Meet Kirstie Smith of Social Circle, Birmingham’s digital marketing collective going global

Social Circle is a collaborative group of social media marketers putting Birmingham on the map for digital marketing. We met the founder, Tide member Kirstie Smith to find out more about the group and her journey from agency employee to award-winning independent digital marketer.

Social Circle started as a monthly catch-up between industry friends and has grown into a 1,000+ strong community of professionals passionate about taking digital marketing to the next level. Kirstie says: 

“Our values in Social Circle are: learn, connect and share. We want to give out as much information as we can – we don’t want to keep it to ourselves. We want to make Birmingham better for everyone. For the city, for our clients, and for ourselves.”  

Alongside hosting monthly networking events (currently happening online), Social Circle are a social media consultancy and run training workshops. Kirstie runs workshops with Sally Hawksford, a fellow Brummie and digital marketing expert – in 2020, Kirstie and Sally joined us on the panel for this Tide Masterclass: 📺 How to create a successful small business marketing strategy.

Creating a portfolio career

Kirstie worked as an employee in marketing agencies for ten years. She realised that alongside her marketing work, she had a talent for helping others develop their skills:

“During my career, I’ve always loved nurturing junior team members. I’ve always been the person called on to run training events in my agency or in the business I was working for.”

After working as an employee for many years, Kirstie wanted a more flexible, modern working lifestyle and realised her next step should be running her own business. 

“Working this way gives me a good balance – I have various different jobs and career paths.”

As well as running Social Circle, Kirstie also lectures at Birmingham City University and is the Marketing Director of Digital Cake

Kirstie with colleagues at Digital Cake, Birmingham
Kirstie with colleagues at Digital Cake, Birmingham

Light-bulb moment

Attending an event called Social Day in 2017, Kirstie was inspired to change her career path and ultimately to quit her job and start Social Circle. 

“The event was so inspiring – I thought, ‘Yes! I can do this!’” 

The following year, Kirstie returned to Social Day. But this time, as an invited speaker on the main stage.

Like many business owners, Kirstie has added to and changed her work over the years, adapting to what her clients need. 

“I didn’t start out thinking my work would be training, networking and consultancy. It all evolved naturally.”

Going global

Kirstie created Social Circle as a Birmingham-based endeavour but it’s already expanded globally. Jacky Barker, an ex-colleague of Kirstie, has taken the concept to Sydney, Australia. And Dean Taylor, a regular member, has launched Social Circle Manchester.

“Our positioning statement was about making Birmingham better and putting Birmingham on the map for digital marketing – so I had to rework that!” 

Social Circle’s updated statement now says, ‘Networking with a difference. We believe in being better for ourselves, our businesses, our clients and our cities.’

Recognising success

Clearly Kirstie has hit on a winning formula. But awards aren’t the only way to measure success:

“I’d say my greatest achievement has been seeing two of my university students move into digital marketing roles after coming to a Social Circle event. There’s nothing that feels as good as people coming to an event, loving it, and having this kind of outcome.”

How to build up your confidence to go freelance

At Tide, we know that confidence is a barrier stopping female founders from launching their idea. Kirstie says she can relate to this: initially, she didn’t think she knew enough to set up her own business.

Here are Kirstie’s top three tips for anyone thinking about starting their own business in digital media:

1. Run a proof of concept

“Try it first. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Try it on a small scale or run your new business on the side, while you continue to work as an employee.”

2. Surround yourself with like-minded people

“This way, you won’t be on your own. Have a look at – there’s a meetup for everything! You’ll find that people are already getting together to discuss whatever it is that you’re interested in.” 

If you’re a Facebook fan, Kirstie recommends the group Digital Women.

3. Find your niche

“If you’re passionate about something, you’ll find other people who feel the way you do. Don’t try and be a Jack of all trades, as you’ll end up a master of none. Really understand your proposition and your target audience, and don’t deviate from that.” 

Choose a modern account

In a previous business, Kirstie banked with a big-name High Street bank. 

”It was annoying that I had to pay a monthly fee for what was really just a basic bank account. I couldn’t use it to send invoices or anything like that.”

Luckily for Kirstie, her partner works in commercial finance and knew he could help Kirstie find a better deal. 

Kirstie uses the Tide app to do her finance admin
Kirstie uses the Tide app to do her finance admin

“He did all the research and said that Tide was the one to use. I’m addicted to my phone so when he said it’d be really easy to run my account, send invoices and check my payments, all from my phone… Well, it was easy to decide to use Tide!”

Nowadays, Kirstie says she spends just 30 minutes a week on finance admin. For freelancers and small businesses, being able to do simple tasks like invoicing via the Tide app means less time doing admin and more time to do what you love – running your business. 

“I love that I can look at everything in one place. And the fact that I can export the information as a spreadsheet too. It’s so useful.”

Ready to start your own business?

If you’re ready to go into business for yourself, you can get started with a start up business bank account today. If you’re ready to start your own limited company, we’ll even register it at Companies House for FREE when you open an account with Tide.

Connect with Social Circle

  • Follow on Twitter
    Social Circle uses this channel mostly for local community updates.
  • Follow the Facebook Group
    In the group, members share ideas, updates, and help each other solve problems.
  • Connect on LinkedIn
    Follow on this channel for updates about events, announcements and handy articles with guidance and support.
  • Follow on Instagram

Main photo courtesy of Kirstie Smith. Other photos © Tide

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