Whether it’s her work with Black creators through the Go Lab project at Meta; nearly 10 years in business with her company, B3 Media Solutions; or how she prepares young minds to work with data and AI, Barika Phillips Bell holds two things to be true: data is always the answer and you can either go big, or go home.
Yet Barika’s successful career as a data-driven marketer almost didn’t happen. While at Fisk University, she took a course on consumer psychology that fascinated her. “I thought I was going to be a forensic psychologist [and] work with the FBI. I did an internship there [but] I was like, ‘Yeah, don’t want to do that,’” she says.
Barika couldn’t escape the impression that consumer psychology course made on her, though. “It never got out of my head how brands are able to use data and understand how people’s psychology plays into products or services that they provide,” she says.
True OG social media status
The early years of Barika’s market research career happened during a key point in society and marketing history. From working with Honda to the nascency of social media, she had front row seats to how data informs marketing.
“I felt like social was the wild wild west, and nobody knew what was going on. I took to learning everything that I could about it—even though at the time nobody cared or paid attention to it,” she says.
Attention did peak once Meta, formerly Facebook, entered the chat. As more social platforms like Twitter and Instagram cropped up, Barika took it upon herself to understand them all.
“It was more like self-study because there were no classes,” Barika says. Her connection to social and years working in the field would later lead her to join Meta’s Go Lab project as part of We Are Rosie’s “Flexy Team,” a micro-agency that brought Black marketers together to launch a program for Black brands and creators.
When community is the foundation
With Go Lab’s focus on elevating Black ideas and movement through an incubator designed for the community and by the community, there was great alignment between Barika and the rest of the Go Lab team right from the start.
“[My company] B3 Media Solutions is very focused on community outreach and helping different communities prosper—especially through data, analytics, and social media,” Barika says. The chance to help Black-owned brands become more successful using Meta’s platforms was also exciting to her as a Black woman and a business owner.
“At first it was a wild ride, because I came in at the tail end of the first round of Go Lab. It was really quick, [but] luckily it didn’t take me long to ramp up,” she says.
The challenges didn’t overshadow everyone’s goal: make sure this comes off beautifully.
“We really worked symbiotically together, always checking in with each other, and sharing best practices—the women on the team were so strong,” says Barika.
Bringing out the best in others
One of Barika’s fondest memories from Go Lab is working with Mark Agyakwa, founder of @fitfortheculture.
“Mark came in and he didn’t want to be the face of his business,” she says. “He had a successful Instagram and was doing well on Facebook, but he hadn’t taken it to the next level.”
Barika helped him develop a business plan, create content pillars, and drive content collaboration with another successful fitness-focused Black creator, Percell Dugger, founder of @fitforus.
As a source of great pride for her, Mark has since excelled in the fitness game. “He was trying to get to Jay-Z status. And now I see him on LinkedIn and other platforms, and for me that is the bright spot,” explains Barika.
She feels there were Black dollars generated that went back to support the families and communities of those Black businesses she, and others with Go Lab, were able to help with marketing.
“I like the fact that Meta took a focus, and through their program, used Black business owners to showcase how we could work together, how we could partner, and how we could draw all boats to rise,” Barika says.
New paths set forth by a layoff
With many layoffs happening across industries, Barika appreciates how her own layoff led to fully committing as an independent marketer.
“It was really the impetus of my husband who said, ‘You need to take what you do and create a company,’” she explains. In 2014, while she was still working full time for a market research firm, Barika, her husband, Thomas Bell, and their business partner, Myra Bell, started B3.
“We were doing social media management and teaching small businesses how to use social and data. Then in 2017, [Myra and I] got laid off from a market research company,” says Barika. While processing that, it was something one of her clients said that inspired Barika: go big, or go home.
“We decided we were going to go after ours. I’d been working in the industry for 10 years prior, so a lot of people knew my work, and we got a lot of word-of-mouth business that really helped to save us—even to this day,” she says.
10 years and counting
With B3’s 10-year anniversary approaching, Barika thinks about past client projects she’s had the pleasure to be a part of. Recently she experienced one of her favorites, working with an iconic Halloween chain.
“This past Halloween, a viral meme took a life of its own [on Twitter] where everybody started having their own costume name and we got to see that before it went viral,” Barika says. Through social listening, B3 was able to help the company pay attention to what became a re-emerging viral trend—even celebrities like Kevin Hart participated.
“We worked together to create content, conversations, and press releases to amplify. If brands aren’t listening and paying attention, they miss opportunities like that, when something can easily go viral,” she says.
Barika has her eye on what’s next in her industry, too: AI.
“[B3] will be rolling out some AI-focused dashboards and courses that we’re really excited about,” she says, adding that she’s dedicated to helping more people of color get into data and analytics careers.
“We have to figure out a way to get more people aware of these particular fields because it’s the future—all the ads, all the websites, all the AI modeling, it needs to be infused with people of color.”
Always go big
Without hesitation, Barika stands firm on her motto as a starting point for others who aspire to her success in the marketing world.
“If you’re on the fence about something, go big or go home because you never know how you could turn something that is supposed to be a negative into something that could be the best thing that ever happened to you,” she says.
For those recently laid off, Barika believes you have to do what uplifts and teaches you.
“Take your time to really assess what you want to do. What [rings] your bell and makes you want to get up and get out of bed? You don’t know how the action that you take will get you to where you want to be, but you have to make actions—otherwise, you won’t go anywhere.”