A pandemic-born business, Social Baos aims to bring the quirky and witty ways of digital marketing from the West to the East.
When you order a bao at a restaurant, you are not always sure what is on the inside but you know the outcome is going to be satisfying – it tastes good no matter what. This is exactly what the women-led Hong Kong-based digital marketing agency, Social Baos, brings to the table and is also what inspired their name!
We speak to 26 year old co-founders, Rajvi Jhaveri and Lavisha Balani about their journey setting up Social Baos, what it’s like working with clients from different industries, and their take on how the ongoing pandemic has changed digital marketing for the better.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves!
Lavisha started, “I’m born and raised in Hong Kong. I studied in Northeastern University, Boston, came back to Hong Kong, and was in the fashion industry for about four years and eventually decided that wasn’t what I wanted to do. That was when I realised I had to move out of this career and start something of my own that I could call my baby.”
Rajvi followed, “I’m actually born and raised in Japan. I moved to New York to pursue college at NYU and then moved to Hong Kong to work in the hospitality industry. Just like Lavisha, I’ve always wanted to start something of my own. We saw that there was a demand for social media in Hong Kong and a gap, which gave us the perfect opportunity to start Social Baos.”
What services do you currently offer?
“Our basic retainer is that we publish content for our clients three to four times a week including a two story series. We assure original content every week – it’s engaging and it’s fun! We’ve expanded our services to include design, PR, influencer collaborations, and events. We aim to be the one-stop shop for clients and take marketing off their plates,” Lavisha shared.
What are some challenges you face running a social media agency?
“The biggest thing is obviously as you grow, you get more clients, so it’s really just having to figure out how to allocate enough time for each of them because you never want to give so much time to one and none to the other. Secondly, things are frequently changing. A struggle is having to adapt our whole strategy, especially with the ongoing pandemic,” said Lavisha.
Rajvi continued, “For example, just before this call, we get news about updated restrictions in Hong Kong for the F&B industry – where most of our current clients stand. This is when we have to implement immediate changes.”
What are some common misconceptions about social media you think should be left behind?
Rajvi began, “Everyone has this perception that it can be distracting. Or that if one uses it, they’re showing too much about their lives. But, we actually see it as an extremely powerful tool. It’s something all brands need and it really comes down to how you use this tool. We use it to tell a story and get authentic with our followers.”
Lavisha followed up, “It’s your pinterest board on hand! You can get so much inspiration and useful information on social media. When people start realising this and concentrating on the positive, those negative misconceptions will automatically go away.”
Because you work in social media, how has that affected how you use the tool in your personal lives?
Rajvi replied, “I’m a social media fanatic! I’m always on Instagram. After starting Social Baos, I’ve been less active on my personal instagram. However, I’m still always scrolling and learning from stuff that relates to the business – whether it’s another idea or a funny meme I can pitch to our next client. I’m constantly looking for inspiration.”
For Lavisha however, it is the opposite: “I wasn’t very active on my personal Instagram before Social Baos. However now, I post more regularly on my stories without thinking twice!
What does a day in your lives look like?
“We’re always on our feet – whether it’s a photoshoot or a client meeting. Our entire team works remotely, however, we try to keep a structure going where we have weekly meetings with the team every Monday to go through weekly goals. These meetings are with the whole team, from our Designer to Marketing Executive – we’re all sitting together and brainstorming crazy ideas. Our one rule is no idea is a bad idea, we encourage our teams to throw it all out,” Lavisha shared.
Rajvi added, “Our Monday meetings are so crucial because we want every team member to also be a part of the ideas that go through. We have a fairly young team and they know social media better than anyone. They really are up to the trends. So, that’s something we really kind of push for.”
Are there specific industries you work with?
“When we initially started, our whole concept was that no client is the same and we created a roadmap catered to that specific client. With the F&B industry being so large and fast-paced in Hong Kong, we got our foot through the door there. Our recent clients include a homeware company and a fitness app, and we’ve also worked on a campaign with a luxury concierge service. So, we are very open to all [industries]!” explained Rajvi.
How has the pandemic impacted the digital marketing industry in general, as well as Social Baos?
“In general, brands definitely see the importance of digital marketing and a social presence, especially because you don’t get those day-to-day interactions and you’re not able to build that connection physically,” said Rajvi.
Lavisha added, “We do see that our clients have been more cautious because with these restrictions – you’re not in the mood to spend. This is really the most important time to be on social media. We reassure our clients that we’re still around no matter what. This is what we’re here for. We will keep your story going for you so you don’t lose touch with your audience.”
“If anything, the pandemic sees brands connecting with their followers like never before – the sky’s the limit! A box of limitless opportunities has definitely opened,” Rajvi shared.
