I'm writing this from my new home in New Westminster, BC, Canada. I've only been here a few days, but I already feel part of the tech and marketing community. This is probably because I've been connecting (online and offline) with great people from the Vancity area for a few years. From independent consultants and photographers to event organizers and startup founders, the Vancouver community has not only drawn me to this incredible place, but it has also welcomed me with open arms.
Let me provide some background…
I landed in Canada about a week ago. It was a move that my wife and I had discussed on-and-off for many years because we've always romanticized about the idea of moving (or at least retiring) in the Canadian West Coast. Vancouver is a beautiful place that aspires to be the greenest city in the world by 2020 and it consistently gets included in lists of the best cities to live in. The Vancouver metropolitan area is often referred to as Hollywood North (because of the film industry it has fostered), it has given birth to brands like Lululemon and startups like Flickr, and it also acts as home base for companies like Telus and EA Sports Canada. Silicon Valley is quite aways south, but Vancouver is both in the same time zone and entrepreneurial mindset as the Bay Area. No wonder Vancity often attracts tech heavyweight visitors, from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to 500 Startups founder Dave McClure.
Half hour away from downtown Vancouver is New Westminster, an area that my wife and I found very appealing not only for its more affordable living (compared to Vancouver), but also for the buzz the area seems to get:
Some even claim New West is envisioned to some day become something along the lines of what Brooklyn is to New York City today. I like the sound of that.
Brooklyn - and the entire New York Metro area - is one of my favorite places on Earth. I had the incredible privilege of living in Jersey City, NJ, only minutes from New York City, and Brooklyn for that matter, up until last week.
My move to Jersey City was due to an opportunity to join Samsung in 2009. My first interaction with Samsung came about six months after this blog was launched: I interviewed Samsung's Director of Digital Engagement Matt Moller (as well as former Samsung Director of eCommerce Keith Swiderski) live on my then-weekly podcast "The Social Nerdia Show!" - You can read and listen here.
It was an absolute honor to work at Samsung, one of the world's top 20 brands and the biggest technology company in the world. As Social Media Marketing Manager, I led the brand's U.S. social media strategy, execution, management, measurement, and between us… quite a bit more :)
Hired as the first Samsung team member to focus entirely on social media, I was able to work with incredibly smart and talented people who gave me the opportunity to lead major efforts such as the integration of social technologies and gamification into broader marketing campaigns and Samsung.com and Samsung's buzzworthy sponsorship activations at SXSW Interactive.
In the past few years I've seen Samsung go from completely absent in social media to having one of the strongest brand presences on Earth thanks to dozens of teams working in tandem around the world - we all had a common mission, and we all were passionate fans of Samsung ourselves. More importantly, I was fortunate to be part of the Samsung family and legacy during a key part of its history, one in which Samsung became a leader and innovator in multiple categories such as mobile and home appliances.
Samsung used to be a manufacturer that did not have much of a relationship with consumers, but today Samsung is a brand people love. There I said it. People love Samsung. The digital + social teams at Samsung have ensured that the company would be able to effectively communicate and engage directly with consumers, customers, critics, influencers and advocates - on a daily basis. I believe I was part of a pioneering era at Samsung, a time in which we ventured into uncharted territory and made some sense of the rapidly changing digital landscape, even amidst meaningful and worldwide economic concerns.
Getting back to Canada..
Moving to Canada was somewhat of a simple process for me because my wife is Canadian. While we were told that the application for a permanent residency could take up to a year, the process only took a few months. I'm glad, grateful - and relieved - to say that I am now officially a Canadian permanent resident.
I say "relieved" because for the past decade I had been in the U.S. as a non-immigrant from Guatemala - first as a student at SMU and then as an H1B visa holder. As my dependent, my wife had limited opportunities, and I had some limitations as well - not to mention the countless times I was asked very strange and even awkward questions at U.S. airports every time I returned from any other country. When it came time for us to decide between pursuing the U.S. green card process, which would've taken seven plus years and some financial investment, we decided to move to Canada instead. It wasn't easy to leave, not by any means, especially because of family and friends in NJ and NYC. The last few months have been full of questions, fear, and uncertainty, but it was well worth it looking back. While I am 100% grateful with the United States and the companies that welcomed me into their teams, I do wish the process was not so… complex. A Google search of keywords like "H1B" and "green card process" will return thousands of results, and dozens of forums in which you'll find endless threads of questions and answers about the immigration process, as discussed and debated by people from all over the world that contribute their talent, intelligence and passion to American society.
