Shift happens! The change in communications will change our region


iconsTHUNDER BAY – Business Now – Shift happens! In the world of today, that shift is toward social media. The impact of social media in Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario is far larger than many people understand. The scope is enormous. There are over 70,000 people on Facebook in Thunder Bay. Going across the region, there are 5,500 people in Sioux Lookout, 6,760 in Dryden, 1040 in Nipigon. In Attawapiskat, there are 820 people on Facebook. Across Canada there are 17,111,440 people on Facebook.

Thinking of this in perspective, the population of metropolitan area of Thunder Bay is 122,907. The population of Sioux Lookout is 5336. Dryden has 6741 people living there.

Think of that for a moment. In Sioux Lookout, there are more people on social media listing the community as their home than live in the community. Not everyone in Dryden is online, but likely many of the people listing Sioux Lookout, Dryden and Thunder Bay as home on Facebook don’t live here anymore. They just wish they still did.

Online, the opportunities are massive. Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario are in effect on the same level playing field as New York online. That offers, with the right social media strategy, and the right plan, a tremendous opportunity. The full impact and the full scope of the opportunities if not taken advantage of properly will lead to our region being left behind the rest of the world. It is also likely, I suggest that the ramifications of Social Media if properly engaged will see a evolution in local business the likes of which we have never seen before. Social Media Revolution says, “In 10 years over 40% of the Fortune 500 will no longer be here”. Imagine the small businesses?

Not keeping up to full speed can prove a disaster for business. Take Kodak as an example. In many ways, photography was defined by Kodak. The company’s iconic products recorded most of the history of the last century. The “Kodak Moment” however may be fading. The company, according to a report is seeking to use Facebook as a lifeline. At the latest electronics show, Kodak is releasing new apps that allow pictures to be shared directly on Facebook.

Look around our community and region. How many businesses that used to be here, no longer are? For small business, social media offers the opportunity of a more level playing field with the “big boys”. While price remains important, so too are the personal engagements, and social media allows companies the opportunity to reach out directly to their customers.

It is also a key paradigm shift in marketing and engagement with customers. The old ways of media and advertising continue to shift forward today, often at rates that few understand.

Looking around Thunder Bay one can see stark witness of the changes in the marketplace. It was not that many years ago when Thunder Bay’s economic king was papermaking. In 2008, Mayor Lynn Peterson, in the State of the City Address said, “While someone in Minneapolis is reading the morning newspaper they probably do not know that it is printed on paper that is made in Thunder Bay”. A year later, that newspaper was under Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection as it moved to adapt to the new economy. The local supplier of that newsprint was owed over half a million dollars.

Understanding the growth of social media is something governments seem to do very poorly. For businesses, a failure to engage is likely to mean failure in reaching success. Social Media Revolution 3 reported 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations while only 14% trust advertisements. The social media gathering also states, “Only 18% of traditional TV campaigns generate a positive return on investment (ROI).

Think of it this way, if Facebook were a country it would be the world’s 3rd largest and 2x the size of the U.S. population. Thunder Bay is looking to build a new multiuse facility. If all the people in our community who are on Facebook wanted to meet together, the Rogers Centre in Toronto would only be able to hold 55,000 of them.

The impact of social media, including Twitter, Youtube and Facebook on our daily lives is massive. For business, a failure to engage on social media in a positive manner is actually dangerous. SMR found, “Social Media isn’t a fad, it’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate”. For those on Facebook, Twitter and engaged on Youtube, it is far more easily understood. Those who are not, or are working behind corporate walls that prevent the engagement on social media are often companies not realizing that they are putting their companies, computers and future at risk.

What does this brave world anew mean for your company? In terms of messaging it means people don’t care as much about your ad as they do about what their friends think. For small independent business, who do not have the advertising budget of giant companies, it means finding new and better ways to effectively communicate. The old adages of advertising are vanishing as new mediums take the battle field.

On a personal level, I grew up with the transistor radio and shortwave radio. The hobby of DXing was a fun thing to do. Next it was the Sony Walkman, followed by a Discman. Today with the MP3 player, and online radio through Itunes, the world has changed. Instead of being tied to local radio, one is now able to tune in the world all day, everyday. The same goes with television. Do you remember television without a remote control? A teenager today will look at you funny if you talk about that.

With no offense to traditional media, the reality is most teens are setting their habits in place right now, and they are not engaged with traditional media. They are engaged in Social Media.

Last week, a one year old baby, Meegwun, which means Feather in Cree, was sitting on my lap while I was at my desk. She was reaching for the mouse, and trying to reach the keyboard. When she did, she was moving the mouse around. On the keyboard, she was trying to type, or at least strike the keys. Meegwun almost instinctively seems to know that somehow those two devices are part of the engagement to the screen that the images are on. For older children, from three and up, the Sesame Street website engages them into learning how to move the mouse.

Moving forward to engage people online by Northwestern Ontario communities and businesses should be a goal each city and town council set for 2012.

The change in communications will change our region.

James Murray

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