Magic in Groot Marico

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Nestled in the North West Province, somewhere between the Magaliesburg and the Botswana border, lies the unassuming town of Groot Marico.

The town itself is small, basic, and desperate but surrounding this little dorpie lies natural delights that arise from, or sink below, the red earth and scrubby bosveld.

Author,  Herman Charles Bosman held this chunk of South African landscape in very high regard, and these literary nods are used as the basis for the small tourism industry ‘The Marico’, as the locals call it, generates.

There is no other place I know that is so heavy with atmosphere,
so strangely and darkly impregnated with that stuff of life
that bears the authentic stamp of South-Africa.

- Herman Charles Bosman, Marico Revisited 

Situated in the Limpopo River basin, the rivers that run past the town are the only perennial streams in the basin that produce clean, drinkable water. We drank it, it was pretty good, a bit fungal tasting, but our guts stayed inside us… so no stresses there.

We stayed at RiverStill Guest House, run by a guy named Jacques who moved to The Marico 20-odd years ago after he was diagnosed with cancer. The clear air, fresh water, and boundless space seem to have done him well; and he has created a beautiful place to stay at in the process.

The property is dotted with an arrangement of citrus trees and boasts a lovely herb garden that guests are welcome to scratch in for bits to spice up their suppers. There’s also a labyrinth, which provides both relaxation and reflection.

 

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The view from the centre of the labyrinth at RiverStill

 

RiverStill offers guests intimate and cosy stone cottages, equipped with fireplaces, private patios, and snazzy kilim carpets. All the cottages are a short walk from the milky turquoise river, where canoes and water swings offer ways to enjoy the slow moving water.

 

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Our cute little cottage

 

 

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The river at the foot of the RiverStill farm

 

And while the river is highly enjoyable, we came to Groot Marico to see the Oog (Eye). And man, we weren’t disappointed.

About 40 km from RiverStill, along a dry, dusty and bumpy road, passed farms and veld,, lies this otherworldly pool of water. Walk straight towards the bulrushes, situated on a private farm owned by J Z Palm, and soon you will discover it.

Waterlilies and pads freckle this pond, and in the spaces between them the sun shines through into crystal clear water to reveal more emerald vegetation.

Staring into the Eye you expect to see mermaids – or at least exotically painted fish – slink between the submerged plants. Unfortunately, no such luck. It was so still as we gazed into the Eye’s modest depths (save a Black Crake, who scuttled along the lily pads in a  comically paranoid manner), that we found ourselves just quietly staring, appreciating this marvelously bizarre natural wonder.

The source of the Marico River, The Eye, is actually is a large dolomitic hole in the ground. Bearing witness to the start of something as massive as a river with a basin of over 13 000 km is only outdone by the sheer beauty of the water, which is a popular spot among scuba divers.

 

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Our curious friend, The Black Crake.

 

 

We visited The Eye in the middle of winter, but the sun was out, so eventually our clothes came off, and we gingerly jumped in, quick to relax and luxuriate in the cool, clear water.

 

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Lilypads and luscious liquid.

 

The sheets of black rubber matting, wood, 43and carpet that the farm owner has placed along one side of the Eye, although rather unsightly, provided a good space to soak up more of the African sun and enjoy a picnic lunch. He has also erected a stilted structure for the the adventurous types to jump off of into the water, but it looked a bit rickety for our liking.

 

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Picnic at The Groot Oog (Great Eye) of Marico.

 

Driving back along the red dusty road to RiverStill, we felt we had encountered something incredible. Because we had; a natural wonder which seems so far removed from the landscape that surrounds it, that it creates an aura of mysticism and magnetism.

Back in our cottage, a bottle of red wine by the fire provided a perfect ending to an utterly magical weekend, and driving back to Joburg the next day, we felt renewed and revived. The Groot Marico had certainly treated us well.

 

For more information:

Groot Marico Tourism: http://www.marico.co.za/

RiverStill: http://www.riverstill.co.za/

Map

  • Note that there is one toll gate on the way from JHB that will run you about R80 each way.
  • It is advised to do all your shopping before you get to Groot Marico, as there are only small cafe type shops in the town.

