Connect2Canada: a community for Canadian ExPats in the United States


Here’s an example of how to use social media effectively. The Canadian Embassy in Washington is using social media to reach out to and bring together the community of Canadians in the United States.

Under the banner of Connect2Canada, the Embassy has established a Website hub, a Twitter stream, a Facebook page, podcasts, a presence on YouTube, and, of course, a traditional mailing list. They also publish stories submitted by Canadians living in the United States. And they offer a comprehensive list of Canadian Expat groups and Canada-US groups along with a calendar of upcoming events relating to Canada in the United States.

c2cConnect2Canada has drawn in more than 43,000 people who have registered, subscribed, followed or friended Connect2Canada in it’s various social media manifestations. The Website alone receives more than 7,000 unique visitors and in excess of 16,000 page views per month. That’s pretty good for an initiative that has never been advertised or promoted in mainstream media. Connect2Canada has been promoted primarily online and at face to face events.

And Connect2Canada doesn’t just broadcast information. The Embassy staff responds to comments and questions on Twitter and Facebook. In fact, the stats on unique visitors and page views were drawn from DM responses to questions I put to Connect2Canada on Twitter.

Connect2Canada. A good case study of the effective use of social media by government.

Blogging brought the world together. Twitter is pushing us apart.

istock_000004986387xsmallWhen I first started blogging, I was struck by how quickly and easily I discovered bloggers around the world who shared my interests and from who I could learn. My community of interest spanned the globe, including people like Neville Hobson (in Amsterdam and later the U.K.), Darren Barefoot (at that time on a one year sojourn in Malta, now in Victoria B.C.), Allan Jenkins (Copenhagen), Katie Paine (New England), Josh Hallett (Florida), Shel Israel (California), the other Shel, Shel Holtz (California), Jeremiah Owyang, Lorelle VanFossen (Pacific northwest) and even and Lee Hopkins (Australia). Blogging had enabled me to form a community with others who shared my interests – a community that transcended time zones and geography.

Over the past two years, Twitter has taken up an increasing amount of my intention. Its 140 character micro bursts of ideas, links, emotions and idle musings bring me into instant contact with the people in my community. I drop in and out of the flow several times a day.

But at the same time that Twitter has given me the ability to connect constantly and quickly wiht the people in my community, it also has led to a shrinking of that community. Yes, it transcends geography. I regularly tweet to people in other countries and in Europe. But at the same time, it has restricted my community to people within a band of time when we are all on the network live. In other words, I’ve lost sight of that part of the world in which our business days don’t overlap.

In effect, my world through the lense of Twitter has shrunk to encompass only those people who are online at the same time as me. So, I’ve lost sight of those people whose workdays and online times don’t overlap with mine. They are invisible to me and I too am invisible to them.

So, Twitter is a good news / bad news story for social networking and its ability to expose us to different points of view and draw us closer together. In a way, Twitter has narrowed my horizons while making my experience with the smaller community richer.

Have you experienced this “invisibility effect”, losing track of people you previously experienced regularly? if so, what are you doing about it?

Deciding who to follow on Twitter

TwitterI’ve been using Twitter more and more over the past year. Especially at conferences like those run by the Advanced Learning Institute, Canadian Institute, and OpenDialogue, as well as Third Tuesday Toronto and Third Tuesday Ottawa.

I’ve replaced live blogging with live tweeting. It’s very satisfying – connecting me directly with other attendees and people who care about the same subject.

The more I’ve put into Twitter, the more I’ve received back. At the same time, the number of people following me has increased. And the pace at which new followers are added has increased.

This presents a problem.

I set up my Twitter profile to notify me via Gmail of each new follower. When someone follows me, I visit their Twitter profile to see if they share my interests. I follow people who write about things that interest me or who have blogs in their profiles or stand out in some other way. As I’ve done this review, I’ve found myself following about 1 in 4 of the people who follow me.

Why don’t I follow more people?

Well I don’t use Twitter as a publishing platform.  Instead, I use it as a “town square” – a way to connect with my “community of interest.” And to really connect, I need to keep the number of people I follow in the hundreds, not the thousands. (That’s not a criticism. I admire anyone who can attract more than 60,000 twitter followers. But that’s an audience, not a community.)

Recently, the pace at which my new Twitter followers has been increasing has been greater than my ability to check out everyone’s profile. (I realized this when the number of my pending Gmail emails exceeded 900!) So, I’ve settled on a new way to decide who to follow.

Instead of visiting every follower’s profile (which at the rate of 20 -30 new followers a day takes over an hour), I’ve decided to watch for new people who either retweet one of my tweets or respond to me with an @thornley.

I’m doing this in the belief that these people who actively engage with my content are more interested in me. And these are the people who I should be checking out and probably following.

What do you think? Is this a reasonable strategy for identifying people to follow in Twitter? What approach do you use?

UPDATE: Jay Goldman offered some great advice on how he decides who to follow in Twitter. I missed this in my Google Search. Sorry Jay.

Kelly Rusk also had a post about what she looks for when deciding who to follow on Twitter.

