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Hi, Katherine.

I'll give you some quick impressions of how our experiment is going. In point form is quicker.
didn't use email, as I don't have your direct, and character limit.......

We have a B&M operation, and sell online through ebay bonanzle and our own website and now our Shop-Ning. We promote ourselves through Twitter, nings, blogs, and more. All promotion tends to tie directly into our home-owned website at greenspotantiques.com.

We built a shopping site using NING as it was easy to use, and quick to build. It has allt the components readily available: Rss feeds, searches, tags, pictures, descriptions, blogs, comments, members, private/public areas, groups, videos, slideshows, and anything we could think of using right now for an online store. IN a word, the software was full-featured, easy to use, free (thus far).

We had used various nings as promotions before, but came to the conclusion a selling site of our own would work best.

With a few modifications to the NING standard network, and USING ONLY the standard NING tools (no extras, no external widgets or programming), we were able to set up a system which;

1. allows us to gather an email list of interested customers.
2. allows us to communiate with potential customers.
3. We could target people and customers, leading them into the site where only OUR stock is for sale.
4. We could do this interactively with people who could leave comments, pictures, requests, etc.
5. We could customize searches and present categories of items.
6. we could present new arrivals quickly and easily.
7. by using chat, email, comments, we could be as close to a customer as if in our store
8. we could extend our physical reach well beyond budgets allowed by print or magazine advertising. .
9. we could feed google-base products dbase with our items.
10 We could show up quickly in online searches.

Although we target local customers (within 200 miles) heavily, we can sell worldwide on any venue we own.

In fact we've had a couple of people sign onto the group while in our physical store.

By offering trade-ins, in-store credit exchanges, under-30 Club savings, and consignment services, we keep may profit centres open simultaneously. The Ning allows us to promote these to pre-qualified members. our visitor stats are quite good, listing greenspot.ning.com in the top 750,000 on the net. A good standing for a single-store venue. Combined with our other web properties, we have quite a reach daily insourcing from various avenues.

The simple idea of the Ning was to provide a sales venue where we can build a relationship with our customers over time.

We have seen rapid rise in sales through the Ning site -- either as lead generation for consignments, outright purchases, Sales TO a customer directly, interest generated for a visit to our actual physical store, and more. Overall, given thecurrent cost of a ning ($0.00) It has outperformed any other possible venue we might consider, including eBay, bonanzle and others. It has grown in traffic in 3 months to outpace our own 3 year old website.

Overall, a great experience, and it seems to be getting better all the time.The only drawback we see thus far is that , given so many tools at hand, many users do not have the creativity to quickly use them to their fullest. We still get direct emails from members asking questions, rather than their using the built-in system on ning.
Either way, so long as they contact us, is ok with us.... i'm sure the system's full capabilities will be used more down the road.



Cheers.
Vince.

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Comment by Green Spot - Vince Jelenic on July 11, 2009 at 3:06pm
Wow I moved to canada in 1888? that would make me an antique, wouldn't it?
1988 of course, cheers.
Comment by Green Spot - Vince Jelenic on July 9, 2009 at 1:46pm
Hi, Katherine, the location of business and some other info is on our home website
http://greenspotantiques.com

I know... we need to do some re-organizing across venues and hope to make info more clearly available in future.

we've been in this company since 2003, but I have been at on-off antiques since 1979, apprenticed in Europe, and moved to Canada in 1888.
This website was our first, and still remains home base, indexed well in Google for local traffic. It brings people to the social site mostly, We find a user comes in, looks at two pages on home website, then off they go to the social selling site and view another 50 pages.

We use twitter, but not facebook.
yes, twitter works well , we drive traffic to our bonanzle booth, and our social site that way.

Still, the best resource we have, and still use is our home website. There is nothing better than being found direct in a search for YOUR store.

Aim of the social selling site, as mentioned before, is long term retention and relationship.
Goal of main home site is exposure and introduction.

Both do their job very well.

We don't really use other "social sites" or networks to bring in people. In most cases we just drop a biz card style page and let it sit. We find these are not very productive members.
For example, our Antiques Recyclers social site is considered, by us, as a small "give back" to the communiity. We do not actively troll to bring members over to our other site, although a little self-promotion always works it's way in.

We have, in fact LEFT other sites which we considered as having no direct educational value , for us, or direct customer building value. In these cases, it's mostly other sellers, not a very productive place for sales.

We are now working on strategies to be where our customer are, since we've pretty well exhausted the seller venues and come to understand that they are fallow ground. That tactic will take a bit of thinking and pondering before proceeding, though. Pitfalls are many on social sites.

We have twitter feeds set up from our various networks and blogs, and do direct tweets as well from bonanzle, and hand-written notes. Overall, twitter has some results, more as exposure than relationship thus far.
Comment by Katherine McKerrow on July 9, 2009 at 11:00am
Hi Vince!
Wow, it looks like you're really using this site amazingly well. Could you tell me a little bit of the history of your business, or point me to a website where I can find the particulars (how long you've been in business, where you're physically located, etc.)? Also, are you trying to bring people in through other social networking sites? I'd be interested in if youve had success bringing folks in via Facebook or Twitter. Thanks!

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