Michelle Sullivan Communications

How the Romans invented the Internet: Tom Standage and I

I may have surprised students in my first Current Trends in Digital Communications class at McGill on Thursday night by talking about the ancient Romans, but I wouldn’t have surprised anyone who knows me. My tribe gets me. And, apparently, Tom Standage is a member of that tribe.

Did you know…

Romans may have been the first to retweet?

Or that Romans specialized in sharing content with their networks?

Don’t believe me? Check out these quotes and this presentation about Tom Standage’s book Writing on the Wall.

“You say my letter has been widely published: well I don’t care. Indeed I myself allowed several people to take a copy of it.”

“I sent you on March 24 a copy of Balbus’s letter to me and of Caesar’s letter to him”

– Cicero to Atticus

Like Standage, I’ve always believed that social media has ancient roots and responds to a fundamental human need. Technology didn’t suddenly make us more sociable … we were always sociable. It didn’t create our thirst to share knowledge and connect with one another. We were always looking for that connection. It just made it easier for us to do it with a large group of people from around the world, many of whom we will never actually meet offline.

Now broadcast media? THAT’s the aberration.

So the next time someone tells you social media is for kids and is ruining civilisation, you’ll know what to answer. The Romans did it!

McGill certificate course in social media and digital communication … taught by MOI!

Business owners, managers and communications professionals looking to boost their team’s social media skills will be interested to learn that McGill University’s School of Continuing Studies is offering a new certificate program called Digital content and community management. And guessed who helped design it? (hint: MOI!). And guess who will be launching it on September 18th? (hint: see hint #1). I’m thrilled to be teaching the program’s kickoff course, Current Trends in Digital Communication. It’ll feature dynamic industry speakers and great discussions that’ll be of interest to social media beginners and seasoned professionals alike.

I have some fantastic speakers like CT Moore, Adele McAlear and Ligia Pena lined up to talk about everything from digital marketing and SEO, to community management, to social media for non-profits … with a few surprises up my sleeve …

Having followed the evolution of a similar course offered by friends like Martin Waxman, Eden Spodek and Donna Papacosta at UofT, I’m expecting a mix of communications professionals with limited social media experience, with more than a few experienced community managers thrown in (because sometimes a little piece of paper called an attestation or a certificate helps with HR and pay raises). Because of this, I’ve designed a course that will be of interest to communications professionals at any level. And since this is a continuing ed. course, we’ll be able to pull from real-world experiences. Should make for a fantastic laboratory! I’m looking forward to the conversations we’ll have.

The class provides an overview of current uses of internet-based media (websites, blogs, social networks) in public relations, direct marketing, internal communications, fundraising, consumer relations and reputation management. Participants will leave the course with a firm grasp of best practices, and will be able to implement social media tactics based on strategic considerations.

Registration for this 10-class, 6-week course is now open.
Information: 514-398-5454

McGill Digital content and community mgmt flyer

Twitter for the small business owner: the why

When it comes to social media, small business owners tend to start with what they know. With half the Canadian population and 169 million Americans using the platform, it’s not surprising that North American small business owners tend to turn to Facebook when they decide it’s time for their brand to make its first foray into the social media space. But what about Twitter? The microblogging platform, where posts are limited to 140 characters and conversation streams are built around #hashtags, has its own charms.

There are great reasons for investing your small business marketing time and energy into Twitter.




Builds reputations: companies and brands who engage on Twitter and truly become part of their niche communities can gain a very interesting level of visibility within their target group. If your focus is selling purple sparkly unicorns, you can tap into the purple sparky unicorn lovers’ community on Twitter and engage directly with its members. It’s an efficient way to build your visibility and reputation in order to reach a market of potential customers.

Learning curve: Twitter provides insight on how your customers are responding to your products and services. Consumers have voiced their opinions about brands for centuries. The difference today is that those opinions and conversations can be tracked and analyzed through social media. Twitter is particularly suited for this, as 99% of accounts are open, and their content public. Whether or not you and your brand are active on Twitter, turning your attention to what is being said on the platform is an excellent way to keep on top of what’s being said about you, your competitors and your industry.

Access to influencers: Tools which let you scan Twitter bios to identify users interested in your niche are invaluable to building your network. You niche’s influencers will quickly rise to the top, as they are quoted through retweets. Even more than Facebook or many other social networks, Twitter gives you access to influencers. After all, even the Pope and the American President tweet. As do that doctor specialized in that illness you’re interested in, that history professor specializing in a field of study you’re passionate about or that mommy blogger you’d kill to get to test drive your product. Twitter lets you engage with these people – whether or not they reply all comes down to how charming you are or how successful you are at piquing their interest. Social networks can only open doors for you, after all. The rest is down to you.

