Living Boldly: A Conversation with David Walmsley, Founder of Social Victory

In our competitive cities, you need to be bold to set yourself apart.

So we found six of the boldest men in Canada to gain a little more insight into their lives, jobs, and their competitive edge. 

David Walmsley is the Founder & Principal of Social Victory – a multidisciplinary social media marketing firm located in Vancouver.   

With interests in avant-garde fashion, obscure literature, societal patterns, science, and wine, David Walmsley is an expert in many fields.  

Originally from the east coast, Walmsley moved out to Vancouver where he received a B.A. from UBC in English and Sociology. 

By 2011, David founded Social Victory. And since the launch of his company, he’s not only become a part of the Board of Directors for TedxVancouver, but has also accrued clients that range from cancer research firms to fashion boutiques. 

Working for himself has allowed Walmsley to not only take on clients that share similar values and work ethics, but it’s also given him the flexibility to take on clients in various industries. 

And what’s bolder than that?

Tell us what you do in less than 140 characters. Go.
What is that on Twitter, a sentence and a half? I run a social media and online marketing company called Social Victory.

What is the one most significant milestone that helped you end up where you are today?
I grew up in a fairly small town in Southern Ontario. It’s only about 55,000 people still and I moved out here to Vancouver for UBC. It’s one of those cookie cutter towns where after high school you stay there, you get married, you have four kids, and you never leave. I was one of the few people to leave.

Graffigna celebrates men who live bold. What does living boldly mean to you?
Doing things individually and not necessarily just working within the confines of your own industry.
Drinking red wine says a lot about a person. What does it say about you?
Red wine and Scotch (which I also really like) have certain similarities in terms of tasting and pairing. They have dryer tastes and more of an association with red meat. Red is also more of a complete lifestyle thing and more of a conversation piece.

Who would you most like to share a glass of Graffigna with? 
John Cleese – he’s one of the originators and original writers of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers. He’s been a centerpiece in British comedy for 50 years and is super eccentric.

Also, Neil deGrass Tyson. One, he’s the all over the place in terms of what he does and his sphere of influence. He is super down to earth in what he does even though he’s essentially teaching astrophysics; he does so in a way that makes it open and approachable.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in your career and how did you manage to do so?
I’d say learning when to walk away from negative situations. Not every client or work situation is going to be the right one. It’s important to get to the point where you can realize a caustic relationship and leave on the right foot. For me, it was a matter of learning firsthand and deciding my priorities were elsewhere.

The world of social media is always evolving. How do you set yourself apart from your peers in this space/ stay ahead of the game?
A big thing for me is to understand other mediums and aspects outside of social media. Working as a contractor for independent organizations, it can seem hard to build something that is cohesive. For a company that has someone doing PR, outbound email marketing, branding, and retargeting it can be very difficult to match up and have a good collaboration. So, having at least a relative understanding of those other aspects is important.

Working with Chris Neary over at Frank Strategy, who is also the Chairman of the board for TedxVancouver, has really allowed me to learn in that space. For a company to get to a point of social media you need to go through the bigger processes of incorporating, starting a business, and doing the big branding. So, you go from the top and work your way down. Knowing how everything else works is a big advantage.

What drives you on a daily basis?
I like learning. One of the things that I’ve done is chosen not to specialize. A lot of companies in social media and marketing or business-based in general, will pick their bread and butter. Some companies will be tech-focused; some of them will be food only, and others only non-profit. So a lot of companies will specialize in one.

Working in very different spaces all of the time not only keeps you necessarily more motivated, but you’re always learning and on your toes because you have to switch between different styles and concepts in 50 seconds – biotech and cancer research, then it’s food, and the next 30 seconds, it’s security and education.
Who’s someone you look up to, someone who’s living the kind of life you aspire to lead?
Definitely Scott Stratten. He has a podcast called Unmarketing that he’s super outspoken on and will make arguments against big industry driving forces. Stratten is also an advocate for good business and ethical marketing. What I respect about him is not that he doesn’t have a filter, but that he’s open in sharing his expertise in a forum that isn’t scripted and comes from the gut.  

What advice do you have for anyone else who’s trying to live their life as boldly as possible?
Doing things from your own vision as opposed to what you think is necessary.

If all you’re doing is working within the structure of your industry then you’re not going to do anything interesting and nothing new will happen. If you want any kind of progress, it takes somebody to think for him or herself and to not fall back on just what’s happening. One of the biggest assets in marketing is your personal experience, I find. That’s where you’ll get a lot of exploration from and that’s what I would recommend – using your own talent, knowledge, and experience. As opposed to traditional training, it isn’t necessarily the best way to do business.

What’s next for you? Where do you see yourself a year from now, 5 years, 10 years?
Thus far, Social Victory has been all referral-based, which has been an asset up until this point because I haven’t wanted to scale out. However, within the near future I plan on working with a friend that has a long-standing history in client sales. So, within 5 years hopefully scaling out to turn into a larger agency, but I also want to be responsible about the process. I never want to get in a situation where I hire anyone and the work isn’t there to sustain it. 

In terms of where I see myself in 10 years – I’m one of those people who like to live in the moment.


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