Vicki McLeod

Vicki Chick Crowned Business Leader of the Year

This was so well written and worth re-posting here.
Thanks to Roxanne Hooper of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Times (entire article found here)

Vicki McLeod Crowned Business Leader of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce

Vicki McLeod has worked with, and for, various levels of government, many of the community’s non-profit organizations, and countless small businesses in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows during the past several decades.

And in the last 20 years, she has shared her range of talents as a business coach, marketing expert, social media guru, and community cheerleader from the helm of a business she and her husband, Ian, share – Main Street Communications.

It was all those years of dedication to this community and all that she has given on a personal and corporate basis that earned McLeod a special distinction Saturday night.

McLeod was crowned business leader of the year by the Chamber of Commerce Serving Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.

Still a little shocked by the win, McLeod took her glass award out of its protective box again – just a few minutes after being presented the trophy and a lengthy ovation – to read the engraved wording and verify that it did – in fact – bare her name.

She actually never expected to win, McLeod said, noting she’d been nominated for at least three chamber awards in past, as well as provincial and national small business accolades – but she’d never won.

“I’ve had my fair share of nominations – how does it go ‘always the bridesmaid, never the bride,” she chuckled.

But that all changed Saturday night.

Vicki McLeod was crowned business leader of the year by the Chamber of Commerce Serving Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, giving an appreciative peck on the check to her husband Ian. – Roxanne Hooper/TIMES

McLeod beat out two other shortlisted nominees for the business leadership award, one of them being her own natural health practitioner Dr. Cobi Slater, the other being Fred Formosa – the owner of Falcon Homes and a developer who McLeod described as a Maple Ridge institution.

“What makes this award even more of an honour is that it is for the person, not the business. So, it means I’m recognized by the community as a person… who is valued by your peers for having made a real difference in our community. Wow!”

McLeod hopes that by receiving this award on the weekend, her story will serve as an inspiration to other small local business operators to keep going and to persevere.

Sharing with the sold-out crowd of 200 people, McLeod said she feels fortunate to be acknowledged for doing what she loves.

Her recipe for life, she told the crowd, is to “do what you love, with people that you love, and in a place that you love… if you have all that going for you, how could life be anything but incredible.”

In addition to the business leader award presented Saturday night, the chamber also bestowed other excellence awards.

Honeyland Canada was crowned the 2014 agri-business of the year, Simplified Business Solutions given accolades as the home business of the year, Maple Ridge Towing was acknowledged as the small business (1-20 employees) of the year, Meadowridge School was crowned small business (21+ employees), Alouette Addiction Services was given the non-profit organization of the year award, and Lorraine Bates and Tom Cameron – of the Maple Ridge & Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society and the agricultural association’s Country Fest – each received a 2014 community spirit award.

“One of the key actions of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Chamber of Commerce is to support and promote local businesses,” said Andrea Madden, the chamber’s executive director.

“This evening’s celebration is a prime example recognizing those businesses and leaders’ whose greatest achievements have made a significant impact in our community,” she added.

“They have a reputation for excellence and have demonstrated themselves to be leaders in their fields through their successful business strategies and community spirit,” Madden said, acknowledging the winners and nominees alike.

“Each finalist is distinguished in their own field,” she said.

Chamber president Terry Becker was also impressed by the calibre of nominees this year.

“All were deserving” she said of the nominees, explaining why there were no surprises for her when each of the winners was revealed in an Oscar-style announcement.

She hopes to make the nominee luncheon an ongoing feature of the chamber’s annual business excellence awards, noting that it gives the community more opportunities to recognize each of the town’s best businesses for their “outstanding” commitment and their contributions to both Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge.

Looking around the room as guests emptied out after the awards presentations, Becker concluded: “It’s nice to see a function like this that can draw over 200 people to celebrate the small businesses that give so much to the community in time, treasure, and talent.”

• Stay tuned to The TIMES online edition for more from Saturday’s business excellence awards night.

