Interview: Hannah Anderson
Washington’s Hannah Anderson is one of the founding members of the Social Chain Group
Four months ago I was at a trampoline park and I thought I could do a backflip. Turns out I can’t do a backflip – I broke my back. The paramedics said I sounded like I was in labour, it was quite a shock. So my routine has changed quite a lot recently. I’ve been back to work for about a month and a half, I used to go to the gym before work but recently I’ve been more relaxed and I’m taking things a bit slower. While I was off I tried as much as possible to relax – I read some books that I wouldn’t usually have time to read, watched Netflix and did some gaming.
I’m quite an organised person, but in terms of the environment we work in, it’s very fast paced and there are a lot of people in my team to look after. Music helps me to focus; when I’m spending time at my desk I’ll put my headphones in and blast some songs. Depending on what mood I’m in, it’ll really help me to focus. It alternates from 90s dance to Logic the rapper, who seems to really help me focus at the moment. It’s a very mixed range, but anything with a good beat helps.
Life has been quite chilled recently. I try to get home to the North East as much as possible. I tend to come back at least once (but mostly twice) a month. My family are from Washington, and I have a one-year-old nephew who I want to see as often as possible, so that’s what I do mostly on the weekend. Before breaking my back I was going to a lot of gigs and music festivals when I came back. We also go for dinner when I’m up north; the last time I was up we went to Serendipity in Sunderland, which is a gorgeous little tearoom.
I was training to be a teacher at Northumbria University and my hobby was to create social media pages for no other reason than that I thought it was fun and I enjoyed connecting with people. When you tweet something and 10,000 people retweet it, or you post something and 20,000 people like it, you get a total buzz. It’s the same feeling I imagine a comedian would get up on a stage if thousands of people are laughing at your joke – you want to do more of it. So I had started several of these pages across social media, one of them based around Harry Potter, one of them was based around funny memories from primary school, and they started to grow to around 200,000 followers, which was insane. I didn’t really think anything of it at the time and then I got a direct message from (my now business partner) Dom McGregor saying we love your pages. We met up in Manchester and we weren’t exactly sure what we were going to do, but we just decided we would grow more of these pages and see what we could do with them.
One of our first campaigns was in April 2014, for an app called Tippy Tap. The app needed attention and so we blew it up by posting about it across social media. We told people ‘don’t download Tippy Tap – you’ll fail your degree’ and ‘don’t download Tippy Tap – you’ll ruin your life’, then 2 million people downloaded it. So that was when we realised we have something here that we can go to market with. I finished university and got my qualified teacher status, but throughout my final year was doing all this social media stuff. When I finished I told my mam and dad, ‘I’m not going to go into teaching, I’m going to try this social media venture with these two guys instead.’ Luckily for me, it worked out.
As things developed with Social Chain, people wanted more than just our media, they wanted our insight and knowledge and that’s how our sister marketing agency, Media Chain, was also developed.
We got an email from someone at Vogue saying we’re going to be including Hannah in this list, but at the time I didn’t really think much of it. I didn’t really know what it meant or to what extent it was going to be. But mostly, I had no idea who else would be included on the list – so when I got a copy of the actual magazine and JK Rowling was sitting two spots above me, I was totally shocked. Then it actually sank in and I thought, this is actually really big. Harry Potter is a massive part of my life and I don’t know if I would have even got into social media if I hadn’t had that to talk about, so it was crazy to be put on a list with JK Rowling who basically influenced my career.
It’s been amazing since then, all of my family are so proud and my Dad’s been buying all of the papers that have been coming out and he’s telling all his mates. Everyone I went to school with and people I haven’t spoken to in a long time have been messaging me saying how phenomenal this is, which is honestly lovely. It’s just crazy. 2018 has been such a strange year for me – it’s been a very difficult year and my main goal right now is to get back to full strength and get back to being able to do everything I want to do, but also to take Media Chain and Social Chain to the next level. This is my life and this is what I chose above the career I had wanted from the age of five. We’re just at the start of what we could be, but we really see Social Chain being one of the biggest marketing agencies in the world and we see Media Chain being one of the largest media publishers in the world. Whether that’s in terms of what we create and the stories that we tell or the people we have an impact on.
My advice for other people thinking about taking a risk? Just do it. Absolutely go for it. You’ll look back and think, ‘what if?’ and I don’t think anyone should have to have any ‘what ifs’. When I told my mam and dad that I was going to Manchester to meet two strange boys off the internet, I didn’t get a good answer back, but it was something that I believed in and still believe in today. You only get one life!