What the tweet has a poke, like or share got to do with good business practice? Don’t groan, it’s worth every minute of your attention, I promise!

Marketing has come a long way in the last few decades. The early seventies saw a shift in advertising trends from the stand-and-point style of the fifties, to a widespread attempt to tap into people’s emotions. Think 1973 - the famous Hovis advert on Shaftesbury’s Gold Hill for heartwarming nostalgia.

This aspect of marketing has lead to today’s viral networking, where companies with multi-million dollar budgets use the power of the internet to sell their products. McDonald’s GOL campaign a few years ago, featuring a 2 minute compilation of trick-shots from amateurs around the world went viral. The ad has absolutely no connection to fast food, but capitalizes on the speed at which feel good stuff is shared on the web.

So can a small business like ours do likewise? Absolutely, yes. The Mulberry Tree Gallery is based in a seaside town in Dorset, population 10,000. Several years ago, we bowed to the pressure of social media and opened a Facebook page for the business.

Relatively swiftly, we had 200 ‘likes’ on our page. This gave us an audience for information about exhibitions, new artists, special offers and the like, so we updated it regularly. So far so unimpressive. Then about 3 years ago I found a painting by an artist called Mani Parkes on Facebook and bought it as a Valentine’s present for my husband. It’s such a lovely piece that I invited her to contribute to a summer exhibition. She accepted and emailed a photo of a painting for the show. I posted it on Facebook and was astonished to watch the ‘likes’ reach 30,000. The exposure was thanks to Mani’s own page, to which a couple of high profile artists are linked. When one of them hit ‘like’, that artist’s 100,000+ followers had a chance to see it - along with The Mulberry Tree’s page where the photo was listed. Our followers have since risen to over 6,500 and we regularly sell work via Facebook. This captive audience have smartphones in their pockets and are bigger in number than our footfall. They share things they enjoy with their friends and want to be the first to know when something new is on offer.

So how best to keep these followers interested? A little reading around the subject lead me to the concept of synthetic personalisation. The idea is to build a relationship with these faceless masses. Using personal language, like addressing posts to ‘you’, creating familiarity and a sense of shared values, makes a potential customer enjoy your posts.

Art galleries are well positioned to make the most of Facebook as it’s a social space where lifestyle is the currency. People use Facebook to feel good about themselves. Art makes people feel good.

And then there’s Twitter! It’s on the to-do list, but does anyone have an app for more time?!