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

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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

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Digital Marketing 101

Last week Collab Media were invited to an event run by Colewood in Stockton-on-Tees. The overview of the day was that it was a google & bing training event, which offered the fundamental concepts of Digital Marketing, in one day to help clients improve their marketing ability. We felt this would be a great opportunity for Collab Media to network with businesses, that were looking to improve their online presence.

Christopher Hankinson, Sales Director of Colewood, kicked off the event discussing different digital marketing channels and an overview of PPC, SEO and CRO. Search giants Google and Bing, gave great presentations on how consumers search activity has changed over the years, and how search technology has developed to allow businesses to intricately target their users. This was a great insight into a fast developing industry from industry specialists.

The event was great for any size business that has a website. It gave an insight into Google AdWords / Bing Advertising and offered some expert tips to go that extra mile to improve businesses online advertising.

Below are a few quotes we found very interesting from the presentations we listen to >>

‘ Your customers don’t go online. They live online’ – Google

‘The amount of queries on a mobile has surpassed that of queries on a desktop’

‘3.4 million people get their hands on a new smart phone every day.

Not only was this event free and very insightful you also received a ‘goodie bag’ from google, refreshments all day and a fantastic paella lunch from a street food business that were doing the catering. You also got to network with like-minded individuals and business owners.

Collab Media are very much looking forward to Colewood’s next event as the success of Digital 101. We’re also looking forward to hopefully working with Colewood in the future on some exciting collaborations.

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Instagram Algorithm – Importance for businesses

When is the best time to post on Instagram?

When is the best time to post on Instagram?

In a recent poll, 50% of social media managers said that evenings from 7-9pm was the best time to post on Instagram. But because every account has a different audience, in different time zones, each business will have a unique best time to post on Instagram.

Instagram helps with identifying these peak times for business accounts on the platforms by having an insights section. This gives the user inside knowledge on their followers and activity on their account. From peak times, gender, top locations of the customer, the total number of impressions they are getting and even age range of the customers. This is essential information for business to find out more about their demographic. In this post, we’ll show you how to find the best time to post on Instagram for your account, so you can beat the Instagram algorithm.

The way you see posts on Instagram changed at the end of 2016, it completely changed the Instagram game! Instagram announced that they would be replacing the chronological feed with an algorithm that gives priority to posts with higher engagement, which means the more likes and comments your post receives, the more people will see your post! Therefore it’s as important as ever that the content you’re putting out is going to appeal to your customer base otherwise, your posts aren’t going to be seen as regularly by your followers.

If you’re able to generate a lot of engagement on your Instagram posts shortly after posting, this signals to Instagram that your post is quality, engaging content and your post will move to the top of your followers feeds and be shown to more users. There are a handful of ways to increase Instagram engagement, but one of the best ways is to post when your Instagram audience is most active.

The basics of it are that higher engagement leads to more visibility, which leads to higher engagement, which leads to more visibility… and it all starts with when you post on Instagram. Therefore it’s crucial to a business to post at peak times to get higher activity on your content.

When is the Best Time to Post on Instagram?

So now that you understand why posting when your audience is most active is important, it’s time to talk about the best time to post on Instagram. Here are some general rules about posting to Instagram in 2017:

– Post more during off-work hours than during the day. Generally, the best times to post on Instagram are lunch time (11am-1pm) and evenings (7-9pm). Think about it: when do you find yourself checking Instagram the most? Probably not during the work day, even though that may be when you want to post!

– Weekends can be hit-or-miss depending on your audience. B2C (business to customers) companies will likely see better results when posting on weekends than B2B (Business to Business) companies since many businesses only operate during the week.

– Save the important posts for weekdays. The differences are slight, but average Instagram engagement does shift depending on the day.

– Avoid 3 pm, but don’t be afraid to experiment. Weekdays between 3 and 4 pm typically drives the lowest engagement, likely because most users are busy at work at that time.

If you want more tips on how to get the most out of your social media platforms you might be interested in our ‘Action Plan’ which is a guide on how to get the most out of your social media for just £30 it covers Instagram, facebook & twitter.

Get in touch today – [email protected]

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