Canadian Tech: A Story of “The Hustle”

Jessica Chalk, TrafficSoda and Growing a Company in the Canadian Tech Industry

Ambitious. This is the one word that our President and CEO, Jessica Chalk, uses to describe the rapidly emerging Canadian technology industry. TrafficSoda was born and bred (and is growing into its teenage years) out of Kitchener-Waterloo and Guelph, the hub of new tech growth in Canada. With the upcoming celebrations for Canada 150, I sat down with Jessica to talk about growing a business in this new and booming Canadian tech landscape.

Jessica started in tech before TrafficSoda did. She began her career in the Accelerator Center, a Waterloo based Start-Up Incubator, which has supported the success of local legends like Axonify, Clearpath Robotics, Kik, Miovision, Sortable, and Plasticity Labs. Simply being around the dynamic and innovative energy of the ‘AC’ is what drove Jessica to start TrafficSoda (though in a much earlier iteration than what it is today).

“The hustle, the determination, and the excitement of all these entrepreneurs around just helped me all of a sudden decide that I wanted to take the leap,” Jessica remarked enthusiastically. It’s obvious that this environment still pushes Jessica today just as much as it did back then.

TrafficSoda began in 2013 with support from what seems like everyone in town. The Accelerator Center provided a location for the early phases of the start-up, Laurier supplied office space, resources and mentors, Communitech offered support, local mentors furnished advice during high and low times, the Government of Canada delivered a Jumpstart grant that helped pay for part of the bill, and early investors gave it all a chance.

This close-knit, committed community support is what defines the Canadian tech industry to Jessica: the championing of every single entrepreneur who wants to step forward. That unique generosity and genuine helpfulness seems built into the infrastructure of the industry itself. Individuals, public and private companies, universities, educational institutions, and people who have “been there, done that” all provide support.

“All you have to do is ask,” Jessica simply reminds me. “[In Canada], we are not just one in a million. We are one in a thousand, one in a hundred, and we have access to the right people.”

Being Canadian is a core facet of the TrafficSoda identity. Our team is made up of people coming from Guelph to K-W to North Bay to Alliston to Toronto. Our chairman is Jim Estill, long time local tech entrepreneur and private sponsor for 58 Syrian refugee families. Our VP of Operations, Mohammed Helu, is one of those Syrian refugees. That diversity is what makes us strong.

Being Canadian provides opportunity. Being Canadian helps our clients feel comfortable and let their guard down more than they normally would. Being Canadian in the North American tech industry allows us to be the ‘David’ next to the American ‘Goliath.’ Being Canadian gives us an entrepreneurial spirit. Being Canadian gives us a chance to be a part of something new and exciting, where our collective potential is limitless.

As for the next 150 years? Jessica hopes to see a focus from the community on companies that are ready to scale and grow, supporting them as much as we are currently supporting the startups and founders. The momentum needs to keep moving forward, so we can transition from an emerging tech industry to a solidified one. With the current political climate, Jessica believes this is the perfect opportunity to define exactly what is the “Silicon Valley of the North.”

The unique Canadian tech scene gets its identity from its inclusiveness, collaboration and passion. This is seen time and time again, as new entrepreneurs are supported and successful start-ups are championed. Even TrafficSoda, as we transitioned from a purely tech firm to a digital marketing one, still feels accepted and backed by the community. We feel honored and
excited to be a part of such a dynamic, exhilarating, and full-steam ahead community. Cheers to Canada’s 150th!

 

Image: niroworld

How Canada’s Anti-Spam Law Affects Your Marketing Strategy

Does your business promote its products or services via email, social media, or other electronic means? If so, Canada’s anti-spam law affects you.

How Canada’s Anti-Spam Law

Don’t get us wrong — we know you’re not a spammer. Truth is, the law applies to many forms of Internet marketing, including things we don’t normally think of as ‘spam.’ It covers everything from electronic coupons to newsletters, and even certain social media activities.

If your business has a digital marketing strategy, you should know the rules and take steps to ensure compliance. We’ve put together a quick primer on Canada’s anti-spam legislation and outlined steps you can take to stay on the right side of the law.

Quick Summary

 

What is CASL?

Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL) came into force on July 1st, 2014. It sets rules for when and how you can send commercial electronic messages to individuals and businesses.

 

Does CASL Apply to Me?

CASL applies to anyone who sends commercial electronic messages in Canada. A commercial electronic message (CEM) is an email, text, or other electronic message that encourages participation in commercial activity. Electronic ads, newsletters, coupons, and promotions are examples of CEMs. The law also applies to some social media activities.

What are the rules?

