Author Archives: Mark Poles

About Mark Poles

Chartered Accountant, Google Qualified Advertising Professional, Google Analytics Qualified Individual, creator of "You're Hired!".

What Charities Need to Learn From #icebucketchallenge

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When I first saw the whole #icebucketchallenge thing (seems months ago now…), my first reaction was “Great piece of marketing by a relatively small charity”.

Except that it wasn’t someone working for either charity – either the ALS Association in the US or the Motor Neurone Disease Association in the UK – who thought it up. Turns out that it was a golfer, Chris Kennedy, who first chucked a bucket of cold water over his head to raise money for ALS on 15th July. His cousin Jeanette’s husband was a sufferer. The idea was picked up by another sufferer, Pete Frates, a former baseball player at Boston College who posted about it on Twitter, and well, you pretty much know the rest.

Basically, the ALS Association and the Motor Neurone Disease Association just got lucky. Two fairly small charities got a massive donations boost and an even bigger awareness boost.

But then one of the big boys started to muscle in on the ice bucket action. Having been used to seeing a constant stream of ice bucket challenges in my Facebook feed all featuring about-to-be-cold-and-wet people dutifully telling people to donate to the cause, I started to see some telling people to donate to a completely different cause. There were a few different causes, but by far the most common was Macmillan Cancer Support.

How did Macmillan do this? Well, Macmillan is a huge charity with a lot of followers and dedicated fundraisers. They score highly for awareness because of a series of high profile campaigns in television and other media, and because everyone knows someone affected by cancer. So, without really trying, some people would have ended up doing the Ice Bucket Challenge and donating to Macmillan rather than the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

However, they also used Google AdWords very effectively.

Here’s a search I just ran for “#icebucketchallenge”:


Those two top search results are Google AdWords adverts. Paid ads. And Macmillan got the top one, ahead of the MND Association. Nobody else was able to get their ad on the first page, although if you click through to the second page, you’ll see those two ads plus an ad for something called “The World Ape Fund” in third place.

What you may not know is that Google gives charities a lot of AdWords advertising completely free of charge. Subject to eligibility requirements, your English or Welsh registered charity can get $120,000 of free advertising a year. And this applies to small charities just as much as big ones. For a small charity, that can easily provide the majority of web traffic.

So how did Macmillan get above the MND Association in those search pages? And for that matter, how come the World Ape Fund only got onto page 2?

Let’s deal with The World Ape Fund first. It’s a very small organisation (one director). It’s a very new organisation (it was incorporated in September of 2013). It’s not well-known (80 likes on Facebook). And the website that the ad links to has nothing whatsoever to do with the Ice Bucket Challenge. It’s likely to get a low Quality Score for the keyword “#icebucketchallenge” because Google (correctly as it happens) determines that the page isn’t what people are looking for.

By contrast, both the Macmillan and MNDA ads direct you to pages that are all about the challenge, with videos of people doing it and details of how to donate. Both will score highly for relevancy. Most importantly, people who search for “#icebucketchallenge” will probably click on one or both ads – so the all-important clickthrough rate will be high (unlike the page from our simian friends).

So why does Macmillan always seem to come first, ahead of the Motor Neurone Disease Association?

Well, I’m going to make an educated guess here. One of the restrictions of Google’s Ad Grants programme for charities is that the most a charity can ‘bid’ for a click is $2. It’s a fictional $2 since the charity doesn’t actually have to pay it, but this stops charities from competing too hard against paying advertisers. Charities are still allowed to pay for AdWords in the usual way if they want to. Could be, that is what is giving Macmillan the edge.

It may make financial sense for Macmillan to spend some money (even at $3 a click) so that they come out on top of the search results. After all, the donation for the Ice Bucket Challenge is usually at least £10. If you were Macmillan’s marketing director, deciding where to spend your money, doesn’t that sound like a good way to invest? Probably a relatively small amount, compared to, say a television ad campaign.

