How this local business nails their social media marketing

Aimee and Jo The Yard Stamford

An interview with Jo Henchy and Aimee Swift from The Yard, Stamford.

Recently, we asked ourselves: “Which local businesses are doing Social Media really well in our area?”

It didn’t take long for us to come up with ‘The Yard’ as just one of several examples of what we consider to be ‘best-in-class’.

The Yard (for those who don’t know) is an indoor soft play centre & cafe dreamed up by two local mums, Jo Henchy and Aimee Swift, who craved a place that accommodated and appealed to adults and children alike. Unit 2, West Street, Stamford is home to the large play centre, an under 2’s play space as well as a clean, bright and airy café serving grilled cheese sandwiches, sweet treats and insanely good coffee – all sourced from local suppliers.

Having just celebrated their 4th birthday and with nearly 5,000 followers across Facebook and Instagram, things are going pretty well…  But how much of their success can be attributed to Social Media?

We paid them a visit this week, to find out…


What’s been the biggest benefit of using social media to you?

We started using Facebook right at the infancy of ‘The Yard’ initially to let people know that we were going to be opening soon and it proved to be a great way to drum up interest and support before we even opened.

Now we often use Social Media almost as a Batman-style warning light to communicate with the swarms of parents heading our way! Particularly useful if it’s time sensitive, like occasions when we’re full on a rainy day!

Our customers know to check our Facebook page before they travel to visit us, so we don’t get upset customers (or children). It allows us to be more effective and timely in our communication.

We use social media to remind people that we have air conditioning or that we’re showing Wimbledon on the big screen (for example). It’s a great way of reminding people that we’re here and retaining business over the (trickier) summer months.


We’ve also really seen the benefit of partnering up with other local businesses and utilising our collective wider audiences on social media.

Most recently we’ve hosted clothing and toy pop-ups shops with Annualstore and Young.Double,  adult art classes with paisley_art_workshops, Paint-a-pot-classes with TootyScott. We’ve also worked with Smallish_magazine (which led to an industry award!) and we regularly share posts and tag our local coffee supplier TwoChimpsCoffee

Any negatives you’ve experienced using social media?

The vast majority of interactions we have on social media are incredibly positive and supportive, however we have had 1 or 2 negative comments in the past and that has been challenging. When this happened we’ve been careful to word a diplomatic reply (ensuring that we were positive and polite) and it has always blown over. I guess the challenge with social media is that people can be more bold and argumentative behind the comfort of a phone!

What kind of posts do you find get the most traction?

One of the best posts we’ve done was a short video of the ball cleaning machine. That went crazy! We couldn’t believe it! Over 12k views. I guess it hit a nerve with our customer base and helped to reassure people that we take hygiene very seriously!

Also our video of our Easter Egg Hot Chocolate got over 12k views. Our audience was sharing and tagging each other in it! That was a surprise success!


What platform do you find works best for your business?

Definitely Facebook for engagement, as most of our customer base is active on Facebook but Instagram gets lots of views. We’re always really pleased with how many views our Instagram stories get, especially as stories sit at the top of the newsfeed.

We find that Instagram tends to be better for brand positioning and easier for brand alignment with like-minded businesses. In fact we discovered Annual Store and Young Double on Instagram which led to fantastic collaborations.

Did you go on any social media training courses?

No! We are self taught. It’s been fairly intuitive to learn along with everyone else as Facebook initially and then Instagram have become mainstream. Facebook ads took a bit of work to master and we probably could have used some training for that!

Who else do you admire, or think is doing their social media well?

NatalieDamsbeauty always does great competitions, you feel like you know her team really well, MissPickering is so clever at telling a story and featuring the people of Stamford. WeAreTheEnergyGirls post some great content. The bathtub /toilet photo was brilliant! A real talking point and something brave and different!

Further afield Mombini and NuboPlay (soft play centres) are accounts that we admire and take inspiration from. AppleSeedsnyc is play centre in New York with a really nice Instagram feed and larkcafe in Brooklyn has been an inspiration to us in terms of in-store aesthetics & community feel.

