Winners celebrate social success at inaugural Citrus Awards

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A number of Northamptonshire-based firms have been unveiled as winners at the first ever Citrus Awards – celebrating the innovative use of social media to grow their business.

The awards attracted entrants from across the country and from a wide range of industries. A total of 27 firms were in the running to land a coveted prize, championing effective use of social media by small businesses.

A ceremony was held at Kilworth House, on the county border with Leicestershire, on Thursday and saw five Northamptonshire businesses walk away with trophies.

Charlotte Harley Bridal Couture, based at the Heart of the Shires shopping village near Weedon, was named the winner of the ‘Most Innovative Use of Social Media’.

In 21 months the company has built a loyal and interactive fan base on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, encouraging readers to recommend the company to their friends and family.

Charlotte Harley-Hipkiss, owner of Charlotte Harley Bridal Couture, said: “It was amazing to win and fantastic to be recognised. We haven’t got a shop window so we rely on social media as a shop window. We are tucked away in a small courtyard in a rural location so we rely on Facebook and Twitter to enable us to compete.”

Ideal Manufacturing, from Wellingborough, was named the winner of the ‘Practitioner of the Year’ category after producing a ‘Periodic Table of Laundry’, including pictures of the ‘Elementalists’ Three Peaks Challenge team performing ‘Extreme Laundry’ on the top of a mountain.

Phillip Kalli, design and marketing director of Ideal Manufacturing, said: “Winning was brilliant, it was recognition for spending a lot of time messing around on my phone.

“For us social media helps us to connect with our customers and other people who are interested in things we are interested in. Also, because we are in an industry which is perceived to be unglamorous it allows us to have a personality.”

Desborough-based furniture firm Sugden and Daughters was named the winner of the ‘Post of the Year’ after tweeting photos to try to trace the owner of an antique bureau containing a time capsule dating back to the 1920s.

The owner turned out to be a Wellingborough man, Brian Huckle, who had recently died but following media coverage, Mr Huckle’s son, now living in America, got in touch and the bureau was eventually returned to the family, all through the power of social media.

Director Louisa Sugden said: “Winning was a complete surprise, I’m delighted. We’ve really made an effort with our social media over the last 18 months and it’s lovely to see that work getting rewarded.

“It’s become my little baby and I’ve made an effort to talk to people as friends rather than simply selling to them as customers and that seems to have worked wonders. We’ll be looking to expand into Pinterest and Instagram and keep on building new relationships.”

Bambino Mio, a reusable nappy company based in Brixworth, was named the winner of the ‘Best Social Media Campaign’ for #miosolochallenge, which saw 10 high-profile blogging mums challenged to five different tests in five days, generating huge social media ‘noise’, boosting brand awareness and seeing sales figures rise beyond expectations.

Joreen Singh, Marketing Manager of Bambino Mio, said: “We are always trying to find new ways to engage with our customers and social media provides the perfect platform to do this. It’s great to see all of our hard work on social media has been recognised.”

The ceremony rewarded everyone from start-ups who have had to build relationships from scratch to established companies who have reached out to a whole new audience.

Citrus Social Media Awards Daniel Owens, of organisers Orange Juice Communications, said: “We were overwhelmed by both the quantity and quality of entries, judging was an incredibly difficult process but we are confident we have found some worthy winners.”

Libby Langley, of fellow organisers Zest Communications, added: “I work with social media every single day and I was genuinely inspired by the achievements of some of the entrants.

“We had some excellent candidates who have used social media to catapult their firm to a whole new level and we hope earning this award can help our winners raise their profile even further.”

The awards were sponsored by Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership and VIP Leisure Travel and featured a keynote speech from entrepreneur Hannah Macleod and tricks from magician David Fox.

Mark Watts of VIP Leisure Travel said: “It was a wonderful evening and it was truly inspiring to hear so many social media success stories. It has become a key part of everyday life for the modern business.”