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January 2012 Meeting Recap: Social Business

We kicked off 2012 with a topic that goes a bit beyond just using social media to promote your business and engage with your customers, our topic this month was “Social Business - collaborating,  partnering and sharing.” 

What is social business? 

There are many definitions but one of the best comes from David Armano: “A social business is a connected business.” To read more check out David’s post Demystifying Social Business. It’s got a bit of marketing speak but the graphic is really great.

We had a great panel lined up to talk about why working and sharing with other businesses is good for your business, how social customers are changing how you do business and who will share some of their experiences with collaborating, partnering and sharing.

The Meeting

Once again the great folks at The Beach Bar & Grill in St. Catharines, Ontario were our hosts. Attendees began to arrive early and we quickly filled the room they had set aside for us. Thanks to Anne Knicley for handling the registration.

John Storm of the Cogeco television interview show Taking Niagara By Storm was once again our host. Adam White live-tweeted as @smcniagara. This month’s meeting was organized by Robin McPherson, Janice Arnoldi, Darryl Moyers and Corrina Massicotte.

Our Panel

Our first speaker this evening was Cathy Berkhout-Bosse (@realtyvoice), a real estate broker at Remax Welland Realty and the community manager and co-founder of the local Pelham business portal MyPelham.com.

Our next guest was Walter Sendzik (@niagaranow), president and CEO of the St. Catharines – Thorold Chamber of Commerce and a strong proponent of greater collaboration and integration between the 12 municipalities which comprise the Niagara Region. The recent formation of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce, which intends to become a strong regional business-led organization, was a major point of conversation this evening.  

Our third guest was Dave Shaw (@aosdave) of Advanced Office Solutions. AOS is one of the largest providers of office technologies and services in Ontario.

The Conversation

Cathy discussed the development of MyPelham, which was came about because small businesses and non-profits in the community of Pelham had limited resources on their own. Now more than 100 different businesses and groups in the community participate, many as advertisers and contributors of community events and other content. 

Walter has long been a proponent of breaking Niagara out of the municipal silos which isolate businesses within the 12 municipalities. He commented that social media knows no municipal boundaries, and out audience commented that the younger generation in the region thinks much the same way. Breaking down these silos, Walter commented, would lead to an increase in connectivity between regional businesses. 

One fascinating point he made was that traditional communications channels usually allow the Chamber to communicate with business owners, but social media has brought employees into the conversation as well. More conversation is now taking place today than at any time in the history of the Chamber.

Dave made the dramatic announcement that social media engagement has resulted in a significant increase in sales for AOS. They’ve found that they’re often dragging their clients with inactive social accounts back into active conversation. His is one of the few small businesses in the region to have hired an online community manager. 

Q&A

A lively Q&A session concluded the formal portion of our meeting. The speakers were questioned on topics such as preferred social media network. Twitter was clearly popular among the group from a B2B perspective, but all three agreed that Facebook is vital in connecting with consumers in the region. Time management was also discussed. You can follow some highlights of the discussion with our recap at Storify:

http://storify.com/adamwhite/social-media-club-niagara-january-2012

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