‘Social Influencers’ seem to be two a penny these days, with a seemingly never-ending array of Insta-famous folk who you’ve never heard of claiming the title. But Ciamh McCrory was paving the way this wave of wannabes, and building a community on social media, long before the term ‘social influencer’ was even coined.
Having garnered a network of over 51,000 followers on Twitter alone, Ciamh has been named on many a “most successful digital influencers in Ireland” and “who you need to follow on Twitter” list, and is so widely recognised across social platforms that she’s known as ‘Ciamh McDigital’ in the online community.
Formerly a Social Media and Digital Marketing lecturer and the head of Digital Education at the European Institute of Communications, three years ago she brought her expertise to Insight Consultants, which has been scooped an unrivalled 29 industry awards, where she now works as Head of Digital.
Though her success in business is not just due to her vast knowledge of the digital sector. Ciamh is a people person, whose wit and charm have made her a natural as a panelist on Elaine Crowley’s daytime talkshow Elaine on TV3, as well as for her work as a keynote speaker and MC.
Despite long working days and events that often go on late into the night, Ciamh generously gives her time Director of Irish Internet Association, as well as charities To Children With Love, and the Irish Homeless Street League.
She also gave us a slice of her valuable time. Read on for her tips on how to build a loyal social media following, what she thinks of the new wave of influencers, and her go-to karaoke song – it will definitely surprise you.
When did you discover a flair for social media and digital marketing?
I’m going to let you in on a little secret… I fell into this career by complete accident! Having dropped out of college after a year, I joined the bank where I worked in mortgages and business finance before leaving to join a mortgage agency.
It was through my sales roles that I discovered the impact that social media could have in developing businesses. I’m not going to lie, I was always driven by money and as I realised that social media allowed me to sell to people en masse.
“Results don’t define you, or immediately kick-start your career, what will define your career is ambition, hard work and drive.”
My fascination grew and grew, and after about four or five years, I realised that I loved social media marketing more than I loved sales, and the rest, as they say, was history.
Funnily enough, my job didn’t exist when I left college, never mind when I left school, which is why I also advise school leavers not to worry too much about exams. Results don’t define you, or immediately kick-start your career, what will define your career is ambition, hard work and drive. If you’ve got those three, you’re already winning.
How important is digital marketing to your clients now in comparison to traditional forms of marketing?
It’s funny, when I first started working in social media I always found it a challenge trying to convince decision makers and clients that social media was a worthwhile investment for a company. Now, it is often the first KPI in our clients PR and marketing campaigns.
At Insight Consultants we’re lucky in that we are a fully rounded communications agency in that as well as having our digital team, we also have experts in consumer PR, Corporate PR, crisis communications, public affairs, media training etcetera.
When I first joined the agency three years ago, these offerings were almost stand alone departments, whereas now, digital works with each of the different departments almost on a daily basis as digital continues to become a more and more integral part of any communications strategy. I always say “you don’t need a digital communications strategy – you need a communications strategy for a digital world!”
What trends will be big on social media in 2018?
Video, video, video! Social media has allowed us to become writers, directors, producers and stars of our own reality TV shows, and as the demand for deeper insights and live, on-demand video continues to increase, it’s critical that brands embrace this if they really want to capture the attention of their clients.
I also think we’re going to see deeper, more refined collaborations as the “influencer” marketing industry grows. It gets a lot of slack, often deservedly so, but I think the real stars of the show will start to surface as brand/influencer campaigns become much more streamlined.
“Social media has allowed us to become writers, directors, producers and stars of our own reality TV shows”
I hate to say it, but I think Snapchat, as we know it, will die a death in 2018 as we continue to see the migration from Snapchat to Insta-stories.
This can only be good news for brands as Instagram offers more transparency, better insights and analytics both for their own social media campaigns, and for collaborative marketing as well.
Many people are claiming to be social media ‘experts’ and ‘influencers’ nowadays. What for you sets any one of these people apart from the crowd?
Now, this one is a bit of a touchy subject for me. We live in an age when everyone is a social media user – but a social media user does not a social media expert make!
My biggest gripe, and fear, is when brands hand their social media or digital campaigns over to inexperienced interns, or students etcetera, who have no professional experience in this field.
It took me years to learn my craft, hell, I’m still learning every day as platforms and trends change so frequently, but you wouldn’t hand your tax returns over to a student to do – and it’s only the tax man who sees those!
A social media post has the potential to reach millions of people within seconds – why would you ever think it’s a good idea to give that power or responsibility to someone who is inexperienced?
“It’s not how many followers you have, but the engagement and buy in of these followers that’s important.”
When it comes to social media “experts” and “influencers” there’s a number of things you should be looking out for, but the most important is a proven track record!
What professional campaigns has this person worked on before? What were the results? Numbers don’t lie, but sadly too many people focus on the wrong numbers. It’s not how many followers you have, but the engagement and buy in of these followers that’s important.
Anyone in our industry worth their salt should be able to tell you these off the top of their head at any given time – I know I could!
What’s your number one tip for building a social media following?
Be human! People buy from people and regardless of whether you are building an audience for a brand or for yourself you’re selling.
If you are not 100% real with who you are online, people will see right through it and switch off instantly. Aside from that, I would say never underestimate the value of humour or a good GIF – GIFS are life online!
You are constantly online and at events, do you find it hard to achieve a life work balance?
Work life balance? What’s that? Joking aside, I’m very fortunate that I have so many great friends in the industry, or complimentary industries that often attend the same events as me, so whilst I very much treat every event as part of my job, it’s also a great way to catch up with friends, and of course make new friends.
