Nick Kossovan

Promises, Promises!      October 2022 Edition

By Nick Kossovan

“I support,” is an honest statement. “I will” isn’t always an honest statement, but it gets votes.

A few days back, mayoral candidate Gil Penalosa (@Penalosa_G) tweeted, “Stop Tory/Ford from giving away PUBLIC Ontario Place to spa/waterpark tall building. Since 2018 Ford/Tory announced ‘amusement destination’ & he has supported it! The way to keep it as a magnificent PUBLIC park is to #VoteGil4Mayor. Together we’ll stop it in a #Toronto4Everyone.

Gil’s tweet rubbed me the wrong way. The provincial government owns Ontario Place; therefore Gil’s claim, “The way to keep it as a magnificent PUBLIC park is to #VoteGil4Mayor” is, to be kind, an exaggeration. Toronto’s mayor doesn’t have absolute control over Ontario Place.

All elections have one thing in common: promises. 

As I watch those campaigning in Toronto for the upcoming election, I question whether many of the promises they’re making are realistic. Are their promises outright lies or said out of ‘not knowing’? The heat of campaigning will make candidates say anything to win over voters.

Recently, I spoke with Glenn De Baeremaeker, a former councillor for Scarborough Center (Ward 38, before Doug Ford reduced the number of Toronto council seats from 47 to 25) about some of the promises those running for council are making.

De Baeremaeker sees the role of a city councillor as one of serving the people rather than running on a political platform, which I’m 100% in agreement with. 

During our discussion of what Toronto councillors can and can’t do, De Baeremaeker and I touched on this election’s three hot-button issues: affordable housing, crime, especially gun violence, and public transportation.

Affordable Housing:

De Baeremaeker pointed out that housing has been a Toronto issue for more than 50 years; it isn’t a new crisis. Every major city with a growing population faces the challenge of housing affordability. 117,720 immigrants moved to Toronto in 2019, along with those from all over the country.

The factors contributing to the cost of housing, such as interest rates, and immigration (supply and demand), are well beyond the control of councillors. Affordable housing would have been built years ago if it were as easy as those running claim. Mayors and council members want to be re-elected, so why wouldn’t they build affordable housing? Any councillor or mayoral candidate who claims to be able to single-handedly address Toronto’s housing affordability is, to be polite, misinforming voters.

Crime/gun Violence:

Since the beginning of civilization, crime has existed in various forms. De Baeremaeker pointed out that “less than 1% of the population resort to violent crime.” Most violent crimes are committed by angry young men. Therefore, the question becomes, what can be done to reach these young men before they begin committing violent crimes?

I don’t see any councillor, current or running, having the education, experience, or ability to reach the disenfranchised youth in his/her ward.

There’s also this fact: Toronto borders the world’s largest gun-toting population; thus, gun smuggling is inevitable. Border crossings are a federal responsibility, not a councillor’s. “Toronto, like all of Canada, is the victim of the insanity in the U.S. today,” said De Baeremaeker. Toronto is part of the global village we all live in. Torontonians don’t live in their own bubble. 

Public Transportation:

Federal and provincial funding is required for Toronto to build any public transportation. De Baeremaeker noted that Toronto is currently building more public transit infrastructure than at any time in its history. The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is governed by an 11-member Board consisting of city councillors and members of the public. Even if a wannabe councillor were to sit on the TTC board, their promise of a bus stop or increasing bus service being dangled to attract votes is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

With councillors pushing for more transit in their respective ward, public transit has become a highly sensitive issue. A councillor is only one vote out of 26, so ask yourself if a candidate has the political prowess to deliver on their transit promises.

De Baeremaeker and I then directed our conversation to what Toronto city councillors can and should do.

A councillor’s priority should be to assist their constituents. 

Like myself, De Baeremaeker believes councillors should practice servitude. Constituents should be able to easily contact their councillor and/or their staff for assistance. It’s important for constituents to know they can reach their councillor to expeditiously resolve issues such as graffiti removal, fixing a pothole, emptying an overflowing garbage can, or repairing a knocked-down stop sign.

Additionally, councillors should be informing their constituents about the numerous programs the city of Toronto has, many of which are underutilized.

Dealing with Development:

All of Toronto is pre-zoned. Therefore, councillors can’t control (READ: stop) development in their wards, whether residential or commercial. However, councillors have influence over facilitating studies, public consultation, approvals and working with developers to help shape how a development project will integrate into the community (e.g., stop lights, parks, sidewalks). Councillors can and should work with developers to create a net benefit for the community. For example, incorporating retail spaces at the bottom of a condominium development like De Baeremaeker negotiated with the developers of the ME Living Condos at the corner of Markham Road and Ellesmere Road.

A councillor can also push for additional infrastructure for the betterment of their ward, such as a community center, libraries, and parks.

Keep Taxes Low:

“Taxes are the price we pay for civilized society.” – Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Councillors can’t freeze or cut taxes. “I’ll vote to keep tax increases as low as possible,” while not designed to attract votes, is an honest statement. Inevitably taxes will increase year-over-year, ideally rising in line with inflation.

