So-Knutsford Interviews - Altrincham HQ

Alex McCann is a former Knutsford High pupil who is now recognised as the leading Social Media Marketer in the UK


It might seem a little strange that SoKnutsford is interviewing Alex McCann of Altrincham HQ, but bear with us. Alex McCann is a former Knutsford High pupil who is now recognised as the leading Social Media Marketer in the UK on Freeindex, has hundreds of LinkedIn Recommendations and has worked for the likes of the NHS, Manchester Arndale, University of Manchester and many other both here in the UK and internationally
Before that he was a music journalist and events organiser working for the likes of the BBC and putting on early gigs from the bands you now know as The 1975 and The Ting Tings as well as established names like Athlete, Reverend & The Makers and members of The Smiths, Stone Roses and Inspiral Carpets
At SoKnutsford we wanted to find out a little more about Alex, how Knutsford shaped him and what is happening next
You went to Knutsford High (in the pre-academy days) between 1989-1996. It was pre-social media and pre-mainstream internet. What influence did Knutsford have on you today?
A really interesting question because when people tell the story of their life or career they often start at the part they started winning. Often I'll only really start talking about my career from 1999 when I set up my 1st music  website which kickstarted everything I do now, but looking back I think going to Knutsford High had a huge influence
Back at high school I was a really really shy kid. I still consider myself massively shy now, but back then I was noticeably shy. If you think every day for 6 years I did the bus journey back and forth to school and I very much kept myself to myself. I immersed myself in music, constantly had headphones on at any spare moment, read the music press avidly and lost myself in music for an hour and half every single day.
You don't realise what's happening at the time, but I think without going to Knutsford I wouldn't have had that time to really dig deep into my passions. There is the question that if i'd have gone to school locally would I have followed the path I did after University and worked in music. Possibly not
Education wise I studied business and IT, the latter was the really really basic days of early computers, but the former many of the marketing disciplines that I learnt from 92-96 are still relevant to marketing in 2016
And out of school what were your memories of Knutsford
Looking back I'm pretty sure my 1st ever pint was in the Lord Eldon pub. And it only cost around £1.40 a pint
Those old real pubs are the things I remember about Knutsford back in the day. The Lord Eldon, the White bear and The Red Cow.
Altrincham is a small town, but Knutsford was always so so quaint and still is now.
Do you think growing up in a small town influenced your outlook?
I think growing up in Altrincham and going to school in Knutsford at times was hard.
In many respects you were in limbo because you didn't feel part of any one town even though they're so close to other.
Maybe that's why I'm so passionate about hyper-local and communities now - there is that need to be constantly in the loop and a need to know what's going on 

And I think small towns are great for that. There's a passion for where you grow up and you want those areas to do well
There's always a buzz when a business rings from Knutsford, because it's great to help a business where you spend so much time in your formative years
So you went to University to study business and then decided to do an about turn and follow your passion in music
Yep - it goes back to being the kid on the school bus to Knutsford listening to music for an hour and half every single day
I had to do something I love and i've done that every single day since I made that decision
I had some very basic HTML skills which I used to set up a very basic looking website based around music reviews and interviews. The PR companies were really helpful at the time because in 1999 the web wasn't a big deal for record labels, we were one of Manchester's 1st music websites and they saw that was the way things were going
That website soon got 10,000 readers a week which lead to writing for the BBC and freelancing for publications in the States
Amazing times - literally just going I really really really like that band and then being able to arrange an interview with them. Some of those bands were the classics like Rolling Stones (Bill Wyman), Run DMC, Take That (Mark Owen) and some of my own personal favourites like My Chemical Romance, Johnny Marr of the Smiths and Dead Prez
I then set up an events company off the back of the website. Promoted events in most of Manchester city centre venues like The Roadhouse, Night & Day, Manchester Academy, The Ruby Lounge and put on bands like Reverend & The Makers, The 1975 (then called Drive Like I Do), The Ting Tings (then called Dear Eskiimo), Athlete and members of the Kooks, The Wombats, Stone Roses, Gallows and many more
With myspace and facebook being essential for the marketing of those events that was where I really honed my digital marketing skills - you had to keep up with digital in music as often musicians were early adopters of new platforms ahead of local businesses
And where did Altrincham HQ come out of all of this?
Think about what life was like back in 2009 for local news. So Knutsford didn't exist, social media was still not the norm for local news and we were relying on local newspapers for our news
What we were discussing in the streets and pubs with friends didn't end up in the newspaper till 6 weeks later - that literally was how it was in 2009
Where I was working on my music events in the Northern Quarter EVERY business was using social media to great effect to promote their business as was I on the events
Whereas when I came back to my hometown they were still being very traditional with marketing
So the concept of Altrincham HQ was simply to talk about local news in real time and help local businesses market themselves effectively in the modern age - that is still what we do today
The only difference is it's gone from just Altrincham to Knutsford and internationally with clients across the UK and in Dubai, Canada, Italy
Our 2 core services are Social Media Training and Social Media Management (i.e managing local businesses social media) - but they're just the tools. We're in the business of helping businesses grow
So you do work with Knutsford businesses as well?
As yes, we work with Knutsford businesses every month
The digital skills can work anywhere, so when businesses are looking for help with Social Media so often Knutsford businesses will come to ourselves after reading the testimonials and LinkedIn Recommendations
I can't emphasise enough how important testimonials and recommendations are - because social media is often something small businesses don't know a great deal about it's an area where charlatans can pull the wool over businesses eyes
A good social media company will have dozens of testimonials if they're doing their job right rather than just a handful
What advice would you give to Knutsford businesses looking to make more from Social Media?
Break down the phrase Social Media is my best advice
Social - make sure you don't just broadcast on social media. Actually spend time engaging on social media with other local businesses and residents. Twitter is really easy for this with the #knutsford hashtag which is really active
Media - which you could translate to mean content. Don't think in terms of text. Think in terms of visuals including photos and videos because every single social network pushes towards those 2 forms of content.
Every day since 2009 our core mission is to help as many people as possible on social media. It's worked well for us and can work well for your business
But the caveat is - if you have zero marketing experience you really need Social Media Training. Whatever industry you're working in you probably had 3-4 years of formal training or at least that many years in experience before launching your own business. If you try and market your business with zero marketing experience you probably won't get the results you'd like
So what's next?
Keeping on doing what we do best - helping businesses grow by effective social media marketing
We'll always work in Altrincham and Knutsford because that's where we really get to see the impact
But we're just getting involved in a project at the moment that will enable us to help more businesses over in the US and Australia
The fact that the world is becoming smaller and more connected is really exciting
And finally where can people find out more about your Social Media Training and Management
Look at our website , follow us on Twitter / Instagram at @altrinchamhq , like our facebook page .


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About So-Knutsford

SoKnutsford is a community based digital presence offering Hyperlocal news, useful information, and conversation about what matters to those who live, work and play in Knutsford and the surrounding area's.So-Knutsford's vision for read more