The evolution of a social media marketer

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Mei Ying often works on the go.Mei Ying often works on the go.

Ever since social media burst into the local business scene in a big way about five years ago, we have seen the emergence of social media marketers, a relatively new job description which is now very common.

The social media landscape has changed considerably over the years and to stay relevant, social media marketers have to change with the times too. Not only that, they have to try to anticipate upcoming trends in order to stay ahead of the game. It’s not easy, but one social media marketer whose business has not only survived but is thriving is Teoh Mei Ying.

Her first taste of social media marketing happened in 2008, in her first job at a venture capital company where she had to work with a small team to grow a retail fashion brand. Part of her duties was to create a Facebook presence for that brand. But it was only in 2010 when she joined a public relations agency that she started looking at social media marketing very seriously. This led her to move on to a digital agency. A year later, she felt ready to go freelance and start her own consultancy.

At that point, Mei Ying was fully into social media even in a personal capacity (and not just for work). “I was using Facebook and Twitter religiously, almost every waking hour,” she recalls. “And I thought to myself, if I could do this for a living, it would be great. I knew that it was a growing industry and decided that I want to pursue it.

Mei Ying working on her desktop

As a social media marketer, she helps manage her clients’ social media pages. “I create content for them based on their product features and I also curate relevant content to be shared with their fans and followers,” she says. “Whenever required, I also work with partners to provide photography and videography services to create visual content which are gaining popularity. I also manage conversations on my clients’ social media profiles to ensure all queries, feedbacks, and complaints are attended to.”

Business has been good but scaling such a business is tough short of building up a proper agency. “With my existing set up, it is difficult to grow as I still am very involved in every aspect of the business,” she says. “In order to grow, I would need to take a few steps back and remove myself from some of the processes like approving content or replies to queries and feedbacks.”

According to Mei Ying, the demand is already big enough to justify setting up an agency with staff. “On an average, I receive about three enquiries from potential clients per month,” she says. However, she prefers to be more selective about clients. “I pick and choose clients based on my personal interest in their industry as well as the amount of time and work required for their account or project. However, she is not closed to the idea of an agency someday.

At the moment, to cope with the increased demand and workload, she engages freelancers who work under her.

“I started this by sub-contracting out portions of my work to my cousin who was still in college and to a friend who had some free time, and later I did the same thing with other people who understood social media marketing,” she says. “I realised that this arrangement worked out best for me. I get to work with a few people who provide me with quality work, and, if one of them were to be sick or needed time off to go for a holiday, it’s much easier to absorb their work than if I had relied on one key staff.”

So what ideas work best for social media marketing? Mei Ying says it can be touch and go with social media and a lot of it is just trial and error. “I have run very similar contests for two different brands during the same period, and one did extremely well while the other flopped,” she says. “There are no best practices in the world which could’ve prepared me for that. But you have to keep trying, fine-tuning and improving. You’ve got to keep evolving as social media evolves.”

Oon Yeoh is a new media consultant.

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