Perhaps I’m romantically naïve, but I hope those running for mayor or council feel obligated to tell voters what they can and can’t do instead of what they think voters want to hear. However, at the end of the day it’s the voters’ responsibility to not vote for candidates who make unrealistic promises.

Nick Kossovan is the Customer Service Professionals Network’s Social Media Director (Executive Board Member). Feel free to send you social media questions to nick.kossovan@gmail.com. On Twitter and Instagram follow @NKossovan

Is Voter Apathy the Result of a Lack of Inspirational Candidates??     October 2022 Edition

By Nick Kossovan

Every candidate running for public office is good at one thing: Making election promises. Do you know what election winners aren’t good at? Fulfilling the promises that got them elected.

Every election, Torontonians hear the same election promises:

  • “I’ll address housing affordability in Toronto!”
  • “I’ll reduce crime!”
  • “I’ll remedy our transit issues!”
  • “I’ll make our streets safe for our children and bicyclists!”
  • “I’ll make sure your tax dollars aren’t being wasted!”

Politics has a built-in incentive to tell people what they want to hear. Is there another way to get elected besides telling people what they want to hear? 

 Most candidates either make a half-hearted effort or do not campaign at all. It makes me wonder if these candidates put their names forward just to appear on the ballot or to be able to say, “I ran for ________.” Many think “I ran for mayor in 2022” or “I ran for councillor in Ward 20” will look good on their résumé and LinkedIn profile; it shows they’re civic-minded.

Making a difference in the community doesn’t require being elected. Where were all these candidates in their community over the past 5 years? How involved are they in their community, if at all? What experience and leadership skills do they have to lead North America’s fourth most populous city or represent a ward with sometimes over 400K constituents?

A candidate, especially if they’re challenging an incumbent, should possess political acumen, leadership skills, negotiation skills, networking skills, savvy social media skills, and above-average communication skills. How many candidates possess these skills? Besides these skills, candidates also need to be charismatic, project a trustworthy image, and be known throughout their community. This may partly explain why 59% of eligible voters didn’t bother to vote in the 2018 Toronto municipal election.

I haven’t even mentioned the key to political success, the same key to most of life’s successes: Knowing the right people and having the right supporters. Most candidates think they can “just show up.”

Those candidates who do dabble at campaigning, primarily by posting and tweeting instead of meeting Torontonians, seem to believe that hating on John Tory or the incumbent they’re up against will win them votes. Toronto’s left-leaning populace—yes, I’m generalizing—doesn’t react well to U.S.-style political attacks. People who are disengaged from politics often cite political bashing and a lack of civil dialogue as the reasons.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to surmise that there’s a strong correlation between low voter turnout and widespread political apathy because candidates running for office fail to present compelling reasons for voters to support them. 

When I look at how candidates act, especially their crudeness on social media, candidates seem to have a sense of entitlement, which is a huge turn-off. It’s as if they don’t feel they need to earn the voters’ trust that they’ll represent their constituents’ interests. It’s fascinating what some candidates think will get them elected.

Candidates, including incumbents, should remember that nobody is owed to be elected. Candidates must demonstrate to voters that they’re the best candidate to represent their interests.

Rather than trying to come up with a new spin, candidates read from the same script: “Vote for me, and I’ll end all your problems.” Candidates don’t need to tell voters all that’s wrong with Toronto. Instead, candidates should explain why they can remedy what’s wrong. “Everything sucks” isn’t helpful. The relevant question is: What can you do as Toronto’s next mayor or my councillor about all that sucks? 

Only 41% of eligible voters casted a ballot in the 2018 Toronto election, which can be interpreted as the majority of Torontonians voted by “not voting.” Toronto’s municipal elections desperately need candidates who evoke the emotion of “heck, yeah! I want this person to be Toronto’s next mayor!” Or “yes! Someone I can trust to represent my ward.”

Then there’s what I call ‘horse-race journalism’, repeating the rhetoric that incumbents “can’t be beaten.” It seems this sentiment is prevalent. As I write this, people are telling me their predictions of who’ll be the “obvious winners” on October 24. Their predictions are based on “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t,” which gives incumbents their advantage. Long before the election, there’s a sense that elections are over. The media predicting Doug Ford’s win this past June was the secret sauce that demotivated voters to Ford’s benefit.

Media forecasting is essentially directing the narrative of the election’s outcome. The media would serve Torontonians better by offering balanced coverage of Toronto’s issues and equal airtime for all candidates—even those labelled as “fringe candidates.”

It‘s naïve to think that a new mayor and council members will transform Toronto into the utopia many believe it can be. For better or worse, Toronto has all the problems associated with a rapidly growing cosmopolitan society. Torontonians themselves can make a significant difference for their community if they stop pointing fingers at politicians and expecting the government to be responsible for the well-being of their community.  

Today’s Toronto exists because we accept it. Citizens create the livability of their city and community, not politicians. They volunteer, clean up, offer assistance, donate to charities, support local businesses, are Toronto tourists, and engage with their neighbours and community. Most importantly, they care about who occupies the political offices that directly impact their day-to-day life. 

