Welcome to our Small Business Spotlight series, where we profile innovative small businesses and startups across the country and identify lessons from their operations, strategies, and growth.
This week we're talking with Watermelon Social, a New York City-based personal branding and social selling agency that launched last year. Watermelon Social has already made a name for itself by providing entrepreneurs, senior professionals and corporate teams, with the same branding and marketing outreach services that blue chip companies employ.
Watermelon Social was founded by George Stephan, a marketing veteran and one of the smartest minds in personal branding and digital marketing. George began his career in global advertising working with multinational brands like Pepsi, Unilever, and Frito-Lay. He went on to launch Stephan Partners, where he developed branding and digital marketing campaigns for Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, Clinique, and other top brands.
We talked to George about the challenges of building an agency and optimizing a LinkedIn profile.
When I search for social media agency, I get 167,000,000 results on Google, while personal branding agency gets 3,490,000 results. What distinguishes Watermelon Social from your numerous competitors? Aren't all marketing agencies basically the same?
We serve entrepreneurs, senior professionals and corporate teams with promise-based personal branding and social selling. Meaning—we do the personal branding which lives on professional social media platforms like LinkedIn and create the content to support the branding, often by pushing branded content through highly engaged personal branding networks. Very few personal branding shops do this and none of them to my knowledge do it with promise-based personal branding.
You're very active on LinkedIn—a platform that's sometimes an afterthought for marketers. What's the value of LI for professionals? What's the value of LI for brands?
LinkedIn is the leading social media platform for professionals with 433 million members and rapidly growing. Your first meeting is not a meeting at all, but a prospect looking at a member of your team or your profile on social media. When you Google a professional, his/her LinkedIn profile will be near the top on the first page of results. Your personal branding may be the decider on whether that inquiry moves forward or not. Personal branding helps you grow your relationships and business in a more personal and connected way.
Your agency is called Watermelon Social? Why did you choose that name?
Watermelon is fun, tasty and most importantly social. Who takes a watermelon and goes into the corner of a room and eats it alone? It’s a name that breaks through the clutter and makes people smile.
How do you measure success in branding and social campaigns? How would a client know if an agency *wasn't* serving them well?
Our success is measured in two ways. The effectiveness of our personal branding work is measured as a platform for growing connections, thought leadership, and new business conversions. Our social selling campaigns are measured by views and clicks. Our companion email blasts are measured by opens and clicks. At the end of the day, it’s all measured by building long-term value for individuals and their companies.
What's one thing that readers can do *right now* to improve the social media presence of their business or startup?
Optimize their LinkedIn personal branding profile. Take a seminar and/or get some professional help. In addition to our services, we provide a LinkedIn Optimization Guideas a guide.
What's the biggest challenge facing social media agencies in 2016?
Demonstrating ROI. We track everything and integrate our social media campaigns with additional marketing outreach to maximize the value of the effort.
How do you attract and retain the best talent? And, conversely, how can marketing professionals get your attention?
We are leaders in promise-based personal branding and social selling. All the smart people want to work with us, particularly millennials. Plus, we have a cool name! Marketers hear about us through our social selling campaign, our social platforms, website, referrals and public relations.
How is building an agency different from building or expanding any other of business?
It’s all about ideas, relationships and trust—you have to be exceptional at all of it to make it work.
What's one book you would recommend to all entrepreneurs?
Purple Cow by Seth Godin, a friend and a colleague. I give the book to all my clients—it’s all about the importance of standing out from the crowd and being exceptional.
Watermelon Social | Personal Branding and Social Selling
Location: New York City | SoHo
Number of Employees: 7
Services: Personal branding and social selling
Contact: George Stephan, Managing Partner, firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-524-8583