Getting Naked With Interview - Sam Burgess
You’ve probably already heard of Sam Burgess or @SocialMouthSam as she is known on social media. The effervescent, larger than life, super honest, fluff free marketing expert has made a name for herself amongst the small business community. Her Small & Mighty Podcasts are a masterclass for businesses with industry experts and she’s created her own Small & Mighty Challenges to galvanise independent companies and freelancers to push their marketing boundaries. I was first introduced to Sam when she interviewed Donna Ida Thornton on her Podcast, but it was in April this year that via Antonia Taylor PR, I embraced the Small & Mighty Instagram Stories Challenge and put my face on camera for 30 days! What started out as a lot of ‘erms’ slowly improved and now I’m pretty fearless about chatting on camera. The best news? The proof was in the pudding, my DMs were pinging away, my followers inched up and my profile views and traffic increased - who knew, people wanted to see behind the grid? It is this straight talking and realness that have made Sam so popular! let’s delve into how she got there and what the future holds.
NakedPRGirl: Where are you from originally and where do you live now?
Sam Burgess: I’m originally from Horsham, West Sussex but I now live in Hampton, in the borough of Richmond Upon Thames.
NakedPRGirl: What did you study? What was your first job?
Sam Burgess: I just about scraped my GCSE's after being expelled from boarding school at 15. I went on to college to do AS levels, but academia wasn't for me and left after the first year. My first proper job was in banking as a cashier, I was promoted several times, and at 18 I was offered a Branch Manager role. It was at this point that I realised I was on the wrong career path, so I moved into fashion retail where I stayed for 12 years working in numerous roles from shop floor to head office.
NakedPRGirl: What was your big break?
Sam Burgess: I wouldn't say I've had a big break, I've worked bloody hard for everything I have achieved, I feel everything accomplished has been an accumulation of the work that has gone before it. For me though the turning point was starting Social Mouth and everything from that decision has snowballed.
NakedPRGirl: Tell me about Social Mouth, what is the idea behind it?
Sam Burgess: I started Social Mouth back in early 2016. I've always wanted to work for myself, I am from a family of entrepreneurs, and it felt natural to me that I would do my own thing one day.
The change for me came in January 2016. I was sat in a meeting with a social media agency who were tendering for a contract with the retailer I worked for. They wanted an extortionate amount of money (of which we had available in our budget) to execute ideas I had already come up with, and it got me thinking about who was helping the independent retailers on the high street. All this news about high streets dying and it was hardly surprising if there was no affordable support available to them. I worked for an independent retailer for the four years leading up to the 2007 recession - sadly the retailer didn't make it out the other side. Had social media been as prominent then as it is now, I am sure that it would have weathered the storm. All these thoughts were rattling around in my head, and I felt that I was receiving a calling, to make a change and to help others and so, Social Mouth was born just five weeks later!
NakedPRGirl: How did you come up with the business plan? And name? Who did your branding for you?
Sam Burgess: From initial idea to start I had five weeks, I handed my notice in within 48-hours of deciding to leave my job and then I had to come up with a business plan. Once I had my business plan, I pitched to my dad for some initial cash to help cover the mortgage while I found my feet. He made me pitch like I was on Dragon's Den!
My branding and name was all my work, and it was a lot of impulsive decisions. I knew I wanted to help business owners "to find their voice online" and the name Social Mouth just seemed to fit the bill. I wasn't planning to necessarily trade as that as I chose it quite spur of the moment just to register my company, but I've had so many compliments on it, and my Instagram handle "Social Mouth Sam" has really stuck!
NakedPRGirl: What’s your USP?
Sam Burgess: I only help independent creative product based businesses where the business owner is prepared to be the face of their brand. What sets me apart is I am commercial and have vast retail experience, so I know a lot about selling and about consumer behaviour, which is all fundamental when it comes to marketing your business. There is way too much "fluff' out there; nobody seems to be saying what people want to hear and need to know. There is also far too much emphasis on having a great brand, take pretty photos for Instagram and sit on your bum because the sales will come! There is so much more to marketing than aesthetics.
NakedPRGirl: Do you have a particular career highlight that stands out?
Sam Burgess: I had a very successful career before I started working for myself, but I'd say the biggest career highlight has been the people I've been able to interview for my podcast, Holly Tucker and Kristina Karlsson are both favourites and getting to have that one-to-one time with two highly successful retailers was just amazing!
NakedPRGirl: How do initiatives like #smallandmightystories come about? How do you see this contributing to the industry?
Sam Burgess: I'm all about challenging my followers and pushing my community out of their comfort zones. Stories are the place to be right now, with Instagram Story sharing soon to surpass Instagram post sharing, and yet it is still under-utilised by small businesses; mainly due to fear. It takes thirty days to make or break a habit, and we love to do things together for support, and for some healthy competition. I'm a huge fan of the #meetthehmaker monthly challenge. However I hear reports from those who use it that it only really connects them with other makers and not customers. Using my marketing methodology and the 80:20 rule; the Stories challenge was born. What has blown my mind, is not the number of participants (714 at the last count) but the sheer number of businesses that were shocked at how this increased their audience size, engagement and SALES!
