AIB Start-Up Academy & Irish Times Content Series: Mark Brennan, Head of Digital Marketing & Innovation at AIB

AIB's Mark Brennan being interviewed at the AIB Start-Up Academy in 2015.

07 Jan 2016

Posted in:  Business Support

With over a decade of experience in the advertising and digital industry, Mark Brennan – AIB’s Head of Digital Marketing & Innovation – brings a wealth of expertise to his role in the AIB Start-up Academy.

A mentor on the Academy alongside Dr. Johnny Ryan, Bobby Kerr and Starcom’s Craig Farrell, Mark helps Start-ups master their use of social media to engage their target audience.

Passionate about the power of social media as a marketing tool for Start-ups, he says: “Nowadays, it’s very important for all businesses, small or large, to be in the social media space. And that’s because so many consumers are interacting there.

“Businesses need to be where their consumers are. And that would be the primary reason I would say for a Start-up to have a social media presence.”

An important area for Start-ups to consider, Mark says participation in the Academy’s events and programme brings wider benefits to businesses. He explains: “The AIB Start-up Academy does three things very well. Across the country and across all sectors, Start-ups get the chance to showcase themselves in the national events. Secondly, at such an early stage, a lot of research shows that it’s not just funding they are looking for. Instead, Start-ups want peer to peer advice from others who are a little bit further down the road from them. The Academy events give Start-ups the chance to network with other businesses and pick up advice so they can avoid the same mistakes.

“And finally, if you get through the Academy and you go to one of the events, you have access to people there, internal AIB talent, and external talent within the Irish Times, within Core Media and within some of the most successful companies in Ireland. It's really a very special platform for Start-ups to jump from.”

With applications for the next Academy now open, Mark says the experience of taking part in the programme is a very rewarding one.

“Being a mentor is actually very special. Seeing and meeting the Start-ups before they come into the Academy and to see them go from that point in their journey to when they come out and pitch on the night of the final - and seeing how much they’ve learned and developed - is a very rewarding experience.

“I’m proud to be part of the programme,” he says.

Read on to see for Mark’s advice on how to make the most of social media and digital channels for your Start-up:

Less is more

In building your own social media presence, less is definitely more. What I mean by that is try not to be on every platform. You are under incredible amounts of pressure from a resource point of view. On a lot of social platforms nowadays, you need budget to get your message out there. Therefore you should be very concentrated on your platforms and they should be where your key customers are.

I would worry less about execution and have quite a relaxed view of production levels of what you can put out there. I’d be very focused on what that content is saying about you, your business, your brand and your proposition.

Pick one platform and do it brilliantly. Pick one form of content and do that brilliantly. Have a point of view.

Have a plan

One of the potential pit-falls for a Start-up when it comes to social media is that it can become very resource draining.

The best way to avoid that is to have a very clear plan of what you’re going to do, where you’re going to say it and when. Know what your KPI’s are and focus on producing a plan that meets those. That will enable you to avoid the traps of producing content for content’s sake, or of being part of a conversation that isn’t necessarily delivering back to your key business requirements.

Be really clear about what you want to say as a business, and why, and be really clear about your bottom line and focus on that.

Social media can add value to your business

Social media can do a number of things. It can deliver very good value customer service. Instead of having a call centre, you can have people manning customer queries on Twitter or other social platforms. So that’s a place you can boost your profitability.

Another benefit is that it can improve your reach in marketing. If you create a community of brand advocates, they can do your marketing for you. And they deliver an awful lot of value for the business as you don’t have to invest so heavily in social media promotion.

Finally, you can really shape your product or service if you listen to your customers, and the best way to do that in a really cost-effective way is on social.

It’s time to innovate

The biggest opportunities for Start-ups in the social space includes live-streaming on platforms like Meerkat and Periscope. It’s a really cost-effective way of delivering video content to customers.

The other area is Instagram as a platform as it develops and matures. It’s another space where communities are really starting to migrate and there is a lot of engagement here.

Finally, the other area I’d look at as an opportunity is the rise of paid media support in the social space. Particularly on Facebook, it allows you to segment audiences and to market to them very cost-effectively. This means you can A/B test different price points and marketing messages.

Get excited

It’s a very exciting time. I came back to Ireland in 2012, about four years into the recession and there was a lot of doom and gloom. But in times like that, innovation happens. When you see young companies start to grow, flourish and expand, it’s very exciting. It’s exciting to see how successful some of them are on a global stage or the impact they have on a global level.

I think we’re going to see a lot of Start-ups in different industries utilising technology. The lines are blurring so much now. I think we’ll start to see huge advancements in agri-tech, in med-tech and professional services tech. I’m excited to see the impact technology will have on all sectors.

The AIB Start-up Academy 2015/2016 application is now closed, keep up to date by following @AIBBiz on Twitter and visiting the dedicated AIB Start-up Academy page on the Irish Times website.

Watch this full interview below or browse our Start-up Academy playlist on YouTube.

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