showcasing local businesses, charities, news & events

Former social media guru now says it’s time to put down our phones

A former social media marketeer from Stratford has launched a new networking campaign to help combat what he brands as the ‘negative impact’ of the digital platforms he used to endorse!

Formerly the owner of a social media and marketing agency, Michael Thomas has now established academy in a bid to help businesses grow.

Amidst the challenges of post-pandemic and cost of living crisis, Michael takes a swipe at the likes of Facebook and Instagram, claiming it’s more vital than ever to small business success to get people face to face again.

And in his latest Valentine’s campaign, launched on February 15th, he promises to show business owners how to fall in love with networking, helping them to not only survive, but thrive.

Photo by The Tall Photographer

He said: “I think those all-important soft skills are being lost by everyone. We sit behind a computer and are on our phones, we don’t stand up and talk to people face to face as much as we used to which is a real shame, so my mission is all about helping people fall in love with networking again.

“Covid has also made us appreciate face to face communication even more. It made that urge for meeting people and getting out there crucial as a lot of businesses were hit pretty hard.

“The idea of the campaign is very much to help people overcome the fear, get out from behind their screens and go out and meet people, back to the old way of doing things. They’ll soon realise that it’s not as nerve-wracking as it seems to be.

“It’s not just teaching networking, it’s teaching people skills, skills we all used to innately know because we didn’t have mobile phones, social media etc. We even knew our neighbours. We had conversations and built fabulous in-depth relationships. Unfortunately it means that because people don’t mix as much, they aren’t as socially adept. Their confidence is negatively affected in business  settings.

“Networking is a vital tool for any small business owner who wastes a ton of money on Google and social media advertising etc. which rarely leads to serious business.”

Through fast-track and eight-week group, DIY and corporate courses are available, with ongoing support from Michael throughout.

He said: “This cost of living crisis presents an opportunity for them to look at something they may have overlooked before – the power of networking. For most small businesses, once they know exactly how to promote themselves, with the time plus the cost investment, the ROI for networking is much higher than any of those other tools they’re drawn to or told they must use. Most small business owners will tell me, they do social media because they’re supposed to, but haven’t had any real business from it.”

Born to English and Welsh parents, Michael, now 36, relocated to Stratford from Illinois as a teenager when his father took on the role of Dean of Warwick Business School.

Michael Thomas,,networking

Today he regularly reflects on his own journey to entrepreneurial success, after overcoming a series of health challenges along the way.

Two debilitating conditions – ulcerative colitis and spastic paraplegia – have left Michael navigating a life of operations, treatments, drugs and hospital stays, but it’s only made him even more determined to succeed.

“If I’d let my physical decision decide my destiny I certainly wouldn’t be running a business today. I wouldn’t be doing what I always wanted to do,” said Michael.

Despite some early years spent in marketing and recruitment sectors, clearly plays to Michael’s strengths.

“I always knew deep down that I was going to run my own business and control my own destiny, right from the days of running my own lemonade stall for three months at the age of eight, dressed in a full suit in 100-degree C temperatures – and invented a telephone headband which I was hoping would be the next big thing!”!”

A far cry from his ambitions today. Over the next 18 months he plans to turn his academy into a community of up to 1,000 small businesses.

He said: “I want everyone to enjoy the same success that I have from networking. We’re all business owners, we’re all in the same boat and we can learn a lot from each other.

“It is very rewarding, especially when people have confidence issues or come in with a particular view on networking because it does have a bad rap. But I get so much satisfaction from seeing people gain that confidence and go on to grow their business. I am all about making networking less stressful and more successful. That is the mission.”