Newport retailer Jon Powell explains how he engaged with his community and got more customers through the door by using social media.
I set up a Twitter account four or five years ago because the Newport city centre, where I trade, was falling to bits.
Quite a large bit of the city centre had been knocked down, with the intention of rebuilding it, but then the financial crisis hit in 2008 and the company which was doing it went bust.
In the following couple of years, all the big shops like Marks & Spencer left and I was literally left in a ghost town.
So, I started using social media to harass the council about it. I felt like it either wasn’t listening or it didn’t care – which wasn’t the case in the end.
I just felt social media was another way of trying to get my point across and because Twitter was quite new at the time, and the local paper had also just started a Twitter account, they started to pick up on what I was saying and publishing it in the paper.
When things started to happen that I wanted to happen – the council started to develop the area and provided me with a new shop – I decided to move on to being positive instead of negative.
I started to be positive about the city centre and all the things that were happening and that struck a chord even more with people. I had invested everything here so I had a vested interest in helping to improve the reputation of the city.
I spoke to a couple of councillors who were interested in what I was trying to do and I also got some assembly members and some other business owners on board.
I started to take photos of different market stalls or independent stores around Newport and posting a couple of tweets about what they were doing.
Gradually, other people got involved and we formed The Newporters, which is basically anyone who wants to be positive about Newport.
We started to organise events. For example, we had t-shirts sponsored and held events throughout the town to help promote two local record shops on Record Store Day.
We also massively got into Small Business Saturday. This year we had sponsorship for 1,500 reusable carrier bags for all the independent shops in Newport to hand out.
I have been in the local newspaper more than 400 times in the past few years.
All of this was because of social media and all of this has had a positive impact on my business, which is why I do it, obviously.
I would encourage other newsagents just to get involved in it.
If you have a problem, just start talking about it on Twitter and, if it’s a valid problem, people will start supporting you on it.
It’s about engaging with customers. I put ads on there as well, I try not to spam it, but I do put up promotions.
It also reflects well with people if you are helping to promote other businesses along with your own. Share what other businesses around you have to offer.
I’m a newsagent, so people don’t come to Newport especially to buy something off me. I need to encourage people to come to other shops in town so they then come to me as well.
It’s about getting people to know you and getting them to want to come and spend money with you.
Follow Jon on Twitter @TheNewsagent