Susie Erjavec Parker, the principal of SPARKER Strategy Group, earned a reputation as the go-to woman for expertise on social media. She has appeared on CTV, CJOB and CBC; she has been quoted in MoneySense, The Globe and Mail and Winnipeg Free Press to name just a few. Although she lives in Winnipeg, she travels to conferences across Canada, and most recently New York City, to educate people about the merits and perils of social media.
One of her most notable initiatives, Loving Hands Don’t Hit, began as a protest against Chris Brown’s slated concert in Winnipeg in 2013 (which ended up being cancelled), but the campaign took on a life of its own and gained national media attention. Loving Hands Don’t Hit raised awareness about domestic violence as well as funds that went to a women’s shelter.
Susie took some time out of her busy schedule to discuss her passion for social media, some current trends and the art of the tweet.
What attracted you to social media?
Social media was a natural evolution of what I’d already been doing for years. Coming from a background in marketing and public relations, and having spent years online, social media just made sense to me. When it started I could envision how it would change a monologue to a conversation. Brands and business would no longer just be able to get their stories out through the broadcast method, but now everyone would be able to participate in the conversation. I love that about social media.
Since you started your social media-consulting firm, what major changes have you observed in social media?
As far as advertising and brands go, it’s like having the Super Bowl every day. Brands don’t have to wait for the Super Bowl to make a splash anymore. You can launch a campaign anytime with compelling content. Brands have also learned that social media is ruthless when it comes to offensive or tasteless campaigns—and being called out for them. Social media being used to bring about awareness and social change has been inspiring. It’s fantastic how video is reigning right now. From YouTube to Facebook to Snapchat, and let’s not forget about my new favourite, Periscope, video is where it’s at this year.
Andy Borowitz, a humour writer for The New Yorker, quips “There is a fine line between social networking and wasting your fucking life” as his description on Twitter. He is joking, of course, but there is a flicker of truth. When do social media activities cease to be productive?
It can be a rabbit hole. You can login to check one thing and the next thing you know, you’ve lost two hours. That being said, sometimes the rabbit hole can take you somewhere you would never have gone natively but you learned or discovered something you will find useful in the now or near future. When social media ceases to be productive is when it’s taking away from your real-life relationships. Yes, online relationships are real so take them offline and meet for a coffee, face to face. Nothing can replace that in-person interaction.
There is a dark side to social media. People often hide behind anonymous handles and say some horrible things. What’s your advice on keeping out of harm’s way while engaging in various social media forums?
I always say when it comes to anonymous sections where people can post, “Don’t read the comments.” Anonymity can bring out the worst in people. There are ways to mitigate the risks of being online, but the sad truth is that trolls are out there.
Tell me about the art of the tweet. How do you help your clients find their own voices for social media?
One of my favourite parts of working with a new client is crafting that voice for them. Being online as a brand means being there for the customer. Being fun, upbeat, knowledgeable, and able to attend to any customer service questions or negative experiences in a tactful, professional manner. When we work with a client we treat the brand like it’s our own. Outsourcing social media means giving the keys to your brand or business to a third party. You need to have the utmost trust that we will exercise complete excellence with your social platforms.