Social Media Marketing: Building Brands in the Digital Age

We live in the digital age, where social media has completely revolutionised the way people and businesses engage with their audience and build their brands. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn offer unparalleled opportunities for reaching and connecting with a hugely diverse and widespread population of potential customers. Just imagine if you would have described this scenario to a business person in 1950. They would never have believed it! Even in the 90’s I clearly recall my Maths teacher telling me off for using a calculator when he I thought he wasn’t looking, stating that as an adult “you will not always have a calculator with you”! That was only thirty years ago too! Indeed, the transformation brought about by social media is nothing short of extraordinary. Back in the 1950s, the concept of instantly connecting with millions of people worldwide was inconceivable. Businesses relied on traditional forms of advertising and communication, things like cold calls, print ads, wireless broadcasts and face-to-face interactions. I even recall as a child when my parents wanted to sell an item of furniture, like a chest of draws or a table, they call up a ”land line” (what even is that!) and have it listed in the ‘Friday Ad’, along with their phone number for folk to call. This was a paper that came out weekly full of listings of items people were selling. If that didn’t work, you really go big and put it on a card that went on the wall near the checkouts in ‘Safeway’! The idea of reaching a global audience with the click of a button would have seemed like something out of Back to the Future! However, as easy as it is to post content on these platforms, leveraging them effectively requires a strategic approach to maximise impact. Simply having a presence on social media is not enough. Businesses must understand their audience, tailor their content to resonate with them, and actively engage with their followers to build meaningful relationships. It’s a full-time job in itself! Moreover, the sheer scale and scope of social media present both opportunities and challenges for businesses. While the potential reach is vast, standing out amidst the sea of content can be daunting. Algorithms, trends and user behaviours are constantly evolving, requiring businesses to adapt and innovate to stay relevant. Sometimes I read a post on my timeline, yet before I even download in my head what I’m looking at, it’s gone and its ten scrolls down! It’s non-stop! Yet, despite these challenges, the benefits of social media marketing are undeniable. From increasing brand awareness and driving website traffic to generating leads and fostering customer loyalty, social media has become an indispensable tool for businesses of all sizes. At the core of social media marketing lies audience engagement. It’s not merely about broadcasting messages but creating meaningful and memorable interactions with your followers. It’s just like speed dating, where you’re seeking a quick and instant connection that prompts them to hit that ‘follow’ button and keep coming back for more. Understanding your audience has never been more paramount than in the current day. I dedicate hours every week to scrolling through analytics tools, meticulously analysing trends and patterns in my content, from optimal times of posting to the types of posts that resonate most with my audience.   According to research by GlobalWebIndex, a staggering 54% of social media users say they actively use these platforms to research products before making a purchase. This statistic underscores the importance of creating engaging and informative content that not only captures attention but also drives action. Whether it’s showcasing product features, sharing customer testimonials or offering exclusive promotions, providing value to your audience is key to fostering engagement and ultimately driving conversions. Furthermore, understanding the preferences and behaviours of your audience is essential for crafting targeted and relevant content. By leveraging insights from analytics tools, such as demographic data and engagement metrics, businesses can tailor their messaging to resonate with their target audience on a deeper level. So, you’ve finally done it, you’ve got your content out in a post on social media, you’re done! Well actually no, it’s only just started! You see, consistency is key in maintaining audience engagement. Regular posting keeps your brand top of mind. The more you post, interact with other posts, share etc, the more your posts appear on others timelines. It’s like a huge game! HubSpot reports that businesses posting 16 or more times a month on Facebook receive 3.5 times more engagement than those posting less frequently. Responding promptly to comments, messages and mentions fosters a sense of community and trust around your brand. The type of content is also incredibly important. Visual content is a secret ingredient for capturing attention and conveying your brand message effectively. High-quality imagery plays a crucial role in shaping brand perception. According to MDG Advertising, articles with images receive 94% more total views. This makes sense too, because as humans we know that we connect better with visuals over written words due to our brain’s efficient processing of visual information, the emotional impact of visuals, their memorability, universality and their ability to stimulate creativity. Visuals evoke emotions, trigger memories and resonate with experiences more effectively than text, making them a powerful tool for communication and connection in the digital age. Video content has emerged as perhaps that premier league standard of content. Generation Z and Generation Alpha now expect on demand, video shorts in content that they demand. According to Synthesia, video made up 82% of all internet traffic in 2022. Over 2.6 billion people around the world use YouTube every month. Viewers retain 95% of a message when watching it on video (vs. 10% through text). Incorporating videos into your strategy, whether promotional clips, behind-the-scenes glimpses or customer testimonials, it’s a no-brainer! Platforms like Instagram Stories and Reels offer unique opportunities for storytelling and interactive content. Instagram reports that 500 million accounts use Stories every day. Leveraging these formats

