Manchester’s recent leap into creative and digital industries has stimulated several local businesses to venture beyond the M60 motorway. The latest local business making its mark is Social Chain, an influencer marketing agency, which has raised $2m in its latest funding round.
Backed by German talent management firm NVC, Social Chain is now looking to break into new markets overseas, starting with Germany this spring, and grow its team from 35 to 80 within the year.
Noted for its ability to speak ‘Millennialese’, Social Chain has a strong customer portfolio targeting this generation of spenders, including Hungry House, Spotify and Comedy Central.
Working with Comedy Central, Social Chain created and executed a creative campaign for the popular hidden camera reality prank show Impractical Jokers which more than doubled the show’s viewership to over 300,000 16 to 34-year-olds. According to Matt Bundy, head of marketing at Comedy Central, “After the campaign, Impractical Jokers became the highest rating show on the channel overall, and our highest rating individual show in four years since Two and a Half Men in 2011”.
With a combined global spending power of $2.45 trillion, millennials – those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s – are rapidly becoming a dominant consumer market. Brands and businesses looking to harness that buying power need to talk the talk, which is where social media marketers are looking to score.
With the average age of its employees barely reaching 22, could Social Chain’s success simply be a case of the ‘speaking the same language’?
Steve Bartlett, CEO of Social Chain suggests there’s more to getting 200 million millennials to see a certain message, image, video, event or trend at once than just knowing how to reach them. “Fundamentally [it’s] because we are them. We work on gut instinct a lot of the time,” he told GrowthBusiness. “We have our ear to the ground and very connected individuals. We hold large creative meetings at many stages of a client campaign, from brief to execution. We also understand that social media never goes to sleep. We have such a committed team, ready to action campaigns day or night.”
As part of investing back into the company, Social Chain has funnelled finances into social listening and analytics tools. “This allows us to back up our instinct with trends, insights and real-time metrics.”
With the strongest economy in Europe and second largest ad spend, Bartlett sees Germany as an emerging powerhouse that has yet to be fully explored. According to a survey on German millennials by Shell, 99 per cent of this faction are now online, and more than a quarter are content producers via blogs and vlogs and social media self promotion. “Berlin offers a new challenge outside of the UK; an opportunity for us to learn about how different cultures use social platforms differently,” Bartlett adds. We’re in the final stages of hiring business development managers in our central Berlin office who will start their Social Chain journey spending their first month in the Manchester office. The team will soon after look to develop strong European connections, taking Social Chain international”.
Investing for growth
Social Chain plans to invest the surplus funding into acquiring new media, expanding their Manchester office to accommodate their growing team and investing into new technology developing their own software for influencer discovery and social community management.
Bartlett moved their London-based operations back to Manchester, staying true to the company’s Northern roots. “There is so much positivity in Manchester City, everyone is very open to networking, sharing ideas and creating partnerships. We’re enjoying being part of the movement and contributing to the northern powerhouse,” he said.
While London gets three times as much arts and culture investment as the North West of England, half of BBC funding and 40 per cent of the Arts Council cash, Manchester is clearly emerging as a creative hub, making policymakers sit up and take notice. In the last five years, jobs in digital industries in Greater Manchester have grown by 25 per cent. Employing around 57,000 employees in Manchester, the city is recognised as the UK’s second largest the digital sector after London—and one to watch in the near future.