Everyone can participate in the game of social media. But it requires a few more skills, plenty of practice and maybe a measure of foolhardiness to rise above the pack of “likes”, “followers”, “peeps”, Twitterati and Instagrammers.
Sam Mutimer decided to adopt early and take a punt on becoming a social media consultant. She identified a gap in the market and, in rugby parlance, has run through it to lay claim to launching one of Australia’s first social media agencies, Thinktank Social, based in Melbourne.
The rugby references are because Mutimer, born and raised in Essex, England, was an international (number 8) for the England women’s rugby team in 2000 and 2001, and used a rugby mishap in 2009 to test the model and see if there was an appetite for her niche consultancy.
Newly married and on holiday back in Essex after four years in Australia, Mutimer was immobilised and unable to travel for three months after breaking her leg in a social rugby match.
Always, she says, “a glass-half-full person”, Mutimer produced and narrated a series of YouTube videos featuring her plastered leg as a billboard to sell advertising space, spread the word on Facebook and Twitter and generated a following which led to a growing clientele.
“A broken leg always has its quirky upside,” she says. “Especially if you are a business owner – it’s marketing space.”
Mutimer had taken up Twitter in 2008 to create “Tweet-Up Mellers” events in Melbourne – another first – to build a network of contacts and generate leads for Thinktank Media, the precursor to Thinktank Social, where she was a co-director delivering traditional marketing and communications strategies, earning about $850 a week.
She recalls a frustration that small to medium enterprises were reluctant to assign budget and questioned the return on investment for social media marketing: “I could see that social media ticks so many boxes in regard to sales, connection and engagement, customer insights, brand recognition, even recruitment. For me it was a no-brainer.”
Self-appointed and sought after
Returning to Melbourne and emboldened by a growing following, Mutimer rebranded and launched Thinktank Social in 2011: “I needed to re-niche myself.” She generated publicity through appearances on KissFM and network television news programs as a self-appointed and sought-after social media commentator. Early clients included the AFL Players’ Association and Richmond Football Club.
Mutimer’s staff of 10 are a mix of web developers, account managers, creative writers and designers. About 42 clients brought in revenues of about $1.2 million for the 2013 financial year, up on $800,000 for the first full year in 2012.
“It could have been a fad, but suddenly Thinktank became the go-to company for social advice,” she says. “It was insane.” Her inner Melbourne office, leased for about
$3000 a month, is a reflection of the Mutimer attitude – breezy, busy, and slightly cluttered but very focused, with a mix of gym equipment, hot desks and social-media slogans adorning the walls.
Her first retainer was a $7500 consultancy to a health and fitness chain.
Tobin Brothers Funerals in 2012 engaged Mutimer to create a smartphone application called Memory Maker for bereaved to gain mobile access to information when organising a funeral. The template is being onsold to other funeral directors overseas.
A new project this year is developing content for Eureka Skydeck, 88 floors above Melbourne, which will allow visitors to go back in time and see historic views of the city through Google Glass, the “wearable computer” for your head.
A mother of two, Mutimer’s focus this year will continue to be the creation of mobile marketing content to engage consumers on the move. “It is less about the desktop, and more about the eyeballs being on a phone or tablet,” she says. “Stop at the traffic lights and look around you and many people have their head down. They are all looking at mobile devices. Ten years ago they looked at billboards.”
Adding more depth
As a complement to traditional media, Mutimer says her role as a social media agency is to add more depth to the traditional connection between customer and brand: “You can listen to what people are saying and you can deliver. If the general consensus is you are serving crap coffee, you can switch.”
“It is harder to get noticed and you have to use [social media] effectively,” she adds. “Two years ago you might have cut through but now it is all about content and quality and my role is to work to develop high quality content to engage with the customer.”
It is all about education and adaptation to remove the fear, says Mutimer, a trained ‐ secondary school teacher whose first job was at a “hard school” Chadwell Heath near Dagenham in east London, teaching physical education and science for about four years.
Unafraid of a challenge and a fan of Neighbours, Mutimer arrived in Melbourne in 2005 on a backpacking trip, with virtually no money and a willingness to try anything. That included promotional work with various brands, dressing up and handing out marketing collateral at $30 an hour. She even scrubbed pots for $10 an hour: “When you are down to your last cent, it teaches you to find a way to make things happen.”
She taught in suburban Altona for a year, qualified as a life coach and charged herself out at $180 an hour, finally making her way to Thinktank Media where she began as a consultant and continued what she calls her “conversations with strangers”.
“I’ve made many mistakes, I am happy to take the risk and I’m not afraid to laugh at myself,” she says. “If you stick to your values, you will end up in a good spot.”
In the speedy social-media world of adopters, apps and attitude, Mutimer is already on to a new income channel thanks to the latest “hot” platform, Snapchat, where picture and video messages can be limited to stay live for up to 10 seconds, before disappearing.
“It’s another channel for cool, creative and exciting marketing campaigns.” And an opportunity to stay ahead of the game. Says Mutimer, ever the competitor: “I like to win. Remember, coming second means you’re the first to lose.”