In the US, the ALS Association didn’t like other charities getting a piece of ‘their’ action, so despite the fact that they didn’t invent it, they announced that they were trying to trademark ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’. Bad move. This caused a social media storm of overwhelmingly negative publicity and they backed away from the idea. (Think “all publicity is good publicity”? Not if you’re a charity.)

So, to return to the title of this article, what is it that charities need to learn from the Ice Bucket Challenge?

  1. Look after your volunteers, fundraisers and donors.
    The next great viral fundraising activity to follow #icebucketchallenge and #nomakeupselfie will almost certainly be started by someone who isn’t a paid employee of any charity. There are many more volunteers, fundraisers and donors out there than paid staff. You’d like that person to be someone who thinks of your charity as his or her charity.
  2. If you’re eligible, make use of Google’s generosity and get a Google Ad Grant. (we could help you make the best of it…) It’s free advertising – $120,000 is a LOT of free advertising when it’s used in a structured, targeted way.
  3. Never expect to ‘own’ or even ‘control’ a social media campaign. Once it’s out there and viral, just ride it and hope. Just because your charity was the first to benefit from someone’s silly idea, don’t expect that your charity will always be the only one to benefit.
  4. Move fast. Any charity could have done what Macmillan did and jumped on the bandwagon. Macmillan did, and raised £3million from #icebucketchallenge. Others didn’t. Social media crazes like this are over very quickly. #icebucketchallenge peaked on the 22nd August. If it takes your charity several days to get a new webpage added to the website, and a new AdWords ad written, you’re too slow.

Social Media Marketing: Part 2 – Which Networks Are Right For My Business?

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In Part 1, I showed you how social media marketing wasn’t necessarily the right thing for your business. I used four principles (and it’s important you understand these):

  1. Know Thyself – Are you the sort of person who loves using social media already, and is constantly tweeting and posting facebook status updates? Or do you have neither the time nor the inclination?
  2. Know the Value of Your Time – Contrary to popular belief, social media marketing isn’t free. Why not? Because it costs you time – time that you could be spending on more useful activities.
  3. Know Your Customers – What sort of people do you actually sell to?
  4. Know How Your Customers Feel About Your Business – Jimmy Choo has ten times as many facebook likes as Clark’s. And almost nobody ‘likes’ mastic asphalt.

I’m now going to add a fifth, equally important principle:

Principle Five: Know What You Want To Get Out Of Social Media Marketing – Increased brand awareness? Direct sales from your website? Engagement with your customers and other audiences?

Only once you understand these five principles are you ready to take the next step and decide which social networks to market on. Let’s consider the contenders.


indexPros: It’s huge. Everyone seems to be on Facebook. It’s casual and friendly. It’s very visual. It’s very easy to spend small amounts of money to promote your posts and your page, and to target that promotion at people with the right demographic fit, in the right location and with the right interests.

Cons: People go on Facebook to escape work and business, so it’s a better fit for businesses who sell fun stuff to consumers rather than dull stuff to other businesses. Being very visual means you have to put more effort into making your posts look good. It’s a better fit for some demographics (e.g. women in their 30s) than it is for others (e.g. embarrassed teenage children of those same women in their 30s; teenagers are slowly moving away from Facebook as the social network of choice). Without paying to promote them, your posts probably won’t get noticed by most people because every Facebook user’s feed is full of stuff their actual friends do.


twitterPros: It’s huge. Not Facebook huge, but still pretty big. It’s easy to get new followers. (Hint: Find someone else in your industry, then try following the people who follow them.) Posts (‘tweets’) can only be 140 characters, so shouldn’t take too much time to write. Tweet something interesting (or fun) and your followers may retweet it. You can also post images.

Cons: Needs more involved management. Think of Twitter as a communication tool, not a billboard. People will reply to your tweets, and it would be rude not to respond quickly. Do you want to be rude to current or potential customers? Thought not. 140 characters can be annoyingly short. Getting images right can be fiddly if you want them to display automatically. (Hint: Try uploading images that are exactly 1000 pixels on their largest dimension.)


youtubePros: Huge, but often overlooked by smaller businesses. Creating interesting video isn’t as difficult as many think it is. Video is a great way to engage with your customers and potential customers. Show people how to use your products. Find popular YouTube users who post review videos of products like yours and send them samples. It’s easy to embed YouTube videos on your own website.

