By Andrea McArthur
Kylie Lewis is a Social Media Guru who guides businesses through the waters of online media and content. Her daily mission is to move and inspire people to think more about the things that truly matter to them. Kylie is a woman with a passion for what she does and has a passion for life.
Where did your passion for communication come from?
In primary school I wanted to be a nurse. Then a teacher. In high school I wanted to be journalist, then a youth counsellor. So way back in the day I did a double degree in psychology and sociology. While I was studying I also became a Fitness Instructor and taught group fitness classes. Graduating in a recession, the social sector didn’t seem so lucrative, so I tumbled my way into the business admin and then deliberately pursued ‘internet’ opportunities in the late 90s.
I landed in the first Melbourne Fairfax rollout team for US startup CitySearch, hitting the road selling template websites to small business. I loved how the web offered these little, local businesses a level playing field with the big guys, and that they had a new and powerful way to communicate their messages to the world (I still love this today). This was before most people even knew what a web address was. We were converting email messages to faxes, and Zuckerberg was in kindergarten (*sigh*).
Throughout the years I worked in startups in both the business-to-business and consumer sector, did a stint in a traditional marketing role and then came back to another startup, just as social media was starting to take off. I then jumped to head a small digital agency for a while before grabbing a dream role as Head of Digital for one of my all time favourite brands, kikki.K.
Somewhere in the midst of that I did a Masters in Business (eBusiness & Communication) and started a family. I went back to Fitness Instructing after I had my first child, and started freelance blog writing about 3 years after my second was born.
While I loved my time at kikki.K, I’d reached a point in my life when I needed more flexibility than the job would allow, and I craved the time and space to design a working life that could work around me. Deciding to leave was really tough, but I’d crafted myself a motivating Pinterest board (pinterest.com/kylielewis/wisely) to help push me in the right direction, and already had a few freelance gigs under my belt to help get me over the line. After that it was holding tight, taking a breath and making the jump.
A few of my biggest strengths are a love of learning and curiosity. These have definitely helped me work in the digital space, given how fast it changes, and the scope of knowledge there is to digest. And I love a good chat, a nice cup of tea and have a severe stationery addiction. So it wasn’t a stretch to become a consultant!
I realise now that my work as a digital strategist and fitness instructor, my childhood aspirations of becoming a nurse, teacher, journalist and counsellor have all actually come to be!
Can you describe the function of a Digital Strategist for us?
I help people come to grips with social media, content marketing and digital strategy in a way that makes sense for them. I’m driven to move people’s thinking and build their confidence, so that they’re empowered to help themselves. I do this by sharing what I know with people through one on one coaching, consulting with small business teams, and public workshops.
As a digital strategist, my favourite question to ask is ‘why do you do what you do?’ My next favourite question is ‘where do you want to be?’ And then ‘what are your biggest challenges right now?’ When we can get those three things sorted, we can start building a strategy and crafting solutions. This could be facilitating a team discussion to define their content marketing mission statement, to identifying their buyer personas, to category sorting their proposed blog content, to running customised masterclasses on Pinterest and Instagram, to planning out a content calendar. I’ve worked in digital for over 15 years, so you can throw pretty much anything ‘webby’ at me, and I’ll help you find your way through it.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
At the moment I’m writing a book, so I’m trying to be an early riser and get a few hours writing in before the rest of my house wakes up. Then its making breakfasts, school lunches and going for a run while the kids get taken to school. I’m loving listening to podcasts while I’m running at the moment – NPR TED Radio Hour, and HBR Idea Cast and Dan Pink are my favourites at the moment. I bypass my local on the way home and while I’m waiting for my takeaway chai latte to steep, I get a bit of stretching in.
Home to shower where I do a LOT of thinking! I’ll reconfirm my priorities I set the night before (a great tip from Lyndall Mitchell, my life coach, is ‘tomorrow starts today’) and get started.
Sometimes I’m onsite with client doing a coaching session or a team workshop, sometimes I’m at my studio planning, researching and writing, and sometimes I’ll squeeze in a lunch with a friends or a nana nap (because those 5am starts catch up on you!). I’m constantly surprised with how much planning goes into managing my week – I spend a good portion of Mondays planning out the weeks ahead and setting myself up to be productive (well, that’s what I tell myself!).
I’m trying to get better at checking my emails only at set points during the day (another tip from Lyndall – only check your email when you’re ready to handle it), so that I find flow with my writing and thinking. I’m also drawing on the Pomodoro Technique (of working in 25 minute spurts) and using Focus at Will for music designed to help keep focus when writing.
School pick up zooms around pretty quickly, and then it’s the usual kids activities and food prep shenanigans. After the kids go to bed, I might do a few more hours work, teach a fitness class, read or actually have a meaningful conversation with my husband!
What was the experience like, to go from being full time employed to becoming a self employed Communications Consultant?
Terrifying. I woke up every day for three weeks in a heart pounding panic saying ‘what have I done?’ I loved my job, but was worn out and needed more flexibility than the position could offer. We spoke to our bank manager before I left my job and knew I could afford to take the risk for a decent length of time. I was still freelancing on the side which helped. I kept saying ‘worse case, I’ll get another job.’ So far, I haven’t needed Plan B.
My biggest challenge in working for myself is boundaries – trying to pace the amount of work I take on at a given time, and carefully choosing who I want to work with and the type of work I want to be doing. I’m a work in progress.
