Four work-filled months and three apprentice blogs later, I’ve decided it’s time to review exactly what I’ve learnt since my induction into the colossal climate of modern-day marketing.
Coming into The Northern Foundry as an apprentice, and not specialising in any particular area, I’ve been given a broad spectrum of tasks to do, ranging from building websites and importing data sheets, to refurbishing The Foundry e-shot and turning up the heat on social media.
Social Media Management
Most days, the first job on my ‘to-do’ list is to find and share stories that may be relevant to what we do here at The Northern Foundry, or at least topical and interesting stories people may be interested in. Personally, this helps keep my finger on the pulse and allows us, as a business, to keep up with topical trends. I’m also attempting to engage further with other brands and local businesses, basically using social media to stay sociable.
After I’d proved my proficiency, I was given some of our client accounts to update with news, trends and products. The variety keeps it interesting and each business has differing strategies, which I’m learning from. The most important aspect is accuracy, one small error can ruin a post. Hootsuite helps to keep me on top of it all; a great platform for managing several social accounts and checking through what you’ve scheduled.
Managing a social account and coming up with the perfect content is no easy feat, but this process has helped to improve my creative writing skills and general understanding of social media at this level, dramatically. Adapt to survive, if you will.
After deciding there was a need for me to keep track of what I was learning and the need for me to publish relevant content regularly for The Northern Foundry, the Apprentice Blog was born.
One of the first tasks I was given was to write a blog on aspects parts of my job that I was learning such as: content marketing, social media and SEO. The purpose of the blogs were to show and track my progress through my time at The Northern Foundry as well as sharing my knowledge, offering helpful tips and hopefully educating other apprentices whilst doing so.
What I also realised is that there’s more to a blog than just writing it. Once the blog has been uploaded to the site (in my case wordpress) there is SEO to be done, this means doing things like putting alt-text in for all the images used and making sure your keyword is used in the H1 tag.
Publishing blogs regularly can, over time, increase the profile of a business which is one of the reasons we do it but we also like to give people an insight into The Foundry life.
WordPress & Magento
My introduction to WordPress was instant, much like my mandatory apprentice duty to make everyone in the office a mid-morning coffee.
A lot of our clients websites, including our own, are built using WordPress. So, in order to manage and edit the sites, I had to learn how to navigate a WordPress site. The back-end is fairly simple and it didn’t take me long to get used to completing simple tasks such as posting onto the site, editing page sliders and adding images into the media library. If you end up in there yourself, you’ll see what I mean.
After using WordPress proficiently for a couple of months, I was given the task of helping build a website from a given design. This tested my newfound skills but I managed to deliver. Here it is.
There’s something rewarding about spotting a problem, diving into the back end, using some code to solve it and seeing everything fall into place.
I was also introduced to Magento which is primarily used for clients that want large online shopping-based websites. The user interface on Magento is a bit more ‘raw’ and less ‘dressed up’ compared to WordPress but this allows you to have more control over more intricate parts of the site.
My work on Magento only goes as far as imports, but it’s those imports that I can now do without any further guidance. This is done by firstly looking through the spreadsheet of data I want to import and making sure that all the titles of columns on the spreadsheet are created as attributes in the backend of Magento. Then I will log into Magmi and select the CSV file that I want to import, run a test and if all is well then I will run a full import.
This is a fairly standard part of Magento and it helps the process massively because instead of adding each product to the Magento site individually, you can enter the products into a spreadsheet and upload them all at once.
Moving forward, I’d love to build more websites using WordPress and hopefully develop my skills to the point where I can build a website myself from scratch. As for Magento I always look forward to learning more about operating a site as it appears massively complex.
Along with the social media accounts, I was given the task of taking The Foundry eshot and moving it forward in a way that both improved the general aesthetic and increased enquiries.
I’ve enjoyed doing this over the past few months as I’ve been given free reign over the design meaning I was able to redesign the layout the way I thought best and showcase some of my own design ideas.
Each month we create new content to include on the email such as case studies, stories from our social media and blogs, all fresh from The Foundry.
After putting the first email together, case studies very quickly became the focus of the email so I decided to design each section uniquely. I designed the tiles in photoshop and then imported it into the email along with the others in order to create a slick, seamless design.
The purpose of all this is to get our business into other people’s inboxes and from that generate sales and, in turn, clients. We’ve had some results from our emails already such as enquiries for a multi-page website.
We like to venture down the tried and tested route with a bit of experimental technique along the way, the way we decide this is through looking at the analytics for each email we send out. Click through rate, displays and bounce rate all have a factor in whether we continue the route we’re on or change it up in order to really showcase what we’re capable of.
The eshot itself has come a long way and even been split into two, it now runs alongside our other eshot The Furnace, which acts as an update for news that is hot from The Foundry.
The Journey Continues
I’ve never been the type of learner who can sit in a classroom and just absorb information, so I think it’s fair to say that I’m definitely flourishing under this type of learning style.
The amount that I’ve learnt so far has been massive and has made a huge impact on what jobs I am given and capable of doing. The more I learn, the more tasks I am able to complete, and that’s how I like to keep things moving forward.
Also, as I become more proficient at my overall job, the more I will start to specialise in a certain area and will therefore be given clients to deal with directly.
See you next time for Issue #5.