Rhys Plater is Marketing Manager at Hemingway Bailey, accountants based in Beverley, Yorkshire. He has a passion for digital marketing and keeping up with all the online trends

Claire Trévien: What first attracted you to marketing? Is there an aspect of it that you particularly enjoy?

Rhys Plater: I have always had a passion for business and how different businesses get the word out there about their brand or products. In the first year of my degree course at Hull University Business School we had the opportunity to take a range of modules focussed on different areas of business – management, accounting and marketing – and it was marketing I enjoyed the most!

Marketing is such a fast-paced and ever-changing industry. The developments recently with social media, and the way this has changed the world, means marketers have to keep up to date and always be aware of what’s going on in the world, aiming to make their brand stand out. I love seeing how different businesses approach this and which are the most successful.

CT: I discovered Hemingway Bailey through your Instagram account – it’s quite unusual to find accountants making the most of that channel! Was it your idea to set it up?

RP: A number of our team members had been using Instagram on a personal level for years and, when we were discussing the social channels we had, we decided to consider the benefits of Instagram as a company. With a lot of input from our team, we decided we’d give it a go! Our account is managed by one of our apprentices, Ruby, and we’ve seen people get in touch with us simply because of our presence there. It shows how we are different to other accountants.

Instagram is a growing platform, now with more than 300 million active users each month. It’s a great opportunity for businesses to reach their current and potential customers and is likely to grow further, especially for business, in the coming years.

CT: Which social media channel have you found the most effective for promoting Hemingway Bailey?

RP: Hemingway Bailey can be found on a full range of social platforms and use each differently. Generally, we find Twitter to be the most effective – it allows for instant communication with large numbers of people and the opportunity to build followers. Being able to easily retweet posts and use relevant hashtags means tweets can reach large audiences which can be tracked through analytics.

Though Twitter is generally the most effective, we make sure all our social channels are always up to date – there’s no point in being on a platform if you don’t have the time or resources to update it. It’s also important to realise the importance of tailoring posts to the platform you are posting it on. What works on Twitter doesn’t always work on Facebook, and photos posted on Instagram may not be effective on LinkedIn. With Facebook in particular, you are competing with your followers’ friends and family in their news feed – what will get you noticed there?

CT: What do you think is the next challenge professional services marketers will have to face?

RP: A challenge in the digital marketing world that seems to be growing is the speed at which news can travel. Companies can very quickly look unprofessional or struggle to deal with complaints made on social media, damaging reputation. It’s interesting to see how companies deal with this – some allow their social managers to respond and try and solve the issue immediately, offering extra customer support to turn it into a positive. Others, however, will ignore the issue or respond once it’s too late – and it’s these who struggle online.

Going forward this is likely to become a bigger issue. Companies need to ensure their social managers are in a position to be always aware of current issues and have the authority to respond as they see fit. Though this is a risk, it reduces the chance of bad press and may actually result in positive publicity.

On a greater scale, marketers need to balance digital marketing use with offline methods. Some think that because social platforms have taken off so quickly they are more important, but it’s not necessarily the case. Though social platforms allow for excellent customer interaction, it may not be the only way to reach current and potential customers. Traditional marketing methods such as newsletters and mail shots are also important and need to be considered as part of an overall marketing strategy.

CT: You are working at Hemingway Bailey as part of your placement year – what is the most important thing you’ve learned from this practical experience?

RP: I think this year I have learnt the importance of putting together a strategy consisting of a variety of marketing methods to work with each other. Unless you know it works and have tested it previously, there’s no point in focussing on just one area and hoping it is successful. It is unlikely, for most businesses, one avenue will be fully successful on its own.

When using different methods, it’s important to see which are most successful and which don’t see much of a return, especially if you have a small budget. Change your strategy, give other avenues a go and continuously monitor where your company’s new leads have come from.