When I applied for it, I have to admit that I didn't really know what it was I was signing up for or even if it was really something that I wanted to do, but I knew I needed to open my eyes to new ways of advertising for my small struggling to be noticed Bed &Breakfast business - Acorns of Lyndhurst.
As I was actually only offered the last place due to someone else dropping out at the last minute I had missed out on the introductory and familiarisation session, so on the first actual meeting I felt very nervous & a little out of my depth. I walked into the room and immediately noticed that I was going to be part of a team consisting of My New Forest, which is only part of the official New Forest Tourism Board who promotes everything & everyone in the area extremely well by using all the latest media's already! Then as we mingled and introduced ourselves it became even clearer to me that I was the weakest link in the room, the others are: Exbury Gardens, Hotel Terravina, The Greenhouse Hotel, Daisybank Cottage B&B , New Forest Coastal Cottages, Forest Leisure Cycling, Snowtrax and Julia's House. In my mind all of these business's were well established and already using social media very well, and then there was me, the only thing I had any idea of was Facebook but even that was extremely limited. I sat there and thought "what am I doing here?"
The session was lead by Dr Philip Alford & Maureen McAllister who are extremely knowledgeable on marketing and social media but quite down to earth, normal, really nice and friendly people. After listening to everyone else in the team I began to realise that although they were all already using social media and some SEO they still didn't really know what they were doing with it and that they were not quite so far ahead of me as I first feared and they were all so lovely.
Our team or cluster was created - AppsFab!
We each were assigned a final year marketing student to work with for 4 months of the project and my student was Stephen Manns, a really nice young man who clearly had his work cut out being stuck with me. Philip & Maureen each gave a presentation and by the time they had finished I was so excited & fired up about the prospects of this new opportunity that I could hardly wait to get going - the transformation was amazing!
The only problem though, was that once I got back home and was all alone, the task actually seemed overwhelming and because of my lack of understanding I felt like I was banging my head against a brick wall and I went back to being very frustrated about the whole thing. I had been shown the possibilities but I didn't know how or what to do with it.
I did however have the support of Stephen at the end of an e-mail and between us we managed to get the ball rolling. We changed my Facebook account www.facebook.com/Acornsoflyndhurst, to be a business page rather a person, created a Twitter account @acorns_bandb - which at the time I absolutely hated with a passion. I just could not get to grips with the lack of visibility and the coded messaging thing. A blog was created Mel's blog - which I love doing. My website underwent a make over and I learnt a lot about SEO which is quite empowering actually. I started to feel like I had taken control of my destiny now rather than sitting around waiting for something to happen.
In between our official sessions we organised cluster meetings which I have to say were invaluable to me. I learnt more from just talking with my team mates about what they were already doing, what they did and didn't like and what they thought was a good idea, than I did from anyone else really. Don't get me wrong though Steve, Philip & Maureen were great and helped me a lot, but my team mates had experienced and were still experiencing the exact same things that I was experiencing and sharing that knowledge is what kept me going. I knew I could ask these people anything and someone would be able to help.
The main role of the student in my opinion was to focus me and my business on a couple of specific goals so that a strategy could be put in place. The goals we decided up on were: to integrate Twitter, Facebook & Blogging into the business, target specific audiences via the website makeover and a quarterly e-newsletter campaign and to address the SEO of the website. At the end of the students time with us they had to submit a report as part of their final year assignments therefore making the collaboration beneficial to both us. By the time Steve left me we had made some significant improvements but his report did highlight that I still have a way to go, this was never really a quick fix, but a long term strategy.
The final session with Philip & Maureen was yesterday - June 5th and this was all about us giving a short presentation to them showing our journey so far and looking on to where we want to be in 1 years time. This date had been torturing me ever since it was mentioned because I wanted to do something different, exciting and challenging. I wanted to create something that I could proudly put my name to and use it as an advertising tool as well as my homework. After a lot of beating myself up about the lack of ideas Fred & I came up with the idea of an acorn growing and being symbolic of my growing on the project. He showed me the tool to make a film and after many hours of taking pictures in the New Forest, carefully choosing the right ones, editing, choosing the right soundtrack etc, the rest is history ........check it out
Acorns of Lyndhurst digital marketing & social media case study
On the day there was only 5 of us presenting as sadly along the way we lost a few members, but the standard of all of the presentations was amazing, I am proud of all my team mates but especially David, Nina, Cheryl & Nigel you were AppsFab!
I have to just mention though that I did blow them all away with my film and even reduced Maureen to tears. I am not very good at speaking in front of a crowd so the whole idea was freaking me out a bit. David went first and did a launch of his new website, Nina was next and amazed us with her statistics and her amazing blogging achievements, then it was me.
I was really worried at this point because my piece was so far, nothing like anyone else's, and certainly not as factual or statistical and I thought I'd got it all wrong. Anyway I stood at the front my heart in my mouth and said a few words to introduce myself and where I was at before I started this journey, then Maureen loaded my film. My heart was pounding, I could hardly stand up and I was too afraid to look round but I could tell that everyone was stunned. I had a very quick glance round to Philip who was jigging to the music so I took that as a good sign. As it came to end I felt myself getting all emotional and everyone was cheering and clapping, Maureen came straight over and hugged me with tears in her eyes and I knew I'd done ok :)
Cheryl did a really nice visual presentation using her logo - the daisy & daisy chain, it was a really good way of using what she already has and building on it, then for the finale was Nigel. Appsolutely fabulous, normally Nigel is quiet and unassuming just taking it all in, but he found his voice here - he broke out into a rap! The footage will be released soon as it is a must see, but it was great. He had crowd (us) participation, humour and individuality, he just completely took us all by surprise and what a way to end a fantastic day.
I think that doing this presentation is one of the most emotional and proudest things I've ever done and although I keep saying it, I really do mean it, without the team including Steve, Philip & Maureen, I never would have done any of it and I genuinely thank you all so much.
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