NakedPRGirl: What’s your personal style? Have you had to look at marketing yourself as a brand?
Sam Burgess: I am my brand. I am a no fluff, commercial and strategic marketing consultant.
NakedPRGirl: How do you use social media for your business? What’s your favourite social media channel? Do you have any social media tips?
Sam Burgess: I built my business on social media! Instagram is my preferred channel, but I have a lot of love for Facebook Groups as well. My top tip for social media is that you don't have to be everywhere, you're better to be on one channel and doing a fantastic job and building an engaged tribe, rather than spreading yourself thinly across multiple channels. If you only want to be on one channel and your customer is aged between 25 and 55 and of either gender, you should be on Instagram!
NakedPRGirl: Is Instagram the main channel you generate business and revenue from? Does this differ from a few years ago?
Sam Burgess: Yes and no. A lot of my business comes from word of mouth these days or off the back of my podcast, but Instagram is often where people will reach out to me as I am very responsive on direct message. When I first started my business the majority of my traffic and revenue was as a result of Google Ads, but they wouldn't be right for my business now, and I don't actually do any paid for advertising.
NakedPRGirl: How have you seen your industry changing over the last few years?
Sam Burgess: Well, first thing is there is a lot of inaccurate advice and a lot of people capitalising on teaching others how to build an Instagram following. The most significant issue with this is they are influencers and not businesses, and what works for one may well not work for another, so this is a constant battle that I fight.
Secondly, the most prominent change is the step away from "picture perfect". Users on social media want to see real, they don't want to see overly perfected lives or businesses - they want a bit of rough and ready and transparency, I believe that this is why Instagram Stories has become such a runaway success.
NakedPRGirl: Where do you see it evolving in the future?
Sam Burgess: Live streaming! Its already there, but I see this becoming a bigger thing in the future.
NakedPRGirl: How do you manage your blog/social media workload - are you a planner and a scheduler? And do you get techy in the back end?
Sam Burgess: My blog posts are very much when I feel there is a topic that needs the written word; otherwise, I would default to my Instagram Stories, so they are written sporadically and when I am in a writing mood, which isn't often. Social Media, however, is planned, for Twitter I use Buffer, Facebook Meet Edgar and Instagram Planoly. I only schedule posts on Facebook and Twitter. I plan my content 90 days at a time, focussing firstly on what I need to promote and when (20% sales) and then the other 80% is concentrated on adding value to my consumer and building my brand and tribe. Although I plan, I am not rigid and do change things last minute.
NakedPRGirl: How important is your Instagram grid? Do you plan everything in advance?
Sam Burgess: Photo quality and relevance to your audience are essential, but I do not get hung up on the overall aesthetic. I've had clients come to me telling me they can't share any green products because their Instagram aesthetic doesn't have green in it! I share what I think will capture the hearts and minds of my target customer; even if it doesn't look perfect next to the photos around it. I listened to a talk with the four Heads of Instagram and one of them said "nobody cares about your aesthetic but you". If you think about it, once someone follows you they never really look at your gallery/grid as whole as they will interact with your content in their feed.
NakedPRGirl: Tell me about your Podcast, why did you start this up? Who do you chat to? Do you encourage others to start a Podcast up?
Sam Burgess: I've always wanted to start a podcast, and as a child, I had a "radio show" called Radio Rox. Speaking is something I have always been better at than writing. With a fair few years spent in retail recruitment, I have experience of interviewing people so having a chat-style show was the obvious choice for me. The show has run for two seasons, with season three coming at some point this year, and I interview small business owners, business experts and specialists about their business journies as well as advice for those starting out.
I think if you have a point of difference to offer and you think you have a captive audience, then yes you should start a podcast. However it isn't for everyone, some people are better at writing and others at speaking, a word to the wise, recording, editing and uploading is time intensive, so I recommend you record several episodes and edit them before you set the first one live, people love a binge listen.
NakedPRGirl: Who in the industry inspires you?
Sam Burgess: I'm inspired by those that have made waves in their industry, women like Karen Brady, Mary Portas and Holly Tucker are who I look up to.
NakedPRGirl: How do you split your time between business and real life?
Sam Burgess: It all kind of merges into one, I love what I do and don't see it as work. When you are your brand, a big part of becoming a personality is to share insights on your life - which means normal mundane things, become work too. However I never see it as a chore, and every day I am grateful to all I have achieved and to those who make it possible - my community!
NakedPRGirl: Do you have a motto or mantra that you live by?
Sam Burgess: "If you can dream it, you can do it" - Walt Disney
NakedPRGirl: Where would you like to be in ten years time?
Sam Burgess: I'd like to be speaking at major conferences and events Globally, sharing my knowledge and helping small businesses worldwide to thrive.