I do think everything happens for a reason and I'm glad we live in a day and age in which it is possible to work from virtually anywhere, and stay in close communication with my ex-colleagues, friends, and family (including the most creative advertising Art Director in NYC, IMHO). The social web will also allow me to stay in touch with Samsung's incredible customers and fellow fans.
Anyways, after making the decision that Vancouver was the place for us, my wife and I started making plans to make a coast-to-coast international move. We sold most of our earthly possessions on Craigslist, connected and re-connected with people in British Columbia, and re-prioritized our life. In a matter of weeks we made big decisions that will help us get our priorities in line: My wife is going back school to pursue a degree in Behavioral Neuroscience, and I will be joining one of my favorite startups in the world: NYC-based enterprise SMMS / SRP Sprinklr.
I've known and have worked with the Sprinklr team for a few years. I heard about the company while on a call with a Forrester analyst a few years ago and my first interaction with Sprinklr was filling out a form on sprinklr.com, followed by a call with Ragy Thomas, the company's CEO and founder, the next day.
After demoing Sprinklr's SaaS Platform, and thoroughly testing it against a plethora of other options in the market, we decided to select Sprinklr for Samsung USA social media management and measurement. Within months most of our U.S. and Canada marketing and customer support teams were using the tool. Today, Sprinklr has been rolled out all over the world by Samsung and its agencies, a testament to the company's ability to help large brands scale. Other great brands like Virgin America, Dell and Cisco have similar stories, and it demonstrates that Sprinklr is 100% focused on enterprise-grade solutions for customer-centric companies that truly want to lead in all things social.
I'm thrilled about joining the Sprinklr team. I will be able to leverage my knowledge, experience and passion to help large brands start, optimize and scale their social media efforts, while helping Sprinklr grow and evolve in what is clearly an exciting space in the tech industry today.
I say "exciting" not only because social media continues to be a hot topic, but because I truly believe that social will eventually become absolutely essential to how brands do business. Companies have relied on advertising, emails and call centers to connect with consumers for a long time, but that is simply not enough these days. Moving forward, publishing and listening to social media conversations will not be enough either.
Brands need to deliver fantastic customer experiences. It should be a priority, not just in paper and in commercials, but in every single thing a brand does. This is easier said than done, of course.
Social media strategies need to go beyond decks and siloed executions to a much more meaningful, integrated, and scalable approach to relating with, well, real people. Yes, a solid social media strategy must be set and then skillfully executed - but it must also be carefully envisioned, widely understood, thoroughly tested, rigorously analyzed, thoughtfully optimized and effectively scaled. More importantly, it must be something actual human beings will relate to, engage with, and something they'll find valuable or enjoyable enough that they'll want to share with the people they care about.
Successfully scaling social across teams, functions, divisions and geographies is challenging, no matter what industry you're in, but it's an important part of cultivating long-term relationships with customers, potential customers, and the public overall. Actual company-customer relationships require fantastic customer experiences - there's simply no short-cut in this day and age. Everyone is informed and everyone is a skeptic; brands are no longer just the stories they tell, but the stories they create across all touchpoints.
Again, easier said than done.
The bottom line is this: Sprinklr's philosophy and vision is all about helping enterprises scale social to deliver excellent customer experiences - constantly, consistently, seamlessly.
It's a noble cause.
So what about Social Nerdia?
Well, exploring the present and future of consumer / customer / user experiences has always been at the center of what this blog is all about. Social Nerdia will continue to bring you interviews and opinion pieces (hopefully good ones) about the present and future of the convergence of technology, marketing and social media. You can be sure of that.
If you'd like to learn more about my thoughts on how the digital landscape is changing - as well as why I'm confident that Sprinklr is well positioned to help brands take their social media efforts to the next level - feel free to contact me at socialnerdia(at)gmail.com or connect with me all over the social web by visiting estebancontreras.com.
And if you think you'd like to join Sprinklr yourself, check out the careers page here.