Cons: The chances are that your video won’t ‘go viral’. You may have to spend a little money to promote your videos (although it is easy to target with YouTube advertising).


linkedinPros: It’s all about professionals. The people on Linkedin are professional people and this is the social network they go to to discuss professional matters. It’s easy to show people that you are an expert in your field if you contribute to a Linkedin group about that subject.

Cons: It’s not fun, it’s not exciting and it won’t be a fit for businesses who sell fun and exciting things to fun and exciting people. There are plenty of fun and exciting people on Linkedin, but while they’re on Linkedin, they’re doing dull stuff. (Or looking for a job.)

Google +

google+Pros: Your posts can also show up in Google search results, especially to people who follow you on Google + or who follow someone who +1ed your post. It’s a very flexible platform with all sorts of exciting features like dividing your followers into distinct ‘circles’ so you show some content to one circle and other content to others.

Cons: It’s never been as successful as Google would have liked, and next to Facebook, it’s tiny. It sometimes feels that everyone you meet on Google + is an online marketing consultant.


pinterestPros: Very visual medium, so perfect for companies that sell objects to consumers, especially objects that are themselves very visual. Anything fashion-ey or design-ey should be on Pinterest.

Cons: Does not attract all demographics (note that 80% of users are female). Recent content will show up more than popular content – so it’s important to keep posting new images.


instagramPros: Another very visual medium (images and very short videos). Fast-growing network, especially among younger, trendier smartphone-using types. Instagram users are devoted to the network.

Cons: Unless you’re selling to that demographic, it’s hard to get people’s attention.


mumsnetPros: The social networks that everyone overlooks. If there is an online forum where people go to discuss an activity that you sell a product for, make yourself known.

Cons: Many forums don’t like explicit selling. In fact, even if you are scrupulously polite, expect to encounter the occasional idiot who thinks that advertising is evil and that everything on the internet should be free. Instead, you should be there to help people. People who respect you because you give sound, unbiased advice are people who will buy from you and recommend your advice – and your business.


You’re Hired!

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Eight years ago, I had an idea while watching BBC’s ‘The Apprentice’ – “Wouldn’t it be fun if we could run a competition like this for local sixth form students?” The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Schools are brilliant at identifying academic talent, or sporting talent, or musical talent or even acting talent. But they’re not so good at identifying the sort of skills that employers often value more – initiative, problem-solving, leadership, team work and all those ‘soft’ skills.

With the help of the Tamar Education Business Partnership and several local employers ranging from small firms to big multinationals, ‘You’re Hired!’ was born. We’ve just had the seventh city-wide final, and it was a huge success.

Now, most year 12 students in Plymouth take part in the competition. Each school holds a one-day heat run by two employers, with the best participants going through to the city final in the summer. The final is spread over two days – two very intense days – and sets the students very difficult business tasks.

The 2014 final saw teams plan for various aspects of a new theme park on the outskirts of Plymouth – transport links, marketing strategy, merchandising design,  IT infrastructure, construction etc. As you might expect, Clare Associates led the marketing side of the challenge. As well as an overall individual winner (who claims the title of “Plymouth’s Most Employable 17-year-old” and runners-up, and a best team prize, each employer gets to award their own prize specific to what they would want in an employee.


It’s a fantastic competition- hugely enjoyed by all the finalists, even if we work them really hard. If you’re a local employer in the Plymouth area, you should get involved. Some of the employers who help to run You’re Hired! do so because they want to put something back into the local community. Others do so because they see it as a good way to recruit.

To find out more, why not have a look at the You’re Hired! website?  Incidentally, we didn’t produce the You’re Hired! website – it was produced by a former finalist by the name of Sam Duffield. Sam won the ‘Best Future Rail Engineer’ title a couple of years ago. The sponsors of that competition, Atkins, were so impressed with Sam that they gave him a job – not the first time this has happened to a You’re Hired! finalist.



