Skip to main content

Smooch opened their doors in the Autumn of 2021

Offering Bubble Teas, Shakes, waffles, Ice Creams and more recently loaded bagels in Altrincham, Manchester they were an instant hit in the town with queues outside of the door.

Part of their success has been down to TikTok and Instagram with their videos getting viewed hundreds of thousands of times on the platforms.

Read on for our TikTok Case Study of Smooch in Altrincham, South Manchester

We have thousands of readers a week. For those that aren’t aware of Smooch, do you want to give us a little intro to the business in terms of the concept, the team behind the business and what you both did before Smooch as I know it wasn’t food and drink?

Smooch is primarily a dessert shop, based on Stamford New Road (opposite Nando’s) and offers bubble tea, thick shakes, waffles, tea latte’s (including matcha) and smoothies. We have recently moved into the savoury world which I’ll cover later in the interview.

Smooch is owned by partners Karon Jones and Peter Donoghue. The concept to open a bubble tea / dessert shop was dreamt up in 2 stages. Stage 1 was when Karon moved from the Wirral to Altrincham in 2010 along with her young daughter who enrolled in a local school. Karon, at that time was working in retail. After the school day we would ask her daughter what she and her friends had been doing after school and we were baffled to hear there really wasn’t very much for them to do or places to get a sweet treat aside from supermarkets. “Considering Alty is such a gastronomic Mecca for adults, there were very few options for kids”. Stage 2 came in the early phases of COVID when at that point, Peter was a property developer, turning commercial buildings into residential apartments. “It was a lucrative way to spend your day but there’s a lot of risk and stress involved”. After many years of doing this Peter decided he wanted to change direction in his life and, from that point onwards, Smooch was born.

We start all our interviews with this question. When we’re training businesses on social media we aim to improve their social media in the following areas. Understanding Of Platform; Follower Growth; Idea Generation; Quality Of Content; Consistency / Frequency; Engagement; Analytics; Sales. Which would you say you’re strongest on? And which would you say you’re weakest on and why?

I would say we are strongest on content creation but I don’t think we can take the credit for that alone. Food sells itself if its good enough and the range of food that we offer not only tastes amazing but looks great on photo/video too. In terms of weaknesses, I’d have to say data analytics. Years ago I owned a recruitment business which specialised in IT and I focussed heavily on data and analytics field as it was emerging so I am acutely aware of the power of understanding and utilising data. However, as is often the case, it’s difficult to manage time effectively and manage all aspects of the business when you are small and growing and as a result you have to prioritise.

We’re talking about TikTok. Let’s start with the elephant in the room. You’re not the typical TikTok demographic. What were your 1st thoughts when you thought we know this is the right platform to grow the business, but we don’t have a clue?

Well believe it or not we didn’t launch with a tik tok platform. We launched with Facebook and Instagram. I primarily handled both platforms for the business and then we realised, from speaking to our younger customers, that Tik Tok is king. After a bit of wrangling between myself and Karon (I didn’t want it, I’m nearly 50 and didn’t want to embrace it),Karon won and then went on to compete with me for followers. Smooch has been open for 17 months and we opened our tik tok account 6 months ago and it has just pipped our Instagram following. We find Tik Tok, however, is far more interactive. We can really reach out to our audience in a better way with higher number of likes and comments and general engagement.

I know when businesses start out on TikTok they get around 200-300 views. How did you feel with the underwhelm at first?

We went from getting 7 likes on an Instagram post to getting 300 likes on a tik tok post so there wasn’t really a “Underwhelm” if I’m honest. However as we learned to work with the platform more effectively we gained an understanding of what attracts the most attention. To date our highest viewed video reached 486,000 views – nearly half a million people!! For a small shop in Alty! Our next aim is learning how to best monetise this reach as likes and comments don’t pay the bills 😎

Your photos and videos look fantastic. How long did it take you to learn the skills to produce content like this?

From the start we had professional photos done for the menus and online up-service channels (Deliveroo, Uber Eats etc) but we got some very good advice from an excellent local videographer (Jack Noon). He advised us that for social media, consumers prefer to see rustic and un-staged photos of the food/drinks. We use an iPhone with a light ring and try create a neutral backdrop so that the emphasis is on the food as as I said earlier, We’d love to take credit for the sexy images but the food and drinks do the work.

What was your first video that got traction on TikTok?

We started off purely showcasing the food and we got bog standard low engagement but then we started featuring “A day on the life of a bubble tea shop” and “A day in life of a smooch employee”. These are what people really want to see when they are dossing as home on their sofas. We also realised the importance of choosing music that is trending to really put a rocket up the post.

A big part of TikTok is the trending audio / music. How do you keep on top of what is trending?

