Jim Tobin of Carusele

An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Jim Tobin, the founder and president of Carusele, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Carusele – what problem were you trying to solve and why?

Carusele came out of its sister company, Ignite Social Media, the original social media agency created way back in 2007. By 2015, we’d realized that influencer marketing wasn’t keeping up with the rest of digital marketing. There was still a lot of “spray and pray” influencer marketing where brands hired an influencer to include them in their content and hoped it would all work out. Sometimes it did. But with everything else in digital marketing being optimized, we asked ourselves how could we optimize influencer marketing as well.

Since then, we’ve built all of our systems to ensure we’re getting data back on every piece of content and on every influencer so we can make real time decisions as to what needs more emphasis. Because of this, Carusele can provide guaranteed results to brands.

What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?

When we created Ignite, we were the first social media agency, so we were able to secure contracts in the first year with brands like Microsoft, Nature Made, and Intel. We had that first mover advantage and everything, including search engine optimization, was a green field. We were creating the industry as we went along.

When we created Carusele, however, there were already a couple thousand competitors. We weren’t creating influencer marketing – we were dramatically improving it. That’s a very different marketing challenge for us as a company. We’ve been fortunate to work with many of the best brands in the world as Carusele, but how we got there was a bit different.

What does the future hold for Carusele?

COVID-19 initially put a pause on influencer marketing as brands (like the rest of us) froze a bit to figure out the new landscape. And many sectors, such as travel influencers or event marketing, are still struggling. But brands quickly realized that nobody was in a better position to create authentic, professional content with new messaging than influencers. What would take an agency months could be done in days by influencers, and the content was often just as good (and sometimes better). Because of that, influencer marketing budgets increased in 2020 while so many other budgets fell. We’re continuing to iterate on what we can offer and how, including finding our own efficiencies that let us deliver more for less budget.

What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Cary?

A lot of tech entrepreneurs in the Research Triangle Region here, which includes Cary, lament the lack of venture capital in the region. As a services company, we’ve never had to take venture capital, so that hasn’t hurt us, but certainly the area could improve there. Overall, I’m very bullish on the area. For years, there’s been an exodus from older metropolitan areas to Raleigh, Durham, and Cary. That’s sped up in 2020, so we’re really getting tons of talent. I’m a member of Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) here and the number of great things being built here is stunning.

What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

I think it’s a myth that entrepreneurs are just natural risk takers. In fact, I think a smart entrepreneur does whatever he or she can do to mitigate risk. But what entrepreneurs have that others don’t is comfort with uncertainty. I didn’t know if Carusele would succeed or fail. I didn’t know which twists and turns the industry would have. But I continue to have confidence with both Carusele and Ignite Social Media that my team can figure it out. That’s why one of our core values is “Always Learning”. As you’re just getting started though, I also find it helpful to spend a little time imagining the worst case scenario (such as losing all your clients on the same day). If you can personally survive that sort of blow and move on to the next thing, then there’s very little to be afraid of.


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