Sep 15, 2023
If most of us feel overwhelmed by social media, how does the owner of a social media agency manage to keep the balance?
In this episode, Will Francis chats with Zack O'Rourke of Social Directions agency to find out more. They dig into how he keeps and promotes efficiency, deals with his team and with clients, develops the creative juices, and still finds time for a swim in the sea.
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“Social media never stops, but you need to stop. So have your switch off point, and have a good section of the day where you're not near the phone.” Zach O'Rourke
Welcome to Ahead of the Game, a podcast brought to you by the Digital Marketing Institute. I'm your host, Will Francis, and today I'll be talking to Zach O'Rourke about mental wellbeing for social media professionals. Zach is founder at Social Directions Agency, a Dublin-based social media agency. Zach, welcome to the podcast. How you doing?
Hi Will, I'm not too bad, I'm not too bad, excited to be here today.
Good, yes, it's great to have you. We've talked a little bit about mental wellbeing in marketing, but I think everyone would agree probably not enough. So I'm really happy to be talking to you about that today. And I think you're in a great place to tell us about that. Before we do, just set the scene, tell us what it is that you do and how you got there.
Yeah, it's definitely not a straight path to where I'm at today. So obviously I am director of a social media agency based in Dublin and Ireland at the moment. And my journey in marketing started off really it dates back to possibly about 10 years ago when I was in college. I was studying computer science, went down that direction just because.
I was told, you know, you are a computers guy, you're a techie guy, you should head into learn how to code. So I went that direction but I certainly learned that wasn't for me. I was in college, I was possibly about three years into college, I had failed my second year, I was struggling with the passion for wanting to do computer science to be honest. I'm more of a person that I'm 100% if I enjoy it. So
I was going through college and I decided to pick up a camera. Actually, I was, I was, it was around the time YouTube was super big. A lot of YouTubers were coming out there and I was quite fascinated by the fact that you could pick up a camera and create a video of your own, edit it by yourself and get it onto a platform, almost like, you know, being on TV, but without the need for the complexity. So I started doing that, just building a YouTube channel, like dabbling with the
the world of personal branding. Didn't really understand what personal branding was at the time, but I knew I could pick up a camera, I could create an idea from scratch myself. So I started doing that on the side of doing my college degree. And that got picked up. A few people started, you know, recognizing I was on YouTube, but they recognize in the way that they wanted me to film little ads for their business, you know, little walkthroughs of
of a business, 30 second videos and they would pay me for this. So I was like on one side I've got this four year course in college in computing and on the other I have making videos which I actually get paid money for and I love. So I finished the course but at the same time I launched a business in video production which was very interesting business and just started working with the world of content creation.
Soon after finishing college, moved across to Canada, had to pack in the first ever business which was called Zora Productions. And sad time but just unfortunately without contacts in Canada I couldn't keep it up. And I jumped into a job, a corporate job in recruitment for two years. But about 18 months into that job I just realised that like I looked at social media and I was looking and I was thinking there's so many brands just that need...
to do it better. You know, the standard I felt was quite poor. And I said, I was just kind of struggling with working the nine to five as well. And I was like, you know, I'm going to, I'm going to try go into content creation again, but I'm going to try going in a way that I can get people onto retainers and earn some money frequently every month. And that's when I started to basically create content for brands, but also manage it in the on social media. And the reason I was managing it.
further on social was just because I wanted repetitive work. It wasn't really because I wanted to, you know, I want it wasn't for the love of social. But then, you know, I over time, I just realised I really started to enjoy the process of building a brand and not just building content reserves, but actually taking that from start to finish and the idea of building a strategy. So, you know, that's a long story kind of squeezed.
to date and you know what that's what I've been doing for years since now is just building and building and building an agency and I think it was good timing as well because content seems to be the currency now in social media.
Yeah, more than ever. And do you know what? Still today, most brands, or certainly a lot of brands that are well-known are doing social media very badly and they get in horrendous engagement rates. Like, you know, I teach about this stuff and I use examples of major brands everyone's heard of that have got like a million followers on Facebook and their posts are getting like seven likes sometimes. How does that happen? Why are a surprising amount of brands
still doing social media badly. What do you think the key reasons for that are?
I think there's a couple of reasons but the first one I'd say is people built their socials very fast. They built followings very fast over the last 10 years and in the beginning I felt like it was just get as many followers as possible. It doesn't matter who they are. It doesn't matter if they're your target customer or not. I don't know if you remember the rage where it was just people buying followers left, right and center because it was like a flex to have 10k followers. So going down that way has left businesses with...
