Interview Series: Cathy Wassell
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Cathy Wassell – a smart, dynamic entrepreneur that navigated the retail Sales and Marketing industry for years to finally be won over by Social Media were she embarked on a wonderful journey that lead her to become the founder of Socially Contented – a UK Social Media Agency that offers Social Media Management, Training and Auditing services for all major platforms and for all channels.
In this interview Cathy gives us a glimpse of her journey into Social Media Management, the creation of the Socially Contented Agency as well as how she came to join the Digital Mums course and community, the #DMCollective and the launch of the #GoWithThePro initiative .
Of course, she also let us in on some predictions for Social Media in 2018. 😊
Cathy, can you please give the readers a run-through of the moment you chose to work and focus on marketing and Social Media? What made you take on this industry?
I worked as Sales & Marketing Manager for an international retailer for 19 years. Naturally, when I started working with them in 1995 there was no such thing as social media. But gradually it became the trend to have a Facebook account, and I managed that.
When I was made redundant, I started freelancing and decided to focus on social media. I also wanted a role I could take on remotely, as I had no childcare options (that didn’t cost a fortune!) and also by this point 2 dogs to take care of. I didn’t want to be out of the house all day.
Social media works very well remotely as long as your client can provide you with photos from time to time. It’s also great fun, and utilises skills like copywriting and marketing which I had also built up over my career.
What are some challenges you have found navigating this industry when working for a company, as a freelancer, and as founder of your own agency (Socially Contented)?
I think the main challenge of freelancing for me is the instability. There’s no specific salary you know that you will earn over the year, and that can be difficult in terms of managing household finances. In our family, my husband is salaried so we do have some predicable income at least.
I know many other people struggle with loneliness, but I’ve been working from home now for 16 years so I think I have become rather a hermit! I actually don’t like the co-working spaces which are popping up all over the UK, and find them distracting, but I know for some they are great.
Another challenge for social media managers working for themselves rather than an agency is that clients tend to be smaller businesses who often don’t know that much about what social media can do for them and don’t have much of a budget. A lot of time can be wasted in nurturing them to a point where they are comfortable letting someone take over their social media channels.
The challenge in setting up Socially Contented was the same as all other small business owners – having to teach yourself every aspect of running a business from scratch – and quickly! I am just in the process of revamping my website because I didn’t know exactly what I needed when I first planned it, only that I needed one.
Can you tell us a bit more about Digital Mums and how it has shaped your journey and strategy in social media management?
When I decided that I wanted to specialise in social media strategy and marketing, I knew that I needed to educate myself much more on the analytics side. I already had 20 years of marketing experience but I had little experience of studying the metrics of social media channels and what that actually translates to for a business.
I had been reading about the Digital Mums course, and decided this was what I needed. Digital Mums is actually a social enterprise created to help mums back to work after a career break, or to help them retrain to a career which is more family-friendly. It’s a 6 month course and I worked with a live client, so in order to enroll I needed to have either a marketing, journalism or PR background. The course was extremely comprehensive and constantly updated according to changes in the world of social media.
It gave me the confidence I needed but best of all it gave me the #DMCollective – the collection of other women who have taken the course. They are a constant source of knowledge, help, inspiration and emotional support available at any time and they are invaluable.
#GoWithThePro and the #DMCollective is a great group of female professionals and an amazing initiative! How different has it been approaching Social Media Management for #GoWithThePro and supporting and guiding female professionals in the Online Marketing – Social Media field? What inspired you to take on the role as the Social Media Manager for GoWithThePro? Can you tell the readers a bit about the #DMCollective awards?
In fact it was the #DMCollective who inspired me to launch #GoWithThePro, a campaign to encourage businesses to take their social media channels seriously and manage them professionally. We kept hearing of professional women in social media, PR or journalism roles who had been let go, only to discover the company was now using an intern to complete the role. We are not anti-intern at all, just the opposite, but an intern deserves to be trained and mentored, not thrown in at the deep end with a responsibility they don’t have the experience for. We encourage businesses to understand that their social media channels are the first port of call now for any customer service enquiry, and are in fact their digital shop fronts.
There are so many fabulous and inspiring women in the #DMCollective that one of our members, Nicole Andrews, was inspired to set up an Awards Night. She wanted to support another member, Ruth, who was undergoing cancer treatment. A few of us got together and linked the Awards with #GoWithThePro to create a fantastic night, honour some great social media managers and raise a lot of money for charity.
We aren’t sure yet where we are taking #GoWithThePro next but you will be hearing about it!
I have now set up a Facebook Group, Social Content Marketing, to help social media managers and business owners produce engaging content. It’s new but it’s a very engaged group and I’m so pleased that lots of members seem to be getting a benefit from it.
As an experienced Social Media Manager that has applied strategies for companies from different countries and for different geographical targets how does Social Media Management approach and understanding differ in your opinion and experience?
I have worked with a wide variety of clients but ultimately social media success boils down to two things – engagement and authenticity.
I often tell new clients that they need to put the social back in to their social media. They haven’t been enjoying success because they have just been broadcasting about me, me, me. Ultimately nobody wants to just hear about you. They want a conversation. They want you to be interested in them, in what they need. And they need you to be present, not to post and disappear. This all takes a lot of time, and that’s one reason why it is often not done well. I still see adverts for 10 tweets for £10. Well, you can pay £10 if you want but you may as well just throw it into the trash. 10 tweets written in a hurry knowing nothing about your brand identity, your brand tone of voice, your target audience and what they want, are 10 meaningless tweets.
How do you see the social media industry shaping in the near future?
I certainly think social media is here to stay, at least in some form.
Facebook changes are already taking place and are going to make it much harder for businesses to reach their audiences organically, but at promise of a better feed for all of us, fingers crossed.
AI and bots are going to transform marketing and indeed life in general in ways the ordinary person hasn’t even considered. The strides made in some industries such as medicine are astonishing but they are also going to be valuable for less altruistic industries like marketing. Using VR to see what your room will look like with a particular sofa in, for example, is radically different to just seeing an image of video of that sofa.
Video is still going to be very big in 2018 also, and is being used on other channels such as LinkedIn now to great effect. All businesses need to embrace video when the reach it can achieve is so much better than other formats. We just need to get more comfortable with it, but that will come. It’s an exciting time!
Cathy runs social media consultancy Socially Contented and has 20 years of marketing experience. She lives in Stratford upon Avon, UK, 5 minutes from Shakespeare’s house and often thinks about how he probably walked on the land where her house and garden now stands! She has two children and two spaniels and it’s difficult to say which are more trouble. @cathywassell
#DigitalMum, #GoWithThePro , founder @socialcontented. Published in @HuffPoUK @Telegraph