When I first began this career creating true online voices for brands, I didn’t even know what I was doing was an actual “thing.” I remember asking my cousin, “Won’t somebody just pay me to play on Facebook?” And she came back, surprisingly, with a “yes!” That was a turning point for me after floundering in a few not-so-successful businesses.

In May 2010, I was introduced to a woman who was soon to become a friend, and a client. Heather Howell, brand-new Chief Tea Officer of Rooibee Red Tea, hired me to be her voice online – and to be the voice of the bottles and the brand overall. Rooibee Red Tea was growing out of being a farmer’s market brand and had big plans, but not a big budget. They knew social media platforms were how they wanted to grow the business from a grassroots perspective, but hiring a full-time community manager wasn’t a possibility. Heather was actually such a great client at the time that she constantly referred me to others, and that, again, was a turning point, as my business began to take off.

Over the next few years, my team grew, and we are now able to handle multiple voices using multiple platforms, and continuing to be real on behalf of our clients. We give the clients what they don’t have the resources to do on their own – reach their customers and potential customers – via social. We educate our clients, helping them figure out who their demographic is, and where to find them. We make choices based on where we’ll get the most bang. We dig in, we get creative, and we work within the budget allotted.

For some companies, outsourcing to an agency such as ours makes the most sense. Rather than hiring a full-time staff person, they are paying for a percentage of a person and, essentially, purchasing time spent on social platforms on their behalf. It works best when the client collaborates with us, keeping us in the loop on all current and future business, so that we can effectively “perform” as their voice online, and serve as an extension of their team.

In some cases, what we do is not a good fit. For some brands, there are so many activities that happen internally on a day-to-day basis, that it’s nearly impossible to share that information and have us represent it authentically. For national large brands, though some agencies may be a good fit, we are not the right team. We enjoy the ┬ácompanies in which we have regular access to the decision makers. We pride ourselves on working within a budget. Though sometimes we have to nickel and dime during the sales process, once a number of hours per week and a budget are set, we are able to work for that client and maximize the effort cost-effectively.

Which brings us to today. Rooibee Red Tea has arrived at that tipping point where they must bring their voice in-house. Gaining national reach with their product, but still working with a startup mentality, the company needs someone who can not only manage the social voice, but also be another set of hands when boxes need to get shipped, booths need to be staffed and late night reports must be collated. They now have a budget to bring tasks in-house, and run ads (something we rarely did in my five-year tenure… we built this brand organically, 100%). Though Heather offered me the position, I’ve grown my business to a place where leaving my other clients high and dry is not something I’m interested in doing.

I wish Rooibee Red Tea Company all the best as they head on into the next stage of growth. I am confident that the foundation we created in that voice hit the right demographic at that time, that it was real and sounded true. I know the tweets we received letting us know we were hitting the mark were heartfelt from consumers. I’ve been through a lot with this brand – 3 label designs, staff who has come and gone, board of directors growth, at least four website designs. My hope for the brand is they flourish and become a household name, but also that they care for those voices we created. That they follow the rules and etiquette of social as we built the groundwork for them to do so. Five years is a long time to be associated with a small, startup brand. I wish them well and bid them farewell.

And, oh, our team is still watching ­čśë

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