Time for another Small business chat update, and today it’s with Alison Perry from Purple Dog Network. Alison’s original interview was published on 03 December 2011 and when asked where she planned to be in a year’s time, she answered, “I would like to continue to keep the network fresh with new ideas so that its popularity doesn’t fade. I would also like to be the go to adviser for UK small businesses who are trying to make their mark on twitter. Now that Mark Shaw [former Twitter guru] has pulled out of this market, I would like to think that I can go some way to filling his shoes”. Let’s see how it’s all gone since: there have been some hard decisions, but The Purple Dog Twitter initiative has kept going where other similar Twitter ideas have fallen by the wayside …
Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
2012 was a bit of a rollercoaster year for me but the one constant throughout was the support and continuing growth of the network on Twitter. The Purple Dog Network now has close to 30,000 followers and the popularity of the #purplebiz competition has continued to grow. We now regularly have over 2,000 retweets per week and 1,000 mentions. Events such as #PDChallenge are hugely popular and help to keep the network fresh.
As for the business side of the network, the #PDNSponsor slots regularly sell out a couple of weeks ahead and I have a steadily growing list of clients who I am supporting with their Twitter promotional activity.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
Much of what the network does has stayed the same, a number of other networks have come and gone but with the exception of #Bizitalk, none has enjoyed the same level of success. I have focused more on my blog and have provided lots of free advice for those looking to grow their Twitter accounts.
In March, my attention was diverted somewhat by the development of the Purple Dog Network community website which received great feedback and was huge fun to develop. Unfortunately, I soon realised that I didn’t have the resources needed to make the site successful so decided to focus my efforts back on the Twitter network and my Twitter consultancy business.
This was the toughest but most important decision of the year and with hindsight, I am very glad I took this step as it enabled me to focus on what I do best and continue to grow my business.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
The most important lesson I have learned is that as a sole trader, I need to be very focused. Working from home around my family commitments, I only have a small number of working hours, which I need to concentrate effectively to grow my business.
I wish I had known a year ago, how tough it is to set up a community website and how much is involved in developing and maintaining the content.
Any more hints and tips for people?
Make sure you know what it is you are really good at and focus your efforts in that direction. If you can afford to, delegate everything else to people who are expert in that field.
Great advice I picked up this year from a lovely lady called Kirsten Gibbs is “Only do what only you can do!” This has helped me to find some great partners to work with so that I can free up my time to do what I do best.
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
Since the closure of my community website, I have been opting for a steady growth strategy. I would like to continue to grow my consultancy business and to work with partners who add value to my business. Getting the balance right between work and home life is hugely important to me and having a steadily growing business which I can effectively manage within school hours will be my measure of success at the end of the year.
Update 2014: Alison reports that all is chugging along well but there are no significant updates to talk about. We wish Alison and Purpledognet all the best for the future.
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