In 140 characters or less, Macala Wright, the Head of Digital Strategy and Innovation at Group Partners, has established herself as a pioneer in social media. With the unique ability to work in both an analytical and creative field, Macala’s work extends much farther than UK-based business innovation firm, Group Partners. Besides working at Group Partners, Macala can often be found writing about retail, e-commerce, and technology for CNN’s Mashable.
While many of us spend most of our days Tweeting, Facebook-ing, and Instagram-ing, Macala took that love for social media one step further and created the first ever social media conference, known as the 140Conf, in London and New York. Still in awe of what she’s already accomplished, Macala credits young passion and talent as a factor in her success. Here, the extremely insightful digital strategy maven officers her advice on growing a business, finding a job you enjoy, and not being afraid to do something a little more untraditional. If only we could all be so wise!
Full name: Macala Wright
Age: 32 (yes, that’s my real age)
Educational background: 19th Century Literature, DePaul University, minor in professional writing.
Current title/company: Head of Digital Strategy & Innovation, Group Partners
What was your first job out of college and how did you land that position?
I worked at GCI Group – owned by Grey Advertising – as an account coordinator.
There has been major growth in social media over the last several years. How did you get started in this business? I was fascinated about how digital innovation and social media would impact consumer behavior, so I started FMM as a exploration of that and resource.
What advice do you have to others looking to have a career in social networking?
As social grows as a communication, business and marketing channel, it’s important that you develop a strategy (both for your personal brand, as well as your company’s brand) in the the way you use it. And I don’t use strategy as a fluff word, I speaking about actually sitting down and asking yourself, “why am I using social media? what am I hoping to accomplish?” From there, you need to figure out who you’re trying to reach (audience) and where (demographic). Study the platforms they’re on, how they use them and craft accordingly. Research is simply awesome.
You have been called a pioneer of social media and are the go-to woman for digital media. What do you think sets you apart from other experts in your field?
I’ve always told my clients that I create digital love stories and I back them with data. Balancing creative and analytical is an art that I’ve mastered, and continually remastering. Also, I’ve never been afraid to try new technology, in 1998, that brand I worked for was Polyvore’s 2nd paid program, their first big brand partnership. That was followed by a host of others, including Bumebox and Stylmee (both of which are companies I ended working with after successful collaborations).
When and how did you discover your passion and a niche for fashion, beauty and lifestyle-related brands?
It was random. I said to myself, “I love technology, I love to code, I adore marketing…and I also like pretty things.” It was down the rabbit hole from there.
What gave you the courage in 2009, to partner with venture capitalist Jeff Keni Pulver to create the first ever social media, Twitter conference, known as the 140Conf?
Jeff was willing to give me a platform. I was still “green” in terms of my experience, but he saw the passion I had as it related to Fashion, Luxury and Retail, he let me go. Finding young passion and talent is the secret to success in any program or company. New ideas, new energy, will always keep you nimble and hungry for innovation. No stagnation!
You’ve been quoted in highly esteemed publications and online new sources including, The New York Times, Women’s Wear Daily, Gawker, Mashable, and Fox Business. How has this type of recognition helped grow your following and career?
The press allowed me to build my subject matter expertise in technology and lifestyle. It became an important conduit of awareness for me in terms of building my speaking career and consulting in the early days. As I’ve grown, it led me to the work that I’ve done with larger brands and now the new role I currently hold at Group Partners. Had you told me three months ago I’d be working with the best of breed, visionary minds in the world, I wouldn’t have believed you. But that’s what I do.There are two important days in your entire life. The day you’re born and the day you figure out what you were born for. I’ve discovered that and there’s no want to even describe it.
Describe your typical work schedule. What’s does a day look like in the life of Macala Wright?
Well, given the fact that most people I work with are in London, I get up at 4AM everyday and start my day. Emails, calls, work and client docs. About noon, I take a break for Yoga (afterall, I live in California – we so get our yoga practice on). After I get home, I then read for a few hours, research and work on whatever pieces of editorial I’m working one for my blog, Mashable or another news outlet (you’ll never take the journalist out of the girl).
What obstacles have you faced during your career and how were you able to overcome them?
Well, my training for what I wanted to do was anything but traditional. I basically leverage social media to build my knowledge and brand in order to obtain my goals because I decided mid point that I didn’t want to teach or write textbooks. I could not take a $20-25K a year job at a magazine and work my way up. So I figured out how to get what I wanted in other ways. As I’ve grown business. I’ve learned sometimes you have to cut ties with people. Not all relationships are meant to work out. It’s no one’s fault. In order to build successful personal and professional relationships, goals have to align with all parties involved. I think people spend too much time trying to make things work. Learn to be very critical of the relationships you’re involved in, they could be what’s holding you back.Lastly, I think the biggest thing I learned was giving myself permission to only do the things I like to do. I’m very fortunate to have a lot of knowledge that goes across a wide skillset. But I never liked everything I was doing or everyone we worked with. At the beginning of the year, I did a lot of self assessment and gave myself permission to “fire” projects and things that did not make me absolutely, head over head giddy with silly delight. I get a lot of “What has happened to you?” looks these days. People tell me I radiate. I tell them, “I’m just happy.”
How would you still like to see your brand evolve, if at all, in the next year?
There was a recent article in Harvard Business Review that I recommend everyone read. “Is there anything in life so disenchanting as attainment?” asked the poet Robert Louis Stevenson. The answer is that there are very few things. I’ve done everything I’ve EVER set out to do. So now, I’m making a new “To Do/Bucket” list. My brand has evolved to the point that I’ve reached my professional goals. Now I’m going to work on deepening and strengthening my subject matter expertise and applying it to new industries and business models. Don’t worry, I’m still going to write for business and fashion publications.
Best moment of your career so far?
Living it as we speak.
What advice would you give your 23-year-old self?
Sweetie, you look so good, it’s okay to eat a cookie with gluten…and throw out all those self help books while you’re at it. But you can keep Danielle La Porte’s The Firestarter Sessions and a Keel’s Diary for desperate times.