Digital Marketing and social media training for apprentices

                    Digital Marketing Apprentices

As thousands of students get their GCSE and A-Level results in the next couple of weeks and worry about getting the grades they need for college and university, it seemed a good time for me to just show what can be achieved through a different option. Apprenticeships were talked up by all political parties in the general election and now the new Government has committed to increasing their funding for apprenticeships in the latest budget and increasing the apprentice wage.

As a university graduate a few years ago I am still an advocate for higher education and the experience of university was right for me, but having said that I wasn’t made aware at the time, back in 2006 when I decided my route after sixth form, of work-based learning and the advantages it has for young people.

Apprenticeships or University

Being able to gain a qualification while gaining invaluable industry experience (and also earning a living!) is understandably an appealing option for young people today. I am often asked by some apprentices if they should do go to uni perhaps after their apprenticeship to further their development. It’s a difficult question to answer sometimes and obviously depends on the individual.

However from speaking to numerous employers of apprentices across Yorkshire this week, they have told me how positive their particular experiences have been with apprentices in comparison to graduates. The phrases used were ‘fresh’, ‘blank canvas’ and ‘eagerness’ when referring to their current apprentices.

The digital marketing field in particular is ever-changing and work experience in the industry I would consider to be the most valuable to a young person wanting to develop a career in the industry.

Digital Marketing Apprenticeships

I’ve been training and assessing social media and digital marketing apprentices at 3AAA for the past year and have seen the impact young people are making at small businesses across the country. They are being trained in a learning environment and being given the opportunities to put into practice their learning straight away back in the workplace.

It is an incredibly rewarding role, seeing fresh young faces starting their careers and receiving the support they need from their employers and me and the team at 3aaa. From the principles of social media, to using collaborative technologies to enhance work across teams, apprentices are developing skills they can use in their work straight away and make positive contributions to the companies who have invested in them.

In one of my lessons on collaborative technologies, my learners showcase the work they’ve done in their businesses on a Padlet (a fantastic tool for content curation across teams) and it really does speak for itself to show the excellent contributions some of these young apprentices  are making to such a wide range of businesses.

Leeds 3AAA Digital Marketing Apprentice Work


I don’t believe that one path is better than the other when it comes to apprenticeships vs university.  It’s not a straight choice and obviously depends on the individual and what is right for them. I just think it’s important for young people to know that there are other options, and now more and more people are getting better advice at sixth form than I did, which was just based on helping me complete my UCAS application.

Hopefully students are receiving the best advice for them in the next couple of weeks, whatever results they get in their GCSEs and A-Levels.

What never changes in social media – The Six Key Principles

Social media is an ever-changing world which can often put people off from even attempting to use it for their business. However despite the frequent changes in platforms, marketing trends and network features, the core principles of social media do not change.

In a recent presentation I did for the Ladies 4 Networking group, I asked what was the first word that came to mind when I said ‘social media’ to them and the overwhelming response was ‘Facebook!’ The platforms are the first starting point for many people, who dabble with Facebook or Twitter before really knowing what they should be doing.

Despite the changes in platforms and trends, the core principles of social media remain the same. From social listening to social engagement, take a look at my social media principles in my presentation below.

Five Reasons Why Social Media Should Be Done In-house

Social mediaWhen I’ve recently attended different networking events, one of the questions I am often asked about what I do is ‘Do you do the day to day social media management for businesses?’

My answer is the same as always. No. However I am more than happy to set up relevant social media profiles and management processes for a business or professional and ‘hand-hold’ them through the initial phase to get them going and establish best practice. But strategy and planning always come first.

I make it very clear that this is a transition period that has a start and end time, as I believe the best people to represent your business online are the people inside your business but appreciate that some help to get you kickstarted can be required.

Social media is one of the first windows into your organisation that visitors look through. Why would you want someone controlling that who doesn’t understand your brand values, business goals and ultimately what you’re really all about and why people should do business with you?