1.     With few exceptions, you must obtain the recipient’s consent to send them a CEM.

2.     All commercial electronic messages must identify the sender and contain up-to-date contact information.

3.     You must give recipients a fast, simple way to unsubscribe from your messages.

 

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation

Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL) sets rules for how and when you can send commercial electronic messages like email ads, offers, and discounts. The law also tackles malware, phishing, and other practices, but we’ll focus on the sections that deal with commercial electronic messages.

When it comes to sending commercial messages, CASL creates three major rules:

  1. Consent: You must have a person’s permission to send them a commercial electronic message.
  2. Identification: All commercial electronic messages must identify the sender and contain up-to-date contact information.
  3. Unsubscribe mechanism: You must give recipients an easy way to unsubscribe from your messages.

The law has been in force since July 1st, 2014, but some parts only take effect this year. Though the private right of action (lawsuit) portion has been suspended, you can still face steep fines from the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commissions (CRTC) for breaking the law. If you don’t have a CASL plan yet, now is the time to make one!

Does CASL Apply to My Business?

CASL applies to all individuals and businesses who send commercial electronic messages in Canada. A commercial electronic message (CEM) is any message that encourages the recipient to participate in a commercial activity, such as promoting a product or service.

A CEM can include any commercial message sent to an “electronic address,” like:

  • Emails (newsletters, promotions, deals, coupons, advertisements, etc.)
  • Instant messages
  • Text messages
  • Some social media activity

A public social media post, like a Facebook wall post, would not fit the definition of a CEM. However, since social profiles are a form of “electronic address,” a commercial message sent to a specific user would have to meet CASL’s requirements. It is unclear how the law might impact friend requests, tags in posts or photos, or Tweets at individuals.

What CASL Does Not Cover

Certain types of commercial electronic messages do not fall under CASL. These include:

  • B2B messages where you and the recipient have a previous relationship.
  • Internal messages related to your business’s activities.
  • Messages you are legally obligated to send, such as safety recalls.
  • Messages sent within an existing relationship. Includes a family relationship, business relationship, or non-business relationship (donations, volunteer work, etc.)
  • Responses to referrals, so long as you name the person who gave the referral, and that person has a previous relationship with you and the recipient.

You can send these messages without the recipient’s consent, and it does not need to meet the other requirements for CEMs.

Getting a Recipient’s Consent

It is against the law to send someone a commercial electronic message without their permission. The good news is, there are a few different ways to get consent.

The best way to protect your business from potential claims or fines is to get express consent. Express consent is when you ask the potential contact for permission to send a message, and they explicitly agree. It requires an active “opt-in” process, where the recipient takes some action to show their agreement. For example, you can provide an online form that lets customers sign up for your newsletter.

There are a few rules to follow when seeking express consent. To start, you must state to the recipient:

  • Identifying information, including your business name, mailing address, and either a telephone number, email address, or website URL.
  • Why you are asking for consent.
  • Description of the messages you will send.
  • That the person can withdraw consent and unsubscribe at any time.

The recipient must actively affirm they want to receive CEMs from you. You cannot get express consent using a default or pre-checked toggle box. Additionally, you cannot “bundle” a request with another action. For example, the user shouldn’t have to consent to CEMs in order to agree to your terms of sale.

Do not ask for consent via an electronic message! This counts as a CEM. Instead, provide another way for people to sign up.

When Consent is Implied

Sometimes, you can infer consent from the recipient’s actions in lieu of express consent. However, implied consent can be difficult to prove, and it often expires after a certain time. It’s always preferable to obtain a potential contact’s express consent before sending a message.

Regardless, you may use implied consent under the following circumstances:

  • Relevant CEMs: You may send CEMs which are relevant to the recipient’s official business role, function, or other duties if they gave you their electronic address or published it in a public place (like a company website).
  • Responding to inquiries: You may contact a person who contacted you with an inquiry, complaint, or application within the past six months.
  • Existing relationship: You may contact those with whom you had an existing business relationship or non-business relationship within the past two years.
  • Clubs/associations: You may contact a person if you were a member of their club or association within the past two years.

If a person states they do not wish to receive unsolicited CEMs, it negates implied consent.

Exceptions to the Consent Rule

In the following circumstances, you can send a CEM without the recipient’s express or implied consent. You do not need permission to send:

  • Quote or estimate the recipient requested.
  • Information related to a transaction the recipient previously agreed to enter.
  • Legal information such as warranties, product recalls, or safety or security issues related to a product or service the recipient has used or purchased.
  • Digital products or services, including updates and upgrades, the recipient is entitled to receive.

Note that even when a consent exception applies, your message must still meet the requirements outlined in the section below.

Required Information for CEMs

Every commercial electronic message you send out must clearly and prominently set out:

  • Your name, or the name under which you carry on business.
  • If you are sending a message for someone else, include their name and indicate who is sending the message on their behalf.
  • Your mailing address and either your telephone number, email address, or website URL. This information must be valid for at least 60 days after it is sent.

