During the last three weeks, I have been working with Gail Gibson and small businesses in Faringdon to think about how they can use Social Media to work collaboratively with other Faringdon businesses to promote Faringdon as a thriving town.  The seminars were organised by our Town Team Projects Manager, Mirabelle Mack.

For those of you who don’t know, Faringdon is a growing market town between Oxford and Swindon with some fabulous retail shops as well as over 200 small businesses in and around the town, many working from home.

Last night, Gail and I, asked attendees to think about George from a fictitious business, The Veggie PatchThe Veggie Patch.  George wants to open a fruit and veg retail shop in town and we wanted attendees to think about how George could use Social Media to market his business and how he could work collaboratively with other businesses in town in order to achieve a win:win situation.

This exercise was interesting for a number of reasons:

1. It is always easier to think about what a different business should do.  There were some great ideas on how George could develop his brand to deliver a fantastic service and a range of products to compete with supermarkets – he was a top quality greengrocer by the end of the session who we all wanted to buy from! However, so many of the ideas could be brought into our own businesses.  Learning Point: Understand your brand and how you can be remarkable before you start.

2. The  group came up with some fantastic ways for George to collaborate with other businesses. He can promote other local businesses on Social Media by sharing their content and introducing them to his contacts.  By getting people to come into town to visit our fantastic butchers, they will come to visit George’s Veggie Patch as well and then perhaps have a coffee in one of our great coffee shops.  Learning Point: Who can you work with to help others to flourish, thereby allowing you to flourish?

3.  There was a temptation for the group to dive in and say George should be using Facebook or Twitter or other tools, but they soon realised that it is not so much about what tool to use as what George is going to talk about on Social Media and who his audience is.  The group came up with some fabulous ideas about how George could add value on Social Media including educating his audience about different types of fruit and vegetables, sharing recipes and asking for recipes to be suggested, showing the personality of the brand and the story behind his suppliers, pictures of his shop, latest offers, things going on in the town, etc. Learning Point: Create a strategy first. Understand who you can talk to and what you can talk about so that you are interesting and add value over a period of time and then identify the correct tool to use.

4. The attendees got very passionate about George and what he could offer.  Learning Point: Anybody fancy starting The Veggie Patch in Faringdon?!

I hope that the businesses involved got as much out of the short sessions as I did.  It is always a good idea to take a step back and think about how you can do things better. Sometimes using a scenario is a good way of bringing out some learning points.  Let me know what you think….