Meet Joe Yates: Social media entrepreneur with a message to stay safe

Joe Yates

Meet Joe Yates: Social media entrepreneur with a message to stay safe

Here to prove that life doesn’t just take you on a set path is Joe Yates – a young social media success story who wants to help others.

Founder and director of Unknown Marketing, Joe already has six members of staff and is on a mission to educate young people in the safe use of social media.

This is his inspirational story, that shows not everyone has to follow a traditional path.

Discovering a natural talent

Joe’s company, Unknown Marketing, aims to have a transformative effective on businesses by bringing new sales that make a difference to people’s lives and their business. After discovering a natural aptitude for social media marketing he chose to ‘go in at the top’ by starting his own business.
He says he has his parents to thank for instilling a hard work ethic into him at a young age.

“We were taught to work for what you wanted. To do this I had to get a job. At around the age of 13 or 14, I started in hospitality, pot washing, customer service.

I was there for three years but then fell in love with cycling and wanted to work in a bike shop and joined Mammoth Lifestyle at 15. They were struggling to get new customers. It wasn’t that they were poor salespeople, they just weren’t getting the footfall in the store. I was looking at ways we could get footfall and one of those was social media. We implemented social media into their business strategy and that helped them grow.

Then at the age of 17, people I knew through cycling asked me to do their social media. All of a sudden I had three or four clients bringing in, at that time, £1,000 a month.”

Building a successful business as a teenager

Harbouring dreams of going to university and applying (and getting accepted for a British Airways apprenticeship), Joe instead decided to build a team around himself and ‘start from the top’.

“I always wanted to start a business but never had that one product I could sell, but I found a talent in this. I employed a business partner as I needed someone creative at that time.”

Employing a team of six and working for 37 clients by the age of 19, Joe has enjoyed great success by stepping outside of the traditional route of education, university, then working your way up. But he doesn’t take that success for granted.

“The key thing I learned was always listen to people around you…even now I listen to people around me, whether that’s going back to school, or to the people around me in the office. Yes, I’m 19 and I’ve built this around me but there’s people out there who have been doing this for 25, 30, 40 years, and you should never be arrogant in not stopping and listening and learning from those people.”


Joe Yates

Overcoming challenges

His age has meant that he has faced challenges as he worked to develop his business, and in convincing businesses to try new marketing techniques. But he has persevered and, through a supportive business community, has flourished.

“I once spent about 40 minutes in a car dealership. I walked out thinking ‘do I really want to do this’. They wanted me to do a three-month free trial – [they] believed social media was for kids. I had all the statistics there to show that there are more people over the age of 25 on social media and he didn’t get it.

The turning point for me was when I joined a networking group and all of a sudden had a market of 200 people I could sell to. I thought this is it I can build partnerships and relationships.

Without a strong networking group, through covid, we wouldn’t have grown the way we have. We basically doubled in size, which was amazing.”

Helping youngsters stay safe on social media

Joe has used his know-how and resources to give back to the community through a side project Safe Social, which is designed to help young people stay safe on social media.

“Social media is great…when it’s used correctly. But a lot of the time it’s not used correctly due to the lack of training and knowledge. You don’t go on Facebook and get a notification saying you need to do this training before you start but other software will give you videos.”

Going back to his old school in Stafford, Joe tailored a talk that was suitable for children under the age of 13.

“I asked who was on social media and everyone put their hand up. I was thinking they’re probably just on Snapchat or Instagram. I went through all the social media platforms and the only ones that had a drop off were Facebook and Twitter. Snapchat, Instagram – every kid from Year 7 is on them, absorbing the ads, absorbing a lot of content through social media, which is great commercially if you’re selling to that age, but actually when they’re taking in all that content and getting treated badly by people on social media you’ve then got a severe problem.

This project is attempting to change the minds of young individuals. We’re focusing on Year 7 but will probably go even younger to say that social media is a place to connect with your friends and see what your friends are doing. It’s not a place to look at models if you are a girl, then question your own body and feel you should look like that at 13.

Same with guys, they see a BMW and think ‘nice car’, then ‘my dad doesn’t have a nice car, we’re poor’. This can lead to stress, depression and anxiety.

We want to look at positives too. We make money out of social media so it’s a career option, looking at social media to increase employability. When should you get on LinkedIn? How should your profile look? How should the rest of your social media profiles look to avoid unemployment? We look through social media profiles as employers. Potential employers might trawl through social media and pick out posts that are against their values.”

Most people are now aware that social media can be great for connecting people but also dreadful for connecting people in the wrong way. Body image and grooming are two of the major problems.

Safe Social aims to fill in the gap in knowledge where teachers and parents cannot, or do not, educate children on safe social media use.

“It all starts with parents. If you’re on your phone constantly going through social media, your kid is going to do the same.

Parents can say ‘yes you can have Instagram but you need to have your privacy settings on’. The systems are not clever enough to realise that children under 18 should have settings on. As a parent you can look at Safe Social and see how you can best look after your kids without saying ‘you’re not allowed on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat’. Otherwise, they’ll just do it behind your back. Instead go on the platform and learn how it works, say I want to follow you too.”

It is important to support children in using social media safely so that they have a strong profile when looking for employment down the line.

What next for Joe?

The next step for Joe is to launch a website to help Safe Social reach a wider audience, along with continuing to go into schools to speak on the issue and developing resources for parents and children – as well as keeping up the good work at Unknown Marketing.

“By the age of 25 I want a team of 30 to 50 staff, who are making a transformative difference on all the businesses we work with – where we take a business and make it grow.

With Safe Social I really want to change the way schools work with social media, and the way young people use social media. It would be a dream to see suicide rates – which in men at my age is very high – be reduced due to a change in social media. That would be amazing. I know people close to me who have had serious mental health issues at such a young age.

How do you prevent people getting to that stage? People in schools should be in a happy place, but because of social media, fear of missing out, expectations, what you look like, body image and money, people feel down all the time. You are seriously judged at school and it’s getting worse.

You don’t need to make someone laugh by taking the mick out of someone, you don’t need to ruin someone’s life. It could ruin someone’s chances in interviews, give them anxiety. Little things in life can have a massive influence. People just say, ‘don’t do that it’s mean’, not why its mean.”

It’s great to see someone young with an inside view of social media, taking that outside to younger people to make a positive change. Social media is a huge part of life now and can seriously impact impressionable youngsters, so Joe’s work should be held up as an example.

Support for young people

If you have experienced problems through social media, or your mental health has suffered due to issues at school, Back on Track Teens is here to help. Reach out to us through our social channels, and learn more about our community:

Take inspiration from Joe’s story that not everyone has to follow a traditional path in life – and that with the right guidance and support tricky subjects such as social media can be changed for the better.

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