 

 

 

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Lebogang Rasethaba; Mzansi’s authentic auteur

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First published on www.mediaupdate.co.za in November 2015

Lebogang Rasethaba is the filmmaker who invited the world to the apartheid after-party with 2014’sFuture Sounds of Mzansi documentary featuring Spoek Mathambo. The film garnered serious media hype and awards, as has Rasethaba in his multifarious career.

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By Remy Raitt

The movie-making maverick delivers provocative pieces of film across the big and small screen, usually focusing on authentic South African stories. His work has featured on platforms like i-D and Vice, and his films have been ardently received at local and international festivals. He says his love for film springs from its ability to “open peoples’ experiences beyond what a lived-reality can offer”. “It gives interesting readings of society and allows people to connect with moments and emotions across different eras,” he says.

Rasethaba has strived to make these connections through documentaries, branded content, music videos, short films and adverts. At the IMC Conference in Johannesburg, he said the trick to getting this all right is “making content people actually want to watch”.

The filmmaker’s journey to honing his craft began as an imaginative teenager. “Like most creative kids growing up I was always drawing, taking photos, writing … but filmmaking gave me what other mediums couldnt, it felt like the ultimate platform for storytelling because of how closely it is able to mimic life,” Rasethaba explains. At 18, the native Joburger took on a degree at UCT after which he ventured to China, where he lived, studied and worked for five years.

But perfecting his Mandarin wasn’t the biggest lesson Rasethaba learnt on his sojourn abroad. “China made me realise the innate beauty of our society,” he says. “The most valuable lesson I learnt while I was there was being sensitive to different cultures, especially when framing ones that aren’t yours,” he explains. “As a filmmaker you need to be aware of your position and power relative to your subjects’ position and story, that’s why I am most comfortable making the films I make, its easy to talk about stuff that I get at a very fundamental level.”

This “stuff” he speaks of is usually the real stories of South Africa and the subcultures that drive them. Rasethaba says he’s drawn to capturing the country’s essence as he feels audiences, both at home and abroad, are yet to discover the real Mzansi. “A lot of the ways people think about South Africa are really f**ked up and warped. People here and people outside haven’t been able to interpret the nuances of how we function as a society,” he says. “I think, for the most part, we still don’t fully grasp the magic, the beauty, the treasure that is South Africa.” So this is his modus operandi; to honestly capture this magic and share it on screen.

This is one of the reasons Rasethaba began Arcade, a division of Egg Films, who produce content that doesn’t fit into the realm of traditional TV films. “We wanted to bridge the gap between filmmaking at a very pure level in the form of free-flowing real narratives, but with the polish and finesse of commercials,” he explains. “I personally like a raw, guerrilla style documentary approach, it suits the type of stories I am trying to tell. But on the flipside I want the stories to be crafted, detailed, thorough; I like the aesthetic of high production finishes that you get from adverts. Arcade is like the best of both worlds.”

Through Arcade, Rasethaba has produced slick, relevant branded content for the likes of Castle Lite, Absolut, Ballantine’s, the Soweto Marathon and Adidas. He has also filmed some of South Africa’s most cutting-edge music videos through Arcade for the likes of Sibot, Okmalumekoolkat and Sons of Kemet. His video for the latter is his favourite music video to date. “Have you seen that In the Castle of my Skinvideo?” he asks, “It’s a piece of art … The concept is something else, I lucked out there, the way it connects different cultures and creates new meaning and understanding of certain ideas. I f**king love that video.”

When asked who he would still like to produce a music video for, dead or alive, his answer is somewhat surprising. “Okmalumekoolkat,” he says resolutely. “We have made a bunch of videos together and maybe we have never reached the full potential of our joined creative abilities. I want to make a video as perfect as Alright for Kendrick Lamar, but for Okmalumekoolkat. He is a very good friend and I love his music, I owe him a perfect video.”

Another dream project is already in full-swing; Future Sounds of Mzansi II. Fans can also look forward to a new documentary that Rasethaba is making for MTV about the politics of race and identity in a young democracy.