Here are my five top reasons why I believe social media should be done in-house:

1. You have the industry expertise and insight

Your social media presence and engagement is the easiest way to evidence your expertise, sharing your opinions, insight and answering the questions of other users. You don’t tell people you know your stuff, you show how you know your stuff. A well-prepped social media team can replicate this for you, but there’s only so much they can do without your regular input and unique expression, why have the middle man?

2. You know your brand values

Reading tone and meaning in text can often be difficult and it can very easily be misinterpreted. It can be challenging for an outsourced social media manager to genuinely grasp your ethos. This is what social media is all about, showcasing what your business is all about and expressing the personalities behind your brand. Outsourced social media can often be bland and insincere , providing nothing to showcase the personality in your business.

3. You need to establish your own unique voice

There are a million people to follow and engage with on social media. What is unique about you to make someone want to follow you and keep coming back? You need to showcase your knowledge and insight to separate you from competitors in the same industry to ensure a user engages with your content rather than the other business professional in your field doing the same thing.

Different people like different personalities, different approaches on the same subject, if you’re not expressing anything in your social media it just becomes content for content’s sake.

4. Social Media Risk is too high

Social media engagement is more important than ever to maintaining and enhancing your brand reputation for potential and current customers, stakeholders and potential employees. The repercussions of not managing your social media to a high standard are great, from damage to your brand reputation, loss of competitive advantage, to poor customer service that damages your relationship capital.

5. Social media skills will be required more and more

Social media isn’t going anywhere, it’s only becoming more important to your business and professional development. The value of these skills inside your organisation is only going to increase. The cost of outsourcing and loss of value of owning your own social media is only going to hamper you in the long run.

Why not develop these useful skills in your organisation now, and save time and money in the long run? Are there people in your organisation who already have the appropriate skills you can maximise for the benefit of your business?


I believe that one of the core principles of social media is to use it to represent YOU. It showcases what’s different about you, what you can offer and why people should engage with you. Social is about conversations not just broadcasts, I believe that the best people to partake in these conversations are the people inside your business.

If social media is something you just want someone else to deal with, you may need to re-consider what you believe social media really is all about.

Social media strategy for Forward Ladies Positive Women’s Day

Social media strategyI recently had the pleasure of presenting at Positive Women’s Day for Forward Ladies in Leeds at the end of last month. A fantastic day of professional development courses for the 30+ delegates on the day, covering topics including selling with confidence, managing stress and my social media session.

Stepping in at the last minute to cover the session, the content advertised was mainly based on Twitter. Wanting to obviously give the delegates what they’ve been promised, my session did feature Twitter, however in a 90 mins session it is often challenging to cover Twitter sufficiently, particularly as delegates are often at completely different stages with their social media.

Objectives before platforms

I decided a better use of the time would be to go back to the beginning with social and deliver a session on social media strategy, with a bit of Twitter specific stuff thrown in for good measure! Whatever stage you are at with social media adoption in your business, developing or re-assessing your strategy based on objectives, key messages, audiences and KPIs is essential to continually assess how social media is or isn’t working for you and adapt.

Most delegates had recently started using social media while for others it was a prominent feature of their marketing strategy. Reviewing what your objectives are with social media and understanding how to effectively measure your time and activity are important keys to adapting your strategy where necessary.

It is easy to get caught up with an often seen as demanding area of marketing your business and making sure you’re doing lots of activity on social, when in actual fact your time may be better spent on other areas of marketing to help achieve your business objectives.

Engaging with social at different levels

That was an integral theme to my presentation, encouraging delegates to engage with social media at their own level, whether it be a little or a lot, on just one or four different platforms, for 10 mins or 2 hours a week, time is of the essence for everyone. Social media can eat away at that precious time when it is done without clear direction and strategic activity.

It is important to use the platforms suitable for your objectives and to find the audiences you want to reach in the same way your activity and content is suited for the same. Develop a strategy always with your objectives and your own levels of ability and time in mind, think about what is realistically achievable in your circumstances and where you want to get to, not what you think you should be doing because you think everyone else is.

