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A Beast to Tame: Networking and Social Media - Part 3.

Parts One and Two of this blog focused on networking events – getting out there and meeting people to establish a network of likeminded folk in and around the county. Invaluable, obviously. Then there’s networking on a much, much wider scale….I’m talking about social media of course.

But first a word on the impact of social media on all industries and their marketing. Social media has changed the face of marketing completely, putting consumers in control for the first time ever. Want a refund? Don’t bother going into the shop. Just Tweet it! Had a bad experience in a restaurant. No need to complain to the manager. Tear them to shreds on Trip Advisor! Then Tweet it.

With social media comes a voice.

And it’s used maliciously every day. Damning feedback on social media has bought many companies to their knees, but it has separated the wheat from the chaff when it comes to bad customer service. I was once ignored for six weeks by a company who had taken over £100 out of my account and refused to engage with my desperate pleas to get it back. I Tweeted. I got a refund within 11 minutes. Many bloggers have also reached the dizzying heights of journalists when it comes to influence. If I was marketing a new kitchenware range, I know I’d rather have Deliciously Ella – a blogger so influential her agent no long allows her to accept products to review – on my side than several food magazines I can think of.

We are also the first generation to market ourselves: we do it constantly through all social media

(many of us have a profile on more than one platform). Selfies, blogging, online dating and dating apps, professional online networks…we market ourselves to the world with every photo, post and status update. Come on – you know you used a filter on that Facebook profile picture. We’re also the first generation to market our own possessions through online selling, making us not just consumers but also marketers. The majority of the population are wise to pricing, enticing headlines, the inventive use of language (knackered? No – “shabby chic”), attractive product shots and delivery charges. They’ve already sold half a tonne of baby products and a set of golf clubs on EBay.

So what part does social media play in a marketing campaign? According to both the experts charged with managing social media campaigns, a big one. Zakera Kali, Design Coach & Consultant for Insight Consultancy, says

“social media plays big part today because it helps you build a story about your brand.

You then invite people to visit your website/store. This is called inbound marketing.  At Insight, we have found that it takes time but the return on investment for some of our clients is amazing. If you create a clear pathway to make it easier for people to buy/contact you, you will get results. Many start-ups have a lot of time when they initially set-up, so this is a good time to utilise social media on a shoe string budget to build your brand narrative.” ‘Brand narrative’ goes by another term – personality. And every business should have a personality. Joanne Lloyd of branding and website design company A Dozen Eggs agrees with Zakera that social media is the perfect way to establish and hone that personality.

Used well, social media is a great way to build up your brand’s tone-of-voice, projecting a real sense of personality and making the business feel approachable to new clients,”

advises Joanne, adding that goes for networking and brand building, not hardcore selling: “For many creative businesses, social media won’t bring you a flood of new customers all on its own. However, what it does do is further the strength of a good reputation – building up a network of contacts, clients & fans.”

Having a personality on social media all boils down to the content you put out there. And that often means making it personal. Performance poet and writer Jess Green, whose nationwide gigs and current book ‘Burning Books’ have led to so much critical acclaim, is a perfect example of someone who uses her social media profile to give the public an insight into her world that transcends plugging gigs and books. “Social media is a good way for people to keep in contact with you and to see what you’re doing but

I think it’s important not to just use it for plugging your own stuff 24 hours a day, because people get bored of that,”

she cautions. “There’s a poetry night in London called Bang Said The Gun and the guy who runs it has a Twitter account which he also uses for his own stuff. So it’s a mix of plugging the night and just general Twitter chit chat, which makes it successful.” As anyone who follows Jess will know (and nearly 2,400 of you do), the Twitter chit chat and funny quips about her dog make the gig, book and workshop plugs feel like natural enthusiasm for her work rather than plugs. That’s an essential balance to strike if you can, as people do get bored of relentless plugging and most of us are on Twitter for the personal stuff anyway. If your followers can relate to you as someone just like them – with a highly strung pet or penchant for Googlebox – then they are much more likely to engage with your work as an artist.

Patrick Welsh, Marketing Manager for Phoenix Arts, also advises using social media to become a “helpful and generous” resource for your industry. “It’s about triggering the interest of new customers. To do that you can’t use social media just to sell your product – you have to be interesting, helpful and generous,” he recommends. “A lot of a people become a commenter on their industry and the problems people face within it.

The most important thing is that you create interesting, valuable content which is useful for people. Create something that people want to share.”

Sharing your valuable content is what will organically build a following but creating that content will require a little more effort than the odd retweet about a sale on clay paint.  Due to its fast pace and hunger for content, keeping on top of social media can be one of the most time consuming aspects of a marketing campaign. Graphic and Product Designer Anna Lisovskaya, of studio Fox & Co and workshop My Workspace, is honest about finding social media both a blessing and a curse: “I will always find it hard to bring new clients on board,” she admits. “I am not a natural sales person so for me it’s a matter of practice and fine tuning my techniques. I am exaggerating, but it seems like every day there is a new social media platform that you have to be on. I take it one day at a time, one platform at a time. I try to be organised and structured, but it’s difficult to stay on top of it, particularly during busy periods. So it is a beast I am yet to tame.”

It’s a beast almost impossible to tame, so vast is it’s reach and influence and so frightening the speed at which it ignites given the right lighter fluid. Social media is wonderful for reaching lots of people in one hit with minimum effort but the lack of editorial control can leave marketers quaking in their boots: I have always advised clients not to place too much emphasis on social media in a marketing campaign. That and to treat it with caution….never fire off a quick Tweet or comment.

Always approach the beast gently, with the utmost respect and with its favourite food clutched firmly in your palm.

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