Social Ocean is a marketing agency based in Clontarf and founded in 2017 by Kirsty Fields. The business offers marketing services and training to support small business owners in mastering skills they need to market their business and engage digitally with their clients. Kirsty has more than 20 years’ experience in marketing and events. She also supports professional associations in hosting conferences and workshops and coordinates the Meetup group ‘Ocean Network’ for Moreton Bay-based business owners.
At the start of 2020, Social Ocean had grown to serve two customer segments. First, they service small business owners, many of whom are solopreneurs or micro businesses that are good at providing a product, or delivering a service, but might struggle to market themselves online and do not have the budget to outsource to a full-service marketing agency. These clients value the services Social Ocean offers from the strategy consultation with Kirsty, to the social media workshops, content marketing, mentoring and web design. Second, Social Ocean provides a wide range of event management services for charities, conferences, industry bodies and networking events.
Prior to COVID-19 restrictions being announced, Kirsty was working on event management for one of the largest annual conferences Social Ocean supports: The Spirit of Learning – Residential Conference. Scheduled for May 2020, the two-day conference attracts many teachers from across Queensland and preparations commence eight to ten months in advance. Kirsty was very concerned at this stage, as they only just managed to host an International Women’s Day event held on the 8th March 2020.
Two weeks later when COVID-19 restrictions were announced, the Spirit of Learning conference was cancelled, and Social Ocean lost a third of their annual revenue from event management. “It was a very stressful situation,” Kirsty said, as she had to negotiate with all the event suppliers. “I was very conscious that my client is a non-profit.” So, Kirsty negotiated to put measures in place to manage the financial ramifications and alleviate stress of suppliers and volunteers linked to the event-component of her business.
COVID-19 compelled Social Ocean to adapt their business model. Kirsty reviewed her business plan to bring long-term goals forward and increased the range of services Social Ocean provides to business owners.
Social Ocean’s response first addressed the increased demand for rebranding and revitalising websites to engage clients. Many of Social Ocean’s small business owners who provide face-to-face services were uncertain of how to move forward when the restrictions were imposed. Some soon realised that they needed to improve their digital presence. As a result, Kirsty became busy helping businesses wanting to rebrand and renew their websites: “It takes quite a bit of time to work on all the elements for rebranding, so I work with other professionals such as copywriters, web developers or graphic designers, depending on what’s needed.”
Secondly, Kirsty set out to transform the social media in-person workshops she previously offered into a suite of online courses. “This has happened slower than we originally planned,” Kirsty said. The process of developing an online course for the type of hands-on technical training Social Ocean provides is quite time-consuming. Kirsty found she needed to work through several client scenarios, as experiences differ depending on whether they manage their social media through their phone, tablet or laptop. There are also differences between using Android and Apple devices. However, the hard work was worth it with the first course launching in October 2020.
Finally, the Ocean Network Meetup normally held on Tuesday mornings had to be transformed to online catchups via Zoom. This sounds simple enough, however the group dynamic online is very different to an in-person event. This network supported many small business owners who felt isolated during lockdown. When the restrictions were relaxed in September the group resumed face-to-face coffee catchups adhering to social distancing rules.
As Social Ocean aims to provide more value to customers, Kirsty will continue to collaborate with other professionals to ensure her customers’ success.
Social Ocean has long-term growth goals and will continue to develop practical social media courses to support small business owners. Kirsty is committed to continuously improving the suite of courses and services they provide and believes online courses will enable Social Ocean to empower more small business owners. As Social Ocean aims to provide more value to customers, Kirsty will continue to collaborate with other professionals to ensure her customers’ success.