I get to present the prize for ‘Plymouth’s Best Future Digital Marketer’. This year I couldn’t decide between two equally worthy winners, each with somewhat different skillsets, so I decided to make them both joint winners. Here they are – Francesca Jacks from Community College and Gemma Kerr from Plymouth High School for Girls.



And since it was me who came up with the idea, I also get to announce the overall winner. So here she is, Amy Leverson from Hele’s School (together with 2011 winner Stephanie Wearne):


Clare Associates one of the first southwest agencies to gain new Google Video Advertising Advanced Certification

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Google recently introduced an extension to its Google Partners programme for online marketing agencies – Video Advertising. Clare Associates has been a Google Partner since the introduction of the programme and is now one of the first agencies in the southwest to gain the advanced Video Advertising certification.

The certification covers YouTube and Google Display Network video advertising, including video ad production, targeting and reporting.

If you’d like to talk to us about how video advertising could help your business, give us a call.


New responsive ecommerce site for ‘The Shop on the Borderlands’

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The Shop on the Borderlands is a brand new website, developed by Clare Associates, selling secondhand, classic and out-of-print roleplaying games* online.


We produced the site using the WordPress content management system and the WooCommerce ecommerce plugin from WooThemes. That’s a very powerful combination for an ecommerce site and also a very well-supported one. Crucially for the business owner, both WordPress and the WooCommerce plugin are very easy to maintain. Once the shop is built, you won’t need to be an expert web developer to keep your stock up to date and handle orders.

We built this site from the ground up with one key objective – we want to make it as easy as possible for visitors to the site to find what they want to and then to buy it. With several hundred different products in stock, that first point – making it easy to find what you’re looking for – is vital.

We decided early on that since this was first and foremost a shop, the home page of the website should simply be the shop page rather than an introduction to the business. We have a simple one line explanation at the top of the page (“Welcome to the UK’s best selection of second hand and out-of-print role-playing games. Wish you’d bought that boxed set, adventure or supplement that you saw in a tiny games shop in 1985 and never found again? Well, now you can.”) and a link at the bottom of the page to “About The Shop on the Borderlands”. Apart from that, what most visitors will see when they first arrive is different categories of product, arranged both as a simple list on the left of the page and as a grid of images in the centre.



The entire site – but especially this page – has been designed to be responsive, and works just as well at different resolutions and screen shapes, for example on smartphones.

Because of the shape of smartphones and their touchscreens, people are more likely to scroll down a long page than they would be on a laptop. So on a smartphone, the Shop on the Borderlands site is tall and thin and scrollable, and this is achieved without having to have a separate mobile site. (Separate mobile sites cost more to maintain, don’t perform as well in search engine rankings and make it awkward to share links with users who aren’t using mobile devices.)





The shop’s customers will mostly be enthusiasts who know what these categories mean, so we make it very easy for someone who plays ‘Call of Cthulhu’ to click through to a list of all the Call of Cthulhu products on sale.


Clicking on any of the products takes you to the detailed entry for that product complete with one or more images and more details about the item and its condition.


WooCommerce makes stock control easy. Items that are sold out can be set to show as ‘out of stock’ or hidden until new stock arrives, according to the wishes of the business owner.

Because the site was developed using WordPress – a content management system famous for its ease of use – editing individual pages is very easy for the business owner. If you can edit a Word document, you can edit a WordPress webpage. With this site, the business owner was able to do much of the site development himself – entering product details, uploading product images, writing the text on the FAQ page etc. If you hire a web developer to build you a website and you’re looking to keep costs down, this can be very effective. (Of course if you’re just starting up a new business, you might be short on both cash and time…)


A couple of other things you’ll have to think about if you’re starting a new ecommerce business, or if you’re taking your existing business online for the first time: shipping and payment.

