Industry Profile: Sharyn Smith at Social Soup

By AdNews | 18 April 2024

In this series, AdNews takes a look at some of the professionals working across the advertising, adtech, marketing and media sector in Australia. This time it's Social Soup CEO Sharyn Smith.

Time in current role/time at the company:

17 years.

How would you describe what the company does?

We create real world impact for our clients through understanding their audiences and building authentic connections with people who have trust and credibility.

What do you do day-to-day?

I work daily to align the three pillars of our business, that is, understanding the changing needs of our clients, how we engage the right creators with authentic and meaningful programs, and then thinking about the motivation and structure of our amazing team.

I also make sure we have lots of snacks.

Define your job in one word:


I got into communications because:

I realised I wanted to do something more creative after studying engineering and found a way to fuse my love of science, creativity and people.

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your role?

Educating clients on what good influence looks like. Influencer marketing is a saturated market and, more often than not, one that just ticks boxes. We’ve found many clients are leaving a lot on the table that could be tapped into by looking beyond the obvious large-scale, macro influencers that might have the reach, but have little real-world impact.

What’s the biggest industry-wide challenge you’d like to see tackled?

I used to say that measurement was the biggest challenge but more recently I would have to say it has shifted to strategy and under-investment. Without a strong strategy, clients don’t develop the confidence to invest the required levels to capitalise on opportunity.

What I mean by that is that lots of brands will just pick influencers and brief them without a holistic strategy that aligns with the business objectives, brand objectives and considers the real-world impact influence can deliver. On the other hand, with strategically planned and tested full funnel influence programs that tap into all tiers of influence and also take advantage of authentic UGC content in paid strategies, we can overcome lots of existing barriers.

Previous industry related companies you have worked at:

I’ve been at Social Soup since its inception, some 17 years ago! So, it’s been a while. However, I’m excited to share I’m currently working on a new start-up that will launch later this year. Stay tuned for that one.

Notable campaigns you have worked on:

We have loved working with RUOK Day! Over the past five years, we’ve helped build the incredible social impact it has where we engage creators to make it visible and build the behaviour of checking in with loved ones. Typically, we’ve had over 20,000 people engage with our launch programs, create content and amplify the important message RUOK delivers. It’s a very trusted and impactful relationship and our community of creators look forward to their RUOK brief every year.

Who has been a great mentor to you and why?

I have always loved and admired Simone Blakers, who I worked with when she was MD of Society at Mediabrands. We've now worked together for a number of years across different projects and Simone has stepped into Social Soup on a number of occasions to help us take on new challenges. Simone has taught me the value of long-term relationships, how to manage workflows, and always seeing the bigger perspective. I think that a mentor always appears when you really need them, and Simone has done this for me many times over the years.

Words of advice for someone wanting a job like yours?

Approach life with curiosity and always ask “How can we do this better?”.

If I wasn't doing this for a living, I'd be:

I think I’d do something in fashion and/or technology; I’ve always been fascinated by how we can enjoy our creative expression through fashion but not at the cost of the earth.

My philosophy is:

Be very clear about your dreams and goals but hold them lightly and don’t get attached to the outcome, as it will always be different.

My favourite advert is:

I really love a clever integrated campaign and last year Barbie won this for me with their breadcrumb strategy of giving people small tastes of the movie to create incredible hype and FOMO. It was also an awesome movie, so that might have swayed my decision here too.

Music and TV streaming habits. What do you subscribe to?

I am always listening to something on Spotify, and I do love how well it knows me and recommends good songs. I go through phases between listening to books on Audible, which is perfect for doing mundane tasks (laundry!) or listening to one of the many good podcasts available these days. I also subscribe to just listening to nature – the birds – as they keep you grounded in the here and now.

Tell us one thing people at work don’t know about you?

I secretly want to be the next contestant on ALONE Australia; I feel I have the resilience but might be sadly lacking the survival skills.

In five years' time I'll be:

Still working in the communications industry, but hopefully also working across a number of passion start-ups. As I said before, watch this space!

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