Social Capital Conference: Four years of fabulous

Saying goodbye with a smile.As some of you may know, Lara and I announced a couple weeks ago that this year would be our last organizing the Social Capital Conference. As two of the founders - and since Lara had the idea in the first place - I’m sure you can imagine that it was a difficult decision. It’s something we’ve been talking about for two years, in fact. We could see that long ago that we’d have to do something that far back. 

The conference was born out of a need for an opportunity to learn more about social media without having to travel far and wide to do it. We wanted to focus on learning and partnered with uOttawa and then Algonquin to support that focus. It worked. Year after year, we’ve had such amazing feedback on the sessions and the vibe of the conference. We’ve even had people fly in from both ends of the country to attend! It has been wonderful to be in the position of helping people learn more, inspiring people to progress to new levels, and bring them together to make connections. (If you’re not meeting people in person that you connect with online, you’re really missing out - I promise.)

This year, we’ve been seeing a lot of growth in our business and it was as clear as it could be that it was time to step away from Social Capital. We made the decision and we have no regrets or second thoughts. Our final conference was a success that we’re very proud of - we’re leaving this chapter of our work on a definite high note. 

I must admit that I was nervous going into this year’s conference. The growth we’ve experienced in our business made it harder to give the conference the attention it deserves and needs. It has been a fabulous problem to have, but it was still a problem. It was also the catalyst for finally letting go. We managed to pull off the day successfully and I hope that our divided focus wasn’t too painfully obvious. 

The speakers I got to see (Ariadni Athanassiadis, Mel Coulson, and Jenna Jacobson) were all really good. I learned more about Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation and other intellectual property concerns in social media from Ariadni - and had a chance to whine a wee bit about how frustrating it all is. Mel was so funny and engaging and gave amazing examples of great content and advice for creating great content. (Also, because she’s a professional writer, I was just wee bit nervous that she sat in on my writer’s block session! But I learned after it was over that she’s a very good live tweeter.) Jenna Jacobson, our closing kenote (sadly, logistics caused me to miss Trefor Munn-Venn’s in the morning…sigh) gave such a fun and informative overview of what “social capital” really is. I was excited about her presentation and she did a great job. I also think I want to get a PhD in information just like her. Because the things she’s studying sound incredibly fascinating (and also very cool)!

The networking is always my favourite part of the conference. Unfortunately, I get pulled in roughly a million different directions, so I miss out on a lot of the time for networking throughout the day. Maybe next year - if someone else takes it over - I’ll get to spend more time talking with all the amazing people who come.

To everyone who has supported us these last four years in any way - thank you, thank you, thank you. It’s been such an amazing experience for me and I’ve learned so much from the various speakers we’ve had as well as all the attendees who’ve come each year to learn with us.

Email marketers: CASL is coming - are you ready?

Businesses that are using email marketing (or voice, text, video, or audio messages) to promote their business to individuals are going to have brand new rules to follow when CASL comes into effect on July 1, 2014.

What is CASL?

CASL is the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation that was passed in December 2013. It’s considered to be the world’s toughest anti-spam legislation. The law applies to all commercial electronic messages (including emails, texts, audio, video and may even apply to private messages on social media) for any organization that:

  • is located in Canada,
  • uses an email provider based in Canada,
  • or have recipients that live in Canada (or an email address that ends in .ca).

Here are some key facts:

  • Personal relationships are exempt; also charities and political parties
  • Not-for-profits are not exempt (e.g., community associations, soccer clubs)
  • Fines up to 1M for individuals; 10M for organizations (per incident)
  • Burden of proof to establish consent is on the sender
  • CRTC will publicize the list of complaints (like PIPEDA)

The legislation was passed with a built-in three year transition period for implied consent (unless revoked). However, complaints will be taken right away. Therefore, it’s important for businesses to be ready on July 1, 2014.

COMPLIANCE - what you need to know

A huge component of the CASL is consent. Consent cannot be opt-out (pre-checked box); double opt-in is ideal (submit email address, confirm with subscription by clicking on a link). Consent also may not be tied to the terms of a sale.

Implied Consent

There are provisions for implied consent to be obtained in the legislation. However, there is a significant downside in that proving implied consent will be administratively onerous to track and manage. Implied consent exists when you have a business relationship with the subscriber - clients, associates, networking group contacts).

Because consent is implied in these relationships, documentation of the start and end of the relationship must be retained. When, where, and how you met should be recorded, particularly if the relationship develops through a networking group.

The biggest challenge with implied consent is that consent expires 2 years after the end of the relationship. This can be challenging to define depending on circumstances. It may be even more challenging to administer given that you may be unaware that the relationship has ended (e.g., the person doesn’t renew their membership to the networking group where you met).

Express Consent

The gold standard of consent is express consent. It is the embodiment of permission marketing, which has been the best practice in email marketing since Seth Godin coined the phrase. Express consent means that an individual has specified in some way (verbally, in writing, web subscribe form) that they want to be on your list.

The biggest advantage of express consent? It doesn’t expire, unless it’s revoked!

Like implied consent, documentation of express consent is required in case of a complaint. For verbal consent, send a follow-up email, or enter the email address into your website’s web form if you are set up for double opt-in. A note in your organization’s customer relationship database (CRM) or email marketing system is also sufficient when enough details are given (date, event, brief description).

Email marketing compliance

There are several other requirements to achieve compliance with CASL.

  • The sender identity must be clear. It needs to be easy to tell who has sent an email - whether it’s an individual or organization. There are several places where identification can be shown: sender email name, branding in the email header, and/or in the email footer with mailing address and other contact information.
  • A mailing address (can be P.O. Box) must be listed in all email marketing. The address will give your business more legitimacy and home-based businesses have the option of using a P.O. Box to preserve privacy.
  • Your emails must have an unsubscribe mechanism (one-click is ideal). Even some multi-step unsubscribe mechanisms may be considered in contravention of the law if they are deemed too onerous for users to complete the unsubscribe process. Revoking access to someone’s email address needs to be easy.
  • Unsubscribes must take effect within 10 days (immediate is best). Most email marketing systems work immediately. If yours does not, or if you have a manual process, it is imperative that the process be completed within 10 days. (Consider eliminating any manual processes related to email marketing subscriptions by using an email marketing system.)
  • All emails must include a permission reminder. A permission reminder is a short statement of why the recipient received the email: “You are receiving this email because….” Including such a statement can help prevent unnecessary complaints.

What you need to do to prepare

There are a lot of different factors involved with the CASL legislation; here are a few basics to get you started:

  • Get permission - always.
  • Make it easy to unsubscribe.
  • Clean your list(s) before July 1.
  • Use a proper email marketing tool (Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Aweber, Infusionsoft - not Outlook or other web/desktop email clients).
  • Run a win back campaign (ask for re-subscribes; give incentive). These campaigns can only be run prior to July 1, 2014.

Want to learn more?

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation is detailed and may be require fairly complex compilance measures for some organizations. The following resources can give you more information about your organization’s specific situation.

The Email Marketer’s Ultimate Checklist for Canada’s Anti-Spam Law Update [PDF], WhatCounts 
CASL Survival Guide, Elite Email
Canada’s New Anti-Spam Law: CASL, Cornell On Law
Canada’s New Anti-Spam Legislation: What you need to know to comply, Gowlings (Webinar recording; requires registration)  

If you have questions about Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation and your email list, join our email list for a special offer to help you get ready! We can help assess your organization’s readiness for the changes.

A version of this post first appeared on the Women’s Business Network of Ottawa blog.