I don’t care about my name as much as I care about my ideas. I could do something completely wrong, and people could hate it, but then someone else could see it and do it completely right. And it’s a push forward for civilization.
As a part of my Marketing Strategy Series, I’m talking with my fellow marketing pros at the top of their game to give entrepreneurs and marketers an inside look at proven strategies you might also be able to leverage to grow your business. Today I had the pleasure of talking with James Frewin.
James is a British Designer and Marketer based in London who specializes in Social Media Strategy and Content Creation for Startups, Brands, Artists, and Influencers with a heavily design-focused approach. He is also a Venture Scout at seed-stage investment fund Backed VC, Google for Startups Ambassador, and guest lecturer at King’s College London.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting and what lesson you learned from that?
I’m not sure how much of a mistake it was but it was definitely pretty funny. When I was in my second year of University and first really starting to become interested in Marketing, I was working as a Brand Ambassador for a US Social Media App — Yik Yak. Part of the role was to build brand awareness through community growth. The core feature of Yik Yak was that it was an anonymous social network and so in order to make it look like ‘the place to be’ I would post tens or hundreds of times per day initially to make it look more popular than it was. I would ask questions, then reply to my own questions with answers, then I would disagree with my own reply in another comment and disagree with that reply in another comment until there were these whole giant threads of conversations.
As word started getting out about the app and more people were signing up they would see a whole active community but certainly for the first month or so it was pretty much just me talking to myself! It worked thankfully as the community grew to well over 10,000 people in just a few months which meant I could relax!
I think a lesson I learned from that is that — especially with marketplaces or communities — where there is often a chicken and egg problem where people don’t want to use it if there’s no content there, but if there’s nothing there people won’t join in to post things. Sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves and do the boring jobs yourself and if the product or service is good enough within its own right — once you get it started hopefully it’ll take off by itself.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
I think the best one is to join communities where you can bounce ideas around with other people and share both successes and failures authentically to help each other learn. I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in communities like Backed VC, YSYS, and Google for Startups where I’ve been surrounded by people that not only motivate me but also know when I’m getting burnt out and can remind me to take a break.
I also try to make time to travel, take photos outside, and generally do non-tech, non-marketing things occasionally to give me time to think and come back more energized.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. As you know Google and other search engines constantly update their search algorithms. Today, do you believe that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is still an important part of any long-term marketing plan? Can you explain why?
I definitely think it’s important, and one of the reasons why I stress the point of having a blog to my clients. In fact — in my ‘How to 10X Your Startup Social Media Growth’ workshop I have a whole section on “Rapid-Fire Content Creation” where participants come up with tens or hundreds of blog post and video article ideas along with a distribution strategy, perfectly formatted to maximize the benefits from SEO.
The main problem I think is that — especially in the ‘startup world’ there might be a hundred fires to put out at any one time and often the things that you may not see the benefits of for months or years get shelved for things that will have an immediate benefit. That’s not a criticism either it’s just the nature of the business sometimes.
Can you share some basic Search Engine Optimization tips you have for less experienced marketers?
Absolutely, I think a really good one is to always be thinking about how you can give as much information and context about whatever you’re creating as possible. Making sure to use properly named images (instead of just image001.jpeg for example) and Alt-Text, proper metadata, good titles for videos or articles, etc. Making sure that you’re creating a good foundation for your content is something that I’d definitely recommend.
Another one with more of a focus on Twitter and Instagram is that often people will use the same ‘Profile Name’ and ‘username’ on their account, for example, my handle on Instagram is @jamesfrewin and I could set my profile name as ‘James Frewin’. The problem with this is that it’s essentially redundant as it’s the same information in two places. By keeping my handle as my actual name but changing my profile name to “Social Media Strategy + Content Creation” means that if people search for any of those keywords in the search box I’ll show up in those results as well.
This is a good one for both individual people or businesses and the same applies to profile bio’s as well.
What “3 Non-Intuitive Marketing Strategies” have been most effective for you in your industry?
It’s definitely more popular and therefore prioritized now than it was even just a few years ago but I still think a lot of companies — especially older companies underestimate the power of design in their marketing strategy. The ability to put out content that is eye-catching, captivating and thought-provoking as well as effective from a purely marketing point-of-view is an amazing skill to have and so I’m pushing a lot of young marketers that I work with to start learning design with a view to applying it to their work. Now that the barrier-to-entry for so many business types has been lowered and it’s much easier for people to start businesses — one place where you really can stand out is through your Design and Brand and I still think a lot of companies are leaving opportunities on the table by not investing fully into Design.
For better or worse, whole businesses have been built off of meme marketing *cough* Fyre Fest *cough* but having someone who can easily tap into the always changing meme culture, hop on a trend at the right time and put out content that still feels authentic and not too “try-hard” is difficult and I think can only be accomplished by hiring people embedded in that culture who really live and breathe it. Still definitely underused but there are some good case studies like the recent “Mike Bloomberg Meme Account Sponsorships” showing how you should (or shouldn’t) do it.
I’m a big fan of building communities around your business to engage with authentically and bring value to rather than treating your audience as just anonymous cash-bags for you to keep harvesting money from. Companies that build an engaged community have great opportunities from a marketing perspective to increase the lifetime value of their customers,
If you were only allowed to run paid ads on 1 platform (in your industry) over the next 12 months, what would it be and why?
For me, I think I’d have to say TikTok. I think Ads on TikTok are still super underpriced right now and a great opportunity, especially if you’re targeting people within the 16–24 age bracket. Additionally — for companies who maybe aren’t targeting people in that age range, I’m advising them to think about creating content not just for the people who see it (the people on TikTok) but for the people that those people know — so their brothers, sisters, parents, teachers, managers, and coworkers, etc as a huge opportunity to market to those people through a “warm recommendation”.
If you can cheaply market to Gen-Z using TikTok, and through these sponsored ads they become aware of your product or service, and you can remain top-of-mind for them within your business area. All you’re waiting on is for someone they know to mention that they’re looking for “a good company that does ______” and if you’re the first company they think of because you’re who they’ve been seeing on their TikTok ‘For You’ page regularly for the last three months, if they recommend you to that person there’s a pretty high chance they’re going to look you up.
One more question: If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Wow that’s a big question… I think I’d probably say something around Diversity within Tech as it’s an issue I’m really passionate about improving and something which YSYS are doing a great job with. Alongside that, I’ve been trying to find ways to teach UI/App Design and Social Media Marketing to students in South America remotely and then connect them with jobs at Tech Startups in the UK and US where the exchange rate means that the money they earn can be really life-changing. I’m super passionate about both of these things so probably those!
Thank you so much for sharing these fantastic insights!