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How To Turn Your Small Business Into A Social Media Powerhouse

An Interview with Sophie Jones

In this episode of Ecoffee with Experts, Matt Fraser hosted Sophie Jones, Founder of Sophie Jones Social, a full-service Digital Marketing and Web Development agency. Sophie reveals her secret sauce for using social media to pique consumers’ interest in companies and garner genuine enthusiasm from them. Watch now to ace social-media marketing.

Just let your creativity shine through when you’re creating any kind of marketing campaign it doesn’t even need to be social media marketing.

Sophie Jones
Founder of Sophie Jones Social
Hello everyone. Welcome to this episode of Ecoffee with Experts. I'm your host, Matt Fraser. And on today's show, I have Sophie Jones. Sophie is the founder of Sophie Jones Social, a full-service Digital Marketing and Web Development agency headquartered in Edinburgh, Scotland. Sophie Jones Social is an intuitive, helpful and creative Marketing agency that works with small businesses on a creative personal level. Sophie started in the Marketing world as a Social Media Marketer. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography, Geology, History, and Political Science from the University of Canterbury. When she has some downtime, she enjoys spending it with friends, family, and her cat, Gerald. Sophie, welcome to the show.

Thank you for having me.

In today's show, we'll discuss how to turn your small business into a social media powerhouse. So how did you get started going from having a degree in all these things like geography, geology, and history to doing social media marketing? I mean, that's pretty interesting.

Yes, it’s quite the journey. So I got my degree in New Zealand at the University of Canterbury. And I specialized in natural disasters and emergency management. So basically, if a tsunami was to hit, what would you do in that situation? How would different government bodies react? So it’s quite different. I was looking at doing that as a career. And so I had my first year out of university, and I worked in international logistics, getting freight across the world. And then I decided I wanted to have a bit of travel time. So I didn’t already have to go to the UK and came to Scotland and Edinburgh and never left. So why haven’t you left yet? So when I got to Edinburgh, I started a job at a tea company, which is quite interesting, I suppose. Because it’s the UK and we all drink Tea. And I worked in a shop there and managed the shop. And then eventually, I took over their marketing, and I’d never worked in marketing before. So it was something new and different and exciting. But once I started working in it, I realized that it was like all these different things I like to do in one. So that was good. And then so yeah, I did their social media marketing predominantly and some of the other little bits as well as a small business. So you do everything, but I enjoyed running their social media, coming up with new fresh ideas, exciting our customers, and things like that. So yeah, that was my first job in marketing.

We live in a Social media world, and I can tell by looking at you that you are not past 60, so you won't ask what Facebook is. So how did you learn to use Social Media for the Tea company?

It all worked funnily, it was like your life leading up to it. When I was in New Zealand, I was involved in photography. I loved photography, and it was a hobby. So I joined a group, and there were quite a few talks on how to manage your Instagram and new social media because we wanted these photos to go somewhere. So I learned a lot from there about how to run and use social media as a business tool. And then I had a genuine interest in it. So I would read a lot about it. I listened to many podcasts and read many books, so I picked up all this knowledge I had sitting there, and I didn’t realize it until I started using it. And it was all there. So that was great. And since then, I’ve learned so much more. I read somewhere that the more you learn about Marketing more you have to learn, and I agree with that.

There are many skill sets to learn about Marketing regarding Social Media, SEO, paid ads, media ad buying, content marketing, email marketing, web analytics, and Digital Analytics, and I could keep going. And not only that, but also the different industries because I've done marketing for car dealers, ATV dealers, and some service-based businesses. But if you ask me how to do marketing for a retail business, I wouldn't know the first thing about marketing a Tea company. I would have no idea. I was about the top of my head and couldn't even think. So what were some ways you leveraged social media to get the word out about the Tea Company?

Let me think it was a while ago. First, we did some brand-building campaigns because social media had been dormant. And so we wanted to build it back up and entice customers that come in every day to look at it and interact. So it reminded them of what we offered and why it was different. So we did a lot of marketing around that. Then, we did some fun Scotland-specific campaigns. So there were Teas made with Scottish ingredients or to do with whiskey and gin. And so we did lots of stuff where we collaborated with whiskey and gin companies in Scotland. And we did some Marketing and Social Marketing campaigns around that. So we came up with cocktails with the ingredients and posted those on social media, and hosted events. We also got people to make these cards. There’s so much more than you originally thought you could do with marketing a tea company or any company. But once you get stuck, you realize it’s not that dissimilar to a car dealership, you’re still selling something and want to create a connection.

