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Q&A with Nicola Swankie: a commercially-savvy social media pro

Meet Nic, one of Australia’s most accomplished social media professionals, and we unveil her superpower that clients fall in love with. She also talks about the funnel, airline calamities and resilience.

Nicola Swankie is one of Australia’s most accomplished social media professionals. But her journey to social domination has been anything but ordinary.

 

After studying computing science, working at a big bank and throwing it in to join a leading creative agency, Nic made the pilgrimage from UK ad-land to Australia more than 10 years ago.

 

Since then, she’s become obsessed with social media marketing and the commercial outcomes it delivers.

 

Her superpower – and the reason why clients love her – is her innate ability to provide a practical strategy, as opposed to the typical 78-page esoteric deck that looks pretty but is largely useless when brands try to operationalise it.

 

Her litany of achievements is too numerous to list. But a few of her favourites include “birthing” Samsung on Facebook, driving Coca-Cola’s social success, helping Coles transition from paper catalogues to social specials, leveraging influencers for Smirnoff – before influencers were ‘a thing’ – and helping Woolworth’s tap into hard-to-reach audiences via brand advocates.

 

Equally, she’s led social crisis management for events ranging from airline calamities to exploding washing machines and national giveaways that failed to actually give things away.

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Nic isn't joking when she talks about integrating family and business.

What do you do?

I suppose I now have a ‘portfolio career’. Since starting my family – made up of one husband, two young boys and two big dogs! – I’ve been running three businesses.
First and foremost, I consult in social media and content strategy. I love helping big brands develop and embed a social strategy that integrates all stages of the marketing funnel and customer journey, from awareness to conversion, and into loyalty.

When I’m not working on strategy, you’ll find me on the tools managing audience insights, performance marketing, audits, social content pillars and email content matrices, and advising how best to work with influencers.

 

The immediacy and intimacy of social media really excites me. It’s a powerful blend of brand, advertising, PR, marketing and customer service, all coalescing in a live environment.

Social also provides consumers with a very public and direct way to engage with brands, and you’re able to ignite a conversation in a live environment – something a press ad is unable to do.

My husband and I also run Coastal Coworking, a regional co-working network with offices on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and throughout the Mornington Peninsula.

 

I’m a massive advocate of breaking the traditional 9-to-5 CBD model, and the fact that I help empower people to migrate out of big cities to live and work in regional locations inspires me.

 

Finally, in my ‘spare time’ I regularly speak and run training sessions about mental health and resilience in the marketing and advertising industry.

 

I love the variety of my day-to-day life and the integration of family and business.

What mantra are you living by this year?

One word: acceptance. This year has been a totally unexpected one for all of us, so I’ve focused on a mantra of accepting what is, and making the most of it – rather than getting hung up on the ‘I cant’s’.

What’s the most important thing that marketers can do to drive commercial outcomes?

You must truly know your customer and understand their behaviour by using technology blended with human observation.
It doesn’t matter what you personally think of TikTok videos or Twitter hashtags. If your customers are there, you must understand why. Knowledge is power.

What’s a cracking book you’d recommend or a podcast you swear by?

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This one is super easy – anything by Brené Brown. She’s the author of five number-one New York Times bestsellers, and she’s spent the past two decades sharing her expertise on courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy.

She’s helped me understand my own bullshit, as well as the, sometimes illogical, behaviour of others. And her teachings are a key compass in many aspects of my life.
This famous quote of Brené’s pretty much sums her up: “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”

Who are your go-to thought leaders, and why?

Elizabeth Gilbert, Steven Pressfield and Mark Manson. They each help people with an active, creative mind, like mine, to navigate through the craziness of life. They also teach us to not let our own resistance be the force that holds back our passion and talents.

 

I also seriously rate Meghan Markle, which I appreciate may be controversial. However, I think she’s a modern example of women finding and using our voices for positive change.

Our favourite qu: What’s your top beer or wine recommendation?

BrewDog, a beer from my homeland Scotland. But I rate it more for the excellent social marketing they do than the actual beer. And I love the fact it’s the world’s first international beer business to become carbon negative!

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