Small Businesses Take Heed: Social Media Basics Bring Big Business Opportunities!

February 29, 2012
by Rishika Luthra, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire/Toronto
Rishika Luthra

Rishika Luthra

In a very short span of time, the social media landscape has undergone a sea-change.  For example, Twitter — a platform which was, until recently, attracting audiences who wanted to know what their favourite celebrities are doing in real-time — now boasts of an eclectic community of enthusiasts who are more aware, involved and engaged. What’s more, we even witnessed Canada’s first “social media election” in 2011!

There have been inevitable changes on the economic front as well. Canada’s growth in 2012 will be slightly below average, according to Deputy Chief Economist Doug Porter, BMO. That said, there is no denying that, at present, Canada is a relative safe haven compared to other economies, running the lowest inflation rates internationally.

So how do you accelerate small business growth in our economic times? The first question you need to ask yourself as a small business is which area of your business do you want to be successful in? Is it lead-generation and sales? Or is it customer service? Doing a goal-definition up front is crucial because social media may be free, but your resources and time are not!

In short, defining success is the key point of measuring it, suggests a panel of social media experts who recently participated in a Social Media Week Toronto 2012 session, hosted by BMO (Bank of Montreal), in a room teeming with Canadian entrepreneurs.

Start with your customers

“Being able to identify your key customer helps determine where your message will resonate best,” suggests Julie Howlett, Account Director of Global Marketing Solutions at LinkedIn Canada.

Chris Eben, a partner at The Working Group,  believes in starting small, connecting with customers and doing it in a real, genuine way.

Set social media policy and guidelines

Liz Strauss, Founder of Inside-Out Thinking, strongly suggests looking to build a social media policy, regardless of the size of your business.

Identifying who is going to respond to the information you share is just as essential.

“Using Social Media platforms sans specific guidelines is another way of ensuring that things could go well out of control,” warns Chris Eben.

One of the best examples of a small business that gets social media right is two-year-old Toronto-based Sprouter, a company that provides entrepreneurs everywhere with a platform to connect and engage for commentaries on small business issues, emerging technology trends and startup-related enquiries. Erin Bury, Director of Content & Communications at Sprouter, recently participated in a Social Media Week Breakfast session hosted by Business Wire Canada.

Mitigate negative publicity by being open to feedback

If you are social, you’ve got to be open to feedback, which could be positive or negative. Lack of answering or being “present” within your community is going to be harmful.

Remember that negative comments come from someone who wants to argue or someone who wants to be heard. The idea is to disengage with the former while genuinely engaging with the latter. The power to turn negative into positive rests in your hands.

Social media is all about engagement and the coolest tip for you is to attend events like Startup Weekend, one of the best examples of validating an idea with a relevant customer base, according to Chris.

Now that you have the mantra to bring your business up to speed, remember that being good at social media does not guarantee success. Being good at service does!


Canada Gets it Right on Fair Disclosure — Again

March 18, 2011
by Neil Hershberg, Senior Vice President, Global Media

Neil HershbergThe United States is often thought of as the global disclosure leader, but the truth is that there is a lot we can learn from our next-door neighbor: Canada.

In Canada’s typically unassuming way, the Canadian regulatory model has been adopted as the de facto prototype for the disclosure regime that has taken root in the United Kingdom and the European Union.

I’ll elaborate on the background as to how this all came about shortly. What’s important, however, is to spotlight the reasons why global regulators have come to recognize Canada’s disclosure framework as a world-class model worth emulating.

The Canadian Investor Relations Institute [CIRI], a widely respected association of industry professionals, has just updated its “Standards and Guidance for Disclosure and Model Disclosure Policy,” to reflect the regulatory and accounting changes, social media, and other factors that have transformed the investor relations landscape since its guidelines were last modified in 2006.

CIRI’s authoritative “Best Practices” resource for reporting issuers and industry professionals reinforces the central role of a simultaneous, broadly disseminated news release in achieving full and fair disclosure.

Unlike the United States, where the term “disclosure standards” is rapidly becoming an oxymoron, Canadians are crystal clear in what constitutes fair disclosure.

According to the timely disclosure policies of the TSX Exchanges and the CNSX, a full-text news release disseminated via a sanctioned news service is the only acceptable way to disclose material information. No ambiguity here. While the U.S. trumpets full and fair disclosure in principle, Canada practices it daily as a matter of regulatory policy. The result is that the entire investment community benefits from a level playing field. (Note: Business Wire is one of several approved news dissemination services in the Canadian marketplace.)

CIRI’s guidelines take a pragmatic approach to the arsenal of available investor relations tools that greatly facilitate investor outreach.

The CIRI report specifically notes that standalone web postings, conference calls, and other complementary communications channels do NOT meet Canadian disclosure requirements. Issuers, however, are encouraged to use additional delivery platforms to supplement a simultaneous, widely disseminated news release.

“As material information should be released in a manner designed to reach the widest public audience possible, including individual investors, companies are encouraged to use various technologies to supplement the news release. Some of the most obvious technologies include conference calls, webcasts, email, fax, video conferences, company websites, and more recently, corporate blogs, RSS feeds, podcasts, and social networking sites. While new technologies are important and useful ways to disseminate information, they are not substitutes for a broadly disseminated news release.” [CIRI Standards and Guidance for Disclosure, Page 18]

Talking about disclosure, Business Wire is the sponsor of  CIRI’s ‘Standards and Guidance for Disclosure and Model Disclosure Policy.”  To be clear, however, our involvement in the project came after CIRI completed its revisions; we in no way influenced CIRI’s research or conclusions. Business Wire is proud to support the activities of CIRI, NIRI, and other investor relations organizations worldwide that promote professional development of IR practitioners, and the ideal of effective disclosure.

Now, back to our story.

The London Stock Exchange went public in 2001, a decision that forced the LSE to relinquish its monopoly on regulatory news dissemination via its subsidiary, The Regulatory News Service [RNS].

The Financial Services Authority, the UK equivalent of the SEC, used the opportunity to rethink its approach to regulatory disclosure.

The FSA formed the Information Dissemination Advisory Group (“IDAG”), a committee of industry participants and outside experts to study various models and scenarios. IDAG was charged with making its recommendation to the FSA as to the UK’s future regulatory structure.

FSA officials also crossed the pond to North America, where they conducted extensive interviews with a wide range of market participants in the United States and Canada, as well as to conduct their own  observations, research and analysis.

After completing its due diligence, the FSA ultimately embraced a competitive disclosure regime whose nucleus closely mirrors the key tenets of the Canadian regulatory system.

Soon after the UK model went live in 2002, the European Union began a similar exercise — and not surprisingly, concluded with virtually identical results.

The Committee of European Securities Regulators (CESR) exhaustively evaluated a range of disclosure options over several years. CESR’s final assessment, memorialized in the Transparency Obligations Directive that took effect in January 2007, once again ratified the core Canadian/UK disclosure model as the best of all possible worlds.

With its characteristic low-key style, Canada deserves to finally be recognized as a  regulatory role model whose commitment to full and fair disclosure sets the standard for leading global financial markets.


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