It is very demanding though, and I think if you have to commit these kind of hours to a job, you really have to love it, and I really do!
Whilst my job is demanding, often stressful, and exhausting at times, it’s exciting, it’s fun and honestly I think I’m one of the lucky ones to have found something I love doing, something I’m good at, and that I get to call that my job – sadly, not everybody can claim that.
What social media platform could you not live without?
Oh that’s a toughie! If you’d asked me that as recent as six months ago I would have said Twitter hands down, but I think now it would be a touch match between Twitter and Instagram, closely followed by Facebook, but I love them all for very different reasons.
“Whilst my job is demanding, often stressful, and exhausting at times, it’s exciting, it’s fun and honestly I think I’m one of the lucky ones”
Twitter I love for staying up to date with news and what’s happening in the world, whereas I love Instagram for ‘the feels’ it gives you, and, of course, the almost hourly noses on people’s stories.
Facebook I use constantly for private messaging and keeping up to date with people. Let’s just say I couldn’t live without my phone and leave it at that!
Who are your must-follow people on Twitter?
That’s an even tougher question – you’re killing me here! That’s like asking a parent who their favourite child is. I have a Twitter list created called “Daily Updates” that has 184 members in which is all my favourite people I love to follow.
Do you see the value in women’s networking events and organisations, and if so why?
100%. I’m a firm believer that when women have each others’ backs, there’s nothing and nobody that can break them. I’ve been very fortunate in life to have some incredible mentors and people who inspired me, many of which were female so I think it’s crucial to surround yourself with women who inspire you, support you, and drive you.
What other Irish women are inspiring you right now?
How long have you got?! Niamh O’Donoghue, creative extraordinaire for her strength.
Niamh Briggs, Sophie Spence (Irish Women’s Rugby) and Stephanie Roche (Irish Women’s Football) for what they’re doing for irish Sport right now.
Oonagh O’Hagan (Meagher’s Pharmacy), Jules Mahon (I’m not brown-nosing I swear!) and Norah Casey (Image Publications) for changing the stereotype of business women – we can be kind, caring, as well as cut-throat, successful business women who get shit done, all the while building each other up, and wearing high heels and lipstick.
“I’m a firm believer that when women have each others’ backs, there’s nothing and nobody that can break them.”
Ruth Negga for the platform she is building for Irish acresses on a global stage.
Alison Spittle, comedian, for being brilliantly funny in an often too serious a world.
Amy Huberman – well because she’s Amy bloody Huberman – wife, mother, actress, author, fashion designer, part-time social media comedian, and an all-round legend who proves that women can juggle a million things and still crack a joke when all the eggs are up in the air.
My mum, Orlagh McCrory, it might seem cliché but she not only managed to raise four children, be a brilliant wife, run her own two businesses whilst getting degree after degree, but she also pushed us to be the best versions of ourselves and taught us that we were the only ones who could stand in our way.
What is the one thing you wish you could tell your 16-year-old self?
Get a grip of yourself. Stop giving a shit about what other people think of you – it’s none of your business. You ARE good enough and YES YOU CAN do it. And, of course; Blue eyeshadow is never a good idea!!
Where are your favourite places for a night out in Dublin?
All you have to do is remotely glimpse at any of my social media fields to know I live in Krystle, the suite is like my (livelier, nosier, much more fun) living room.
“We can be kind, caring, as well as cut-throat, successful business women who get shit done, all the while building each other up, and wearing high heels and lipstick.”
Although I do love dinner in any of Dylan McGrath’s places – Fade Street Social, Brasserie Sixty6, Rustic Stone, and Taste, as they really nail the food every time.
I love a drink in the new Library Bar in Number 22, House on Leeson Street, 37 Dawson Street, Nolita or Sams’ Bar.
Where is your favourite place in the world and what makes it so special?
My parent’s house on Christmas day, when all my family is there, including my 89-year-old grandparents whom I adore. It’s my favourite day of the year and I couldn’t imagine spending it anywhere else, my parents always pull out all the stops to make it uniquely special each and every year.
What are your three dessert island beauty essentials?
My Inglot HD Foundation, my Benefit Boi-ing Industrial Strength Concealer and my Code Beauty FFL mascara – it’s Hunreal!
What do consider your greatest achievement?
It’s hard to chose a single acheivement that means more to me than others because I’m a firm believer in celebrating and acknowledging the small milestones in life that lead us to where we are because they’re the real achievements.
“You and only you have control of your ambition, your mind and your feelings, so don’t ever hand that control over to someone else.”
Though if I had to choose, I think the one that stands out the most was when I won an “Outstanding Contribution to Education” award a few years ago for lecturing. I remember thinking that I had finally given my parents something to be properly proud of, after giving them hell for years – mostly about my own eductation ironically! Their reaction to that award meant more to me than any achievement has ever made to me.
What is your karaoke song?
I’m mortified even admitting this, but Frank Sinatra’s I Did it My Way even though I only know the chorus, because I can actually sing it like an operatic man. That always gets the room in stitches.
What trait do you most dislike in others?
Jealousy and meanness – they are the two things you will never be able to change in a person.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“Do you get me?” I’ve had to consciously try to stop using it.
Chipper or Chinese?
A Spice Bag from the will always win that one. Although I’m a complete takeaway addict, I’d happily eat one for lunch and the other for dinner.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of advice I ever got was a combination of famous quotes. “It is none of your business what other people think of you,””nobody can ever make you feel inferior without your permission,” and “you and only you have control of your ambition, your mind and your feelings, so don’t ever hand that control over to someone else.”