Jennifer Baker belongs to a new breed of marketing professionals: social media marketers. This is a field of some interest to me; mainly because I find it bizarre, confusing, and somewhat nonsensical! Based on how I see social media being used, and from conversations with other business owners, I am not alone. Fortunately, Jennifer was able shine some light on social media, clarifying its purpose and providing examples on how to use it. Let’s hear it for Kingston’s preeminent social media marketer!
Sam: What brought you to Kingston?
Jennifer: I followed my husband!
Social Media, as a marketing discipline, is fairly new. How did you get involved?
One of my responsibilities at Kedco was creating and giving seminars and workshops. These included marketing, finance, and human resources. At the time, social media was becoming a “big thing”, and was being introduced to the business world. Some companies had Twitter accounts, and Facebook had just introduced their business pages. As I worked with clients, I was asked “I keep hearing about Facebook. What is it, and what do I do with it?” I started making social media seminars, teaching people how to use Facebook and Twitter. I ran four or five seminars a year, they always filled up, and that was that!
What led you to start your own company?
Sidneyeve Matrix is a professor in the media department at Queens. I heard her speak a couple of times on social media, and she was fantastic. She would present the results and benefits of using social media, but then people would say “Great… but how do you actually do that?” The hands-on tactical part was missing. I saw the need to provide some actual know how, in terms of putting up a page, sharing good content, and providing messages that people want to hear.
Meanwhile, at Kedco, my job was changed due to a maternity leave, and I was put into the business attraction and retention team. After eight months, I realized I was getting further and further away from what I wanted to do. I applied to a Bachelor of Education in Adult Learning, gave my four months’ notice, went back to school, and started a business! I talked to my very supportive husband, and said I was going to give this a go, and if a year in it’s not working, I’ll get a job. I’m in my second year now, and it’s going even better than I hoped.
For someone just starting out, what are some basic guidelines for using social media?
When I’m introducing social media in a seminar or directly to a client, I start with strategy. One of the biggest challenges is that people fail to realize that it is marketing, and not every social media platform is appropriate for every business. People will jump in with Twitter, Facebook, or whatever without any training or plan, and after six months or so they’ll see it isn’t working, it’s wasting their time, and abandon it. I view social media as a set of tools, and not every tool is right for the job. What you do needs to be in line with your business. I wouldn’t suggest putting your business on Facebook, for example. The average Facebook user is not your clientele.
I run a six week bootcamp where I introduce six social media tools. At the end of the twitter session, you might say “this is the stupidest tool ever”… and that’s okay! It’s about finding the right fit for your business. In regards to platforms, the big three are Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Depending on your business you may want to add Pinterest, and call it the big four.
The biggest part of strategy is content. For example, are you going to be running contests? Will you be posting photos? How will you gather interesting and relevant information and share it with your audience? You also have to balance talking about your business with other information. This all depends on the business and its goals.
Is anyone in town using social media particularly effectively?
Sustainable Kingston is doing well, posting good stuff on a set calendar. Keys Job Centre is another good one. Their posts are very consistent, and have really well written, on brand messages. I also like Menchies in Kingston. They were especially good before they opened, with an incredible ramp up to their launch.
What are your thoughts on working in Kingston?
Kingston is a small community, and I kind of like that. Everybody seems to know somebody else, which is how I get a lot of my business. From a business perspective, there are a lot of businesses in town that people don’t know about, that are incredible. I was fortunate that my role at Kedco allowed me to visit a lot of them. They’re not on Princess, they’re not on Bath, but if you go into business parks you’ll see a lot of great operations. We also have a lot of government, and long-term potential for growth.
Any final thoughts?
If you’re going to use social media, it’s best to have a strategy and figure things out before jumping in. I see a lot of people and companies that look silly and lost. Also, communication is key! There is a feeling that, in social media, kids do it better, and the social media marketing will be given to a younger person, even if they can’t write a decent sentence, respond to a call to action, or deal with issues that come up. You need to use a good communicator, who is familiar with public relations and writing. Once again, communication is key!
Big thanks to Jennifer, for sharing her thoughts and advice.