Kirsty Sharman: bottled lightning - TechCentral

Kirsty Sharman: bottled lightning

Kirsty Sharman

Kirsty Sharman

Bottled lightning would be a good way to describe Kirsty Sharman. She heads Webfluential, a digital agency that’s redefining the social media marketing space. A digital native, she’s online more than she’s offline. While her friends were getting new dresses and shoes for their 21st, she was thrilled to have a computer as a present.

Her big break came when she joined online communications agency Retroviral. Landing the job was typical Kirsty in action.

“I wanted to get into the digital marketing space, and especially with helping campaigns go viral. I looked at the job spec and it contained just about everything I didn’t have — but I knew I could do the job.”

She started a blog that went viral around the world and become a case study in how to prepare a CV in the new millennium. #WeWantKirsty tweets are still making waves in the twittersphere — read why.

Working with Mike Sharman (no relation), she spent two years at digital agency Retroviral working on brands such as Nando’s, Castle Lager and Converse, the shoe company. But the digital space was evolving.

“Things started getting more challenging and we realised we needed to introduce paid media,” she says.

She taught herself about social media advertising and familiarised herself with all the latest trends in online marketing. (Did we mention she’s online 24/7? She even has a waterproof phone for surfing in the bath.)

This thinking led to the creation of Retromedia, which eventually evolved into Webfluential. Sharman says: “Before there was television and radio, brands developed through word of mouth. What we’re doing is reclaiming the word-of-mouth influence in the online space.”

In essence, Webfluential uses online influencers to market brands. If you have a big following on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram or even on a blog, the company regards you as an online influencer.

However, the company goes beyond connecting influencers and brands. It also integrates paid media campaigns and provides a reporting tool that shows clients how their money is being spent online.

“If I take someone’s money and spend it, I want both of us to know exactly what I’m doing with it,” she explains.

In the past year, Webfluential has paid out R2m to South African influencers. She says she is working with big media houses, educating them about why influencer marketing is important to brands.

Clients include King Price, OneLife, Absa, Mazda, Nokia, Black Label, SuperSport, M-Net Movies, Property24 and BMW.

The business isn’t limited to South Africa, with Webfluential working with influencers in Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, Mauritius, Guinea, Ethiopia and Egypt. It’s now on a growth spurt, having grown its staff complement from two to 12 in the past six months.

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Sharman is also one of the brains behind Geek Girl Dinners. “It’s more than just networking,” she says. “We get to talk to other women who are excited about what they are doing in the tech space, and it’s taught me about how tech and digital are used outside of the marketing world.”

Sharman is passionate about the digital marketing space. She even has her own online store, which she built herself.

In her spare time, she dresses up her English bulldog and posts pictures on a dedicated blog.

She’s spent the past three years soaking up everything digital. “I knew I needed to grow my network and learn at an accelerated rate. I’ve taught myself everything from search engine optimisation to digital marketing.” You know she’s good at what she does as her bulldog is even more famous than her — indeed, he is now the face of Torga Optical.

“I love what I do. I’m doing something completely different from what I was doing a year ago and I’m sure it will evolve in a year’s time.”

For fun, Sharman collects action figures from around the world and concedes to having a large collection of Toy Story figurines.

“My mum says I have to grow up sometime … but why?”

Why, indeed?  — © 2015 NewsCentral Media

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