I am a Vancouverite. The city is my true home, and will always be near to my heart. I was born and raised there, my beloved family is there, I have many dear friends there, and I literally live and breathe the West Coast lifestyle – the mountains, the ocean and yes, even the odd yoga class
It was for all of these reasons I diligently tried to build my career, in the wonderful world marketing and communications, in Vancouver. I worked hard, and was fortunate to gain significant experience in both B2C and B2B marketing through progressively senior roles at Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee Company, Ethical Funds and Texcan.
However, there was an underlying problem which at first I ignored, but in reality would have to face head on.
Vancouver is a small city that is not at all conducive to career growth and opportunity for marketing and sales professionals.
I first thought about this when my first boss and mentor Frank Dennis, the President & CEO of Swiss Water, recommended that I move to Toronto to advance my career. Through several subsequent information interviews that I had with marketing and advertising professionals, with experience in both Toronto and Vancouver, their advice was consistent: “move east, young man”.
A few years later, after spending a couple of years too long in Vancouver and an an awesome stint with Chaordix, a Calgary-based startup, I find myself writing this from my apartment in the the High Park area of Toronto. I have a job that I love at Asigra, and have settled nicely into my new city.
If you are in Vancouver, or in another small city looking to develop a career in marketing, I urge you to at least consider moving to a city that will provide you with better opportunity and resources to flourish in your career.
Canada is unique, particularly compared to the US, because so many tier one and tier two companies are based in the Greater Toronto Area. With so many companies operating here, there also are numerous ad agencies, communication firms and startups doing work with notable brands. In Vancouver, one can easily count on one hand the number of employers that have large marketing and communications departments.
It is true that competition for jobs is fierce, given the area’s population base, but Vancouver honestly just does not even compare to Toronto when it comes to opportunity. Not even close.
Consider Your Future Lifestyle
There are plenty of smart people in Vancouver, some of whom have cultivated great, rewarding careers in marketing and communications. However, there are also a lot of “consultants” – which honestly means there are a lot of people in Vancouver who are looking for work.
Sadly, salaries are also suppressed in Vancouver. It is a “destination” city, and that fact combined with fewer opportunities and lots of people looking for work means that employers just don’t need to open the salary vault. Simple economics, actually.
In a city which the Economist magazine recently ranked as the most expensive to live in in North America, the math starts to become dangerous – particularly when it comes to assessing one’s lifestyle and savings over the long term.
With a fair degree of certainty, I can say that marketing and communications salaries are higher in Toronto – I estimate by as much as 15 to 20%, when compared to an equivalent role (if you can find one!) in Vancouver.
Learn, Learn, Learn
I have found that both Toronto and Vancouver are rich when it comes to opportunities for learning and meeting people through networking events and seminars. I relish the opportunity I had in Vancouver to contribute to the BC Chapter of the American Marketing Association, and I always enjoyed attending social media events such as Third Tuesday.
However, there is a very distinct difference when it comes to the opportunity to career-related learning opportunities in Toronto – particularly with respect to social business and digital media. In Vancouver, there are far too many people who profess to have social “expertise” without any proven, tangible business results to support their claims. These are also the people, in some instances, that are speaking at events. Sorry, I have a problem with that!
In Toronto, because of the size of the marketing and communications ecosystem, the people who who speak at events are able to do so leveraging tangible knowledge that they have developed through experience with top tier national brands.
Through events such as Social Media Week, PodCamp and Third Tuesday Toronto, and through many information interviews I have had since my arrival, I can honestly say that my rate of learning has greatly accelerated over the last year – for which I am very thankful.
Having said all of that, I can honestly say that the social life in Toronto isn’t all that bad either. Actually, it’s a very active, rich and culturally vibrant city. Yes, I am missing the outdoors lifestyle – the mountains and the ocean can’t be replaced. By hey, one can always make do with what one has access too. Here’s a post I co-authored with Toronto native Debbie Horovitch on how to establish social roots in a new city.
I hope you found this post to be helpful. If you have any questions about making a move for career purposes, or about Toronto in general, please feel free to get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org.
It seems that we are only at the early stages of truly understanding how companies must adapt their business processes and resources to fully realize the potential associated with becoming a social organization. At the February 22nd Third Tuesday event in Toronto, Francois Gossieaux, co-author of The Hyper-Social Organization, shared some leading insights, supported by intriguing case studies and data, on why businesses must become hyper-social in order to survive and thrive in the era of social media.
According to Gossieaux, companies do not just need to understand Web 2.0 technologies, they also need to understand basic, if not primal, “human 1.0” tendencies.
Case-in-point, while we often tell others what we think we actually want, our decisions and actions often speak otherwise. Recently, JetBlue surveyed their passengers asking what kind of snacks they would like to receive during flights. Respondents indicated that they would like to receive healthy snacks, and JetBlue revised their offerings accordingly. However, as it turned out, the healthy snack offerings were not well-received.
Gossieaux also touched on people’s desire for status and power, and mentioned that he believes social leader boards will take off as a result. If you’re not familiar with social leader boards, they’re becoming prevalent in applications such as FourSquare, and are also being used in some online communities as a gaming mechanic. Participants earn points for completing various tasks, with leader boards indicating where people are on the power ladder – enabling comparison of rank and creating incentive to earn more points.
How can companies become more social? Here are a few key steps Gossieaux suggested companies focus on:
- Become human-centric as opposed to company-centric. Be ready to engage with consumers wherever they are, using platforms they use. Hierarchical, fixed processes for response need to give way to nimbleness – people want responses to their suggestions, and fast.
- Start thinking in terms of tribes, and not market segments (hat tip to Seth Godin – read more about tribes here). We have been hard-wired to think in a particular manner for eons, and this needs to be overcome.
- Focus on knowledge networks, and not information channels. The most important conversations happen within networks of people, and not between company and community. To highlight this, Gossieaux cited a great stat from the McKinsey Report – 60 to 80% of all buying decisions are made without consumers receiving information directly from the brand!
- Increase resources devoted to social. 67% of companies surveyed have only one-full time or part-time employee involved with social programs. Consider establishing a social media center for excellence – covering all departments.
- Think culture, not technology. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are just tools. Leverage them to the best of your ability – but realize that tools will evolve, and be ready to use whatever is available.
Now, I’m off to Indigo to buy the book …
This week, several cities across the globe are hosting Social Media Week. Social Media Week is week-long series of events and seminars that facilitate conversation and learning about opportunities, issues and trends in social media.
I am very excited about the opportunity to attend a number of events in Toronto – and I will be participating in some online seminars as well. I am going to endeavor to provide periodic updates, through this blog, on what I’ve been hearing and learning at Social Media Week.
There are several things I’m hoping to get out of Social Media Week:
- Direct insights from people “in the know” on effective social media strategies. I’d really love to hear some case studies, and learn what the results were – qualitative and quantitative.
- Thoughts and examples of social media initiatives that have been effectively integrated with traditional marketing.
- Insights on where this is all going. What trends can we expect in the short and long-term?
- Connections! I’d love to meet others who share a passion for all things social.
In addition to Toronto, Social Media Week events are also being hosted in New York, San Francisco, Rome, Paris, São Paulo, London, Hong Kong and Istanbul. Not located in either city? Not a problem! A number of events are being streamed on livestream.