Making your voice heard

Consumers make quick judgements about brands. We spend so much time online these days, we are constantly making snap decisions on who to follow. There can be different motivations as to why someone chooses to follow you, but for the purposes of this article I want to focus on businesses who are trying to attract new customers, and retain existing ones. If you’re looking for some quick pointers to help you stay on track with your marketing strategy read on.

BE CONSISTENT

One of the biggest turn-offs for a lot of people is inconsistency. As a consumer if you aren’t sure what a brand represents it can be confusing and you are less likely to commit to following and engaging with them. If you are starting out and want to build a community (and ultimately attract customers) you need to set out a clear brand identity for your company. I’m not just talking about visuals, but knowing how to translate your brand’s personality into the written word is crucial too. Are you funny, informative, irreverent or serious? Try anthropomorphising your brand – for example if Social Butterflies was a person it would be a career driven mother who was a savvy consumer of lifestyle products and services. If you can define its personality and attributes you can begin to see its place in the market. Being confident about this information will help you stand out from the crowd and create a niche for your business.

STAY TRUE TO YOU

Don’t keep chopping and changing your offering. Nothing says “I don’t know what I’m doing” more than a company that regularly changes its image and business offering. Being consistent doesn’t mean you can’t evolve of course, but over time. If you’re overhauling your entire proposition within a matter of months from launching (or even every couple of months) then something is seriously wrong. You need to take time out, reassess what it is and have a clear business strategy before you start marketing your services. Particularly if you are offering any kind of marketing services – this could be the kiss of death for your business otherwise.

THINK LIKE A CONSUMER

The best way to get back to basics with your online business presence is to think about how you interact with social media as a consumer. Sometimes you can be so immersed in the day to day running of a business you forget to put yourself in the consumers’ shoes. Look at how other businesses project their image online – what works and what doesn’t.

BE A LEADER

But don’t follow a lazy business model by simply copying what other people are doing. Authenticity and originality are the attributes which will engage and retain your customers, so keep it real. You’ll find that customers in a niche audience will tend to follow the same people, so you will stand out as a copycat pretty quickly. If you’ve been inspired by someone else’s success then that’s great, but trying to keep up appearances and shadowing someone else’s online persona will only lead to feelings of disappointment. Concentrate on your own strengths, your company’s USP and carve out your own voice.

DON’T OVERSTRETCH YOURSELF

Don’t compare your business offering to others and simply try to match or exceed it. If you have a strong offering in one or two keys areas, then focus your energy on building those up and making them pay. Once you’ve honed those, then you can look to expand your services or product range. Spreading yourself too thin just to keep pace with competitors is not good business practice. Always remember what your key skill sets are, refine them and teach yourself new ones.

IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE

The message is pretty simple: know who you are and what you do. It’s not rocket science, but so often people get overwhelmed by the mass audiences online and start to panic. This is totally understandable; it can be an overcrowded marketplace. But all the more reason to take a step back and have a clear digital marketing strategy in place before you go live. Be confident in your offering and if in doubt seek advice from professionals.


If you’re interested in finding out more then visit my new digital marketing consultancy website: amywhitedigital.com.

Time for a positive change

Something occurred to me this week after I’d read some lovely emails from readers of Social Butterflies, there is a never-ending discussion online (and offline) about ‘honest parenting’, we can’t get enough of books like Hurrah For Gin and The Unmumsy Mum. But how about some ‘honest career chat’? I’m not talking about flexible working – there are huge strides being made in that area, thanks to amazing ambassadors like Mother Pukka and Digital Mums. I’m talking about the identity crisis so many women feel when they put their careers on hold to have a family. So why does this issue still feel like a taboo subject?

For many women of my generation (born in the 70s/80s) we had established professional identities long before children came along (not forgetting spontaneous mini-breaks, oh how I miss you mini-breaks). But no-one, it seems, feels comfortable talking about the lows of career compromise in motherhood. The most obvious reason is because people don’t want to prejudice future job opportunities or damage their image. But I’m not talking about committing an act of career self-harm. It’s just about acknowledging those lows so you can refocus that energy on creating new highs. If you’ve taken time out, or your foot off the career accelerator, then your confidence needs building up. You’re not going to get that by feeling unable to talk about it. Knowing others feel the same way is both reassuring and empowering. When you feel part of a movement don’t you feel more energised to make a change?