The honest answer is that we put the hard yards in. We have to keep a close eye on what videos are going viral (Between 250k and 1m views) and then saving the audio in our account. Obviously the tune has to match the content but what you get the right match you’re on your way.

You also use Instagram to market the business. In terms of attracting new customers and engagement – which works better for you – Insta or TikTok? And why?

As mentioned earlier, we don’t commit as much time as we should to really analyse our data but we are certain that Instagram and facebook converts into actual pennies in the bank but tik tok does more for awareness. Its great to see that Sara from Chicago likes our bubble waffles and comments a lot but she’s not likely to put money in the till.

One thing I know you’ve mentioned before is that teenagers don’t review on Google or TripAdvisor. How do you create word of mouth if that is the case?

We noticed from the very start that local social media channels seem to give very little time to businesses that market themselves primarily to under 18’s. We also recognised that some high profile local social media companies seem to only feature businesses who hand over great amounts of money to advertise with them. Therefore possible unbiassed write ups. In actual fact, Altrincham HQ was the only local platform to mention our opening in the town on the build up to our launch and also to date. Therefore it was very difficult to “Spread the word” as you also cant target our demographic directly on facebook / Instagram ads due to age restrictions. Therefore its been the hard slog of asking people to tag us, word of mouth and support from other local businesses. We also work on Google reviews where we have a 4.6 out of 5 rating. Owners of other Alty businesses are fab for helping out too and it’s a real community whether we compete or not.

For businesses not on TikTok – what advice would you give them if they’ve read this TikTok Case Study?

Fight the urge to say “It’s not for me” and realise that it’s a growing platform which is essential if you want to keep up with modern trends. Whether you like it or not there’s a reason why businesses of all shapes and sizes are beginning to adopt Tik Tok. A very self-promoting analogy – almost all parents who have brought their kids in to buy bubble tea have said “Its not for me and I’ll stick with my bottle of wine or beer”. I would honestly say that, of those parents, the ones who have tasted their kids drinks have almost always gone on to buy their own on the next visit” It’s all about embracing change and new ideas and as adults we’re not very good at it.

As the business develops you’ve started to offer more adult offerings such as loaded bagels, coffee and so on. How are you using Facebook and LinkedIn to reach those audiences?

We launched bagels as we were listening to customers throughout the day. We are based opposite Nandos and next to the tram station and people would walk in and ask if we sell savoury. We mainly do regular posts for the bagels and our tea latte’s but we are in the process of formulating an advertising strategy to conduct very targeted campaigns for people who work / live in Alty during the day.

What is your biggest social media marketing success story?

We did a video and featured one of our brilliant team members as they made some of our drinks. The video got 486.4k views and increased the size of her ego 10 x. It also gained a very high engagement with our followers.

What is your biggest social media marketing failure? And what did you learn from it?

In the initial days we did a Facebook sponsored advert featuring one of our Oreo shakes. Instead of creating our own targetted audience we opted to use facebook’s algorithm with the belief that they know Facebook better than we do. Well it turns out they DO know Facebook better than we do but we know our audience better than they do. We had lots of snotty comments from people in Devon and Scotland asking why we were appearing on their timeline. Lesson Learned!

If you started your business again would you have done anything different with your social media marketing?

I hope not to sound arrogant but I wouldn’t change anything. In my experience of running businesses you learn more from getting it wrong than from getting it right. We wanted to start slowly and grow and that’s just what we’ve done. We’ve made mistakes along the way and learned from them. If I had to be critical I’d probably say we should have adopted tik tok earlier.

You’ve been on our social media courses and follow our content. What’s your biggest social media marketing lesson from Altrincham HQ?

Id probably say that all platforms have their merits for all businesses. Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok and LinkedIn apply to pretty much all businesses nowadays. We only recently started actively using linkedin for example because the typical LinkedIn user hasn’t even heard of bubble tea but they have heard of amazing, Fresh, Bagel sandwiches which we recently launched. They’ve subsequently visited smooch, bought a bagel sandwich and tried a waffle, bubble tea etc.

You can follow Smooch Shakes on TikTok here

Chat to us about Social Media Marketing for YOUR organisation , so we can better understand YOU and what will grow your organisation

If the Tiktok Case Study above has impressed you – remember we can only find out what is unique to your business by chatting with you

Look at our Social Media Training and Social Media Management services

We offer Social Media Training on
* LinkedIn
* Instagram
* Facebook
* Twitter
* TikTok
* Blogging

We can do this
* 121
* Corporate Workshops
* Group Workshops
* Face to Face or Via Zoom / Skype

Please call Alex on 07806774279 or email

Alex McCann

Author Alex McCann

More posts by Alex McCann