Let's say for example 100,000 followers with and 97,000 of those followers are people that are never going to buy the product or service. So the way the algorithms are working now, when they rely on pushing content out and the engagement based off that content, there's 97,000 people that are seeing that content have no interest. So it flops, you know, that would be, you know, one of the core reasons I feel like things aren't doing well for these bigger companies. And
I was going to say the second reason is just businesses haven't fully understood the shift of providing value in content. They're still stuck in the sale, sale. And because there's so much content out there these days, I just feel like you have to be giving something for someone to want to give to you.
Yeah, absolutely. So we're spoiled for choice for great content on the internet. So why would we waste our time and attention looking at media content from brands, right?
Exactly. Like if you think about TikTok at the moment, like why is it that you get so engulfed in that platform? It's because you're constantly receiving, you're not being sold to you might be very subtly, but you're receiving entertainment. You know, you're learning the most random DIY hack that you didn't need to know, but you know now and it's like the best thing ever. You know, you're laughing your head off or something. So I just think that's why we see TikTok doing so well is because they've nailed that value thing. And that's where
what businesses haven't nailed.
And thinking about the process, because for me, I wonder if the process is broken. I wonder if brands are stuck on a treadmill of posting and they've got this quantity quota that we must get five Instagram posts up a week, et cetera. And that quantity kind of rules and it's at the cost of everything else, like quality, engagement, et cetera. And it's like they then stop posting even though they're getting like seven likes on a post.
They just have to keep it up. They're terrified of someone thinking they've disappeared or gone away. Is there something about that?
Yeah, yeah, it does seem that way. You know, and we all go through that. We all go through that fear of, oh, no, I haven't posted. You know, people are going to think I'm not into this anymore. I'm not committed with, whereas the reality is people are all too busy. They're too busy in their lives to really notice how much a brand is posting on social, you know.
Yeah, no, absolutely. I think a lot of brands would do well to just go away for a few weeks or a month and actually work out what their audience would actually really appreciate in their feeds, right?
Yeah, this is what I'm talking a lot about with my clients at the moment is like, hold on a second. Why, like, why do you want to post 16 posts a month? Why do you want to be active every second day? Why don't we really dial this back and like, let's just be active twice a week. But when we're active, we are like, we're great. Like we are like giving that follower the most such incredible information that no one else is doing. And, you know, I find that extra capacity if the client agrees, of course, allows us to just show up and receive.
more growth in terms of follower growth, impressions and actual generation of leads and sales but with less effort.
Yeah, I love that. You know, it's quality over quantity. This comes down to being as simple as that, I think, doesn't it?
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, this is obviously too much. People are always in two different minds. Sometimes it is quality over quantity, and then sometimes people say quantity over quality. But from my personal opinion, running the agency, I always think just the quality you can put out is key.
Yeah. Okay, so in running the agency, what are, you know, thinking about that your mental well-being, etc. Let's just start to crack that open a bit. What are the main pressures that are on you that potentially keep you up at night, metaphorically, if not literally?
Literally as a fair statement when you run an agency in digital marketing, social media marketing just never stops. For me, you might have people running one or two pages themselves. I'm running multiple dozen pages every day for clients. That's a lot on your shoulders, I would say, having a team and breaking the skill sets for me into...
Copywriter design team planning team ads team has really helped but I think I think knowing that social media never stops is a really important thing for me anyway as an agency owner because you can you can give you can go all day long and running social media accounts and you can stress about everything but the reality is
you know, you have to take a break and you have to realize that at a certain time of the day that you need to stop and switch off those social media platforms because as much as I love them and as much as I'm in this industry, I do realize they're detrimental for your mental health, that's for sure.
And what do clients think about that? Is there a client expectation that someone will be around 24-7?
I struggle with this and for anyone that's getting started in social media, you'll always work with the people that expect too much in the beginning. The people that expect a response at 11pm on a Saturday night or the people that text you at 7am in the morning and want the response. For me, setting very clear boundaries was a fundamental part of when we really accelerated our growth because me and the team...
are in a much better mindset. When it comes to our messaging hours for our clients to communicate are between nine and 6 p.m. After that, we are out of those chats where we're communicating over stuff. That is pushed the next day. So we rely, we're big into our manual posting on social media. We will schedule things if it's after our hours. We try to avoid it, but we will do it so that we do set clear boundaries between being online and.
and having the clients respond and want to get in contact with us.
Yeah, and I think that's good. You know, clients need to understand you're human. Yeah, you know, and there is, that's, you know, you have to respect that. And that's, so that's interesting. You avoid using scheduling platforms where possible, and you prefer to post manually with the phone in your hand on the actual platform or on your laptop. Why is that?
Yeah, this is something I, for some reason, I've always felt this way. I've never, I've dabbled a little in scheduling platforms, but the reason is when, when we post content on a platform, I think it's very important to be present at that time, to capture the initial bit of exposure, to capture any initial comments, because I believe, and you know, it's, it's never fully confirmed, but the algorithm...
picks up on how much engagement is happening initially and makes that decision to push further if there's good engagement or not. Essentially the valuation of good content, bad content, it's quite simple for the algorithm. So that's why we get on, we post the post, and let's say it's Instagram, we post the story as well. We'll do a bit of engagement, we'll just comment on a couple of people's posts. And I feel that just gives the initial casting of the hook to reel the net in.