And there’ll be tons more compelling content coming from this young filmmaker, who is clearly ahead of the pack when it comes to the class of creativity that is inspired by and encapsulates our country.

For more information, visit www.arcadecontent.tv. Alternatively, connect with him on Twitter.

ELLE names their 2015 Rising Star

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First published on www.mediaupdate.co.za in November 2015

Young Moroccan fashion designer, Hamza Guelmouss’s life changed in Johannesburg on Wednesday, 25 November when he took home top honours at the ELLE Rising Star Design Awards held at Hyde Park.

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By Remy Raitt

The ELLE Rising Star Design Awards in association with Mr Price (MRP) is the largest fashion prize in Africa, and since 2000 has launched the careers of some of Africa’s biggest names in the industry. Guelmouss, the only non-South African out of the six finalists, walked away with R30 000 and the opportunity to work in collaboration with MRP and launch his own range. He will also learn from a mentorship programme at MRP’s head office in Durban, obtain online business coaching with GetSmarter as well as receive exposure in ELLE Magazine.

The Awards and fashion show began with a sneak peek of MRP’s new range titled ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’. Taking cues from the Nirvana hit, the outfits matched feminine florals with grungy denim and hi-top sneakers to create an effortless free-spirited look.

ELLE 
Magazine editor, Gisèle Wertheim Aymés, then took to the catwalk to express her belief in the power of design. “I was asked if I thought design could change the world, and I said yes, it can, one stitch at a time,” she said. “Design shakes the way one experiences life, and fashion allows us all to be a little wilder, to express ourselves and even be extravagant,” she continued.

Wertheim Aymés congratulated all six finalists, saying that although there would only be one winner, there were many successes, all with their own beautiful stories.

The judges of the stiff competition ranged from fashion designers, MRP trend experts, ELLE Magazine staff and fashion’s foremost fundis. MRP Trend executive, Amber Jones, joined Wertheim Aymés on the runway to congratulate Guelmouss on his astounding achievement, but not before all the finalists showed off their various collections to a fixated front row.

Blünke Janse van Rensburg (21) opened the show with bright oversized bows and shoulder pads with a line that used kitsch elements to express her daring style. Next, 24-year-old Cara Geach’s monochromatic sporty range exuded simplistic luxury. She was followed by Durbanite Siyabonga Ntini (22) who’s street-style inspired garments used mint and mango colours to exude a hip, preppy vibe. Twenty-four-year-old Bianca Messina’s range was inspired by the Bauhaus movement and rock formations and offered a muted and minimalistic aesthetic that was both sexy and sophisticated. Daisy Jo Grobler (20) looked to nature for her line, which incorporated knits, embroidery and floral fabric to create a feminine line that honours her own heritage. Guelmouss (20) was the final young designer to display his garments on the runway. His edgy range made use of non-conformist structures, predominantly in black, layered in a way that exuded urban confidence and androgyny.

Last year’s ELLE Rising Star Design Award winner, Tamar Cherie Dyson’s line closed the show. White and creams dominated the colour palette while architectural lines exuded a chic and elegant aesthetic.

The audience was then treated to an up-close-and-personal look at all the garments on show thanks to AFI Fastrack.

For more information, visit www.elle.co.za. Alternatively connect with them on Facebook or on Twitter.

 

An introduction to employed advocacy

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First published on www.mediaupdate.co.za in November 2015

What your employees think about your company, its products and services offerings, matters. Through their personal social media accounts, employees have the power to grow and define your brand. But they’re not going to do it by default.

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By Remy Raitt

You have to earn their advocacy, something forward-thinking businesses are realising is well worth the effort.

Generally referred to as ‘employed advocacy’ or ‘employed media’, this type of online content marketing has been acknowledged as the fourth type of media, joining bought, owned and earned media, as a credible way to grow your reach.

In a downloadable eBook, strategic communications agency Cerebra, write that employed media is the term used to describe the “collective of socially connected people who work for your company”. Cerebra are encouraging businesses to put their employees at the front line and allow them to use their online reach, influence and credibility to spread brand messages.

