Garden Retailers Learn the ‘Power of Social’

DIDCOT, UK: Learning how to harness the power of social media was the focus of this year’s Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) Marketing Forum entitled ‘The Power of Social’. The HTA, a UK member of the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH), invited both members and non-members from the UK gardening industry to the event which took place on Wednesday 16th October at HTA’s premises in Oxfordshire.

The engaging and informative one-day event attracted around 80 attendees, most of whom were garden centre owners and managers. A diverse programme of presentations from social media experts and entrepreneurs was designed to demonstrate how different social media platforms can help businesses.

Compelling statistics presented by Mr David Denny, HTA’s Futures and Sustainability Manager, illuminated the depth and breadth of social media penetration. Mr Denny said that “social media has inserted itself into the very fabric of our society. It exists between people’s engagements and interactions”. As a result, social media offers a powerful digital marketing tool, as Mr Denny explained: “expensive and time-delayed methods of the past, such as mystery shopping and consumer focus groups, have been powerfully superseded by social media when it comes to gaining insight into consumer profiles, attitudes and behaviours”. Social media can also influence consumers with targeted, aspirational images and can stimulate positive consumer engagement. Mr Denny added “today businesses can target their markets more specifically than ever before and enjoy the competitive advantage this brings.”

Julie Hall of the School of Marketing and Simone Bonnett of the Social Mangers explained that succeeding on social media relies on the ability to convey an authentic personality and tell a story. This message was re-iterated by twenty-year-old Huw Richards who has reached over 30 million views on his Youtube channel “Huws Nursery” and Lee Connelly, the Skinny Jean Gardener podcaster who has over 100,000 listeners.

Proving that social media success is not just for the young, Alan E Down is the gardening blogger of ‘Down to Earth’ and in his seventies. He uses social media to invite feedback, build followers and boost website SEO. Making a friendly, helpful, entertaining and topical blog he believes is important to building a loyal following. The value of social media as a tool for optimising SEO was presented by Edwin Meijer of Garden Connect, one of the event’s sponsors (along with Alpha Packaging, Eight days a week, Frobishers and Swan Retail).

Demonstrating the value of social media in running a digital campaign, Josie McGhee, HTA Marketing Executive presented the National Children’s Gardening Week – an initiative which both promotes gardening to a new audience and the health and well-being benefits of gardening for children.

Chair of the event, Mr Neil Grant of Ferndale Garden Centre, concluded the day saying “the experiences the industry is providing are building a solid basis for the future as younger people show enthusiasm for the industry either to enter as a career or as future consumers”.

The day was supported by the UK’s National Garden Gift Voucher Scheme . The HTA’s next event ‘Cultivating Retail’ takes place on Tuesday 19th November 2019 at the East Midlands Conference Centre in Nottingham. Register online .

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