First of all, what will you charge for shipping? Will you charge different rates for different products (heavier ones for example)? Will you ship overseas? If so, which countries? And what will your rates be to those? if you’ve never sold online before and if you’ve never exported before, those are difficult questions to answer. You will need to research this properly. You should also talk to your web developer – the more complicated the shipping costs setup, the more work there is for the developer in setting this up. Also, even using something like WooCommerce, you may have to purchase extra plugins to handle the particular distinctions in shipping costs that you want.

The Shop on the Borderlands ships worldwide. They offer free shipping to UK orders of £20 or more, with a flat rate of £2.50 below that amount. European shipping is charged at a flat rate of £12. Shipping to the rest of the world costs £15 plus £5 per item (reflecting the extra costs of worldwide shipping).

Secondly, how will you take payment online? Online shoppers will expect to pay by debit or credit card. Depending on the sort of customers you have, they may want to pay by PayPal too. To take payments online, you need a payment gateway. There are dozens of different payment gateways out there that can integrate with WooCommerce. You will need to research which one is right for you. They each charge you different amounts for each transaction. Some have a monthly fee, some don’t. We will be able to advise which is right for your business. As a rule though, avoid ones where your site handles card data. You want all of the card data handling to be done by big businesses who spend lots of money on IT security, even if it means that the customer leaves your website for a moment to enter their card details.

For The Shop on the Borderlands, we recommended PayPal Standard as the payment gateway as it offered the best combination of low fees and the ability to pay by PayPal, something which would be important for many of the shop’s customers.


One final thing that we did for The Shop on the Borderlands was to design a logo for them. The owner had a vague idea in his mind of what sort of theme he was going for – something inspired by the covers of  late 70s / early 80s Dungeons & Dragons books – but not much else. So we were able to design an original logo with a similar typeface, the ‘S’ turned into a dragon, and a horned helmet at a jaunty angle perched on the ‘B’. Oh, and as a final little gimmick, the image at the top of the page changes ever so slightly every time!


* Games like Dungeons & Dragons that you play with like-minded individuals and funny-shaped dice.

Tiny changes to your website can make a big difference to your AdWords campaigns and how likely people are to buy from you!

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K9 Meals on Wheels is one of our smaller, local clients. They came to us following a chance meeting at a local business networking group – which demonstrates why old-fashioned face-to-face networking still has a place in our modern world… They told us they had a website but not an online shop. The business sold one particular premium dog food brand – ‘Simpsons Premium’ – via local delivery in the Plymouth / Saltash / Liskeard area.


K9 came to us to ask if we could turn their basic website into an online shop so that they could take orders online and deliver nationwide, even though they didn’t have the budget for a whole new website. We were able to do that. Their site was built using the WordPress content management system, and so we used the popular WooCommerce plugin to add the shop.

Of course things aren’t as simple as clicking on a button marked  “Install plugin”. (If they were, there would be no need for web developers…)

Creating a good web shop (one that makes things easy for people to spend their money) involves a lot of decisions on the part of the business owner. How should products be categorised? What payment gateway should we use? (Hint: unless you’re a big business that can afford to pay serious money to information risk consultants, you don’t want to use one where card details are ever handled by your site – let the banks and the gateways handle that.) How much should we charge for shipping? Free above a certain amount? By weight? Are we going to sell overseas? How about the Channel Islands?

Just thinking about those kinds of issue is a big step up for a small business that has previously only sold by personal delivery in the local area.

And then there’s the inevitable bug fixing. Why do those thumbnail images look blurry? Why isn’t this particular puppy food showing on the puppy food page?

Anyway, to cut a long story short, we were able to help with all of those things and convert a simple WordPress website into a proper online shop for less than a whole new website would have cost.


Clearly the best online shop in the world isn’t much good if nobody knows it is there except for your existing customers. Certainly people search for ‘Simpsons dog food’ etc, but Simpsons is sold by Simpsons itself, major pet food suppliers like PetPlanet and Zooplus and various sellers on Amazon and eBay. Those are all bigger companies than K9 and they also have more of a history. Getting on the first page of search results using organic search engine optimisation would be difficult.