The message must also contain a working unsubscribe mechanism, as explained below.

Unsubscribe Mechanism

You must give the recipient of any CEM a quick and easy way to revoke consent and “unsubscribe” from your messages if they choose. The process must be convenient, accessible, and free of charge. For example, an email CEM may have a hyperlink or a clickable button at the bottom of the message which removes the recipient from the mailing list automatically.

If a recipient asks to unsubscribe, you must fulfil the request within 10 days.

Making a CASL Action Plan

If you weren’t aware of Canada’s Anti-Spam Law before, you may have to make some changes going forward. There are things you can do to make the adjustment easier on yourself and your customers.

Your CASL action plan should include the following steps:

  1. Determine if CASL applies to you. If your business has a digital marketing strategy, there’s a good chance it sends some form of commercial electronic message. Review your online presence and determine whether your activities fall under CASL’s scope.
  2. Get express consent from your existing contacts. Since July 1st, 2014, the law has required that you document express consent for each new Canadian contact. You must also be able to prove express consent for old contacts by July 1st of this year. If you haven’t been doing this, you should start now! Send a message to these contacts asking them to affirm their express consent. You can offer a clickable link or an address they may contact to confirm. Don’t send another CEM until they do.
  3. Document express and implied consent for all new contacts. Develop a plan to document where and how you got each new contact’s consent. If you intend to rely on implied consent, keep track of when it expires so you will know when you must stop sending CEMs.
  4. Ensure all messages contain the right information. All electronic commercial messages must contain your name, mailing address, and either your telephone number, email address, or website URL. You must give recipients a simple way to opt out of receiving CEMs. Create a template which includes all the necessary information.

It may seem like a lot of work, but once you put this plan into action, you’ll find that complying with CASL is actually good for business. Many of these measures were considered best practices for digital marketing before the law came into effect. Keeping record of when and how you obtained consent can help you understand where your leads are coming from and spot trends over time. It also creates a more open, transparent relationship with your contacts.

Looking for more information about Canada’s anti-spam legislation? Check out these links from the government of Canada:

Image: vasabii

Top 10 Canadian Social Feeds We Love

As a Canadian business deeply entrenched in marketing and social media, we all love to add Canadian content to our social media feeds. If you are anything like us, you do as well! Here are 10 of our top Canadian social media feeds on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!

Top 10 canadian social feeds we love

CBC Books


Are you a fan of books? Want to include more Canadian authors in your reading? CBC Books is the perfect Twitter feed for you. They consistently share suggested reading lists featuring a number of Canadian authors, their most recent being this list of summer reads. This Twitter feed is also home to the infamous Canada Reads competition, The Next Chapter, and other iconic Canadian events associated with books.

DavidsTea


Did you know? DavidsTea is a Canadian company! We are big fans of their stunning visuals displayed on both their Twitter and Instagram feeds. As regular customers will know, they always feature a couple of teas in their stores, with the blend rotating each day. To help boost store visits, they post well-designed promotional images once a week on their Twitter letting their followers know exactly what free samples they can try that coming week. They are also pros at interacting with customers and are just about as excited as you are when a shipment is on the way.

Legacy Greens

Are you a foodie? Do you like to garden and grow your own fruits and vegetables? Legacy Greens is a green grocer in Kitchener, Ontario and their Instagram feed is perfect for you! We love the bright colours across their pictures, seeing produce growing in the fields, and their product features. They are also great at supporting other local businesses in their area. Go Legacy Greens!

Ontario Parks

What better way to celebrate Canada 150 than spending time surrounded by the gorgeous natural landscape our country has to offer? Ontario Parks features countless images from across the provincial parks in Ontario on their Instagram, including numerous snaps from the park visitors themselves! Their feed not only showcases Canada’s natural beauty, but also serves as excellent inspiration for planning your next Canadian adventure.

Jacqueline Poirier

#tbt to chillaxin in the countryside & painting the incredible colours of Mother Nature…🍂🍃🎨 #fall #allthecolours #plart

A post shared by Jacqueline Poirier (@thecrazyplatelady) on

Are you a fan of art? Jacqueline Poirier, otherwise known as The Crazy Plate Lady, paints anything and everything onto simple white plates, and highlights her art on Instagram for the world to see. She even paints scenery on the plates and holds it up to the camera as if it were part of the photograph as well.

Stats Canada Parody


Want to make looking at statistics fun? You do not have to look any further than the Stats Canada parody Twitter account, sharing mind-boggling funny statistics and other facts related to Canada. It’s great for a laugh on a dreary day, that’s for sure!

