Learning Curve | Turning businesses around online

Social media strategist runs workshops, helps entrepreneurs and established business owners with their digital marketing

Chantal Bezuidenhout, the owner of Social Media Shake-Up, loves training and mentoring people
Chantal Bezuidenhout, the owner of Social Media Shake-Up, loves training and mentoring people
Image: Eugene Coetzee

Even when she was working in human resources, Chantal Bezuidenhout had a knack for marketing.

Now, as the owner of Social Media Shake-Up, she aims to make marketing – and the online space – easy for others to navigate.

Can you give some background on yourself and how you started your business?

I’ve been going for about two years now. Prior to this, I was working in human resources and doing training and coaching, very much at a shop-floor level, for about 15 years.

I love training because I like the real, live human interaction, but in all my jobs, I played a marketing role.

Later, I started doing a lot more social media marketing because everything was moving online.

While I was still working in HR, I started upskilling myself in social media marketing, and then when I didn’t have a job anymore – because the company basically closed down – I thought: let me give this a try.

So I started doing social media marketing.

My first priority was to support small businesses; I realised there was a gap in terms of smaller businesses that can’t necessarily afford social media marketing.

I started running workshops and coaching around social media marketing.

I’ve developed two coaching models, one that I host over two days and another I will launch online.

What do the workshops teach?

It’s around social media, specifically Facebook. Every time you put something up on social media, there needs to be a strategy behind it.

So I make clients think about what they actually want to achieve through social media. If you’re not on social media, you’re basically invisible.

That is what the basic workshop is about, and then I want to run add-on courses on other platforms like Instagram or LinkedIn.

Social media isn’t going to go away but it’s an inexpensive form of marketing and it’s simple – but if people don’t have a clear vision of what they want to achieve, their endeavours might lead to nothing.

You also maintain several social media accounts for clients.

How do you ensure everything you produce is authentic and unique to each of the businesses?

We sit together at the proposal stage and formulate what the strategy should be. Everything has to start with a strategy.

We can’t just say I put up five posts a month. I feel I become quite invested and involved in the company.

Typically I would do a three-month campaign and reevaluate towards the end of the second month.

How do you ensure your business remains sustainable when you rely on short-term contracts?

The online course will hopefully help with that, to provide a consistent income. It would be an almost passive income.

Offering workshops on a regular basis also helps.

What makes your business unique?

I offer individualised attention; I will hold your hand and guide and coach you until you are ready to do it yourself.

I also love local business. I am a firm SA supporter and specifically a lover of Port Elizabeth.

If someone wanted to copy your business model, how would they start?

Become knowledgeable on all things social.

Watch videos and do some courses; there are lots of free ones that teach you the basics.

Practise on your own business first and get that working well, and then start – just do it!

What were some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced initially?

The idea that social media is very easy and anyone with a Facebook page can manage their own business platforms.

That, and doubting myself at times.

What are some of your biggest challenges in day-to-day business operations?

Cash flow, being able to stick to your own business plan and the fly-by-night, quick and easy service providers out there.

What is the best advice anyone ever gave you about success?

If you develop the product first, it’s more difficult to find a buyer, but if you ask the buyer first what she wants, and then develop the product, life will be a whole lot easier.

How do you measure success in your business?

I will really consider myself to be a success when I can take a three-day weekend, work five hours a day and eventually be able to sell my business as a going concern.

For now it’s baby steps: making sure my clients are happy and reaching objectives on their social channels; empowering small business owners to become competent at managing their own online presence; seeing light-bulb moments happening in a workshop – that’s the kind of stuff that I love and that makes me feel successful!

What is your target market?

My target market is the 30- to 55-year-old small business owner who would like to take control of their own social media marketing.

What are some of your highlights in running your business?

I love getting positive feedback about some of the pages I’ve managed and the growth that clients are seeing – and I especially love hearing how I’ve made a difference in people’s lives.

How did you acquire funding for the business?

I borrowed money from a mentor who believes in me.

This was for a specific project though – my online course.

Besides that, I have a financial plan for my business and as it grows, I can buy better software and systems and subcontract people to work on specific projects to support my business.

What have been the greatest challenges and advantages of running your business in a city like PE?

The advantages of running a business in PE is that you can build really solid, long-lasting connections.

I love Port Elizabeth and I believe that we have so much going for us here!

The challenges always seem to be about money – apparently we are price-sensitive, but I’m not terribly convinced of that.

I believe in looking at the problem from a different angle.

Maybe we need to reconsider and realise that we have a wealth of knowledge in this city, and we should use it!

How important has mentorship been to you as an entrepreneur?

It has changed my life. It has made me think of my business differently and more specifically, made me realise what I am actually capable of.

What do you think are the key traits of a successful entrepreneur?

There is only one thing – in this day and age of modern technology and massive amounts of different information being made available to us by the minute, we need to be adaptable in our thinking and way of doing things.

The future workplace looks nothing like the one that exists now.

Embrace change. Be willing to collaborate or co-create.

We are better together.

What do you wish people knew about your industry?

I wish they knew that social media marketing is a real job and that you need to start with a plan.

It really isn’t as easy as it seems; nor is it as difficult as it seems.