From London to Sydney: We Are Social’s Life Swap

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We Are Social has 11 offices worldwide, with global clients shared in multiple markets. This allows for opportunities such as Max Mills and Megan Bowen’s recent Job Swap experience, with Megan taking on Max’s client services role in Sydney for eight weeks, and Max moving to Megan’s in London. This post provides an insight into their experience, and the differences and similarities they faced along the way.

Megan: from London to Sydney
It was surreal, having undergone a 26-hour journey to the other side of the world, to be greeted by a face that I only recognised from my laptop screen.

Max and I work on the same client (Netflix) from our respective offices, and our roles are interchangeable. So, on one of our fortnightly calls we struck up the notion of swapping places, and our line managers agreed it would be an awesome idea. This exchange didn’t just involve office desks. We also swapped houses. I suddenly found myself with three Australian boys as housemates.

The first day in the Sydney office was like the first day at school.

925881_1505778669725231_1093514471_nWelcome to We Are Social in Sydney.

The We Are Social office in Sydney is how I envisage the early days of the company in London. With around 30 people, I knew everyone’s name within a week, and had even worked alongside Sydney’s MD, Suzie Shaw. There is a weekly company update each Friday, AKA – WAF (We Are Friday), and I have no doubt the notable monthly company meetings in London started out in a similar fashion. Eating lunch together was a common occurrence, (you could fit nearly half the office around the “red table”), and we had the occasional Friday BBQ together in the local park.

12558551_951534724930142_1976706278_nApproximately half the Sydney office having lunch together.

The Australian social media landscape differed from the UK quite significantly. Facebook is also the dominant player, with Instagram following closely behind. Twitter on the other hand, is in a place comparable to where it was five years ago in the UK, mainly used by politicians and journalists, (or pollies and journos). It’s progressing however, opening a sparkling new Twitter Australia office in February and inviting the We Are Social team along to celebrate. The number of people conversing on social channels was notable too; the UK and Australian populations are 64 million and 23 million respectively, which is clearly reflected in the volume of people using social media.

12791062_10156586561080442_191772975653336580_nIn the Blue Room at the Twitter opening party.

Before arriving I had been told Australians are chilled out, laid back and don’t take themselves too seriously. I wouldn’t say this accounts for every individual I met, but it was certainly reflected in the way people expressed themselves on social. When writing and community managing I had to learn to let go of my formal ways and adapt to a colloquial way of talking; punctuation and grammar rules flew out of the window, and I had to pick up the abbreviations Australians use on a daily basis, such as “arvo”, “doona” and “docco”.

Despite the opposing social media climates, there were aspects of client work on that remained consistent. Client contacts, although different in nationality and personality, shared a similar ethos and enthusiasm. The behaviours surrounding the brand translated identically between the two nations, and as a result content ideas worked across the UK and AU, however the creative and copy execution differed in a way that would suit the audience.

Working within social media in Australia was an amazing and insightful way to understand the country and its people – I feel lucky to work in an agency where this is an option, and I’d recommend it to anyone. Oh, and the Australian summer was pretty nice too.

Max: from Sydney to London
I remember walking up to the Alphabeta building in London on my first day. It’s enormous, and seemed a world away to the renovated warehouse space of the Sydney office. I was jetlagged, way too underdressed for a London winter, and felt like I had maybe bitten off a bit more than I can chew.

The new office. @wearesocial

A photo posted by Max Mills (@maxantonymills) on Jan 12, 2016 at 1:57am PST

First few steps into We Are Social in London

There’s no denying the difference between London and Sydney. London is huge, a bustling world city where everyone is rushing to be somewhere. Sydney on the other hand sprawls in every sense of the word, moving wherever we’re going at a wandering pace.

London morning. A photo posted by Max Mills (@maxantonymills) on Jan 23, 2016 at 7:52am PST

A colder, greyer walk to work than usual.

Social had its own quirks too between the two nations. It should be no surprise that the intrinsic difference between Australia and the UK manifested in how they behave on social media. Like the excitement that would be caused by a brand mentioning tea, to fundamental differences in sense of humour. In Australia it was all about calling it as it is, in the UK it was about the bantz, which as far as a I could tell is talking around the subject until everyone knows exactly what you’re saying.

Having said this, behaviours on social didn’t differ nearly to the extent I would have expected. Then again, it shouldn’t be a surprise. Social isn’t restricted by borders and all over the world we have shared values, experiences, and interests.

The We Are Social teams had their own differences. London, as the bigger agency, increasingly has specialised departments – editorial, creative, production and more, whereas in Sydney the teams do a bit of everything. Differences like this showed the real benefit in doing this exchange; we were able to put the way each team had been working under a microscope, question ways we’d been working that seemed established and pull out the best bits to benefit each office.

I could not recommend this Job Swap, or even just visiting another team in another country, enough. It opens channels to a wealth of shared knowledge and improvements, as well as opportunities for future collaboration and expansion. For me, it was an incredible, career changing experience that brought me in front of intelligent, inspiring people, amazing opportunities and awful coffee.