For some help on where to start in developing your social media strategy, take a look at my presentation from the event. And a big thank you for Forward Ladies for having me as a guest speaker at a fantastic event in Leeds. It was great to meet some like-minded businesswomen in Leeds.

Student Employability – How to use Social Media to Find Work

As we edge further into 2014, final year university students start to worry about exams and dissertations as those deadlines draw closer. But what some students often don’t get around to doing is actually preparing for the world of work when they finish their degree.

You work incredibly hard in your final year to ensure you get the classification you want, but then suddenly you’re in the position where you need to start applying for jobs, graduate schemes or training schemes. As important as it is to perfect your final year’s uni work, it is just as important to start doing your industry research and preparation early, which is why your online profile is the first place to start.

Last year I was asked to give a talk to students at Leeds Trinity University as part of their Employability and Enterprise Week advising students as they prepare to start their careers. My talk was focused on encouraging students to start using social media professionally to increase their employability and for research purposes in particular.

It surprised me that so many of the students there had not even heard of LinkedIn and didn’t particularly use Twitter, when these are precisely the social tools to showcase your skills and experience to employers online to help secure your first role after graduating.

Starting with the basics, I got the students to start thinking about how they represent themselves online, and to think about what a potential future employer sees when they Google their name. The great thing about social media is that you can control what people see when they search for you online as they are most often the first results that appear in search engines.

Using my own online profile as an example, I ran through the Facebook privacy settings. I choose to keep my Facebook profile private, yet the majority of students still have public profiles, which is inappropriate for many considering the personal content they share on the network.

The key learning I wanted the students to take from the session was to see social media as a way to control their public profile and to think about recruiters who will be see it as it is often the first check they make when looking for potential job candidates.

Some people are generally more private than others, so I recommended using Twitter and LinkedIn at the very least as professional profiles that showcase their work and experience, if not necessarily being on there 24/7. However I did emphasise the importance of using these networks to research potential roles/companies to keep up to date with opportunities and industry trends.

The place people go to really find out what a person or organisation is like is their social media. Your social media profiles and activity showcases your personality and expertise, start using it now to make connections and join in topics of conversation and develop your voice in your industry of interest.

You can see my presentation for employability week below. I hope you take some tips from it if you’re currently looking for a job or will be very soon. Please feel free to comment below if you have any questions or advice to share.

Remote working with social collaboration tools – Can it work for you?

Remote working

In my time at Reach Further we had a flexible working arrangement for different employees that for many involved working remotely. The nature of our social media business meant that being physically in the same office was just not necessary for team members to carry out their roles. We owed that privilege to the development of online technology that not only enhanced what we did in our online work, but became an integral part of our team and client management.

I’m not just talking about remote email access and having Skype sessions. Using online collaboration platforms like Podio and Basecamp meant that we could manage our projects, all client work, our time and most importantly actually encourage collaboration across the team.

Having a central point for communication and collaboration encouraged us practice what we preach and maximise the valuable time we have by increasing opportunities for access. In addition to other valuable tools such as Dropbox (file storage), Freeagent (online accounting software) and Google+ Hangouts (Video conferencing) we could become a fully functioning remote team of workers that didn’t need to be in the same office space.

That meant that when the bad weather hit last winter, nothing needed to change in our working day. It proved to be a way of working that suited all employees, particularly those with young children, older parents and those that faced a long commute to the office.

But what about the effects on the team of not working together? There are clear benefits to remote working, from however there are considerable drawbacks that need to be accounted for in a particular type of team. It can be argued that without physically being in the same location to complete work, the team camaraderie and understandings can not always be maintained throughout. Also there are issues that may arise, including trust and experience levels, but also the actual measurement of work by managers may need to evaluated.

As with most types of working situations, there are benefits as well as drawbacks. In our team it really worked, partly due to the fact the tools we used were our bread and butter and only enhanced our learning. In my presentation below I outline the benefits and drawbacks of remote working and help you see if it could work effectively in your team. Take a look and let me know what you think.