So I would like to open up the conversation. But this isn’t a drowning your sorrows exercise. This is very much about focusing on the positives. It’s about recognising your worth, valuing your experience, honing your skills, retraining in some cases, pursuing a passion and giving each other a leg-up! (I’ve been there, so I should know). I took a three-year career break a few years ago (but I did have two children) so I never feel awkward about explaining that time off to prospective employers. Maybe if I hadn’t done that I might be earning more money, or have a more impressive job, but I don’t like to look back. I am where I am because of the choices I made – no regrets. I think one of the best things you can do if you are on a career plateau is to skill yourself up. Even now, with over 16 years’ experience behind me I still think it’s important to attend courses, workshops and industry events. You should never be complacent about your knowledge in the workplace. I work in digital marketing where innovations and trends move so fast I have to keep pace.

If you’re feeling out of touch with your career identity and looking to try something new, or maybe just want to enhance your existing skills, then take heart from all the amazing women we feature on Social Butterflies. So many of them have taken career breaks, or left behind stellar jobs to try something new that suits family life. You can achieve that too – all it requires is a positive attitude, determination, a healthy dose of confidence and a good support network. You too could feel like the lady in the photo (looks like a Bodyform advert, I know).

TOP TIPS

KEEP ON LEARNING
The best advice I can give anyone who is feeling out of touch with the work place is to continuing learning: take a course, attend a workshop, go to a talk. Find something that interests you and meet like-minded people. Taking courses purely for professional reasons is great too (I’m currently learning all about analytics…) but be clear about what you want to get out of it, particularly if you’re paying a lot of money for something.

RETHINK YOUR STORY
Even if you’re not currently looking for work, try writing your CV out as you would a diary-style story. It’s a great exercise to help order your career thoughts and reexamine what you have to offer in an informal way. Once you’ve got a clearer sense of what that story is, you can translate into a CV format (have a look at Pinterest for CV style inspiration). Set yourself up with a LinkedIn profile and connect with old colleagues – you never know where Barry from accounts is now working and how he could help (by the way, Barry is a fictional character, purely for illustrative purposes).

EXPERIENCE NOT AGE
With age comes wisdom. We should be proud of the experience we have gained, and not compare ourselves to twenty-somethings. Each generation has their own unique skill set  – ours is multitasking experience (in bucket loads!). Taking time out of work has reinvigorated your desire to work, not diminished it. I’m in my late-thirties and we’re not having any more children, so I represent a whole load of women who are not going to go on maternity leave and we’re less likely to flit from job to job. This is an advantage for a future employer. It’s all about changing negative perceptions and seeing the positives.

POSITIVITY PEOPLE
It’s therefore crucial to surround yourself with positive people. There’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism, but the doomsayers can quite frankly f**ck off! If you’re trying to lift yourself up you need people with a glass half full attitude. I always think if you project positivity you will attract it (you can have that as a motivational fridge magnet, you’re welcome).

I’m really hoping by getting this topic out in the open it will help other women out there, who felt like I once did. I’d love to hear from anyone who has felt like this and has made positive changes in their career. Please email hellosocialbutterflies@gmail.com. I’d love to feature your story and inspire other women to do the same.

CV reality check

I work from home a couple of days a week, and like all women I end up doing chores in between work. Loading the washing machine, unloading the dishwasher (and reloading), checking the fridge for missing items before the inevitable ‘top-up’ shop to the supermarket later (I feel a sad sense of achievement if I can avoid going at least once a day). My ability to multi-task is second to none, as is my ability to procrastinate. The internet has been calling me today with its cheeky loveliness and I’ve been powerless to resist. However, and quite unbelievably, amid endless cups of tea, a quick power-up in the form of a few ‘Waitrose-mini-hot-cross-buns’, I have actually written my CV. I know, I’ve even impressed myself.

I run this magazine alongside my day job, and I’m currently trying to find time to launch my freelance business (digital marketer and editor). During this process I’ve been going through my CV for the first time in a long while, and oh my lord it’s been an uphill struggle. Does anyone else find writing in a self-promotional style buttock-clenchingly awkward? I’m happy to write about other people and tell their story, but when it comes to listing my own experience and achievements I feel out of my comfort zone, much like Nigel Farage at a Eurovision party.

Writing down your professional story is an exhausting process, but once you’ve written it you can spend an infinite amount of time refining it, or as I like to call it, disappearing down the rabbit hole that is Pinterest (goddamn you Pinterest). There are so many styles and designs these days for CV writing that I find it all a bit overwhelming. So I’ve decided to stick to my guns and opted for simplicity. A clean design coupled with riveting lists of experience and achievements *should* speak for themselves.

