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Global Corner Shop

I recently gave a talk on Social Media to the Kildare branch of Network Ireland. Network Ireland provides a forum where women in business, the professionals, and the Arts can exchange ideas and increase their business contacts.

I think it’s fair to say that while within the group there was a realisation as to the need to be actively using social media; there was also trepidation around where to start, how much time to spend and the technical knowledge that was required.

Some people felt that there was a generational barrier, that somehow social media was a young person’s game. As with many things in life & business, there was a general fear of the unknown.

While attempting to reassure that social media are merely a set of tools that allows people to communicate, much like pen & paper or e-mail, one analogy used for social media that particularly struck me was that of an old corner shop.

Driving home, I began to think about this simple but inspired description as to how social media could work for any small business and be used by any small business owner. If you think about it, the corner shop and the old school shopkeeper were so much more than the products that were sold; it was a place where a community came to engage.

This was because the old style shopkeeper provided a service to that community that was far more than the act of selling goods.

The shopkeeper played a vital role in maintaining and supporting their community. His or her personality & interaction played the key part in ensuing that customers enjoying the overall shoping experience.

The old style shopkeeper took the time to listen, to give advice & answer any questions you might have and as a result the corner shop became a focal point within the community.

It was very often a place where introductions were made, somewhere to meet friends, where conversations could take place, ideas exchanged & problems shared.

As I thought about it, I realised how successfully one can utilise social media has much more to do with your skills as an old style shopkeeper and much less to do with your skills around technology.

The difference of course is that the community is now a global one and that people don’t even need to leave the comfort of their home to partake.

As a small business owner, if you engage & listen much like the way in which the old school shopkeeper did. If you endeavour to create a shop where the shopping experience, resembles that of the old corner shop. Social media will deliver massive and endless opportunities for your business.

Can you think of any other analogies to explain social media?

Thank you for reading


Suggested reading:

Why Social Media Doesn’t Matter Anymore

Social Media Explained By A Very Smart 15 Year Old

Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter: tips for business

Four Ways to Find Out if Your Customers Are Active With Social Media

6 Reasons You’re Not Rocking Social Media

Irish SME’s are embracing social media marketing while 40% of European Technology check social media profiles of potential employees

Digital expert, top 10% influencer with over 10 years’ senior management experience - including managing projects and teams, and growing companies in the Irish, international and online marketplaces. Co-founded one of the largest B2B blogs in the world, helped grow a B2B social media to over 1,000,000 members, created the strategy for one of the most effective SME Facebook pages in the world and have grown 3 business websites (, & to in excess of a 100,000 unique visitors per month. Have consulted and worked with both corporate and SME clients on leveraging digital to drive business KPIs. Speaker at industry events, have authored several industry reports on the Digital Economy and appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Business Insider and other leading online and offline business publications. Specialities include: Entrepreneurship Business Development, Start-ups, Business Planning, Management, Training, Leadership, Sales Management, Sales, Sales Process, Coaching, Online Advertising, Blogging, Online Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Digital Marketing, Content Marketing, SEO, Social Media Strategist, Digital Strategy, Social Media ROI, User Generated Content, Social Customer Care.

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  • Great Blog Niall – really like the analogy and how right you are. Certainly gives food for thought!!

  • Hi Jackie, thanks for the comment. The flipside of course is that it takes time & effort 🙂

  • Good stuff Niall!!
    The corner shops of old also provided a watering hole (aka pub), funeral parlour, child minding services (it took so long for the kids to choose their sweets) and a melody of other services, not least the ones mentioned above.
    Small Businesses have wonderful advantages over larger businesses: the ability to listen, provide customised solutions, be spontaneous and improvise at short notice.

  • Hi Elaine, social media allows any biz to listen, it just about taking the time. By the way, I have very fond memories of sweet picking 😉

  • thats a great analogy niall. captures it perfectly. it should help the technophobes get it. ill send a few over as a test.

  • lol, thanks Aileen.