That's why I've always been that way. And I don't think things are going to change. I think manually being, you have to be active on the platform if you want to get the results.
the risk of sounding like some cheesy keynote speaker. It's social media, not media. Or something. But it's true, isn't it? And it's funny. I'm glad you said that because I feel like I'm in the minority. Again, I tell my delegates and students not to use scheduling platforms unless they really have to. Because I don't think it's just about...
Yeah, exactly as you said, yeah, yeah
the algorithm, I think that's a point as well. It's the mindset that then lets you fall into, that social media is this thing that you just program at arm's length. You don't really get too involved. You just have this very arm's length relationship with it and it all looks nice in the spreadsheet and the planning tool, and then you just kind of walk away and get on with the rest of your marketing. And not getting involved is such a clear signal to the algorithm that you're not properly turning up and you're not a worthwhile contributor to that platform.
Yeah exactly, imagine social without people on it.
Right? Right. Which is obvious when you talk about it, but it's amazing how many people think it's this like just free marketing channel that you can just sort of program at arm's length and walk away from. So part of that is engagement. You know, again, I'm always banging onto people. You have to spend at least 10%, if not 20% of the time you allocate to social engaging, not creating content, just engaging with others.
Do agree with that and how do you manage that with your clients?
Yeah, so from the beginning of when I started making proposals, and especially in the beginning, I was like, you know, when you're just getting into this world and you haven't done much at courses and experience like me, it was a bit of guessing, you know, but one thing I knew from the beginning was that community engagement is a fundamental part of time that goes into running a social media account. So I've always factored in at least four hours a week for running social media platforms, you know, for...
Basically putting, I've always between myself in the beginning and now we have a team that does that, that just sits on their phone. It's almost like the dream job for some people. They get to sit on their phone, browse the client's social media and just think like the client. You know, we, we know what the client's target audience is and we know how they speak and we spend a lot of time putting that into responding to comments, maybe putting comments on potential customers posts and just being active. You know, it's just a case.
It's not like reinventing the wheel. It's not a complex task. It's just being on the platform. And I think people forget to spend time on social media platforms and there's results in that, you know.
Well, look, if you were a creator again, and that was your job and your rent check depended on it, that's what you'd do. That's what anyone trying to build a social account out in the real world would do, right? And again, why brands think that they don't have to do that is beyond me. What else do you think? Do you think we can learn from creators? Do you think there's a lot brands can learn from the way that creators run social and do their thing?
Yeah, I think creators are like, and this is possibly why I am where I'm at today, because I started as a creator. So I think like a creator, but a creator always starts, especially the new people are starting with no product or service often. They're just starting with the ability to make content and it's fascinating what they do when they have nothing to sell. That is exactly what real social media content is. You know, it's.
You they are forced to entertain people or to provide value or to inspire or to do something without actually selling So if brands could look I always say to my client, you know Like we're selling a small space a bit maybe 20 25 percent of the time the rest of the time We're we're doing other things brands should be looking at creators to fill that 75 to 80 percent of the other things as I call it and
and creators are a great example. You know, they're the people they should be looking at or looking to work with to help with their socials.
Oh yeah, I mean, it was a leading question because I totally agree. Like the way creators plan, create, publish, follow up on content, the way that they use comments as input for the next video. I mean, the way that creators do this is the way it should be done because their end goal is to build an audience. And that's what a brand wants, but they can't help but ruin it by shoehorning this other goal in of like, well, we want to sell some stuff. It's like, well,
That would be loads easier if you had an audience. So why don't we just focus on building an audience in social and that can assist all your other marketing channels, including paid, you know.
Yeah, I've actually, I've advised clients in the past. I ran a talk recently on TikTok and the question of, is TikTok for your business? And I was giving advice to a lot of the business owners to, I was saying, okay, well look, how many followers do you want to get on TikTok? What do you see as success? And a lot of them were saying, 10,000 would be great. That's the goal. And I was saying, well, why don't you actually start as a creator account and take advantage of all the creator tools? I said, the downside is you will not get the link to your website on it.
but that forces you to think and act like a creator. You get to use the better opportunities in sounds, you get to use the trends, the filters, everything as a creator and you grow like a creator. And then at that point, you do the switch over to the business. And it was interesting. Some people, that really puts people in a corner. They're like, can we do social and think like a creator?
That's really good. Yeah, I love the fact you're actually pushing people to think about it like that, right? That's great, love that.
Yeah, it's not always the easiest because people obviously want to pull revenue from social platforms as quick as possible, you know, so it can be difficult.