– See more at: McLeod


Social Poaching: Reducing Friends to Fans and Followers

THE TIMES: Feb. 19, 2015 by VICKI MCLEOD

In her book The Joy of Missing Out, Finding Balance in a Wired World, author Christina Crook poses the question: “What are people for?” She poses it in the context of online relationships and whether or not we see other people simply as consumers. Her book is thought-provoking and challenges us to think about whether the arms-length nature of digital communications is removing us from meaningful engagement and ultimately, what it means to be human.

Her insights are timely. As the digital and social media space becomes more crowded, we are forced to ask ourselves what are the ethical, social and cultural norms that will govern our behavior online? Where are the boundaries?

Most of us in the field adhere to a core set of principles grounded in transparency and authenticity, and teach businesses and individuals we work with to apply fundamentally the same social ‘rules’ and etiquettes online as we’d apply offline. What’s different in business is that we are not used to this level of transparency.

Social media has heralded not only a new way to communicate, but also a very different way to do business. A tension is emerging around the application of traditional business tactics in this new medium.


Recently, a crop of tactics have emerged on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that could be considered ethically dubious, or at least inauthentic. In short form, we call it friend- or social-poaching. A familiar term from junior high school days, but with potentially more serious implications than hurt feelings or social exclusion when it comes to business.

Essentially, it is a Friends-of-Friends strategy to gain more likes, fans and followers to increase access to potential market and grow email contact lists. It involves monitoring the feeds of influential friends and strategically liking and commenting in online conversations followed by a direct friend request. Usually a canned or packaged invitation is sent via a private message to your personal profile or business page asking for more direct engagement. Largely, these interactions are initiated solely for the purpose of eventually making a sale.

It’s a kind of network marketing that can be very effective. But is it right?  Many in the field don’t endorse this tactic as a way of building relationships online. It takes advantage of genuine trust and real relationships built on shared personal or professional interests.

Given the power and reach of digital ecosystems, not only are friends vulnerable, but so are hard-earned business contacts, particularly those that happen to be friends, too. Because your social media feed is the point of introduction, you essentially become complicit in reducing your friends to the status of consumers.

According to Ronald Sharp, a professor at Vassar, “… social poaching stems from an inappropriate or distorted view of what friendship is. It views friendship as a zero-sum game, or as an attempt to maximize your resources. It converts the natural generosity of friendship into a kind of investment.”

Me, I’m in favour of an abundance of generosity, along with openness, trust and transparency, and I prefer not to reduce friends and clients to simply fans and followers. Which brings us full circle to the question we must ask ourselves, in this wired world: What are people for?

Vicki McLeod is a Maple Ridge Social Chick , the  host of Everyday Happiness: The Pajama Podcasts and is a business and personal coach and consultant. She is a speaker at the Canadian Internet Marketing Conference in March, and is happy to answer your social media or business questions. Find her at

A Facebook Rant Goes Viral

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at Women’s AM, a gathering of local business women who meet for breakfast once a month. They asked me, generally, to talk about social media. It’s a big topic and I decided to focus on what it means to be successful with social media.

Success in social media depends on effective content. For content to really connect with clients, customers and key audiences, it has to resonate.  And if content resonates in a big way, it will go viral. Viral, unfortunately, can’t be planned. It happens, and when it happens the results are usually unexpected.

Sean Smith, my colleague and friend from Campbell River is navigating the turbulent waters of instant online success after his personal Facebook rant about BC Ferries went viral last week. Being a social media coach, Sean is better equipped than most to deal with the overwhelming results of one tiny little post, but there was no way he could anticipate the online outpouring and reaction his “Dear BC Ferries” post generated.

He was sitting at the breakfast table, thinking about his frustration with the BC Ferries system and he decided to post his thoughts while eating his Cheerios.  His post hit a nerve and he had 4000 likes and 1800 shares by dinnertime – and comments, lots and lots of comments.

By day two, the phone started ringing and news reporters were calling. To date. Smith has had more than twenty media interviews, and estimates total likes and shares in the 90,000 range and guesses there are close to a million views.


I know Sean, and he does not shy away from the spotlight. At the same time, he’s become part of what he describes as “Joan of Arc syndrome”. Says Smith, “I am now the focal point of everybody’s expectations and the unintended leader of the pack.”

