Birmingham, UK
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Who’s talking about your business over the digital garden fence?

I’m not known for a willingness to venture outdoors, especially if it involves shopping. I like being a bit of a hermit, I’m comfortable with it and I get out and about enough to not be completely socially inept. I meet a lot of people through business and, being ‘INTP‘, I like to recharge at home in familiar surroundings. My free time doesn’t usually involve a lot of socialising.

So if I’m looking for a present for someone, where’s the first place I look? The internet, of course! There are many reasons for internet shopping beyond being a self confessed part time shut-in: Time, cost, parking or public transport, over-lit shops, crowds, slow walking people, queues, choice (or lack thereof), the list goes on.

However, I do understand people’s aversion to paying for things online due to security issues. This can lead to using only online shops that already have a high street presence – the perceived trust of a well known brand trumping the ‘unknowns’ of a smaller online shopholder.

Building connections leads to opportunities

I’ve written before about the power of networks, where links between people with a common interest can lead to all sorts of other opportunities on both sides. Recently, following a well known ‘Twitterstorm’, I wrote about brand management and from that post I have found something I was looking for in a place I would previously never have known to look:

A dear friend of mine recently gave birth to much longed-for twins, after a difficult and frustrating fertility struggle. I wanted to get something special for these kids, not that the babies would know or care but in any case, I like to give gifts that show a bit of care and thought. So high street shops just weren’t going to cut it for me. I’d already mooched around the internet trying to find the ideal gift but hadn’t found the ‘right’ one yet.

So when Charlotte Evans commented on my blog with a link to her own post about making a commitment to provide better customer service I thought I’d have a read. Liking the way she thought, I followed that with a look at her online shop. Lo and behold – there were the ideal gifts I’d been searching for.

Being me, I didn’t get round to ordering them straight away but bookmarked the page as part of my positive procrastination strategy 🙂 , intending to order ‘sometime soon’ (hopefully before the twins leave high school).

Maintaining connections leads to trust

Charlotte and I followed each other on Twitter and when I asked a general question to the residents of Tweetsville about Chamber membership, she responded by email with her thoughts.

That reminded me to get a move on with the bunny-buying and after a couple of emails about direct delivery options and an unexpected and lovely offer of gift wrap and a personal message, I went back to her online shop and ordered them using her secure service. My friend should receive them in the next couple of days so the twins will have some top quality cute to dribble on soon.

I know Charlotte is a good person to deal with, I know that if there’s a problem with the order she’ll tell me and do what she can to fix it. I truly don’t think there will be any problems but it’s nice to have that confidence. I’ve never met her but I believe in her.

Many of my friends are pregnant or new parents and where do you think my first stop from now on will be for good quality baby gifts with a difference? Cottontails.

This is just one reason why social media networks work – It’s saved me time, money and effort, and given me trust, confidence and a solution to my baby gift dilemma.

Trust leads to referrals

Do I sound like I’m giving Cottontails some free publicity? Well, of course I am! In the same way I’d tell friends, neighbours and colleagues about other companies I’ve been happy or unhappy with – whether they’re online or not, whether they’re a shop or a business service. Twitter, blogs and online networking are my digital garden fence, my virtual water-cooler.

Even the crabbiest of hermits gets to be an influencer these days – is your business taking advantage of that?



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