Connecting to Grow, How Facebook and Instagram can plant seeds of success
Garrick Tiplady is the Managing Director of Facebook Canada where he is responsible for leading and managing all of Facebook and Instagram’s commercial operations in Canada. Previously he was the CEO of Vemba Corporation, an enterprise platform for premium video distribution. Prior to that, Garrick was the SVP of Customer Experience at Rogers Communications. While at Rogers, he also served as the SVP Strategy and SVP Chat’r Wireless. Before joining Rogers, he was a Principal at the Boston Consulting group within the Technology and Communications Practice. Garrick serves on the Board of ThePowerPlant and Advisory Board of RightToPlay. He received an M.B.A from the Richard Ivy Business School and a B.Sc. in Physiology from McGill University.
As Managing Director of Facebook Canada, can you tell us about your responsibilities to give our readers a better understanding of what you do?
In Canada, we’re intently focused on creating community and driving business growth for businesses of all sizes.
What is fascinating is for the first time in history, technology has offered small brands an opportunity to compete with big brands on a level playing field. I challenge my team to think about how to maximize on this opportunity for the 24 million Canadians, brands, and businesses that connect on Facebook each month. Whether you’re a multi-generation, family-run business in Oshawa or a major brand such as Lululemon in Vancouver, we’re here to help you on your path to success.
You’ve been acting as Managing Director of Facebook for a little over a year now. What are some of the initiatives you’ve put in place?
Working with entrepreneurs and small businesses has a special place in my heart. Having started a company myself, I know the sacrifice it takes to launch a business. I am continually inspired by what businesses have been able to do with Facebook and we are working hard to create even more opportunities for them.
For example, in June, we held our largest event for entrepreneurs and small business in Canada, called “Boost with Facebook”. The two-day event was hosted at Evergreen Brick Works and featured free training sessions and workshops for small businesses and entrepreneurs to learn how to best utilize Facebook’s suite of tools to drive growth for their businesses. We hosted close to 2,000 entrepreneurs who had the opportunity to hear from Canadian business leaders that are building brands and making a difference in their communities, including Peace Collective, BRIKA, and Bohten.
We also recently hosted a “#SheMeansBusiness” dinner for Toronto-based female founders. It was inspiring to hear from women leaders who have used our platforms to build global brands and businesses, such as the founder of Make Lemonade, Rachel Kelly. Make Lemonade is a Toronto-based co-working space and accelerator for women entrepreneurs. Their community members are growing their businesses by connecting with customers on Instagram. Make Lemonade uses Instagram heavily to engage meaningfully with their community.
Creating forums for entrepreneurs to network and collaborate with their peers is something I’m passionate about. We’re looking forward to more initiatives that shine a light on the diverse, small businesses we have in Canada and how we can support them.
What would you say has been the most challenging part of your role?
The past year has been transformational for Facebook. The rate of technological change has disrupted institutional industries and given rise to new challenges and opportunities. We want to make sure Facebook, and our full family of apps, is an environment where people come together to share with their friends and family, to celebrate community – a place where brands grow their businesses.
Although we didn’t do enough to anticipate some of the risks of a platform our size, we made and continue to make fundamental changes to our platform and how we work across the company to address these issues. This past year, we’ve invested record amounts in keeping people safe and strengthening our defenses against abuse. We’ve also provided people with far more control over their information and more transparency into our policies, operations and ads – which is also good for brands and businesses.
How have your previous experiences prepared you for your current role as Managing Director of Facebook?
Having been an entrepreneur who also worked at several leading Canadian organizations, I am fortunate to have a deep appreciation for the different, and often similar, needs of these two worlds. Whether working for myself or as part of an organization, there are three foundational imperatives to get straight right off the bat.
First, it is essential to have a clear vision of where you want to go and a clear path on how to get there. While you may have a five-year goal, having a defined idea of what success looks like in the next six months, 12 months, and 24 months, is key when you are moving fast and have to make big decisions every day. With a strong vision complemented by attainable short-term goals, it’s easier to navigate from one milestone to the next.
Second, build a great team – they are everything. I strongly believe [in order], to have true, long-lasting societal impact, a team must reflect the people the business serves – this is why diversity is fundamental for Facebook. It is essential that everyone understands how their unique skills, perspective and attributes contribute to the overall vision and how they can make an impact with their work.