Ramius’ Philippe Dame talks about the Sixent social networking platform

Sixent BetaYesterday, I posted about the very positive experience I’ve had trying out the beta of the new social networking platform, Sixent.

It’s not surprising how good Sixent is right out of the gate if you consider that Ramius has had extensive experience with online collaboration. Its Community Zero product has been in use by corporations and organizations for almost a decade. They’ve clearly applied the insight they gained through Community Zero in building a user friendly, intuitive, functional and fun social network platform.

Philippe DanePhilippe Dame, Ramius’ C.O.O., sat down with me recently to talk about Sixent and what he believes makes it stand out.

In creating Sixent, the Ramius’ team’s objective was to “create a social network in which people could share their life the way they want to and connect with people in a meaningful way.” The key to their approach to this is to provide Sixent users with a “lot of control over how they connect with people,” explains Philippe. This translates into “how they disclose their own information and how they disclose content to people.”

“We’ve tried to emulate exactly how people want to present their own personas online. We all operate personal and professional sides. Now with social media and the Web, we’re becoming more familiar with having a public side – be it a Twitter feed or other kinds of services. We want to provide you with adequate ability to segment what you would say and show about yourself, and do so in a really easy to use way.” Philippe suggests that Sixent’s approach to enabling users to show different profiles to different people, “provides a degree of control that is unprecedented.”

“With our heritage in enterprise collaborative software, we are taking it to a corporate market in the fall,” Philippe says. “The idea of categorizing your contacts and having multiple profiles plays well in terms of people’s dual roles of interacting with their colleagues as well as dealing with partners and customers that go outside the firewall. People don’t want to join multiple social networks. So, if they can have a single dashboard and identity, and achieve these things in a controlled way, we think we’ve got a success on our hands.”

“This is an environment in which you are trying to provide a utility to your users so that different kinds of interactions can take place that weren’t previously possible. If they can connect that back to a growing public network, it can provide both great utility for the organization in terms of a deeper reach into the social graph of their own customers and partners. It can also work on the reverse, where users are now able to interact on a personal level in a kind of sister network and be getting more utility from it and therefore coming back on a regular basis, really solving the key adoption issue of getting people to be on your network and to be productive people there.”

Now Serving – Social Media Breakfast in Canada

Since Bryan Person organized the first Social Media Breakfast in Boston last year, the concept has caught on and been introduced in cities across the United States.

Now, the Social Media Breakfast concept has been brought to Ottawa, Canada’s capital, by Rob Lane, Ryan Anderson and Simon Chen.

The first Social Media Breakfast in Ottawa was a great success, drawing a standing room only crowd. Mark Blevis , Melany Gallant , Stacey , and Simon Chen covered it in posts and pictures .

The second Social Media Breakfast Ottawa will be held on July 15. The guest speaker (and host) will be Rob Lane, founder and President of . (If you’re interested in attending this event, register on Eventbrite .)

SMB Ottawa co-founder Simon Chen sat down with me to talk about the Social Media Breakfasts – what they are, the upcoming event with Rob Lane and who attends these events. By the way, I thought it was interesting that Simon got the idea to bring the Social Media Breakfast concept to Ottawa while he was following the Twitter stream discussing the Boston Social Media Breakfasts.

Watch the complete videoof my discussion with Simon Chen below.

FlackLife and The Client Side join Our Community

Michael SeatonIf you take a look at “Our Community” in ProPR’s sidebar, you’ll see two new additions: FlackLife and The Client Side. We’ve added these blogs because their authors, Bob LeDrew and Michael Seaton, have joined us at Thornley Fallis.

That’s pretty exciting for us. Not only do we gain two new work colleagues, but they also bring two blogs to us with two very different perspectives.

Bob LeDrewBob LeDrew has been sharing his perspective on the public relations industry and issues since April 2003. Michael Seaton writes and podcasts from the perspective of a digital marketer who was until he joined us on the Client Side as Director of Digital Marketing at one of Canada’s major banks.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve been able to include some very smart people in our community who write about social media, communications, marketing and design. Our community currently includes: Michael O’Connor Clarke, Terry Fallis, John Sobol, the Web designers and developers at 76design, the PRGirlz (although they’ve posted sparingly lately), and the PR team in Canada’s capital. And although they’ve left the firm, we still think of David Jones, Chris Clarke and John Wiseman as members of our extended social media family.

Our approach to blogging is that we want people with their own blogs to bring them to our community. We encourage them to write as frequently as they want. And we always acknowledge that if they leave us, they can take their blogs with them. We will retain the value of what we learned and shared while they were with us, but their blogs are theirs.

While they are with us, we ask only that they observe our blogging policy – which is simple. It has only two provisions: “Blog Smart” and “Cause no harm to any person.”

I’m a longtime reader of both Bob’s and Michael’s blogs. They’re smart and always interesting.

So, if you haven’t discovered these two writers yet, I hope that you’ll subscribe to the feeds of both FlackLife and The Client Side and see for yourself why I’m excited to have them as part of the Thornley Fallis Community.