Sean doesn’t know where the pack is going. He has no agenda beyond keeping the conversation going and hoping it leads to change.  As That Social Media Guy he both teaches and preaches the power of social media to create meaningful dialogue and promote change.  His viral rant brings both huge expectations and a huge opportunity to extend engagement on the topic.

In response, Smith has launched a Dear BC Ferries Facebook page devoted to conversation about change in the BC Corporation, and promoting the #bumsinseats hashtag. As a result of Smith’s post, the BC Ferries page went from 800 visits to 8000 within a week.

Social media success indeed. The spin-off potential for BC Ferries and for related businesses that seize the opportunity could be significant.

Smith’s story is partly inspirational and partly a cautionary tale. As he says “You can’t plan viral. It happens, but when it happens it’s important to have a strategy in place for how to deal with it.”

Based on his example, I’ll continue to coach clients to look for ways to resonate and engage with large audiences to promote products, services and ideas and at the same time I’ll caution them to be prepared sudden success.

Online Campaigns Important

Election time is upon us. Last time around I did an assessment of the candidates’ use of digital and social media tools to reach voters. The pickings were slim in 2011, with few candidates using social media or establishing much of an online presence.

I predicted then, that this time around social media would play a larger role as the tools themselves became more ubiquitous and the common folk, the often fickle target of campaign messages, became more adept at engaging in the virtual space. So what of my prediction?

I spent some time touring the City of Maple Ridge website this week, checking out registered candidates and taking a peek at their online footprints. Kudos to the City, by the way, for putting candidates bios and digital links on the community website. Kudos to the candidates themselves who provided biographical information and actually have a digital presence to find. Some don’t. Boo.

From my perch, an absolute must-have for all candidates is a good website.

It doesn’t have to be fancy but it does need to give us the basics: who they are, their experience, what they stand for, their platform, and how we can connect with them. Extra points for great visuals, and a clean layout that is easy to navigate, and anyone with a relevant blog gets a gold star.

Some of the sites I visited are pretty slick and some have more of an ‘Aw, shucks’ vibe. Whether or not the look and feel actually represents the genuine character of the candidate remains to be seen, but let’s hope so. A fundamental tenet of effective digital and good marketing is to be consistent: be who you truly are online and off. For many the only way we are going to engage with candidates during election time is online. Give us the real thing.

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So what about social media? The old marketing adage is: Go where the traffic is.

With more than a billion people using Facebook, I expect to find potential candidates there, with a good Facebook page, not just a personal profile.. I automatically deduct points for candidates who use a personal profile to campaign. Like many, I am getting numerous Facebook friend requests from candidates. I won’t be friending them back, because frankly, I don’t want to be friends with people I don’t know, but I will happily be searching for their Facebook pages to ‘like’ and follow as the election heats up. I’m an engaged voter and I want to know what they have to say.

A common thread amongst candidates is a lament about the lack of voter turnout and a desire to increase engagement. It’s no secret that if you’re after the hearts of young voters, you will find them online. Young people are digitally savvy and will be looking for candidates online who are thoughtful, relevant, interesting and engaging.

Those who have a great website integrated with links to a Facebook page, Twitter feed, LinkedIn profile and content that makes an authentic connection and respects the online cultures and norms will going a long way to building credibility amongst voters. In Election 2014, it could make the difference.

Taking Back Your Facebook Newsfeed

The silly season is upon us and I’ve noticed recently that I’m getting a number of friend requests on Facebook from people who are planning to run in the local civic elections. You, too? It’s time to take back your newsfeed.

It has become common on Facebook to get friend requests from people you don’t know. Many businesses are using Facebook to market products and services. Strictly speaking, that’s what the Facebook business Page is for, but due to the way that Facebook’s algorithm governs and restricts what gets seen in personal newsfeeds, many businesses are friending strangers, or slight acquaintances as a way to build their lists and gain access to greater market share. To be honest, I have mixed feelings about this practice. I think it borders on spamminess, and at the same time I understand the strategic reasons businesses use it as a tactic.

