Welcome to the first post in Creator Heroes, a series that shines a spotlight on the creators doing inspiring, purpose-driven work. From artists to activists, educators to entrepreneurs, you can expect a wide range of creators from different backgrounds. The one thing they all share in common? Adding value to the world.
Here, we spoke with Olivia Hanlon, Founder of Girls in Marketing, an educational platform and community that empowers women to break into the marketing world. With a profitable business and a thriving community of over 170K marketers on social media, we sat down with Olivia to ask about her journey growing a business and community out of nothing, the ins and outs of Instagram content creation, mental health and more.
How did you get started with Girls in Marketing and what inspired you?
"Girls in Marketing was born from a frustration of not having a like-minded community of women who loved the marketing industry as much as I did. I was working in a 9-5 marketing role and saw a lack of women in leadership roles and I didn’t necessarily receive the support I needed; so I turned to the internet in hopes of finding others.
Lots of entrepreneurs enter business with a dream of building an empire, but that’s not my story! Girls in Marketing was simply an online community before anything else; the more our audience grew, the stronger our position an organization became".
How did you get Girls in Marketing off the ground and turn it into a business?
"Everything happened very naturally and right at the start of the pandemic, before most people had caught on to the power of community-building on social media platforms. We tested monetizing small things such as educational webinars and programmes hosted via Zoom. After building a community across Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn, we were able to build a substantial mailing list which was vital when it comes to sharing our paid-for products and services".
You have almost 50k followers on Instagram - how did you grow your following?
"With Instagram’s ever-changing updates, it can definitely be difficult to stay ahead as a business account or creator. In terms of growing our following and community, we applied the same rules to every social media platform available: be consistent, authentic and center your customer’s needs. Each of these three things created a snowball effect! We lead with honest authenticity above anything else, and put ourselves in the shoes of our customer’s whenever we create content or release a new digital product.
We know how important it is for businesses to prioritize organic growth so we shared our secrets to social media success in a self-paced eCourse called How to Grow and Scale Your Instagram Account on a Budget!"
"We lead with honest authenticity above anything else, and put ourselves in the shoes of our customer’s whenever we create content".
How important is it for businesses and creators to have a well-defined visual identity on Instagram?
"As our social media feed has evolved over the years, we love to keep it looking organized to improve the customer experience when scrolling through our accounts. However, as marketers we understand that visually appealing grids aren’t always the key to success.
Creating beautifully designed content is definitely eye-catching, but we always recommend focussing on pinpointing quality content first. At the end of the day, creator style will stem from the type of content being posted - so lean into your own uniqueness and don’t follow what everyone else is doing!"
How do you approach brand partnerships on Instagram?
"Our first brand partnership was proposed to us, rather than the other way around. It was a positive and exciting experience, especially since Girls in Marketing never intended to earn revenue in this way. However, we’ve learned so much since then and choose to take a different approach to our sponsored content partnerships now.
In the early stages of brand partnerships, it is so easy to post one-off pieces of content in hopes your audience will resonate with them. In our experience, it's much more effective to ensure both of your values align and try to create a sustainable partnership over a lengthy period of time.
If you know your values and morals align with the brands you're working with, sponsored content becomes less robotic and naturally feels more authentic".
"If you know your values and morals align with the brands you're working with, sponsored content becomes less robotic and naturally feels more authentic".
What tools can you not live without for your content creation on Instagram?
"Social media scheduling tools are a must-have when it comes to content creation. We use Content Cal as it’s helpful when it comes to other team members approving/editing content before it’s scheduled".
What advice would you give other creators and entrepreneurs about maintaining good mental health and work-life balance?
"Creators and entrepreneurs spend so much time soaking up social media content; we think it’s the best place to get inspiration from! But, something switching off allows you to spark the most creative ideas of all time. As business owners, we should look out into the world - and not just at our screens - to find new ideas and concepts. This positively impacts our mental wellbeing and our businesses in the long-term!"
What’s been your proudest accomplishment as an entrepreneur and content creator?
Metric-wise, hitting over 100,000 followers on LinkedIn was a huge milestone. We recognise these numbers might be considered surface-level, but it was still a big moment for us! As an entrepreneur myself, my proudest accomplishment is having built a sustainable, profit-making business from scratch - completely bootstrapped. At this point, no money has ever gone into Girls in Marketing to make it what it is (not even ad spend!) so that in itself is a huge achievement. I also love being able to invest in young female marketing talent, offer them new opportunities and generally work so closely with them.
"My proudest accomplishment is having built a sustainable, profit-making business from scratch - completely bootstrapped".
And finally, what’s one tip you’d give to other creators looking to grow their business through Instagram?
"My biggest tip is this: stay authentic and don’t let comparison or competition impact how you see your business. You’ve got this!"