Well, okay, as quick as possible. There's an interesting question. If you were to take my business on as a client today, how long would you advise that, how long would you warn me that I'm gonna have to wait before I start seeing commercial results if it's just organic content that we're putting up, no ads?
if it's just organic and no ads. I'd be, I'd be advising TikTok straight away to take advantage of that algorithm. Um, and starting as a creator, it's, it's such a tough question because it really depends on the product and the service and if it's a, if it's something that's needed in the market, you know, um, if it's another clothes brand coming out there, you are like in a tough market to break into, but if it's a new gadget that will help solve people's problems fast, you know, um,
It's taken us organically, it takes us about six months to build an account to about 10,000 followers. So that would that would be the only viable answer I have to give you. Yeah.
That's a good answer. Yeah. No, that's perfect. That, that because yeah, that's about the point at which we feel like it, we're starting to, or should be building some momentum that feels, you know. Right. That's interesting. Six months. And do you advise sprinkling some paid ads into that mix to speed things up or to perhaps bring some of those commercial results, particularly for obviously e-commerce brands?
Yeah, so I made a few changes in the agency about two years ago and we can talk about the second in a bit if you'd like, which is the we only work with clients that we create content for. But the first change was around paid advertising. I think personally, I think it's very important to have some sort of paid advertising budget to be and mainly just because around the data, you know, you learn so much from paid ads, you know, you get to.
If I spend a hundred euro a month even on paid ads, I can target my exact demographic audience, their location, their age, their gender if I want. And I can then throw out that and test and feedback results as to who resonated with it. So I've thrown out who I think is perfect for me. Now who is perfect? Who's actually buying? You know, who's coming to the website or who's going down the path that I see as my, you know, my viable way of selling to them.
So that's why I love paid ads is because it just gives it really clean data back to me.
So you use it as a sort of experimental playground to find stuff out because you can be so specific about who you show stuff to, what you show to them, A, B, C, D, test that, see if they bought, et cetera, et cetera. You've got that very clear, like you say, clean data, that very clear view, haven't you?
Yeah, we look at this data and then we take that straight back to the content creation process. You know, so I think that just gives me lots of great information. And for every client we work with, we just like even if some clients don't have a budget or an interest in paid ads, but I just always ask that we have something small just to do that bit of testing with. Yeah, to take advantage of that feature.
Yeah, okay, cool. So just out of interest, how do you sell your services? Do you tell me that it's gonna be a certain number of hours per month and I pay based on an hourly rate or is it just these sort of packages and tiers and things like that?
Yeah, so on the back end for between like the team, we know how many hours is expected to go into a running a social media plan. We don't typically share that with the client because the client gets a bit focused on the numbers, you know, on the numbers of how much investment is going in time. And in my opinion, if I can do something in eight hours or one hours, but the same result is the same, then why does it really, you know, does it really matter to the client? So
I just use that as a way of measuring how much team time I need to run that account. But for the client, we often break down our packages in the way of an entry package would just be say you're going to post organically eight times a month, we're going to have eight different content, eight different topics created, we're going to run your paid ads, we're going to give you your report and then just the standard stuff. And then as you go up, we might...
run ads on more platforms for them, we might do more posting, we might film more often as well. So it's just down to what sort of volume that client wants to get. But these suggestions are always based off what the client wants first. I don't quote to a client. You can't log on to my website and say, oh, Zach's packages are bronze, silver, gold, and it's XXX. It's really important to know what is the problem with the client before I tell them what the cost is to try to fix that problem.
Right, okay, and so you, what sort of metrics are you reporting? Are they the same for most people or is it again, just tailored to what the client's needs, challenges and brief is?
Yeah, often we focus on three different metrics for a client, which will change. But I'm always looking in regularly every week. I'm looking at where we're at versus what the client wants. So for a client in the service industry, you know, that might be how many leads are coming in the door for that client. So that's what the client wants to know. I want to know what the cost per lead is. So, but I'm just sharing, you know, how many leads for them. I might be sharing with them how many followers we're gaining for that client.
and I might be sharing how many website visitors we're getting. I try to focus on the metrics that really, I actually call them the metrics that matter for the client because it's just, at the end of the day the client wants to know how much revenue is coming in and often they want to know how much the page is growing. That's a secondary fundamental thing for that client.
Right, okay, yeah, that's cool. But with the caveat that revenue's not gonna start coming in from month one, in a lot of cases.
Yeah, it's, it, I do flag that with them when, when I'm starting, I think it's really important to flag with a client in the beginning that look, you're not going to achieve these goals that you've set out from day one, you know? So I, I map out where they'd like to go. And then I say, you know, for the first few months, we, we cannot promise you these. We will absolutely try. And I've often smashed it from, you know, the, the first week, um, uh, first month with a client, and got the results, but I always just
I think it's really important to be very honest and say, like, we can't control these, these are uncontrollable things, but we can do our best to get the momentum in the right direction.
