Maggie Fox is one of the great speakers we’ve got lined up for BlogPotomac, the social media marketing unconference which takes place on June 13, 2008 in Falls Church, VA (just outside Washington DC). I caught up with Maggie recently to find out more about her background and what she’ll be talking about.

BadgeblogpotomacNote: We are expecting BlogPotomac to sell out. It’s just over three weeks away so register now if you’re interested in joining us! In keeping with the unconference format, Maggie and the other speakers will be delivering informal presentations – no PowerPoint – with plenty of time for Q&A with attendees.

Debbie: You describe yourself in your Twitter profile as a “licensed social media professional.” What is that?

: Mostly that’s a joke. A little bit of irony for my readers – this is such a new space that consultants and others who dare to call themselves “experts” are often publicly criticized, so I thought I’d suggest that I had gone through some sort of certification process. In the Bahamas.

Debbie: Tell us a bit about Social Media Group (based in Toronto), of which you are CEO.

Maggie: SMG is one of the largest and best-known pure-play social media agencies in the world, and our model is a unique blend of business consulting and agency execution. Rather than coming in with the “big idea” (which is old agency style) we take the time to determine what the right idea is, and then (unlike consulting firms) we are responsible for that vision and actually work to execute it.

We like to think of it as the best of both worlds.  Our clients naturally agree, and they include Ford Motor Company, SAP Global Marketing, Yamaha and Harlequin Publishing, among others. We have some major new client announcements coming soon as well.

We have four main areas of practice: Social Media Strategy & Education, Reputation Measurement and Monitoring, “Build”, which includes our proprietary social media press release platform, called Digital Snippets and Influencer Outreach. We’ve developed a number of innovative methods and processes around these four areas for our clients, particularly in the measurement department.


Debbie: Social Media is the new buzz phrase among the online cognoscenti. Do you think it’s the right phrase to describe the phenomenon? What in your words *is* social media?

Maggie: That’s a little like trying to describe art 😉 I like to describe social media as the online tools and platforms that enable people to communicate and share digital content.

The technology part of it is actually quite irrelevant (this quarter it’s Twitter, next quarter it might be something completely different) so it’s important not to get hung up on the platform and concentrate instead on understanding the behaviour.

A typical question asked is whether Web 2.0 is a fad, and my answer is always an emphatic NO.

Starting in the mid-90’s the Internet began allowing people (largely via email lists) to organize themselves not by geography (as had been the case throughout human history) but by interest (this is something that a government organization called Statistics Canada has been actively tracking for the last decade).

“The exciting thing is (social media) is really still fetal.”
– Maggie Fox, Social Media Group

The growth of communities of interest and the acceleration of the ability to self organize is what underpins social media (all thanks to greater broadband access).

Throw into the mix the phenomenon that Clay Shirky refers to as the Cognitive Surplus (the notion that up until 50 years ago the concept of “free time” did not exist, and society turned to TV, and now we’re going online to fill it) and you have a profound social shift.

The exciting thing is it’s really still fetal, but happening so fast we will see massive transformation of the media landscape within a decade or so (maybe even less).


Debbie: Can you give us a quick preview of what you’ll be talking about at BlogPotomac?

Maggie: The session is about the Latest Trends in Social Media Marketing, and it’s an “unconference” model (something I have referred to in the past as a User-Generated Presentation), so the content is in the audience’s hands.

I’ll do a brief blurb (no powerpoint!) about some of the stuff that I’ve mentioned above, since a clear understanding of the origins of all this does everyone well.

But rather than focussing on what the trends are today, I’d like to steer the discussion in the direction of getting ahead of them, and understanding what criteria you need for success, regardless of what you’re doing.

Of course we will discuss tactical examples of social media being used in a way that aligns with business objectives, but the content will literally be in the hands of the audience.

What do you want to know? Come prepared with your questions! I’m hoping it will be highly interactive and challenging.

Debbie: You’re based in Toronto. Are Canadian companies behind or ahead of the U.S. in terms of their use of social media?

Maggie: To be honest, we don’t really do a lot of work with Canadian companies – most of our work is international, with a focus on the U.S. That being said, Canada is always a little behind new marketing and communications trends that originate south of the border; I think it just takes time to filter up here.

Two important points, however: Canada is the most wired nation on earth (highest percentage of broadband Internet users) and an astounding one-in-four Canadians has a Facebook profile. At one time, Toronto had the largest FB network of any city in the world, but it’s recently been passed by London, England (though not by much, relatively speaking).

If Canadian companies are lagging a bit, I’m not sure how much longer they can afford to do so!