Young.Double and AnnualStore (who we regularly work with) are great at keeping it personal and real.

Have you ever run a competition?

Yes, competitions work well for us. We tend to do things like VIP entry for events and free coffee and cake. We always get a good response.

We recently did a Wimbledon related one, a competition relating to our re-opening after our refurbishment and another one that went well was our easter egg hot chocolate competition.

What pitfalls would you warn others about?

If you’re doing a competition, keep the mechanics simple. We once did a “guess the number of balls” competition and we didn’t anticipate quite how many responses we’d have to wade through! We ended up giving ourselves quite a bit of work!

How do you manage your social media marketing?

There are three of us who tend to do the majority of the posts between us. It’s not a formalised plan. We tend to text each other at the end of an evening, when we’ve had a chance to sit down and think about who and what we want to post the following day. Our little system works well for us!

Molly is our manager and she’s great at boomerangs and quirky little videos. She also runs some classes called ‘Hello Molly’, so she’s really good at marketing those for us on our accounts.

Charlotte The Yard Stamford

We’re very lucky that we have a great team. Charlotte and Molly are both particularly good at social media, so they capture great content for us to use and share.

We also try and do an Instagram story every day, just to ensure people don’t forget that we’re here.

What do you think you could do better?

Utilise geo tags and use more nearby locations in our hashtags, so that we are widening our field. We’re also working on our Bio’s (to ramp up the keywords & phrases).

Do you monitor your performance on social media insights?

We do look at our reach but we probably don’t make the most of what is available. I think because we feel it’s working for us, we don’t do too much analysis. Perhaps that’s something we could do more of though.

Do you do sponsored posts?

Very rarely! We are quite organic in our approach to our content so unless there is a really important message we want to get out there (like when we had our refurb) we wouldn’t bother. We get good reach and our followers are doing a great job of spreading the word without too much effort from us. Advertising could be something we would look at in the future though.

Do you use print media?

In the early days we tried, but it didn’t seem to translate into any actual customers, so we moved away from that. There is no point spending money for no return, so it seemed sensible to move over to doing all our promotional content on social media.

How much of your content is scheduled vs in real time?

Most of our posts are done live or later on that day.

As Mums ourselves we know our target audience are most active on social media early in the morning or after the children are in bed so we save our content to post at those peak times.

We tend to keep our content very organic and natural, and we like to think that’s why our social media is so successful. Hopefully this helps us come across as authentic.

What are you most proud of?

The way we’re able to bring our excellent staff into our brand story and feature them in our posts. We want people to feel that they’re really connected to us and our business.

We are also proud of having our children featured as part of our logo giving a real family feel to our business, the personal touch.

The yard Stamford logo with names

Our customers genuinely feel like friends. We’ve known many of them since day 1 of opening & seen them through pregnancies and important events like birthday parties (with all their family members). It’s a very personal relationship we have with many of our customers.

What advice do you have for any business owners unsure about using Social Media?

Being active on Social Media an absolute MUST to be successful in business these days, you just have to give it a go!

Keep things as simple as possible and remember having loads of followers is lovely, but what matters is sales through the till… We’re extremely proud to have followers in Australia (for example), but paying customers is ultimately what’s important, so keep that in mind!

Also important is investing in a decent phone (a good camera is essential). Learn a few basics, like Canva (for making photos look professional) and how to make Boomerangs and get good (license free) images from Google.

If you’re unsure what to post, it’s worth finding accounts that you admire and utilise what they’re doing  by applying it to your business. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel!

Above all else, have fun with your social media! Positivity always shines through & people respond to humour.


The Yard Stamford Sport Relief

Any Final thoughts?

It’s really important to get into the mindset of your customer and talk to them in their language. This has been pretty easy for us, as we are the embodiment of our target market, so we know what times of day our customers are likely to be scrolling and what things might be on their mind like entertaining kids with cabin fever!

Are Christmas Day sales in your social media plans?

