Building the myNiagara Online Community Platform – Lessons Learned Along the Way

1) Social Entrepreneurship while Valued is Largely Misunderstood

The multitude of definitions that exist for social enterprise have served to make the term more of an exercise in academic understanding than a rallying cry for a movement. As a society we embrace enterprising Non-Profits who create businesses to help fund their operations and we applaud For-Profit businesses that operate according to socially responsible principles.

However, there is a continuing void in Ontario regarding the creation of alternative business structures that may be better suited to facilitate social-purpose entities such as our community platform. The recent creation of a new category of share capital corporations in British Columbia, known as a “Community Contribution Company” (C3) is a good harbinger that the winds of change will soon flow east in Canada.

2) A Social-Purpose Business demonstrates Altruism in Action

The driving force behind our community social platform is the belief that everyone who participates benefits from the opportunity of having a common audience to share their messages with.

The amount of time that we currently invest to post and promote community content is a labour of love. Our ultimate goal is to generate sustainable revenue so that the future operators of our sites can earn a living wage and continue to deliver our services for the greater good of our community.

3) Reciprocity is a Learned Behaviour

One of the absolute keys to growing our network is the concept of ‘sharing #LocalLOVE’.  We encourage our community to shout out about their local experiences and facilitate posting of unsolicited customer testimonials in support of our local businesses.

We recently introduced a ‘How You Can Help Us’ Tip Card for the various Non-Profit groups that receive complimentary promotion via our community calendars, newsletter and social media mentions. It has been an interesting learning curve to realize that it is necessary to provide direction about how best to reciprocate and participate as a partner in our community building initiative.

4) The Digital Divide clearly exists with our current Generation of Small Business Owners

It has been our experience that the majority of established businesses do not have a fully developed online strategy or an adequate budget set aside to invest in digital marketing. The flip side of this conundrum is that young start-up entrepreneurs who understand how to “do” their own social marketing are reluctant to pay to advertise and promote their content via local online networks.

5) Passionate Idealists are Catalysts for Change

Although we have faced many challenges implementing our collaborative vision our commitment to inspiring a common social platform in Niagara is unwavering.  Every thank you that we receive – and there are many- fuels our desire to improve our level of service so we can attract more partners to expand our network to include all of myNiagara Online.

6) Community Development happens despite the Status Quo

We are in awe of the many incredible community-building initiatives that exist within Niagara and are keenly aware of the struggles change makers face everyday. It may seem trite but we’ve learned that patience is indeed a virtue and there can be no experience of change without the existence of the status quo.

7) Connecting Positivity attracts and inspires more Positivity exponentially

The launch of has solidified our confidence in the value of our platform as a means to communicate civic pride.  It has been our great joy to participate in the #ItsAllWellandGood movement and play a role in supporting the positive, collaborative voice that is emerging in the Rose City.

8) Your Tribe is your Lifeline

We are grateful for the tremendous support we have received from our Community Sponsors, Partners, Contributors, Subscribers and Social Followers. We know that we are not alone in our belief in the power of connectivity to improve the quality of life in Niagara. Thank you sincerely for your willingness to share your #LocalLOVE and be part of our myNiagara Online collaborative adventure.

Article by Cathy Berkhout-Bosse, Community Manager of myNiagara Online and Real Estate Broker, Team Berkhout Bosse at Remax Welland Realty Ltd.

Our Family of Niagara

My Musings on Mother’s Day 2012

One of the key descriptives utilized to characterize the Niagara Economic Summit this past week was the term “regeneration”.  The symbolism contained within this word is certainly fitting for the transformative phase that is currently happening within our Niagara Region.

In a biological sense, regeneration is a process of organic, systematic recreation at the cellular level. Similarly our Niagara cultural economic and political structures are currently transitioning themselves fundamentally at the grassroots community level.

New communications mediums such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Linked are creating impactful opportunities for opinion sharing, vetting of ideas and ultimately consensus building. Emerging community leaders are finding voice and peer support that is unprecedented compared in the traditional elitist networking models of past generations.

The diversity of knowledge and talent pool that is rallying among the ranks of the presumed “silent majority” in Niagara right now is astounding and indeed, inspiring.

As a Mother and second generation family business entrepreneur, the term regeneration also conjures up parallels between family dynamics and the need to effectively mentor the succession of our next generation of leaders.

I believe most of us would agree that one of the fundamental qualities of a good mother is the ability to treat each child as an individual. We teach our children that their ideas are valuable and care about their point of view. In turn, they feel supported and empowered.

Equally important, is the need for us to lead by example. By having a firm belief system and demonstrating our commitment to authenticity we earn our child’s respect and appreciation.

The regeneration of Niagara will continue to evolve much like families learn from and adapt to each others strengths and weaknesses. The blossoming emergence of a wider diversity of community leaders is a phenomenon to be encouraged, facilitated and embraced.

Are we making progress in Niagara? The answer depends on who y’all are listening too.


Cathy Berkhout-Bosse

Community Manager, myNiagara Online Community Platform

Broker, ReMax Welland Realty Ltd.

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How to create “engagement”?

 by The Marketing Bit

I hear small business operators who have made the leap into social media (good for them), complain that no one comments on their posts, no one

Social Media EngagementSocial Media Engagement

shares their updates or re-tweets their tweets, etc.  Without any interaction or payoff, small business begins to wonder if social media is really worth the effort.

What’s lacking is ‘engagement’.  Without engagement, social media becomes tiresome and boring.  Over time, people will stop paying attention.  But how does one stimulate engagement?

If you’re a small business and before you throw in the towel, I’d like to encourage you read the following engagement suggestions and test them out with your social media audiences.

It’s all about You or them?

One factor is the small business is not tweeting or posting items that are of interest to their audience.  Chances are it is all about the business or the product and not about adding value. The rule is to add value by sharing information that enlightens, educates, informs, shares and updates your audience.  Twenty percent (20%) or less of the posts and tweets can promote your business, products, store, but with care and not like a used car sales man.  Remember, social media is about building online buddies.

Take time to Buddy-up

Speaking of buddies, I don’t believe many small business proprietors are taking the time to really make buddies with their fans, followers, connections.  What do I mean?  Going beyond just thanking someone for joining your social community.  In addition, visit their profile or website.  See if you can find anything of interest to share with others in your network.  Talk directly t to them through the direct messaging tools that are available and become true buddies in the same way you would talk face-to-face if they were in your store or place of business.

You certainly can’t do this with everyone in your social media community, but you can cherry-pick those who are already the most engaged.  Start there and span out.

What do you want them to do?

Another factor that leads to a lack of engagement is there are few, if any, calls to action.  If you want your social media community  to take action then explain what you would like them to do, how to do it and give them a reason to do it.  Want your updates shared or re-tweeted?  Ask them to do just that and explain why.  You might be pleasantly surprised.

Ask first.  Then deliver.

Few small businesses are asking members of their social media communities what they would like to know or learn about.  Instead, assumptions are made as to what folks want to hear about.  Ask and then respond.

Get them talking to each other

Create opportunities for them to interact with one another.  This could be some sort of collaboration or perhaps they could join forces to select a new product, a new color, etc.  Offer contests rather than discounts.  Get them hyped about some happening or cause.  Stir the pot with something controversial and get them to share their points of view.

Try a couple of these ideas and see if your engagement doesn’t increase.

Do you have some additional engagement ideas that have worked for you?  Then share them below so we can all benefit.

Original Article published at this LINK:

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