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!

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

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?


« J’ai un peu de difficulté à bloguer sur les médias sociaux avec tout ce qui se passe au Québec »

Il y a des moments, comme ça, sur Twitter, lorsqu’un gazouillis résonne plus fort que les autres. C’est le cas, pour moi, aujourd’hui, avec ce sentiment exprimé en 140 caractères par Nadia Seraiocco qui, comme moi, blogue généralement sur les médias sociaux.

Depuis un certain temps, comme vous l’avez peut-être constaté, ça ne me tente plus, moi non plus. Je néglige mon blogue. Comme Nadia, j’ai moi aussi un peu de difficulté à bloguer sur les médias sociaux et la communication avec tout ce qui se passe au Québec … et au Canada.

Comme les manifestations étudiantes contre la hausse des frais de scolarité. Et le comportement de certains policiers à leur égard. En tant que prof d’université … en tant que citoyenne … cette lutte me touche directement;

Comme le démantèlement de Droits et Démocratie par le gouvernement Harper … et les changements chez l’ACDI qui font en sorte que certaines compagnies pétrolières de l’Alberta reçoivent davantage pour leurs programmes de Responsabilité sociale des entreprises (CSR en anglais) que certains OSBL qui militent pour les droits humains depuis des décennies. Et on ne parle pas ici des coupures annoncées dans le budget Flaherty;

Comme les menaces à notre environnement au nom d’une lucidité qui me semble tout sauf lucide;

Comme les coupures à Radio Canada et à l’ONF;

Comme l’abolition du registre des armes à feu;

Comme un gouvernement qui ne laisse pas parler ses scientifiques … et qui ne parle pas aux médias;

Je me dis que je devrais justement en profiter pour présenter une analyse des moyens de pression que les groupes exercent via les médias sociaux. Ce blogue est censé, après tout, prendre un virage plutôt Affaires publiques 2.0.

Mais je n’y arrive pas.  Je passe mon temps à partager des liens via Facebook et Twitter dans l’espoir de sensibiliser et de mobiliser mon réseau … dans l’espoir qu’ils soient aussi outrés que moi. Je me réfugie sur mon blogue Images de femmes, qui semble avoir plus de mérite en ce moment.

Quand ta mère de 70 ans te dit : tu devrais lancer une campagne Facebook pour contrer telle ou telle décision gouvernementale ou injustice sociale, tu te dis que c’est vrai que les médias sociaux ne connaissent plus d’âge.

Quand ta passion pour les médias sociaux te semble soudainement vide de sens, tu te dis qu’il est temps de passer à l’acte. Vous me pardonnerez, alors, si je continue à négliger ce blogue. J’ai un Québec à changer.

Michelle Sullivan se joint à Rogers :: Michelle Sullivan joins Rogers Communications Inc.

English follows

Une nouvelle aventure s’amorce: j’ai accepté l’invitation de Keith McArthur et me joindrai à la belle équipe médias sociaux de Rogers Communications Inc. dès lundi. Un retour aux sources pour moi; j’ai fait mes premiers pas en relations publiques au sein de l’équipe des communications d’entreprise de Microcell Télécom, ancien «maître» de Fido. J’y retrouverai des visages familiers et aurai le grand plaisir de rejoindre d’anciens collègues et amis. Cette fois-ci, je me concentrerai sur l’évolution des médias sociaux à travers l’ensemble des filiales de Rogers, y compris la télécommunication, Rogers Media et les équipes sportives. Rogers est un grand terrain de jeu et j’ai bien hâte d’y avoir accès. Seule Québécoise au sein de mon équipe, je conseillerai principalement les équipes marketing et RP en matière de médias sociaux pour les marchés francophones. Vous pourrez me lire sur FilRouge et me suivre via mon compte Rogers sur Twitter.

La vie est remplie d’opportunités. Il faut savoir les reconnaître et les saisir.

I’m embarking on a new adventure: I’ve accepted Keith McArthur‘s invitation to join the fabulous social media team at Rogers Communications Inc, starting on Monday. You could say I’m circling back to where it all began – Fido is where I  first got my start in corporate communications, back when Fido’s master was Microcell Teleom. Some of the truly sharp people who started off with me then are still there, and it’ll be a real treat to work with them again. This time around, I could be called upon to provide social media strategic counsel to any one of Rogers’ subsidiaries, including telecom, Rogers Media and its sports teams. Rogers is a huge playground and I’m eager to get my hands dirty. The only « Québécoise » on the team, I’ll work closely with PR and marketing groups on initiatives for the francophone market. You’ll be able to read me at  FilRouge, Rogers’ French language blog, as well as follow my Rogers account on Twitter.

Life is filled with opportunities. Recognizing and seizing them is half the battle.