Yeah, good, very good, sounds great. Sounds like you've got that very nailed down. But it is quite, we live in a very fast paced, fluid digital landscape. We always have, but arguably now more so than ever. And you're always looking for ways to really give those metrics that matter a boost. So you're looking for trends, right? Trending sounds, trending memes, trending conversations of some sort, cultural moments.
How do you keep on top of that?
Yeah, I think platforms are starting to really support people getting on trends quicker. If we look at the TikTok Creative Center at the moment, they're like giving you industry specific trends for your business. So we actually weekly are looking at that. You know, like we'll in the beginning of the week, we're just seeing, okay, what's actually come out at the moment? Also, just being a consumer of social media content is a great way of learning what's trending because
As you scroll TikTok mindlessly at 10 o'clock on a Friday evening, you're like seeing what's working like you yourself are the product that's taking in this information. So as an agency, we take what's trending and we just tweak it for the client. You know, like as you like say, the Barbie theme was out recently and we have a client at the furniture space. So we took the high Barbie, high Barbie, high Barbie sound effect and we put the
clients' sofas in a Barbie box with the trend and just rotated. You know, but initially I discovered that trend through a creator I follow on TikTok. So I find just by being a consumer on social media, that's often the best way of just identifying trends and spinning them off then into different clients' industries.
True, but that in itself obviously creates an always on pressure. There's that thing, a feeling of FOMO constantly, maybe something's blowing up and I don't know about it yet. Maybe I'll just reach for my phone. How do you keep on top of that? Tell us about how you sort of keep, stay sane really, yourself, just personally, amidst that pressure.
the noise of social. I think for me, my phone in particular, my notifications will be off for all social media platforms. That was a really big game changer for me. Now, the only reason I've managed to do that is because I'm not managing the community for the clients. That was, that gives me a lot of control as to when I access social media platforms. And I know you were talking about trends and how I can kind of spot trends.
without having to be engulfed in social media the whole time. I think there's great software out there for doing that. Like say, you know, the three I'd be using at the moment are the Creative Center on TikTok. I'd be using ForPlay to identify what competition is using in their paid advertising, which is often and will often be a trend as well. And then I'd be using it the Facebook Ads Library too. So there's a there's certain things I can kind of lean on if I need trends fast.
But yeah, from me switching off, it is just around turning off the notifications and being strict with when I'm working and when I'm not. Because the best ideas come when you're not working.
Yeah, that's true. So you sort of keep digital in a well-defined box.
Yeah, I think my, even my hobbies have changed as I've grown in this industry is I tend to do things in my spare time that are phone-less things. Two of my favorite things to do are CrossFit, where I get screamed at if there's a phone in the room, and sea swimming, whereas you're a phone down if you bring it into the sea. So, you know, it's forced me to start to really look at what I do.
Before the digital running an agency, I was big into bodybuilding in the gym, but I had to kind of change that because I'd be going into the gym and just scrolling Instagram or social for so long and it just wasn't, it wasn't a good place. I wasn't getting out of it what I needed, you know.
That's interesting. And in terms of like burnout, which is something I think a lot of people in digital either approach, come close to or actually full on experience. How do you help yourself? You've talked about that already a bit, but also your staff. Is there anything you do in your company culture that you think in any way protects your staff from digital burnout?
I think from the team's point of view, the best thing I've done is be very strict as to what they do in social, you know, having the roles spit up. Because the most stressful place and the closest I've ever been to burnout was when I was wearing many hats in the social media world. You know, I was the designer, the videographer, the editor, and I was doing absolutely everything to run it. So the team in general would never cross over roles.
and that has really helped. And then from a team point of view as well is just, I encourage them to, like, please, I would just be pretty annoyed with them if they're replying to clients after hours, you know, that sort of thing. Like, I set a good example because they won't see me replying and I expect them to do the same. So just having the boundaries as to when you're online, working versus offline has really helped.
Oh, that's good. That's great. It is about the example you set, isn't it? It's not always about what you say to people. You know, if they see you, right, if they see you replying to a client after hours, they think, well, I might as well too. And because it feels like a small, easy thing to do, but you don't realize over time that just, it becomes a bigger thing somehow, doesn't it? It kind of bleeds into your personal life, you know?
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Like, you know, you could be having the best weekend ever. You're so relaxed. You're just watching. You're with your partner on the sofa watching a film and then boom, the client chat pings and they say like, why did that post go up or there's a spelling mistake in the post and that can ruin your entire weekend, you know? So it's just, you have to be so careful about that space, you know, and especially in the digital world as well. A lot of
A lot of the clients tend to be in your WhatsApp groups and stuff like that. There's a bit of crossovers to the channels of communication. So it's something you have to be so proactive about is staying away from the toxic side of running social media and working in social media marketing.
