By @SimonCocking, great interview with Felicity McCarthy Nothing is more constant than change! Ex-Facebook, eBay & Dell- Digital Marketer – Trainer, Lecturer, Consultant. see more on her website here

Your background briefly?

I’ve been in the digital marketing arena for 17 years (makes me sound very old!) I was at Dell for about 8 years in a range of online and digital marketing roles, then I moved to eBay where I lead the Marketing team in Dublin. After short time at an agency, Acorn Marketing, I moved to Facebook in 2010 where I spent 4 years. At Facebook I had the privilege of leading the EMEA Marketing team working with millions of Small and Medium Sized Businesses across Europe. In 2014 I struck out on my own, leaving corporate life behind to set up my own Digital Marketing & Social Media Training & Consultancy business –

Does it seem like a logical progression to what you do now?

For me it feels pretty logical, but of course lots of folks can’t understand why I would have left a great job at an amazing company like Facebook to start up something on my own!

For me, it was an obvious decision – I feel quite fortunate to have had such incredible exposure to amazing companies and teams, where I’ve built my own career, working in international roles. However more recently, it struck me repeatedly that a lot of local Irish businesses have a really hard time getting access to expertise and knowledge, because so much of that talent is tied up in the big tech companies. So for me, I felt like I could have a better impact on more Irish businesses by being independent. To be honest, I now have domestic and international clients, and I love that mix. At Facebook, there is a strong culture of taking risks, and an entrepreneurial spirit – one of the many posters hung around the office is “What would you do if you weren’t afraid”, and I realised that starting my own business was my answer!

1 min pitch for what you do now?

I work as a consultant and trainer on all aspects of digital transformation, with a strong focus on Digital Marketing & Social Media Marketing.

– As a consultant I work with businesses who are trying to solve a range of problems such as – launching new businesses or products, entering new markets, extending an offline business to reach online audiences, and some are undergoing complete digital transformation. In all projects I’m very focused on delivering measurable results.

– As a trainer, I’ve designed and delivered training programs on Social Media, and all topics within Digital Marketing, designing bespoke training programs for client organisations and their teams, and delivering on behalf of other education providers such as Irish Times Training & Digital Marketing Institute.

My client base is a mix of international organisations such as Pinterest, Facebook, IDA Ireland & Gigaset, and national brands such as Bank of Ireland, Daft, Grant Thornton,, Top Oil, Mercantile Entertainment Group, dylan hotel and many more.

What aspects of digital marketing do you love? & what are your metrics for measuring results and success?

I am a big advocate for an integrated approach to digital marketing – I love the fact that the digital marketing toolkit is so much more sophisticated than it used to be when I was starting out in online marketing in 2000 (pre-Search and pre-social media!). That being said, I love how social media has transformed how businesses and marketers can reach their audiences in completely new and innovative ways. It’s challenging businesses to think about their customers and communicate in an engaging and authentic way, instead of simply ‘pushing’ products into the market! I also love that Social Media levels the playing field – budget is not the only indicator of success, so smaller businesses who are being clever can have amazing results with limited resources.

In terms of measuring results, this is an area I’m very passionate about – having spent so long at Dell, that focus on metrics has never left me!! To measure success, I always bring it back to understanding the objective of the client for a specific campaign, or ad or initiative. If the objective is to grow awareness of a business, product or service, then the metrics need to be focused on reach and response. If the objective is to drive site traffic & conversion, then the metrics should be clicks, click through rate, cost per click, conversion rates. If the objective is around community-building, then the metrics need to be more focused on size of community, and engagement scores. My biggest bug-bear is when clients unwittingly try to create a single campaign to do all of those things – and of course “One size fits all” ultimately means that one size fits no-one!

Change is constant, what aspects of what you do are changing most at the moment?

Social media is changing so rapidly  – every 6 months the perspective is different.

Here are a few things which have meaningfully changed in the last 6-12 months, which present opportunity for people promoting their businesses on Social Media:

  1. Livestreaming is the single best way to get organic reach on any of the platforms – Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. Just get started.
  2. In social media advertising, video ads will get you better cost effectiveness than any other format – it is simply worth the effort.
  3. Instagram & Snapchat have overtaken Twitter in terms of monthly active users – the landscape is shifting, and fast. Businesses need to consider if their audience may be spending time on those high growth platforms, in order not to miss out.
  4. There is a big battle ongoing between Snapchat and Instagram – it is hard to say who is winning. Snapchat have an amazingly highly engaged audience, and many would say Instagram are copying Snapchat features. That being said Instagram has amazing advertising options so it’s all to play for between these two.
  5. Snapchat presents a big opportunity for those looking to address millenials. There is plenty of opportunity for organisations to build communities for those who get started earliest – I like what DCUsnaps do, for example.

