I got to know Alex McCann when I was one of the official photographers at Manchester’s In The City music convention and festival. He produced an amazing music magazine and interviewed lots of bands. And then a few years later I looked on LinkedIn and discovered he has built a huge number of connections and has been highly successful in social media. To find out more, I met up with him in his home town Altrincham, a town where I used to live and work.
Altrincham Interchange and clock tower 2002 with red Audi TT
Why did you name your business Altrincham HQ?
Altrincham is at the very heart of what I do. I have a massive love for my hometown.
At the time I set up Altrincham HQ, I was running an events company in Manchester and I witnessed early on what was happening in the Northern Quarter. Working in music you tend to pick up on social media trends early on as bands are often early adopters of platforms.
There was this massive gap between what was happening when I was working in the Northern Quarter and what I saw in my home town.
When I first started tweeting back in 2009, the idea of local news being spread so fast was at odds with what you read in the local newspaper – the local papers at the time would be 4 to 6 weeks behind what you were discussing in the pub or on the high street. So I decided to tweet on a daily basis about what was happening in Altrincham from Sept 2009.
Within a year we had a fiercely loyal local community and the community is at the heart of any great business.
The name Altrincham HQ – well @altrincham wasn’t available on twitter when I signed up – so adding HQ seemed the obvious option as the focus was on talking about Altrincham.
What’s special about Altrincham for you personally?
Altrincham is my home town and I think there’s always a natural love for your hometown.
Being a non-driver, it’s never been about escaping the town and heading “out of town” – it’s always been about exploring what is on offer locally and soaking up as much as possible in the local surroundings.
When I was involved in music in the city centre, Altrincham to me was this quiet (but lively enough) escape at home where I could have a catch up with friends and just relax.
As I get older I tend to enjoy a night out with friends at the many restaurants of Altrincham. There’s a real strong mix of established restaurants and always new restaurants in the town and I’ve dined out at the vast majority of them (in fact I think there are only two restaurants I’ve not eaten at in Altrincham and that’s only due to their lack of vegetarian options).
Like many towns, Altrincham has struggled in recent years, but the town is very much on the up again and that’s in no small part due to the positivity of the people of Altrincham.
One of Altrincham’s strongest assets is the amount of people who love the community, want to help out and want to shout louder about the positives of Altrincham rather than the negatives. Looking at other towns I don’t see that same sense of community that Altrincham has!
Tell me about Designer Magazine
Designer Magazine was my baby from leaving college in 1999 till the very very start of 2014.
For those that only know of myself through Altrincham HQ, my background was in journalism and and events and although I worked for various publications internationally, over the years Designer Magazine was the name I was associated with here in Manchester.
I interviewed every major band from 1999-2006/7 including Take That’s Mark Owen, Run DMC, The Rolling Stones (Bill Wyman), Elbow, Muse, My Chemical Romance, Scissor Sisters and many many more.
In The City music festival poster September 2004
It spawned an events company years later, through which I put on gigs by Bombay Bicycle Club, Athlete, The Ting Tings (Dear Eskimo), The Heartbreaks, The 1975 (when they were called Drive Like I Do) and members of The Stone Roses, The Wombats, The Kooks and many more.
One of the things we did was launch the All Ages Gigs in South Manchester which were attended by 400 teenagers every month in Sale and occasionally Altrincham and the impact of those gigs were massive. So many of the talented bands that were just starting out then are now in their early to mid twenties and getting national acclaim.
I’m no longer involved in music now, but it’s strange how people pop up from the past every so often. One of the last few gigs I did was the first ever Manchester gig for singer-songwriter Tom Mann. It was a co-promotion with local promoter Abi Richardson in Altrincham. And then a year later he ended up on X Factor as part of the boy band Stereokicks.
Why did you move into what you are doing now?
It was one of those ideas that was at the back of my mind for a long long time.
Since I left college and university I’d been involved in promotion or marketing of some description. Even on the events I’d get huge PR coverage including the front page of the Manchester Evening News through to Radio 1 / XFM and national broadsheets
I just really like helping people and whilst I was doing music a friend of mine suggested why don’t you help small businesses as well as bands
So I structured Social Media training that was aimed at small businesses in order for them to get more out of Social Media. At the time the majority of small businesses were not marketing via Social Media and were still very traditional in their marketing.
Since then it’s flipped so that the majority of new businesses use social media, but the majority don’t use it effectively
What I love about Social Media is how often it changes and you need to change and adapt all the time. What worked 12 months ago rarely works in the present day.
What do you do and how can you help people and businesses?
What I do in its essence is help businesses market themselves, so that they capture the eyes of their target audience on the right platform.
Small business marketing has changed massively over the past 10 years and Social Media has changed the way people communicate on a daily basis. So what I do is focus on how to strategically market a business where their customers’ eyes are. Stats show that a person picks up their mobile phone 150 times a day and depending on who your customers are, they may be looking at Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram or reading long form content such as 1000 word blogs.
So I either train businesses on the mechanics, the marketing message and the measurement of social media over a half day’s training session or on an on-going basis.
I also offer an outsourced social media management service which is where we fully manage the social media for a business that doesn’t have the time to do so.
I work with one business who get 30% of their total business from social media, and the rest of their business is from the word of mouth that comes from the social media activity. Another business wins around 80 new customers a month from Twitter. And another business has launched a successful business which is growing over 3 years later without spending a penny on traditional advertising.
Every session is totally different so one day it might be literally a new start up working from home and at the opposite end of the scale i’ve worked with Manchester Arndale, the NHS and Manchester University
Manchester University John Owens Building
It’s enormously satisfying walking through your home town knowing that you’ve helped hundreds of local businesses market more effectively and win business in a really competitive world
But the biggest shock for me is how far the word has spread from my hard work in Altrincham. I’ve worked with a Canadian business as well as businesses all over the UK – just this past month alone I’ve worked with businesses from Wales, Wakefield, Liverpool, Shropshire and all over the northwest.
If you want more info please look at www.altrinchamhq.co.uk. There are over 200 blog posts with free marketing advice on there!
Many thanks to Alex McCann, @AltrinchamHQ and we will continue to communicate regularly via Twitter and other social media!