Get to know the mayoral candidates. Become familiar with the candidates running for councillor in your ward. Read their platform. Reach out with questions or ask for clarification. Judge if their election promises are realistic. Determine whether they have the experience to bring their platform to fruition as one vote out of 26, keeping in mind the mayor’s new veto powers. Inform yourself. Make a choice and on October 24, vote! 

“Casting a ballot isn’t just something you do for yourself—it’s for our collective future.” – Oprah Winfrey

Nick Kossovan is the Customer Service Professionals Network’s Social Media Director (Executive Board Member). Feel free to send you social media questions to nick.kossovan@gmail.com. On Twitter and Instagram follow @NKossovan

Where’s the Talk Regarding ‘Term Limits’ and ‘Rank Ballots’?     October 2022 Edition

By Nick Kossovan

Toronto mayoral candidates and candidates running for Toronto council seats have remained mum on term limits and rank ballots.

Practically speaking, a term limit already exists—it’s called voting. However, despite local governments overseeing our daily lives, voter participation has historically been low.

Not-so-fun facts (Toronto voter turnout post-amalgamation):

  • 1997 — 45.6%
  • 2000 — 36.1%
  • 2003 — 38.33%
  • 2006 — 39.3%
  • 2010 — 50.55%
  • 2014 — 54.67%
  • 2018 — 40.9%

It is time to stop looking for institutional solutions to voter deficiencies and apathy. People can remove the mayor or a councillor if they wish. Therefore, I interpret that the 59% of eligible voters who didn’t vote in 2018 were satisfied with their councillor’s performance and John Tory’s leadership. Another way of putting it: 59% of eligible voters weren’t angry enough with John Tory or their councillor to vote them out.

A few months after winning the Ward 19 (Beaches-East York) council seat, Brad Bradford filed a motion to consider term limits. Surprise! Bradford’s motion wasn’t supported by his fellow councillors. Why would councillors vote themselves out of their well-paying position?

Bradford favours a three-term limit, as does Jennifer McKelvie (Ward 25, Scarborough—Rouge Park), who has said she’ll not run for more than three terms (Note: Bradford and McKelvie are running for a second term, Paul Ainslie, Ward 24, Scarborough—Guildwood, is running for a fifth term, and Gary Crawford, Ward 20, Scarborough Southwest, is seeking a fourth term).

The past March witnessed an event rarely seen in the arena of politics. After two terms, Joe Cressy (Ward 10, Spadina—Fort York) announced he was leaving politics “because it was the right thing to do.”

Several U.S. cities, including New York City, have set term limits for councillors. However, councillors are party-affiliated. Therefore, during their second term, a councillor facing a two-term limit would continue to work hard to keep their party’s reputation intact.

In a non-party-affiliation system such as ours, I see term limits having both positives and negatives, the foremost being:

POSITIVE:

Instead of seeking re-election from their supporters, councillors, especially in their last term, will have the intestinal fortitude to stand up for what they believe is in the best for their constituents.

NEGATIVE:

The quality of mayoral and council candidates will diminish. It’s difficult to sell an eight-year career break to those with flourishing careers, who most likely can offer relevant experience.

Term limits appeal to me because city hall would have no career politicians. The incentive career politicians have of doing what gets votes at the expense of what is right would be eliminated.

Ranked ballots, widely used worldwide, is another election reform not mentioned by candidates or incumbents. Across Canada, including in Ontario, all political parties use rank ballots to elect their leaders (yes, Doug Ford was elected under rank ballots voting). In the U.S., the self-proclaiming guardian of democracy, over 20 cities across 18 states, from cities as large as New York City to Telluride, Colorado (pop.2,607), use ranked ballots. All mayors throughout the U.K. are elected through ranked ballot voting.

Rank ballots work as follows:

You rank your candidate choices in order of preference—your first choice for mayor or councillor, then your second and third choices. In the first round, the first choices are added up. Anyone who has a majority wins. However, if no candidate has a majority—50% or more—the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Then, their ballots are transferred to the second choice on each ballot until somebody has a majority.

Our “the most votes win” electoral system makes it possible for a candidate to win an election with only 20% of the popular votes, a scenario we’ve seen several times. In ranked balloting, second and third choices count until 50% is reached so that the winner is elected by the majority. Vote splitting is eliminated, which is rank ballots’ greatest appeal for me.

Eliminating the possibility of vote splitting will empower voters to vote with their hearts. Voters no longer need worry about “voting strategically,” fearing their vote will be part of splitting votes in favour of incumbents. With rank ballots, voters can support their favourite candidate as their first choice. Then they can support other candidates who share their interests as second and third choices.

Here’s something to muddle over. In the 2014 Toronto election, out of a field of 67 mayoral candidates, John Tory received 394,775 votes. Doug Ford received 330,610 votes. Oliva Chow received 226,879 votes. If ranked ballots had been used, there’s a high probability Doug Ford would have won the 2014 Toronto election. Hence, Ford wouldn’t have gone on to become the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario and then the premier of Ontario. I’m just saying.