Who have been your business inspirations and how have they inspired yourself or your business practices?
Tony Schwartz and his Energy Project movement. I read ‘The Power of Full Engagement’ three summers ago and it changed my life. I knew in my heart of hearts I could not sustain the pace of full time work, running a family, a house and doing freelance, but it took me a while to work out how to find a way through it. I now try to honour my needs for rest and renewal and be mindful about managing my energy across my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs. I don’t always get it right, but I’m chipping away at it.
Then along came Brené Brown and her work on vulnerability, perfectionism and scarcity – the ‘scarcity’ of never being/doing/having enough. This woman has decoded what it is to be human. I’m sure if her research was around when I was back studying sociology and psychology I would have run away and formed a cult in her hometown in Texas (I still might…!). Given the anxiety many business people feel about trying to do it all perfectly, particularly about participating online and in social media, I draw on her work a lot to build people’s confidence, and help give themselves a break.
In your CWC bio you write that you are a blogger. Is your blog a mirror of who you are as a person?
My personal blog/journal on my website is something new for me, which I’m still developing and exploring. For the last eight years I’ve blogged for the businesses I’ve worked for and rarely had the time to blog for myself. I still blog for businesses (over at Life Instyle and Reed Gift Fairs), but I’m loving curating my own stories in my own space. And yes, it’s very much a journal of the things, people and words that personally move me (and I hope you too!)
Your journal is an inspiring read, especially your journey of 2013. What a big year... how can you top that in 2014?
You know, I didn’t set out planning to have such a big year in 2013. In fact, my plan was to take a sabbatical for a few months! What I found was, when I started giving myself permission and space to go towards the people and places that I was drawn to, and honour my true interests, doors opened up. And then there was the serendipitous universe… a guy I hadn’t spoken to in 17 years contacted me on LinkedIn out of the blue with a job opportunity (and I hadn’t even changed my position title from kikki.K at that stage). That kind of thing happened a lot last year.
Stuff just happened when I learned to breathe. So for 2014, I really want to keep doing more of that.
Have there been any social media brand strategy's that have inspired or engaged you lately?
Most recently it would have be Target USA teaming with top pinners to create party products to sell in store. The first collection is with Joy Cho from Oh Joy who has over 13million Pinterest followers (while Target themselves have 150k). The collection is beautiful and my feeds are full of pretty party set ups. Well played, Target.
Who Give’s a Crap is a social enterprise selling toilet paper, with 50% of profits going to improving sanitation in developing countries. They crowdfunded their initial seed fun with a great campaign on IndieGoGo - they live streamed the founder sitting on a loo until the initial $50,000 was raised. You can watch the video and read all about it on their website. Their product is beautifully designed, surprising and delighting. You can’t help but Instagram when your order has arrived. I know. I never thought I’d 'gram TeePee either.
Wittner’s savvy collaboration with Australian fashion bloggers is brilliant. They cleverly use the content from the collaborations across all their platforms from their own blog content, to email marketing, to social media feeds. (Did I mention I have a shoe buying problem?)
I love, love, love Black Milk Clothing for their story, their nylon loving community and their furry friends. Read their About Us page on their website and see photos of their customers of all sizes and shapes wearing their R2D2 and C3PO leggings and getting the love. My Hans Solo and Chewbacca legging are in the post.
West Elm’s inclusion of Etsy sellers instore and doing events with high profile bloggers is awesome. Great excuse to party!
The Holistic Ingredient enticed her 50K Instagram followers to sign up to her subscriber database on her website with a free snack recipe book. Hooked me!
From your past experiences is there a consistent mistake that most small businesses make with their social media plan?
Firstly it’s about actually making a plan! Making a plan built on understanding your customers dilemmas and desires and then bringing your own expertise and passion to them isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. It requires some space and quiet time to be challenged and think. And many businesses get so caught up in the ‘doing’ of their businesses, they work against themselves by not stopping to plan, and make their load easier to carry.
Discipline to stick to the plan is the next thing. Setting up weekly rhythms, support systems and automated tool to help with that is key.
The other thing would be relying only on social media for communicating with customers, and forgetting to always be building their list of email addresses on their own database. I’ve read stories about Facebook and Instagram closing down business accounts to the horror of those businesses – businesses need to remember that they don’t ‘own’ spaces on social media, but they do own their database.
And lastly, in the online space ‘you are what you publish’. Publish regularly from your heart, to the heart of your customers.
Thank you Kylie for your time and sharing your webby insights with us!
Kylie, alongside Belinda Langler of The Inkling Effect, recently held a Social Media and Content Marketing Class in Melbourne called "Content Kin" in early April. It was an extremely successful and informative event where the attendees made creative spaces, by utilising hands on tools and making actionable plans. The key tools used throughout the day were mindmaps, sharpies, post-its and big sheets of kraft paper, the end of the workshop concluded with each attendee walking away with their own content marketing mission, buyer personas, social media stats and a plan that they can implement over the next six months. If you missed this session contact Kylie firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how she can help you develop your own content.
Follow Kylie's Of Kin blog at ofkin.com/blog, or find her @ofkin on Twitter and Instagram.
Andrea McArthur has a passion for all things visual and works as a Senior Graphic Designer at a branding agency in Dubai. Type is her true love and goes weak at the knees over beautiful design. You'll find her sharing design related musings via Twitter and Instagram