I read yesterday that Christmas Day online sales are forecast to exceed £800m and Boxing Day more than £1bn. That is a significant step up from last years record online sales and a massive opportunity for retailers who are taking what is possibly their only day off this Christmas. Read more

Love it or Hate it – Social Media

If there was ever a day to watch how brands use the power of social media to elevate their positioning, jump on the band wagon, or just simply take a pop at the competition, it is the day #MarmiteGate erupts.

The pricing row between Unilever who want to put up their prices due to the weakness of the pound, and Tesco who want to keep their prices low has reached a stalemate. Unilever have stopped supply of some of the nations favourite brands to the nations favourite supermarket and this includes Marmite.

Twitter reacted.

vegemite tweet

Vegemite tweet now deleted







While some of the links are tenuous, yes I am looking at you Henry Pryor, timeliness and humour in this instance have got these brands noticed in a hot trending topic.

The other thing to note is that these tweets are all visual. An image will always get your content noticed before the wittiest tweet. We are drawn to visual references and this includes a fast stream of tweets. As of this moment, 13th Oct 2016, #Marmitegate is trending at number one in the UK and anyone searching that hashtag will have thousands of tweets to look at. Make yours stand out with a photo, a gif, a video.

Finally, fast marketing reactions don’t just happen on social media. Well done Poundland for your quick printing!

For help with your social media marketing, for a social media marketer that’s quick off the mark, for saving you the constant pressure of knowing what to post, give me a call. Will work for Marmite.

5 reasons retailers should be using social media at Christmas

Christmas shopping will be social this year – customers search for brands and products on social media, they are looking for ideas, suggestions, they hunt down discounts and offers, and they seek social proof (their friend’s approval) of their purchases. But the big question is, are they talking about YOUR retail business and products?

More than ever, retailers should be using social media to take advantage of all those prospective sales. And here are our top 5 reasons why:


  1. Reach

How many customers visit your shop each day? How many customers do you talk to?

Even if you are in a high traffic location you are still only reaching a fraction of the customers you could be reaching if you talked to them on social platforms and not just in real life.

Even if you have an e-commerce business, you can significantly increase the traffic to your online shop with social media. Of course customers aren’t all going to visit your shop tomorrow, but they are much more likely to if they have seen you tweeting and talking about the fantastic products you stock.

By reaching out to your customers, your brand and shop are much more likely to be remembered the next time your customer needs a product that you sell.

  1. Relationships

Establishing a presence on social media takes you a whole new audience, but more importantly has the potential to take you even further. A customer finds you, shops with you (rather than your competitor), and tell their friends and connections on social media about you.

Your customers recommending you is the ultimate form of marketing and one that is very easily attainable. Your network plus your customer’s networks equals a hell of a lot of customers.

  1. Awareness

A daily reminder of why you are the best place to shop goes a long way. Repetition is key to being remembered. That doesn’t mean constantly filling a followers news feed or timeline with your content, it just means being consistent in your posting so that you are top of mind on the occasion they are looking for what you sell.

  1. Expertise

The majority of your content shouldn’t be self-promoting. Customers are on social media to be social, and they won’t follow you if all your talk about is yourself. But if you are offering solutions the problems that they have (like gift ideas at Christmas) then they are much more likely to follow you.

You are demonstrating that you understand their problems and illustrating that you can solve them.

Add in some relevant news, an observation, something you saw that you found interesting, some tips and advice. Give your customers a reason to follow you and over time you will build trust that you are the go to place for the product that you sell.

  1. Customer Service

It is a fact customers complain on social media. If they have reason to complain about you and they came into your shop you wouldn’t ignore them, and nor should you on social media.

Respond quickly and efficiently and make sure you recover from the fall out with great customer service.

A good recovery is great for PR even if there was cause for complaint. By the way, should a customer be complaining about your competitor, why not jump in and offer them your services. They are bound to be grateful.

Now if that doesn’t convince you, we don’t know what will. Get your shop out there on social media and if you need any help, you’ll know where to come.