I firmly believe rank ballots would significantly increase voter engagement.

How come term limits and/or rank ballots haven’t been implemented? Term limits would introduce much-needed churn and diversity to Toronto’s council. With rank ballots, the forgone conclusion mindset that the incumbent will win would be eradicated, thereby increasing voter turnout. The pushback does not work in favour of current sitting political officials.

It’s not necessary to be elected to serve your community. Therefore, I believe candidates don’t seek office to serve their communities as much as they claim to. Rather, they’re seeking politics as a career, which can be quite financially lucrative. The romantic notion of elected officials wanting to serve their people is just that, a romantic notion. A candidate seeking votes will tell voters what they think they want to hear. Then, once elected, they’ll safeguard their political position.

As I write this, our elections are still first-past-the-post, and there are no term limits. The fact remains, however, that an election is a chance at a rebirth, which can only happen if everyone votes.

Nick Kossovan is the Customer Service Professionals Network’s Social Media Director (Executive Board Member). Feel free to send you social media questions to nick.kossovan@gmail.com. On Twitter and Instagram follow @NKossovan

Digitized Koffee With Nick

Social Media Campaigning Is the Norm, but Many Fail     October 2022 Edition

By Nick Kossovan

Currently, my social media radar includes all the mayoral and council candidates for the upcoming October 24 Toronto election. At a time when candidates can get their name and platform out without mainstream media interference, I’m disappointed by what I’ve seen.

It’s painfully evident that candidates, even incumbents, don’t understand what to post, the importance of hashtag usage (e.g., #ScarbTO, #Ward24, #TOpoli, #Toronto) and how to build support around their candidacy.

Most candidates have little or no social media presence and, therefore, fail to fully use social media’s potential to promote their name and platform.

It seems that many candidates think they can just show up on the scene and make cliché promises, many of which are outside the scope of what councillors can accomplish or even influence. 

“I promise to fight against crime, to help the homeless, to build affordable housing, etc…”

It takes years to prepare for an election. Winning an election takes more than simply posting a few statements on social media, usually to a small number of followers, or expressing anger at the incumbent being challenged.

In most cases, councillors can only raise concerns from their constituents—table a motion—and present it to the council for a vote. In order to make any meaningful changes, a councillor needs a high level of political acumen to get other councillors, who have their own agenda, to agree to your motions.

Candidates rarely tweet or post compelling arguments for why they should be elected. Instead, they finger-point at all of the incumbent’s wrong-doings. I’ve seen several candidates participating in flame wars, which isn’t a good look.

Candidates should be using social media’s broad and targeted reach to motivate people to vote for them and inspire eligible voters to get involved and vote.

As we approach the election, I hope to see candidates’ social media activity, which should be at least four times per day, incorporate the following:

  • Utilize live video.

Candidates should utilize live video when meeting constituents at community events, conducting virtual town halls or knocking on doors.

Social media video allows candidates to break their own news and communicate with constituents in real-time. Unlike traditional newscasts, live video is available 24/7 without editorial interference.

It can be highly effective to stream live on Facebook, Instagram, and Tik Tok regularly to engage constituents. Rather than just talking to voters one-on-one or in group settings, live video has a much greater reach. The added benefit is the recording can be posted for constituents to view, share, and comment on. 

  • Don’t make election promises that can’t be kept.

When candidates post or tweet a promise, they need to remember that nothing on the internet ever actually disappears. A constituent can find their promises years later. Thus, candidates should only make election promises they can realistically keep, otherwise all those unfulfilled promises, which they made via social media, may come back to haunt them, especially if they seek re-election.

I get it; political campaigns are all about getting votes. Unfortunately, telling people what they want to hear is a commonly used vote-mining strategy.

As I mentioned, many candidates, especially those running for councillor, seeking votes, make promises that they can’t be fulfilled by a councillor. Municipal, provincial, and federal governments often have overriding power, which is conveniently ignored. Additionally, the mayor has new veto power. A councillor’s job is to serve the residents of their ward. I’m noticing that many candidates think being a councillor will provide them with a platform to advocate social change. 

A councillor can’t solve Toronto’s housing crisis, reverse climate change, eradicate crime or address the affordability of living in Toronto. They require the support of the other councillors, so the political game of you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours must be played strategically. The cynic in me believes most election promises are nothing more than vote-bait rhetoric; therefore, I view most election promises skeptically. 

Never mentioned: A councillor is just one of 26 votes.

  • Ask questions!

The use of questions on social media has been proven to increase engagement. Yet, I’ve not seen any candidates asking questions. 

Asking questions relevant to their ward’s residents is a simple way a candidate can generate some back and forth. Furthermore, asking questions shows they’re willing to listen to their constituents.

Twitter and Facebook appear to be the preferred platforms among candidates. However, the adoption of other social media platforms has grown significantly since the last election. Candidates should invest time on Instagram, LinkedIn, which offers outstanding targeting abilities, TikTok, and even Snapchat.

One last piece of advice to all candidates, incumbents included, get out in the community! Knock on doors, attend events/festivals… introduce yourselves to voters. 

