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“Social Travelers” at SoshalGroup’s DNA Awards

I spoke with Dave Hale, CEO of SoshalGroup, a little while ago about about my role in developing and executing the social media strategy at VIA Rail, as well as our future plans. He’s just published an excellent write-up, titled “Social Travelers“.

It may seem like a bit of a pat on the back, but I think you should go read it. It’s just a little bit of proof that you can drive change from the bottom up in any organization – all it takes is some planning, the right champion on your side, and a lot of hard work and commitment.

Dave also touches on a concept that I’d like to expand on more here in the future – the “social organization”. It’s not a term I claim to have originated, but it’s one that I will be living and breathing for at least the next year at VIA Rail.

If you have a comment or question about VIA’s social media strategy, please let me know in the comments.

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Webinar on VIA Rail’s Social Media Strategy – December 13th at 1 P.M. EST

Ever wonder what it’s like to put together a social media policy? Or how to organize a governance structure for social media in your organization? What about the steps you can take to get buy-in from the executive team?

I’ll be answering these questions, and any others you may have, on Tuesday, December 13th. At 1:30 P.M. EST, the Conference Board of Canada will be hosting a webinar with yours truly, where I’ll share the story behind VIA Rail Canada’s social media strategy.

For all of the details, including how to register, click here: Dec 13 Social Media Strategy Development Webinar

Have any questions you want me to address? Throw them in the comments section below! Hope you can make it!

Top 5 Social Media Topics for Inquiring Minds

I was lucky enough to join a panel discussion yesterday as part of my role as Community Manager at VIA Rail and participate in a back-and-forth about social media with some of Toronto’s best practitioners. Hosted by Jennifer Powell of Hart and Galla Marketing, and Susie Parker of Sparker Strategy Group, with fellow panellist Leigh Mitchell from Women in Biz Network, we had a great turnout and some good discussions for newbies and veterans alike.

Jennifer and Susie did a great job in their presentation (in that they made me feel guilty for not blogging more often, so here I am!), and the questions afterward gave me an idea of what some hot topics are right now for social media. Being an industry professional, it’s tough to see the “forest from the trees” occaisionally, and events such as the one last night give you an idea of what page others might be on, guiding your work and focusing your attention on areas where they need the most help.

I’ve thrown together a quick top 5 topics based on my experience last night, and the recent conference I attended in New York City as part of Social Week, called Pivot.

  1. Show me the money! Return on Investment is quickly becoming a key topic in social media. As budgets requests continue to increase, executives are being forced to ask “what do I get in return?”. This will be a focus of this blog over the coming weeks, possibly part of a regular feature.
  2. What networks should I use / What’s the next big thing? The answer to both of these questions is the same: It depends on where your audience is, and where they’re going. Charlene Li pointed out at Pivot that we “shouldn’t worry about the next big thing until your customers start to use it”. Focus on the networks where your customers are interacting, whether that be on Facebook or a niche blog.
  3. How much time should I spend on social media? A classic question, and one that’s difficult to answer with a blanket statement other than “it depends”. I advocate spending no more than an hour a day across all profiles. This helps ensure that you are still doing other things, and that you’re taking advantage of your real-life relationships, too. Turning social relationships into real-life ones is a great way to benefit from your time online. On the other hand, is social media the sole method of promoting your business? Then you should probably spend a little bit more time on it.
  4. Influencers: The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems. Identifying influencers is a tricky thing. Numbers like Klout and Kred can be gamed by users. Only by digging deeper into a user’s profile, focusing on their engagement with and the quality of their network, can we truly begin to identify influential social media users. But when you do, it can provide a measurable impact on your campaign metrics.
  5. If content is king, why do I feel like the town drunk? Creating relevant, interesting and fun content for your business means creating engaging content for your stakeholders. The trick is figuring out what kind of content your audience or potential audience is looking for, and then delivering it in a way that reflects the uniqueness of your brand. As we move forward into the age of the social consumer, it’s a no brainer that the creativity we used to find only in radio, print and TV will spill-over into social, and the integrated campaign will become king. It already has.

Let’s call this a starting point for the blog for the remainder of the year. I’ll touch on each of these subjects, and I have a few new ideas for regular updates, starting next week.

Comments and suggestions for other big topics in social are welcome!