As I mention each of these things, it’s important to mention that all of these opinions, could be dramatically different in another 6 months!

What are you excited about for 2017?

– Video & Livestreaming for sure – it’s bringing businesses to life in new ways.

– More ecommerce transactions on social sites – this has been talked about for years, and there’s still a way to go before it’s widely available.

– Artificial Intelligence is such a huge theme and we are seeing it start to being used in our daily lives, from earliest versions such as algorithmic shopping recommendations on eCommerce platforms, to smart cars and smart homes. There’s been so much talk of Amazon Alexa recently, it feels like 2017 will bring Alexa (& her counterparts) into the mainstream.

– Augmented Reality is another huge trend with Pokemon Go being one of the most successful iterations to date. The gaming industry is building fast for AR, but don’t forget how this can transform eCommerce too.

How do you explain / convince entrepreneurs / startups that if they don’t promote their products online they won’t succeed?

To be completely honest, the industry data does all the hard work on that front – I keep a close eye on research trends showing where people are spending time. So from there the question quickly gets to how to get in front of potential customers where they are spending most time (on digital channels via their mobile phones)

You know it’s interesting, it’s rarely entreprenuers and startups who need convincing – those folks are always looking to get ahead of their competition, and looking for creative ways to solve those problems, so using digital and social tools is a no-brainer for them. The questions from them tend to be more about how to use the relevant tools, how to be more time-effective, and what to prioritise.

What aspects of technology do you use to help you in your work?

  • Naturally I’m active on all of the social media channels, as and as @sparkfelicity, but also on behalf of my clients. I need to be on top of my game with latest techologies and latest changes which have been made in all the tools – it can be challenging to stay up to date!
  • I also use 3rd party tools to make me as efficient as possible, for example Canva for design, Hootsuite for scheduling and collaboration, Iconosquare for Instagram analytics.
  • I use lots of Cloud services for sharing clients and content with clients, and for managing the financials of my business.

Scott Eddie says ‘you are your brand’? do you agree, if so / or not, tell us why?

Well for me of course I am – Felicity McCarthy is a much of a brand as Sparkdigital at the moment.

When my clients engage Sparkdigital for my background and expertise – they’re not just buying a half day or day of my time – they’re buying the 17 years that went before that! I believe the brand is every single interaction I have with a client or training group, or conference room!

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the role of women in technology?

In my own experience, I think it’s probably a little different in the Corporate versus Startup world.

In the corporate environment, it’s always going to be lead by what’s happening at the most senior levels in a given organization or industry. People hire people like themselves (not a good thing, but reality) Therefore when there are so many men at senior levels of almost every organization, their natural inclination is to hire men at senior levels too. The “unconscious bias” is definitely still there. This is improving but very slowly at the most senior levels in the corporate world.

That being said, I have been fortunate to work in many large companies who had great female role-models in leadership, especially at Facebook. This sets the tone for sure, for the rest of the organization, and sets good benchmarks for their industry.

In the startup world, I think as a woman it’s harder to be taken seriously. I notice that a huge amount of the key stakeholders (boards, or exec teams) in my client companies are men. I am more than comfortable to hold my own in those environments because I’m confident in my skills and experience.  It’s probably fair to say that I probably need to work harder to be taken seriously than a male counterpart, even today.

Unfortunately I do believe it’s harder for a female entrepreneur to be taken seriously, whether it’s by a bank or investor or even a prospective client. In female entrepreneurship, there can be a tendency to assume that many female entrepreneurs are running their business from the kitchen table, with the underlying assumption that business growth and ambition is not high priority. This is simply out of kilter with reality. I meet awesome female (& male) entrepreneurs every day, and the ambitions & potential are just as high for both. I am delighted to see more female startup programs such as Going for Growth at Enterprise Ireland, or DCU Ryan Academy Female High Fliers Accelerator Programs, as I do think the supports need to be available, in order to bridge this gap.

Felicity McCarthy

Tel: +353 (0) 86 2052495


If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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