Elections aren’t won on social media; they’re won in voting booths.

Nick Kossovan is the Customer Service Professionals Network’s Social Media Director (Executive Board Member). Feel free to send you social media questions to nick.kossovan@gmail.com. On Twitter and Instagram follow @NKossovan

Social Media’s Hack on Journalism, Filmmaking and More      September 2022 Edition

By Nick Kossovan

Today, there are more than five billion mobile devices in use. According to studies, by 2025 70% of internet users will access the internet solely through their smartphone.

Every day, millions worldwide document their realities using their smartphone to take pictures, make videos, or write text, which they then share on social media platforms. Smartphones allow anyone to become a pseudo-journalist or pseudo-filmmaker; herein lies the danger. Our information consumption experience has changed significantly, as has who creates the content we consume. 

There’s a saying, “Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.” The first thing the internet devoured was journalism, the acquiring, processing, and publishing of information. When you’re holding a smartphone—a hand-held mass communication tool—you’re holding a press.

In 2022 a tweet from Tom Harrington (@cbctom) has as much journalism clout as a tweet from a 23-year-old Starbucks barista who filmed police violently arresting a homeless man outside their store and uploaded it on Twitter. It’s often Ukrainian citizens and enterprising individuals, rather than mainstream journalists, who capture what’s happening in Ukraine through their photos and videos.  

A journalism degree, or affiliation with a news organization, is no longer necessary. Without any editorial interference smartphones enable us to record and instantly broadcast ‘news happenings’ to a public relying heavily on social media to stay updated and continually seeking information (READ: opinions) that supports their beliefs and narratives.

The same holds true for filmmaking. Smartphone-made films can be uploaded to countless platforms, no distributor necessary. Who needs film school? 

Thanks to social media, identifying yourself as a ‘journalist,’ ‘filmmaker,’ ‘writer,’ ‘photographer,’ is merely a matter of semantics. No one is qualified, and everyone is qualified. 

With a smartphone in your pocket, you can become the country’s most-read restaurant critic. Want to be a travel reporter? Film and blog while travelling with your smartphone. Want to be a nature documentary filmmaker? Using your smartphone, film anthills or Japanese beetles mating in your local park and upload it to YouTube. Fun fact: 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

Nobody expects your content to be perfect; it’s understood it’ll be shaky. Just put stuff out there and see what happens (this is typically how social media learning is done). The more you post, the more you’ll learn what resonates with people. This will help you understand who your target audience is, what content they’re searching for, and who to target. 

Anyone with even the slightest amount of social media acumen understands the ‘value’ of having a measurable audience to speak to. If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Therefore, to stand out on social media platforms, flooded with all kinds of content, as well as the fact you’re competing with celebrities and influencers, you need to offer something different. This is why social media posts are becoming more outrageous, as you may have noticed.

Successful online bloggers and vloggers—a person who creates and shares video content online—understand the importance of curating an audience. They understand a large audience is necessary to draw attention to their content via sharing and likes. Additionally, they consider how their content may comfort the comfortable, afflict the afflicted or court controversy, an art I’m still trying to learn.

Although a blogger’s or vlogger’s content is often considered newsworthy or exposes injustices, they often attempt to sell a narrative that serves their self-interest or promotes their political ideology, whether progressive, centrist, conservative or regressive, since they aren’t subject to editorial control. 

Gone are the days when media outlets determined when and how you got the news. The Internet changed all that. Today, newspapers can be followed on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter; therefore, their ‘news posts’—clickbait articles designed to divert your attention—show up with your family and friends’ updates. Now you don’t receive the news on TV at 6:00 PM or 9:00 PM or when you turn on the radio. Instead, you get the news and lots of varying passionate opinions from conventional news sources and citizens who happen to have been on-the-scene while checking your Facebook feed to see what your Aunt Gertrude is up to. 

Those who read my column know I fault social media for many of our current social ills and collective angst. One social media positive, though admittedly a double edged sword, is it makes it easy for all voices to be heard. Social media—the internet—enables us to share our points of view as pseudo-journalists or pseudo-filmmakers. Yes, you need to learn the ‘social media game,’ but everyone is welcome to play. Therefore, when consuming social media content, be mindful of who created it.

Nick Kossovan is the Customer Service Professionals Network’s Social Media Director (Executive Board Member). Feel free to send you social media questions to nick.kossovan@gmail.com. On Twitter and Instagram follow @NKossovan

Elon Musk Reminds Us Social Platforms Are for Profit      June 2022 Edition

By Nick Kossovan

Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter is a reminder that social media platforms are companies that can be bought and sold, and all that companies exist to make a profit.

In a news release announcing his purchasing of Twitter, Musk said, “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.” 

Musk wants us to believe he’s defending the hurling of insults, posting fake news, and trolling/provoking “for entertainment” from anonymous accounts. 

Musk isn’t coughing up US$44 billion for the 16-year-old social media company to defend that American of all American values, “free speech.” Musk may claim to be a guardian of freedom, but he is, first and foremost, a businessman.

