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SMP » Profiled's Spyridon Mesimeris on global digital marketing

Agnieszka Gibbon (Social Media Portal (SMP)) - 08 December 2017

Spyridon Mesimeris head of digital marketing on international marketing through Brexit and Trump logo 150x150Social Media Portal (SMP) What is your name and what do you do there for

Spyridon Mesimeris (SM): My name is Spyridon Mesimeris and I'm's head of digital marketing. I look after the company's performance marketing, social media, and search engine optimisation (SEO) for our key international markets.

SMP: Briefly, tell us about

SM: is the world's largest marketplace for student housing. We simplify booking accommodation for students through a free-to-use global marketplace that puts security and ease-of-use first. Currently, our website lists more than 800,000 beds in more than 400 cities worldwide.

SMP: Who are your target audience and why?

SM: As our company name suggests, our primary target audience is students, although we also engage with other stakeholders in our industry, from accommodation providers to universities and education organisations.

SMP: When was the company founded, how many people work there and how is it funded?

SM: was initially founded as Overseas Student Living in 2011 in Shanghai, China. Over the years, we expanded internationally and rebranded to in 2014.

To date, the company has raised $70 million from investors including VY Capital, Li Ka-Shing's Horizons Ventures, Expa, Spotify founders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon, Hugo Barra (Facebook VR) and Jim Breyer of Breyer Capital.

Spyridon Mesimeris head of digital marketing at

SMP: How did you initially attract users to site, social channels et al and how do you do it now?

SM: At the very beginning we were very much focused on word-of-mouth and offline events. As our business grew, we started to invest more and more in digital marketing. Today, users from across the globe visit our website through a variety of different channels, including social media, search and display ads and organic search.

SMP: What are the challenges that you've encountered and how are you overcoming them in what you have been doing so far at

SM: One of the main challenges we've encountered over the years has definitely been around marketing our service across different markets internationally. We help students from more than 130 countries find accommodation in over 400 different cities across the globe, because of the diverse nature of these 'student flows', there's no one-size-fits-all approach in terms of content and channels. For example, our approach for the average British student looking for accommodation in Leeds would be different for the average Thai student looking for somewhere to live in Melbourne. homepage image

SMP: What are the high moments of what you have been doing so far?

SM: Our rebrand to in 2014 and the funding we raised in 2016 are definitely two high moments for us. Both milestones helped the company gain significant momentum on our journey to become the place where every student finds their perfect home, wherever they are in the world.

SMP: What are the main content and social channels are you using, why and which are the most effective for

SM: In terms of content, we have a blog in both English and in Chinese. For social channels outside China, we're active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. blog The Journey

SMP: What sort of activity / engagement are you receiving across your social channels that you use and how do you create / sustain this?

SM: Take Instagram as an example. Since launching last year we have just over 9,000 followers and we typically get between 100 and 200 organic likes per post. We achieve this by posting high quality lifestyle imagery that resonates well with our core audience. What we're not is self-promotional or product-focused in our approach. Like most brands, this just doesn't work for us.  

SMP: How does SEO fall into your strategy and how your market the brand?

SEO is an increasingly important part of our marketing strategy because there's no direct cost associated with it. For, it's given us a lot of opportunity to increase our visibility and traffic from international markets, especially across Europe and Asia.

SMP: How do you market the brand beyond freshers week?

We follow a year-long activity calendar, which tends to avoid freshers week (when students have way too many distractions to deal with!), to build brand awareness and our reach amongst new student groups. This is done through a variety of channels, such as social and, in some international markets, online brand partnerships. We tend to ramp up activity around peak periods, such as exam results days in our key markets, when students would normally be closer to making purchasing decisions.

SMP:  What do you see as your biggest challenges and opportunities for your sector and the competition that you have?

For the international student market, the impact of Brexit and Trump have definitely created a challenge for both us and others organisations in the sector. As a brand, it's important that we, along with the rest of the higher education sector, communicate positive messages to prospective international students, to reassure them that countries like the UK and the US are still welcoming.

SMP: What is the most challenging part of building upon your brand presence in digital environments?

SM: As touched on in a previous response, definitely the international aspect of our business. When you deal with as many different source countries and destinations as we do, the digital environment becomes so much more complex.

SMP: What do you think is going to be the most interesting aspect regarding content social media and/or technology for the next 12 to 18-months and why?

SM: AI and machine learning, because lots of tasks we've traditionally engaged in in the last five years will be replaced by software. For example, machine learning tech will write titles for emails and social media posts, and will make bid optimisations for paid search campaigns.

SMP: What are your top five predictions for content social media for the next 12 to 18-months and why?

  • More brands will embrace live streaming. It's a feature available on so many different social channels now and there's increasing guidance around best practice and how to achieve success, which offers reassurance for brands that were initially reluctant to test out live streaming previously.

  • Instagram and Snapchat will continue to overtake Facebook. There's been a lot of talk this year about how younger generations in particular favour Instagram and Snapchat over Facebook and I believe this trend will continue into next year.

  • Growth of chatbots. Facebook recently introduced a messenger plugin for business websites, which I believe will gain traction next year as more companies look for ways of engaging with their users online.

  • Increased investment in video. Brands are really starting to see the value of video, especially short form video content for social platforms. There'll continue to be investment in native video, produced specifically for social channels.

  • Enhanced visual technologies. With the increased prominence of video, I also expect to see more brands experimenting with enhanced visual technologies like 360-degree video and augmented reality.

SMP: What are your top overall five content social media tips and why?

  • Immerse yourself. Give yourself as much exposure to different channels and platforms as possible. Social is one of the fastest changing media out there so it definitely pays to immerse yourself and become astute to the latest trends.

  • Know your audience. Research, research, research and do more research. Going in blind is a recipe for failure.

  • Think like your audience. Use your research findings to inform your social strategy and adopt an audience-centric mindset throughout.

  • Trial and test. From posting times to content formats, every social community is different and it takes a lot of testing to really hone in on what works best for your brand's audience.

  • Get creative. With so much content out there nowadays, it takes something with true 'wow-factor' to really stand out. Flex your creative muscles as much as possible to get real value out of your brand's social presence.

SMP: Best way to contact you and

SM: The best way to get in touch with me or is via our website.

Now some questions for fun

SMP: What did you have for breakfast / lunch?

I had beef and chicken empanadas for lunch.

SMP: What's the last good thing that you did for someone?

SM: I try do good things as much as possible every day!

SMP: If you weren't working at what would you be doing?

A wine connoisseur/blogger/drinker.

SMP: When / where did you go on your last holiday and why?

SM: Two weeks ago in Lille France, I was there celebrating my birthday.

SMP: What's the first thing you do when you get into the office of a morning?

SM: Make a hot cappuccino with cinnamon topping.

SMP: If you had a superpower what would it be and why?

SM: Time travel to see how people used to live in the past and will live in the future.

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