As part of our series of sharing the stories, experiences and know how of women who are forging their own path in life I couldn't resist catching up with Meredith Collins of Video. Social. Marketing.
The first time we talked it was like finding that long lost friends from years ago and picking up from where we'd left off, expect talking over the phone was our first conversation. It turned out we have friends and family in common, a passion for marketing and business and the belief that you are responsible for the world you create.
What do you enjoy about having your own business with Video. Social. Marketing?
Flexibility is a key and I enjoy the opportunity to be master of my own destiny. I am always able to be on the lookout for new ways to create win/win alliances and collaborative opportunities. I need never feel boxed in - and if I am, then refer to sentence 1!
Who inspires you?
The characteristics of a person who inspires me include someone who is generous and magnanimous in business. Someone who has an abundant mentality and recognises that there is enough for us all - they don't become protective or constricted in their thinking or approach. I really admire creative thinkers as well as people that have recognised to have, build and run a successful business, that we need a team - a team of people that carry out lots of tasks far better than the business owner themselves! That requires a relinquishing of control and recognition of our own weaknesses and others' strengths.
Do you feel you find a good work/life balance? What works for you?
It took me a long time to strike this balance. It's not easy because having a business is like another child (or spouse). A business requires attention, nurture and care and I made the mistake of "caring" to the exclusion of all else!
Now, I factor in time for moderate exercise a few times a week, I factor in "office days" so that I don't have to work outside of hours to catch up AND I have a self imposed rule of no working after dinner (unless the circumstances are massively extenuating).
I've found it is about being disciplined, having boundaries and setting realistic expectations for clients and staff as well as finding a better business model which means I'm more leveraged.
What do you love about having your own business?
The variety and flexibility! I love not being tied into set hours and that I have a lot of variety in my days. The challenge of getting programs up and running is exciting and creates a great buzz for me - and I get to "live and die by the sword". My success is directly linked to how smart I am about what I do, the people I surround myself with and efficiencies (which is challenging for my spaghetti brain in itself!).
What has been the most challenging experience of having your own business?
Learning to have "difficult conversations" with staff, clients and suppliers. Coming to terms with all the realities and nuances of running a business - lots of us (including me) set up our businesses with a passion for what we do - and we don't always realise the responsibilities and challenges that come with that commitment.
Once I recognised that running a business is not necessarily about just getting to do what I love all the time, but being able to have great conversations with service providers and get the best out of people, it has become less challenging and I am more accepting of the realities.
What do you think are the biggest problems businesses face with creating a social media strategy?
The biggest challenges are around having no real plan or outcomes in mind, along with a website that is maybe substandard or not an effective hub for the business. A lot of business owners have entered into social media thinking that it's a "silver bullet" or that it's "easy" and it's not - just like any other business function, there should be measures in place, key performance indicators (KPIs) and accountabilities set and a finite amount of time spent in social media. It's too easy to lose hours a week without any real knowledge of how effective the social strategy is for deriving business results.
What are your 5 tips for businesses making the most effective use of social media marketing?
1. Work out what you want to achieve - is it online visibility generally, is it a community of advocates, do you want to drive more hits to the website, is it to create more leverage and efficiencies - when you know what you want to achieve it will assist you to choose your platforms and assist you to drive your value propositions for the market.
2. Develop a cohesive strategy that encompasses business goals and ties them back into your marketing and digital strategy - social media afterall is a part of the marketing mix.
3. Charge the RIGHT person with accountabilities for your social media marketing implementation. Just because someone is "young" doesn't mean they're "right". Work through the strategy together and determine if they're capable and able to drive the operational (day to day) side of social media.
4. Work out how you will measure the success of social media (we largely use Google Analytics) and understand what "success" means on each platform - "talking about this" may be a measure on Facebook, but on LinkedIn, it may be visibility of your profile to the market. Every platform is different and needs to be measured in accordance with the social strategy.
5. It takes time - social media is not a short term strategy - allow 6 months to bed down the plan and measure it regularly.