Algonquin Provincial Park


Remember how we mentioned we love the Ontario Parks Instagram? Say hello to the Twitter account for Ontario’s oldest and most famous provincial park! Algonquin Park is home to stunning wildlife and scenery, and has been known to have gorgeous displays of the Northern Lights if you are there when the time is right. They also share a lot of content from visitors to the park, making for a down-to-earth and truly Canadian experience.

Canuck and I


Have you heard about Vancouver’s infamous crow, Canuck? He made the news when he allegedly stole a knife from a crime scene. His antics have become so normal in his neighbourhood, he even has his own Facebook page where people can share stories of their encounters with Canuck. Piece of advice if you meet him? He likes Tim Horton’s Timbits and would love if you brought him one—truly Canadian!

Red Brick Café


The Red Brick Café has become a staple in Guelph, Ontario—particularly the downtown location. This hub in Guelph has curated an excellent Facebook page featuring events for the café, such as music nights for musicians as well as monthly trivia events. They also highlight items from their delicious café menu. Believe us, looking at this social feed will make you want to run down there right away!

Aldo Shoes


Are you a fan of Canadian fashion? Aldo Shoes is a great Canadian fashion company, showing their interesting and colours designs for shoes and other accessories across their Instagram feed. Do you wear their products? If you tag them on your own Instagram, you may even be featured on theirs, as they share a lot of content from others! Definitely a lovely visual for Canadian fashion.

Image: strelov

3 ~Biggest~ Social Media Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

Social media is public. This means your brand is always on watch, and a small mistake can make a big impact.

Let’s get to it – here are the top social media mistakes and how to avoid them.

 

  1. Being Tone-Deaf

Being tone-deaf in the land of social media means being out-of-touch and unaware of top trending conversations. By ignoring social tones, you could engage (or in some cases, not engage) with sensitive content, and in the process, affect your brand image.

An example of this would be the United Airlines incident. A passenger that was dragged off a flight was caught on camera, and the video got posted online. It went viral on social media almost immediately.

At first, United refused to apologize. But once they began listening to various social dialogues, they came to the realization that they indeed needed to apologize – right away and with the right tone – to save their brand. But was it too late?

The incident happened on April 9, 2017, and the apology came two days later on April 11, 2017.

 

How to avoid this mistake: Social listening! Listen to what your customers are saying about you, and make sure you follow trends so you’re aware of noteworthy news. Check out the Explore pages on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and get to know what’s happening in the world by checking out Google Trends.

 

  1. Not Posting Often Enough

Social media was invented to prevent people from being forgotten. It allows your brand to be top of mind, as your updates consistently remind users that your company is active and in the know. You can do this by sharing updates, posting photos, and staying in touch with people who you might not know personally, but are still crucial to your market. If your brand has a social media page, take advantage of this open opportunity.

Here’s how often you should post:

  • LinkedIn: 5 times a week (Monday – Friday). Avoid weekends, as they are proven to be a slow time for this primarily business-based platform.
  • Twitter: 2-3 times a day. The average lifespan of a tweet is only 18 minutes, so post at various times to make sure your users are seeing your content. Feel free to post the same content again and again throughout the week – this will allow you to gain insight on when your users are most engaged.
  • Facebook: 1-2 times a day. As Facebook’s algorithm changes, the reach of your posts may not be consistent. It takes about two hours for it to reach its capacity, so make sure you are posting on a regular schedule.
  • Instagram: 4-5 times a week. You want to build a consistent feed, but not overwhelm your followers. Over-posting can drop your engagement, and 4-5 times a week hits the sweet spot.

Not posting often means missing the opportunity to connect with your biggest fans and keep them updated on your latest product launches, brand announcements, and job opportunities.

How to avoid this mistake: If you can do it in-house, spend at least 2-3 hours a day curating and creating content you think your followers will love. Create engaging posts that follow your brand voice, and highlight your business’s best benefits.

If you’ve hired an agency, have them spend the time getting to know your brand and provide you with a content calendar laying out how often a post will be published.

 (Ps. Looking for a little help? Check out What We Do.)

  1. Untimely Humour

 Everyone has a voice on social media. Your goal should be to start conversations and engage your users without hurting your brand image. Sometimes, the easiest way of doing this is by participating in hashtag trends to “humanize” your brand. But be careful – not everything is an opportunity for humour.

In 2014, the hashtag #WhyIStayed was trending. Without context, it seemed straight forward. But with context, the hashtag was actually a discussion about domestic violence. Unfortunately for DiGiorno Pizza, they didn’t do their research:

How to avoid this mistake: Do your research! And if you’re unsure about a post, run it by at least two other people before pressing publish. This will give you insight into whether your post is appropriate or out-of-touch.

 

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