Jacqui Alexander at Small World Coffee
My jobtalk this week is with social media consultant and artist Jacqui Alexander, whose blog is Jacquilope.com. Find out what makes a good social media consultant and how to get new clients. Check out Jacqui’s Tweets @Jacquilope.
Title: Social Media Consultant/Artist
Education: BFA, Rhode Island School of Design, 2005
Why did you decide to go to Art School?
As a high school senior, I thought I was going to school for environmental science, despite my dedication to my art classes. It seemed practical, and I truly enjoyed the science of the natural world. Besides, I figured I could take art programs at any school. At the same time, I had an excellent art teacher in high school who talked very enthusiastically about Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
On a whim, I added it to my list and applied there. It was the only art school I applied to, and I didn’t know what to expect. I had visited the campuses for all the schools I was applying to, and after seeing what RISD was like, I was mildly infatuated. Even though I had gotten great offers from other schools, by the time I learned that I had been accepted to RISD it was an easy choice to make. I’d continue making art fully immersed in a community of artists.
What would it take for you to be able to support yourself solely on producing art?
For me, personally, it would take a lot more dedication than I have! I am an excellently focused artist when I am surrounded by other creatives, and when I have a deadline looming. I have found over the years that I do not have enough self-discipline to make myself generate work just for the sake of practicing, though I always enjoy the experience. I decided during school that I didn’t want to be the “next big thing” in the art world. To me it seemed that either you dedicate yourself to that path, or devise an alternative career plan using the skills you’ve developed in school. So, to be a full-time artist, or a full-time painter, I’d need to have pushed myself much sooner in order for that path to be practical, which I opted not to do.
What made you realize that you don’t want to a full time artist?
Like I said, I knew I didn’t want to be “the next big thing,” and my understanding of the art world is you go big, or keep trying to go big, or get out! I took an alternative path to being a practicing artist and began to fashion a career from the administrative side of the art world – I worked in galleries. I curated and hung many shows while in school. I took an internship at a contemporary art gallery in Chelsea, and my first job after school was running a gallery for a nonprofit group. I may not have been a full time, practicing artist, but all of my skills were being used.
If you hadn’t gone to school for art, would what you have gone for?
environmental science, had I made the decision at age 17. Now, I think I would have gone for communications or something more media-oriented. However, science and the natural world, being things that I grew up learning about, always played a role in my painting, drawing and printmaking, and still do. They are themes that I relate to very personally.
Discuss how you became a social media consultant.
My path to social media and marketing grew out of embracing my natural behavioral tendencies. While working as a gallery manager, I longed for even more social interaction. As a new college grad returning to my hometown, separated from my school friends, I took a job at Whole Foods simply to avoid becoming a hermit. I started at the coffee bar (perfect for social interaction!) and soon became enamored with the sense of community inherent in the world of coffee, and shortly thereafter, I was hired by Small World Coffee in Princeton. Eventually I became a graphic artist in the Marketing Department at Whole Foods, and was able to combine my creativity, my administrative skills, and my social personality as I developed signs, posters, chalkboards and ads for the store. I learned that marketing allowed me to utilize my greatest strengths – a good eye, and a sincere love of absorbing information and then communicating with others.
How do you go about getting new clients?
I have been lucky enough to have gotten all of my freelance clients through word-of-mouth, or from the advice of friends and acquaintances. More often than not, a friend will recommend me to someone they know, or a customer who knows I am also a designer will approach me with a job in mind. I have chosen jobs where I have visibility for the work that I do, and where I can be social – all of that has worked to my favor, and I am grateful for it.
Once you have a new client, what do you do?
When taking on a new client, I familiarize myself as much as possible with their existing marketing efforts, if any. I review all the information they have made available to their customer base – their logo, their website, their social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and get a sense of what they are trying to say… and then I strategize about how to enhance and amplify that message. The subject matter is broad; it ranges from creating a new branding strategy and developing a sense of cohesion between all their marketing materials to coming up with a way to build a social community around their brand. While it is broad, the end goal is to create brand awareness, which, ultimately, means stronger sales.
What does it take to keep clients happy?
I have been fortunate, again, to work with very enthusiastic clients! My personal goal is to meet their expectations – and to exceed them. For example, if they are hiring me to build their communities, I keep sight of that target and strategize to ensure that I am producing results. Also, I am very seriously committed to communicating with my clients. I make it a point to write weekly check-in emails to assess where we are now, what the next three steps are and what loose ends need to be tied up before we move on. I try to make myself as available as possible, because social media can be a very time-sensitive thing!
Do you support yourself financially with your social media consultant business?
While it is not currently my sole source of income, I have a specific action plan to grow my business with the intention to transition to full time within the next two years.
What else do you do to make ends meet?
