Catch Up

Why I got a younger mentor, so on the ‘digital edge’ she was almost falling off….

Think that your mentor needs to be older and wiser; what if they were younger and wiser? As we mature, many assume that we are reaching the age of becoming the mentor not the mentee, the teacher not the student, which ignores the fact that hopefully life is one long journey of learning.

When I decided to take up part-time residency in a new world, the digital world, it was clear I needed to employ the services of a native to translate and teach me the ways of the new land. Sure I had my team of a web developer and digital consultant but I also wanted to learn from someone who had created a successful, talked about blog. Thus, in addition to enlisting the help of my digitally savvy niece/god daughter (Jenna who writes the Listen up part of thewtproject) I roped in the services of a very cool 27-year old blogger Natalie Smith whom my friend had introduced me to.

Natalie Smith

Natalie Smith

By the time I met her in 2012, Natalie had created two successful blogs – So Much To Tell You, a well-followed exchange of inspiration and interviews between her and Viva writer Zoe Walker whilst Natalie lived in Sydney.And then, her food site, created with Simon Farrell-Green, Eat Here Now was designed around a love of eating out and a belief that there was a dearth of critical reviews of Auckland food. It was so on the money that within months it had attracted a corporate sponsor.

Bloggers who  created SO MUCH TO TELL YOU

Bloggers who created SO MUCH TO TELL YOU

Eat Here Now site

Eat Here Now site

She was so ‘cutting edge and cool” that I secretly nicknamed her “2cool” short for 2cool4school. I used to say to a friend – “I have another session with 2cool tonight”. Lucky I had something she needed – coaching on “what to do next”. So we struck a contra deal – a few coaching sessions for a few blogging mentoring sessions.One memorable evening she made me and two other aspiring middle aged bloggers dinner at her very cool Herne Bay flat, stroking the fur of her supercool cat Gershwin. We learnt how to do links, embed code, turn on a computer even – it must have been agonizing for the poor dear.

As I sat like a wide-eyed moron with my new Apple laptop (like all the bloggers have) trying to decipher the back end hieroglyphics of my site, Natalie looked at me with a sort of godIcan’tbelievethiswomanhasgotthisfarinlifewithoutknowingthisstuff look on her face.

Anyway, soon after a “what have you got to lose?” coaching session, 2cool was winging her way to London to find her digital fame and fortune.

That was 13 months ago. After sending me the occasional encouraging email about thewtfproject of the “good girl, keep going” variety, she recently breezed back into town and swung by to see me to tell me about her now dazzling life in London. I was delighted to find she is now working at the hottest digital agency in London as a Senior e-content Strategist, travelling the world on business assignments, creating campaigns for fabulous brands and LOVING it…. job of her dreams etc.

Here is a brief interview with Natalie. If you want to know more about social media READ ON

Tell us about your job?

I’m a strategist at an agency called R/GA. I work on a couple of clients, researching the market, helping them plan out their digital marketing presence, come up with creative ideas for campaigns and ongoing look, feel and tone of voice, connect their business objectives with marketing efforts – most of my work is for brands that are female-focussed.

So how did you land such a choice job in the coolest city in the world?

A combination of tenacity and luck!

What was your most important lesson?

Having a strong digital presence of my own as a calling card was invaluable; as well as remembering what I’m about and not deviating – I love my niche which is the intersection of digital, women and creativity, and I feel glad every morning that I stuck to carving that out for myself and not veering from my specialty.

What do you say to people who are not digitally inclined?

Well, I believe that ‘digital’ is simply a new way of communicating in the way we always have. It’s technology that enables us to exhibit the same behaviours (sharing, conversing, etc) in a faster, more efficient and visible way. I think it’s important to remember that. I’d also say – don’t be afraid – whether it’s a business interest or just for personal communications or god, finding a recipe or a like-minded person, it’s a comparatively inexpensive and always reversible form of communicating – think of how much it might cost to write, design, print and post a magazine – and then compare how quick and cost-effective it is to create a blog to share your thoughts with the world! It’s also fun – and a great way of creating a community.

I’ve only just got the hang of Facebook, what impact has the public listing had on Facebook?

More and more, social platforms are shifting to a more aggressive money making model. Facebook is the most obvious example, but Twitter and Pinterest are also re-jigging their algorithms to monetize their businesses. So – you’ll see more ‘boosted’ or ‘paid-for’ posts on them, and brands will find they need to pay for their content to be seen at all.

So what are your social media platforms of choice and why?

For myself and for my clients, I love Instagram. It’s mobile-centric (in 2014 there will be more mobile devices that personal computers for the first time), it’s simple, it’s set up in a way which means original content is valued, it forces brands to create original content that is less “advertising” and more “interesting”. Plus, scrolling through gorgeous imagery is a lovely feeling.

Give us some hot social media tips?

Be yourself – many of the blogs and brands I enjoy the most are a little bit insouciant, original and don’t sugar coat themselves – it’s refreshing and attractive. Play with photography – there are hundreds of wonderful apps that can make your images feel tactile and gorgeous – it’s a pleasure to be creative in your day to day life and makes all the difference in how your brand or blog is perceived. An iPhone 5 and an app called VSCOcam render anyone a brilliant photographer. Play around with hashtags, encourage community by following and commenting on other brands or blogs that you are interested in. Don’t spam or try to get followers for the sake of it – quality not quantity! Say what you have to say because you believe it and want to be generous – play the long game.

Peer into the future – what trends are you guys on the cutting edge talking about?

I am really interested in tactility online and the connection between real life and digital. I love a new-ish app called Findery which is a location based technology allowing you to tag real life locations – a sort of treasure hunt for people you don’t know. For instance, you could “tag” a tree where you had your first kiss, share the architectural history of the house down the road, mark out an amazing fig tree – and when people pass by they’ll get a little prod to look at all the information on their phone.

What are your favourite digital case studies?

I think Nike do an incredible job at creating utility that then builds their brand – Nike Plus is such a great, generous resource that I love to use. I also love Tiffany’s digital presence and ‘What Makes Love True’ campaign. Brands like J. Crew have a great social presence. Burberry’s digital presence is immaculate. I also love the work of challenger brands Everlane and Warby Parker who have built their brands entirely online – and then moved into retail, an inversion of the usual progression that’s really worked for them and is also testament to the power and importance of social media, subtle product coverage and great content.

Thanks Natalie – I can’t wait for the next update!

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