Interview with North East Times Magazine

Ellie Rees founded Collab Media, a 24/7 Teesside-based social media consultancy, in 2015. Here, she discusses the background of the business, her short and long-term plans, and her advice for anyone looking to take the leap with a start-up idea.

Tell us about Collab Media.

The journey to running the agency began back in 2013 at The University of Central Lancashire – where I studied Brand Management. Social media was only just taking off and ‘online influencers’ were slowly emerging across platforms like Instagram.

I established my blog ‘Your Daily Dose of Style’ – consisting of a mixture of fashion, beauty and lifestyle posts – which to date has a readership of over 250,000, and a significant following on social media. My blog became an outlet for my creativity, as well as to fuel my passion for social media.

Through my blogging career, I’ve had the opportunity to attend press/blog events which gave me a real insight into the industry. I built up relationships with PR companies and have worked with numerous brands, including Foot Asylum and Intu Metro Centre.

Since returning home from university in 2015, I was reminded of how great the North East is and how I proud I am of the region. During the final months of completing my degree, I took the plunge and set up my own social media consultancy business – Collab Media – with the aim of supporting local independent businesses.

A significant part of Collab Media’s philosophy is to showcase what Teesside and the wider North East has to offer, including the fantastic independent boutiques, micro-pubs and restaurants. I work with over 60 independent businesses locally, nationally and internationally, on their social media campaigns and strategies.

The team works with all types of businesses; to help them build an online presence and create brand awareness, primarily through quality content and engagement with customers.

Our team is made up of a content writer, photographer, communications manager and a graphic designer, all working together collaboratively to create social media content.

What is the most rewarding aspect of running an independent business in the region?

The most rewarding part is the community you grow by owning your own business. There really is positive momentum in the North East, a feeling that people genuinely want you to succeed and I am proud to be a part of the local business community.

Another rewarding part of having an independent business is seeing it grow, in terms of clients and the relationships I am building. As I specialise in SMEs, it’s great to see these brands and businesses grow online and seeing the effects our social media campaigns and strategies are having. From seeing the engagement statistics rise, the number of followers increasing to seeing sales being made off the back of an advert. The whole experience is exciting.

I enjoy the freedom. Freedom to make your own decisions, creative freedom, you have to solve your own problems (and clean up your own mess!), and be flexible.

And the most challenging?

A challenge from day one for me was being a young woman in business. From establishing Collab Media whilst studying at university, I found it was a struggle to be taken seriously, especially in the social media sector that people didn’t acknowledge the value of at the time.

It was a constant challenge to defy social expectations as there was a high number of networking events I did attend where I was not only one of the only females, but also the youngest in the room. I have turned perceived negative perceptions and feelings of not having a voice into a positive, and now I find it a great way to stand out from the crowd and get people’s attention.

What are the short and long-term plans for the business?

My short-term plans for Collab Media is moving into my new premises in Teesdale. This was meant to happen on April 1, but plans are on hold with the current situation. I can’t wait for the next chapter after working from home for five years, it’s going to be a welcome change.

My long-term plans for Collab Media include employing two full-time members of staff as account managers, this will enable me to double my client base and take the business to the next level.

What advice would you give to anyone with a business idea?

My advice to anyone looking to launch their own business is: go for it! It was by far one of the best decisions I have made. I’ve learnt so much about myself and also learnt so much along with way.

The second piece of advice would be to create a clear working space. I have worked from home for the last five years but I’m lucky to have a home office. This has helped to set clear working hours and, on an evening once I leave the office, work is done for the day. It enables you to create more of a realistic working routine and helps establish a work/life balance.

And the final words of advice I would give is don’t do it alone. It’s a difficult time setting up your own business and you need a good network of support around you (and afterwards). I spent a lot of time bouncing ideas off my parents and friends for their opinions. This also helps to talk about any struggles – it’s always important to have a sympathetic ear when in business. I also had a business mentor. A qualified expert is the greatest support you can have – especially if they’re in a similar industry and have been through the start-up process.

How have you adapted your service in light of the COVID-19 pandemic?

We have adapted our service in a number of ways;

We’ve amended all our clients content plans and strategies to fit with the current climate. We are creating more helpful conversations online and providing useful information, relevant advice or simply trying to make people laugh to give some light-hearted relief creating a break from negative content.

