This week’s case study has been written by Joy Redmond, CEO of Flexitimers.
Karina Heavey is no ordinary marketer but a marketer who has recently harnessed social media to affect change and create a community of pro-active people not content to sit back and wait for the recession to go away.
In August 2008, Karina formed the 121 Business Network Ireland group on LinkedIn in response to her dissatisfaction with the business networks available at the time, having identified that there wasn’t an appropriate group focussing exclusively for members based in Ireland.
She didn’t actively promote or push the group until a turning point came in January 2009 when she was made redundant from a senior marketing position in SPSS. Although a highly competent and experienced marketing professional with a Masters from UCD, Karina prior to this had no online social media expertise or experience.
She felt there was both an opportunity to learn while giving something back and believed that if she brought people together, opportunities would arise for all. Soon she extended the brand to marketing with the intention of creating a community of people with an interest in marketing. Believing that the marketing associations valued the speakers at their events more than their individual members, Karina wanted her network to value and reward its members.
First on her to-do list was to proactively build the group membership on LinkedIn. To achieve this, she joined 50 marketing groups on LinkedIn, filtered the members by region (Ireland) and keyword (marketing) and arrived at a list of 600 prospects. Again her marketing know-how allowed her to write a compelling personal invitation that resulted in 350 registrations within one week. Karina personally approves every request for membership to ensure the group ethos is not diluted.
Knowing the difficulty in engaging discussion and networking online and the importance and power of personal relationships; the next task was to organise monthly face-to-face meet-ups where members could informally build relationships (not pitch), have fun and feel valued.
Her experience of event management came into play and after researching several city centre hotels, the Mint Bar in the Weston Hotel was chosen as the preferred venue for two reasons -its central location and their promise to provide a space free of charge every first Wednesday of the month. Again her marketing training taught her that consistency was key and so the “First Wednesday” club began. There were 25 attendees the first night in February and numbers have doubled month on month since with the same people returning and bringing more people and spreading the word.
The First Wednesday club is also marketed via her website/blog which provides interviews with marketers, round-ups of the First Wednesday club and competitions to encourage more interaction both online and offline. One interesting application merging both online and offline activity is the video reel of corporate logos representing the attendees of the First Wednesday Club.
Karina then created a Facebook page to extend the group’s reach where visitors are met with a Welcome video and members receive a welcome email that sets the rules, expectations and protocol for the group. There is a space entitled ‘Opportunities Exchange’ where members can promote/trade opportunities, jobs and business deals with the effect of minimising spam on the discussion board.
Karina is not content to limit the network to Dublin and has set up regional managers in Cork and in Limerick. The 121 Cork Network is going to launch that regions ‘First Wednesday Club’ next month and she’s seeing her memberships growing in Sligo, Kildare and Mayo.
A sense of fun and achievement, continuously improving and progressing an idea through its ongoing successful destinations while facilitating important social and business communications is what Karina perceives to be the key benefit of all this social media activity.
Karina herself has been rewarded for her efforts and has proactively raised her profile with an RTE interview live from bizcamp, a podcast interview on The Persuaders and a feature in The Sunday Tribune. What’s more, she has created her own opportunity by being recently hired as Digital Campaign Manager with IIA Member Company TradeDoubler, no easy feat for a marketer with little or no digital expertise less than six months ago and in an extremely difficult economy.
Karina has become a role model and inspiration to many and like her 121Marketing Network, proves that there are still opportunities out there and with positive drive and enthusiasm success still awaits those who create their own luck.