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Your corner shop now has global reach

Niall Devitt, management consultant and managing partner at Beyond the Boardroom, explores how using social media as a new business owner can be compared to running a traditional corner shop.

Most Irish SMEs realise that they need to engage with social media, but many still don’t know how. There is trepidation around where to start, how much time to spend and the level of technical knowledge that is required. Some people still perceive a generational barrier, that somehow social media is a younger person’s game. As with many things in life and business, there exists a fear of the unknown.

One of the first things to remember is that social media are merely a set of tools that allows people to communicate, much like pen and paper or e-mail did before. It is the person or business using these tools that decides how effective they can be. At a recent talk I gave about social media, one analogy used to describe it that particularly struck a chord with me was that of an old corner shop.

A place for a community to engage

Using social media for business can easily be compared to how an old-style shopkeeper ran the local corner shop, in that the local corner shop was so much more than the products that were sold; it was a place where a community came to engage. 

The role of the shopkeeper was far more than the act of selling goods, he or she also played an active role in maintaining and supporting their community. The personality and interactions of the shopkeeper played the key part in ensuring that each customer enjoying the overall shopping experience.

The old style shopkeeper took the time to listen, to give advice, to answer your questions and as a result the shop became a focal point within the community. The shop was more than a place you went to shop; it was also a place to meet friends, where conversations would take place, ideas exchanged and problems shared.

Not all about technology skills

How successfully one can utilise social media has much more to do with your skills as an old-style shopkeeper and much less to do with your skills around technology. If you engage and listen much like the way in which the old school shopkeeper did; if you endeavour to create a shop where the shopping experience resembles that of the old corner shop, social media can open up tremendous opportunities for your business.

Social media is not something new; it is about our ability to deliver a better and more meaningful customer experience, this has always been a cornerstone of good business. Social media is not a silver bullet; it will require effort and time but if you are a good shopkeeper, now your community can be global.

Niall Devitt is a management consultant and managing partner at Beyond the Boardroom. He is the founder of online business communities Bloggertone, Sales Leadership Ireland, Social Media Ireland and on the board of advisers of MyVenturePad.com, part of the Social Media Today group.

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