Armchair critics remarked that Musk didn’t have a monetizing game plan for Twitter. These critics, none of whom have Musk’s proven business acumen, claimed he made a bad business decision. Many said it was a publicity stunt. They said the billionaire’s ego-stroking was similar to Jeff Bezos’s space race with Richard Branson.

On May 3, Musk (@elonmusk) tweeted, “Twitter will always be free for casual users, but maybe a slight cost for commercial/government users.” 

Apparently, Musk has some ideas on monetizing Twitter, such as charging business and government users a monthly subscription fee for using the social media platform. Individual users, like me and you, will continue to have free access to Twitter.

Twitter currently offers businesses the ability to advertise and promote their tweets to reach a wider audience. However, these services haven’t helped Twitter turn a profit. In 2021, Twitter lost $493 million despite having $5.08 billion in revenue.

I’ve always felt Twitter has many monetizing opportunities that haven’t been explored. It makes business sense to require businesses and governments to subscribe to Twitter in order to use the platform for publicity, marketing, and commercial activities.

It wasn’t so long ago that you had to purchase newspaper and magazine ads (remember classified ads?), radio airtime, or television spots to advertise your business, event, voice your opinion, etc. Those were your options other than posting flyers on poles all over your neighbourhood.  

Today you can share your business activities on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, et al. for free. With the majority of the population addicted to social media, could it be that Musk believes the free trial period can now come to an end? Nobody, not even the haters, can deny Musk knows how to create and get value from whatever he touches. Musk buying Twitter is an indication he sees potential for profit.

The media, academics, and sideline critics took to their keyboards. What’ll this mean for Twitter? For freedom of speech? In a world where online displays of bitter and cruel criticism are becoming steadily more normalized, will things get worse for women, people of colour and the LGBTQ+ community? 

Probably. 

Musk needs Twitter users for his subscription plan to be appealing; the more users the better. Twitter currently has 330 million monthly active users, far below Facebook’s 2.9 billion. Businesses will most likely not see the value of paying for access to the platform when they can access larger audiences elsewhere for free. Musk knows there is nothing more eye-catching than digital combat. Human degradation provides entertainment for many.

Let’s go back to Musk’s defending free speech.

In April, Elon Musk closed the TED2022 conference in Vancouver by sharing how he envisioned Twitter under his ownership.

“I think it’s very important for there to be an inclusive arena for free speech,” he said. He admitted that some content moderation would be necessary to deal with explicit calls to violence and ensure Twitter complied with local laws.

People having access to an unvetted voice may seem progressive. Then, they realize Twitter is a multibillion-dollar company with over 7,500 employees, deep-pocketed competitors, mounting debt obligations, and a revenue model built entirely on advertising from mainstream brands. Rightfully, advertisers tend to get nervous when they are paying millions of dollars to advertise and see their images and videos appear next to pro-life post rants by far-right extremists or left-wing insults attempting to drown out opinions that don’t suit their narratives.

Predictions about what Musk will do with Twitter are premature; however, I guarantee he’ll be weighing ROI with every move he makes. As for the burning question, “Is Elon Musk good for the future of online speech?” we’ll know soon enough.

Nick Kossovan is the Customer Service Professionals Network’s Social Media Director (Executive Board Member). Feel free to send you social media questions to nick.kossovan@gmail.com. On Twitter and Instagram follow @NKossovan

Challenges Living in the Age of Social Media      May 2022

Social media is changing you and me in profound ways we couldn’t have imagined. Among the most significant changes in our psyche due to social media is we’re becoming more concerned about what other people think of us. It’s no wonder why mental health issues (e.g., anxiety) have increased.

The addictive nature of social media is alarming to me, as is how rapidly it’s eroding the foundations of our social fabric. Today almost everyone has two audiences: the audience we actually know (family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues) and the digital audience (via social media) we don’t know.

We now inhabit a new world order, where intangible digital worlds create opportunities never before experienced, but also create unhealthy temptations. Social media is disrupting our social architecture. Before it’s too late, we must learn to master our real world versus our digital world. Each deserves our attention, just not equally.

Understand social media causes you to:

  1. Ignore those around you while you try to attract an audience.

It’s no secret I’m a heavy social media consumer; therefore, I have a bias toward growth and expansion. As a result, I often find myself focusing more on the people I hope to reach through social media than my family and friends. I keep having to remind myself not to do this—I know better (I’m a work in progress). 

Everybody is trying to get digitally noticed at the expense of the person in front of them. 

You know the now cliché scene: people eating while holding their cellphone in one hand, scrolling through their social media feeds and mindlessly shovelling down their meal, oblivious to the other people sitting with them.

Do you know what gets you noticed? Loving, caring, being grateful for and focusing on the people in your life. It took me a long time to realize this. Things grow when you focus on what you have rather than on what you don’t have.

  1. Spend more time with people you don’t know than with people you do.

Every day it’s becoming easier to spend a significant part of your life in the online world. People who value healthy relationships spend much more time in the real world with people they know than with strangers online.