What to consider before taking the plunge into social media

Social mediaThe majority of social media first timers often try out a particular platform before really knowing what they want to actually use it for or understand the best way to use the network to achieve their goals.  There is a certain amount of testing and playing that people do with social networks to further their understanding which is often necessary, but some of that testing can be much more guided by taking some initial steps to stop you wasting time.

It is important to remember that testing out social platforms means a lot of your activity is likely to be public. You need to set up your profile that represents you effectively online so that you will be seen to know what you’re doing on your chosen networks to be taken seriously and be ready to go.

Here are my Top 6 things you need to consider before you take the plunge and dive headfirst into social media. Whether you’re thinking about what will be in your first tweet, your first status update on LinkedIn, your first post on your Facebook page or your first image share on Instagram.

1. Listen first

Before you start working out what you’re going to tweet or post about, do some research to see what users are already in your space online. Search the public platforms where possible to gauge the topics of conversation before working out what perspectives and expertise you can bring to the conversation.

How will your own online persona fit? Is your ideal audience on the platforms you want to use? You need to build your reputation online, no matter what your offline reputation is. Social media is like a spotlight on your personality (professional or otherwise) so you need to find the influencers in your chosen field and where they are online. Listening before broadcasting is always advised!

2. Set objectives

Decide what you actually want to use social media for by setting some objectives, either short or long term. You may not know exactly what they are to begin with as your knowledge of how it can benefit is yet to develop. However it is very easy to become distracted with social media and forget what you really want to achieve by using it.

The objectives may not be very specific, simply raising the profile of your business or improving the visibility of your brand can be useful to begin with. You then need to ensure that your activity on social media has the end goals in mind, it can be very easy to waste precious time on social media, you can ensure you maximise your efforts by referring back to your objectives.

3. Make early strategic decisions

The number of different social networks can make it difficult to know where to begin. You need to decide which platforms will be most beneficial to you and your business to determine which are most worth the majority of your social media efforts. Deciding what audiences you want to reach with the key messages you want to get across is the best start.

If your company is based on visuals, for example in the design or beauty industry, you may decide photo-based social networks Instagram and Pinterest are worth spending most of your time online. But if you’re trying to reach business professionals, LinkedIn is your best platform to use. You can’t have huge levels of activity on all social platforms without a dedicated social media team, so focusing your efforts on the networks the influencers in your industry are active in and the audience you’re trying to reach is the best use of your time online which you can then more easily start measuring your time and ROI!

4. Decide how public or private you want to be

You need to be real and open. Social media is about conversations, sharing and making connections, you need to show a little personality to engage. This doesn’t mean you need to tell everyone what you’re having for breakfast or what play your child is performing in at school, but you need to express opinion in your content and build your unique identity.

You don’t want to become a mere conduit of other people’s online content without adding your own viewpoint. This doesn’t mean your presence can’t be entirely professional, but letting people know what you’re doing (where relevant) and what your opinions are on issues in your profession mean people are more likely to take notice of your content.

5. Decide what your key messages are

Decide what you want people to take from  your presence and content on social media. Do you want them to see you are experienced in your field, understand what your key services are or just that you’re a friendly team willing to help? Decide what you can offer, and how you can be helpful to people online.

6.  Understand the risks

Remember social media is a form of publishing, your posts are there forever! You need to make sure you are competent in using your social networks of choice and your posts reflect your professional presence. You are exposed online and need to be aware that your updates can be picked up on and shared by others instantly, so it is imperative that you ensure you’re comfortable with the exposure you have on social media, and decide on how much or little you share.

By taking these into consideration you can avoid wasting some time and becoming distracted by the shininess of the social media world! You need to work out how much time you can spend, how you’re going to measure your time and how to measure your ROI. But without taking too much fun out of social media, it is highly enjoyable, just make sure you come back to the reasons you’re on there!

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