The customer service side of our social media channels has increased as we’re informing all our client’s customers of changes to the business. From restaurants turning into takeaways to butchers offering an online service. We’ve had to start from scratch with some of our clients, as they have completely changed their business model, therefore their social media has also had to adapt.

The Indie Series – Ellie Rees, founder of Collab Media

Social Media Management for Restaurants, Hotels and Bars

Did you know that 88% of people are influenced by reviews and online comments, therefore, the importance of having a digital marketing strategy is vital to the success of businesses in the hospitality industry! It is essential that venues engage with their customers via social media to help increase their brand awareness, portray their brand in the best possible light, and reach their target market. The conversations are going on whether the venue is part of them or not. The ultimate goal? Customers through the door.If done correctly, social media management can turn your accounts into the go-to-place. For a fraction of the cost and hassle it would take to do in-house, Collab Media not only builds awareness around your venue but gets customers in the door and spending money.

  • Attract New Customers. Keep your social accounts alive with new, exciting content that establishes you as a brand that people want to share and talk about!
  •  Keep Them Coming Back. Continue to engage with your customers long after their first visit, and turn them into regulars, along with their friends and colleagues. Creating a snowball effect, and an avalanche of new business.
  •  Outshine the Competition. Restaurants that fully capitalise on social media can build lasting relationships with their customers and establish themselves as a staple of the local community.

If you want all of the above, the Complete Collaboration package is for you: £250 Per Month.

Our in-house team of creatives, which includes photographer, graphic designers, content writer and communications manager; all work together closely with the business to produce appealing social media content that gets measurable results which will make your business stand out over competitors.
• Catch the attention of your ideal customers, and in more significant numbers.
• Loaded with pictures and other content that gets people talking.
• Help your brand shine and stand out from the competition.Here at Collab Media, we have the latest industry tools which allow us to schedule across all platforms, we also have the knowledge and expertise to know when the peak times are to post, which social media platforms are most appropriate for which businesses and what type of content increases a Facebook page’s reach.
We also make a collaborative effort to make sure every member of staff understands your businesses values, target audience and product or service. By having a firm grasp of what you do, who you want to talk to and how you want your business to come across to the online world, your social media output will run smoothly.
Once you have those new followers and likes, you need to keep them there. Posting relevant and engaging content is the answer. You want your social media platforms to be the first place people think of when they want to find information as they plan to go out for a meal, drink or a place to stay for the weekend.

We’ve worked with a number of Bar and Restaurants in the North East such as The Dickens, Katch Northallerton, The Woodman’s Arms and many more and we are currently looking expand our customer base in the hospitality industry. To enquire, please email us at or call 07792008894 or head over to our pricing or services page to find out more.

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Women in Collaboration

Women in Collaboration is a movement and new monthly event designed for women in business. We are actively trying to change the way business networking events are run. We want to build real, genuine business relationships in Teesside specifically aimed towards women.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”  #WIC


After a number of different conversations with business owners, a lot of people like myself just don’t like formal networking events, and find them either none rewarding, intimidating or a waste of time as they are not meeting the right people or building their personal network.

I’m really wanting to change that and help build business relationships in Teesside. I’ve been working with Sarah Suffell over the last few weeks and we’ve decided to set up a monthly event designed for women in business. Everyone invited to the event I know personally and I can introduce everyone, taking away that awkward element when you walk in the room, it’s always nice to see a friendly face. I’m hoping this event will lead to amazing collaborations, networking building and a place where you can get business advice from likeminded individuals.

1st Event 24th April – Dovecot Middlesbrough

Facebook Update – January 2018 #CloserTogether and What it means for Businesses

On 11th January, Facebook and more specifically Mark Zuckerberg released a statement announcing their plans for 2018.

One of our big focus areas for 2018 is making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent.We built…

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, January 11, 2018

Over the next few months, Facebook will be making updates to ranking so people have more opportunities to interact with the people they care about.

Facebook’s mission for users to have a deeper, more meaningful interactions with people they care about. The facebook feed uses a process called ranking, this determines what areas of your feed and in what order, based on what they think you’d be interested from the algorithm information they’ve collected.

