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Plusnet Pioneers

LDN Muscle and Social Chain: How to win thousands of customers on social media

Plusnet Pioneers Tom and James Exton and Steven Bartlett reveal how, with the right social media marketing strategy, you can build a loyal following

Every social media channel offers a unique way to communicate with existing and potential customers.

But how do you talk to customers and get them to engage with your start-up when they don’t know who you are?

The number of social media channels on offer and the volume of content posted everyday can be confusing for businesses first starting out, and knowing where you should focus your time and resources can ensure you generate the best results.

To help address these challenges and kick-start your brand’s social media presence, we spoke to the founders behind two businesses who are experts in the ever-shifting world of social media:

Tom and James Exton of fitness brand LDN Muscle and Steven Bartlett of global social media marketing agency, Social Chain.

Tom, James and Steven are part of this year’s Plusnet Pioneers programme; a campaign launched by business broadband and phone provider Plusnet and to help small businesses tackle some of the biggest challenges they face in funding and marketing.

But what makes our Plusnet Pioneers such social media experts?

Tom and James Exton

 tom and james exton ldn muscle

Twin brothers, Tom and James Exton, founded LDN Muscle in 2013 with Max and Lloyd Bridger. The company provides fitness advice, recipes, clothing and accessories. The brand has more 213,000 followers across Instagram, 136,000 followers on Twitter, and 226,000 on Facebook.

Steven Bartlett

 Social Chain Steven Bartlett

Steven founded Social Chain in 2014 with Dominic McGregor. The global social media marketing agency has a reach of more than 386 million people across 400 different social media communities. Social Chain counts 20th Century Fox, ASOS, the BBC, and McDonald’s as clients

1. Understand that brand awareness trumps sales pitches on social media


“As a new brand, your efforts should be focused on raising brand awareness and cutting through the crowded online world where the struggle for customer attention is becoming more and more competitive.

“If I was starting out again, I would focus all of my social media efforts on being a publisher as opposed to a marketer. With social media, it’s important to produce content around interesting themes and topics and then, once in a while, talk about your brand within that content.”


“For a lot of businesses, their first priority is to make money via social media. If that’s clear to your audience when you first start your social media account, people will usually switch off.

“Our key focus was adding value for our followers and fans on social media with free, quality content without them having to pay money to get that value in the first place –  you need to establish that connection.”


“When we started, we just had a blog and website that had free articles, workouts and recipes.

“For the first six to eight months we used this approach and engaged with people; offering advice and replying to every single social media post to create the perception of ‘we’re being helpful’.

“We attracted tens of thousands of followers this way, and when we released our first product, it started to sell to the very same people that we’d been helping out for the past few months.”

2. Use emotion as a call to action on social media


“For Social Chain, emotion is something that we always try to work into our campaigns. The way that social media platforms are built now demands emotion and real engagement that drives reach.

“If your social media activity causes indifference and doesn’t make people feel anything then, in this day and age, it won’t travel or engage with people.”

3. Embrace the power of video


“The big opportunity now within social media is video, and all social media platforms now offer video. In terms of growing your brand, video and live video achieve much better reach than static photos or text.

“I’d advise brands to focus on producing videos around topics that provide an opportunity to piggyback on a social moment or a viral trend.”

4. Own your brand personality on social media – and be consistent


“We’ve gone from being personalities in the early days, and us guys chatting to people, to more of a brand. But what can sometimes happen with a brand is customers tend to switch off a lot more as it becomes more corporate. You risk losing that personal touch and direct connection with customers.

“If you can keep your social media identity as personal to your company’s beliefs and ideas as possible, that’s the way to grow your business.”


“The moment your social media activity looks corporate, people switch off, and this can happen even when you’re trying to directly sell something; you don’t want it to look like a promotional post.”

5. Competitions can be a big hit on social media (run them if you can afford to)


“We ran an organic competition on social media, which reached four or five million people.

“We didn’t put any budget into the competition prize as a company kindly gave us the promotional items for free. We told people to retweet it – this directly translated into sales.

“For the week following the competition, our sales spiked because there was so much more traffic coming to our website. Giveaways and competitions work really well on platforms like Twitter because you’re starting a direct conversation with customers through the platform.

“Customers love the opportunity to win something and it’s great exposure for your brand as it’s an easy way to add value to them.”

6. Keep in mind that not all social media platforms are created equally


“Certain businesses and content types are better suited to certain platforms. There are two things you’ve got to think about as a business: the story you’re telling and the stage you’re telling it on.

“So, if you imagine yourself as a story teller, certain stories are better suited to certain stages.

“My advice is to tell your story on YouTube and Facebook for video marketing, and then you can tell a different type of story on Instagram and a different type of story on Twitter.”

“Instagram is a great platform for image-led campaigns whereas Twitter is great for click-throughs and getting customers to engage with your content.”


“With Instagram, especially with Instagram Stories now, you’ve got so many ways to engage with your audience. You’ve got live-streams and you can include URL swipe-up links.

“If you’re going to focus on one social media channel then I would say to just focus in on Instagram. Also, when you post on Instagram you can share on other social media channels so you can hit all your platforms at the same time.”


“Critics are saying Twitter is dying down, but, as a content-led website and a brand trying to navigate people to your content, we’ve found that Twitter is still really useful to engage prospective customers.”

Interviews were conducted as part of the Plusnet Pioneers programme, a stimulating series of content created by business broadband and phone provider Plusnet to help small businesses grow.

Henry Williams
Henry Williams

Henry has been writing for since 2015, covering everything from business finance and web builders to tax and red tape. He’s also contributed to many of our industry-renowned annual indexes, including Startups 100 and Young Guns, and created a number of the site’s popular how to guides. Before joining the team, he reviewed films for a culture website, and still harbours ambitions of being a screenwriter.