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Uprising: How Nicole Glover Helps Brands Navigate Social Media's Future



Penquin’s digital and social media director discusses the future of socials, the sensation that is TikTok and what she watches on YouTube, writes LBB’s Nisna Mahtani

Uprising: How Nicole Glover Helps Brands Navigate Social Media's Future

Falling into the escapism of social media, books and cooking, is how Nicole Glover spends her time when she isn’t doing her day job of being a digital and social media director. Despite winding up in a totally different career than she expected, one thing hasn’t changed, and that’s Nicole’s determination to continually be better.

Growing up in South Africa, Nicole’s home housed her “liberal, free-spoken family” who allowed her to figure out her journey without putting pressure on her shoulders. Nicole’s childhood was spent in a state of curiosity as she changed her mind “pretty much daily” and toyed with several different career paths she wanted to pursue. Out of all of the hobbies she took up, it seemed that reading was the most consistent of the bunch, and she says it “still is very much one of my passions.” 

With her nose often buried in books, Nicole experienced a phenomenon which many avid readers fall into, not being able to stop. “I got in trouble a lot for staying up late because I HAD to finish the book I was reading.” But other than her love of reading, there was no other indication that she would wind up in the world of advertising. As someone who describes some of her character traits  as “very Scorpio and Slytherin”, Nicole is  ambitious, and in her own words, “extremely competitive.” She adds, “I really hate losing at anything but mostly I like to think of myself as someone with a great attitude but with a little bit of moodiness thrown in.”

It was a BA in journalism and sociology that Nicole decided to study at Rhodes University in South Africa. “I really enjoyed my Uni experience and Rhodes has a reputation for being a party school – which I can attest to - but from an academic perspective, I really struggled to figure out what subjects I enjoyed and what I would major in (except for journalism, that was the reason I went in the first place),” Nicole says. Allowing herself to follow her heart, she “took sociology on a bit of a whim, and ended up really enjoying learning about what makes people and society tick.”

Fresh out of university with her degree, Nicole set her sights on being a journalist – the reason why she chose her undergraduate degree in the first place. As Nicole began looking, she found an internship which would be her first taster of the workplace. “My first job was an internship at a newspaper called The Star, and it turned out that maybe journalism wasn’t for me,” she says. Realising pretty quickly that her plan would have to change, Nicole began looking for jobs that she felt would suit her better, eventually winding up on her current path despite never having a real plan to be there. “I ended up getting a role as a content manager/webmaster at a small agency that was willing to give me a chance with no experience, and that’s where I started learning all things advertising and agency,” and well, the rest is history. 

Taking everything in and keeping an open mind is how Nicole has developed so far, but she’s nowhere near the point of feeling like she’s done honing her craft. “I try to make sure I’m open to learning every day, whether that’s from the people around me, online or just from experimenting,” she says. Sharing her most useful lesson, she acknowledges how important it is to ask questions. “Not knowing how to do something is okay (for me it’s always felt like it’s definitely not okay) and asking for help and support should be mandatory – it’s impossible to grow and learn on your own.”

The first project she worked on was a campaign for a local sweet brand, which is one of Nicole's most memorable experiences. “It was the first time I can recall really directing the concept of the campaign and owning it,” she says. “I don’t think I had been in the agency space for long, so this really made me feel like I could take ownership in the space and I really enjoyed what I was doing.” With her sense of enjoyment carrying on, Nicole worked on more campaigns till she reached one that she would look back on as significant, and that was for Suzuki Swift. “It was the first Suzuki campaign I worked on that had a strong social and digital focus and it’s also the first campaign that I’ve worked on that won an award.”

Nowadays, Nicole’s role involves the amalgamation of social and digital media, so it’s no surprise that her passion lies in engaging concepts and new technologies. She specifically enjoys the creative aspects of marketing which put “the two together to create effective marketing that isn’t just putting ads out there, but rather making your audience feel like a part of your brand or business through real connection.” On this note, Nicole explains that the best thing you can do in this social and digital space is “to be present.” She continues, “Spend time online and on the platforms that you use – this is the only way you’ll be able to integrate these platforms into your strategies authentically as well as truly understand the nuance of tone and trends.”

However, Nicole’s particular way of doing things proves to also be the most challenging aspect of adapting to new situations. But she adds, “it’s something that I am and have spent a lot of time working on and think I’m getting a lot better at.” Acknowledging this, it’s the future of social media which leads to mixed feelings on her part. “I think the future of social media is something that really both scares and excites me, but predominantly makes me angry,” says Nicole, explaining how businesses jump onto the most ‘trendy’ platforms and take away from each platform's unique selling points. She highlights Meta’s need to turn Instagram into TikTok through reels as an example of this phenomenon. But most importantly, it’s the toxic communities finding spaces that she believes have the most negative impact on users. On the flip side, the introduction of TikTok and the new interaction between companies and consumers remains to be an exciting space.

It’s within the creative space of South Africa that Nicole works, and she reflects on what could be changed for the better in the country. “I still believe that there is still a lack of diversity in the industry,” she says. “We still see a lot of poorly executed, tone-deaf attempts at marketing to marginalised communities which would just not happen if advertising teams were more diverse.” 

Influenced and inspired by the work which comes out of the country, Nicole mentions how she doesn’t subscribe to individuals for their content, but rather looks to individual pieces of work and the creative teams which make it possible. 

A self-described “escapist by nature”, it’s in movies, books or music where you find Nicole engrossed for hours on end, much like her early days of reading till she finished a book. “I love watching and consuming content and stories and outside of work that’s generally what I’m up to,” she says. “I love a good series or movie; the introduction of the steaming wars has really introduced a ton of new content into the world, and I personally am loving it.” Spending time on YouTube, watching ‘Binging with Babish’ and ‘Good Mythical Morning’, Nicole’s TikTok usage is more sporadic, influenced by the algorithm rather than specific creators. 

Part of Nicole’s escapism into TV shows and YouTube videos also transpires into reading books, especially works by Stephen King, as well as other stories within the fantasy genre. And when she isn’t reading or watching content, she loves to cook and bake. “I started a separate secret Instagram page to share my cooking journey, which has been fun. I’ve been a bit lazy with it recently, but I always find my way back to it.”

But really, it comes down to one simple focus for Nicole, “Being better than I was yesterday. I am extremely competitive, and I think that drives a lot of my ambition. I have a really strong drive to succeed because I really just want to be the best.”

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Penquin, Wed, 03 Aug 2022 17:00:00 GMT