Tech-savvy “Digital Mums” help Hackney businesses

Digital mums. Pic: Chiara Rimella

Members of the team behind Digital Mums. Pic: Chiara Rimella

Eight mothers guided by the marketing agency Hackney Social will soon be taking to their smartphones to create new jobs for themselves, while incidentally also fighting the invasion of the ever-impending chains.

These tech-savvy mums will become social media managers for pop-ups and independent cafes in Hackney, hiking their online and offline popularity.

“We wanted to see the independent businesses thrive, and not let the high street be lined with Nandos. We realised that we could help pop-ups, cafés and restaurants boost their profiles by teaching them how to use social media”, says Nikki Cochrane, who founded Hackney Social last year after meeting by chance her partner Kathryn Tyler in Thailand six years ago.

Hackney Social’s original mission consisted of providing direct social media training to the businesses, but Cochrane soon realized that owners often did not have enough time to keep the Twitter followers enthralled – so the spark ended up trailing off quite quickly.

In their search for the perfect candidates to become the businesses’ Facebook gurus, they turned to the wider Hackney community. “We started by trying to figure out the ideal qualities of social media managers: they’d have to be level headed, show empathy and be able to multitask. That’s when we realized: that’s a mum!” says Cochrane.

Now managed by a team of four, ‘Digital Mums’ has finally reached its launch last week. The mothers are paired with a digital mentor for six months of training before moving on to a proper placement at a local business, which will guarantee them a stable income for 10 hours’ work a week.

The rising cost of childcare, shooting up 19% only in the last year, is forcing an increasing number of mums to stay at home and renounce their previous jobs. A third of those interviewed in a recent survey confessed childcare was a concrete obstacle to finding employment.

“Mums are an untapped workforce for a variety of reasons”, confirms Cochrane. “A lot of positions which used to be 9-5 now require much longer hours. But with technology and social media, you can work remotely, or even do it from your phone.”

Most people are already more than familiar with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so the jump to a managerial role is not far-out: “We did some research and found out that the mums we spoke to were already spending 6-7 hours a day online, and 90% of them already had a smartphone”, says Cochrane.

“Mums have been finding out about us through social channels, which means they are already accustomed to them. A lot of them come from communications and blogging backgrounds, but we also received applications by people who were financial controllers”.

Eight local businesses are now joining the initiative – but Cochrane said there is still room for more to sign up to the pilot aimed at giving both mums and local shops their independence back.

“Both of us come from single households, and we lost our dads pretty early on.” says Cochrane, “It has made us the people we are, and made us care about the community we live in a lot more.”

Find out more about Digital Mums.

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