Be careful! With social media, you can quickly find yourself in a world where you feel constantly connected with like-minded people, even though you aren’t. How can you be connected to someone you don’t know?

  1. Try to impress strangers.

If you’re on social media hoping to be noticed, gain followers, become an “influencer,” and be discovered, you’re in for a lot of frustration and heartache.

For starters, you’re prone to fall victim to imitation. Instead of being yourself, you’ll spend your time trying to be (look like, act like) someone you think you must be to become a social media celebrity. This kills your voice and stifles your creativity. Ironically, being authentic is the key to achieving social media success.

Imitation is a recipe for unhappiness. How can being who you’re not (a fake) make you happy? Stop trying to impress people you don’t know, be yourself. You may be surprised at how many people you attract with the real you (yes, there’ll be haters).

  1. You’ll focus more on image and less on substance.

Social media has made us too concerned with our image. Filters and apps will make you look thinner, erase wrinkles, shrink your nose or slightly expand your eyes. So much of our respective mental turmoil stems from it.

God willing, you’ll be blessed with a long and healthy life. Every year I get a few new wrinkles; that’s the price you pay for being blessed to age. 

Social media makes us focus too much on our image and little, if any, on producing substance—on doing good. Instead, let your character, actions and results be your image. These are much easier to relate to than your physical image that’ll inevitably fade. 

  1. Your sense of self-worth will rise and fall with likes and shares.

Everyone wants to be liked, which is why we often let others determine our sense of self-worth.

If you’re not careful, your sense of self-worth and success will rise and fall with your number of followers, likes and shares, which will cause you to pursue the affections of people you don’t know. Does it really matter whether or not a stranger on the other side of the country thinks you’re awesome?

Nick Kossovan is the Customer Service Professionals Network’s Social Media Director (Executive Board Member). Feel free to send you social media questions to nick.kossovan@gmail.com. On Twitter and Instagram follow @NKossovan

As Restrictions Lift, Support Local Businesses Using Your Social Media      April 2022

When the local economy is strong, the community is strong, which is good for everyone. With restrictions being lifted, it’s time to show local businesses some love and assist them in returning to their pre-pandemic level of business.

The obvious way to support local businesses is to frequent them. Another way to support businesses in your community is to use your social media to get the word out about businesses that offer products/services you feel are worth digitally evangelizing. Social media engagement and shout-outs can have far-reaching effects. Besides helping your local economy, you’re helping shape a business’s online reputation, being a part of their success, which I assure you’ll feel good about.

Here are six ‘social media ways’ you can help local businesses get back on their feet post-pandemic:

  1. Use Facebook’s ‘Businesses Nearby’ tool.

The first step is to discover local businesses you’re not aware of. Though you probably shop at businesses near your home, I guarantee there are more nearby, within your community, businesses you can give your business to. In May 2020, Facebook and Instagram added a feature to help their users find local businesses. ‘Businesses Nearby’ is a section within Facebook and Instagram that lets you see what businesses are posting within a geographical radius, which you can set and adjust, view the hours they’re open and options they offer for pickup/delivery, make a booking, or message them.Check out ‘Businesses Nearby’ if you haven’t already. I guarantee you’ll be surprised at how many businesses you weren’t aware of are in your community. 

  1. Like their stuff and follow their page/account.

When it comes to showing your support for a local business, the lowest-hanging fruit is to like (press the heart) and follow their social media page/account. When you follow a business, its promotions, events, and updates will appear in your feed which you can then like and share. So, give local businesses some much needed love with a thumbs up or double-tap and take a few minutes to go the extra mile and leave a comment.

  1. Write a glowing review.

Online reviews are enormously vital to business success!Like word-of-mouth, favourable recommendations create traffic to a business. Today most people use the Internet to research purchases or find a restaurant or service (accountant, lawyer, landscaping, plumber). Over 70% of consumers give significant weight to reviews before making a buying decision or visiting a business establishment; therefore, a business’s online reputation is a critical component to its success.

Top 8 places to leave a review.

  1. Facebook Ratings and Reviews
  2. Foursquare
  3. Google My Business
  4. Homestars (appliance repair professionals, contractors, renovators, handyman)
  5. OpenTable (restaurants)
  6. TripAdvisor (hotels, travel, restaurants, entertainment venues)
  7. Yelp
  8. Zomato (restaurants)

Take five minutes to write a review on one or two of these sites. If you can only leave four or five stars, that’s better than nothing.

  1. Share your experience.

When you have a positive experience with a local business—great food/service, attentive customer service, or great deals—don’t keep it to yourself. Share your experience, uploading photos and videos. Make sure you tag the business, so they’ll be notified of your post and use relevant hashtags (e.g., #Ward24, #ScarbTO, #pizza, #localbusiness).

Sharing photos of you using the product or service or shopping at the business will bring your physical support online. Include the business’s address in your post, their website, and telephone number, so your followers can easily locate and/or contact the business. Also, use the social media platform’s ‘tag location’ feature. When you’re at a business location on the business’s Facebook page, you can ‘Check In.’ 

