A small business case study for social media use

Nancy Wallace of Suwanee, owner of Wallace Gardens, is living testament to entrepreneurial persistence and using digital media to connect with customers. Many business owners are challenged to determine how social media can positively impact their business. They struggle with questions about the return on investment for social media and how to connect with customers to generate sales.

Wallace has made the connection linking technology to business. She is reaching customers on multiple social platforms using vivid imagery to show her work in gardening and horticulture. What makes the story more remarkable is that Wallace isn’t a natural born tech guru. She’s made tech work for business through hard work, dedication, and natural problem solving.

“The social media platform is my storefront.” – Nancy Wallace

The website – wallacegardens.com
Her first task was to create a website. Wallace took classes at an Apple store and learned how to build a web site herself. “I have the gift of knowing what I don’t know,” Wallace says. She wasn’t afraid to ask for help and was anxious to learn.

The result is a functional site that provides information about the services she provides as well as contact information. Viewers will also see some animated picture files on the site, a trick Wallace says she learned from her instructors.

The tagline reads Creating beauty with botany by combining flowers, trees, and shrubs. “I wanted something that didn’t sound run of the mill,” Wallace says. “I didn’t want to sound like a landscape installer, because I am a designer first and foremost.”

Pinterest board: pinterest.com/sassynancy/wallace-gardens-scrapbook
Pinterest is a social photo-sharing website that allows participants to “pin” digital photos in a theme-based collection. Wallace determined that she could use Pinterest to post photos from her job sites. It has become her online portfolio that she can share with both existing and prospective clients when discussing new design ideas.

“I have a color based business. I need colors to make a connection with my clients.” – Nancy Wallace

When she works with a client she uses a Pinterest board to collect pictures and then sends the client a link. This creates a visual for the client and an interface for a conversation. The Pinterest board has become a very functional part of the business as it drives new sales.

Blog: wallacegardens.tumblr.com/archive
Wallace uses a blog site not as a collection of words or commentary about her industry, but as a collection of photos. Unlike Pinterest, the pictures on the blog are not about her work portfolio. Rather, they are about her gardening interests. The blog is a place for Wallace to connect with others in her industry and those that share her same interests and passions for gardening.

Twitter: twitter.com/#!/sassynancy
Wallace uses Twitter to cross-post links to her blog and Pinterest board. You might also find her connecting with others on gardening topics or other topics. Tweets have to be short, as in 140 characters or less. But Wallace has a distinct audience that uses Twitter, and it’s another place for social connections. As of the writing of this article, she has over 1,200 followers.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/NancyWallaceGardens
Wallace also has a presence on the most popular social media site in the world. It’s full of photos and provides Wallace with a connection to people who may not use some of the other social media sites. It’s a community page about gardening on Facebook. What’s not to ‘like’ about it?

Wallace says that her business is a “2009 product of the recession.”  She has been a practicing garden designer since 2001 and was previously a co-owner Grass Roots Girls in Suwanee. In 2008, her previous business started to struggle as the result of the construction industry slowdown along with drought conditions in North Georgia. The conditions led to more outstanding invoices and fewer service jobs to keep the business alive.

So Wallace left her previous business to start Wallace Gardens with a small list of about 20 clients. They were her seed clients to help her get started. “I didn’t know if I was going to be around a year later,” Wallace says. During this time she was interviewed by National Public Radio (NPR), Weekend Edition for a story about the economic downturn squeezing the middle class. Then a year later NPR featured her and two other small business owners in a follow-up interview about the US economy.

Her next digital “to do” is to start using video in combination with photography. She may develop a YouTube channel and has already registered the Twitter handle @60SecondGarden.

“My story still continues, I am still here, and I am very grateful.” – Nancy Wallace


This post is from my column on technology and business from the Suwanee Patch.  I cross-post the entire contents here for the Merchant Stand audience. The original version is posted at http://suwanee.patch.com/articles/she-s-leaving-a-digital-footprint-in-her-gardens