Annie Liao Jones is the founder and CEO of Rock Candy Media, an advertising & marketing agency that is based in Austin, Texas – it has become one of the fastest-growing businesses in Central Texas focused on ways to increase brand awareness for clients. Under Annie’s leadership, the full-service content strategy, design, messaging, branding firm, and growth agency went from the ground up to grossing over seven figures a year.
MoneyCentral Magazine recently caught up with Annie to discuss her journey to entrepreneurship and here’s what went down:
Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business? How did you choose the name Rock Candy Media?
I was born in Dallas, Texas but my parents were born in Taiwan and that makes me a dual-citizen of the world. I also lived in Taiwan while my parents finished college in the US from the ages of 1-3. That lead to the company name. I knew I was going to do things my own way from a young age, where I just didn’t think about other options. So instead of dreaming up jobs, because I didn’t dream about the white picket fence either, I dreamed of types of companies. Taiwanese desserts are entirely different because there is only a hint of sweet, and it’s because all the desserts are made from pure sugar which I called ‘rock candy’ as a kid. So it was going to be Rock Candy something. I’m glad it wasn’t Rock Candy Mountain, which apparently is a thing for a lot of people. I have issues with things that just should not be loud, especially if you think we sent someone to the moon: I have an aversion to leaf blowers and motorcycles, but I guess the latter says more about the person and the former is existential – don’t the leaves just come back?
Can you describe your journey to success? When did you start? Did you ever imagine you would become this successful?
By stalking people at Highland Mall in Dallas to see what they bought. I learned a lot about life doing that, and you think I’m joking. And I started working at the mall when I was 16 at a fashion-forward teen girl wear boutique named Judy’s, which is now called Rampage. I imagined I would be much more successful than I am actually. All I want is to wear PJ’s on MY PJ and I’ll call it a day. Oh, and real silk or cashmere ones.
What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?
I am pickier about who I vet because I can have the best of both worlds: I learn from clients smarter than me in their respective areas, have the time to streamline operations as my focus is solely on my reputation and the work we put out — I’m past the high number of employees and lack of control, it just isn’t me. Acute anxiety does not look good on me. And if I continue hiring smarter people, I’ll evolve as a human and get to that PJ lifestyle faster than you know it.
What social media platforms do you usually use to increase brand awareness?
That is a mixed bag because there is visibility and then there is engagement and then there is sharing.
Visibility: I don’t care about the number of eyeballs, so the number of impressions in media land does not impress me. I care about the quality of those eyeballs and if they have a high word of mouth factor. So when working with a corporation who is starting a new division or who’s division is basically a start-up, I’d go for say CTO’s if it’s data security but I’ll make sure they are CTO’s in an alumni association, golf club, or country club as visibility only counts if your brand build is memorable. Ours is and I know because people will start to type in the company name into google instead of doing a google search.
Engagement: Many social media managers promote a post to get 20 likes but they never realize that they never had to like your page. Now that’s just foolish. And ‘like’ ads are $7 a pop easy. So put out quality content that will get you ranked AND people will want to read and they’ll opt-in on their own. Then you can pay for clicks at a much cheaper rate.
Shares: When is the last time you shared a post? I deem shares from our highly segmented audience builds (for example, the CTO will be segmented by 25-34 and then 45-64) the most quality, and any clicks that come from someone watching a full video (95% or more) to be qualified as a share. That is retargeting gold. So while clicks on Instagram Stories may be harder to get, I prefer that to increase brand awareness. If it is a CTO, I’d say a Facebook share. That means your content, your brand campaign, is something he is proud to represent and it resonates with him, or he learned from one of your client’s articles that your media relations lead worked his butt off to land.
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