I have worked at Small World Coffee and Small World Roasters for over 5 years. In addition to being part of a great community as a barista, I am a co-curator of the café’s monthly art shows, including the annual Love Show, a juried group art show and fundraiser held each February. My role at Small World has recently evolved, and I am now their marketing point person, as well. Additionally, I still paint, taking the occasional commission (recently, a painting for the Solebury School of their future school garden site), and I still return to work at Whole Foods in the busy seasons.
What will it take for you to support yourself financially as a social media consultant?
I would need a core group of clients that would provide me with a reliable workload. As I continue to grow my business, I am getting a better idea of what type of clients I am looking for, and what projects I want to engage with. I want to connect with clients and be able to cultivate long lasting connections.
What does a typical day look like?
It really depends on what day of the week it is. Two days out of the week I work doubles doing café shifts and administrative work for Small World Coffee and Small World Roasters. Two other days I do one shift at the roaster, and one day I spend supervising the crew at the café. I have two days off from the café, which are my days being completely on for my social media business. A sampling of tasks I will do when I return home: read blogs, write on my own blog or ghostwrite for someone’s blog, work on graphic layouts for mass emails, update company websites, build Facebook and Twitter networks, and read and compose tweets. The beauty of social marketing is that it can happen anywhere. I work on my Smartphone while I wait at the gas station. On some days, I don’t work in hour-long blocks, but in 15 minute bursts throughout the day.
What skills do you need to be good at being a social media consultant?
You need to be creative, and to learn from watching others. I compulsively check Twitter and I have a massive list of blogs that I follow, and I pay close attention to who I think is “doing it right,” and what it is that they are doing. I feel like I can’t get enough of it – I want to know what everyone else is doing, all the time, and how their followers are responding, and then I want to do that for myself and the people I work for.
How did you learn /acquire these skills?
I was a busybody from day one! I love to know what is happening and who’s involved, and I love telling other people what I’ve discovered. Social media is the niche for me, in that regard. As far as the technology goes, anyone can participate, that is the whole point! There is a little finesse in learning the etiquette of the various social media sites, and that is definitely something you want to have a handle on if your goal is to represent a business or advance yourself professionally. If that seems foreign or nerve-wracking, there happen to be an overload of “How To’s” and “Top 10 Tricks for XYZ in Social Media” articles available on different websites. Beyond that, the skills aren’t learned. Being nosy is inherent, I think.
What type of personality do you need to be a social media consultant?
You need to be social. I have always felt comfortable talking to people, especially when there is a subject that I am interested in. I have always been enthusiastic about answering questions for people, either as part of educating consumers or simply for providing a good customer service experience. My willingness to do that has made it easy for me to work as a social media marketer. I like to talk. I like to learn. I like to share.
What is difficult about being a social media consultant?
I think the challenge for me, personally, is managing my workload. Some weeks there is an overwhelming list of things to do from tasks that take 15 minutes to some that take a few hours, and some that are long-term with intangible time lines. I constantly have a sense of urgency, even when I’m caught up for the day. There is always room to do more, to create more, to post more, to share more. So it’s important to be able to prioritize and meet the right deadlines, and it’s always tricky to find the daily stopping point.
What is exciting about being a social media consultant?
Is it sappy to say that I find all of it to be exciting? To me, the excitement is stepping away from the computer after four hours of nonstop working and thinking, “That was fun,” and, “It’s my job!” It’s exciting to be doing the work, period. The other things that excite me are when I get a good response to the content I’ve posted. Sharing content is important, but getting good interaction and feedback is the ultimate goal. There is always some excitement from the validation.
Who shouldn’t be a social media consultant?
Someone who lacks focus, or has a hard time multitasking. I can switch in and out of “marketing mode” all day long, and I am thankful that I have a good head for that. Basically, I can absorb information that I know will be useful and stash it away until I am able to utilize it, and I can do that for myself and the varied accounts that I represent. I can transition between writing a food blog into finishing up a t-shirt design and then write 10 Tweets that will get posted throughout the week and then make sure I email another client with questions about a new product they want to promote. It is a lot of juggling, and the technology makes it manageable. If you have trouble retaining a huge range of information, then you might not be cut out for this type of work.
What advice can you give to anyone aspiring to be a social media consultant?
Can you focus on 10,000 things at once? Can you manage your own to-do list as well as a work to-do list that serves any variety of clients? If you can do that, give it a shot. Get yourself branded, start gaining visibility online and in your community. The best thing is to be social in your everyday life, and be social about your growing business. That’s how I’ve gotten clients. Tell everyone you know that you are in that line of work. Learn who you want to work with and who you should politely say no to. Make sure you can manage your personal life simultaneously, since this type of work creeps in to every spare 5 minutes that you have. (Trust me.) If you think that is all do-able, if you think you’re the type of person who can live/work at that pace, get going!