Perspectives is a series uncovering routines, inspiration, and insights by brand leaders shaping the future of marketing around the globe.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Charles Etoroma is the Senior Social Media Strategist at EXPRESS. He has previously worked with brands, including Goop, Good, and Upworthy. In his words, Charles shares his perspective on: 

  • Embracing curiosity and expanding your knowledge…
  • The pressure social media and content managers face…
  • Strategic partnerships and what this means for the future…

And more…

Describe your daily routine. What do you do for a living? What does your typical day look like?

I do a lot of things but 9-5 I work as a Sr. Social/Content Strategist and work as a liaison between the social media department and our PR, Brand Partnerships, Influencer, Merchandising, Creative, and Paid Media teams. In addition to that, I do a lot of freelance writing & art direction. 

My days typically look very very different. 

9-5 it usually involves a balancing act of analyzing data, being aware of cultural undercurrents, and using those data points and my experience to plan out content. After 9-5, you’ll usually find me reading, trying to stay up to date with new trends, tweeting, and creating social-first content.

How do you wind down from a long day of work?

That’s a hard question because I am always doing something. 

For me, working out and playing sports are huge parts of my life, so I try to do that as many times a week as I possibly can. I’m subscribed to a ton of newsletters so I try to catch up on anything interesting in my inbox or thumb through IG for any pieces of information I need to be aware of (this info usually informs any art-directed pieces of content I create for myself or for clients). 

As of late, I’ve been rewatching the show Family Matters on Hulu with my girlfriend and that has been a nice walk down memory lane.

What blogs, sites, sources do you follow for marketing news and insights?

Whew, the golden question! 

I would say for anyone new I started out obsessing over the articles/blogs/podcasts of Adage, Adweek, Digiday, Social media Examiner, & Social media explorer. Those are still big but I’ve found myself really tapped into to top agencies around the world to keep tabs on the work they are doing. 

Wieden & Kennedy is my favorite agency, followed by Droga5. Also, events like the Clio or Cannes Lion are really important to keep tabs on. Most importantly, curiosity is what you need to be able to find your own sources of inspiration. It’s important not to get stuck in the marketing/ad echo chamber and reach outside of that for more valuable insight.

What is something interesting or surprising you learned in the last few months?

I have learned, as I believe many have, why certain brands are successful and why others are failures. With all the challenges of 2020, I have seen first-hand the reasons brands like Nike, Ben & Jerry’s, and Netflix are admired by so many and that’s because they have a real POV. They aren’t afraid to draw their line in the sand and live with the results. This means that the employees are more often than not empowered to chase after their conviction. There are far too many brands at this point that really just shouldn’t exist because they are more content trend-jacking instead of offering real value.

What does the future of marketing look like to you? How can brands and teams prepare?

I actually shared a post on my LinkedIn the other day about this. I believe the future is and has always been able strategic cross-pollination. By this, I mean brands must now embrace strategic partnerships with other brands/figures that, at first glance, seem very different from them.

Take Playstation’s partnership with Travis Scott or Adidas’ collaboration with Legos or Crayola. At first glance, these partnerships seem strange but once you dig in you start to see the value and both brands end up winning by reaching newer audiences.

What do you feel most marketers struggle with? How can we fix this?

Mental health. This is something I was totally unaware of until a few months ago. Roughly 2 months ago I became more active on my Twitter account just sharing personal anecdotes of things I have seen and experienced. Over the course of this, I realized how many of us suffer from anxiety, depression, and the imposter syndrome. This issue is not nearly talked about enough. 

Social/Content managers are constantly under a lot of pressure and there has not been a good outlet for the industry as a whole to share that frustration. This issue needs more awareness. 

Managers need to be able to freely take the time they need without feeling like they will be looked down on or reprimanded. We go through so much and have to churn through more than most people so our minds need time to heal. That doesn’t happen enough.

What are your thoughts on user-generated content (UGC) and influencer marketing?

An influencer is someone who has a master level of understanding of a niche group of an industry, of an aspect of a topic, and can eloquently provide context around that for people to understand. It doesn’t matter what it is. And then people who follow them respect their opinion, so they’ll have a high level of trust between the groups. That’s what an influencer is to me. Well, really that’s what a curator is to me. And I like the idea and the word curator far more than I do in influencer.

As far as user-generated content, I think it’s super important. Super valuable. The caveat with that is if you rely on it exclusively, you lose any leverage any foundation you need to have as a brand… because your ideas are not your ideas. They are the ideas of an influencer who you’re taking their content, essentially.

So there has to be a very strong and fine balance of your own original content versus leveraging UGC. UGC is there to support a brand’s efforts, not to be the brand’s efforts.

What is a book, podcast, person, or event that helped shape your career? Why?

Another great question! 

There are literally so many but one I know that I have to mention is Ogilvy on Advertising. I have great respect for Ogilvy (also another agency that I love) and his philosophies. 

Honorable mentions go to “It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be,” by Paul Arden. The podcast “The Business of Hype” by Hypebeast and “startup” by gimlet media (now owned by Spotify) have helped me enormously. 

Lastly, the fictional character Don Draper from the show “Mad Men” had a profound effect on me (not the personal issues) and my goal of becoming a creative director.

Who, where, or what do you look to for inspiration?

Anything and everything. There is not a thing that cannot be seen as a piece that can connect to something else, eventually. 

My father always use to tell me, “knowledge is never wasted,” and I believe that wholeheartedly. If you can’t find inspiration in everything, it will make your job as a marketer a lot harder.

What advice do you have for marketers and creatives who look up to you?

I’ve been sharing a few pieces of advice the past few days but I’ll share two of the most important here: 

  1. Realize that your greatest asset is your level of curiosity
  2. Write out your resume/CV in a way that reflects where you want to go and who you want to be, instead of the “box” your job, manager, or leader puts you in. 
  3. Read any and everything, because brilliant ideas don’t come in echo chambers, they come through seemingly random concepts that are simply linked together.

What are you excited about or looking forward to?

Being able to be the manager, mentor, leader that I always wish that I had when I was first getting into this industry.