  • Yonatan Maisel


    How disappointed I am that in this absolutely incredible video and among all of the fascinating facts about Ireland, not one mention of Guinness, my favorite beer (though in actuality it is a “stout”). Shame! Shame! SHAME! 🙂


  • Thanks Yoni and great point, Guinness is Ireland’s best known brand and the Guinness storehouse based in Dublin in our number one tourist destination, they teach you how to pull your own pint so I’m guessing you would like it 🙂

  • Hi Eddie, thanks for getting it out there 🙂

  • P Miley

    Wonderful video Niall. Well done to whoever commissioned and produced it. Such a different view from the doom & gloom we hear every day on news programmes.

  • Commissioned by IBEC and produced by Another Avenue as far as I understand 🙂

  • Niall,
    It is briliant ,I feel much better having viewed the video. Well done for sending it on.Need to get these facts out there to combat the negaive stuff

  • Agreed! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Great post and video …. because of the size of external investment it also reinforces the need to be careful with how our corporation tax rates are set and managed. Let’s make sure we don’t kill the golden goose.

  • Thanks for sharing Niall, I have RT, it is BRILLIANT 😉

  • Dbourke

    Why not have RTE air this at prime time?

  • Great idea, what about spending a few quid on an international marketing campaign? we don’t go back to the markets until next year.

  • Thanks Frederique 🙂

  • Thanks John, It’s looks like it will increase to 15% but what do I know 🙂

  • Joegalligan

    Who is this aimed at? Was it made recently? What are Ibec doing with this? I agree with everyone so far in saying this is the message that needs to get out there. We can’t deny the position we’re in but we have got to hold our heads high and give a positive message and make a difference.

  • Nail,

    Good message in the video, some nice graphics as well.

  • Dsq

    This is good to see, given the bipolar (‘manic-depressive’) swing from the Celtic Tiger (we’re masters of the universe / build like there’s no tomorrow) to the Celtic Mouse (most distressful country ever / we’re just useless Paddies after all).

    The trouble is, though, that journalism is intrinsically focused on the negative. In wartime, the media are discouraged from even telling the truth in case this damages the national interest; in our crisis, the media exaggerate the negative, even though it damages our national interest and delays recovery.

  • Daithi O’Regan

    Hi Niall.30% of hurleys sold are coming in from asia,eastern europe,china .and 80% of ash is imported ,Within four years it will be 60% and nine years 100% will be irish ash.I am promotion the irish handcraft hurley makers andwith so many clubs worldwide if they can buy irish it will helpthe 400 jobs in place at the moment.Great youtube .Daithi

  • james hayes

    Well you can always drop in to see me,,,

  • Thanks Daithi, interesting stats! I certainly would struggle with the idea of importing hurleys. By the way, Up Tipp 🙂

  • I think the media should take some blame but ultimately surely they give us what we want and what sells newspapers etc etc?

  • Thanks Folks 🙂

  • Great set of statistics to bring out in conversation when speaking to people overseas. We need to get this message out to promote Ireland and promote job creation. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Niall,

    Good video and I will RT – its important to get the message out.
    I appreciate that it had to cover a large amount of industry sectors, but I think it would have been good to see some details on the IT side of the house – be it web apps, cloud computing, security etc.
    Perhaps a part two will be made.
    Cheers Richie

  • Hi Richie, Maybe? Thanks for the share!

  • My pleasure, glad you liked them 🙂

  • John Farley

    cant watch video here in the US for some reason : (

  • Sorry to hear that John, Ill see what I can find out?

  • it think if we could get this sort of information and more like it out to more ,,, we weold find that it could more benificial than the looming budget, and most likly worth more to the finance dept. we need to stop the negativity… before we run ourselves into the ground… just a thought….

  • Anonymous

    Great positive video Niall, thanks!

  • Kate

    It’s a great video, but they really need to slow down the graphics especially towards the end, it makes the facts very difficult to read. But yeah, all constructive criticism aside, there’s some pretty impressive facts in there.