What about if there is a spelling mistake on a Sunday? Or what about if there's a comment with some really awful, you know, abuse in it or something? I mean, is there any sort of emergency hotline?
You're looking at him. I'm the emergency hotline. I think we put a lot of in the beginning, there used to be mistakes would get through, especially when it was just me. I can't I am not great at copywriting and I'll happily hold my hand up. So mistakes would get through. We try to rely heavily on like things like grammarly and things like double checking, you know, like to two ways of I can't think of the exact term here.
to check before it gets true. Yeah, proofreading essentially. So we do avoid it, but I would encourage the teams to be logged out of the chats during the weekend. So if a message does creep through, which to be fair, it's rare, it will be me. And that's something I haven't learned to avoid yet. I will just jump in and resolve the issue.
Proofread him basically. Yeah.
Yes, no, I get that.
That's the beauty of being the business owner. You don't fully escape. You never will.
You never clock off, but that's, that is part of the trade off for running a business, right? We, we, we do understand that. Um, yeah, it strikes me that you, you might be, are you younger than a lot of your clients in age?
Oh yeah, I would be younger than all my clients, yeah.
And your staff probably are as well, I'm guessing.
Yeah, yeah, I almost use that as a selling point that we're like in with the social, you know, like, because like, there's this kind of stereotype that like, it's the young kids that know and understand social and rarely in a working environment does youth go in your favor. But in social media marketing, it seems to work. It's a great selling point. So.
It is a great selling point. Yeah, absolutely. We somehow wouldn't, I wouldn't be so sure if you rocked up and you were all like 55 year old gray guys in suits. Like, sorry, really? You're the social agency. But, so that is great. But also that sort of age difference and that maybe cultural difference, is that ever a problem because they don't get it for want of a better phrase? And you know, you're trying to...
simultaneously be taken seriously and have gravitas and like, I know I'm younger than you, you've got to listen to me on this. Or any of that kind of stuff.
I have learned to over time and this all comes with having more case studies and more experience. I've learned to really push back because clients especially with trending music I've noticed this or with trends in general. You'll show that you've put all the effort in you know you've got the video content ready and you show the client and they're like oh I don't get it like what is that like you know like say the Wes Anderson trend is like why have you got.
my team just standing with a plain face all around the store. And it's like, oh, yeah. Because it's bonkers. Yeah. And that's where I struggle. But I have learned and built relationships with clients to just say, just please trust me on this. And I think that is key, you know, just an element of trust. And, and you can, I can certainly say that I will make sure that content does well when the client trusts me. You know, we, we make sure that we are absolutely.
Because out of context, that's bonkers.
firing on cylinders when that client content goes up and we just ensure it performs.
That's interesting, isn't it? Yeah, because if you really push for buying on something, it's gotta do well, hasn't it? You know, what if it flops? It's like, oh, wouldn't it be awful to be proven wrong by someone after fighting for it?
Exactly. The beauty of being an agency owner is you've access to so many social media accounts that you can like rig the algorithm and make a content perform, make a piece of content. So I will never have a content that I've vouched for underperform.
Yes, absolutely. Okay, so things like Barbie and the Wes Anderson meme, etc. These things come up. Do your team's creative juices ever just run completely dry and you're like, do you know what? I actually, I know I don't know what we're going to do with this. I mean, clearly people are doing something with it, but sometimes it feels like I don't know what original thing I can offer to this.
Yeah, and look, that is the case sometimes. Sometimes you just can't get on a trend, and that's okay too. I think there's this kind of misconception in the industry that you have to be every platform nailing everything, but the reality is sometimes it's just not possible. I only get my clients on trends if it suits the client. To bring it back to say the Wes Anderson, some of my clients don't wanna be on camera, so creating that trend was...
was a tough one for them and then we just let that pass them. So I always just see it as feasible. And our content planning and stuff is we always try to do that at the beginning of a week when we're all in good form and we're all having a good time and we try to do that in a different location outside the office so that it's an enjoyable experience because I do agree.
Like it's very hard to come up with good ideas if you're just not feeling it as well. So we treat that as that's an important part of the week.
That's interesting. That's very interesting to hear that you take, yeah, that creative brainstorming ideation seriously.
Yeah, and I would never push that on just one person. You know, that is a group effort. So that way, if, you know, if, say, Mary is not feeling the creative feeling today, then maybe I'm, you know, I'm feeling 120% today. So I'm going to bring, I'm going to carry your slack. So there's never, I would never let it sit on anyone and be like, come up with the good ideas, you know? It's not always the case.
How can I be more creative?
