Last month the 2016 Lloyds Bank UK Business Digital Index found small businesses and charities in the UK had increased their digital maturity in the last year. However, with as many as 38% of small businesses and 49% of charities still lacking the Basic Digital Skills to make the most of the internet, we spoke to organisations across the country to further understand how digital skills were enabling them to succeed in their different fields, and what others could learn from their stories.
Small Business – Fairy Godmothers’ Pamper Palace, Greater Manchester
Fairy Godmothers’ Pamper Palace is a one-stop pamper party shop that hosts celebrations for all ages. Rebecca, one of the founders, credits social media, and in particular Facebook, with driving the success of the business right from the start.
The firm was launched as a mobile business in 2014 by trained make-up artist Rebecca Warwick and qualified beauty therapist Jodie Clough, and they moved into their first premises in Stand Lane, Radcliffe, in 2015.
She said: “Jodie and I run the Facebook page @FairyGodmothersNw together and it is our main source of business. We have more than 5,000 likes, and we are using it for recruitment too. It’s a great way to find good candidates before inviting them to interview.
But Rebecca says that, while Facebook is the first point of contact for most customers, they still want the reassurance of being able to visit the company’s website too.
“I think that having a well-designed website as well gives them the confidence that we are an established and professional business. We hired a web designer to build the site for us, which cost around £900 and was probably the best investment that we have made. We went from hosting two to three parties a month to seven or eight a week, so it more than paid for itself very quickly.”
The rapid growth of the business means that Rebecca and Jodie, who also have two members of staff, have had to bring forward their long-term expansion plans, and are considering moving to larger premises and franchising the brand across the country.
Rebecca said: “We have built a really strong brand in this area and we have proved that the formula works. I would definitely recommend franchisees follow our Facebook model. It’s a brilliant way to share pictures instantly, achieve word of mouth publicity and find new staff.”
Medium-sized Business – The Vibration Group, London
As a physical, offline production company, The Vibration Group didn’t see themselves as tech-savvy. Managing Director Simon Tracey credits the digital changes made as a key part of their growth story, enabling the company to expand across 6 different locations, increase their staff and drive efficiency in their stock. They can now monitor the location, usage and condition of each stock item, enabling them to maximise their efficiency, even down to reducing haulage costs. “Without adopting digital technology, we would have stayed as a £2m – £3m business. Now we are a £20m turnover business, all because our stock management system is completely digital.”
Charity – ME North East, Durham
Social media had never really made it to the top of the To Do list for ME North East – a busy regional charity supporting ME sufferers and carers. But then they got the opportunity to do some training with social tech charity Social Media 4 G (SM4G) – through the Lloyds Bank Foundation Enhance Programme – and they have not looked back since.
“In the period since our training we have increased our followers by 50% to over 1,000, and our page has become a main communications channel with our members”.
“We did have a Facebook page”, explains Chief Executive Jennifer Elliott, “but we didn’t use it very much and it was very dry! Our trainer Jonathan showed us how to use it more effectively. Everything was tailored to our organisation and what we wanted to achieve.
“It was a whole new world to me, yet in a short space of time we’re already reaping the benefits and saving money. Our Facebook feed now covers many streams of work and our posts are now regularly reaching 3,000 and more people.”
“The best thing is that unlike a newsletter, Facebook isn’t just one way. We can respond to enquiries and actually talk to people about our posts. In fact our Facebook messages have pretty much overtaken email. It’s instant and immediate, and sometimes our audience really needs that.”
Facebook has proved very popular with our ME members as an easy way to communicate. As Jennifer explains: “People with ME often can’t get out, can’t travel to meetings, or find groups of people overwhelming. Online they can interact from the comfort of their own home at a time to suit them, and get support without any pressure, stress or special effort. That’s pretty powerful.
All in all, improving our social media presence on Facebook has been a massive success for the charity. I’d definitely recommend other small charities or social enterprises to make the time for social media, and get help if they need it. It can help you help your organisation, and your customers.”
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