A customer service powerhorse: Companies like American Airlines, Jet Blue, KLM, Virgin and Rogers have all understood the potential of Twitter as a customer service platform, and are investing heavily to ensure that they respond to customer questions in a timely fashion that will ensure that they surprise, delight and most importantly retain their existing clients, while impressing potential ones. Free and premium monitoring tools help customer service departments manage the social flow, capturing those opportunities quickly and efficiently. Premium services like In The Chat, Hootsuite and CoTweet provide dashboards that help you drill down to relevant content and engage directly with clients who need your online support.

Converts into sales: staying focused on the objective and using tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck to segment accounts of interest is a strategic way to speak directly to influencers and your customer base in a way that will resonate with them. Provide people with useful content and advice, demonstrate your abilities and build your credibility and they will come to you when they want to buy a purple sparkly unicorn, or whatever product or service you’re selling.

« But 74% of online adults use Facebook and only 19% use Twitter! » *
It doesn’t matter if 100% of online adults use Facebook if you can’t reach them. As a small business owner, your goal is to move beyond your own network to influence people in other networks. This is the only way your brand will gain traction. Some industries may naturally do well on Facebook, if only because of the kind of relevant content they can create. For most small businesses however, the reality is that unless you’re willing to invest ad dollars into Facebook, you’ll be putting a lot of time and energy into a platform that doesn’t belong to you and that won’t deliver a good ROI because of the way it is designed.

Twitter, coupled with your blog, gets you and your content in front of influencers who can make a difference to your business. Twitter users tend to be more directly engaged in niche subjects which interest them, and use the platform purposefully. Reach them, and you’re speaking to someone you can convert into a customer.

That’s the why. In my next blog post, I’ll go over the how. 

* source : Pew Research Internet Project

Réseaux sociaux : saviez-vous que vous êtes un poulet sous vide?

Officiellement installée dans les Laurentides depuis quelques mois maintenant, je lis plus régulièrement les journaux du coin. Une chronique dans Le Journal des Pays-d’en-Haut La Vallée signée Mimi Legault a retenu mon attention ce matin. Mme Legault se désole de la vie « vide » des internautes qui passent leur temps à « visiter Twitter ou Facebook cinquante-sept fois en trois heures. » Elle va jusqu’à comparer ces pauvres individus au poulet qu’elle met sous vide. « Des gens qui vivent dans leur univers tout ratatiné. Sans oxygène. » Bon. J’ai décidé de réagir via courriel. Voici ce que ça donne :

Bonjour Mme Legault,

Votre chronique dans le journal Pays d’en Haut du 21 mai me fait faire un saut, alors je vous écris pour la première fois.

Avec tout le respect que je vous dois, c’est avec regret que je constate que vous véhiculez des préjugés banals de gens qui ne connaissent pas les réseaux sociaux mais qui se permettent quand même de se prononcer sur le sujet. Vous imaginez des gens seuls, dans leurs sous-sols, s’isolant de la communauté environnante pour échanger avec des étrangers. Sachez que non seulement la grande majorité des gens utilisent les réseaux sociaux pour entretenir des liens qui existent déjà, mais que les rencontres virtuelles entre inconnus se transforment plus souvent que vous ne le croyez, de toute évidence, en rencontres réelles.

Je m’offre comme exemple : mon réseau est largement composé de contacts professionnels. Depuis quelques mois, j’en ajoute d’un domaine qui n’est pas encore le mien, ayant l’intention de faire un virage professionnel prochainement. J’ai rencontré certains de ces « inconnus » lors d’un congrès après avoir fait un premier contact via les réseaux sociaux, mais certaines relations demeurent virtuelles, les individus étant dispersés aux quatre coins du monde. Ils m’offrent un accès à leur expertise qui m’est précieux. Pour le reste, Facebook m’a permis de renouer avec des amis d’enfance et du secondaire … je vais visiter une de mes plus grandes amies d’enfance à la fin du mois. Nous nous étions perdues de vue, mais nous nous rendons maintenant visite depuis 3 ans. J’ai pu découvrir et tisser des liens avec des cousines du côté de mon père irlandais. J’en ai rencontré une à Toronto il y a un an, et je rendrai visite à une autre lors de mon voyage en Irlande cet été. Facebook me permet aussi de maintenir un contact avec un cousin irlandais de qui j’avais très peu de nouvelles autrefois. Nouvellement installée dans les Laurentides, les réseaux sociaux m’ont permis d’échanger avec d’autres résidents et d’en faire la connaissance. Hier seulement, une jeune femme de Val David et son père, résident de Sainte-Adèle, se sont déplacés chez moi pour récupérer un baril – ils en ont fait la demande dans un groupe Facebook et j’ai répondu en leur offrant le mien. De nouvelles personnes rencontrées que je n’aurais peut-être pas connues autrement. Et j’en passe.

