Social Chain’s co-founder Steven Bartlett says it’s difficult to predict the future of their business in a year, let alone five, but that’s not stopping their growth.
What is it the company does?
Social Chain is a global social media marketing agency, with offices in Manchester, London, New York and Berlin. We work with some of the world’s biggest brands and run some of the most famous pages on social media, such as Student Problems, which have a total reach of more than 386 million.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
I lead a team of 100+ like-minded individuals and together, we are quickly disrupting the ever-changing social sphere.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I began a business management course at Manchester Metropolitan University, but dropped out at 18 after realising that I would benefit more from experience in the real world over a lecture theatre. One thing I took away from my stint in higher education was that university communication was outdated and students required a new, modern platform to chat with each other. This is around the same time I became captivated by the intriguing world of social media and so I decided to launch Wallpark: a social media network created specifically for students. It was whilst looking for ways of marketing Wallpark that I first met my business partner Dominic McGregor and had the idea for Social Chain.
At the age of 25, I’m proud of my business success and regularly promote the company through global public speaking engagements. I’m also proud to be part of a panel of business experts for the Plusnet Pioneers campaign – an initiative aimed at helping small business owners as they build and grow their businesses.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
I’ve always believed in the basic premise that humans buy from humans, and they prefer to buy from humans who appear to be more knowledgeable or intelligent. I think this has truly contributed to my success as a business leader, as many budding entrepreneurs and clients look to me for my honesty and expertise.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
In the crowded social media agency sphere, it’s always challenging to ensure Social Chain remains a cut above the rest – but I believe it always will.
Social Chain is distinctive because we follow a social-first approach to marketing, using the latest technology to drive strategy, creativity and distribution for some of the biggest brands in the world.
We’re an agency with a difference, running some of the most famous pages on social media that give us the platform to quickly distribute content. In this way, we quickly convert reactions into trends, and trends into global movements.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Working in social media is incredibly fast-paced and what’s more, I’ve become a public speaker over recent years – sharing my knowledge on entrepreneurship and marketing.
It’s easy to get stressed out at times, but for me it’s important to have a good work-life balance and enjoy time with friends and family.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I have always been inspired by business and showed my entrepreneurial spark early, organising coffee machine deals for my local school and money-making social nights in my area while growing up. I think it’s safe to say that I knew I wanted to be a business owner from a young age.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
When it comes to the workplace, I’m passionate to create surroundings that encourage success. At Social Chain, we prioritise finding applicants who are nice people, ultimately making it a nice place to work.
However, no place is a perfect fit for everybody and sometimes we recruit people looking for a different environment. For me, it’s most important that we’ve created an environment that we believe in, that is passionate, a nice place to be, accommodating, flexible and caring.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
The media landscape is ever-changing, so it’s difficult to envisage where we’ll be in a year’s time – let alone five.
It’s fair to say Social Chain will continue to grow across the globe. After having recently acquired The Football Republic (TFR), a network of sport social media channels, from FremantleMedia, we hope to dominate more and more viral pages in future.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
According to research conducted by Plusnet, almost a third (29%) of UK small business owners find accessing finance their biggest business challenge.
My top piece of advice is to not raise investment unless you’re sure that it is necessary for your business. You must be confident to seize an opportunity that won’t be there in the future because there’s increased competition.
If you are already running a profitable business, I would tell you not to raise investment and to scale from your own success. Taking this approach builds a sustainable business and one that’s not built on a fixed set of investor terms.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
I think we live in a society where we think success is fast. But when people realise that success doesn’t happen overnight, people tend to quit.
Remember to embrace the fact that whenever we try something new that we haven’t done before, we should expect to suck at it. More importantly, your dreams aren’t over when things don’t go to plan and you learn the most from making mistakes.
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