Small Biz Wiggles Its Way Into Social Media Excellence - InformationWeek

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11/7/2008
02:43 PM
Jim Manico
Jim Manico
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Small Biz Wiggles Its Way Into Social Media Excellence

Emergency aside, many people know better than to crash into a group of people engrossed deep in an offline discussion. Many people know to approach quietly and listen in on the conversation for a little while before adding their two cents.

Emergency aside, many people know better than to crash into a group of people engrossed deep in an offline discussion. Many people know to approach quietly and listen in on the conversation for a little while before adding their two cents.Many people, however, don't apply the same graces in online discussions -- though they should, advised Heather Gorringe, whose environmentally conscious mail-order gardening small business, Wiggly Wigglers, was recognized by Dell for its social media prowess. "You have to treat social media as a potential customer, with humility and kindness," Gorringe told a dozen of us gathered Thursday at the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan. "Don't burst in. Start gently. Be polite."

Founded in 1990, Wiggly Wigglers is based in rural Herefordshire, England -- approximately three hours northwest of Heathrow Airport. So to say social media tools -- Facebook, blogging, and podcasting, in particular -- have worked wonders for Gorringe, who aspired to be on the radio but found herself frustrated by the way her interviews were edited (at times, out of context) would be an accurate assessment. "Social media enables us to keep the conversation going," she said. "If we didn't embrace new technologies, we wouldn't have any customers. No one is going to wake up in the morning and say, 'Ah-ha! I really do need to compost my kitchen waste using worms.'"

By leveraging social media, Wiggly Wigglers said it was able to cut its advertising spend by 80% -- key to its winning Dell's first-ever Global Dell Small Business Excellence Award, which includes $50,000 in Dell products and services. More than 1,000 small businesses (100 employees or less) applied. "The fact that Wiggly Wigglers is growing while cutting their operating expenses so dramatically because of their use of technology is very impressive," said Dave Marmonti, president of Dell Europe, Middle East and Africa, in a statement. "With the economy top of mind for so many customers, I hope small businesses everywhere can learn from what they are doing and implement similar strategies in their companies."

Wiggly Wigglers serves 900,000 customers worldwide, has recorded more than 150 podcasts, and has more than 900 Wiggly Facebook Group members. "If you have something that needs a conversation, you need social media," said Gorringe, who not only "gets" the power of technology, but even more so the power of the people who work for her. "There's nothing unique about anything anymore -- other than the people running your business."

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