Co-Founder + Partner / The Digital Picnic
We have all received it. All taken it as gospel, and all gobbled it up.
Some of us have even acted on it. But is Bullsh*t advice, still Bullsh*t when it leads you down a path of self discovery, and ultimately your dream career?
Enter Cherie Clonan, a total doyenne of the digital world. A lyrical master of the finest degree, and a sweetheart at the core. Cherie spent her early childhood herded between foster home to foster hell… and back again. The experience toughened her skin, and made her resilient and resourceful – traits that have served her well from high school, to university, and beyond.
In our interview, Cherie dives into her career story, and explains how she transcended from an acne-laden (but still gorgeous – yep you were babe) Year 12 lass, to life as a Law student, then 9-ish years as a nurse, until she found her calling… ONLINE!
This #careerstory transcends the screen, and will slap you across the face with inspired advice… No Bullsh*t!
Let’s crack this rebellious brain open, shall we?
Hey Cherie, can you tell us a bit about where you grew up and how your experience shaped the person you are, and the career that you are in today?
Oh, lordy! We’re starting with the childhood question, ha! Well, … without sugar coating anything, the first years of my childhood were spent to’ing and fro’ing between various foster care homes [some good, others? Completely horrific, actually] before my Father was [finally!] awarded full-time custody of my younger sister and I. It goes without saying that growing up within the foster care setting will definitely shape a person; for me? It toughened me, and it thickened my skin, and it provided me with a resilience that’s served me really well.
And then my Dad went and gained himself full-time custody of my sister and I, & he solo parented us so absolutely beautifully. It was the gentle way in which he raised us that I was able to add a far more tender layer to my [then] tough exterior. Nowadays? I’m just a big ol’ softie, ha!
I’m not quite sure if these experiences have lead me to the career I’m in today, but my childhood did teach me a *lot* about people, & I think you need to know a lot about people in order to manage online communities professionally.
I’ve managed online communities of up to half a million people, so knowing a little [or a lot!] about people has certainly put me in good stead.
Where did you go to High School, and how was that experience for you?
I went to a private Catholic high school with a huge sporting focus, which was GREAT, … for the sporty folk! Me? #notsomuch
I was your quiet, acne-laden, overly studious, school chess club playing type, so because that obviously didn’t go and make me one of the “cool kids”, I instead threw myself into the world of online. And whilst that online world wasn’t as exciting and fast-paced as it is now in 2016 [think dial-up internet / mIRC chatrooms / yahoo chatrooms where I used to practice my French in French chatrooms / ICQ messaging service / msn Messenger / etc. etc. etc.], it was the beginning of my love for all things online / connecting with people online / growing communities online.
These days? I’m probably glad I wasn’t one of the “cool kids”, because the cool kids weren’t hanging out online writing scrips for mIRC, ha!
Did your high school play an important role in helping you choose your further education and future career?
I think [??] I did see a careers counsellor – maybe once’ish – who told me that my gentle and caring nature might be best suited to a care-based profession like nursing.
As it turns out, nursing didn’t suit me at all. Believe me, I gave it a good 7-9’ish years, … but it just wasn’t suited to me at all. Actually, … I hated it, ha!
Did you go to College, University, Tafe or another equivalent? Take us through the courses that you studied and why you chose them?
Law? Because I was 17, and decided it looked good on paper.
Nursing? Because after dropping out of law, I considered that – perhaps – my high school careers counsellor was right.
Marketing? Because I was a mature-age student, and knew then what I wanted to do in order to be able to *do* what I wanted to do in life.
Digital marketing? Because after working digital marketing for some time, I realised that I actually wanted to teach social media marketing. I enrolled into a digital marketing short course to see what the student experience would be like, and let me tell you, … it was trés terrible, ha!
And so? The Digital Picnic was born.
Tell us about your career journey so far. Who have you worked for, and explain any highlights?
I’ve managed the social media for small business start-ups with online communities that total less than 500, to online magazines / large online retailers with communities that total 1 million.
I enjoy it all! I love the challenge associated with growing something from nothing [i.e brand new start-ups], and then I also love working with already established large online presences and taking them to that next level.
A most recent highlight has been hopping on as social media manager for a fashion client whose online following was still humble. In five months, I’ve played a role in adding 13k+ new followers across their social channels, & in online retail? That alone can dramatically transform a business.
It’s been a real highlight.
Obviously though, the biggest career highlight for me has been launching my own business ‘The Digital Picnic’ with my beautiful business partner back in October 2014. We had big dreams, & all of those dreams have come to fruition [& then some]. It’s even better than we could have ever dreamt of, & [in the interest of being completely honest] it’s also *serious* hard work, … but when you’re working for yourself? The hard work doesn’t feel “hard”.
Honestly? It was that perfect little combination of right place / right time / meant to be / I *deserve* this!
I was in my fourth year of writing a blog, because I was still in nursing & was just craving some form of creative outlet. My blog’s readership had grown from three people reading it per week [my Dad, sister, and husband], to just under 60,000 per month [God only knows HOW?!]. I guess you could say my blog was my very first “professional” insight into growing online communities / using social media to drive social consumers to an end product [i.e my blog’s URL].
As a result of all of this, my name was raised at a lunch in Sydney between two women and from there? I was invited to manage the online community for a large online retailer.
The rest? History.
What is the hardest part of your current job?
In all honesty, not a lot feels “hard” because I genuinely do love what I do.
What is currently “hard” is that I’m trying to build a business with little people at my feet [5 and 2.5 years old] and a marriage that I’d like to [hopefully] maintain, ha! As a result of this, there are a lot of late nights / early rises so that I can get sh*t done outside of also playing the role of “Mum” and “wife”.
Some days? I just want to clone myself. Like, … 9 times, ha!
What does a typical “work day” look like for you ?
A typical day in social media management involves meeting with clients to discuss the week that was / the week that is about to be > sourcing content > creating content > developing content calendars > uploading content accordingly > responding to engagement > listening to your social consumers online > measuring post-performance > analysing post performance > basic graphic design > reputation management > social research [i.e a big focus of my job is to reach out to social media “influencers” in order to place relevant product in their social feeds to promote social followings for my clients] > e-mails > social media notifications > etcetera etcetera.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten something [?!], ha!
Who has been your hero, or greatest inspiration growing up and why?
Honestly? My Dad.
Saved my life.
What advice would you give girls who are interested in your career?
Sometimes, social media management isn’t *exactly* what you thought it might be [i.e you don’t just get to hang out on snapchat all day, and get paid for it, ha!].
Once you’ve intern’d [and if you still want to work in social media management], sign up for a short course in social media marketing [you can check out www.thedigitalpicnic.com.au if you like, … ] I heard their courses are *fab*.
If you loved *everything* about what you studied in your short course, you might want to take on a Bachelor in Marketing or Communications, which will allow you to apply for those incredible roles you’ll see on LinkedIn and Seek.
From there? The world’s your oyster, girlfriends!
List your most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration?
- Favourite Blogs or Websites: Believe it or not, I probably listen to industry-related podcasts more these days.
- Books: Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert
- People: I get the most value from talking with fellow women in business. We are just so generous with our information sharing.
- Other: I love private Facebook groups for social media managers like me, for example ‘Social Media Australia’, etc. it’s fun to talk “shop” with industry peers, particularly when you freelance.