How it works

It’s not as easy as ordering your employees to punt your product online. In fact, as Cerebra MD Craig Rodney says, for employee advocacy to work at all, it has to be authentic. This means you have to identify potential employees, then incentivise them to join your advocacy programme.

Head of strategy at Student Village, Duncan Collins, says this identification process is vital. “Your employees represent demographics your company might not.” It’s about finding the people who have reach that would realistically benefit your company.

Where to begin

Rodney says the easiest place to start is encouraging employees to hand over their social media usernames so that you can look into them online to ensure they’ll make effective advocates. Once they’ve checked out okay, it’s about encouraging them to get on board. “You can’t force your employees but you can provide incentives,” says Rodney. These incentives can range from extra leave days to a bar of chocolate; it’s totally dependent on the company.

Another crucial part of your employed advocacy programme is to ensure your employees are sharing content that’s relevant to their own interests, and consequently those of their social media connections. Collins and Rodney agree that the easiest way to do this is by getting employees to share their own work and accomplishments.

When it comes to work they may not have produced, Rodney suggests getting those involved in your programme to pick areas of interest, and building a points system around the idea that they will only receive credit when they share posts that fall within the scope of their chosen subjects.

How to manage it

There’s no denying that putting your brand into the hands of your employees can be chancy. “You do run the risk of your employees representing your company in a way that’s not true to its core values,” says Collins. But Rodney says this can be effectively minimised and even vanquished by ensuring everyone is always up-to-date on what is and isn’t acceptable.

Then it’s about tracking the success. In a guide on employed advocacy, Link Humans say this can be achieved by simply setting KPIs. “These KPIs will tell you whether you’re achieving your goals, and how well you’re doing. KPIs aren’t just any metrics – these are key metrics you’ll rely on to tell you how your plan is performing.”

Rodney agrees; “You need to track employee behaviour. People might think this is a bit big brother-y, but it’s all public information. It’s not about curtailment, it’s about understanding and informing.”

And once the programme works its way into the core of how your business communicates, employed media will become a tenant of your hiring policy says Collins, thus ensuring as many employees as possible become advocates and spread genuine brand messages.

Does or would your company utilise employed advocacy? Tell us why below.

 

Scheduled posts: yay or nay?

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First published on www.mediaupdate.co.za in October 2015

If you think all social media managers do is post on social media platforms, you are wrong. Posting is however a big slice of their workload, and the ability to schedule their posts beforehand can lighten their rapidly growing workloads. There’s no doubt that scheduling saves time, but does it impact the quality of your posts?

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By Remy Raitt

Scheduling your social media posts has a lot of benefits; it enables you to reach audience members in different time zones and to nail your content to a specific time period, even when you’re not available. On the downside it can squash online spontaneity and real-time personal interactions.

Picking a platform

The first step towards scheduling is choosing which platform you want to work from. Every social media manager has their preferences, which will directly reflect the kind of content they post and the brand they are representing.

Media Update
’s own social media maven, Cassy van Eeden, says TweetDeck is her go-to for Twitterposts while Facebook’s very own scheduling option is what she uses when she shares to that network.

She says although TweetDeck may not be the most sophisticated platform, it is reliable. “Your tweets always go live exactly the way that you scheduled them, your pictures pull through and your links are perfect,” she says.

Van Eeden says scheduling on Facebook works best for her, as the social network is constantly evolving, often too quickly for other scheduling platforms to keep up. “Newsfeeds and timelines look different every second day due to updated algorithms and new settings,” she says. “I have found that scheduling platforms rarely adapt quick enough – if at all – to accommodate these changes.”

Bonolo Modise, the social media manager at McCann Worldgroup South Africa, is a Sprout Social devotee. She uses the platform to schedule both her Facebook and Twitter posts.

And in the opposite corner, stands One Africa Television’s online media and convergence manager, Alna Dall, who prefers not to schedule posts. “At first I tried various social media management and scheduling applications, but they all fell short of producing a ‘quality experience’. The options I used were open-source, so customisation was limited. I tried TweetDeck, Bitly and IFTTT in the past – but they failed to give me the options I felt was needed for our branding portfolio.”

