How to be a social media whizz and boost your business

By - Tuesday 1st July, 2014

New contributor Kirsty MacLennan notes how the success of events such as the Purley Festival has been reliant on social media – and how it can help your business

The popularity of the Purley Festival owes much to social media.
Photo author’s own.

“Tweeting is just for celebrities, isn’t it?” asked the curious lady serving tea at the Christ Church cafe in Purley. I’d just emerged from a whirlwind social media workshop by marketing agency Dot Social. “Well, actually..,” I replied, and before I knew it, I was espousing the benefits of Twitter, encouraging her to tweet about the cosy café.

The Dot Social team – Stephanie Darkes, Wendy Ager and Ania Wilk-Lawton – showed the group of business owners the power of online marketing and the benefits of retweets, followers, likes and repins. Not everyone put their hand up when asked if we used Twitter, but Dot Social won converts within the hour.

“It was a great turnout for our first event since becoming partners at Dot Social,” said Wendy. “There was a good mixture of business owners all aware of the potential of social media as a marketing tool, wanting to learn more about how they can use it to develop online networking.”

A prime success story is the Purley Festival which was started by Fiona Lipscombe and Ian Harris after a conversation in a pub. Three years ago, a few hundred people attended the first festival event on the Rotary Field in Purley. Most of the Festival team, including Wendy and Stephanie, joined through Twitter and the majority of the marketing is done via social media. With lots of promotion on Twitter and Facebook, the festival grew. “Last year, we had 7,000 visitors just on the weekend!” said Stephanie.

Successful social media is all about passion. What is that special thing that you’ve got to show off?

At the end of the workshop, we all wrote down on a Post-It the three top actions on our social media to-do list. What would yours be? Here are some of Dot Social’s pointers for a top strategy:

  • Know your audience. Who are they? Where are they? ‘If your market is worldwide and you are tweeting from nine to five, you’re ‘losing half your people already’, says Stephanie. ‘What platform do they live on?’
  • What do you want from your audience? Feedback, sales, networking? This will point to what you need to share when you post and tweet.
  • Work out which social media platforms are best for your business. Pick three or four; don’t spread yourself too thinly. For example, Pinterest is very visual so is ideal for promoting art and fashion. Facebook is suited to promoting events. LinkedIn is for networking and recruitment – you can find someone’s Twitter username via their LinkedIn account. Why not set up a YouTube channel and include small clips of yourself – creating your product, at a stand at a fair, or giving tips. ‘You don’t have to be mega professional,’ says Wendy.
  • Take a look at how your competitors are faring online. See what platforms are working for them and pick the good bits.
  • What are you talking about? Content is the information that your business will share. Plan your content on a calendar. For example, if you had a stall at Purley Festival, you’d promote it on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday, two weeks beforehand.
  • What makes you special? Successful social media is all about passion. What is that special thing that you’ve got to show off?
  • Most importantly, after all this effort, you need to monitor the responses via Hootsuite, TweetDeck, Gremlin, HubSpot and/or Google Analytics. ‘Social media is evolving all the time,’ said Stephanie. ‘You need to keep up with what’s happening. Follow Social Media Examiner and the Dot Social blog – and adapt your strategy accordingly.’

You can get a real boost by following high-profile tweeters such as Jacqueline Gold, chief executive of Ann Summers and Knickerbox

Finally, don’t give up! “Until you have a certain number of Facebook followers, you won’t get likes. You have to keep plugging away at it,” advised Wendy.

And from Stephanie: “You will learn to love Twitter.  It feels like you’re running forever, then you get over the hump and you’re in free fall, and it’s brilliant.”

For information on upcoming social media courses, visit

Photo author’s own.


  • You can get a real boost by following high-profile tweeters such as Jacqueline Gold, chief executive of Ann Summers and Knickerbox, who runs Women on Wednesday (#WOW). Each week, she picks three businesses from the #WOW entries and retweets them to her 40,000+ followers.
  • Google+ is good for SEO (search engine optimisation). If you’re using Hootsuite you can post into Twitter and Google+ simultaneously.
  • Link everything up! Each platform you use should have links to your other social media accounts, so people can choose what suits them best. ‘If you’re everywhere, share it everywhere,’ says Wendy. ‘Keep posting.’
  • Twitter is for everybody. It isn’t scary; it can be fun. Dog-walking businesses have Twitter accounts for their clients’ dogs and the tweets enthuse about their latest meet-up with their doggie friends.
  • Twitter isn’t a ‘closed platform’, like Facebook; it’s public. But you have to be careful.  You’ll experience a dose of schadenfreude if you do a Google search for ‘Twitter fails’.
  • Remember the lurkers. There are many people ‘lurking’ on social media. They aren’t active – they’re not busy sharing or liking – but they are all contacts. “You don’t know where people are going to come from. You can measure marketing but it’s difficult to see what exactly is working for you,” says Wendy.
Kirsty MacLennan

Kirsty MacLennan

Having worked in magazine publishing for over 20 years, Kirsty set her sights on the tech world and now writes content for websites and marketing agencies. Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, she appreciates the cosmopolitan, culturally diverse nature of Croydon. She keeps a mental list of entrepreneurs, actors, artists and other leading lights who turn out to have come from this borough. (One is Annie Sloan, who attended Croydon Art School and invented Chalk Paint, used by upcyclers across the world.) Kirsty is also an avid designer-maker and has launched her own craft brand, Three Words.

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