How can you be more creative? It's a great... It's funny, I think that I'm more creative when I spend less time on social, you know? I just think when you have your own personal life down and you're in a good place, that's when I'm most creative. Yeah, my ideas, like, you know, people say like the best ideas comes from in the shower and stuff and they, it's the truth, you know? It's, you just need to learn to have balance.
and that's where you do get more creative. There's also, there's a lot of inspiration online as well. You know, we can't deny the fact that there's a lot of people doing things really well online and looking and knowing who your competition is, is a great way of seeing, you know, what they're doing and seeing how you can put your spin on it as well for the days that you are really struggling to come up with ideas.
Well, you know, it's interesting, isn't it? Because I know this is the cliche of, yeah, creative people like rock stars and stuff living really chaotic lives. But I think there's something to be said for, yeah, having a good amount of sleep and feeling good and feeling healthy and alive tends to, I think in a lot of cases, make people more creative. And when we spoke before this podcast, you said how you'd actually dramatically reduced your alcohol consumption.
Um, well, tell me about that. Tell me about sort of lifestyle changes that you think you've had to make to deal with the pressure of running an agency and yeah, why that is.
Yeah, I think this is the first business I've properly seen substantial growth in. And maybe this is pressure which is growing a business or pressure with running a social media agency. But I've noticed there's just a lot of demand on me all the time. You know, a lot of questions coming from different team members, a lot of clients expecting me to be there. And
you know, when I was younger, I would get away with just being brain foggy for a while, you know, for days on end, especially in college. Especially when you're in college doing a degree you're not actually that interested in, you know, that's when you find yourself having drinks more often. But over time, I've really relied, I rely heavily on my brain, you know, and on my ability to, you know, have, you know,
a lot of creativity and a lot of organization and a lot of energy. So I've spent a lot of time just starting to make adjustments to my life. For example, I'm actually wearing a woop at the moment. This is the most more recent investment for me, which is just is where I'm wearing this 24 seven and this is monitoring how stressed I am as you know, how stressed I am, how much sleep I've had, how much exertion I put on my body. And I'm using.
I'm using that data to really make adjustments. Recently the poor dog got kicked out of the bed because our sleep was down a lot. We moved the dog out of the bed and the sleep went up by 15% every night. If anyone here who wears a whoop knows if you drink alcohol and have
you know, a night out, you're at 1% recovery the next day. Like that's red, red. So just seeing that sort of information multiple times kind of made me really question the decision to go drinking, you know, on the weekends.
God, yeah, absolutely. You're right, your brain is your main tool, really, and you do have to look after it, I think.
Yeah, like look, I know I'm in the process of building a business and I have great goals and dreams with this business and I just want to give it up my all at the moment. Like, people watching this or listening might be thinking, God, what a bore. Like, you know, he's just like, he's just working all the time and trying to fine tune the body. But I'm okay with that because I will get back to, you know, being more relaxed and partying and just having that life.
That's just where my head is at the moment. I just want to get the most out of myself. And I make every decision based off, you know, is it gonna bring me forward or backwards? And as a founder and an owner of a digital agency, I just think it's gonna get me to my goals faster by just being more aware of stress levels and what I'm consuming and how I'm sleeping and that sort of thing.
Absolutely. I think, look, I don't think those, I don't think being healthy and having fun are mutually exclusive things. I think that's just a part of the cultural narrative, particularly in some countries, the UK and Ireland, definitely being two of those countries where, but you know, we're getting better at that. You know, look at the growth of zero alcohol drinks and the fact that, you know, I had an experience relatively recently, I had to not drink at a party that I went to because I was driving and I actually had a great time, a great laugh and it...
I was like, wow, okay, that's quite interesting.
Yeah, it can be tough. Like in these, you still, you'll always deal with peer pressure. Like I was at a festival last week, sober, and a lot of people, I actually even like, it went to the extent that I asked someone to buy me Heineken Zero and they came back with a non-Heineken, like a normal beer, you know, like people just are insulted by the idea, but, you know, you have to know, you have to just accept that, like, you're on your own journey and people might not understand that. And that's, that's the end of it, really.
Absolutely. Yeah, well, they'll be, those friends will be happy when you become a billionaire, global agency owner. Yeah, absolutely. Right, okay. So, if I'm a brand interested in hiring an external agency to manage my social media accounts to create content for that.
Exactly. That's exactly it Will. I tell them that every time.
What advice would you give me in seeking out that agency partner?
Yeah, so this is actually something I touched off earlier, which I meant to come back to was one of the changes we made a few years back was working with clients to film their content and not having them do it or have another agency do it. We create the content, like physically work with that client. And that's where I've seen radical changes. There was a couple of years period where agencies would come in, they would run a social media,
brand and grow it for a client whatever ever meeting that client and My like the my clients are with me for a long time for the sole reason that we see each other You know and that's so important when you're working with an agency I personally think that it's really important you have a person-to-person relationship with the agency just with someone in that agency because
There's a lot of complexities to a business and until you stand in the premises of that business or stand with the product or understand the service, it's very hard for the agency to relay that information. So if I was to say my top tip for working with an agency, just go for a coffee with them and hear them out and have a relationship.
