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Social Media Portal interview with Rachel Hawkes at Elemental

Tim Gibbon (Social Media Portal) - 19 February 2012

Social Media Portal interview with Rachel Hawkes at Elemental

Profiled - Rachel Hawkes, account director at communications consultancy, Elemental

Social Media Portal (SMP): What is your role at Elemental?

Rachel Hawkes (RH): Iím an account director at Elemental, I help brands and other agencies develop, then implement integrated comms and social media strategies and campaigns.

SMP: Briefly, tell us about Elemental (for those that donít know), what is it and what does it do?

RH: Elemental is a communications consultancy based in London, but we build brands and profiles clients all over the world.  Weíve been working with digital marketing (i.e. social media) for longer than most, almost 11 years now.  The strength of Elemental is how we work with these emerging channels, integrating them with off and online activity and PR.

Photograph of Rachel Hawkes, account director at ElementalSMP: Can you tell us what event youíre guest speaking at (please provide details of date, day, time and location if possible Ė what is your presentation entitled)?

RH: Iím speaking at Search Engine Strategies in London on the 22nd of February 2012, and the session is "Why content strategy is crucial for social search.Ē  Iím joined on a panel by Chris Boggs from Rosetta in the US and Krista LaRiviere from gShift Labs in Canada.

SMP: Who are your ideal target audience for the session and what can they hope to take away from your presentation?

RH: Brands and agencies that want to learn about how a content strategy plays into the bigger search picture.  With search engines like Google and Bing working more closely with social networks to deliver richer search results, brands need to be more strategic in the planning, distribution and communication of content. This session will deliver practical examples, tips and case studies on how this can be done.

SMP: How would you summarise what content strategy is and why is it crucial for social search?

RH: Content strategy is having a plan in place to develop and communicate content, keeping in mind that content is written, images, audio, video and so on.  The web (and particularly social media) is built on content, and itís the right content delivered to the right audience through the right channel that will help brands thrive online.  However, it shouldnít be underestimated what is required to develop and maintain a healthy content strategy. 

As mentioned above, the major search engines are getting more intelligent at integrating social content (tweets, YouTube videos, Flickr content, Facebook etc.) into search results, this is important for brands as it helps boost their organic search profile and reach a relevant audience Ė both old, existing and new.

SMP: What are the low moments of what youíve been doing so far?

RH: Typically during economic downturn one of the first budgets to get cut is for many businesses is PR and marketing, so the recession over the last few years (with the threat of a double dip recession this year) has made for a tough time for many in the food cycle.  What has been difficult is competing against the sudden rise of the pop-up social media agencies and self-proclaimed gurus, mavens and evangelists becoming overnight experts as soon as the buzz word became popular. 

Even other communication agencies that have been working in the space for almost as long as Elemental dropped its PR roots to be pure-play social media agencies.  Thatís a bit frustrating, particularly when many of these agencies come to people like us to help them deliver the production work because they are unable to for a number of reasons.  As my colleague Tim says, brands really have no idea who is doing their work.

SMP: What are the high moments of what youíve been doing so far?

RH: Probably the X Factor infographics we did during the 2011 season of the show.  Although these were extremely labour intensive, the feedback we received from readers (including ITV) made it worth the extra hours.  I also really love getting hands-on with campaigns, helping clients like Topman and adidas to navigate social media and real-time customer engagement.

SMP: What do you feel the next big step for social media / networks are and what may be the impact upon social search (and content strategy)?

RH: Development across mobile and tablets will continue to be huge this year, as apps better integrate with our devices, and how these may be monetized through in-app purchases straight from the mobile. 

Also, it will be rich content platforms like Pinterest which has just recently found media favour (personally, Iíve been pinning my heart out for the last year) and services that enable more personal and dynamic conversations for individuals and their own personal network, and between brands and its customers (hello Google+ Hangouts).

SMP: Whatís going to be the most interesting aspect regarding social media / technology throughout 2012?

RH: How all of the above will be marry up with mobile and localisation.

I think we will also see a huge change with how Facebook launches significant changes and new products to its users once it goes public.  Facebook has a culture of Ďaplogise laterí but that isnít going to work with shareholders, who will see their profits taking a nose-dive with the backlash from customers who donít appreciate not having a choice or a voice in changes Zuckerberg and Co roll out.  Once the social network goes public, I think they will have to work differently and the Facebook User will have more of a say in what they want from the platform Ė because without them there is no profit.

SMP: What are your top five predictions for social media throughout 2012 (please use one to two sentences for each prediction, or write more if you wish)?

RH's top tips:
  1. Facebook will change once it goes public.  For the better?
  2. More personal mobile experiences based on social media and localisation
  3. More retail brands and TV networks adopting Facebook commerce for purchases and voting
  4. The beginning of a better marriage between TV manufacturers, TV networks (and their shows) and social media
  5. Sophisticated brand campaigns across Pinterest and Google+ís Hangouts

SMP: What are your top five social media tips (please use one to two sentences for each tip, or write more if you wish)?

RH's top tips:
  1. Know your audience and understand how you can add-value to their time online
  2. Develop a communications and content strategy that is a solid base to work from, but that is flexible and allows you to react and engage in real-time
  3. Donít operate in an internal silo.  Social media is best practiced when all departments are involved and work together on serving the customer
  4. Donít get bogged down in the numbers of followers, fans and views.  Instead focus on the relevancy of the people you are communicating with
  5. Be focused, relevant, open and transparent or go home

SMP: Best way to contact you and Elemental (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn Twitter, YouTube etc)?

RH: Twitter of course - Elemental @elementalcomms and me @rachelhawkes
Hangout with us on Google+ or you can get at us on Facebook

Now some questions for fun

SMP: What did you have for breakfast / lunch?
RH: For breakfast I had vegemite on toast with a cup of tea (milky, two sugars)

SMP: Whatís the last good thing that you did for someone?
RH: I am the Chair of Verity, and work with my colleagues there to support thousands of women in the UK with PCOS and raising awareness and understanding with media and medical professionals

Aside from that, I made chocolate mousse (a recipe I found on Pinterest!) for my flatmate

SMP: If you werenít working at Elemental what would you be doing?

RH: Iíd probably be trying to start up a property empire and my own handmade jewellery and knitwear line

SMP: What is it that youíre most looking forward to do in London, apart from guest speaking at SES?

RH: I live in London, but am an Aussie expatÖ so I still love to go out and explore the city and experience something new.  Also, Iím looking forward to being an Olympic Ambassador in July! Whooo!

SMP: When and where did you go on your last holiday?

RH: I went home to Tasmania for an extended working holiday over Christmas and New Year. It was so hard to come back from 30 degrees and sunshine to drizzle and dark at 4pm

SMP: Whatís the first thing you do when you get into the office of a morning?

RH: Check my Netvibes and email

SMP: If you had a superpower what would it be and why?

RH: I would have the ability to grant unlimited wishes (including my own!)Ö no limitations!

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