That's amazing. There are so many things you just unpacked that we could talk about for two hours. For instance, you communicated and rebooted the brand. Can you tell me what that was like, the process you used, and the type of content you created specifically to do that?

We started by looking at where the company had been and where it was then. So we took a step back and looked at how the process had changed. Because Tea is often thought of as old-school China and cops, this company was not like that. It was new and inventive, and it used no plastic. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Tea too in Australia, it was quite like that. They use their Tea to create cold brews, cocktails, and drinks. It’s not just Tea anymore. The company got to the stage where it was doing this exciting stuff, but it wasn’t necessarily showing through on social media. So we took a step back and looked at where we wanted to go and where we wanted to take it. Then we started putting that across on social media by doing simple posts about things we offered and why we offered them. And then when we bought new products, celebrating plastic-free packaging, we did some campaigns specifically about that. So plastic-free packaging was huge because the tea industry doesn’t think about it but uses so much plastic. And so we show people how to use that to home composter, how you could use the tins again. And so it was lots of videos, and Instagram lives, and we used all of the features that social media gave us to communicate that message. So we started re-educating them to help rebuild the brand and show them why it was the cool hip tea in town.

So you were able to take something boring. Like everybody thinks Tea is pretentious, people sit around drinking Tea with their fingers in the air. And this company has done something different. So you were able to take that message through different components; I'm talking about pictures, messaging, video, and live events to show people how this company was different. So what was the result of it? Because this is a small business, right?

Well, it is, but also, because we were putting this out to customers coming through the doors every day of this company. But we were also putting it out to wholesale customers. And so what happened is that the tea company brought on a lot more wholesale customers, which is where a lot of big money is because they’re buying offices, conferences, things like that. So they came on board with the tea company because they saw the company building and what they could offer because of all their marketing streams. So we could see real-life growth. We had customers coming in and saying, I saw this drink on social media. Are you offering it on your menu, and we’d have them all on our menu if we were to put them on social media? So we could see people becoming more inventive and not just sticking to a pot of Tea but going for tea cocktails and things they’d never normally go for. So that was quite a nice and real life, but also the sales increased for the company.

So, in terms of reach, do you have any case study, and can you share the impact of it? Like, how much did your popularity increase? Did you go from like, 100 fans on the page to 200,000? Are you comfortable sharing that information? I'm just curious how much the business grew.

I don’t want to go into too much detail, but Instagram, for example, went from a couple of 1000 followers to quite a few 1000 followers. And it was more like before, they weren’t getting very many likes or comments, and people didn’t seem very engaged in the content. But as we included them, there was much more engagement on all social media channels. Twitter was a lot more wholesale customers, tweeting about the Tea that had arrived for them and things like that. But then Instagram, many everyday customers said, I baked Tea with this cake, or I did this. So there was a lot more sharing of content and them tagging us and comments and things. So that was bringing social media to life and making it more of a community, which was a nice impact. And obviously, the follower numbers grew. But more than that, the engagement grew, which was important.

You just mentioned how you included the customers. So how did you do that, and how did you increase the engagement? For instance, how did you get people to make a cake with Tea? Did you create recipes? Because that's such a brilliant idea, to create and post recipes with the Tea. Could you expand on that a little bit because this is fascinating?

So we would come up with recipes to include it in cake icing, cupcakes, muffins, brownies, all sorts of things, baking with Tea. But also cooking with Tea, putting it in certainties and sauces you might want on like meat. So it got quite creative with the recipes. But I was quite lucky because although I was in charge of Social Media and Marketing, I worked on the floor. And so I talked to our customers every single day. So I would be like, you should try and make a cake with this, then they would go home and make it, and because we’d had that interaction and I was like, oh, you know, tag us in the picture on social media. So they would go home and tag us in it. And it wasn’t just me, it was our whole team. We like to interact with the customers. So they all talked about social media and different things and got them to invest in the brand. So because we included them, they would Be like, Can I take a picture of you drinking your tea latte or something, and then can we post it, and then you tag the minute? And then suddenly you have their friends commenting on the pictures and things like that. So it wasn’t just the efforts on social media, it was us being on the floor, interacting with the customers every day, knowing them, knowing what kind of things they would like, which was valuable.