What is social media success to you?
Rajvi explained, “It’s building an authentic relationship with your followers. It should feel personable. Unleashing raw, authentic content on business pages – that’s what we want to share more of. We’ve seen overly photoshopped and refined images. What we push for is user-generated content showing real-time action because that’s what everyone wants to see and what everyone values.”
Social media and online trends are always changing, how do you stay up to date and ahead of them?
“Rajvi is a Gen Z girl! She’s very up to date, always scrolling through IG to see what’s happening. And we’re constantly researching what everyone around the world is doing. That’s how we do it.” Lavisha shared.
Rajvi added, “We follow a long list of other social media pages, especially ones in New York and London. It’s nice to see what’s trending in places we’ve previously lived in and travelled to, as well. For example, if I see a cool trend in America – I’m like we should totally adopt it here in Hong Kong!”
Are there any resources you use that help you stay in the loop?
Later, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube! There’s a lot of tips and tricks, layouts, blogs, and inspiration everywhere.
The both of us spent a few years in the US and we saw a lot of trends that haven’t been brought to Hong Kong. We really want to bridge that gap and bring our city to that level. These campaigns are more approachable, more quirky, less formal and that’s also where we really draw inspiration from.
Describe the best campaign you’ve run to date.
Rajvi begian, “There’s quite a few that we really, really like. One was for Valentine’s Day where we illustrated postcards for a few clients that they could print and place at their outlets or send out. We also had them share it on their stories and tag whoever they’d want to send it to!”
“Another one I loved was our Easter campaign for one of our clients. On an Instagram Story, we had an Easter egg hunt and you had to screenshot to try and find as many eggs as you could. We really saw engagement in this one,” Lavisha shared.
Rajvi added, “Another one was a twelve days of Christmas campaign we did with a client where the whole idea revolved around the Grinch who stole Christmas where we illustrated the whole Grinch town and every post connected to each other.”
As social media managers yourself, what are some daily tasks you can’t miss?
“The most important thing is checking in with our teams regularly. We need to constantly be on top of it. Other daily tasks include making sure our posts are being published successfully,” said Lavisha.
Rajvi added, “Another big one is analytics and constantly checking in on our stats to make sure ads are running smoothly. We are also always looking for different ways to target because we heavily rely on ads as well. Checking the insights of every client and finding that sweet spot to boost because pre-covid it was always 9pm, but now it’s 6pm.”
What tips do you have for someone looking to start their own agency?
Lavisha started, “Don’t be fearful. Jump into it! There will always be things trying to hold you back. And stay organised. Make sure you’re keeping track of everything.”
Rajvi added, “When we first started, we had no idea how it was going to go. We literally walked around neighbourhoods in Hong Kong and into [the location of] a brand we saw potential in and just started a conversation.”
Lavisha continued, “We just needed one client to support us and from there everything fell into place.”
What are some struggles you face as a woman entrepreneur? How do you deal with them?
“When we started, we weren’t taken very seriously by some people. That was a barrier we had to break and prove them wrong to show them that we know what we’re doing and we’re good at what we do,” said Lavisha.
Rajvi added, “We would look into every brand specifically and actually provide potential clients with ideas. When we first started, we’d send over a deck with a bunch of ideas – whether it’s campaign, stories, and everything in between. You just have to put in that extra work to prove to them you know what you’re doing.”
Achieving a work-life balance, especially in Hong Kong, and even moreso, working in social media where you have to always be online, is hard to achieve. Can you tell us how you do it?
“When we were working in corporate, it was easier to just shut off when we were off. Now, not only are we on social media, but we are also founders and have a team that we are responsible for – so we’re always on the go. However, I definitely have learnt to shut off after a certain time where we know that it’s okay to reply to a client later. You must give yourself some time off,” Lavisha responded.
Rajvi explained, “When we first started, we both knew we had to give up our personal lives for a little while because this is the hustle stage. Now, we tell each other that it’s okay to shut down and restart the next day. It’s finding that boundary and creating it for yourself – even if it’s changing every day.”
What do you aim to achieve with Social Baos?
We want to open offices worldwide – especially in places we have backgrounds in! We definitely want to expand our services, as well. We want to be that one-stop shop.
We want to be a leader in this field. That’s the big dream. We want to educate and have young students eager to learn come to us. We want to host workshops and training programmes where students can get real-world experiences with clients.
Social Baos launched their first product recently – the 2022 Planner! What’s next?
We definitely want to create a product for the health and wellness space because we have met a lot of other businesses in those areas and want to work with them. Collaborating and raising awareness is always a win-win.