INTERVIEW WITH BENJAMIN FOX, FREELANCER
Benjamin Fox is an experienced social media manager, paid planner and content producer with 10 years experience at organisations such as IPG, Capita and Omnicom.
He's worked between London and Brussels for a variety of clients - big and small - in sectors including financial services, media and advertising, and energy/oil. He's currently working as a freelance social media and paid planner.
What does your role involve - in terms of responsibilities and the day-to-day?
My role is pretty varied day to day. Being a social media manager in these times means I have to be super versatile and be ready to take on whatever is thrown my way.
I really enjoy the variety. I can be developing a strategy, producing content, managing a community, writing a report, executing a paid social plan or answering questions on our social media channels. It's non-stop, but I love it and couldn't imagine having a quiet job anymore!
I've been lucky in the last 10 years to be able to work with some amazing brands and for some wonderful clients - and every day really is a learning experience, which has helped me to develop my skills. You might say, I'm prepared for most situations that can come up in social!
What do you think are the biggest challenges in digital marketing at the moment?
The biggest challenge is staying abreast of the constant changes in the world of social media. When I started out, Twitter was just taking off, Facebook was just monetising the platform for brands, and Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat didn't exist.
The landscape changes every year, and being on top of that is part and parcel of the job; a lot of which is extra curricular knowledge that you need to read about, after hours.
Another challenge is proving the value of social as a channel in the marketing mix - which is just as much about convincing colleagues as it is about educating clients. Social is a medium that offers huge amounts of awareness, but it can be difficult in terms of direct conversions and sales. Showing where social sits in the marketing funnel usually means that it can be thought of as weaker, when in fact it is often the channel that people remember seeing content on, and holds its own when it comes to driving sales too.
Which peers / industry figures do you look to for inspiration re: your job?
In some ways, I'm a very traditional person, so I've always looked to the senior management in my roles for leadership and learning, rather than outside sources.
In that respect, I've been lucky enough to work with some of the brightest minds in digital marketing, and without those people I definitely wouldn't have the skills, knowledge or confidence that I have today.
I'm pleased to say that since I started working in social, many more female leaders have appeared in both agency and client-side positions. It's this kind of positive movement that makes digital marketing such a breeding ground for creativity and innovation.
Which online tools are essential to your job?
Quite a few tools make my life easier on a daily basis! Followerwonk is great for finding relevant influencers and commentators on any topic you can imagine. HeyOrca is perfect for planning content and scheduling posts - it gives me a holistic view of my social channels in one screen.
Finally, I really like Buzzsumo for finding trending topics and articles.
All those tools combined save me a lot of time.
Your last role saw you working in Belgium. How did digital marketing 'abroad' compare to the UK?
Digital marketing is more advanced in London compared to Brussels, that's true. The level of detail deployed in London is greater and planned down to the minute - and every person on a team has a very specific role.
In Brussels, social and digital are newer to the clients that I worked with, so things are much more basic. That's not a bad thing, and the market will eventually catch up in time -but does make me feel that they're missing out on a world of opportunities that you'd find if the campaign was operated from a digital hub like London or New York. Ultimately though, Brussels is an environment that is very traditional (EU-policy and lobbying are king), so it's no surprise that social in particular aren't playing a leading role in a campaign like they do in London.
What advice would you give to someone new to a career in digital marketing?
Learn as much as you can about the social media platforms, what they can do, what content they can publish, which audiences are using them the most, what they can help brands to achieve. Never stop thinking about solutions.
Always think about how social and digital marketing integrate with marketing campaigns more widely; not in a silo.
Try to find a mentor, someone who has been in the industry for a while and can share their experiences with you.
Don't worry so much about making mistakes, we have all been there - heart beating because we Tweeted a typo - but these mistakes make us better marketers.
Never stop experimenting with content, platforms, formats, and never forget to think about content AND distribution - both are as important as each other.
Have a plan and be continuously prepared for it to fail, or to have to change it at the last minute.