The Big Interview > Sedge Beswick, The Social Media Expert

Ellie Roddy 7 years ago

As soon as I was tasked with interviewing someone within the world of social media, I headed straight to ASOS. The fashion site has social media nailed, which is evident from the 17 million followers it has across its social channels and the numerous awards it has won for its social strategies.

When I came across Sedge Beswick I knew I had struck gold – Sedge was Global Social and Community Manager at ASOS for over four years – and therefore key to building up the brand that I love and social media strategy that I admire. Not only this, she has also written a book ‘140 Twitter LOLS’, hosted a social media inspiration session at 10 Downing Street and if that is not enough, The Drum nominated her as one of the top 50 most influential people working in social media.

Since the first tweet was sent back in 2006, social media has grown to become a key marketing tool for businesses and social media superstar Sedge gave us some insight into this ever growing and changing world.

So, onto the questions and to Sedge...

Have you always known how powerful social media can be or is that something you have learnt on the job?

"When I started my career, I definitely didn’t appreciate just how huge the industry was going to be. The impact and immense power social media has on our everyday is something I’ve learnt over time, like anyone I think. Similar to when a new social platform launches, you’re often initially unsure while you observe the direction it will take. Will it be another success akin to Snapchat or will it fade over time? The whole industry is in a constant state of trial, error and triumph."

Obviously the majority of us use social media personally – what is the biggest difference when using this for business?

"In an industry that capitalises on people’s innate narcissism, the biggest difference about using social media personally and professionally is learning that it’s not about you. With business accounts, it’s about your audiences. You have to employ a customer first attitude and constantly assess and reassess what they want, how they use the channel and what they want to get out of being part of your community."

Which would be your social media platform of choice if you could only choose one to use for work and one to use personally – and why?

"For work, Instagram. As people process visual content 60k times quicker than written, it’s an easy platform to build a community on and share content that they’ll be likely to engage with.

Personally however, I am 100% team Snapchat right now. Here you’d get the real me. I never panic about expressing my truest, weirdest self or feel the pressure to produce a high-quality polished piece of content like you might on Instagram. It’s a very authentic space.

Both personally and professionally, I’m fascinated by the impressive rise of Snapchat as a newcomer platform. From its advertising model, through to my personal conspiracy theory that it’s building a facial recognition database, Snapchat is a platform to truly get excited about."

Do you still feel that the corporate world has to be convinced that investing in social media is right for their business? What would you say to someone who thought these were just platforms for personal use? 

"The majority of businesses are now aware that their audiences are on social and that as a result, they should be investing the time on the platforms these audiences are active on. In terms of adoption rate however, this varies across the board. The fascinating thing is that while large corporate organisations may be slightly skeptical about the power social can bring to their business, I’d naively presumed that younger brands and startups would be native on the platforms and build them into their business model from an early stage. This is not always the case.

As for what I’d say to someone who thought these platforms were just for personal use, hold a focus group with your audiences and ask them! Nothing is more powerful than hearing it directly from those who are already invested in your business."

What would you say is the most important thing to consider when using social media for your business?

"I recently received a Frisbee in the post from a business I use for cleaning and handymen services and was genuinely baffled. What does a Frisbee have to do with that brand? What was I supposed to do with the Frisbee? Worse still, it said 'tag us on social…' Where’s the social element in this obscure piece of marketing paraphernalia?

It’s so important for businesses to always put themselves in the shoes of who’ll be receiving their content and think how they’ll react."

Would you agree that social media isn’t about making an instant return on investment and is actually about building a brand?

"Fundamentally, it’s about building awareness, trust and ensuring potential and existing audiences spend time with your brand. Beyond this however, it depends on the business. For example, streamlining the shopping journey is a major focus within the industry right now as audiences want a simplified journey. If you can prove ROI, you’ll get more to invest in social."

What advice would you give to a company/brand that has tried and failed to capture the audience they require to make their business successful? How granular should a campaign go to attract viewers who will convert?

"What might work for one company or campaign, for that matter, won’t work for another. I’d invest in data and research and look at what your audiences want and need before trying again. That could be a focus group, that could be time spent in the channels tracking behaviours, it could be working with a third party who can do this for you, always depends on the budgets."

