Essential reading for retailers and suppliers in the home improvement market
You get told everywhere that social media is the future and marketing will never be the same again. I wonder how many of us start social media accounts secretly thinking, this can't really be as useful as it's cracked up to be. I believe that many companies find social media doesn't deliver the amazing results they had been led to expect because they approach it as a marketing tool. Social media is not a marketing tool, it is a communications tool. It is a marketing tool in the same way as your phone is.

So I just wanted to share with you a couple of examples to highlight this. The first is the B&Q Twitter account. This is a great example of a retailer using social media in the most effective way, giving advice and communicating with customers. There is no dark art to this, you just have to approach your Twitter followers in the same way as you would a customer who walked into your shop. You can either follow them around the shop shouting "HAVE YOU SEEN OUR NEW SPADES? LOOK THEY ARE THERE!!! DID YOU KNOW IT IS 20% OFF TODAY?? HAVE YOU SEEN OUR NEW TROWELS? LOOK THEY ARE OVER THERE!!!"
Or instead you can ask them if they want any help, listen to what they are looking for, and point them in the right direction. On the right is a screen shot of @BandQ doing just that. And you don't have to wait for tweeters to contact you either, why not search for tweets containing your company name or the products you stock? It only takes a second to recommend they visit your store or try a certain product.

The second example I have is about communication between companies, a story of a wild goose chase with a happy ending. Just over a week ago, a cookshop owner contacted us at's sister site asking if we knew who the UK supplier was for Oliver Hemming's Spice Boy mills. Our editorial team drew a blank, so they posted a news story on the site asking if any of our users could help. I tweeted asking if anyone on Twitter knew, with a link back to the story. Within a minute or two one of my followers, @djcharlyc, tweeted back, pointing out that the mills were stocked on the retail website Dream Icons. I scanned the website and Dream Icons didn't seem to have a Twitter account, so I logged onto Facebook as HousewaresLive and posted the story on their wall asking if they could tell us who the supplier was.

Sarah from Dream Icons was clearly watching their Facebook account diligently and posted a comment on saying that unfortunately there was no UK supplier at the moment "frustrating isn't it?" She added.

Then Rolf Jackson of housewares supplier Brugo UK, spotted the calls on to bring these mills back to the UK. received an email from Rolf at 2.50pm the same day saying: "I am speaking to the owners of the brand about my UK company taking the exclusive EU distribution of the Oliver Hemming grinders."

At 3.30pm he sent another email: "I have just spoken to them and we have them exclusively for Autumn Fair in a few weeks. Please give me 24 hours and I will have a stand number for your readers."

So there we have it. A wild goose chase spanning HousewaresLive, Dream Icons, Twitter, Facebook and finally email, resulting in a great product becoming available again for UK retailers. And all because some of us were using social media sites to communicate and help each other out, not just shouting at each other about our own products.
View User Profile for Ellie Dawes's former web guru Ellie Dawes blogs on the world of online retail.

Want to know what a QR code is? Whether retailers are better marketing on Twitter or Facebook? Please get in touch and let me know what YOU would like to know more about so I can write blog posts that are useful to you.
Posted by Ellie Dawes Ellie Dawes | 25 August 2011 | 12:44 | More from: DIY in cyberspace


Published prior to March 2014
By Geoff Gordon
Well done Ellie,
As an old hand struggling to get my head round Twitter, Facebook etc you have explained with two excellent examples how to get some leverage out of social networking in a retail enviroment.
I realy had come to the conclusion that it was for the younger generation and publicity seekers.
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