Part of the reason I’ve done this, is so I have a clear vision of what I can offer, what I know and how much that is worth to a business (and I don’t just mean financially, don’t underestimate sparkling wit and personality). If you’re thinking of returning to work, looking for a new job or perhaps starting a business, writing a CV can be a cathartic process – think AA meets NCT (but with jobs) – the first step is admitting you’ve got a problem, and remember, it’ll be worth the pain! It’s a good idea to get other people to check for errors obviously, but most importantly, writing about yourself in the third person (always a bit weird, but necessary in this context) helps you think objectively about what it is you have to offer. Which, I can guarantee will always be more than you think – age for once is a distinct advantage!

Desk reality: clearly need to buy A LOT more wine by the way

I’ve used two photos to illustrate visually what I mean about having a ‘CV reality check’. The main image is obviously not mine but an idealised, Instagram composition (credit to desk of dreams creator: Emma Highfield). The second one is the reality of my home working situation (it’s my kitchen table surrounded by crap). My point is that you need to think of a CV as you would the picture perfect desk – it’s a contrived version of reality. We recognise the same concept in the real picture, i.e. there is a table and a computer, the similarities end there sadly. So don’t stress about how to present yourself on paper – just write it down and tidy it up later.

We all have bundles of experience to offer future employers, particularly once you’re over the hump of, ahem…35 (ish). We should learn to celebrate our achievements for what they are, not compare ourselves to Instagram perfection (that gorgeous desk can bloody well piss off with all its neatness). Being a mum unofficially qualifies you as a PRINCE2 practitioner, referee, chauffeur, wine taster extraordinaire, UN diplomat (I could go on). Basically you’re awesome, even if at first glance your CV needs sprucing up.

We are all Social Butterflies

So often in the conversations I’ve had with women about careers post-children there is a reoccurring theme: dissatisfaction with the inflexibility of the workplace.

It’s a universal problem and it’s one which a lot of women are turning to their advantage. The personal experiences amongst working women may be diverse but the feelings are generally the same. There is a guilt attached to motherhood that only women can relate to – it’s an overwhelming, sometimes suffocating mix of duty and ambition. The two don’t always correlate and it’s this desire of wanting a career and needing to be the best possible mum which can often lead to disappointment and feelings of resentment.

The modern workplace should be able to accommodate this new breed of women who are having children later with a career firmly under their belts. But it seems that so many talented, uber-multi-tasking women feel locked out of a workplace which still retains a presenteeism and traditional working structure popular in the 1950s. It’s not all doom and gloom however, plenty of forward thinking companies are tapping into this amazing pool of talent and embracing flexible working.

Working it

But not all of us work in industries which think creatively and sensibly about employment. For a lot of women who have had children and taken time out of a career the only feasible option is to start working for themselves. What might have started out as a necessity for some women has clearly been a major game changer and in some cases they have finally found the courage to pursue their passion. Turning an apparent disadvantage into an advantage is what women have been doing for hundreds of years – in fact I think you’ll all agree we’re pretty damn good at it!

I’m talking about the women who are ‘winging-it with style’ (no panty-liner references intended). And I don’t mean that women are playing at being businesswomen: there are some amazing women out there whose professional confidence has taken a few knocks since having children but they are still having a go. I count myself in this category – someone who despite having been on the equivalent of a confidence rollercoaster finally feels able to say “f**ck it – if I don’t give it a try now, I never will”. So this year I will be starting to work for myself – and hopefully for you too.

Women who are succeeding in business, bringing up children and maintaining relationships (in whatever form that may be) are what truly inspires me and makes me want to achieve. I didn’t realise when I started this magazine that the outcome would be such a positive one but I’ve decided to “stop talking and start doing” as my Dad would say. That’s why I spent so long deciding on a name for the magazine. I wanted it to be feminine (but not label us as mums), reference how digital-savvy we all are (or aspire to be), and quite simply I just love a good pun (it’s the sub-editor in me). But best of all I wanted to create a sense of community and by using the hashtag #wearesocialbutterflies create a positive label for women working online in business.

Getting digi-with-it

So, with that in mind I’m going to start offering my digital marketing services to women in business like you. It will be a unique package of services to compliment the magazine and its ethos (I even have plans to expand the concept offline). I want to create a collaborative community of like-minded women who are embracing digital (you might even call it a club).