The direct customer-facing staff and training them to build relationships, ask questions, and include the customers in the process. I mean, that's brilliant.

It was beneficial, but it wasn’t like we had to train them because they were also invested in the brand and wanted other people to know about it. They wanted to share all this information, which is a key thing for a business. So if you can get an enthusiastic team about what you’re offering, then you have 10, 20, or 30 free spokespeople going out to your customers and telling them what you offer. So that was a key part of it. But also it just left our customers with a great experience. They went home and thought everyone was so friendly. I had a lovely slice of cake, a lovely cup of Tea, I learned something new, I tried something new. And we’d always have free samples of new teas and things like that available for people to try. So, it was good.

How much did imagery play in the social media strategy?

A big part, because if somebody’s seeing it on the screen, they can’t taste it. They don’t know how it smells or if it will be nice. So we spent a lot of time taking pictures of content, and we had a photographer that worked within the company and helped with that. So we had many videos of how to make something, and we’d make the video of exactly how you make it. And we had product demonstrations.

I didn't mean to interject or interrupt there, but for other people, what Sophie's talking about is product demonstrations, do product demonstrations. I think restaurants should make videos of how they make their stuff, for every menu item, they post a picture of it, create a video of how it's made, and show it on social media at two times speed, with some music. So you were doing product demonstrations and creating that type of content. So you were posting videos, posting pictures of certain different products. How did you make it interesting, though? For instance, you could take a picture of a Tea box and post that, which would be boring. So what were some of the ways that you made it interesting? It is interesting to me.

We’ve always had a box of Tea, and it would always have something else in the picture, like say it’s a strawberry tea, we’d have a fresh reason in the picture. So instantly, you can physically see what will be in the Tea. It brought more color to the pictures and made them more exciting. A lot of the time, it was like after drinks themselves, or the cake or the food or whatever we made. So we tried to include people in it as much as we could. So we might have somebody like if there were the whiskey tea I’ve talked about, we would send that to the whiskey company. And they took fantastic pictures of their staff sitting on whiskey barrels drinking a cup of Tea, and it was the whiskey tea they made on an iPhone. So it doesn’t need to be expensive. It doesn’t need to be like a big camera setup or film, you can use your iPhone to get these images. It’s just thinking about how to do it creatively, like a big Scottish man with a huge beard sitting on a whiskey barrel will make an impact, drinking Tea.

So you leveraged your industry partners to create content, and they did it for free because it will also benefit them?

Yes. And their name is on the Tea as well. So because it’s their whiskey, getting them involved is easier. But yeah, it was powerful because their audience is involved in it. It’s being shared on their social media. So it’s being seen by more people.

So wow, that's bloody brilliant. I think a mortgage broker or realtor and a home inspector could all leverage each other's channels to promote each other. In this way, the Tea, its ingredients, and the brand behind those ingredients. I was picturing, as you were talking about the strawberry tea. You could have boxes of Tea like I'm picturing a closed box of Tea, and then one that's open with the tea bags, like three or four tea bags in front of it, and then the strawberries, maybe a basket of strawberries with the strawberries in front of it, out of it on in front of it. And then a clear cup of Tea, a glass Tea that you could see through with the bag inside, would make such an amazing picture. You painted that picture in my mind while I was listening, not that you had the intention to or you did. I'm just saying that's what I was envisioning. So my gosh, people think Tea is boring, but like, goodness gracious, what a way to make Tea sexy and appealing and get people talking about it. Including it in Greek. Did you guys do any incentivization for marketing this product? What do I mean by that, any contests? For instance, you had mentioned getting people to make something with the ingredients, I could easily see throwing up a contest for that. Win free Tea for a year, enter this Baker whiskey cake contest, whatever, whiskey gravy, sauce, or whatever. I was thinking inside my head here. Did you do anything like that, or what are your thoughts on whether that would work or not?

We did. We didn’t do it with the cakes and stuff that all users generated because they wanted to do it. But we did competitions where it’d be like tag a friend in this picture, and both are wearing a t-shirt, and we’d normally do it around a specific thing. If it was Wimbledon time, we might promote the strawberry tea because, like Pimm’s, strawberries are so good in Britain. So we would look at doing things like that. But we’d also compete with other businesses, like the whiskey, gin, and local businesses that served our Tea. And we’re a wholesale partner, we’d also look at doing competitions with them to tap into their followers, and they’re in ours. And so there was a lot of incentivization in that way. And also that gives us the chance to share the product with people who might not normally go and buy it, but wouldn’t mind if they want it for free, then it’s good. So then they get addicted and keep coming back.

