Geraldine: Welcome to the Arbox podcast. I'm very, very excited about today's guest who I’ll introduce in a second. We all know that building a better social media presence can feel like the Mount Everest of marketing, but with almost 59% of the world's population connected to at least one social media platform, business owners must not miss out on opportunities to market to the max via these digital platforms.
Okay, so you've got the drive but lack the know-how needed to increase awareness of your brand. We've got you covered at Arbox. This podcast features the brilliant Lily Pebbles, a London-based content creator with over 1 million followers across all social media platforms. Listen to, and be inspired by her story. Learn how she's evolved into a true expert in her field. Moreover, Lily will offer her tips on how to grow your social media presence and generate greater interest and excitement about your business online.
Hello Lily! Before we start, a bit of background; I've known Lily for many many years - I think decades. So I'm obviously really excited to have her on the podcast not just because she's an awesome influencer who’s totally clued up but because she's an old friend So Lil, thank you very much for joining us. It's a real pleasure to have you and we're going to dive right in and so let's go for it!
Can you tell us a little bit more about your back story and your journey into the world of social media and influencing?
Lily Pebbles: Sure. So I actually started my blog in 2010. I was at uni studying marketing advertising and pr. They actually encouraged us to start a blog. It was very new then and but I'd read a few style blogs for a couple of years and I was kind of interested in it and I thought why not. So everyone started one that day in class and I'd say most people didn't continue it the next day. I really liked the idea of having a blog so I started a Twitter blog and I just kind of did it a little bit in my final year at uni and then when I left uni I just really got into it I started a YouTube channel a couple of years later. At that time it was just something really handy to have when you're going out into the big, wide world trying to get a job. It was something different to show people rather than just my CV. I was able to say “look I'm really passionate about blogging” and I showed them my blog and it really helped me actually get my foot in the door into a few places.
I quit my job to do it full time and I was living at home at the time so it felt like a good time to try it and I was getting to the point where I was coming back from work and I was blogging in the evenings and I was taking photos a weekend and scheduling my posts throughout the week. I felt like I had two full-time jobs so I just thought, let's give it a go while I'm living at home and there's not as much risk. I set myself a three-month target; if I'm not earning money from this in 3 months time, I'm going to get a job. The minute I put all of my time and effort into it, my stats shot up. It made such a difference and I'd created this job that I didn't even know existed. I didn't know anyone else that did that and everyone thought I was completely nuts but I loved it and at that time it was mainly a beauty blog focusing on makeup and skincare
Now I'm very kind of lifestyle. It covers so many different areas from home interior, mum and baby stuff, beauty and fashion. It is quite good at the beginning to have a niche. Something to focus on; so for quite a while, I was just beauty.
Geraldine: How did you decide on that niche? Was it something that you enjoyed doing so you thought okay this is the direction that I want to go on or in or did you research around it and see a gap in the market for that?
Lily Pebbles: I didn't research. It was something I was interested in but also at the time it was like you either do fashion or beauty. There wasn't really much else going on. As I left uni I started working in beauty. I got a few jobs working in PR and I found I preferred the beauty community to fashion. I found it really exciting. Trying new products and giving reviews. So I kind of fell into that.
Geraldine: Amazing, Amazing and so obviously there are aspiring influences all over the internet but you have managed to cut through the noise and make a real name for yourself. What do you think sets you apart because obviously, you've said that you're doing beauty but you've diversified since then so what's different about you? How have you worked and others haven't?
Lily Pebbles: I think it's worth noting that it is such a different time now. I can’t even imagine starting now; there are so many people doing it. When I started, there was less competition. There were fewer people doing it, so I definitely think that gave me a bit of an advantage but I think now what maybe sets me apart, and what keeps people following me, is that I'm quite honest and quite real online. Quite authentic. I kind of have the big sister role. I like to really get on a level with my audience and chat with them, give them advice if I can, and share my worries and be a bit vulnerable. I hate how everything online can come across so perfectly so I like to debunk that a little bit.
Geraldine: Absolutely, you're definitely the realist Instagrammer I know and you share a lot of useful things.
Lily Pebbles: I think that also comes with doing it for a long time. I'm less scared of putting myself out there because it's not so new to me. I also think it's really important to be really trustworthy when it comes to working with brands. My audience knows I will only work with a brand that I genuinely like. There have obviously been jobs along the way that I regret doing and I've learned from that but literally 99% of the time my audience knows if I'm working with a brand, it's really genuine and I think that keeps people following.
Geraldine: How do you make the decision to work with certain brands? is it literally based on “I like that brand so I'm going to work with them” or is there a bigger thought process to that?
