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QotD: Social Media – Global, Local, Canadian?

John Wen from Wunderman Toronto sends in this Question of the Day about social media:

Our counterparts in the US asked if there were any social media particular to Canada. It got me thinking about how global the social web is. New found friends from the far corners of the world. But as Facebook’s recent experience in adding Toronto and other Canuck cities has shown, local connections count, perhaps more so than the global ones. My QoD is: are there any Canadian social media particular just to Canada? Does it really matter since we are so close the US and we can simply adopt/localize what’s come from there?

What is your response to John’s question?  As Canadian marketers trying to appeal to a Canadian audience, are there social media that you prefer or recommend?


  1. maggie fox
    maggie fox May 28, 2007

    I think the question itself shows a lack of understanding of the social and behavioural shifts that are behind the social media revolution. The Internet has facilitated the move away from geographic communities (i.e. “We’re neighbours. Let’s hang out together.”) toward communities of interest (“We’re into photography/java/rock climbing, let’s hang out together.”)
    You could try to implement something that was based on geography, but you’d be swimming upstream against the forces that are propelling this massive shift. Chances are it would also be completely unsuccessful since it would have a broad but shallow appeal. Web 2.0 is all about allowing people to organize themselves into rich and specific niches – don’t be fooled by the top-level info that Toronto has a massive Facebook community. Within the “Toronto” network, there are thousands of subgroups and networks that people have organized themselves into. Rarely is someone on Facebook defined solely by their city.

  2. Brad Grier
    Brad Grier May 28, 2007

    Actually, you CAN have social media localized to a specific geographic region — I’ve been running a local GeoCaching blog/website for 2 years now.
    The activity is localized to our region, and the majority of online activity and members are local.
    Sure, you do get visitors from other geographic regions dropping by with comments and questions, but for the most part, participation is local, due to the nature and focus of the site – Local GeoCaching.
    So, in this case, the social media is specific to our region, by the nature of the activity…which is also specific to our region.
    This would prove true for any geographic-specific interest or activity, I’d think. Your thoughts?

  3. Steven de Blois
    Steven de Blois May 28, 2007

    I agree with the above assessments on Global vs. Local.
    My Point = Canadians need more local.
    Traditionally, Canadians are less insular then those from South-of-the-Border (take global travel & politics for example). The result is a genuine craving for true social interaction on a much more “community” basis. Perhaps it is a result of our hibernation during the cold Winter months!
    Either way, Canadians are using these “global” social websites ever increasingly to locate and share with one another. However, unlike the Americans, there is a strong trend to take it “local” for a genuine meet-up and exchange. Americans seem satisfied to maintain an “online” relationship where “local” engagement is seen as inefficient and unproductive.
    Take Craigslist for example – the purest of Web 2.0 practices – where participation of Canadian cities (Toronto & Vancouver) continue to outpace major US cities. Canadians have embraced Craigslist as an opportunity to connect, share and swap services & products face-to-face.
    A successful Social Media model within Canada must have the “global” component in order to link the mass quickly & efficiently. However, a model without a strong focus & well-designed “local” component will fall short of meeting what Canadians want & need most – the opportunity to learn from one another on a more intimate level.

  4. Jeff Lancaster
    Jeff Lancaster May 28, 2007

    Yes – there is one big one that marketers should be concerned with
    It reaches more than a million Canadian teens with a definite western Canadian skew.

  5. maggie fox
    maggie fox May 28, 2007

    In answer to Brad: GeoCaching is an activity that your users have in common (and a cool one, at that). They don’t come to your website because they “live in Toronto” (or wherever) they come because of a common interest.
    Of course there will always be the desire to connect face-to-face with people you have met online, and therefore having the ability to filter (not organize – two very different concepts) yourself according to geography serves a useful purpose. My point is that you’d never hang out with people simply because they live in the same city as you. That’s called “walking down the street” and there’s not a darn thing special about it.

  6. Brad Grier
    Brad Grier May 28, 2007

    Hey Maggie, agreed…and yeah, for geography related interests and activities, geography does increase the interest; visitors do tend to visit the site *because* of the geography and that they also have a that shared interest.
    And that generally leads to face-to-face social activity.
    There’s also the concept of flash-mobs that I’ve seen; random people from the same social media gathering in one place at a particular time, just because they can…or they have a pillow fight, etc. By necessity, geography related.
    An example of social media around a shared interest: the flickr group strobist. Basically one guy and his camera. He sets up a flickr group, starts talking about his day job, and his focus is on flash photography. All of a sudden he has thousands of followers within flicker, followers who organize online, and hold real-world conferences offline. This one supports your concept of ‘intrest-focused’ and also supports ‘geographical-focus’.
    And yeah, just because I’m in Edmonton, doesn’t mean I’ll be active in a social media group in Edmonton, unless there’s some other driver there for me. As you say, it’s just ‘walking down the street’ otherwise.

  7. Colin Henderson
    Colin Henderson May 28, 2007

    I agree with the above comments re global vs local. I would add that the apparently exponential growth of FaceBook in Canada, is unproven as to whether that’s a Canadian phenomenon, or simply that Americans were attuned to the old (8 mos ago) FaceBook/ School model, and hadn’t had time to re-adjust. To Canadians the open FaceBook was new.

  8. johnwen
    johnwen May 30, 2007

    Thanks everyone for the thoughtful discussion. I’ve done some more digging and have found several examples of geo-based social media. Espace Canoe is quite successful in Quebec. The province’s linguistic and cultural identity make it a natural for such a site.
    Of course, the members of Espace Canoe connect through shared interests, very much in the myspace mode. As a marketer, I can’t ignore this in favour of the big US ones. If I want to know how a campaign or product is faring in the Canadian market, how can I gauge this by tracking the global networks in Facebook?

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