What do you find most frustrating about the way businesses behave on social media?

"My one bug bear is with brands that only think about themselves, for example, 'We want to sell more units of this orange dress.' They then share the same picture with a broadcast message across all their owned social feeds.

The way people behave and use each of the platforms is different and like I said previously, it’s not about you. All businesses should have a unique strategy for each channel. It’s about quality, not quantity and using the platforms the way your customer uses the platforms."

How would you recommend that businesses handle negative communication on social media?

"Be honest! You can’t ignore it or shy away from it because social media is all about having an opinion and a voice. If you’ve made a mistake, tackle it head on. It also doesn’t hurt to have a few contingency plans in place so you’re prepared for those moments."

What makes a ‘Twitter lol’ and why do some things go viral when others don’t?

"Those that try to do a viral, usually don’t go viral! Timeliness is key as it’s about being reactive and owning a conversation. Just look at Oreo as the pin up example..!"

Other than ASOS, of course, which brand do you think has really nailed social media?

"Oreo, as they have a core team for key moments so they can react instantaneously. Innocent are hilariously quick-witted and never deviate from their tone of voice and brand identity so you can immediately spot and engage with their content.

On an influencer level, ThisIsMothership really nail it. There are a million and one mummy bloggers but what Gemma and Sam do is unique, they’ve taken their skillsets and applied to the mummy market.

And finally, @Gallucks is a personal favourite of mine. He’s the nicest person you’ll ever meet but he’s also an exceptional content creator. His identity, authenticity and eye for content are what allows him to stand out in his field."

What is the one lesson you learnt at ASOS that you will remember forever?

"If you have an idea, try it! I was lucky enough to work with James Hart, ASOS’ first employee who is the ultimate do-er. From day one he drummed into me that you can talk about ideas and plan endlessly, but unless you actually go for it, you’ll never really do or achieve anything. It’s about being bold, taking risks and learning from the things that fail."

You have already been listed in The Drum’s 50 most influential people working in social media – so who do you learn from when so many people are turning to you for knowledge?

"There are a few people I learn from. James Hart, as I mentioned, is up there as he’s since launched his own business but is still never too busy to answer the phone and chat through ideas that I have, regardless of how weird and wonderful they are.

As for social specifically Musa Tariq is probably a mentor to everyone in our space, one of the most humble people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting but also really takes the time to invest in those in our field. Some of the best advice I’ve ever had is from him.

Finally, anyone - and I mean anyone - who is interested in social. What I learnt yesterday will be irrelevant tomorrow so just chatting to people, seeing what their frustrations or interests are keeps me thinking and pushing forward."

Have there been any developments in social media that have frustrated you recently? (i.e. the new Instagram algorithm)

"Nope, nothing frustrates me in social, that’s the fun of it! The more drastic the change, the more interesting it is to see people’s views and to see how people adapt to stay ahead. I tend to get frustrated with more ridiculous things like why my PowerPoint doesn’t look the way it should in my head or people sniffing loudly around me. "

What's the latest innovation in social media that's excited you?

"Snapchat generally excites me, but also the rise of the Influencer. They’re trusted like brands have never been, so it’s about how we support and develop that to ensure their voice remains credible and we don’t all end up like Bootea paying for reach.

Helping brands to create the right content, on the right platform with the right influencer, is what’s exciting me. It may not be new, but it’s more relevant than ever."

How do you predict social media will change and develop in the next year?

"I don’t think you can predict anything when it comes to social media, which is part of the beauty of it. I am intrigued by Instagram stories - will it survive? Will Facebook’s purchase of MSQRD be used here? If so, how will that look for Snapchat? What impact will that have on Snapchat’s advertising model? Lots of empty questions right now! While it’s a huge compliment to Snapchat that Facebook is slowly but surely replicating its features, it is also interesting to see how Snapchat will react and what they will do to ensure they don’t regret turning down the $3bn from Facebook. "

What do you think it will be like in 10 years time?

"The reality is that we don’t know what it’ll be like in ten minutes, so it’s impossible to predict what it’ll look like in a decade."

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