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Viral Effect, the Teesside-based digital marketing and customer engagement agency, has launched a move into digital learning by recruiting its ninth new member of staff in just 12 months.

Experienced social media trainer Daniel Dixon is leading Viral Effect’s new learning arm as the fast-growing firm looks to fill a gap in the market for businesses that recognise the need for a strong social media presence but can’t yet afford full service support.

Dixon, who was previously with RAW Digital Training in Stockton, is Viral Effect’s 28th member of staff, meaning the business has more than doubled in size over the past two years.

But managing director Jamie Pennington insists the aim is make his company Teesside’s biggest social media agency, with more than 200 members of staff in the years ahead.

The firm provides expertise in social media management, digital advertising, customer engagement and data collection applications to major UK brands from its base in Boho Four Gibson House in Middlesbrough.

Pennington said: “Social media is an essential skill for businesses. We can help them make the most out of it via our full service offering.

“But our new learning arm means we now have a financially accessible offering for potential customers who either don’t want full service support or already have an existing social media presence but want to expand on their knowledge base through input from recognised experts.

“We’re very much different from other training arms out there because we’ve been in the trenches, so we actually practice what we preach. What we teach isn’t just from the manual, it’s all from our experience.”

On the recruitment of Dixon, he added: “Daniel is a real expert, with a strong agency background in the industry. I’m confident he’ll be an asset to the business.

“It’s not easy to find people with great social media calibre, especially in the learning environment, but Daniel has real experience of being a teacher of social media, of delivering the ‘how to’.

“First and foremost he’ll be targeting new clients but he’s also in charge of learning for our own new recruits and will help to upskill our own staff.

“We’re on a road to employing 200 staff so there is a need to put the best possible infrastructure in place.

“We want to be the biggest social media agency on Teesside. We want to secure more jobs for local people on good salaries, and our growth is very much based on good recruitment and first class training.”

Dixon, who has taken up a role as head of learning and development, will focus on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

He said: “I’m excited about the potential for Viral Effect’s learning arm.

“Every business should have some form of presence on social media and know how to use it to their advantage.

“The fact is that people are talking about your business via social media, whether you’re on there or not, so it makes good business sense to be engaging with them – and yet many do not.”