Can a virtual agency scale? Tamara Littleton, CEO and founder of The Social Element, tells us how she’s built a 300-people, £9m virtual consultancy business

This week on the PRmoment podcast, we’re taking another change of tack – we’re talking about virtual agencies with Tamara Littleton, CEO and founder of The Social Element.

There are plenty of virtual agencies around, but not that many have managed to scale to the size of The Social Element. It’s a 300-people (100 staff, 200 freelancers), £9m virtual consultancy business operating internationally.

Here’s a flavour of what Tamara and I talked about:

[00:02:01] How paid media is more prominent than organic content on most social channels these days.

[00:02:40] Tamara discusses the three Cs of Social: creative, consultancy and communications.

[00:03:26] How Tamara has scaled her virtual agency to a £9m business of 300 people across Europe, the UK and the US.

[00:05:14] Tamara talks us through the structure of a virtual business like The Social Element.

[00:06:12] How the key to building a virtual agency is identifying people who are comfortable in their own company and then building the technology and organisation on top.

[00:06:38] How do you create a virtual employee community?

[00:06:56] Tamara talks us through the tools she uses to run her virtual agency.

[00:08:35] How Tamara can run her entire agency on her mobile phone.

[00:12:15] Why Tamara decided to launch a virtual business.

[00:13:02] How her experiences of online webmaster forums gave Tamara the inspiration to set up her own virtual agency.

[00:14:09] Why The Social Element's virtual structure meant Tamara could scale it more quickly internationally.

[00:15:33] Tamara discusses the disadvantages of being a virtual business.

[00:16:30] Is it more difficult to get age diversity in a virtual agency structure?

[00:17:23] Why virtual agencies may spend less on office costs, but they will need to have staff meet-ups where they invest in training, fly people in and stay in hotels.

[00:17:58] How a sense of isolation and mental wellbeing can be one of the downsides for employees working virtually.

[00:19:21] How does the interview process work for a virtual agency?

[00:20:09] Has Tamara hired people she's never met?

[00:22:38] Is the work, in terms of its outputs, different for a virtual agency?

[00:24:16] Why the creative element of the work is the most difficult bit of being virtual.

[00:24:31] How are the account teams organised in a virtual agency?

[00:29:40] How 60% of The Social Element’s revenue is now from the US.

[00:34:52] Why online customer services is now an opportunity for brands to have a great conversation with consumers.

[00:37:39] How Tamara spends about a third of her week on video calls.


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