Unlocking Potential: The Mutual Benefits of Mentorship

Mentorship, it’s a dynamic relationship grounded in mutual growth and learning, that plays a pivotal role in personal and professional development. Whether you find yourself in the role of a Mentor, guiding a Mentee through the labyrinth of career choices or seeking guidance as a Mentee, both roles offer unique perspectives and opportunities for growth. In this blog, we will explore the essence of being a Mentor and a Mentee, the criteria for these roles, essential skills for effective mentoring and the tangible benefits derived from these relationships. There’s often a misconception that the need for a Mentor is something associated with lower-level leadership. This couldn’t be further from the truth, in fact some of my most valuable Mentor relationships have come in my Senior Leadership roles. While mentorship programs often spotlight more junior employees or those in the early stages of their careers, mentorship is applicable at all organisational levels, including upper management and executive tiers. We all have opportunities to improve, learn and grow, whatever your job title or role, that doesn’t change. Nobody is the complete package, despite perception. In reality, mentoring relationships at higher echelons can be equally if not more impactful. This is particularly true as individuals grapple with intricate leadership challenges, strategic decision-making and the intricacies of organisational dynamics. Senior Leaders can gain significant value from the guidance of seasoned Mentors who have adeptly navigated analogous situations, providing valuable insights. There’s no greater lesson than that of experience. Mentorship isn’t restricted by organisational hierarchy either, instead it’s a dynamic process fostering professional development, continual learning and knowledge sharing across different levels. Establishing mentorship relationships across various management tiers creates a more healthy, inclusive and supportive organisational culture, promoting the exchange of expertise and enhancing overall leadership capabilities. When applying for roles in the past, an established mentoring program is something that I have consciously looked for in the organisation’s DNA. Recognising and having one tells a lot about the type of organisation I was applying for, equally telling if there wasn’t one too! Let’s take a moment to define what the roles of a Mentor and a Mentee actually is: Mentoring is not merely dispensing advice, and it’s certainly not telling someone what to do. It’s a nuanced practice rooted in sharing experiences and fostering growth. As a Mentor, the responsibility extends beyond offering solutions to encouraging independent thinking and problem-solving. As a Mentor, I feel that it’s my role to inspire, encourage and empower my Mentee to achieve their goals. I make it my responsibility to ensure that my Mentee leaves every meeting with me feeling motivated and empowered to continue their journey. For me, you should only consider becoming a Mentor when you have accumulated sufficient experience, skills and insights in a particular field to add value to someone seeking growth. The mentorship role requires commitment, time investment, patience and the ability to tailor guidance to the individual needs of your Mentee. Equally, the ability to actively listen, inspire and coach are skillsets that are present in any great Mentor. Let’s look into these skills in a little more detail: Active Listening: A Mentor should possess the ability to listen actively, understanding the mentee’s concerns and providing thoughtful responses. Empathy: Empathy is the cornerstone of effective mentorship. Understanding the Mentee’s perspective fosters a supportive and constructive relationship. Guidance, Not Dictation: A successful Mentor guides rather than dictates. Encouraging critical thinking helps mentees develop their own problem-solving skills. Constructive Feedback: Providing constructive and actionable feedback is crucial for a Mentee’s growth. It should be specific, focused and aimed at improvement. But what about the role of a Mentee? Choosing to seek a Mentor is a strategic move in one’s personal or professional journey. The key word here being “choosing”. There is little value for a Mentee or the Mentor in a relationship that is driven out of a directive. Pushing development onto people seldom ends is success, rather it needs to come from a place of “pull”. Seeking a Mentor during transitional phases such as career changes, entering a new industry or facing complex challenges are the most common times I’ve found occurrence. Seeking a Mentor demonstrates a proactive approach to personal development and a willingness to learn from others’ experiences. Knowing yourself, and being in a psychologically safe environment where you feel comfortable to be open and honest about where you see opportunity in yourself is important. Often a mentorship journey begins with an initial meeting, a pivotal moment for both Mentor and Mentee to establish a foundation of understanding. This encounter is kind of like speed dating, you want to see if there is a professional spark, some common ground you share in a very short period of time. It serves as an opportunity to delve into each other’s professional backgrounds, goals and expectations of each of in the relationship. It’s crucial to approach this meeting with an open mind, acknowledging that mentorship is a relationship that thrives on mutual respect and compatibility. This initial interaction should feel comfortable and encouraging, allowing both parties to express their needs and aspirations openly. Importantly, this meeting sets the stage for either party to assess whether the Mentor-Mentee relationship aligns with their expectations and objectives. Recognising that not every pairing is destined for success is essential. It’s perfectly acceptable for either the Mentor or Mentee to conclude that the chemistry or objectives aren’t harmonious. This openness to the possibility of a mismatch ensures that both individuals can actively seek a more fitting mentorship connection elsewhere, maximising the potential benefits for everyone involved. Many times, over the years I’ve cried “I’m not a celebrity, get me out of here” following this initial get together. It’s not personal, it’s just not right for me for one reason or another. Statistically, mentorship has shown positive impacts on both Mentors and Mentees. According to a study by the Society for Training and Development, employees who were mentored experienced higher job satisfaction (68%) compared to those who were

