Indie Oxford Interview: Social Mouth Sam

 In Indie Oxford Interviews

Today we’re chatting to Sam Burgess, the effervescent personality behind her hugely popular marketing and social media consultancy, Social Mouth.

Sam’s is coming to Oxford in July for her brilliant workshop ‘How To Build Your Brand On Instagram’. Sam is a huge supporter of the independent business community, and is keen to help promote small businesses across the UK by giving them the tools to build a presence on social media that not only builds the company brand, but increases revenue too.

Social Mouth Sam
Image by Katie Spicer Photography

…it got me thinking about whether I could fill a gap in the market and bring big brand ideas and marketing “secrets”, and share them with small businesses on a fraction of the budget

Tell me about your business & why you decided to set it up.

I run Social Mouth, a content marketing and social media consultancy which I founded in 2016. 

I set up Social Mouth after a meeting with a social media agency in December 2015 who wanted to come in and execute my ideas as a social media manager for the retailer I worked for, for an extortionate amount of money and it got me thinking about who helps the smaller players, who don’t have big budgets. Having worked for two retailers that went into administration and knowing how social media wasn’t utilised in either business, it got me thinking about whether I could fill a gap in the market and bring big brand ideas and marketing “secrets”, and share them with small businesses on a fraction of the budget.

I made quite a snap decision and handed my notice in and set up Social Mouth in the space of around five weeks. A naive and brave move, which thankfully paid off!

Social Mouth Sam
Image by Katie Spicer Photography

Tell me a bit about yourself & what led you to a career as a marketing consultant.

I’ve always loved retail, and that comes before my love of marketing. In fact, I have 15 years retail experience, and I’ve worked for independent retailers and Global brands, from shop floor to head office; I have done it all.  Marketing came as an interest when social media became a prominent tool for brand awareness and not just a home for selfies.

I have no formal degree or even formal marketing qualifications (and to be honest had I obtained a degree in marketing it wouldn’t have included social media as it didn’t exist back then) but I have worked non-stop since I was 17. Back in 2010, I was working in recruitment for the Arcadia Group, and I introduced using Facebook to recruit for our graduate programme, and this is when my interest in marketing and social media peaked. After five years working in recruitment and employer branding I recruited myself into a social media management role for Swarovski and the rest, is history.

Social Mouth Sam
Image by Katie Spicer Photography

How do you keep up to date with changes and innovations in your industry?

I read a lot; I use google alerts, I attend a lot of events online and offline, and I listen to podcasts as well as reading the blogs of all the major social media channels. With what I teach; it’s a marketing methodology, and it’s more about consumer behaviour and connecting with your customer. It’s not something that changes frequently, I just have to keep my eye on what platforms they are using – I am quite lucky really that it’s not something I have to monitor.

Social Mouth Sam
Image by Katie Spicer Photography

How does the Instagram community help you and your business?

Without the Insta Community, I don’t think I’d have a business! They help me make all my business decisions; they have connected me with other professionals that have helped my business (business coach, accountant) and they lift me up when I am down and push me forward. Instagram is not only great for reaching your customers, but it’s a fabulous place to connect with your peers and make real, long-lasting friends, as well as business buddies. It is so overlooked for that purpose, but my two best friends are women I met on Instagram.

Social Mouth Sam
Image by Katie Spicer Photography

Who has inspired you most in your work?

My dad is an entrepreneur, and he is one of the reasons I wanted to run my own business, he started an airline from our dining room table, which is no mean feat and sold it to one of the largest airlines in the world eight years later. To me, you don’t get a better role model.

Aside from my Dad, I am inspired daily by the women I have interviewed for my podcast “Small and Mighty”, including Holly Tucker, Donna Ida and Kristina Karlsson.

Social Mouth Sam

We need focus, and a strategy to grow; and we need guidance on how to market our business, in the same way, we ask our accountants for financial advice. 

Why should small business owners sign up to your workshop?

Instagram is a free platform for small businesses to use to push their business forward, but there is a lot of conflicting advice as to how to use it to grow a customer base. The majority of information that is out there is from influencers and is geared around increasing the size of your audience, rather than focussing on the quality of the community.

As business owners, we are busy people, and we are wearing a million hats daily, we do not have time to be spending hours taking the perfect photo for Instagram just to get lots and lots of likes – and maybe a couple of sales if we’re lucky. We need focus, and a strategy to grow; and we need guidance on how to market our business, in the same way, we ask our accountants for financial advice. 

I cut through all the “fluff” and offer commercial advice that gets results, I teach a marketing methodology that can be applied to Instagram rather than a guide to Instagram for beginners. I don’t subscribe to the “you need lots of followers to be successful” bullsh*t. You are better having 1000 followers that you obtain £100 profit from each annually, than 100,000 followers that don’t buy. 

Social Mouth Sam

Do you have any tips for people who are just setting up a small business?

Don’t be afraid to invest in the areas where your knowledge lacks. Whether that’s attending a bookkeeping seminar, hiring a business coach or attending my Instagram workshop, you have to speculate to accumulate, and although I do believe you need to keep every pound prisoner, you have to up-skill yourself to grow. Once I started investing in my business and up skilling myself (around the 12 month mark) my income tripled! I wish I had invested sooner instead of spending hours googling the answers to everything and muddling through things I didn’t understand.

Social Mouth Sam

Lastly, which are your favourite small business Instagram accounts at the moment?

There are so many! 

But I always watch:

Annabel Bird, Annabel is a fabulous storyteller and photographer, and she makes me want everything she sells, for my home. 

Elizabeth Stiles, @hello_stationery. Elizabeth is an e course, and workshop alumni, and she has come on leaps and bounds in the last few months. Her humour is infectious, she “gets” her target customer, and her stories are a joy to watch. 

Oliva Wollenberg, @livias_kitchen. A small business with a big following, Olivia NAILS Instagram Stories, showing us the behind-the-scenes of her business and her life as a CEO.

Social Mouth Sam
Sam & her dog Monty. Image by Katie Spicer Photography

Sam is a really inspirational business owner. Her drive is infectious, and her enthusiasm motivates everyone she teaches. If you would like to grab a sought after spot on her next Oxford workshop on Saturday 7th July at Turl Street Kitchen, check out the Social Mouth website for further information.

Love, Rosie xxx

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