Lily Pebbles: There's so much to it but often I'll have turned down a job with a brand I like and the money is really good, but I just know it won't go down well with my followers. That's always quite a tricky one because it can be so frustrating sometimes.
Geraldine: What makes it not go down? How do you make that decision? What influences that?
Lily Pebbles: Sometimes there might be a key message in a brief that I just think I don't really agree with the messaging in this campaign or something I just know won't sit well with my audience. For example, the brand might be trying to say that a certain food is really healthy and it's not so I'm not gonna say that to people even though I genuinely like eating that food and its good money. I always put my audience as the priority. I think about how they are going to feel about this job. I have a manager and agent who help with the commercial work but they don’t help with the organic content. Most of the time my managers will come to me and they'll just say a brand name and I'll be like yes or no before we even discuss money or anything. We know pretty soon if it’s a brand I like or I'll try the product for a couple of months, give it a go and then decide if I want to continue the discussions.
Geraldine: So essentially your authenticity is what makes you stand apart from other people. You've kept your integrity throughout the whole process which is actually very refreshing. So often you see on social media this beautiful world of perfection and I think we're reminded that a lot of the time, it's make-believe. If our listeners are trying to establish themselves online then the idea of always being authentic and relevant is really good advice. You have over a million followers across social media platforms, with an impressive 435,000 on Instagram alone. How did you grow your social media presence and what advice would you give to our listeners to help them do the same?
Lily Pebbles: I'm not so focused anymore on growing but at the beginning, it was very much about consistency. I'm going to say that a lot throughout this podcast, but consistency is so key.
Geraldine: What do you mean by that?
Lily Pebbles: I would post consistently with my blog. I would always post on a Monday and Friday and then later on I started posting three times a week but I wouldn't post one week and then not the next. Be consistent with how often you're postings. If you're not posting there's nothing for people to engage with.
Geraldine: Does volume count? How did you make the decision to post 3 times a week? Would you recommend posting as much as you can? How do you make that decision?
Lily Pebbles: I think it depends on the platform and it depends on the time. This was back in 2011/ 2012 when there was less going on online. So for me, it was about posting every day and always having something there. Whereas now, there's so much content online for people to consume. I definitely scaled it back and focused on what I knew my audience would engage with. For me, Sunday is a really good day to post a video on YoutTube. I've actually recently changed my upload time from 9 am to 7 am because now that I've become a parent, I know that a lot of my audience are parents and they're up earlier. So it's just really thinking about your audience and what works for them. I know some people that post 3 times a day on Instagram because that works best for them whereas for me, I wouldn't post more than once a day and I'd post in the evening because that's when my audience is online. You can check these things on your insights and analytics but being consistent is so important because the more you do the same thing, your audience knows what to expect. If it's 7 days a week or 1 day a week, they have more opportunities to comment. With blogs and YouTube tell people what your upload schedule is. My audience knows that they're getting a video every Sunday and I tell them that so it's not a surprise. You're going to get a video every Sunday at 7 am. That really helps keep people engaged. Yeah, so I think that's a brilliant piece of advice for growing.
I would also say it's really important to build a community within your own audience and that's by engaging with them. You know if people are commenting on your photo or your videos reply and like it. Do that quite soon afterwards and create a bit of a conversation. Kind of try and get to know your audience. It’s important to do that within your community as well. What do I mean by that? If you are a beauty Instagrammer, follow other beauty Instagrammers who do similar things to you. Comment and like their photos too, and I don't mean in a spammy way. I mean in a genuine, authentic way. Like and comment to show interest in other people and that's how other people will find you. They'll see your comment and they'll say “oh who's that person” and they'll check out your profile.
Geraldine: That's some brilliant advice. It's funny. It sounds obvious when you say it but when you're trying to generate more followers, you wouldn't necessarily think to do that so that's an awesome piece of advice that I really think our listeners will benefit from. Do you think that there's different advice that you would use to gain numbers across different platforms or are you sticking to the same piece of advice for all platforms?
Lily Pebbles: Yeah I think it's a slightly different approach and a different attitude depending on the platform. I don't use all of them anymore just because I know what works for me and I'd rather not spread myself thinly across all of them. So I mainly focus on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook these days. I'm not on Tiktok. Twitter has a slightly different tone of voice. I feel like Twitter requires really quick one-liners. Using it for my sort of content would be saying “heading out shopping today”. Instagram stories would be the place where you'd show behind the scenes snippets of you getting on the tube and going into shops. Then Instagram's main grid would be a photo of you posing. It's a bit more of a perfected snapshot of that moment and then your YouTube channel might be a bit more of a longer detailed video of what you bought when you went shopping. A real is a bit snappier and there's a bit more of a summary of your day. You could do lots of little clips and put it into one little Instagram reel so you kind of get used to how each different platform requires a slightly different tone of voice but you can share the whole thing across them, just in different ways. So they're all kind of different in terms of content. Each platform shows the different stages of capturing one experience. They are all different parts of that event because they have a different audience.