Third, be curious. I have worked across multiple industries and in many countries. Being curious, asking questions, getting to the heart of the issue can help unlock new opportunities – we try to bring that through a partnership with all of our clients.
How do you believe Facebook can help SME owners grow their business? What’s the number one benefit that Facebook has for entrepreneurs?
Over the last decade, there has been a shift in how consumers interact with brands. We now seek brands with purpose. We seek brands with connection and that connection is almost always rooted in the community. When I consider the most influential brands, both emerging and incumbent, the ones that rise to the top are the ones that work to put the power back in the hands of people. People are influencing brands, rather than the other way around — and our platform enables that two-way dialogue.
Facebook enables small businesses to identify and engage with the communities that matter most to their customers— whether that’s by bonding over shared interests on Instagram, speaking to them directly on Messenger, or joining a group on Facebook.
For example, I recently met Kristi Soomer of Encircled, a 100 per cent Toronto-made fashion brand made with eco-friendly materials. Kristi recently launched a weekly series “Talk to us Tuesday” on Instagram which they use to get feedback from customers on their products. In fact, her design team launched a new t-shirt dress based on comments and feedback from a recent post. Within 24 hours of the dress going to market, 60 per cent of stock was sold. Kristi is a good example of how our family apps provides small business owners a unique way to nurture and open dialogue with their communities, and these connections formed can lead to impressive business results.
What’s the main difference between Instagram and Facebook when it comes to brand promoting for business owners?
When you are considering a multi-channel approach, these two platforms work better together.
If I had to highlight a few unique nuances, for me, the main difference is Facebook enables people to authentically come together to create community. 200 million people on Facebook have joined meaningful groups, and they’re coming together to find support, bond over a common interest, and reaching people passionate about the same cause.
Instagram is the place where people and businesses connect. People come to Instagram to be inspired and discover things they care about, which includes businesses. This gives SMEs an opportunity to reach customers in a space where they’re already receptive to discovering new things, people, products, ideas, and trends. SMEs can tap into the power of visual storytelling on a platform where photos and videos are the native language.
In your expert opinion, do you believe that entrepreneurs who refer to social media to promote their brand are more successful as opposed to those who don’t?
I think entrepreneurs who don’t use social media to promote their brand are missing an enormous opportunity to connect with their communities. There are over 2.7 billion people on Facebook – what better place is there to reach new audiences to grow your business? According to a report we released last year, Instagram’s Impact on Canadian Business study, more than half of Instagram users in Canada use the platform every day – this figure jumps to 72 per cent among Canadians between the ages of 16 to 25. While, 26 per cent of respondents in the same survey said the platform helps them to decide on what they want to purchase.
Brands have a unique opportunity to share their brand values and purpose and reach people with similar interests. More and more people want, if not expect, to shop from brands they can connect with or feel value alignment with. Facebook and Instagram’s unique position at the heart of community and commerce helps to bridge that connection. Small business owners should be taking every opportunity to meaningfully connect with their community because that is the key to their growth and success.
More and more companies are using brand ambassadors to promote their business. What’s your take on that?
It’s great to see brands engaging with creators and people of influence – thousands of creators, publishers and public figures have built trusted, expert, relevant voices that our communities want to connect with every day. People expect highly personalized interactions with businesses and seek brands with purpose. When a business can tap into that -connecting directly with people who share the same values and interests – they are building deeper relationships with their customers.
We’re working to facilitate the best ways for a business to tap into those creators that still deepens the relationship between the brand and their customers. For example, our new Instagram Branded Content Ads allow a business to combine their own ads with content from a creator partnership in one measurable campaign.
Can you tell us about any upcoming projects that Facebook has planned that can benefit SME owners?
We are always working with small business owners to learn more about their experiences on our family of apps and how to optimize our products to suit their businesses and communities. A big initiative we have here in Canada is “Boost with Facebook”, a training program for small businesses I outlined earlier. This year alone, we held sessions in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Oshawa, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.
We also offer a free educational resource for small businesses called Blueprint. To date, we have 2.5 million total course enrollments across the world, and 50 per cent of those are from small businesses.
Small businesses are the backbone of the Canadian economy and the heart of local communities. Helping businesses grow in turn helps to diversify and strengthen the Canadian economy. Facebook is proud to be a part of that growth.