A like, comment or share is one sign that a post matters to a user, this mean the post you are likely to interest with generally gets a higher ranking score.

Mark Zuckerberg states that ‘You’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.’

The new Facebook newsfeed update means that person to person interaction will be more valuable than person to page. Connections to people in your network will get a bigger boost, meaning you’ll be seeing their content more often.

Over time Facebook believes that people will see more posts from people they are connected to and less content from publishers (pages). They also believe that people overall people will spend less time on facebook but their goal is that the time people do spend on the platform will be improved.

So what does this means for Facebook Business Pages / Publishers?

Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease. The impact will vary from Page to Page, driven by factors including the type of content they produce and how people interact with it. Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution. Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.

How to avoid a decrease in reach?

Page posts that generate conversation between people will show higher in News Feed. For example, live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook – in fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos. Local businesses connect with their communities by posting relevant updates and creating events.

How to beat the Facebook Algorithm?

– Use compelling headlines
– Avoid overly promotional content
– Try new things (live video)
– Long video content, directly uploaded to facebook
– Use facebooks publishing tools (audience optimisation)
– Authentic communication – genuine stories)
– Link posts
– Refer to trending topics (timely posts are ranked better)
complete your user profile.

What the Facebook algorithm dislikes:

– Clickbait
– Like baiting
– Post that includes spamming links
– Repeated posts
– Text only updates
– Frequently hidden posts
– Posts that ask for comments, likes or shares
– Overly promoted content

Facebook considers baiting sort of content to be less meaningful and they are going to demote these sorts of posts in the News Feed. Examples of engagement baiting are:
– Vote baiting
– React baiting
– Share baiting
– Tag baiting
– Comment baiting


Publishers and brands are the losers.

Don’t panic & stop using your Facebook page, keep an eye on your Facebook engagement over the next few months to see if you notice a difference in your reach if so you need to rethink and re-evaluate your social media strategy. – Get in touch with Collab Media and we can assist with this.

Don’t fully invest all your social media time on Facebook, remember there are other social media platforms out there, cross-promote and use a variety of marketing tools for each one.

Have you been affected by the Instagram Shadow Ban & how to avoid it…

Shadow Ban is an act by Instagram of blocking a user from an online community such that the user does not realise that they have been banned.

The phrase has been thrown around a lot, but many don’t actually understand what it is – and if they’ve actually been affected by the Instagram Shadowban or if they’re just struggling with really low engagement.

Instagrams customer support is notoriously nonexistent. So here’s a breakdown of everything we know about the Instagram Shadowban:

How do you know you’ve been affected by the Instagram Shadowban?
You would notice a dramatic decrease in engagement on your images, and the people who are liking & commenting on your image would be those who already follow you.

What would cause an Instagram Shadowban?

1. Using Bots, Automated services and Buying Followers.
How would they know? One minute your device is getting picked up in the UK (where your IP address is) then next minute you’re using your phone in Chicago with another IP address. This straight away raises red flags and looks suspicious.

2. Using the same hashtags continuously – If you’re always using the same hashtags for extended periods of time Instagram might think you’re being a little spammy. Collab Media always recommend to keep your hashtags fresh and change your tags up.

3. Surges of activity – If you suddenly go on a follow (or un-follow) spree, or like a whole group of images all at once.

4. Using Banned Hashtags
How do you know if you’re using a banned hashtag? If you click on this hashtag, there is no ‘top posts’ section, and you won’t be able to scroll past the first page of images – you’ll find it has been limited. – Find the list of banned hashtags HERE 

How to fix if you’ve been affected by a Shadowban:

1. Ease up on Instagram activity for a little while.
Within 24-48 hours of returning to a ‘normal level of activity,’ everything usually returns to normal.

2. Check your hashtags, are you mixing them up regularly, or are you unaware that you’re using a banned hashtag?

3. Have you been using Automation/bots? THEN STOP!

Banned Hashtag Feed

In conclusion

If you’re using Instagram and not behaving ‘like a bot’, doing masses of activity all at once and checking your hashtags regularly, we’ve seen no evidence so far that your account will be hit with an Instagram Shadowban, so don’t panic!

We do know that Instagram changes their algorithm regularly and we can see changes to our engagement from time to time and could explain a drop in engagement, so understand how engagement is a more important metric to spend time growing.