Les réseaux sociaux permettent aux gens de se réunir autour d’intérêts communs. Que ce soit via Facebook, Twitter, les blogues ou balados, peu importe notre intérêt (le tricot, l’environnement, les chants marins) on peut trouver quelqu’un avec qui partager notre passion même s’ils sont à l’autre bout du monde. Nos voisins ne partagent pas toujours nos intérêts, vous voyez. Contrairement à ce que vous puissiez croire, un accès aux réseaux sociaux peut souvent permettre aux gens de _briser_ l’isolement.

Je ne dis pas qu’on doit passer tout son temps devant son ordi. Au contraire. Comme dans toute chose, un bon équilibre est de mise et on doit tendre la main vers les inconnus qu’on croise sur le trottoir, dans nos écoles, dans nos lieux de travail pour faire de nouvelles rencontres. Mais de là à comparer les gens qui profitent de liens qu’ils peuvent tisser grâce aux réseaux sociaux au poulet que vous mettez sous vide … aie … c’est vraiment faire preuve d’un mépris que je trouve désolant.

Divulgation : j’étais la première consultante en relations publiques au Québec à monter une campagne médias sociaux pour une entreprise. Je me baigne dans les réseaux sociaux depuis le début du phénomène. En fait, ce n’est pas la première fois que j’écris sur le sujet de journalistes qui comprennent mal l’attrait des réseaux sociaux. Je vous invite à lire ma réplique à Lise Bissonnette et Natalie Petrowski. Un billet qui date de 2010.

Si jamais vous décidez de vous lancer sur les réseaux sociaux, je vous invite à vous joindre à moi sur LinkedIn ;) Au plaisir de faire votre connaissance, que ce soit dans le monde réel ou « virtuel ».

Bonne journée

Michelle Sullivan​


L’Office de la langue française, Delilah’s, a teapot and a tempest

Are you a Quebec businessperson? Have you been following the Delilah-in-the-Parc affair, and wondering how you can be sure your page on Facebook meets Office de la langue française du Québec requirements? Or do you just want to be sure you’re catering to both your francophone and anglophone customers in the best and most efficient way possible? You’ve come to the right place. This blog post provides you with a step-by-step guide to help you navigate Quebec’s linguistical waters when you’re on Facebook. It’s easy. All you have to do is take avantage of Facebook’s language targetting capabilities when posting your content. Problem solved.

This step-by-step guide is available on Slideshare here:

A little background:

Last Thursday, English language media across Canada exploded with the news that a small clothing boutique owner in Chelsey Quebec had received a letter from Quebec’s French language office stipulating that her largely English language Facebook page had to provide content in French. The store owner seemed flustered, stating in interviews that she had always conformed to language regulations but didn’t see how she could make it work on Facebook. After all, posting in French, then in English, would mess up her page, bilingual posts were unmanageable … and how on earth could they expect her to control the font size? Spokespersons for l’OLFQ stated that they had responded to a complaint, were entering into new territory with social media and definitely wanted to ensure that French was used online as well as off by businesses operating in Quebec.

A tempest in a teapot. Why? Because Facebook provides a simple solution that satisfies l’OLFQ. How do I know? I asked. And after some explatation of Facebook features and a little back and forth, l’OLFQ confirmed.

L’OLFQ publishes its guidelines for business owners online, in a document called « Bonnes pratiques linguistiques dans les entreprises. » Clause 4.4 speaks to social networks. Unfortunately, the clause isn’t particularly clear, and only provides some examples, not directives. It appears to offer the following French-only case study as an example of best practice:

Au Québec la Financière Sun Life (…) a d’ailleurs créé, pour l’entreprise et ses propriétés, des pages Facebook et Twitter purement québécoises, et exclusivement en français, afin de créer un dialogue vivant.

I wrote to l’OLFQ requesting clarification. That correspondence is available here. To sum it all up, l’OLFQ agrees that if Facebook page managers use Facebook’s language targetting functionality in the way brands like Fido do, they meet Quebec’s language requirements. This means that French content will display when the user has his or her Facebook settings set to French, and English content will display when the user has his or her Facebook settings set to English.

L’OLFQ does not hold businesses responsible for the conversations their Facebook fans may have on their page … meaning they don’t need to ensure that discussion is being held in French only … they only need to ensure that the content they themselves publish is available in French. Which then allows a business to also provide that same content in English.

Check out my Step-by-Step guide to OLFQ compliance on Facebook for all the details.

Do you feel more confident in your OLFQ compliance now?