More than a hundred military spouses gathered to learn more about how flexible working and business opportunities can be promoted with effective social media strategies – with guidance from one of Facebook’s own marketing experts.
The Social Media Spouses Live event – organised by Jackie Rautenbach and her team at BFBS, and staged by Georgina Smith, of Forces Live Events (CSE) – included keynote speakers, advice sessions, workshops, stallholder displays, networking opportunities, a buffet lunch and entertainment from soldier and Britain’s Got Talent magician Richard Jones.
Social media and how it can be harnessed as a powerful tool to support opportunities such as working from home, flexible working, home-grown businesses and other job roles that fit around the demands of military family life, all formed part of the day’s agenda at The Lights Theatre, Andover.
The event highlighted the incredible talent that the Social Media Spouses course has helped to nurture, creating a positive atmosphere where spouses can unite in one place to share ideas and inspirational stories about how to upscale their own businesses.
Keynote speaker, Facebook’s Andy Mihalop, shared tips about how to use Facebook and Instagram to set up your own business.
Andy, who is also an Armed Forces veteran, said: “I was lucky enough to serve with the Royal Green Jackets, in the 80s and early 90s, as a regular soldier and then later with 7 Rifles as a Reservist, so I have a very strong connection to this community.”
He added, speaking about what the military taught him about business and about reaching out to other communities: “I think the Army instils a lot of skills and virtues that can be applied, one of them is around communication, another is around empathy … you’re working with a lot of different people, from different backgrounds, from different places, you learn empathy as part of that.
“I think it gives you a determination and drive to succeed, so part of becoming a civilian is thinking about new skills, thinking about education and I think the Army gives you the kind of determination to go out and achieve whatever you choose to do.”
He said that this event was the first time during his four years of working for Facebook that he had addressed a gathering of military spouses, adding: “I am really delighted to be here, one, because I’m very passionate about supporting the Armed Forces community and the community of spouses, but secondly, because there is so much talent in this room and one of the things that I am proud about is the way that Facebook and Instagram can help to support spouses that want to start a business.”
There also was an inspirational talk by Adam Waters, Director of Digital Content at BFBS, on self-confidence, while social media coaches Adam Powney and Misty McCready ran two workshops demonstrating video editing techniques on mobiles and ways to get creative using Instagram Stories.
After a free buffet lunch and networking session, the afternoon was rounded off by Britain’s Got Talent winner and illusionist Lance Corporal Richard Jones, who stunned the audience with an amazing show of magic tricks, with some participation from the audience.
One attendee, summing up the day as she welled up with tears in her eyes, said:
“In 18 years as a military spouse, I have never had an event put on for me, or anything close to a decent lunch. So to have a day of personal development, feeling valued, and a show as well means the absolute world to me.”
Jackie Rautenbach added: “The positivity, comments and feedback we’ve received on the day, and on social media was overwhelming. Offering a professional development and networking opportunity, together with some incredible entertainment organised by CSE, really helped set this event apart from the rest and we’re so grateful.”