  1. Repost/Retweet.

Whenever a business posts something of interest, such as a video, picture, or link to a new blog post, repost/retweet to increase engagement and give the post visibility to your followers (you get extra positive Karma points if you add a thoughtful comment along with relevant hashtags). 

  1. Subscribe

Many businesses rely on email marketing to communicate with and expand their customer base. Therefore, they focus on building their lists to whom they can email marketing content and promotions. Sign-up for your local business’s newsletter, and if relevant, forward it to your family and friends and share on your social media accounts.

Small businesses are the backbone of our community. They’ve been the hardest hit by the COVID pandemic. With social media, you can support local businesses easily, conveniently, and most importantly, efficiently. Show the world you are proud of the community you live in. 

Nick Kossovan is the Customer Service Professionals Network’s Social Media Director (Executive Board Member). Feel free to send you social media questions to nick.kossovan@gmail.com. On Twitter and Instagram follow @NKossovan

Key to Social Media Success: Creating Shareable Content      March 2022

From my experience, I would say most people join social media expecting instant recognition. They expect their business, or side hustle, to increase fivefold overnight, or they’ll become social media influencers in a matter of days. Never considered is the amount of digital noise a person must overcome to even begin getting recognition online, let alone to have their messages seen and their account(s) followed. 

Today there are over 4.55 billion social media users.

  • The average daily social media usage is 2 hours and 27 minutes.
  • Facebook has 2.8 billion MAU (monthly active users).
  • YouTube has 2.3 billion MAU.
  • Instagram has 1.4 billion MAU.
  • Pinterest has 454 million MAU.
  • Twitter has 363 million MAU.

Today, more than half of the world’s population (57.6%) uses social media. That’s a lot of people online consuming news, information, entertainment, shopping, and of course, looking to be noticed. Getting your posts seen, never mind engaged with, in a 24/7/365 crowded online environment poses a daunting challenge. 

The road to social media success—becoming a social media darling of sorts—requires patience, focus, and understanding that social media success doesn’t require you to be followed by the entire Internet universe. All the social media success you need can be garnered by simply engaging with your community and tribe of like-minded people. 

Does a plumber located in southeast Scarborough who has 3,263 Facebook followers, mainly located in Hamilton and Winnipeg, for example, have social media success? Don’t focus on how many people follow your social media accounts—that’s “5 years ago” thinking. Instead, focus on having the right people following you (a topic for a future column) and your engagement numbers.

Social media success = number of engagements.

Generating engagement on social media boils down to creating and posting content that’s:

  • Unique
  • Eye-catching
  • Informative and/or entertaining
  • Shareable

I often find myself readjusting a person’s expectation that the minute they post something on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., they’ll receive a flood of attention. When I created my LinkedIn account over 10 years ago, I naively thought I just had to show up, and I’d be loved. How wrong I was. 

Whether in your personal life or career, achieving a goal requires daily effort; social media isn’t an exception of this truism. Therefore, to reach your social media goals, you need constant effort. 

To build your digital presence takes time. Step by step, your efforts need to be intentional. Begin with simple, clear messages (posts) about who you are and what you stand for (e.g., Maintaining Lake Ontario’s ecosystem, Scarborough’s diversity and the resulting political landscape, food insecurity, Toronto’s country music scene).

Start by posting about your purpose and passions. What gets you up in the morning? Do you make a delicious cup of coffee you look forward to having every morning? Like me, are you a coffee aficionado, which I mention in my Twitter bio? Then consider posting all things related to coffee and local coffee shops as a starting point to build a following. 

Here are 5 general guidelines to creating sharable social media content which—fingers crossed—will eventually led to a semblance of social media success. 

  • Add Value. Informative content is “okay,” however, content that your followers can benefit from (e.g., Where Scarborough foodbanks are located and how to donate to them) is much more sharable.
  • Use Smart Structuring. Internet users scan content, usually on their smartphone. A wall of text is a turn-off. Be concise; format your content in bullet points.
  • Keep it visual. Visual content (pictures, video, graphs, memes) is much more likely to be shared.
  • Create Infographics. Infographics are informative and easy to understand and visual! With tools like Piktochart, you can easily create high-quality infographics. Go for it!
  • Use relevant hashtags (#). I can’t overstress the importance of hashtag usage. A post without any hashtags is invisible. Hashtags are how others find your posts and how you reach your target audience. Readers who live within the Bluffs Monitor’s circulation area should use hashtags such as #Ward20, #Ward24, #Ward25 and #ScarbTO in addition to general hashtags that are relevant to their post (e.g., #pizza, #news, #Toronto, #foodie).

Creating shareable content isn’t a science, it’s an art. As you manage your social media accounts, you’ll develop your own methods, strategies, and most important, unique voice. When it comes to social media success, there’s no “one size fits all.” Your direction (slowly gaining the right followers, increasing your number of engagements) is how you’ll eventually achieve social media success.

Nick Kossovan is the Customer Service Professionals Network’s Social Media Director (Executive Board Member). Feel free to send you social media questions to nick.kossovan@gmail.com. On Twitter and Instagram follow @NKossovan.