That is amazing. So you leveraged the partners like restaurants serving it or other such partners and put things together. That's amazing. Because win free Tea for a year, plus you could add free sandwiches, win free lunch for a month, for a year, plus a free supply of Tea from the restaurant or deli or whatever, you know what I'm talking about. The sandwich shop could provide that, so there are so many different ways we could apply this to different industries. Whether it's like a wedding photographer or a child portrait photographer could say, hey, enter to win a free portrait. And then they could follow up with something else. So I'm trying to think of ideas of ways that they could do this.

Well, it’s something, like with my clients, that I’ve done them as well, and I’ve got all sorts of clients and all sorts of industries. And lots of them are like the tea industry, they’re not perhaps the most interesting. So I love the challenge of how we make this interesting. So how do we get people invested in it and thinking this is so exciting? I want to, even though it might not be.

Do you have another story besides Tea about a brand you've used social media to leverage and explode?

So I’ve got a client running a fabric import business. So it’s not hugely interesting. We worked together to look at their social media and how we could make it more interesting and more exciting for other people. We ran competitions as well, just like my tea company. I looked at how, if I was not interested in fabric, which I’m not really, what would I want to see on social media that would get me to start sewing or pick up a hobby? And so it was just about reframing it because before, most social media was for people already sold. Still, once they had enough fabric, they wouldn’t necessarily come back for more until they finished all their projects. So you’ve got a period where you’re trying to either get new sewing customers in, or we’re waiting for these other people to finish up with their fabric. And so I was looking at how can we turn it to. You don’t have to be a pro, you can do it as a hobby. And it was good timing because we were on lockdown. And so many people in the house were looking for new things to do. So we came up with something similar to the tea company. Like tutorials on how to make different things. Like how to make a pillowcase or make puppets for children. All these different things with fabrics. And we also did in-depth posts on different fabrics and why this fabric might be better. It was interesting, and we took some of it on sustainable routes. So some of the fabrics are cut-offs of designer brands. Like Gucci has made something and has this fabric leftover and left it at the factory. And so the factory will buy them at a low price. And then it’s just sitting there gathering dust. So this company was buying these really good cuts of fabric and bringing them to market in New Zealand, which does not have many good fabric shops. So they were bringing this brand new market, and it exploded. They were like people ordering from Singapore and around New Zealand, not just where the company was based, but from other towns and cities. And many of the fabrics they were importing were from the UK. They have people from the UK placing orders for fabrics from the UK.

They were ordering it from New Zealand?

Yeah, from New Zealand.

People in the UK were ordering it from New Zealand? That is believable, Sophie.

Because they didn’t know about it and suddenly they found out, oh, I want this fabric, I want these kits, I want this. So we came up with lots of measurable ways to market these fabrics. And it was good fun.

I have to tip my hat to you. Because this is just so fascinating, you took the leftover fabric and created conversations using the educational, tutorial, and informational type posts. For instance, the information of where it came from, how it's made, what made it different, what is different, because it's sustainable, you're not allowing it to be thrown into the garbage or to refuse or whatever you want to call it. Therefore, you're helping the environment, which is something we all care about to one degree or the other. So all these different ideas for creating different things out of the Tea and now fabric. How did you come up with those ideas? Were you serving customers or what they were creating? Or did you like search on Google for trends of what people were making? I'm a very tall guy, it's very hard for me to find clothes. I had a seamstress. I will get custom shirts and suits one day because I'm six foot six and 220 pounds. So when my wife first met me, she wanted to buy me new jeans. And I'm like, okay, who's criticizing my clothes? Okay, good luck with that, let's go. And she then discovered how next to impossible it is for me to find properly fitting clothing. So there are only a few stores that I can go to. But the point I'm trying to make is, how did you think of those? How did you come up with those? What kind of research did you do to come up with the ideas? What was your process for coming up with content ideas to share of things people were making? Like, did you survey the customers and use their ideas, was it a Google search or research, but how did that come about?