Geraldine: In your opinion which social media channels are the most effective and why?
Lily Pebbles: I think it does depend on the type of content you make because some people will absolutely blow up on TikTok because that platform is perfect for them in terms of their audience demographic. So it does depend on the content but I feel like, for me, the main ones I focus on are Instagram and YouTube. I think Instagram is really great, especially because they have stories, they have reels and they have the main grid. There are so many different things going on on one platform. YouTube reaches more of a global audience in my opinion. I'll have Australian and American people commenting on my videos whereas Instagram is more UK-based for me. So if you're wanting to reach a wider global audience I think Youtube is great but Instagram is really easy to use. On YouTube, you need to know how to edit and upload a video. It's really complicated behind the scenes whereas Instagram made it so simple for anyone to create video content.
Geraldine: You've definitely nailed the reel. You've done a lot more now. I personally loved your reels at the beginning where you said you weren't quite sure what you were doing but rolled with it. Now they're this perfect wonderful edited version of them.
Lily Pebbles: That's something I think I've always tried to do whenever a social media platform launches something new. Behind the scenes, I’m going “Oh no, please not another thing that we have to do but I force myself to give it a go and learn because I think if you're not constantly evolving and changing with the times, you just get left behind. I know people that kind of refuse and say “no I don't like stories or no, I don't like reals”, but you have to just give it a go and kind of get into it. That would be my advice. Keep learning. There's always something. Keep changing with the times.
Geraldine: It’s easier than it looks so our listeners should be excited about trying new things. Your words of encouragement would be - give it a go and it's not that hard.
Lily Pebbles: Yeah I think video content looks much more complicated than it is. In fact, I think I find video content much easier than getting that one perfect photo. I find that really hard. Video content is fluid; you can just get little clips and it doesn't need to be perfectly in focus. You can share so much more personality. I think that video content is so key to growing a brand whether it's a personal brand or a business. Sharing personality makes you different to everyone. No one has the same personality, so sharing yours is what makes you stand out.
Geraldine: Yeah, and having a likeability factor. I guess it's easier to create that in a video than in a still image. Do you feel it's important to have a separate strategy for each social media platform? If so then how do you approach different social media channels so you can?
Lily Pebbles: Yeah, so kind of like I said before, it's just a slightly different attitude. I'll be more casual on Instagram stories while on YouTUbe I’ll be a bit more descriptive. It's all the same strategy because the strategy is me and my personality but it's a different approach in terms of the visual.
Geraldine: The Arbox platform works with their customers to help them grow their businesses. One of the most important aspects of growing a business is marketing and this is where you shine. Based on your experience, what advice would you give to small/ medium health and wellness business owners about creating effective content on a small budget?
Lily Pebbles: So I think it's really important and I think often brands forget to share personality. That doesn't mean you have to do what I do and it will be all about me and my life and my home. Sharing personality just means more than just adverts and what the brand is. So if you were running a boutique gym, introduce the different trainers that you have and just add some personality in there because that's what will really keep people engaged on social media. Also share more than just your own brand. If someone's going to follow you, they're interested in what you do, but they're not following you purely for updates on your brand. Find out what other things your audiences are likely to be interested In. If they're interested in fitness, they're probably interested in wellness and maybe recipes. You can share so much other content that your audience would be interested in, other than just updates on your brand. Weave those in more naturally so it doesn’t feel like heavy advertising. Collaborating with other accounts where you can is a really good way to share an audience. For example, if you’re a smoothie cafe, link up with a gym and do something together. You'd be sharing your audience and that's a really good way to grow in the right direction. You want people to follow you who are relevant. You don't just want random people or followers who aren’t going to stick around.
Geraldine: You don't need a big budget to do all of those things. You can do all of those things on a small budget.
Lily Pebbles: Absolutely! It all looks complicated but you can do it on an iPhone. I do everything myself. Like I said before, engaging with other accounts in an authentic way is a great way to increase engagement. Give your audience something to look forward to. If you do something special every Friday on your account, it keeps people staying with you. I think outside of social media as well things like newsletters are amazing but so many people do them really badly. I think a newsletter can be so much more than just a dull update on a brand. I think there are some amazing newsletters where people read them and want to tell their friends to sign up. For example, your newsletter could give all the best updates on what's going on in London this week even though it’s not usually about that. Create really interesting content in a newsletter.
