A Small Business Owner Who Knows How to Use Social Media

I thought today we’d take a look at someone who really knows how to use this "social media" stuff to build her business.  I chose this example for three reasons.  (1.)  She really knows how to make web 2.0 work to her advantage, (2.)  I’m almost sure that she’s not your competitor, and (3.) she makes me laugh.   Of course, since she runs a business that’s probably very different from yours, it may take a bit of imagination for you to transpose her techniques to your business.

Let me introduce you to Heather Gorringe, owner of Wiggly Wigglers.  No, it’s not a typo.  That’s really the name of her business.  See, among other things, Heather sells worms!  Worms aren’t the main business.  Wiggly Wigglers is a seller of all things relating to gardening and growing things.  Worms are just part of the mix.  The business is located in rural Blakemere, a tiny village in Herefordshire, United Kingdom.  Prior to Wiggly Wigglers, Herefordshire’s claim to fame was Hereford cattle.

By the use of her a well-designed web site, blogging, podcasting, and video, Heather and her husband "Farmer Phil" have grown an in-home business into an operation with customers all over the world.  Their FaceBook group (Wiggly Wigglers) has more than 800 members.  A recent fire in one of their buildings prompted emails and comments from all over the world.

That’s all well and good if your business sells over the web, but what good do hundreds of on-line friends do a business that operates a retail store?  Here’s the thing.  I live in St. Louis, MO, about 4,000 miles from Blakemere and I know absolutely nothing about gardening.  If you were to ask me for a source of gardening information, I’d send you to Wiggly Wigglers.  Imagine the referrals they must get from their local area.

It’s all about credibility, about establishing yourself as an expert in your field, and about building up your (and your store’s) reputation.  If you create an informative and entertaining presence on the web, your customers and prospects are going to find it.  Any impressions that you make outside your trading area may not bring you an immediate return, but they will pay dividends over the long run.  The world is getting smaller.  People move from one town to another.  People in your market have contacts all over the world.  You never know who may buy from you or give you a referral.

Be sure you include keywords in your web site, blog, or podcast related not just to your industry, but also to your local area.  People are looking for retailers by searching the web.  Your frequently updated web site with your town or city in the meta tags will come up high in the results and you have a good chance at getting the business.

Traditional reporters often get leads from the web.  Many of them will get a story idea and immediately do a Google search for the topic.   If your business comes up on the first page as a result of the frequent updates you make to your blog and/or podcast, you’re going to be the first one he or she calls.  That’s instant credibility in your own market.  You may even get calls from out-of-town journalists.  For example, Wiggly Wigglers has been written up in a San Francisco newspaper.  How great would it be to have a regional or even national publication interview you?  Sending reprints to your customers via email or even regular mail will build your reputation even more.

We’re living in an exciting time.  For a small investment of time and money you can build a reputation for yourself as an expert in any field.  The Internet is a great equalizer.  A single person can make a big impact, as big as or bigger than much larger competitors, just by consistently posting useful information, especially in an entertaining way.  There may be people more knowledgeable than Heather Gorringe in the field of gardening, but she has found a way to combine here outgoing personality, her sense of humor, and her knowledge of her industry to create a world-wide brand for Wiggly Wigglers.

There is absolutely no reason why you can’t do the same.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at how you can build your reputation without having your own blog or podcast.

[Bulletin:  Since we posted twice today, this post is NUMBER 600 for MYOB.  Thanks to all of you for your patience and your support!  mb]

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