Dall says the only app she has full confidence in is the YouTube RSS feed publishing tool. She says she’s impressed by YouTube’s number of customisable WordPress plugins which have useful analytics and scheduling tools.

The upside

“Being able to schedule posts ahead of time is a massive help when it comes to productivity,” says Van Eeden. “Social media runs constantly, 24/7. As a result, people who are responsible for social media management might find themselves on Facebook and Twitter every five minutes trying to keep up and stay relevant. If you have other responsibilities then this is a huge issue when it comes to time management.”

Modise agrees, adding; “It helps with keeping track of the content that has been approved by clients.” Also, she says it can save you in instances where you forget to post. “You’d be surprised by how easy it is to forget to post content on a day-to-day basis,” she says. “Especially because days can be so fast paced that posting slips your mind. So it gives me peace of mind to have the ability to schedule everything that’s important and I rest easy knowing that I’m not going to miss anything.”

And while Van Eeden says scheduling enables social media managers to set aside a specific amount of time each day to sit and focus solely on posting, and then move on to the next thing, this does not mean that you can simply schedule posts for the day and not log on again.

And the downside

Dall says in her experience scheduled posts suck out the personalisation of your social media posts and make it harder to keep track of individual comments. She says although it might work wonders for other companies, in her capacity it doesn’t. “I have found that scheduling for Facebook is always a nightmare,” she says. “I reach a far greater audience if I can adjust one post for several different pages. Being a television station, we upload our news stories to YouTube and I share it on various external platforms and pages, which is not always possible with scheduling applications.”

Van Eeden adds; “Scheduling posts does mean that you have little room for spontaneity, and more importantly, it limits your involvement in relevant conversations. Which is why I always stress that you can’t simply schedule posts for the day and then neglect social media for the rest of the day. That’s how you miss out on conversations that are relevant to your industry.”

Are you a social media manager? Do you schedule your posts? Why?

Brainstorming, but better

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First published on www.mediaupdate.co.za in October 2015

The internet disintegrates borders, it makes ideas global and it gives brands the chance to acquire and monetise insights from people who aren’t necessarily a part of the organisation. All these possibilities are labelled as co-creation; the involvement of a wide community of people in the ideation phase of new ventures. 
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By Remy Raitt

“Co-creation in the digital space plays not just a vital role, but it’s the essence of everything we do on a daily basis,” says Conrad David, the founder and CEO of Hashtag South Africa. “We’re able to engage with individuals that have skills, borderless of any country.”

Finding your meeting point

In Hashtag South Africa’s case, David says they enlist the help of people from around the world. “In order for brands and companies to garner co-creation online they would need to first have a common ground. They would need to find a place to meet in a central location and that can be done utilising community social platforms, simple emails or getting people together in the same room in their countries and then united on a central online platform,” says David.

He says at Hashtag South Africa they have created their own cloud interface, merging Google Apps for business with Facebook API’s and Twitter Bootstrap. “This system allows us to communicate within different time zones and sends messages off in triggers. We have a global time clock that works as a trigger so deadlines are effective in each city of our operation.”

Reaching outside your organisation

Co-creation also allows customers to get involved. At Digital Edge Live, chief scientist of the global social giant Lithium Technologies, Dr Michael Wu explained the opportunities this offers. “Conversations happen on social media but people still just approach it by acquiring and then monetising. Digital acquisition is strange, you can’t keep what you acquire,” he says. According to Wu, if you want to sustain monetisation you need to engage.

“Enlistment helps you scale acquisitions and gives leverage for your customers to do the work for you,” he says. “You need to acquire, engage, monetise, and enlist all at the same time or it won’t work.” Wu believes that the most compelling stories are brand narratives co-created with your customers.

David cites Knorr’s What’s For Dinner? campaign as a good local example of this. While promoting their own recipes (and product)  online, they gather Knorr recipes from their followers too. These are then collected and compiled into a cookbook which is sold at Pick ‘n Pays across the country. He says this provides motivation for followers to get involved, plus generates revenue for the brand.

