I had the privilege of speaking at Podcamp TO #PCTO2012 yesterday and chose to provide a perspective on the state of Canada and its lagging adoption of social media. The session was called: The Great Canadian Latency. Julie Tyios, also of Jugnoo, was instrumental in crafting the message on this important topic.
Here’s the premise: Why are Canadian businesses taking so long to adopt social media practices, while Canadians themselves are the most engaged online than anyone else on Earth? While our neighbours to the south may have us beat in adoption rates, who is leading the next wave of social innovation in Canada—and are we competing on a global scale? The next evolution of social media is around the corner and Canadians need to be aware of the opportunities to maximize their business profits through social commerce.
Here is what we covered:
- Canadian consumers have arrived. Social media is mainstream in this country.
- Why do Canadian businesses take longer to adopt social media compared to our American neighbours?
- Which Canadian companies are leading the way in social?
- Can Canada can compete on a global scale?
- What is the potential for small businesses in the next wave of social commerce?
Canada has one of the highest social media adoption rates
The stats are overhwelming: Over 60% of us are on social networks ie 17MM Canadians. Of that, 86% are on Facebook. We also lead the world in time spent online at 43.5 hours per month–that is almost twice the global average!
As one of the first countries in the world to establish a nationwide 3G network with 90% household penetration, it’s understandable why mobile adoption rates are incredibly high in Canada: with an expectation of 30MM mobile users by 2014. So, why the disparity between consumer and business?
We attempted to answer this question by applying some typical Canadian stereotypes that transcend into business. Here are a few of the stereotypes that seemed to cause a stir during the session:
- Stereotype: Canadians are law-abiding and have an orderly society.
- Translation: Canadians are too trusting and not critical of their laws and authority figures.
- Stereotype: Canadians are conservative.
- Translation: Canadians are afraid to express controversial opinions. Why take risks?
This is verified in Canada’s involvement and influence in the FTC Ruling on Facebook Privacy. Canada is vigilent when it comes to user data and proper disclosure, much more so than our neighbours to the south. Bill C-11 (SOPA’s Canadian Hellspawn) will not be ousted from legislation as swiftly as it was in the US.
The reality is that technology will always precede legislation. Legislation needs to keep up; government needs to be informed; and policymakers need to rewrite the laws that affect consumers and business as technology leaps ahead. Intellectual property, proper attribution and rights usage are at the heart of this debate but that needs proper definition, clarity and “reasonable” rules for usage in the meantime.
And if it’s legislation and regulatory reasons that inhibit business from moving towards social media, then that’s sad indeed. Perhaps we’re hiding behind that veil, an excuse so we don’t have to admit we lack knowledge of this new medium. Perhaps we lack the the desire to introduce new things. Or is it that we’ve grown complacent and there isn’t any pressing need to do anything different unless we have to?
It’s all in the mind
Social media is a new medium. It requires a mindset shift across all parts of the organization, not just PR or Marketing. What social media is going through now is similar to what search went through 10 years ago. If we look at the media industry as a whole, there are signs of certain offline media dying (newspapers downsizing, and less demand for print) and companies are fooling themselves if they continue to put trust in the very media that are now becoming obsolete.
But there are many leading the way and I’m proud what Canada has spawned so far:
- leaders in social media technology like HootSuite, Syncapse, Sysomos.
- technology innovation: MyCityLives, localmind, HeroBox
- organizations that support the growth of the small business and start-up innovation: Sprouter, DemoCamp, SOHO, bizLaunch, ING cafe, Cameraderie, DevTO, BizSpark, MaRS
As a Canadian, I don’t think we need to mirror our neighbours to the south, but we need to put one step in front of the other (slowly but surely) and be open to the possibilities. Because these days, the speed at which technology is changing implies that latency will hamper the future Canadian business.
Image: Canadian Mosaic