-error. If you’re comfortable with a little Internet stalking (and what social media fan isn’t?), you can investigate what other social networks your new Foursquare pals are on and follow them there as well. Note: This goes from helpful to creepy fast, so I recommend not showing up like a crazed Justin Bieber fan everywhere this person goes.
  2. Look for event organizers in the area, see who they interact with, follow them. If you enjoy events like DemoCamp or TEDx, look up event dates to see what is happening while you are in town. If the timing is off and you miss everything, try to find out more information on the event organizers. The people putting these events together tend to engage with other smart people. A quick scan of an event organizer’s Twitter feed should yield great suggestions for who the influencers are in town.
  3. Ask. Tell your network ahead of time where you are going and ask them if they know anyone you should connect with. It’s like word of mouth marketing with you as the product. Going the old fashioned way is good, but networking a crowd of strangers is difficult. It’s also a fine line to walk – you want to meet new people, but you don’t want to come across as the aggressive salesman. You’ll have better luck if someone you know introduces you as someone people should know. It adds a layer of credibility to your claim that you are a worthwhile connection.

I’ve just started this trip, in fact, I’m only one month in but so far, it’s been working out for me. How do you put your social network to work for you?

* Unless you’re really into weather, traffic information or porn.






Social Media isn’t about Selling… Wait, what?

I’m a fan of social media. I spend too much time on the Internet and because my job requires it, I get paid to hang out on social networking sites. However, I often hear things about it that don’t sit very well with me. I don’t believe them to be true. Here are 3 statements on social media I just can’t get behind:


“Social media isn’t about selling, it is about being a part of the conversation.”

 I really don’t like when people say this. If I am a business, why would I waste money on something that isn’t generating sales?

If you are having difficulty getting your boss or clients to agree to a social media strategy, I’m confident this is why. Nobody concerned with numbers wants to talk about social karma, the number of retweets you can get or how many fans you can get on Facebook. They want to talk about what they can do to get more dollars in the bank.

I am not suggesting that anyone striving to be a part of the conversation is wrong. Savvy social media users know that to do a good job, you need to strive for trust, influence, loyalty, goodwill, advocacy and a long list of other terms we’ve all come to know and love. You also need to quantify how you are doing by measuring feedback, comments, mentions and external reach.

However, being a part of the conversation is what helps you get to the end goal, which is selling something. Whether it’s signing more clients, book sales, more traffic to your blog or even making friends, you are still selling. Keeping this in mind makes it easier to measure your social media efforts and get approval from your skeptical boss.

Instead of saying, “People are talking about our brand on Twitter and we need to be a part of that conversation.” Try saying, “My 3 goals for being on Twitter are to establish our organization as thought leaders, provide proactive customer service and drive more traffic to the website. I will measure the success of my efforts by measuring the increase in the number of speaking engagements our organization gets, the feedback we receive from our customers and the increase in traffic we get to the website.

“You need a social media expert to manage your product’s social media efforts.”

No, you need an expert on your product to manage your product’s social media efforts. Social media is a communication tool that people use across different spaces on the Internet. Consider each of these spaces and platforms to be a physical location. Would you hire a talking expert to work the room for your organization? It’s pretty much the same thing. Instead, think of who would best represent your company or brand. This is who you need to hire.

Once you’ve hired the right person, it is easy to teach them how to use the tools. However, it isn’t easy to manage all of a company’s social media efforts. The Internet never sleeps, so who you hire has a big job ahead of them, every day.

This is the point where the experts come in. Interactive agencies, word-of-mouth marketers and social media strategists can help your new hire with high-level campaign ideas, ongoing strategies and yearly planning.

“It’s free.”

Smart people don’t say this. You know why? BECAUSE SMART PEOPLE DON’T VALUE THEIR TIME AT ZERO. I Internet yelled that to you so you would know how important it is.

It’s true, social media is different – most of the platforms are free to use and you don’t have to blow your budget on one campaign, as with more traditional marketing campaigns. This does not make it free. People and organizations that succeed using social media tools spend countless hours working at it. Don’t discount what those hours cost and don’t discount how valuable the person putting in all of those hours is.

This was originally posted on the #likeminds blog which is an amazing set of conferences/events. You MUST check it out. 





Sir Ken Robinson: leading a culture of innovation

It isn’t every day that I’m willing to sit through a talk on leading a culture of innovation. It isn’t that I think I know everything already, but more that I’m keen to learn new things and often leave disappointed.

However, Sir Ken Robinson shared stories, kept the crowd entertained and dropped some knowledge on me. I realized, while listening to how Sir Ken and his wife renewed their vows at the Elvis wedding chapel in Vegas that being a smart innovative person isn’t something that happens to a few lucky people. Everyone is equally creative, we just have to allow that creativity to blossom.

Here are two examples from Sir Ken’s Nevada themed talk that helped me realize the magic of open innovation is that every one of us is an innovator.

Aside from being a humorous anecdote, Sir Ken brought up his Las Vegas vows because Las Vegas is a testament to the power of imagination. Given that Las Vegas rose out of nothing, blaming a lack of resources is not an acceptable excuse. Instead of thinking of anything as a barrier, think of possibilities. He brought up the term divergent thinking, which is really just not taking anything for granted to come up with many possible ways forward.

Death Valley is the hottest and driest place in North America. Not much of a surprise, it got it’s name because nothing grows there. However, over the winter of 2005 there were flashfloods. The following spring saw the most amount of wildflowers to grow there ever. Sir Ken’s point? If the conditions are wrong, life protects itself and hunkers down. If the conditions are right, life flourishes.

Sir Ken’s talk was really about one thing. To lead a culture of innovation, your job is not to have great ideas, but to create conditions in which *others* have great ideas.



Mitch Joel at the Art of Marketing

I heard Mitch Joel, author of Six Pixels of Separation speak yesterday. He said smart stuff. He started by saying he is not here to talk about the future, only the present and right now, the old way of marketing is dead.

He gave the example of Hernan Cortes, the Spanish conquistador who ordered his men to burn the ships when they arrived in Mexico. There is no going backwards, no option to retreat to safety, there is only going forward.


Compare this to the ctrl + alt + del on your computer. If you had the opportunity to reboot right now, how would you build a platform to market your business in this world? Risky, but a leap that needs to happen – the old school banner ads just don’t work.


What must happen now is real interactions between real people. Instead of the old idea of marketing, ‘we have a fairly inadequate product, can you make it look better?’ People can have a real problem with a product and the product maker can read about it over a blog or on twitter and take the opportunity to fix it. People care about brands more than ever before. The more you care about your customers and involve them, the more loyalty they will have. This is what is important.


Joel says he talks to executives all the time that haven’t quite embraced the idea that everyone creates content, “These kids are nuts! They go on Facebook and post all these pictures. Who do they think will hire them?” is the cry from executives. To which Joel responds, “Who are you going to hire if everyone is on Facebook?” This is the cold reality. What makes any of these channels so amazing is that people create the channel and people create the content. Marketers can no longer use the “spray and pray” approach to marketing.

Keeping this in mind, what are you doing as a brand to engender relationships within the community? Social Media is not a numbers game, so stop asking how many. Instead, ask who is connecting? You need to be building a community for months and months before you launch something so that those relationships are established. When you start to build that community, don’t ask what, ask why? Why are you doing this? Why should you be on any social network? Answer that and simplify your online strategy.

What excites me about Mitch Joel’s talk is that he reminded everyone that we don’t need permission to do any of this. Anyone can go out and start something on the Internet. It is the democratization of content.