Laura Collins is Head of Paid Social at Merkle|Periscopix and is the subject of our latest client spotlight where we interview social practitioners to better understand this evolving space.
Laura holds a BSc in Neuroscience from The University of Manchester. She dreams of the day she can own a Himalayan cat, but in the meantime, spends all her money exploring new places to eat in London.
What’s your role and what does an average day in your life look like?
I oversee our paid social department within Merkle Agency Services. An average day can involve anything from meeting with the different platforms we use, helping to onboard new clients, working on cross-channel projects with other departments, to one-on-one meetings with the team to help with their professional development. But essentially my job boils down to two key things: ensuring we have happy staff, and happy clients.
What’s it like being in social advertising right now?
Often it feels like reading a book that’s constantly getting longer. Just when you think you know all there is to know about social, another platform update or product is announced. But that’s what, in my opinion, makes it the most exciting marketing channel in which to specialise. You have to be on the ball, and constantly have an ear out for industry updates and developments. And you’re rewarded with a dynamic, fast-paced work environment that means it’s pretty difficult to have a boring day.
What is one skill you have that has helped you be the best marketer you can be?
This certainly isn’t a skill that’s exclusively useful within marketing, but communication has to be the biggest one for me. In a world of data and tech, it can be easy for people to overlook the power of clear and effective communication, in whatever form. Whether it’s our clients wanting to connect with their users on social media, or a member of my team wanting to discuss some kind of issue with me – everything we do each day is built around connecting with other people. I’m a big believer in three things: honesty is the only policy, a phone call is worth a thousand emails, and all of us are human. Most of us had that horrible day where something goes wrong and someone’s very angry over email, but communicating is the key to finding the solution.
How are you keeping up with this rapidly evolving Social space?
A common mistake I see is people having an hour booked out each week called something like “Read Industry Updates.” That reminder is always going to get ignored. Instead I try to find a small amount of time each day to keep myself up to date. My inbox is filled with newsletters, and although I rarely have time to read every article, a quick skim through while I’m eating breakfast or on my commute helps me to pick out anything relevant. I also encourage my team to do the same. In this department if you learn something, you share it. There are no points for keeping things to yourself. Having spent years trying to foster this attitude to knowledge sharing, I can see it’s infectious. Even some of our newest joiners will email the team about a new update or feature they’re trying out, which is fantastic.
What’s your best social advertising tip, trick, or best practice?
Often we find our clients are quick to make direct comparisons between different social platforms. We get statements like “my CPA on X is much higher than on Y, so let’s switch it off.” My tip in this instance is to invest time in educating yourselves and your clients on the different roles that each platform can play in the marketing mix. Users visit different networks for very different reasons, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many! You will inevitably find that performance will vary hugely from one to another. But that’s the beauty of paid social. Where one platform can be the final step in driving a conversion, another could be where you initially connected with that user and put your brand front-of-mind. We found that when we stopped looking at each platform in isolation, and instead took a more holistic approach, we saw big positive changes. Our clients were more willing to explore new platforms, and as a result were connecting with users in varied and exciting ways, which overall drove improved performance.
I know you use a variety of social tools, but what do you like about 4C’s offering?
I’m sure my whole team would agree that the biggest advantage for us of using 4C over native, is the difference it makes to campaign management efficiency. The interface is intuitive and simple to use, and makes campaign creation, optimization and reporting a doddle. Also, Smart Groups offer us a level of control and visibility over our campaigns that we could only dream of before.
And for our clients, the biggest selling point is 4C’s unique targeting capabilities: Affinities and Target Sets. The ability to tap into social listening data to gain real-time insights on user behavior alone is a big win for advertisers. But to be able to use that data to build relevant, often very niche audiences of prospective customers, that’s a game changer. Affinities and Target Sets are our first port of call for any response to brief, and we see almost without exception that these targeting options outperform those we can use in native.
What’s your career advice for someone who is thinking about getting into social advertising?
My advice would be to think in detail about exactly what it is about social that appeals to you. Everyone uses social media themselves, every digital channel is rapidly evolving; those alone are not reasons to pursue paid social as a career. But if you take the time to learn about the whole marketing mix, including the nuances between different channels, you’ll be in a stronger position to know what you want. Social brings together the opportunity to think creatively with the ability to use data to accurately measure performance. If you think you can bring that combination of skills to a role, then social might just be right for you.