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  • Writer's picture Chris McKay | Social Media Expert

Upload:Search Conference - In Conversation with Chris

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

As lockdown continued throughout the UK, conferences up and down the country were trading packed exhibition halls for virtual breakout rooms to make sure attendees could still get the most from this year's events.

This year, I was asked to take part in Upload:Search, a one day event that gave people insight across SEO, Paid Search, Data & Analytics, Social and Content. The sold out event featured talks from Facebook, TikTok and Microsoft, so it was a pleasure to be included on the line up.

My session gave an insight on career progression within Social Media, talking about my path from freelance Journalist to Head of Brand Engagement at Hillarys, what advice I give to upcoming digital marketeers, Influencer Marketing and some of my biggest successes and failures throughout the years.

Thanks to Laura Thomas, Media Innovation Director at MediaCom for inviting me along for a Q&A. The condensed version of the interview is below along with the full video of the recorded session.

What happened before Hillarys?

"I was trained as a journalist and my first job outside of university was writing about dance music and festivals, which was wicked and I loved it! I then fell into PR, something a lot of people nowadays do when they move from journalism and ended up working on some exciting stuff from launching the first festival click and collect service, Cravendale's new TV advert with The Muppets and Coral's Removal Van Persie PR stunt. Back then social media wasn't really a thing but I then got the opportunity to do Digital Marketing at Ministry of Sound running online display, social media, emails for the nightclub and the radio.

"I was then offered an opportunity to completely change the face of social media at Hillarys, a 40-year-old company that had been running Facebook and Twitter off the side of the desk for years. And that's something I couldn't turn down, it was exciting to shape it from the very beginning."

Which platforms have paid off by being early adopters?

"Outside of Facebook, some of the biggest platforms we've seen perform well are Pinterest and Instagram. Pinterest is fantastic for research and the consideration phase can sometimes be up to nine months so it's a great way of getting in front of a potential customer early in the buying journey. Instagram is great for visual content, with Stories and in-feed giving different options for brands to share varied amount of content.

"However, one thing I'm seeing is people just consider 'The Big 6' as social media but really social media encompasses smaller platforms too like niches on forums or groups where people talk about passions and it's just as important to understand the potential of these as it is the major players."

How have influencers (including nano and micro) impacted what you do?

"Our Abigail Ahern collection for Hillarys is a prime example of how our influencer marketing has changed over the years. We started out by using Abigail as an influencer for one piece of content and by using social media as a barometer for what our audience liked, we then started exploring what else we could do with her. We've since launched an exclusive collection with her now, which is fantastic and are continuing looking at ways to use influencers differently going forward.

"What's important to note though is that every brand will have influencers who will try and get something in exchange for a social media post. It's about picking and choosing the right influencer for your brand and not rushing to work with everyone. You want to create a campaign around an influencer so that it doesn't feel like a 'paid for advert' but more an authentic partnership that has longeivity."

Do you see a shift that broadcast marketing principles are moving to social media and social media principles moving to broadcast?

"Yes definitely. Channels are learning from each other and marketeers are getting smarter with their measurement. People want an ROI and want to know why that's the best TV channel to be on or best social media platform for a specific audience. I think marketeers are driving this though because we want to find that golden nugget of why something has worked and the more people grow up with it, the more companies will have to find a solution for it."

What advice would you give to people who want to be a Social Media Manager?

"1. It's not a '9 to 5' job! You've got to love it and even if you're not at work it's about keeping up with the latest changes on different platforms and taking inspiration from what other brands are doing too.

"2. Networking is so important. Getting yourself out there and meeting people whether that's in Facebook Groups, LinkedIn, local meet-ups with other digital marketeers. It's great to share knowledge and have those connections with people in other industries.

"3. If you're going to be niche you've got to be an expert. If you want to be dedicated platform channel manager you have to know everything there is to know about that platform.

"4. Be brave. Don't be afraid to give something a go. Sometimes social media ideas don't work but it's all about learning and adapting. Some of the best examples of viral campaigns came from brands being brave.

"5. Education is key. There are people in industries who you will have to take on the journey of social media with you because they don't understand it as much as you. That's okay though, you just have to be patient and build their knowledge up as to why these platforms are important."

What will have changed in 5 years time in social media?

"There is a lot of talk about meaningful conversations, which I think will stay. It'll be less about broadcasting to the masses and more about having interactions with your audience on a deeper level.

"Creatively, the bar will just keep getting higher and higher! Video, static images, AR, VR, etc will continue to push imagination as people want to see something that will 'WOW' them.

"Looking at how we use social media, I think lots of platforms will start to take behaviours from how we use technology as a whole like dictation and voice notes instead of writing out status updates or posts.

"And finally, I think Facebook will start to challenge Netflix and streaming services more, using Watch as a function for original content as well as binge-watching series or films."

What would you say to all Social Media Managers out there thinking about their career?

"There is no such thing as a vertical career path. There are so many opportunities out there, whether you are agency side, brand side or freelancing you have more opportunities now than ever before to create your career how you want it. Don't see yourself in a linear progression, try and find something you're really passionate about and then drive for that."

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