  • Margaret Mara

    Niall, that’s a great video. We need to be showcasing what we CAN do. There is a change in mindset about. People are fed up with bad news. They are ready to embrace what we CAN do. We have survived a famine, it’s in us to survive. We need to change our mindset. Look at our values. Look at what we CAN do. Remind ourselves that we have the most fantastic creativity in Ireland. We are a nation of writers, poets, musicians and artists. We have the best comedians on the planet. That all says something about who we are. Love this video.

  • Thanks Kate, you’re not the first person to say that and I think they are going to make some changes 🙂

  • Thanks Mags 🙂

  • In violent agreement Sean, thanks 🙂

  • Channel our anger into innovation?

  • Carriebon

    Superb uplifting presentation. To adopt the position of mean spirited carping critic* is always easiest option- * formerly known as “hurler on the ditch”. Keep up the good work Niall. Slan agus beannacht, P.Loftus

  • Go raibh míle maith agat!

  • Tony Dunne

    This great video has reached Australia. Could this be the time for another great Irish trait to step forward “orator” Is there a man or woman left in Ireland to lift the nation and tackle the elephant in the room “Ulster” Is this leader there to step forward and make a huge united push for all of Ireland to come from the downer it is going through financially and socially to once and for all banish this albatross that has hung over our head for 88 years. Could that person be this very media we are using today. Ireland has embraced facebook as many parts of the world have. Could a group of tech savvy people use the latest technology to bypass the usual biased media and raise the already willing 88% of the populations hopes for this as another long overdue achievement for IRELAND. Go Niall start today another great video for the one that unites and lifts us all weather we be from the 4 provinces or the 4 corners of the world.
    Tony Dunne Sydney Australia

  • Thanks Tony, I agree! we have got to stop thinking of ourselves as a small island of 5 million but rather a global community of 80 million. Borders are redundant!

  • Hi Niall,

    Superb post – with the increased uptake on internet in the country we should be using it as a low cost base to start setting ourselves up for business. Thinking even smaller within an individuals home you can self generate cash buying and selling online and build up a small seed fund. Using viral and social media you can then plug yourself into any network. Ideally what we need is an indigenous portal to encourage self promotion, provide help to new users and more importantly to start self funding. There is no money in the country, then we must look beyond it. Also the discipline in managing one’s own money brings a frugality we missed during the good times. Fair play for sending this and i have added on all my social accounts trying to bring it to prominence. Well done.

  • Hi Vinny, thanks for the insightful comments & sharing the vid 🙂

  • Nialldevitt

    Yes I’d love to help make some good things happen! Thanks Elli & Happy New Year my Friend.

  • Lwiltshier

    Brilliant Niall, this should be broadcast everywhere!

  • Derbhile

    u00a0Tell that to the Government.

  • Agreed! 🙂

  • I think it’s very important to ensure that call to actions are accounted for and by whom – and then followed up and reviewed. Certain meetings I attend; anything left undone stays on the agenda, others seem to just allow them to drop off as if they are not relevant at next meeting.

    As Niall says, selling should be about the client/customers’ needs, not what is being “sold” and this needs to be emphasized in the meetings. I always view sales people as almost self-employed as they have to manage their clients and their day. The difference is they have a Manager to answer to and that Manager should be as supportive and encouraging as possible.

    I have sat in Sales meetings where agents numbers have been projected on the wall for everyone to see – that can be degrading, and I always felt a 1-1 with the Manager would serve better to empower the agent and encourage them to change direction and be pro-active in trying new tactics.
    A little competition is healthy and I agree to perhaps split a group into 2, thereby not singling out one person and helps to forge camaraderie and healthier relationships amongst the team.

    Nice post Dave, thanks

  • Dave Thomas

    Thanks for the feedback. I have always believed no matter whether it is sales, editorial, technology etc…. that meetings should be about results and not frequency. I have seen too many companies hold meeting after meeting just for the sake of meeting. Find a way to make meetings work, make them informative, and make them something workers want and not have to attend.

  • Very pertinent points made around meetings. In a company I worked in previously, some novel approaches were to have everyone stand instead of sit during a meeting – focuses the mind and also has the inevitable effect of shortening meeting time! This can be especially effective when some meetings are held as much out of habit as anything else, or as an excuse to ‘catch up’, without a real need or benefit to actually having a meeting. 

