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5 small businesses doing social media really well

We all know what a significant boost social media can give a business, from creating conversation to boosting trade with exclusive offers. But what does success look like? What do customers want to see and how can you build up your social following? We’ve scoured the social digisphere to find five great examples from businesses of all shapes and sizes to get you inspired when it comes to your own social channels.

Holtwhites Bakery

Husband and wife duo Richard and Kate run Holtwhites Bakery in Enfield and know a thing or two about marketing themselves online. You can chart their story on their blog – from baking in their kitchen for a few friends to giving up their day jobs and opening up their own bakery – and they’ve really made the most of digital platforms to further their reach.

How they do it

From fun conversation starters through to delectable pictures of their latest bakes, the couple’s Facebook and Twitter posts give a heart-warming insight into life in the kitchen. They share daily specials, the occasional baking fail and create a real bond with local customers by offering to do them favours – slicing a whole Parma ham, for example, or making ‘I’m sorry I forgot Mother’s Day’ platters for those in the dog house.

What You Sow

What You Sow is an independent gardening business based in Brighton. It’s all about encouraging people to have plants in their lives, whether these people are green-fingered pros or buying their first seeds to plant on their flat windowsill. In owner Lyndsey Haskell’s own words, she hopes her shop and blog ‘will help you hack your own mini paradise.’

How she does it

For a small niche business, What You Sow has consistently good social engagement – particularly on Twitter and Instagram. With What You Sow’s beautiful products and close friendship with photographer Gabriella Rizzello, the images are inevitably stunning and give a wonderful glimpse into life at the company and Lyndsey’s passion for gardening.

She shares images of products, plant side projects and personal snaps, too – not to mention frequent giveaways. Her blog is a mine of gardening information, while the website hosts a ‘secret seed swap’ that encourages people to post seeds to a secret recipient, share pictures of their plant as it grows and have conversations with other gardeners on social channels.

Holly Exley

Holly Exley is a freelance watercolour illustrator who’s been published in the likes of the Wall Street Journal, Esquire and Stylist Magazine. From celebrity portraits to paintings of blueberry pancakes, her work is eye-catching and, when it comes to her vibrant food illustration, mouth-watering.

How she does it

Instagram is a brilliant place to post photos of new illustrations, as well as ‘in progress’ paintings, new artistic supplies and life as a freelance illustrator – and the fact that Holly has nearly 4,000 followers shows she’s doing it right. The account is interspersed with images of Holly’s pug Quentin, who unsurprisingly gets a lot of love.

She uses Twitter to promote recent publications, repost older images and to shout out to other freelancers. She also uses YouTube to reach out to fledgling artists who are struggling to go freelance – and her ‘Day in the life of an illustrator’ vlog is a great resource for those in her industry, with nearly 2,000 views to date.

Lantana Café

There are three Lantana cafés in London and they’re much loved as lunch and brunch spots around the capital. With hearty all-day breakfasts and feel-good lunches the order of the day, Lantana knows its audience wants to feel welcomed and enticed by what’s on the menu.

How they do it

Lantana’s all about showcasing its fresh food, which means reacting to the weather and sharing what’s coming up that day. When it gets chilly? Mac and cheese. When the sun comes out? Takeaway salads and summery quiches. They also retweet a lot of user-generated imagery from their avid fans, which means a colourful page showcasing their quality meals, stamped with an authentic endorsement.

As well as the main account, Lantana in Shoreditch has its own Twitter feed that showcases the different food and offers in that branch for customers in the area – so their content feels friendly, local and relevant.

Michael John

Favourites with the Made in Chelsea cast, the Michael John salons know how to make user-generated content go further. Based in some of the city’s most exclusive postcodes, the treatments aren’t exactly cheap – but the site and blog are careful not to alienate any potential customers. The blog, for example, features handy tips and tricks from the salon’s knowledgeable staff, along with style inspiration posts for those looking for a new ’do.

How they do it

The salons are particularly active on Facebook with nearly 3,500 likes and bespoke imagery advertising their latest treatments and offers. They also regularly share images of clients mid-treatment and after their new look is complete. They use Instagram to regram pics from their celebrity clientele –which are predictably popular posts – but also to give a glimpse at life in the bustling salon and to get conversations starting around #manicuremonday and #wildwednesday.

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