But for now I’d like to use this opportunity to do some important research. What do you need help with when it comes to digital marketing? I think most people reading this will have one or two areas they excel in and a few they don’t enjoy doing or simply don’t understand. That’s where I plan to help you in the future – plugging those gaps of knowledge and supporting you along the way. I would love to know which areas you struggle with so I can use this information to design packages that work for you. I’d also love to connect with a graphic designer and someone with expertise running events.

Please get in touch if you’re interested in my business idea: hellosocialbutterflies@gmail.com

Amy White, Social Butterflies editor

How I got my confidence back

Confidence is a complex thing. I lost mine massively after having children. But I’m pleased to say it’s coming back in bucket loads and to prove it I’m even posting a selfie! (a frigging selfie godammit!). Something I would never have dreamed about doing a year ago. No, it’s not because I’ve washed and blow dried my hair (husband breathes sigh of relief), or because I’ve put some makeup on. And it’s not just so I can show off my new leather jacket (OK, it might be a little bit).

This photo shows the reality of life but also reflects my new-found confidence. It’s proof that I’m comfortable showing you ME (as well showcasing a terribly composed photograph). It’s a scene we all recognise: messy living room, inability to take decent selfie (what’s the best angle to avoid triple-chinnage?), dirty mirror covered in little finger prints, slightly awkward smile. I am happy to share it because I feel happy in my own skin again. If you’re feeling further back on this journey I just want to say ‘hang-in there’, it will get better!

img_2617-2

My confidence is back where it matters – inside. I wanted to share this with all of you today (hopefully not in a patronising self-help, Jerry Springer’s last word kind of way), but to speak to (and for) all the women out there who are lacking in self-confidence. I know what it’s like and it can feel crushing at times. Having children, taking a career break (not taking a career break) and making endless sacrifices can make you feel like a dry old husk some days. My route back to feeling like my old self is pure and simple: I finally have found a sense of professional worth through this website and I feel energised, full of purpose and brimming with ideas.

I’ve had a couple of major knock backs professionally. I went for an interview a few years back and all was going swimmingly until the subject of hours came up. The atmosphere became noticeably frosty when I suggested alternatives to the 9-5. Needless to say that didn’t go anywhere as I didn’t want to work somewhere like that (I’ve written a piece on the issues surrounding flexible working – have a read). I then had a seriously confidence-knocking experience quite recently where I helped out someone in a bid to achieve some particular experience I was lacking. After the job was done I was promptly dropped like a hot potato – no credit or thanks. All pretty ego-bruising stuff that really hit my confidence in my own abilities hard. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger so I decided the only way to make a career work for me is to take back control (in a totally non-Brexity way of course). Hence starting this magazine and my plans to work for myself.

This magazine and the community it’s building has lifted my spirits and made me excited about work again. I’ve got big plans for this year and I want you all to join in (watch this space).

Written by Amy White, editor of Social Butterflies

Mother Pukka talks flex

There’s been plenty of chat and a fair bit of flash dancing action. (See our Lycra-swathed Flex Appeal flash mob in Trafalgar Square for more of that.)

But in the push/shove for flexible working, how can you get stuck in?

We need you

If you don’t read any further than this please ask your/ your husband’s/ your best mate’s/ aunties HR departments to sign up to the government’s Working Forward pledge. The whole drive is based on this one stat: 86% of companies believe they offer flexible working, while 77% of women in the workforce have faced discrimination or lost their job on maternity leave. A bit of light maths and you can work out there’s summat up there, sparky. This is the core focus of our Flex Appeal – to get companies to sign up. We’ve already seen John Lewis, BT, BP, Virgin Money signed up (plus 70 more since launching this appeal), so who’s next?

Fight for your right

Previously I’ve written about hard, cold cash and the hair loss associated with going it alone, but it was not meant to scare off budding entrepreneurs. It was more to stress that having sat on both sides of the fence, there’s no easy way out. If you like (love is a strong word) your job then fight for it – show ‘em what you’ve got and pave the way for others below you to work flexibly. How to do this? Talk numbers and offer solutions: see ‘The business case for flexible working’, below, for the former and the latter is up to you. ‘I’d like flexible working and this is how it can happen’ is much stronger than, ‘can I have some flexible working please?’. For more on your rights, head here.

mother pukka flexible working flash mob manchester
Flex Appeal flash mob in Manchester

This isn’t a revolution, it’s about evolution.

Working life has pulled a massive U-turn with The Internet and other pixelated goods that mean we can sit in the tinned goods aisle of Tesco if we choose and still make shit happen.

