My Social Agency is a digital marketing services provider based in Leeds. They provide social media, content marketing, web development and search engine marketing services to a wide variety of businesses. SME caught up with MD Mark Mitchell to hear his take on the digital economy…
Could you give a brief summary of the EU’s digital single market and how it affects your clients?
The digital single market is currently one of the top priorities for EU government, where they’re aiming to improve our digital economy by bridging gaps in the skills force, to support and standardise new technologies in areas such as big data and cloud computing, to strengthen consumer trust in online services, and to make the internet more transparent. At the moment, companies across all sectors have greater sales growth rates where they have invested in ICT and web-based technologies, so if the digital single market agenda proves to be a success, then, in theory, our clients will reap even greater benefits from digital.
SMEs often lack digital skills, but what do you think is the bare minimum an SME should aim for?
A fully optimised website is the most important digital asset a startup or SME needs. All other digital services we offer are a pointer to a client’s site to secure traffic and conversions, so it makes sense to ensure that in the first instance a site is user-friendly, easy for Google to crawl, works on mobile, and has fresh and relevant content. After this point, your next go-to is social media marketing, which is one of the quickest and easiest ways a small business can begin to amass a customer base and secure profit.
What do you think needs to be done to close the digital skills gap? Who should take responsibility (schools, universities, employers etc)?
Compulsory computing classes that are better equipped for the workplace drastically needs to be embedded into school curriculum from the earliest age possible. Apprenticeships, on-the-job training and sending staff out to external training courses are also important for nurturing those with existing skills - but because digital talent is likely to always be perceived as lacking due to it moving at such a fast pace, the individual also needs to take a steer of their own learning to stay sharp. This is impressive to any employer, as it demonstrates their commitment to career progression in a field that will always require a pool of workers that stay ahead of technological advances.
What is your recruiting process? How do you ensure that every new member of staff has the appropriate level of digital skills?
Fundamentally, I take a hands-on approach to recruitment and like to vet candidates myself as I have a nose for the right talent - I know the core competencies they must possess and whether they’ll be a good cultural fit. Usually two interviews is my standard and I’ll often send them a competency-based test as a measure of their capabilities. I also like to have up my sleeve a roster of killer questions – these force even the best rehearsed candidate to think on their feet, which puts to the test their ability to think creatively and quickly under pressure. But the cliché questions also deserve credibility – asking what they know about our company and what they expect the role to entail tells a lot about their motivations to work at My Social Agency. This is why I rarely use recruiters to do the job for me; from experience they can’t necessarily vouch for the skills and motivations of the individual they represent.