However, a very targeted Google AdWords campaign could well pay dividends. Our client’s budget isn’t big enough to advertise on very broad search terms like ‘dog food’ – most of the people searching for ‘dog food’ will end up buying something other than Simpsons, so it’s just not worth paying Google for them to click on a K9 ad. However, someone searching for ‘Simpsons dog food’ or ‘simpsons premium dog food’ probably wants to buy Simpsons Premium dog food. And that’s all that K9 sells.

So what happens now if you search for ‘simpsons dog food’ on Google? Well there’s a very good chance that right at the top of the search results, you’ll see the ad for K9 Meals on Wheels – ahead of all the larger companies. This shows how AdWords is a great way for a small company to level the playing field with big advertisers by really concentrating on one niche.


That isn’t quite the end of the story though…

We noticed that the AdWords campaign was performing very well in terms of things like click-through rate and lots of other statistics that we PPC consultants tend to obsess about. However, the percentage of clicks converting into actual sales was lower than I would expect. What is more, a surprising number of them seemed to be from the local area. Why would this be?

This is when Google Analytics helps. It showed a surprisingly high bounce rate. That is the percentage of visitors to a website that see the first page then leave without clicking anything else. We could see that the sort of search terms people were using were exactly what we wanted – ‘simpsons dog food’ etc. K9’s prices and delivery charges were certainly competitive, and the shop was easy to use. So why were people leaving the site straight away?

And then we saw the obvious mistake.

We’d only added the shop to the existing site and hadn’t considered the text in the header at the top of every page. It still said “Delivering Simpsons Food In Plymouth/Saltash/Liskeard Area”. What does that say to someone from Glasgow or London or Liverpool? It says, to quote ‘The League of Gentlemen’, “This is a local shop for local people. There’s nothing for you here!”

So K9 changed the message. It now says:

“K9 Meals on Wheels – Delivering Simpsons Premium Nationwide

Delivering Simpsons Premium to your front door around the UK with FREE delivery from £32.49”.


Much better, don’t you think? And it has had the desired impact on sales. From a standing start of not selling anything outside of the local area, now more than 70% of K9’s online sales come via Google AdWords advertising. And because people don’t just buy one sack of dog food and never return, each of those sales is probably a long-term customer who will come back again and again.

But it does go to show that tiny changes to your website can make a big difference to your AdWords campaigns.


Social Media Marketing: Part 1 – Time to Jump off the Bandwagon?

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Here’s an interesting graph:

social media marketing google trendsWhat this shows is the astonishing surge in interest in ‘social media marketing’ and ‘facebook marketing’ in the last few years, as measured by the worldwide number of Google searches.

I spend a lot of time talking to business owners about their online marketing. One of the most common statements I hear is “Of course I know I should be doing more on Facebook”. It’s usually said with an apologetic tone – as if they feel the need to apologise to me for not marketing their own business.

The thing is, Facebook marketing isn’t right for every business. Neither is Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin and all the other social media networks you’ve heard of. Just as importantly, it’s not right for every business owner.

In this two-part article, I’m going to show you how best to think about your online marketing, and how big a part social media marketing should play.

The first thing I’d like you to do is think about the kind of social media user you are:

Principle One: Know Thyself

Just a snap, but it could help tell a story about this local cafe

Are you going to be the person in your business who manages the social media presence? For owners of very small businesses, this is almost certainly the case. OK, now be honest – are you the sort of person who loves to constantly post details of your life on Facebook, tweets original thoughts several times a day, is always taking quick photos and sharing them on Instagram? If you aren’t, don’t kid yourself that you’re going to suddenly find the time. After all, you have a business to run or a job to do. There are probably other things you should be doing.

If your business is a little bigger, there are social media and PR consultants out there who will manage your online presence for you. (If you’re interested, let me know – I can recommend a very good one.) Obviously, you’ll have to pay them to do this, but you’ll have to decide for yourself whether that is worth it, which brings me on to…


Principle Two: Know the Value of Your Time

You might think that social media marketing is great because most of it is free. It doesn’t cost you anything to post an update on Facebook or Twitter or whatever. Well, you’re wrong.