Geraldine: If there was a piece of advice you could give about writing a newsletter. What would that be?
Lily Pebbles: Okay, so if I was following a makeup brand. If they just sent me a newsletter with updates on their products that would be so boring but if they sent me a newsletter that had a really greatly exclusive interview with someone that I found really interesting or a behind the scenes peek into their makeup bag, that would be really great. Maybe they're telling you about special events or discounts that are available in beauty relevant spaces or tips and tricks/ how-to videos as extra content.
Geraldine: Something different. Something that they can get more out of. Essentially not just a product, but something more engaging. Speaking of engaging, you've enjoyed great success with your chart-topping podcast “At home with”. Why do you think it has been so successful and in your opinion, what makes a good podcast?
Lily Pebbles: So our podcast has been going for years and it's evolved. It started as something completely different and then during lockdown we kind of changed the idea. We're lucky because we already have (myself and Anna, who I do it with) an audience elsewhere so It's not over starting from scratch. But I think people really liked hearing us in a podcast format because we just kept it really casual. It's just two friends chatting. People said it felt like they were just listening in on a conversation with friends. I think that was really comforting to people. It's knowing what your audience wants to listen to. Some people listen to podcasts to learn something but for us, it was more about just being entertained, having someone in your kitchen whilst you're cooking and so we kept it really casual and yeah, our audience really enjoyed it so that's kind of what we went with.
Geraldine: I loved it. I listened to all the episodes so I can definitely confirm that it was brilliant and you definitely got the feeling that it was really casual. I guess your aim is you really understand your audience and perhaps that's the secret to making a good podcast or creating good content. Like you've said, you really need to understand who you're aiming this content at.
Lily Pebbles: Yeah, definitely for me. It's always been that my audience is essentially like me. If I bump into someone who follows me they look like they’re really into the same things as me. If you're not really sure who your audience is, you can ask them. That's the beauty of things like the question box on Instagram stories. I ask people what they want to see and what they want to hear from me.
Geraldine: Absolutely and you've also evolved with your audience as you've changed. They've changed and you've always kept your finger on the pulse with that. You've always been very, very aware of who they are as well as what they want and so you are packed full of advice which means you must have been given awesome advice at points in your career. What's been the best piece of advice you've received during your career?
Lily Pebbles: Well at the beginning there wasn't really any; that was the point! This job didn't even exist and I felt like everyone just thought I was completely mad. So in the beginning I really had to kind of wing it but I think I used quite a lot of advice and experience that I'd gained before doing this. I used to have lots of different jobs in advertising and things like that and I think I just worked out pretty quickly that being modest and being a bit embarrassed is just not going to get you anywhere. No one is going to help promote your brand. Whatever you're trying to promote, you've got to do it yourself. In the beginning, when I first went full time, I remember I'd make business cards and I would hand them out to anyone who would take one. To get people to check out my blog, I used to go into the Apple store and I'd go on every computer and iPad and put my blog up and then walk out. I just thought what's the point of doing this if I don't shout about it? No one else is going to do it for me. So I think that suddenly I realized quite early on, just from previous job experiences, to be really proud. If you're going to go through the effort of making this content, be proud of it. Tell people about it!
Geraldine: Roles are now reversed. We want to learn from you. You've told us the best piece of advice you’ve received. Can you think of any advice you would give to small-medium businesses about growing their brand? You've said be bold, be innovative however because you were, or are a small to medium business, what’s one last closing little beautiful nugget you can give about growing their brand? It can be general advice or specifically geared towards those starting out and in the wellness sector trying to grow their business.
Lily Pebbles: I’m trying to think of something that I haven't said already. I guess the world of social media these days is quite complicated and intimidating, so If you're going to give it a go, understand that you're going to make mistakes along the way. I would say just own those mistakes, be really honest, be really authentic, be genuine and carry on. Do better next time. We're all human and we need more people to make social media more human.
Geraldine: I Love that. I couldn't agree more and you definitely do that, effortlessly. You are incredibly relatable and in touch. It's such a pleasure to follow you, Lily. Thanks so much for coming on the podcast. I know that everyone will learn so much from you. You are a wealth of wisdom. I will link how to follow Lily and be inspired by her like I am! We'll be back with some more amazing guests. Lil thanks again. Bye-bye.
Lily Pebbles: Thanks for having me and see you soon. Bye.