After a diverse career path including stints as a personal trainer and freelance writer, Lauren Shirreffs was inspired to dive headfirst into a new line of work. In 2013, she launched a social media agency from her kitchen table. Now, the CEO of 2Social leads a team of digital storytellers, overseas offices in Toronto and Los Angeles, and has worked with over 200 North American start-ups and established brands across a wide range of industries—from cannabis to real estate to food.
Here, Lauren walks us through her career path, offers her tips on building a strong social media presence, and gives advice on the sometimes-daunting prospect of making a big career change.
How did you get to where you are today?
Originally, I studied Fitness and Health. Upon graduation, I worked for various gyms around the city and had my own side hustle training clients at their work or home. At 25 years old, I decided to go back to school and pursue a more creative career that would allow for continued variety and scale. I studied Fashion Marketing at the Academy of Design (formally, The International Academy of Design) and had a keen interest in writing. I then briefly moved abroad and studied creative writing in London, England. During this time, I blogged and began freelance writing for a variety of publications, using the emerging social platforms as tools to increase my readership and develop my personal brand. Upon returning to Toronto, I began exploring the use of social media as a medium to connect local businesses with desired consumers and quickly grew this from an interest into a viable business and started 2Social in 2013.
Tell us about 2Social! What is it and what inspired you to found it?
2Social is a women-led creative and digital agency that delivers full-service marketing solutions to a growing roster of brands and businesses. We are a company of brand nurturers, digital storytellers, and passionate problem-solvers.
I’ve always been passionate about helping people, which likely stems from my time as a personal trainer. I’m also inspired by helping businesses reach new heights, and the creativity that social media allows in communicating messages. My goal has always been to create a space for free thinking and creative ideas with a team that is curated to deliver exceptional work for clients and have a similar passion to help others. We are good people focused on delivering great work for awesome people. We aren’t the agency that will take on any project; instead, like our curated culture and team environment, we focus on developing partnerships with our clients that are rooted in similar values.
How has 2Social evolved since you launched?
In 2013, I founded 2Social from the kitchen table in my creaky loft. In the early days, it was just me and my cat, and sometimes an intern, working on anywhere between 15-25 clients at a time. I founded 2Social with the ambition to develop a creative team cross-trained with a variety of experience and backgrounds to add to our services and expand 2Social into the agency it is today. We’re an agency with social media and digital still its core but have layered in the other crucial aspects to a client’s marketing mix—from design to PR to event marketing and analytics—that may add value to their digital footprint.
To support our growth and cement our US and international expansion, we opened our satellite office in Santa Monica, California, in 2016. This addition has allowed us to establish the agency as a bi-costal hub for creative digital solutions and keep us at the forefront of social media innovation. We continue to evolve and be agile to emerging trends, innovations, and platforms relevant to our clients, their customers, and the ever-changing digital landscape.
What sort of clients do you guys work with?
To date, we’ve worked with over 200 business and brands in both the US and Canada in a variety of celebrated industries. From beauty, fashion, retail and food and beverage to B2B, Pharma, cannabis, and real estate, our experience is well-versed and broad, and we aim to develop partnerships with our clients based on passion, culture, values and a shared ambition for success.
I feel like social media evolves so quickly that it would be hard to keep up with new trends, platforms, etc. How do you keep up?
We host monthly workshops, “Bites & Brainstorms,” where internal team members or industry professionals host a discussion on trends, technologies or various topics with the goal of continuous learning and professional growth. We often attend relevant industry events to stay abreast of newness in our field, and often take part in continuing education courses to evolve, grow, and stay on top of the ever-changing online ecosystem. Personally, I am taking masterclasses quarterly, listening to current podcasts, and reading relevant articles—and just generally testing out all new platforms or researching their capabilities to determine their whether they should be considered in client strategies.
What do you think makes a really strong social media strategy/presence?
A strong social media strategy is one that is based on research and a strong understanding of the client’s industry, their competitive landscape, and most importantly, their consumer. Consistency, tone, and visual approach are the ingredients necessary for an effective social media presence, and one that communicates key messages that share, educate, or provide value to the community.
What are some social media faux pas you see people making? What should we avoid doing?
A social media faux pas is trying to be something you aren’t. Social media has to be authentic, truthful, and valuable.
What do you love about your job?
I love meeting creative and interesting business owners working to make their passions a reality. I can absolutely identify with that and want to do everything in our creative wheelhouse to work in helping them achieve their goals. I enjoy collaborating with the business owner, their teams, and the creative professionals at 2Social in designing and delivering strategies and solutions that work to make visible impact to a client’s business objectives.
What’s a day-in-the-life like for you?
Every day is different from the next. It typically starts with (lots of) coffee, includes team development, collaboration, and client-facing discussions, and oftentimes, there is client relations or new business opportunities such as pitches and proposals. Every day, I’m part of a creative brainstorm, either relating to a campaign, brand identity, or social strategy. My day usually ends with a yoga class and some veg.
You’ve made several big career switches, from working as a personal trainer to freelance writer to now the CEO of a digital agency. What is your advice to someone who wants to make a career transition?
If you feel the time is right to make a change and are passionate to follow a new path, do it with all of your force, determination, and positivity. Work hard, believe in yourself, and do your best not to give up when times get tough because that happens to the best of us. And don’t have regrets. I always think it is better to try something with confidence than to stay stagnant and wonder “what if?” To me, the only failure in life is always looking back and asking, “what if?”
What sorts of challenges have you faced as you’ve built your business?
With an industry that continues to evolve with new trends, technologies, algorithms, platforms, and younger generations transitioning to consumers, a challenge we’ve faced has been staying on top of all of the newness and making the necessary nimble changes to our business plan or services. Challenges often unveil opportunities and keep us on our toes and in touch with the industry.
What has your experience been like as a female founder in an evolving industry?
Being that our agency is positioned somewhere between an ad agency and a social media agency, we often play in a lane that is traditionally a boys’ club – but our approach is therefore unique. As females, we nurture the brands we work with and treat our clients as family. Our culture is more green juice than it is beer cart. I think that its less about gender and more about our values and personalities. There certainly are challenges, but I don’t focus on them much. In the early days, I would notice the different way an interaction would be between a business owner and myself versus a male employee, but those are typically the people I don’t choose to work with anyways. Our values don’t align.
What are your tips for readers looking to expand their own brand and social media strategy?
Focus on building content that provides value and focus less on vanity metrics like likes and follows. Those will come with time. Have consistency in posting, and in the way that you represent yourself on varying social media platforms.
What’s next for you and 2Social?
Last year 2Social underwent a re-brand and development. This year we are completely focused on sharing the amazing client work we’ve done in a big way and continuing to grow with disruptive brands in Canada and the US. We will also be launching a consumer product, “Postworthy,” that will help individuals and entrepreneurs build and grow their social platforms. Stay tuned!