  • This is something I have come across in the past where a business sales manager is looking for work, but the wrong work and generating the incorrect level of sufficient business. I think a sales manager should also re-asses how the business he is representing can be found on the internet!

  • Hi Tori, 

    I started off my sales career as a cold caller and have managed to build a career around selling to this very day. Cold-calling may not be dead but sales people and sales trainers have for me it seems, done their very best to kill it! Ask prospects if they enjoy the process of being cold called, and I think it’s fair to say that the majority will say no, why: because cold-calling is usually a waste of their time and often just simply downright annoying. Prospects don’ care about your business, your products or your special offers. They care about their business, their products and their customers. So unless you’re in a position to have an intelligent conversation about what they actually care about, my advice is to not bother picking up that phone.We have to really understand that time is our greatest resource, both for our prospects and for ourselves. If you really want to make an impression and build a relationship, spend time wisely, researching your prospect, researching their business, researching their market and ensure that you have something of value to say when you pick up that phone.As an industry, and as sales leaders, we have to stop feeding young people in entry level sales roles,the drivel that passes for sales training/methodology. The majority of salespeople that enter into selling fail and the internet is now killing our industry slowly. The sales people that survive will be business experts and trusted advisers to their customers.    

  • Torihawthorne

    Call me crazy but to me Sales is an art form. We have been sold th ideathat sales is a job that anyone can do. When really its a job that needs time, care and patience. We need to train sales people effectively in research and development as well as selling. Commission only has a lot to answer for. It has created an army of what seems to me to be angry sales people, pushing for a sale as the sale is what is going to pay their wage. Companies pay for a research and Development, sales people are on the ground getting the feedback with every answer from prospects. You are right. Training is key, businesses need to put value into their sales by effectively training staff and sales agents/teams in methods that are proven to work. Not a whole lot of “go get ’em” cliches. Thanks for your comment Niall 🙂

  • Torihawthorne

    Thanks Amber 😉 I love business development. It means I am always learning. Even leaning things like how different industries react to different BD methods. And immediate response is so valuable too 😉 thanks again for comment. Tori

  • Elishbul

    Thanks Tori needed that. Especially this parting note.
    “This revelation also turns the idea that ‘cold-calling is dead’ right on
    its head… If you perceive cold-calling to be a way to make sales, then
    yes, you may be going to work everyday faced with a litany of No, no,
    nil, NO, and no… See this as the business development opportunity that
    it is and prepare yourself to make connections, learn about the
    person/company on the other end of the phone. ”

    Its about time a more human focus was put on Cold calling and in fact the phrase alone doesn’t do it justice- its about starting connections and worth remembering in a world that’s obsessed about social media when being a helpful voice on the line is probably one of the most social things you can do.

  • Tori Hawthorne

    That is so true Elish, I hate the term Cold-Calling, but actually love the task of doing it… I love connecting to people and sharing opportunities. I always smile when talking on the phone, an olden’ but golden rule 😉
    Social media has tried to take over that initial ‘cold call’ role but inevitably to take any relationship, business, customer, friendship or otherwise to a point of growing we must talk or meet.. I wish I could meet everyone I am connected to, maybe there is a tv programme there 😉

    Thank you for your comment 😉 T

  • Ruby

    Thanks for all the great ideas here.  I appreciate the experience behind what you are sharing.  Ruby

  • Tori Hawthorne

    Thanks Ruby,

    My pleasure to share… Only way to let people know it works 😉 Tori

  • Great post Tori, cold calling is not dead but I’ve always hated that phrase – randomly calling people and hoping for the best is not good for either the salesperson or the potential customer.  We approach people directly in our business as many of our customers are venturing online or onto social media for the very first time and wouldn’t have found us any other way. I would definitely say we more often get a positive than negative response when it’s handled correctly.  It’s about the value you’re offering them as opposed to the sale you’re clocking up for your company and it takes people skills and the ability to really listen to your prospect as opposed to robotic training to do the job effectively. 

