The Harris Awards – a celebration of Leeds’ independent businesses


It’s a wild understatement to say that working through the pandemic was a little bit weird for all of us. The nature of working in marketing means we’re used to having to think on our feet, but 2020 was a whole other level. As a social media executive at Harris, I had to completely alter all my posting plans in March 2020 for the months ahead, and from then on it felt like I was continually editing, rewriting, and starting from scratch on all my monthly content calendars as things were changing by the day. Although I was more than happy to assist clients through this unprecedented time, it was a nice change when it came to doing our own social media. I completely threw out the campaign plans, and Harris in Lockdown happened.

I loved having to get in touch with the team to get the information I needed to do our lockdown posts; collecting WFH tips from them all, sharing what they’d been up to outside of work hours, and getting them to help me collate options for a ‘lockdown this or that’ poll on Instagram stories (still shocked that brownies won over banana bread…). But my favourite thing to work on was our Lockdown Heroes mini-campaign, which had Team Harris sharing their favourite local independent businesses which had helped to sweeten their at-home experience.

Chatting to my colleagues about the places they’d ordered food, clothes, and even dog food from during the pandemic helped me find some new favourites of my own, and I liked interacting with the businesses we tagged.

Now that we’re moving slightly more towards a new normal, throughout the month of June we took this one step further, and the Harris Awards were born.

We decided to focus this campaign primarily on Instagram as it’s a platform that readily encourages the use of voting through its Instagram Story features, and this type of strategy is great for engagement with followers. Utilising features like this on social media platforms provides a different way for followers to get to know your business – it’s less about hard sells and more about getting to know who follows you, and letting them see a new side to your business too.

On average, the Harris Awards generated almost double the amount of story views we usually get, got us a 78% increase in reach throughout the month, and brought many people who don’t already follow us to our Instagram page (with a 5% conversion rate of these people into followers). What’s more, the posts we put on our grid were the most liked that month.

Not only was the Harris Awards important for us as a company, we really wanted to shout out the community of local businesses that helped us through lockdown and make sure they got some recognition. That’s why it was nice to see that hundreds of people visited the Instagram pages of the businesses we tagged. Hopefully this means that people have reconnected with old favourites, or found new ones.

Sometimes, pandemic or not, thinking outside the box when creating social media campaigns for your business can be a beneficial. Here’s a few reasons why:

  • You can present the personality of your brand or business
  • It can increase engagement
  • It can broaden your businesses reach
  • New followers will be attracted to your page (who may be potential new customers)
  • And most importantly, you can have a bit of fun!

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