Social Networking

Social networking, often seen simply as a way for friends to keep in touch, has been pounced upon by big corporations and institutions. These companies understand the value of being seen as, “your friendly motor manufacturer,” or something to that effect. A sector where this can be even more valuable is independent retailing, including small mom and pop shops. Twitter, Facebook and others come to mind as easy ways for these small shops to make themselves known, especially in their local areas. The ease with which a business can set up an account with each of these networks makes it a very attractive proposition.

Take for example, a toy store run by a husband and wife in a small town. They sell traditional wooden toys, educational toys and teddy bears, all from well known manufacturers. The store has a website, but the site doesn’t do much business because of inventory control problems. The couple doesn’t have many standard lines that they keep in large quantities, so if the store sells out of an item and someone tries to order online, they have to give a refund to the online customer, because they can’t replenish quickly from the supplier. Even one or two out of stock items from a large order can give rise to a bad reputation, following customer feedback.

This is where Twitter can help. If the store signs up for one or perhaps several accounts, they can build up relationships with all sorts of groups, both local and national. Suppose a retailer was to suddenly receive a surprise shipment of sought after teddy bears? The store could send a quick tweet to its local teddy fans, who would then hotfoot it to the shop. Everyone goes away happy. With Facebook, the store could start a fan page where they keep followers in touch with special offers. That way, the store can carry a relatively small range of standard products on its website, and guarantee to keep it well stocked, to service online customers’ needs.

The social networks would help the name and reputation of the shop to spread, particularly through such uses as tweeting followers in groups like NetMums or Steiff Collectibles. It could establish itself as the “go to” Facebook page for toy safety advice, or become the expert to search for, or the place to tweet with urgent toy related questions. With the financial pressure on small retailers, any steps they can take toward more effective marketing are invaluable, and with social networks the cost of this marketing can be very low, with amazing results. This story was adapted from a report on