In particular, if you are a personal brand, mixing up your marketing efforts and using your personal profile to cross-promote what you’re up to in your business can be a good strategy. I also tend to take a holistic position when it comes to business and personal life, favoring integration over separation. I think it’s a fine line and it’s important to know when it’s being crossed.

A good question to ask yourself, when you are being friended by someone you haven’t met, or whom you only know professionally, is: Why are they friending me? The answer to that question will probably give you some clarity as to their likely intent and you can decide for yourself whether or not you want to play.

One problem with people friending on the personal Profile for marketing purposes is that if I agree to be friends with them, not only can they see my posts but also I end up seeing nearly all their posts. These are often annoying, because they are really about selling and not really about building relationships, and if I don’t know the person, the kind of personal content they post is of little interest to me anyway.

If you notice someone that you have agreed to friend, but haven’t actually met, engaging in lots of conversations with you and your friends, tagging posts to your personal Timeline and posting significantly more content than you are used to seeing from others, chances are they’re marketing to you. It’s subtle, but it’s spammy.

Having said that, it really is a matter of individual preference as to whom you agree to be friends with on Facebook. Because you can set your privacy settings on your personal profile, you can control who sees what you post.

A way around agreeing to friend people you don’t know, is to enable ‘following’ on your personal profile. You find this in your settings. This allows people to follow your personal profile, but they will only see what you post using the public setting, and you won’t see their posts.

There is also a dandy little feature in Facebook called Customized Lists, which enables you to group or categorize people you are friends with and then choose to post only to those lists, or look only at those feeds. Facebook offers a number of default lists such as Close Friends, Acquaintances, and even a Restricted category. This list is for people you’ve added as a friend but just don’t want to share with, for example your boss or your kids. When you add a friend to your Restricted list, they only see your public posts or posts of yours that you tag them in.

You can also create lists based on personal categories. For example, I have lists called Family, Maple Ridge Biz Peeps, Coaching Clients and so on.

I also have one called Candidates. Time to dust if off. See you at the ballot box.

How a Summer Digital Detox Made Me Happier, Calmer and More Creative

This summer, the Social Chicks and the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Times hosted the community’s second annual Social Media Day, and more than 60 participants from local businesses and organizations attended to find out how to use social media to grow awareness, connect with customers and stakeholders and build a strong online presence.

Social media experts from across the region offered tips and insights and explored the impact of social media on our lives and businesses.

Most of the participants left the sessions feeling energized and excited, eager to take up more room in the digital space. There is a definite upside in the way social media can make us a stronger, more connected community and help build new relationships. Certainly, social media offers unparalleled marketing and communications opportunities and a new way for business to engage.

There is also a downside. Many people launch themselves into cyberspace to find it overwhelming.  Social media is a time suck. It can become a kind of all-consuming black hole. If you are familiar with the uneasy feeling that there is always something urgent you have to do online, or you experience a fear of missing out when you are offline, it might be time for a digital detox.

Completely off the grid - remote wilderness retreat

Completely off the grid – remote wilderness retreat

How do you know you’re in the danger zone?  Here are five ways you can tell your social media use is out of control:

  1. You check your mobile phone in the bathroom
  2. You shoo away, or ignore friends, colleagues or family members while you are on your devices
  3. You break out in a sweat if you forget your phone or iPad somewhere
  4. The first thing you do in the morning is check your smart phone or laptop (see #1)
  5. You impatiently grit your teeth during offline conversations until you can get back online and check your notifications
Remote wilderness retreat - capping off my Summer Digital Detox

Remote wilderness retreat – capping off my Summer Digital Detox

If you answered yes to any of those questions, then it’s time to back away from the keypad and get a little perspective.

Over the past four weeks or so, I experimented with the detox by imposing the following restraints:

  • No online activity before 8:30 am
  • Personal Facebook (and/or Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, G+) use restricted to 15 minutes or less at a time.
  • No checking social platforms until after individual work/home tasks are finished
  • No checking devices at dinnertime, while watching TV, or during one-to-one conversations

The results? I found out who that big man is who sleeps at my place. (“Hubby? Is that you?”).  I was able to easily complete a number of looming work related tasks and household projects.  I’ve carved out time at the beginning of each day for personal mindfulness – reading, meditation, journaling – and morning tea with the big guy. I feel more focused, calmer, and less subject to random anxieties. I’ve also re-engaged with offline hobbies resulting in a big boost in both my creativity and productivity.