It costs you time. It costs you the benefits of whatever you could have been doing instead. Economists call this ‘opportunity cost’ and I blogged about it a while ago on this very site. As business people, you probably have a pretty good instinct for the value of your time, even if you’ve never thought about it that way. So if you don’t feel you “have time” for social media marketing, don’t beat yourself up about it. Either pay someone to do it for you for less than the real opportunity cost of doing it yourself, or find some other way of marketing your business.


Principle Three: Know Your Customers

21st century marketingNow here is the big reason why particular forms of social media marketing might not work for your business. Who do you sell your products to? If you run a B2B business, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you sell to businesses – you sell to people who work for those businesses. Do you know what those people are like? Do you know what they are interested in? Do you know which social media networks they use?

Social Media Today’s most recent report on UK social media use has some interesting statistics and trends. About half the UK population has a Facebook account, but perhaps because it is so mainstream, teenagers are using it less. (The largest Facebook demographic is 25-34 year olds. If you’re selling to people in this age group who are interested in what you have to sell, Facebook can be a good fit.)

So given how popular Facebook is, if I told you that 64% of visits to corporate websites from social media networks come from one particular network, you’d assume that I was referring to Facebook wouldn’t you?

Nope. Twitter then maybe?

Wrong again. Actually 64% of referrals to corporate websites from social media come from Linkedin. Linkedin might only have 10million UK users (Facebook has three times as many), but they’re mostly between 30 and 64, mostly professionals and mostly high earners. Even more importantly, Linkedin is where they come to talk about business, not play Farmville or watch videos of skateboarding kittens.


Principle Four: Know How Your Customers Feel About Your Business

Is the product that you sell one that your customers really identify with on a personal level? Do people ‘buy into’ your brand? Or do the people who buy your product do so without feeling the need to talk about it online?

If your product is the sort of thing that people get excited about and want to talk about and show off to their online friends, then social media marketing – especially networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest may well be a great fit. But if your product is something that people just buy without discussing, then social media marketing just won’t work.

So it’s easier to use social media marketing to sell fancy shoes than it is to sell ordinary shoes. Jimmy Choo has ten times as many Facebook likes as Clarks. Many more people wear Clarks shoes, but they’re just not as invested in the brand as Jimmy Choo’s customers are.

jimmy choo

And if your product isn’t a consumer product, it’ll be even harder for you to use social media as a marketing tool. Let’s say that your company sells various mastic asphalt products. Out of Facebook’s 1.23billion users, precisely one lists ‘mastic asphalt’ as an interest. There are undoubtedly lots of people out there who buy mastic asphalt products – they’re just not interested in them enough to tell Facebook.

mastic asphalt

In part two of this article, I’ll look in more detail at the strengths and weaknesses of the different social network sites and at alternatives to social media marketing. Then I’ll show you how you should decide which is most appropriate for your business.

Tavistock College – ‘Getting the Future You Want’

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For sixteen and seventeen year olds about to make some important life decisions, it is very easy to be distracted by all the advice they receive. Much of that advice will be about which degree they should study or which university they should go to. If they’re lucky, they’ll get advice on what careers they should think about.

However, that isn’t all the advice they need. Crucially, nobody ever seems to ask young people about the sort of life they want to lead. It’s all very well going to the right university and getting a high paying job, but what if the lifestyle that goes with that job is one that you end up hating.

As adults, I’m sure we all know people who have the job they always wanted, but hate their lifestyle. Maybe the hours they work are too long for them to see their family. Maybe they have to work in London and spend four hours a day commuting. Maybe the job didn’t turn out to be everything the glossy brochures and websites said it would be. Maybe university was great, but now that student loan looks like it will never be paid off.

I recently ran a session at Tavistock College that helped year 13 students to think through these issues so that they are better equipped to make the right choices.