It was a little bit of all of them. I think some of it was just intuition. So I think, what would other people and I want to see? And I was quite lucky with the fabric, my mum, when I was growing up, she sewed, so I had an idea of what you can make or do with it, which was helpful. But Google’s my best friend. I like to Google what other companies are doing and what other people are up to in the industry. What kind of trends is going on in the industry? And look at other people’s social media and ask the customers what they want. So with the tea company, it was easier. I see the customers every day so that I could get a sense, they will constantly be like, Oh, do you have this Tea? I want this Tea. So you got a sense of what they wanted, what new teas they wanted, and things, which is helpful. But when you don’t have that face-to-face customer experience, like the fabric businesses, eCommerce, you can’t talk to customers. It was a lot of like, just seeing what they liked and doing more. So you could find, like test out posts, and we had an email newsletter, so we’d send one out with new products, and people would either buy them or wouldn’t and would reply to it and be like, do you have this fabric in this color? So it was a bit of trial and error to see what they wanted. And then from there, I thought, Okay, well, if they like this kind of fabric, from this fabric, you can make this this this, let’s make the call. And I think a lot of marketing is using your intuition, and especially working now, as an agency owner, it’s all about market research. It’s all about looking at insights and data and stuff. But I don’t think you could be like your natural brain or your creative way of thinking and just literally thinking outside of the box, putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and thinking, how could I make this exciting? How could I make this so that they think to themselves, I need this, I want it? So it’s just a bit of all of that.

Wow. So Marketing, especially the data side, and I have heard people say this doesn't exist anymore. Still, the left side of your brain is very analytical, and the right is very intuitional in ideas and creativity. And in some ways, Good Marketing is about what you have done. Use your left brain to analyze the data, woo the customers, and market research because you can't do marketing without the research. I have been there and done that. You can't build a website without market research. Before building a website, you need to know many things, but I don't want to go down that rabbit trail. How do you leverage the left side of your brain to think about the data and the analytical things? The right side, the creative side of your brain, to think about the ideas you come up with, how they can create interest and desire, and make them sexy and desirable. It's fascinating. Would you agree with that statement?

Yes. I am dyslexic, so I think part of that is a gift too. I have people in my business who do all of that and are way better at all that. But creative wise and knowing how to be instinctive, I think that comes naturally from thinking differently. Growing up, I was told if you have dyslexia, you are very good at art and things. I was never good at that, and I used to think, oh, I’m not good at anything creative. But I think I have been on that side of my brain for years, especially in Marketing.

It's fascinating how things that, thank you for sharing that. A lot of people would not. You have taken something most people perceive as a weakness and turned it into a superpower. I was recently diagnosed with ADHD about six weeks ago. I am forty-six years old, and I wish someone had told me about it twenty years ago, if not before. I look back on my life and go, holy smokes. When my wife and brother-in-law found out, they said, " Oh, that explains everything. I won't get into the details, but I also realized it is something like I read something about not looking at it as a weakness but as a superpower because we can think outside the box. There are things that neurotypical people their brains work differently, and I am not trying to put them down, but we think it the way that; no wonder I have 150 domain names. Because I can think of business ideas like nobody's business, but I can do campaigns as well, it's interesting to hear someone else share how they have been able to leverage their weakness. But the key is to leverage other people to do things we are not so good at. Delegate, Delegate, delegate. Know what your strengths are and focus on them. And your weaknesses delegate. It has been a fascinating conversation, and I am so glad you came on the show today. So what's one big takeaway you would like our audience to get from this episode?

Let your creativity shine through when creating any marketing. It doesn’t have to be social media marketing. And for small businesses, even if you don’t have a big budget, you can think outside the box, use the things you have, use your customers, and use your team. Use everything you have at your fingertips and your products. One thing I think for small businesses I learned as an agency working with many small businesses is to keep your social media consistent. Keep posting on it. I think that’s a big thing. Many people lock their followers and then suddenly drop off, and the followers are left thinking, where have you gone? So I think you will succeed if you stay consistent with your marketing.

Maybe we will have to have you back to discuss how to create a content marketing strategy calendar and plan out your content. It's been a pleasure having you here. How can our listeners connect with you online?

Through Instagram and Facebook at Sophie Jones Social, my Marketing Agency, or LinkedIn Sophie Jones.

Again, a pleasure having you here. Thank you for discussing the things you shared today about making Tea exciting. It was awesome. It has just been a pleasure.

It was lovely speaking with you.

You have a great day.

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