I capped off the daily detox experiment with a full withdrawal program spending five days in the remote wilderness completely off the grid.

How was it?

Admittedly, it was a challenge, especially as I make part of my living as a social media specialist with a big online footprint.  But, the world kept spinning. In fact, it seems a little better and brighter these days.

Vicki McLeod is a Social Chick and is a business and personal coach and consultant. She offers monthly social media sessions with businessSTART North Fraser and has a Social Media Training session coming up in Maple Ridge on September 10.

Selfie – A fun way to engage

I recently had the opportunity to spend a day or two encouraging passers-by to snap ‘selfies’ in aid of a good cause. For those who may not know, selfies are self-portraits usually taken with a smartphone and then uploaded to social media sites.

Vicki and Lorene taking a selfie at the Haney Farmer's Market

Vicki and Lorene taking a selfie at the Haney Farmer’s Market

While most people were quite willing to play in, my request was sometimes met with “I don’t do selfies”, said in a somewhat toney way, which I must admit gave me pause. Granted, among a certain generation (usually teens, or single twenty-somethings on the club circuit) taking endless selfies or GPOYs (Gratuitous Pictures of You) can be an uber-narcissitic and annoying habit.

Having said that, the selfie can be central to creating engagement on social media and a great way to strategically involve fans and followers with your business or organization.

The B.C. Association of Farmers Markets’ (BCAFM) is running a very successful Selfie Contest that is an example of this strategy. For two weeks, people were encouraged to take a selfie at their local Farmers Market and then post it onto the BCAFM Facebook page via a contest tab.

The BCAFM contest offered a weekly prize draw and a grand prize of $500 in market shopping vouchers. Contest entrants were asked to submit their photo and the name of the market where they took their selfie. They were also asked why they love farmers markets.

Contests like these offer abundant opportunities. They create resonance with the target audience by literally putting the customer in the picture. They grow contact databases for future outreach, create a rich pool of testimonials, and engagement rates skyrocket. Particularly on Facebook, the algorithms that govern what gets seen in the fan’s newsfeed is based on how much they engage with you.

In social media parlance, this kind of content is called user-generated content and has the highest value and the most credibility.

In the BCAFM contest, the grand prizewinner will be determined by online voting, further increasing engagement and also leveraging social proof. The selfies of my friends and colleagues – people I know, like and trust – offer subconscious validation of the BCAFM’s value. Via this participation, the BCAFM, and by extension farmers markets in general, are endorsed and championed.

Contests can be run on any social platform and are very popular on sites like Instagram and Pinterest. The Fraser Valley Regional Library (FVRL) recently ran an Instagram contest to encourage teen engagement, asking them to post selfies with their favourite books.

To organize a contest you need to know who your target audience is, figure out which social media platform they prefer, and host your contest there. You also want to be clear about the strategic goal for the contest. The FVRL was after increasing engagement with teen users of the libraries.

The BCAFM is targeting women ages 25-45 to increase market visits. We know that demographic is using Facebook, and there’s a good chance that the BCAFM contest has increased traffic both online and off.

The BCAFM contest tracked the participation of markets across the province. Haney Farmers Market hosted a ‘Selfie-Help Booth’ on two local market days to encourage market-goers to take part, and placed second only to Kamloops. Not bad for our little market.

More selfie fun!

More selfie fun!

Maple Ridge’s Bekki Hurley is currently a contender for the top prize, and a win for her will give the Maple Ridge market a boost in terms of increased recognition and awareness. Voting continues in the Farmers Market Selfie Contest until July 21, 2014.

To vote for Bekki, or any of the fine Maple Ridge entrants, go to Facebook and visit this link: , click on View Entries and then search for Maple Ridge or Haney and find our local selfies. Vote for your favourite selfie.

UPDATE: unfortunately, Becky did not win the Selfie Contest but she did win a prize for being a lucky voter and she will get to spend the rest of the summer using her new canning goods! We’ll be looking forward to some jam!