“Mark Poles ran a highly stimulating, lively and enlightening session on career choices and how to ‘get the future you want’ for our sixth form students.  He started by considering what you want out of life, not just out of a job, and opened students’ eyes to the full range of life factors to consider in making key decisions about your future.  The session was both engaging and amusing, and thought-provoking and pragmatic.  It was praised by students, many of whom remarked that they would re-think some of their plans in light of the presentation.  Mark then ran a smaller, practical session that gave students an opportunity to role play and discuss the reality of applying and interviewing for jobs, and then working in an office, with the inevitable politics that this involves.  Again, the session was appreciated and praised by students for its engaging usefulness.”

– James O’Connell, Assistant Principal


“It’s Not Just About the Website – Marketing Your Business Online in 2014”

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We’re going to be running an online marketing workshop for Launceston Chamber of Commerce on the evening of Wednesday 5th February. The event is free to Launceston Chamber members and only £10 for non-members.

See below for more details:


Launceston Chamber of Commerce is holding its first networking meeting of 2014 on Wednesday February 5th. Start time 6:30pm for 7:00pm. The venue will be The Business Centre, Dunheved House (The Old Boarding School). Access on Dunheved Road with plenty of parking.

The subject will be:

“It’s Not Just About the Website – Marketing Your Business Online in 2014”

Mark Poles and Victoria Clare from local online marketing consultants and accredited Google Partners Clare Associates ( ) will discuss some practical ideas on how to promote your business online. The seminar will introduce a range of topics including how to get people to your website, how to make your website work, how and when to use social media, knowing when to pay for online advertising (and how much to pay) and how to improve your search engine positions.

The seminar will start at 7pm, but feel free to come and network from 6:30 onwards. Light refreshments will be served. The seminar is free for Launceston Chamber of Commerce members, or £10 for non-members. This charge will be refunded should you decide to join the Chamber on the night!

Please book your space with Vicky Geach – contact details below.
We look forward to seeing you soon.
Vicky Geach, Chairperson, Launceston Chamber of Commerce 01566 777835 (Cornish Delicacies)

Evening Workshop for Parents of Gifted & Talented Children

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Parents want what is best for their children. This is especially true when the child is classed as “gifted” or “talented”. But those parents won’t necessarily know what the top universities look for or what the top employers look for.

I was asked by the Gifted & Talented Coordinator at Community School to present a workshop for the parents of gifted and talented children. I was able to draw on my experience of having studied one of the most prestigious courses at one of the most prestigious colleges at one of the world’s elite universities and having worked in graduate recruitment at one of the world’s top graduate recruiters. I know what it takes to get into a top university and I know what top employers want to see in their candidates.

The workshop included sessions on:

  • Experiences and anecdotes from adults who were gifted or talented – what their parents did to help or hinder their chances at success
  • What to expect if asked to a top university interview and how to prepare
  • What universities look for apart from good grades
  • How to improve the impact your child makes and their skills in interviews
  • Hard truths about the graduate job market
  • How the top graduate recruiters go about attracting candidates and how students should use this information
  • The universities that the top recruiters target
  • The degree subjects that top recruiters want
  • The other characteristics that top recruiters look for
  • Getting the right work experience and why work experience is all about acquiring skills
  • Using social media to be more employable


“Mark’s session was an interesting and informative experience both for parents and for my colleague and I as G&T co-ordinators. He adapted well to our requirements and discussed the session with us beforehand to ensure that it fitted with the school’s practices and philosophies. The session itself was a good mix of reinforcing messages that we already give, but with the added authority of a consultant of Mark’s background, and new insider information drawn from Mark’s personal expertise and experiences from having got into a top university and having worked in graduate recruitment for one of the world’s top recruiters of graduates. Mark had clearly done his research into the experiences of G&T parents and students and gave particularly useful input into what top universities and employers look for”    

– Adam Killeya, Gifted & Talented Coordinator, Community School


“It reassured us that we are giving our child sufficient encouragement to achieve the goals they are setting for themself…(we were) especially encouraged by the comments from the ‘gifted friends and friends of gifted friends’ section, because it highlighted the fact to us, and others we hope, that you do need to be careful and maybe a little more creative in how you ‘push’ your gifted and talented offspring forward into the world.”

– Parents of ‘G&T’ student at