We’re bombarded by social media every day, so it’s easy to forget the medium is barely more than a decade old. That means people who have become social media marketers or experts are largely self-taught, learning from each other and following their passion.  To learn more, the Calgary Journal talked with three dynamic professionals in the field to discover how they got into social media marketing and what’s next. 

@Crackmacs

@Crackmacs, run by an anonymous couple who disguise themselves with horse masks, tweets about the interesting happenings near their downtown Calgary apartment.     Photo courtesy of @Crackmacs

Engaging with Calgarians is how the anonymous couple behind the local Twitter handle @Crackmacs got their start. The duo moved into their apartment in downtown Calgary and noticed a very vibrant scene at the Mac’s near the 8th Street LRT station. They had a bird’s eye view of drunk people doing drunk people things, fighting, emergency services, parades and dancing in the street.

Their social media account didn’t start as a tool for community outreach. They shared only what was happening outside in real-time and updates were sporadic. But as their following grew, they started branching out into other things, sharing local stories and bringing awareness to events that didn’t necessarily have an advertising budget.

After the flood in 2013, the couple realized they had a great resource to help Calgarians get information they needed right away. Though they still share “the good, the bad, and the ugly” of their neighbourhood, now they  stick more to the positive side of things and have turned their hobby into a successful side business.

@Crackmacs are the first to admit they aren’t social media experts and they got their success partly through trial and error.

Once they hit the 5,000-follower mark, they noticed things were taking off. Media and businesses began taking an interest in what @Crackmacs had to say, and they admit that seeing their name ‘Crackmacs’ on TV for the first time was hilarious.

Despite their growing audience, they’ve noticed any content regarding politics gets a lot of negative attention, especially if it’s from a female perspective. They are called names, dismissed, and they even get death threats.

“It doesn’t matter what side of an issue we land on,       someone is going to be offended. Instead we focus on being genuine in our thoughts and being true to our beliefs,” says the female half of the duo.

Emma Vaughn

Emma Vaughn has helped businesses all over the world, including here in Calgary, perfect their social accounts. She works for Main Street Hub, a social media marketing firm, and she hosts educational workshops and webinars to help businesses get more word-of-mouth referrals on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Yelp out of Los Angeles.

Emma Vaughn combines her passion for social media and community outreach with Main Street Hub. Photo courtesy of Sierra Prescott

Vaughn got her start in social media during grad school in California. She was working at a coffee shop while completing her master’s degree in psychology. It was her thesis on Facebook and outgoing personality that caused her to fall in love with social media research. It wasn’t long before she was hired at Main Street Hub, which combined her two passions: social media and helping local businesses.

Social networks are here to stay, Vaughn says, because everyone is on it.

“It’s not just a platform for young people.”

In fact, while 90 per cent of young adults are on social media, 35 per cent of adults 65 and older are also using it, according to the Pew Research Center. Not only do users use social networks to connect with friends, but more and more people are using social media to connect with brands and businesses, from tweeting a photo of their lunch to checking reviews on businesses they’re about to visit.

“That’s why we help local businesses with their social media marketing, because it’s pervasive, easier to use — particularly on mobile — and more available than ever before,” Vaughn says

The social media world is new and changing rapidly, which is why there’s a thirst for new skills and knowledge about the field.

Though Vaughn’s webinars, which are geared exclusively toward local business owners, are free, her team behind Main Street Hub charges upward of US$600 a week for their social media services, which are designed  to help restaurant owners, retail, hotels, spa and salon businesses, bars and special event organizers. They also provide personal social media services and can even help you get an account started for your pet.

“You can never know too much about what to post, when to post it, the right platforms to use, and how to measure your metrics to make sure your efforts are performing,” says Vaughn.

Her advice to anyone starting a business and looking to promote it online is to have two-way conversations with customers before, during and after they’ve visited your business. Social media is about interacting, reaching out to new and potential customers, having conversations and engaging.

Kathleen Smiley

Kathleen Smiley, a former Mount Royal University student with a major in public relations, found her way in social media with Studio Revolution Fitness, a unique workout spot on 17th Avenue that combines yoga with surfing.

At first, Smiley struggled to move beyond the concepts she learned as a public relations student, especially when it came to the right tone to match the company’s brand

“It’s surf! And it’s fitness! And it’s fun! And you can use slang and play up trends that are happening in Calgary,” says Smiley, who also noticed the traditional emphasis on professional content and word choice went out the door when she began working in social media.

Her career lead her first to Viral in Nature, a social media agency, then to a content creation position with Local Laundry Apparel, a Calgary clothing company.

She says her skills are mostly self-taught “anything that I’ve learned is either experience-based, I’ve pulled from public relations, or have found online.”

Though an education does help, you don’t need one to work in  the social media industry.

Kathleen Smiley, a public relations professional, creates content for Loval Laundry Apparel. Photo courtesy of Janet Davie

bsackschewsky@cjournal.ca 

Editor: Rosemary De Souza | rdesouza@cjournal.ca