Networking: Overcoming Anxiety & Thriving in Professional Circles

In today’s diverse and interconnected workplace, the value of networking cannot be overstated. Building professional relationships is a key component of personal and career growth, providing a platform for learning, opportunities and collaboration. However, the journey through the realm of networking is not always smooth, and many individuals face challenges and concerns along the way. According to a survey conducted by LinkedIn, a staggering 85% of job positions are filled through networking. This statistic alone emphasises the pivotal role networking plays in career advancement. Additionally, a study by Harvard Business Review found that 70-80% of jobs are never posted publicly, highlighting the significance of informal channels like networking in discovering hidden opportunities. The numbers don’t lie, like it or loathe it, networking is a large part of professional life in the 21st century, and becoming more and more relevant as time passes. Entering a room filled with unfamiliar faces can be intimidating. I vividly recall my first networking experience as a young hopeful in a room filled with opportunity—the palpable anxiety, the inner-voice screaming, “get me out of here” before it had even begun. However, it appears I was not alone, as statistics reveal that a whopping 70% of professionals feel anxious about networking. “Just imagine everyone naked” was the advice I was once given by a teacher when I was nervously waiting side of stage, in our 1990 school rendition of Snow White. For those wondering, I was playing the famous key role, of a tree in the woods. My role was to convincingly sway and make delicate swooshing sounds to mimic a breeze blowing through the forest as Snow White went about her business.  Once on stage I was in my element, however the moments prior to this I was far from confident. All those people watching, what if I said something wrong, or worse, fell over (easily done when your dressed head to toe as a mighty oak)! But back to my teachers sounds advice, I’m sure imagining folk naked was a great solution at some before gone time and place however, in a networking environment, I’m not so sure! Feeling like you’re in the wrong place, don’t fit in or are not good enough is known commonly as “Imposter syndrome”. Officially it’s characterised by self-doubt and the fear of being exposed as a fraud.  According to some research, it affects nearly 58% of professionals at some point in their careers. While prevalence rates may vary, it is observed in both men and women, with some studies suggesting higher occurrences among women. Academic settings, workplace pressures and the fear of failure contribute to imposter syndrome, and in some cases even impacting on mental health and hindering professional growth. You’d be surprised by just how many people in senior or public facing roles, seeming the most confident and extroverted of individuals feel anxious or an imposter in all sorts of situations. Even myself, known for talking a lot, speaking to anyone and everyone and finding myself time after time leading teams, have too felt the weight of imposter syndrome during my career, questioning my worth and competence. But how do you overcome this psychological barrier? Well, I’ll get to that. A common challenge in networking is the struggle to fit in. A study by Forbes indicates that 77% of professionals believe that an absence of social skills can hinder career prospects. Over time, I’ve discovered that embracing authenticity is key to connecting with others. People appreciate genuine interactions, so being true to oneself can break down barriers and facilitate meaningful connections (I do think that this get easier with age as you become more comfortable with yourself). Yes, you may be there to promote your business, get sales leads or position yourself for that big promotion you’ve been hoping for. But, knowing your audience, finding a common connection and building upon it in the early stages of a conversation really does lay the foundations of future potential. Navigating networking events requires honing specific skills. One effective strategy that I’ve found successful, is to ask open-ended questions that encourage dialogue. For instance, inquire about others’ experiences or opinions to foster a genuine connection. Using language like, “tell me about”, “how did you” and “what is your view on” are great starters if you’re struggling to find the words. Jotting these down as prompts on a posit note in your pocket is a great fall-back resource should you need a nudge in the moment. Even noting in bold at the top of it “I CAN do this”, can help provide you that valuable shot of confidence when you most need it. Networking can share similar anxieties to those that people experience when public speaking. A fear that affects 75% of individuals, but practice and preparation can significantly alleviate this anxiety, and it’s the same with networking. The more that you do it, the more your confidence grows and the less anxious you will be. In my experience, anxiety feeds of off infrequency. By this, I mean that the less you do something the more anxious about doing it you can become. But by doing something frequently, practicing time after time, repetitively, it becomes something you think about less, you just do it – muscle memory. This practice in Continuous Improvement Leadership terms is known as “Kata”, but I’ll save that for another day! When employed, networking could be a frequent or even daily occurrence, however for those self-employed, networking could be less frequent, with few opportunities to practice, fuelling that anxiety. Personally, I have been on both sides of this coin and understand the impact both scenarios can have. For those looking for opportunity to meet new people and do their “Kata”, my advice is to find a place or environment that you feel comfortable to grow in. I have found this “safe space” in the UK Chamber of Commerce, who’s diverse and well-structured events serve as excellent platforms for networking. These gatherings are very well organised, led by

