How SMEs use social media – Pedlars interview

 

 

I recently purchased a gorgeous Exit Tube sign from Pedlars and Tweeted them how pleased I was with my purchase.

After a quick snoop on the Pedlars website and social profiles, I asked Pedlars founders the Gladstones,  if they would be up for an interview for my blog, as I was curious to see how they used, and felt about social media marketing as an SME.

 

This is quite a long interview, and I’ve added some of my key take-outs at the end of the post. Looking forward to your thoughts and comments!

 

 

Can you give me a brief overview of what your business is about and how it all started?

I have various businesses; Pedlars, Hawarden Estate Farm Shop, an organic farm and a pub, The Glynne Arms, soon to open (1st May). Pedlars has three shops but is mainly an ecommerce business. The Farm Shop has no ecommerce business but employs 50 people on the shop floor. My wife and I  have also recently written a book for Random House called The Pedlars Guide To Outdoor Living.

These businesses are all different but the same; as they are guided by the same two people; my wife and I. They all sell things we love in an environment of our making and we are intimately involved in everything that they do. I suppose, in the broadest sense -cliche alert!- they are lifestyle businesses, selling ideas and products and dreams that enrich our customers’ lives. It all started when we left our jobs in London (Caroline designed for Laura Ashley and I worked for Warners Music) over 20 years ago and moved to the Highlands, where we had to figure out what to do.

 

I’ve noticed that your website redirects to both your Facebook Fan and personal profile. From a marketing point of view, how do these channels differ? Do you share different content on both channels?

We do share, but we think that they are both quite distinct. The Fan Page is brand new but before we launched it last month, we just had a normal ‘family’ profile that we hoped would connect people, obliquely, with our brands. This was quite transparent and honest; it was about us, and it was not designed to sell. We strongly feel that if we treat our customers as friends and are open and welcoming then they will treat us in the same way. It generally works well; I don’t think we’ve ever had a negative comment on our fan page; the comments are happy and positive. So, we connect with our ‘friends’ and they connect with us.

 

This works for all of our businesses. To be honest, I am not very active on Facebook, but it does act as a portal for Twitter, Tumblr and the blog we do. One thing I should mention is that I deliberately set out to make our blog, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest names different because I believe in the value of people having to root around a bit and seek us out. Our customers are clever; they enjoy finding us. I want these things to be resolutely uncommercial and this is the core way in which they will differ from the new Pedlars Facebook and Twitter things; it took me a long time to be convinced of the need for straight-ahead Pedlars Facebook pages, not least of all because up until now I have written every single word that is published anywhere for Pedlars.

 

What’s the most successful channel in terms of conversion (i.e. sales) Hard to tell what is most successful; probably the blog, where from time to time I write about Pedlars stuff?

I have built the blog up slowly but surely and now I can get 1,500 page views a day if I post on something that people like. And this gets tweeted about by me and posted on Facebook. Blogs seem to be much less commonly followed in the UK than the US, which I find weird because they really, truly are the way forward for those of us who enjoy ideas and images, whatever the subject. Twitter can pass an idea on quickly, of course and if you ask people to RT, they are kind. Facebook is a tremendous source of word-spreading; I regret holding off on the Pedlars one for so long.

 

You have a highly visual business, do you find that bloggers/Twitterers share pictures of the items you sell in social media? Bearing this in mind, have you ever considered using Pinterest to market your business?

People do share what we do and I have joined Pinterest because people had been pinning about Pedlars’ stuff. I haven’t really got to grips with it yet because I am quite busy (we also have six children and that sort of thing) but I can tell it is going to explode. I think Tumblr is a particularly fine and simple medium for visual people. I have a Tumblr page and wish I had started my blog on that and not WordPress, which seems a bit flat and unsexy in comparison. What I LOVE about Pinterest, by the way, is the positive vibes at its core; try to be nice. This is my thing, too. I cannot bear the viciousness and back biting that characterise much web chat.

 

Finally, would you say that social media can successfully help small businesses increase their awareness and ultimately sales. Or is it just good for awareness?

I think this is really difficult to get this right, much more so than people think; people are clever, they can see through social media, which is nothing more than bad advertising. Do it well, though and you raise awareness and respect and that simply must help your business.

 

Here are some of my key take-outs from this interview:

  • Facebook timeline or Facebook Fan Page? The Gladstones started with a profile and recently launched their Pedlars Fan Page: it was about us, and it was not designed to sell. We strongly feel that if we treat our customers as friends and are open and welcoming then they will treat us in the same way.’  They are treating customers as friends, not fans. The word fan in itself puts the customer a step further away from the brand.

 

  • Commercial social profiles vs. uncommercial social profiles; yes if you work agency-side, you’ll need to demonstrate the ROI of your digital efforts. But if you work client-side why not set up a Tumblr blog or an Instagram or Pinterest account, and inspire your fans; What I LOVE about Pinterest, by the way, is the positive vibes at its core; try to be nice.

 

  • And last but certainly not least, I really like this final quote, which clearly defines the role of various channels: Blogs truly are the way forward for those of us who enjoy ideas and images, whatever the subject. Twitter can pass an idea on quickly, of course and if you ask people to RT, they are kind. Facebook is a tremendous source of word-spreading. 

 

Big thanks to Charlie Gladstone for taking the time to answer my questions!

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