Yeah, again, don't do it as sort of an arm's length thing, just to tick a box, social's done, we've got the agency. It's a relationship, isn't it? Definitely, yeah.
And I spend, you know, every, I would say probably 90% of the clients I sign up have had a poor experience with an agency. And I'll always say, well, what's the poor experience you've had? And it's always, we couldn't reach them. We didn't know, like they didn't understand our brand. Like we felt like there was something missing. And I think the way we've set our agency up is just that is an emotion that client will never feel. And because they never feel that we have good success.
Yeah, absolutely. That definitely chimes with my experience. Okay, so I think you're in a pretty good position where you can see what's happening in social media at the moment. If I forced you to get your crystal ball out, where do you think social media might be in a year or two?
It's, there's no doubt about it that the algorithms are getting smarter and with the use of AI and chat GPT and stuff, it's, it's starting to really take away the demand for great copy. And it's taking away the demand for like super heightened targeting and stuff like that when it comes to ads. What's really important is just how frequent you create content, how quick you can respond to.
the knowledge that something is working for your brand. So let's say you post a video and you notice what you figure out what that video what it is that made that video go really well and then going and making a video very similar that ability to just move fast. So that's why I'm talking about having a relationship with your agency that they that you do see them and they make content for you because that gives you that ability to jump on things fast. I think the brands that
are on top of their content creation and have it down to a T are the ones in the next couple of years that are going to see substantial growth on whatever platform they tackle.
Yeah, talking to you, I get the impression that you're a big fan of testing, experimentation, and an iterative approach of just constantly finding what works a bit better and doing more of that and following that, just letting that lead you, right?
That's it. Like if you've listened to my journey so far about like where I've started to where I am now, that has been testing. You know, I'm a big fan of testing. So like I've never claimed to be a social media guru or anything like that. All I do is I have the ability and the confidence to say to the client, I'm we're going to try this. If it fails, we're going to try a different way. And we just do that all the time. You know, we do that in the content creation. We ask questions of.
Will we will we film this on mobile and or will we film this on professional DSLR? What performs better? Will we put a person in front of the camera or will we take a person away from the camera? Will we put this on Instagram or TikTok? Will we target males or females? And we just target, tweak, target, tweak, change things the whole time and start to really build a picture as to what's doing well on social and that approaches.
is really important because there's so many moving parts with social media and it is always changing so you need to be always testing.
Yes, true. Well, our time is almost up. The hour flew by. And I'm gonna end as I almost always do by asking you for your top tips. I don't know if you've thought about this at all, but it's fine, I'm sure it sounds like they'll come quite naturally. So could you give us three to five top tips for our listeners on how to keep an even keel, stay mentally bell-up?
balanced and well when working on social media.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I have done a bit of thought into this because I didn't want to really give, I didn't want to give too many, any bad advice essentially. But I think, I think when it comes to maintaining a great relationship with social, it's just realizing, well firstly that perfection just doesn't exist, you know, and you can spend 10 hours on a piece of content or one hour on a piece of content but...
the chasing perfection but just realizing that like social media moves fast and that it's just about you know getting 90% of the way there and then just posting it you know not waiting on the on the final kind of piece of perfection and realizing that you don't need to be on every platform at all times and on everything that comes out you know we'd haven't had the privilege in Ireland right now but the new Instagram platform
is a trends or threads, threads has come out, you know, that's a lot of people are going to feel the need to be on that one if they do have access in their country. And firstly, I think it's really important to question, you know, do I need to be there or do I have the capacity to be there, you know, and, you know, if TikTok is not for you, then don't be there. If it is for you, then maybe look into it. And so, you know, realising that you don't have to be in everywhere, everywhere at once is an important one for the balance. And then, you know, lastly, just
Just realizing social media never stops, but you need to stop. So have your switch off point, and have a good section of the day where you're not near the phone.
Yes, absolutely, amen to that. Cool. Zach, thanks so much. That was very interesting chat. I feel like I've learned a lot. Of course I do have one final question for you. Just tell listeners where they can find and connect with you online.
Yeah, absolutely. So LinkedIn is probably the place I talk most social or most digital stuff and social. So Zachary O'Rourke or our business website is socialdirectionagency.com. So you can find me in both those places.
We will do. Thanks very much, Zach. Really appreciate it. Thanks, mate.
Thanks Will, cheers.
No worries, no worries at all. I feel like we covered a lot of different things anyway.
I feel like we covered a lot of different things anyway. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, we've got the graphics made for the episode, so it's good that you kept circling back around to the mental wellbeing. Our designer's gone off for two weeks, so that's great. Loads of great quotes.
We did. Yeah, we did. It was, it was all right Emma?
I know, I know I was a bit aware of that.