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Marketing traditional businesses in a digital age

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Created by North East Ambition, 28th February 2017


Stirks is a family run butchers with three locations across Sunderland. Set up in 2010, when owner John Stirk bought the business aged 24 after working there for 10 years, the firm soon realised the importance of social media marketing and took to Facebook in August 2014. Since then they have utilised it to its maximum potential, frequently chatting with customers, building up relationships and giving something back through competitions. Beth Henderson, Stirks’ media and communications manager, explains why social media marketing is so useful…


What forms of social media do you use?

Until recently, we only used Facebook as a form of communication with our customers. After the platform grew at such a rapid pace, we brought on board a digital media manager who now controls Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for us.

As a more traditional business at what point did you realise that using social media was necessary for marketing?

We didn’t want to be a traditional butchers shop, John our director worked in the Grangetown store he now owns from the age of 14. He bought it at 24 and promised himself he would transform traditional butchery in our city.

He wanted to reach out to people of all ages, how better to do that than social media? As social media has grown at such a rapid pace he felt it was essential to reach out to customers in this way – 2 years after launching our Facebook page and with a lot of time and effort put into consistent content and advertising, we now have almost 56k likes which is increasing daily.

Why do you think social media can be of benefit to a business?

Without doubt social media has enabled us to reach the widest number of people. We now have customers who come from Peterlee, Teesside, South Shields and Newcastle.

Some who don’t even live in the North East ask relatives or friends to get meat packs for them for when they go to visit. Often we have messages from people down south or in Scotland who are looking for packs to be shipped out to them.

Although we do plan on just keeping things local (for now!) this has enabled us to reach out to people who live outside of the Sunderland area using targeted social media campaigns.

Do you think using social media is necessary?

100% - we wouldn’t have been able to build an independent company as popular as Stirks without it. We have reached out to the widest number of people, of different ages and from vastly different backgrounds.

Today, I don’t see why companies wouldn’t want to use social media to reach the most widespread audience possible.

You often post competitions on your social media, what inspired you to do this? How have the competitions benefitted the business?

We post a lot of competitions firstly to give back to our customers who engage online with us every week. We feel it is important that our customers know we aren’t just here to promote our sales constantly, but we are here to build long lasting relationships with them.

The tone of voice we use on our Facebook page illustrates this, and we tend to converse with our audience as much as we possibly can.

 Competitions have benefitted our business as not only does it allow our reach on the platform to expand, but it also encourages people to talk about our brand which is what we want.


What do you think is the most difficult thing about using social media to market your business?

The hardest part is including varied content in our marketing – we must deliver different ideas often so that our audience doesn’t become bored.

We try to come up with different offers and packs within our business every month so that we are pleasing a wide range of people.

There is always going to be the odd person who isn’t happy – but generally we do well with varied content and keeping the audience engaged.

Do you keep all of your marketing in-house or do you outsource it?

Yes, all marketing is in-house.

We have the occasional graphic designer do some freelance work for us but in my opinion, in an independent business such as ours we needed someone who could embrace the challenge and get to know the business inside out.

Audiences are demanding these days and they want answers to their questions immediately. Having someone who knows the business inside out is very beneficial.

Keeping our customers happy is our number one priority.

What advice would you give to any new company who wants to market themselves well online?

Our advice would be to take your time with marketing – get to know your business and the audience it attracts. You ultimately want to deliver marketing customers are happy to engage with. Success online doesn’t happen overnight – keep consistently working on your platforms and you’ll see results in time as long as you put work into it.


Looking for more on social media? You'll find details of support providers that can help, events and more information related to social media marketing here.

<a href='' target='_blank'>North East Ambition</a>

Created by North East Ambition, 3 years ago, [last edited 3 years ago]

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