We’re pushing for someone being judged on their ability to produce good work not sit on a chair past 6pm. That’s a win-win for employee and employer: in most cases, flexible working means happier staff, lower costs and greater productivity.

Suggest a trial period of flexible working and measure the results. Hard facts can’t be argued with. If you’re delivering the same, or more, then it’s working. If it doesn’t work out and you can’t hack it any longer, take a look at flexible and part-time jobsite Timewise or the flexible courses offered by Digital Mums.

It’s a people issue, not a ‘mummy wanting to see more of her little one’ sitch

The words ‘flexible working’ have been tacked to parents. Life is messy and whether you’re a (single) mum, dad, carer or someone who just needs Friday mornings off to slap some paint on a canvas, flexible working is about getting the best from each individual – ‘individual’ here is key. The one rule for everyone has to go – salaries and skills aren’t the same across the board, and how you work shouldn’t be either.

The business case for flexible working

Save rent
For most businesses, the two main costs are people and property. Flexible working lets employers lower the latter. Lambeth Council claims it will save £4.5 million per year in property running costs by making sure that no more than 60% of its staff are in at one time.

Attract talent
Some 30% of the UK’s working population (8.7 million people) wants flexible working but doesn’t have it, yet only 6% of advertised jobs with a salary above £20,000 actually offer it.

Retain talent
It costs more than £5,000 to hire a new employee in the UK. When you add costs associated with getting the newbie up to speed that cost exceeds£30,000, arbitration service Acas recently reported, and more than £35,000, according to analysts CEBR. In it’s 2012 study, HR institute the CIPD found that 76% of employers saw staff retention improve when they offered flexible working.

Improve productivity
This argument has become as undeniable as the case for climate change: 81% of senior managers believe flexible working improves productivity. Three in five people who work flexibly put in more hours as a result of being allowed to do so. Another report found that 72% of businesses reported increased productivity as a direct result of flexible working.

This is not a movement, we’re simply about moving. It’s about keeping the conversation going. If you have experience in HR you could bring to the table or are a business struggling to make flexible working actually work, then please get in touch. We want to hear from both sides of the PAYE coin.

Let’s talk about flex, baby.

Written by: 

Anna Whitehouse Mother Pukka

motherpukka.com
instagram.com/mother_pukka
twitter.com/mother_pukka
facebook.com/motherpukka

 

 


 Originally published on 01.12.16

Why do men never get called dadpreneurs?

Dadprenuer, dadboss – we’ve all heard of these terms, right?

Wrong – that’s because they’re not well-used labels attached to men who are successful in business and happen to be be fathers. My point? Well, I came across an article this morning by a writer called Alice Judge-Talbot, aptly titled ‘We’re not sodding mumpreneurs’. It hit me so hard I felt compelled to write this before I head out for lunch with my mates (not working on Fridays is the best now the kids are at both at school).

It spoke to me on two levels: Alice articulated exactly what I’ve been feeling since having kids AND reminded me of an embarrassing truth. What’s that I hear you ask? Well, I started Social Butterflies for two reasons (part therapy – ask any blogger and that’s usually on their list) and also because I felt marginalised as a ‘mum’ who wanted to redefine herself in the world of work again. But I’ve been too afraid to be outspoken about how uncomfortable I feel with the whole ‘brand-mum’ phenomenon. I’m savvy (and cynical) enough to realise it’s a marketing tool but when I go to work I’m not being a mum at that moment – I’m me!

social butterflies magazine

I’m not trying to fight a cause with my magazine/blog (call it what you will), but to give a voice to all the women like me who happen to have grown babies in their tummies AND ALSO enjoy working and crave a different identity to that of mummy. I love being a mum – I stayed at home while they were little and loved doing it. But it gets a bit boring after a while (if you’re honest with yourself) and that’s why I want to work, not just so I can justify a retail splurge in Cos and Whistles, but mainly because I’m a better mum, wife and friend when I am fulfilled.

Do labels matter? Well they shouldn’t, as the old playground chant goes: “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”. It’s all about personal choice and what you feel comfortable with. Personally I have several identities: mum, wife, friend, daughter, sister, colleague. But importantly the identity of being a mum for me is entirely wrapped up in my kids – it’s got nothing to do with me at work.

So, I guess my message is this: women should push against this reductive label which limits us. We are women first and foremost and we should be judged in the workplace by our abilities not by our wombs and boobs. Rant over, but not without thanking the far more articulate Alice who inspired me to write this morning (no mean feat before I’d had my second cup of tea!).


By Amy White