Geek Speak: Bonnie Sainsbury, cohost of Women Talking Tech

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      Bonnie Sainsbury is critical of what she calls Kumbaya marketing on the Internet. You can hear her opine on this and other topics twice a month on the new Women Talking Tech webcast, which she hosts with Margaret Reynolds.

      Sainsbury is an online business strategist who runs Vancouver’s Left Brain Marketing. Her firm offers online marketing and social media marketing services to mostly medium-sized businesses.

      The first Women Talking Tech webcast took place on January 17. Sainsbury is also a regular guest on The Bunker Project podcast. She lives in Kitsilano.

      The Georgia Straight reached Sainsbury by phone in Vancouver.

      Why did you start the Women Talking Tech webcast?

      Both Margaret and I read voraciously on the Internet, and there’s still a gender bias on the Internet. There are so many very, very smart, tech-savvy women out there, and I don’t think it’s a matter of gender. It’s a matter of interest, it’s a matter of how your brain works, and it’s the time you have to devote to it.

      Both Margaret and I are blonde, and people want to pat us on the head and overexplain concepts to us. We just smile to each other. This is a lighthearted, sometimes a little edgy look at technology from a tech-savvy woman’s point of view—not from a woman’s point of view. We will not be looking at pink iPad cases, recipe apps, or any of those so-called apps.

      So many technology conferences still have speaker lineups with no women or a token woman. What do you think when you see that in this day and age?

      I wonder where we’ve been. I’ve been around for 30 years, and nothing has changed. I don’t understand it. There are more women using technology. I think in terms of finding a job it’s a little easier, and part of it is because there’s a shortage of very, very good people.

      But in social media, which is part of tech—it’s not the geeky part—there are certainly a lot of women leaders. There’s now also more women in gaming, so I think we’re moving forward. But not in traditional geeky—as you said—conferences.

      What do many marketers get wrong on social media?

      I call it Kumbaya marketing. It’s marketing. It isn’t having a chatty conversation with your friend. I talk about business social, so it’s the same kind of conversation that you had with somebody when you used to go golfing—and maybe you still go golfing with them or you belong to clubs. It’s certainly more casual than a straight business meeting, but it is business and it’s marketing.

      But the other thing I think people get wrong is not testing metrics. They don’t know what their reach is or how effective that marketing campaign is. Part of it is because these are free tools. The tools are free, but the time you take both to set up a strategy, if you do, and actually execute it isn’t free, so it can be very expensive.

      Any tips for controlling your online presence?

      You should have a really good idea of who you are and who your niche market—who your community—is. I know that’s so basic. But, when we sit down and talk to people, often they’re not able to define their community, their niche market. They say “everybody”, “women over 30”, and that’s way too general. That’s basic marketing.

      All of the basic marketing principles apply to online marketing. In fact, you have to be more focused online, because there’s a lot of that face to face that’s missing. When you’re online, you have to be very, very clear. It’s anywhere from three seconds to eight seconds to get their attention—whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or any of them.

      How should organizations be taking advantage of the growth in mobile?

      First of all, everything they do has got to be mobile. It has to be able to display well on a smartphone and a tablet. That doesn’t mean that you have to take a very, very expensive website and totally redo it. But you do need a mobile presence, and you have to have a call to action or a way for people to buy online.

      An awful lot of people I know—they see something on their smartphone or their tablet—if you give them an opportunity to connect with you or buy from you quickly, they will do it. I don’t think most companies are doing that.

      The first episode of Women Talking Tech.

      Every Friday, Geek Speak catches up with someone in Vancouver’s technology sector, video-game industry, or social-media scene. Who should we interview next? You can tell Stephen Hui on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.



      Andrew McGivern

      Feb 1, 2013 at 2:45pm

      Great interview! Bonnie knows her stuff when it comes to Social Media and Technology.

      Louise Taylor

      Feb 4, 2013 at 9:24am

      I appreciate the feeling of being patronized in a tech environment. However, when women talk about tech at 1,000,000 feet then complain they're not being taken seriously is a bit of a stretch.

      Social Media channels aren't so much kumbaya once you understand what the purpose that channel represents. To be successful takes more than gender and age to break through the clutter I agree. However,not only do marketers need to do their research on whom their target markets are, they also should understand how to frame the appropriate content for the right platforms.

      Look forward to your next broadcast.