10 Questions With…. Chris Barned, Managing Director, Digital Hybrid
In this ’10 questions with’ post Meltwater had a chat with Christ Barned, Managing Director of London social media agency, Digital Hybrid. Learn about his favourite places in the world, advice for those in the industry, his favourite ad campaign and more!
- How long have you been in your (position) and what led you down this path?
I set up Digital Hybrid four years ago, but I’ve been in brand communications all my career. I actually started out in PR but soon had the opportunity to help grow and develop the agency’s digital team. This meant project managing web-development projects but also digital comms strategy and social media, so I soon began setting clients up on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Flickr. This led to content creation – website content, social media content and content that would attract the attention of online editors. From interactive maps to video/podcast production, sweepstakes promotions to infographics… I regularly advised brands and organisations on how best to produce regular content and appeal to their audience in the most engaging, sustainable way possible. Digital Hybrid follows this same mission today, providing social media strategy, creative content and social advertising in a way that contributes to core business objectives.
- What’s the best professional advice you have been given?
Dive in at the deep end. Because the worst thing that can happen is you float. I’ve pretty much applied this to every major decision I’ve ever made, and so far, it’s worked a treat. That’s not to say the outcomes shouldn’t be considered carefully but in almost all instances you can never know until you try.
Professionally speaking though, it comes down to two particular tips:
- Firstly, always get your creative writing done first thing in the morning… save the more functional, process-driven work for later in the day;
- And secondly, remember to take a step back to review what you’ve achieved – by seeing what you’ve done, for what sectors, in what industries, you can start to see which career paths are opening up and what steps you need to take to get you where you want to go.
- What was your first ever job and what did you learn from it?
My first ever job was as a Saturday boy at the local bakers. Early mornings, hot ovens, and a gruelling routine of lifting, cleaning, scraping and scrubbing… I loved it. Plus, all the fresh bread and cakes I could ask for. I guess what it really showed me was just how much you could accomplish in a day when you had a structured approach and a tailored method of attack. It also taught me to appreciate a well-baked loaf of bread.
After that I worked selling suits at Hugo Boss while I was studying Business Management at university – Moss Bros. owned the franchise back then, so I convinced them to give me a work placement in the marketing team. Seeing the full scope of their operation and joining the dots with the support that it gave for footfall and in-store sales really brought it home that marketing and communication were areas where I wanted a career. It also gave me an in-depth understanding of men’s tailoring, not that it shines through that often these days…
- What is your favourite thing to do, outside of work?
Ok, this has to be travelling. Exploring new cities, trekking through the countryside, working through the bucket-list feels like my lifetime ambition. Absolutely my favourite way to spend free time. If only I had more free time! A trip to the pictures comes in as a close second though. I love the cinema. Has to be my number one form of content in terms of the potential to engage. There’s just something about the big-screen that gives that extra level of emotional connection, it’s almost unavoidable. When a film finds itself perfectly aligned and the plot, script, performance and edit all work as one, it’s something that can genuinely affect people.
- What’s your favourite city and why?
London! All the way. Born here, grew up here, it’s where everything happens. I used to look out over Canary Wharf from my window while I was growing up and I’ve been smitten ever since. It’s a place that confirms all the clichés you’ve ever heard and then throws you completely off-guard at the very next corner. Every street has a story to tell, every borough has its own unique feel, and you can guarantee that everyone you meet is actively doing something, even if it’s nothing at all. I’ve had some great nights out in Berlin, and Rome probably makes the podium too but there’s nowhere in the world with the same mix of culture(s), creativity, history and tradition as London… it’s an atmosphere I haven’t felt anywhere else. Although, I guess it could just be because it’s home.
- What is your top tip for creating a successful social media marketing strategy?
Start at the very beginning and keep it as simple as possible. What do you want to achieve? What audience do you want to engage? What content are you able to produce? And what budget are you willing to invest?
Beyond this, measurement and analysis are going to be key so be sure to work with people who can give you functional, creative strategy, but also people who can measure the results at a platform level, content level and business level too. This way you can tell if each phase of activity is delivering both in isolation and as part of the wider business-oriented objectives.
- Who do you love following on social media?
Everyone! Tapping into the world’s consciousness for a moment every day is a great way to keep on top of current trends. Goes without saying that friends and family take the top spot. Social media has helped us all stay close in a way that was never previously possible over longer distances, so I think we’re incredibly lucky to have so many ways to contact each other these days. Beyond that? Smash Hits Interview Bot (@smashehitsbot) is a current fave… each day it posts a random question from old issues of Smash Hits Magazine, put to the world like they’re an 80’s pop star. Some of the answers are hilarious. Great idea. Plus, it’s so brilliantly cheesy it encourages a bit of comedic embellishment.
- Favourite ad?
Wieden & Kennedy’s ‘Nothing beats a Londoner’ for Nike is the best thing I’ve seen for years. Pure energy, passion, humour, full to the brim with subtle touches that show just how well they understand who they’re talking to.
But also perfume ads have really reached new heights recently. The recent spots for Miss Dior and Coco Mademoiselle are both excellent. Great use of talent, classy direction, perfectly cut edits and the soundtracks are perfect. Stunning, cinematic and emotionally engaging.
- How do you relax?
The gym… Not particularly relaxing while I’m there, but it helps me stay relaxed later in the day. Other than that, there’s not a lot you can do to beat a good walk (feel free to tell me to bore-off!).
- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram?
All of them. I couldn’t possibly choose… I mean ultimately, we need to be looking at whichever channels your key audience uses so it’s a variable answer. I guess, if you want a general answer, then in terms of audience size, depth of engagement and targeting capabilities you’d have to say Facebook, for the moment at least. But if you choose it because you read it was worthwhile on a blog somewhere, then you’re starting off on the wrong track.
Thanks to Chris for all his insights! Earlier this year, Chris did a great event with us on the importance of social media advertising, specifically Facebook advertising. If you’d like to understand a bit more about his strategy and the amazing results he produced, check out the below case study.
Digital Hybrid on making the most of social media advertising
Digital Hybrid were tasked to turn engagement into tangible sales. The resulting campaign brought adventure holiday destinations to life with mobile-first, immersive story-telling and went on to achieve a total ROI of £1.5m – an increase of over 3,700%.
Over 200,000 people engaged with Exodus Travels #ExodusHeroes campaign on Facebook but crucially, 25,000 of them clicked through to the website to browse the trips available. Almost 900 of these went on to purchase while offline purchases also saw a significant uplift.
Brand awareness was a key objective, but the engagement expected from their 35+ audience suggested that a full-funnel approach could be taken entirely within Facebook.
Investment in video showcased Exodus tour leaders and their passion for their local region. Each video provided a compelling case for people to visit and find out for themselves. They highlight the destinations but also the exceptional personnel that make Exodus tours so enjoyable.
Using mobile-first storytelling, they targeted new audiences with Facebook Canvas, the immersive new
full-screen format. By showcasing the personality and passion of Exodus Travels’ tour leaders they could introduce potential clients to new destinations through the eyes of a local.
Top tips for your social media advertising campaign
- Consider each state of the funnel, and how each ad type can support this
- Use video
- Showcase your employees
- Consider what channels your audience are using
- Don’t forget about mobile usage
Over the course of the campaign, Digital Hybrid achieved the following KPIs:
- £10m revenue (+13%)
- 5,903 bookings made (+13%)
- 689,043 unique views (+65%); 364,361 mobile-specific (+91%)
- 2,194 brochure downloads (+23%); 877 mobile-specific (+49%)