  • I love this post, and in fact had a very interesting conversation about this very topic at open coffee during the week. Both our consensus was that relationship building adn nurturing leads to better quality sales and longer lasting business relationship. Another word we used was trust – not the “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” kind but having prospected, conversed, building a relationship, that potential client may never actually buy, but they wil trust you enough to recommend or refer.
    Tori, Fantastic first post and a huge welcome to Bloggertone!

  • Tori Hawthorne

    Heya Debbi, thanks so much for your comment.. Its so true, we have to be well researched in who we are calling, why we are connecting and how to get the right message across.

    So true, its the value and them that’s important and not the sale… Its the cold calling term that makes it sound like such an awful task 🙁 I much prefer business development because that’s what it is 😉

    Thank you

  • Tori Hawthorne

    Oh wow, thank you Elaine *blushing*

    Its so true, I have never viewed my work as prospecting, but always relationship building. Trust and nurturing is key. We have to be open, honest and as helpful as we can as sales people, it’s never just about the sales we make today but the sales in our future business. The initial stages of the relationship build the foundations for a strong future, once we trust the foundations are there we should always have lasting business and referrals.

    Thank you again Elaine 


  • Thanks for your post Tori- good content.
    I’m putting a sales prsocess together at the moment and the above fits in nicely to that which I have in mind. How this system of generating leads is approached is all about mind set. If it’s seen as a way of dropping the net purely for the purpose of landing fish then it is not a substantial practice and relationships will not be firmly established. I want a relation ship with the fish:-) or rather the river the fish are in. The system you outline above is more appealing to me than just merely picking up the phone book and starting at A and working your way through it, which is what is generally perceived from the term “cold calling”.

    thanks again,


  • Derbhile

    You’ve sold me on cold calling. 

  • Tori Hawthorne

    WOW, Thanks so much for your comment Larry,

    I love your fish analogy, that’s it, the river is as important as the fish 😉 I am so glad my post has helped your plans.
    It takes time and it’s not a process that will bring immediate results but it will bring firm results and good Business Relationships.

    Good luck with your process, hope it goes well

    Tori 😉

  • Tori Hawthorne

    Hi there,

    Thank you so much for reading and commenting.


  • Puneet

    I have always used a friendly and a genuine conversation to “explore” and common areas of “interest” and that has got many coffee meetings. I like the way you have put it in a more transitioning manner from the traditional cold calling to the new age business development discussions.

  • Tori Hawthorne

    Hi there Puneet,
    Thank you for your comment. That is really it, we need to move on from the hard sell and build relationships, this way we have a firm foundation for a great business relationship

    Thanks again

  • Alagu Subramani

    Tori, your post helps one regain their confidence on cold calling. The honest approach works and not all customers are irate, they would also like to listen to what is out there in the market. There should not be a restricted timeframe within which you would like to complete the cold calling activity. It should be an ongoing practice. I am sure there might be questions about Gatekeepers not allowing you to speak to the right contact, there are different timings when you can call the contact and also crisp emails do get the customers attention. This is a really good post.

  • Tori Hawthorne

    Thank you Alagu,
    Its true, it is an ongoing process, we can try and set days to ‘do it’ but that time frame can change by the prospect dictating when they can be called… We have to be flexible and patient and polite to Gatekeepers ;)Thanks againTori

  • Hi Tori, thanks for your perspective. I still see cold calling as important as well. It really is a good way of getting out there as long as you’re not being “COLD”.

  • Tori Hawthorne

    Thanks Myron,

    Me too. We need to connect as businesses and when we don’t know who we are calling the call is ‘Cold’. Mindset needs to change, it needs to be seen that we need to make these calls to grow and we need to receive these calls to know what or who is truly out there… 
    Thanks again Tori 😉

  • Great post Aileen. Accounts are there to be used and analysed, not just trotted out for the tax man or bank. Thanks for pointing out how simple it can be for owners to do their own regular checks

  • Thanks, it’s true a little understanding and attention can avoid this kind of situation: 

  • Thanks aileen for a worthy write-up and making  clear  that how helpful worthy  “information”  can be 

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