The Power of Podcasting: Transforming Business Engagement in Kent

Have you ever considered the power of podcasts as an engagement tool for your business? Let’s demystify the allure of podcasting. Contrary to common belief, you don’t need an extravagant setup or hefty investments in equipment. What you truly need is a compelling story, passion and sincerity to forge connections with your audience. In the UK alone, podcast listenership has soared in recent years. Reports from Ofcom, the communications regulator, reveal a staggering doubling in podcast listeners to over 7 million weeklies in just five years. It’s a testament to the growing appetite for this form of content, and its flexible format that allows for on demand listening wherever and whatever you’re doing. The beauty of podcasting is the simplicity that is at its core. Forget the idea of an elaborate recording studio filled with high-tech gadgets. The beauty of podcasting lies in its simplicity. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t require a fortune in equipment. A standard conference call microphone or even the smartphone in your pocket is often sufficient to kickstart your podcasting journey. Your story is your greatest asset. What truly resonates with audiences isn’t polished scripts or professional hosting skills—it’s authenticity. Your business has a unique story to tell. Whether it’s the journey of overcoming obstacles, insider tips, business updates or simply sharing industry insights, your perspective matters. According to Edison Research, 54% of podcast consumers say they’re more likely to consider a brand after hearing its advertisement on a podcast. That’s some serious potential that can’t be ignored, right? One of the greatest perks of podcasting? It’s incredibly cost-effective. Compared to traditional advertising, launching a podcast is relatively inexpensive. All you need is your voice, your narrative and a genuine connection with your audience. Many UK businesses are harnessing the power of podcasts. From start-ups delving into niche markets to established brands diversifying their content strategy, they’re leveraging the simplicity of podcasting. These businesses are sharing stories that matter, building connections without the need for extravagant studios. Podcasting is a fantastic mechanism to bridge the gap between frontline employees and senior leadership. The ability to include all levels of an organisation in the narrative, interviews, success stories and more provides a platform to celebrate success and drive results through a people focused engagement strategy. In today’s digital landscape, authenticity trumps elaborate setups. Podcasting provides an avenue for businesses in Kent to build genuine connections with both customers and employees. According to Gallup, companies with highly engaged employees outperform competitors by 147%. Internal podcasts serve as vital tools for fostering engagement and transparent communication within the workforce. Furthermore, Communication preferences have evolved significantly across generations, with younger demographics such as Millennials and Gen Z prioritising authenticity, relatability and accessibility. This shift away from traditional communication methods has been evident as people seek mediums that foster genuine connections and a modern on demand accessibility. A Spotify study revealed that 81% of podcast listeners fully engage with the content they listen to, highlighting the high engagement levels of podcasts. This medium aligns perfectly with the preferences of younger generations, offering a personalised, on-demand experience that suits their multitasking lifestyles. Podcasts’ unscripted and authentic nature allows for real and relatable conversations, meeting the desire for genuine connections over transactional interactions. Interestingly, podcasts aren’t limited to younger audiences, as older generations are increasingly tuning in, appreciating the depth and authenticity of podcast content. This trend contributes to bridging the communication gap between different age groups. Kent based businesses can benefit from adapting to these evolving communication norms by incorporating podcasts into their strategies. Doing so offers a powerful tool to engage diverse audiences across different age demographics. In essence, podcasts represent a unified language of modern communication, catering to the evolving preferences of various generations. They provide businesses with a compelling means to authentically connect with a wide array of audiences across age groups. When starting out on my leadership journey over two decades ago, Dr Hajime Yamashina, a Lean Manufacturing Professor from Japan, took me under his wing. He provided me many lessons, that initially made little sense or appeared irrelevant. However, over the years these lessons have one by one come into focus, providing me with little reminders now and then that fuel a passion for excellence that has people at the heart of it. One of these many lessons was “a person without data, is just another person with an opinion”. Professor Yamashina’s words echoing in my mind as I sat at my laptop, compiling data that tells the story of the opportunity that lies within podcasting.  Podcasting isn’t just a trend, it’s a genuine opportunity for businesses to connect deeply with their audience. Statistics show that 80% of podcast listeners listen to an entire episode or most of it, highlighting the engagement potential. So, grab that microphone, infuse your passion and let your story be heard—your audience is eagerly waiting to tune in! To hear more of my ramblings, follow me on LinkedIn – Matt Sims, or check out my Blogs at Blog – Ever-So-Lean (