What it offers

In an article for Vision Critical, Stephen Benson says collaborating with customers offers many benefits including; increased innovation capacity, increased innovation velocity, reduced innovation risk, increased flow of quality ideas and concepts into the development pipeline, and accelerated time to market new products and services.

“It offers brands and companies a global perspective and offers an opportunity; you no longer have to create products and services based on your location,” says David. “You can now tap into the greatest minds that live on planet Earth today, rather than read about them in years to come, and they’re accessible by searching for them simply on the internet or by tweeting them.”

“Co-creation allows your perspective conclusion to change. So, when you have a think tank on a specific agenda or a brief, by opening it up to people in different parts of the world, but staying in the same interest group, you’ll be able to have more than just a 360 perspective; it kind of 3D-fies the object that you’re looking at,” David concludes.

Co-creation has the ability to allow ideas to come alive, and gives brands the chance to tap into information sources that were previously not considered or reachable. All you have to do is get online.

How do you think co-creation will affect marketing and brand building in years to come? Tell us below.

 

Locked, loaded and LinkedIn

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First published on www.mediaupdate.co.za in August 2015

LinkedIn is the Facebook of business. It’s the social platform that let’s professionals network online. And if you don’t have a profile, you’re missing out on massive personal and business growth opportunities.

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By Remy Raitt

The team from Ad Talent Recruitment Specialists say any professional entity that wants an online presence should have aLinkedIn profile. “A LinkedIn profile serves as a representation of your CV online. It gives people an understanding of your experience and expertise and enables them to find out professional information about you that could aid them in working with you.”

Speaker and author, James Hurford of the Company Doctor agrees, adding that they’re integral because “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”.

Unique offerings

LinkedIn provides what other social networks cannot. “LinkedIn offers people a professional platform and network to share information from a professional perspective,” says the Ad Talent Team. “[I]t offers specific sales lead generation and recruitment tools. It is not only opening up opportunities for you to be recognised and headhunted but also where you connect and engage.”

LinkedIn
connects you to people and peers who may not necessarily know you in person. Hurford says it offers trust, credibility and influence. ‘’It’s an easy, credible way to promote yourself, share information and build your network,” he says.

Peter Daisyme in an article for Search Engine Journal says it offers more than self-promotion. “When you connect with other professionals in your field, you’re gaining more knowledge and insight since you’re interacting with colleagues,” he says.

Who’s looking?

LinkedIn informs you when someone has been peeping your profile through a notification email, and the variety of people who may come across you online is astounding. The Ad Talent team says anyone from a company to a talent scout, an industry peer or a recruitment consultant might be checking you out on LinkedIn.

Perfecting your profile

That means you can’t afford to have a poor profile. The Ad Talent team, Hurford and Daisyme all agree a clear, professional photograph is essential. Accurate, up to date information is also important. The Ad Talent team also advise to; have a clear sense of purpose and direction; keep it professional; get personal recommendations; ensure you use correct dates and ensure there are no spelling errors. “Do not miss out any information but try to be concise,” they suggest. “This should serve as a record, not unlike a CV, of experience and information about different roles.”

Hurford says a great profile has impact. He believes a strong headline, an interesting short summary, your full background information, work samples, articles and publications all work together to deliver a professional punch.

Show don’t tell

Hurford uses LinkedIn to publish opinion and thought pieces on his industry. These efforts afford him numerous benefits. He says articles, if done well, “position you as an authority and expert in your field”. “It increases your connections, promotes your brand and helps market your products or services.” When it comes to writing articles he suggests sticking to what you know. “Don’t write about things you’ve never had experience with. People will see straight through you and you’ll lose all credibility,” he advises.

Be present and progress

“In the ever-changing marketing climate, LinkedIn can be used as a tool to gather relevant information about the industry and network with people within the same industry which could be beneficial for many things, for example, career progression,” says the Ad Talent team. Therefore your LinkedInprofile should always be up-to-date and reflect your own professional goals.

Regularly interacting on the platform will also ensure opportunities are not missed.

Do you have a LinkedIn account? How has your presence on the platform worked for you?