Introducing and its GM, Sionne Roberts

We’ve spent years walking the walk. Now it’s time to talk the talk. 

Given all we’ve learned at IT World Canada about using social media, search engine optimization and Web content strategy, it made sense to think about how we could offer that to the rest of the world. That was the impetus behind, a new division here which will work with non-competing media groups, event producers and all kinds of other organizations that are focused on market optimization.

Leading the charge at Visability is Sionne Roberts, who joined us from Bell Sympatico and has brought a lot of new ideas and creative energy to our organization. Next month Visability will be making a more high-profile debut with its first conference, Social Media For Your Organization, featuring speakers like David Alston, Mark Saltzman and many others. I conducted the following e-mail interview to let Sionne explain the goals and opportunities behind this initiative.

1. What does the Visability division do and why should IT professionals mention it to their non-IT peers?

Visability offers marketing optimization services, allowing organizations to execute all of their awareness, lead-generation and sales support programs more efficiently. Given the nature of this activity it often impacts – or depends upon – IT departments to a significant extent.

2. Why this conference and what’s the goal or theme behind it?

Social media is a really interesting area. From a marketing optimization point of view it provides numerous opportunities to accomplish business objectives more cost-effectively and in less time. But it also requires an adjustment of mindset organizationally. Going into social means moving away from a traditional “broadcasting the controlled message” approach and into a more interactive, conversation-based relationship with customers and prospects.

So the good news is that organizations can benefit extensively from becoming active in Social Media. But the bad news is it’s not always easy for newcomers to do this properly, which is the purpose of the event on May 27 – it’s an educational forum for anyone interested in potentially leveraging social media for their organization..

And the goal or theme is quite simple. Attendees at Social Media For Your Organization will come away with an improved understanding of the social media space overall, and as a result be able to decide how and when they want to get involved in this emerging area.

3. How do you see IT departments and those involved in social media within enterprises co-existing?

My hope would be that you start to see a breakdown of the traditional silos within organizations. What I have referred to for many years as the Dilbert Gap between IT/Tech and the Business side. Because successful social media marketing activity requires a collaborative, back-and-forth approach, a positive side effect you’ll often see is improved inter-departmental relationships within the building as well.

Also, people sometimes overlook the applications for social media within their organizations. Your readers in the IT function could probably teach their marketing colleagues a thing or two about are leveraging tools like wikis, Yammer (or other micro-blogging tools) and so on for improving team productivity.

4. How has social media helped you personally as a business exec and what have you learned?

This is a great question. I think it’s accurate to describe social media as being based on collaboration and interactions, whether it’s on a personal level or in a business context. Anything you do in social media is like an investment on a certain level. But what has been enlightening to me is how starting to blog, then tapping into LinkedIn and now recently becoming active on Twitter has really delivered such excellent returns on what was only a really small commitment of my time. It’s definitely helped me advance my career, build equity in relationships and access resources that would have been basically unavailable to me otherwise. To top it off, I now get to apply what I’ve learned every single day, sharing my first-hand social media experiences and insights with Visability clients.

5. What’s your take on the growth potential for marketing optimization within Canadian enterprises?

 Well, I will confidently say it’s in the early stages and only starting to scratch the surface. Marketing optimization is definitely an emerging category, and several years away from reaching the maturity stage. I’d propose right now in 2010 the size of the potential Canadian market for marketing optimization services is around $150MM+ annually. This doesn’t mean that’s what organization are actually spending this year, but how much they could be allocating to the category if they all decided a percentage of their budgets would be better spent on optimization. Within the next five years you’ll start to see that gap quickly closing between market opportunity and market reality. So, it’s not too hard for me to picture Visability as a market leader within a billion-dollar industry by 2015.

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