Small Towns, Big Ideas. We all have dreams, no matter where we live.

Hi, I’m Brenda Johima and I’m thrilled to be here with you today. Thank you to Paul and to Chris and to all the amazing people who have worked so hard to make this event such a huge success.

Social Media has changed the world of work forever.

I am speaking to you today as a direct result of Social Media – Twitter, in fact. And Thanks to Paul Holmes!

Think of it, I’m not in the hub of a city, I live in a small rural community of about 700+ people, on the East Coast of Vancouver Island, and at this conference there are 400+ people I would not have met otherwise.

(In Fanny Bay *World Famous for Oysters, there are 700+ people, which is part of the larger Comox Valley, at about 64,000, with Comox at about 13,000, Courtenay at about 24,000, Cumberland at about 3100)

So what about small communities?

As a business owner living in a small rural community, one of the biggest issues can be isolation. The benefit of Social Media is that even though you may be geographically isolated, the “feeling” of isolation can be removed.

In addition, online communications can turn into offline connections, which is why we are all here today. (I must admit, I find it amusing and fascinating that we have moved from business face to face, to using computers to separate and isolate us in some ways, and now we are using computers to connect us again, face to face. It just goes to show that people want to be with people.)

As well, if you were to join an industry specific network online (such as design, in my case), it could turn into paid work as it has done for me. These networks can be a great source of *free education via supportive people. (*Although more and more, many are moving to closed membership networks, which have fees)

Through Social Media one can be exposed to local people you did not even know about.

For example, at this time, there are over 330 people on my Twitter list of locals in the Comox Valley. Many are business owners, some are not, but it tells me that at least this many people have at minimum, a curiosity about Social Media and that it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Another benefit of Social Media is that not only does it increase access to local business owners but to large city companies, for those of us who live rural.

While living in Fanny Bay, in the middle of *nowhere for example, I have received paid contracts with Toronto companies on more than one occasion, from both Twitter and my Blogs. (*Actually I’m not in the middle of nowhere, I’m at the southern end of the Comox Valley, which has a population of about 64,000 but which is made up of a number of smaller pocket communities such as Fanny Bay, which has just over 700+ people, and I’m about 30 minutes away from my banking and groceries)

It’s interesting that as I speak, going on right now in Victoria is the CIBC Run for the Cure for Breast Cancer. In 2008, 170,000 people from all across Canada walked and ran for breast cancer for the same run, wearing T-Shirts designed by JOHIMA Designs, from Fanny Bay. My point being, that Social Media (at that time, my blog) can bring big city business to small town business owners.

Visualize this:

Me in my pajamas next to the wood stove, hearing the sea lions barking in the background, while connecting online with people from Calgary, Vancouver, Texas, California, Montreal, Singapore and Italy.

(P.S. Yes, I do dress up fancy to go out 🙂and actually on most days while working at home, as it gives you that “edge” that pajamas just doesn’t give you)

Connecting with like-minded business owners in larger centres keeps me current and in the buzz.

So what is Social Media? Well, you have an entire day ahead, to learn from great thinkers in this field. I’m guessing you will hear over and over today, that it’s not about you … it’s all about the people. (Think Dale Carnegie)

It’s about building trust, being curious about others 1st before yourself, and it’s about building relationships with people both locally and globally. Nowadays you just never know where your next business is going to come from.

In the past, you had to pay for and attend networking events in person and now online for the most part, there are tools available to everyone, free of charge, and that is leveling out the playing field in business. Of course there are also Social Media tools, which are also only accessible by paying a fee. (Like Third Tribe)

Most people are uncomfortable in social situations and networking meetings. Some people are shy, anxious, and may never thrive in a network meeting, no matter how good they are at what they do. It’s like going to a party and you don’t know anyone, and you’re the wallflower trying to pretend you are comfortable.

Some people may have on their “show face” “performer” “sales training” public persona. However, often, deep down, you’re uncomfortable, and then you are supposed to make money at the same time?

Social Media can level the playing field, kind of like a certain reality show on TV. Have you ever watched the show? In that show, people meet in a dark room without seeing each other. They get to know each other via communications, what you believe, what you say, rather than by your physical appearance, image, and public persona. This, like with Social Media, levels the playing field.

Online, you can’t hide who you are. In face-to-face meetings if you are good at performing and sales, you can very easily hide who you are very easily at a 1X per month networking meeting. Just put on your public performing persona. (PPP)

Online, the focus is on transparency, honesty and integrity. People expect it now. People expect transparency and Social Media exposes who you are, how you think, how you write (including spelling and grammar), what you believe, your interests, your style of humor. You are communicating constantly, while building relationships.

For example, when working online, I can pick up:

  • The tone and “feel of who you are
  • What you think
  • How you think
  • Your writing and thinking style
  • Your sense of humor
  • I can find out your level of creativity and interestingness
  • I will get a strong gut feeling if you are fake or spammy and for that we have … delete, unfollow, unfriend and block (which nobody wants to be on the other side of)
  • Social Media is a great way to practice your intuition and to trust your gut.

Now what about online competition? In my opinion online is no different than offline. If you are truly being who you are, there is nobody like you, so therefore you have no competition.

So if you fear your competition … the good news is, if you put more of your energy and focus on yourself, your talents, your business, and on what you are good at online, instead of comparing yourself to colleagues you have no competition. Nobody is like you, no one can do what you do, or in just the way you do it.

Here’s some more newsyou don’t get to choose, no matter what you think. Your customers and clients choose whether they are going to hire you or not. So stop competing and let’s move to a model of collaboration so there is a win-win for all.

And how can you make a difference? Think before you Tweet.

With everything you write, every photograph and video that you post, you have a choice … to be kind and respectful, a chance to praise, motivate, encourage and inspire.

It reflects upon who you are, makes you feel good, lowers stress, and develops trust. People buy from people we trust and like.

So here’s a tip from my past career in the helping professions. Use these:

Compliment, Good For You, Praise, Encourage, Motivate, Inspire, and Use your Intuition to take the time to look for opportunities where someone has achieved a success, and take the time to Congratulate. Or give a RT with a comment. Just do it. The world of business needs more kindness.

In fact, I dare you to compliment one of your colleagues who you currently view as a threat or competition (as long as it is genuine and done with integrity) After all, we are all just people on this planet trying to have a happy and successful life.

Let’s make it easier for each other, and make kindness Public, Online in Business.

In closing, thank you for listening, and I leave you with three final points:

1.    I contacted Seth Godin awhile back and asked one question: Is there a difference between marketing to small towns vs. marketing to big cities? His answer? People are people. Yes, humans are humans.
2.    Recently I contacted Becky McCray, an authority on small towns and rural entrepreneur using Social Media, and she gave me this quote to share with you today: “Remember that your small town roots, your friendliness, openness, honesty, caring, and your cooperative spirit will serve you well online.”
3.    And three, Be Kind, and Have FUN! That’s what this is all about.

Enjoy your day, thank you for listening, and I’m Brenda Johima.

NOTE:

P.S. If you are in the Comox Valley, watch for the FIRST EVER Comox Valley TweetUp! With huge thanks to Paul Holmes, Chris Burdge, Janis Lacouvee and Don Power from Social Media Camp 2010 in Victoria who have generously offered (depending on their schedule of availability of course) … to attend and to help me (and locals) get a TweetUp started in the Comox Valley.

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