FOR what some might deem the antiques centre of the country, there is clearly nothing antique about Petworth’s approach to online networking.
Petworth residents and businesses have managed to put themselves on the virtual map and are taking the social media world by storm.
The media-savvy town has a population of around 3,000 people, but its newly- established Petworth Hour boasts an online reach of up to 20,000 internet users.
Petworth Hour was set up by Harsha Desai, after noting the success of ‘sussexhour’.
Run every Tuesday evening at 8pm, it acts as a forum for traders based in Petworth. They log in to social media site Twitter, and promote their businesses using the Petworth hour hashtag (#petworthhour), meaning that anyone who types this in will see who is actively involved in the discussions and forum.
Around 40 businesses are joining the online discussion every week. Traders have the opportunity to put themselves on the radar and build their online profile.
They can showcase what they do and this will be shared by the other participants during the online ‘happy hour’ – meaning a wider audience is reached.
Some are even advertising for new staff using the Twitter site.
Harsha said: “It’s exciting to see that people and businesses use it to connect with each other and many are making networking links.
“It is virtual networking for so many people, as I see many businesses who do not have a shop to showcase their business and instead use Petworth hour as an outlet. I find it works for me too. I can offer my services and have picked up work.
“Many businesses are amazed at how it is having an impact in the town. I’ve heard from one business that people have asked what Petworth hour is and when it is on so that they can join in.”
Ideas of expanding the networking trend have been discussed, with considerations for midhursthour and arundelhour.
“This would give more of a presence and really put all three towns on the map,” said Harsha.
Nick Paxton is the manager of The Hungry Guest in Lombard Street, Petworth. The company has an active Twitter base with a following of more than 1,000 people.
Nick said: “All the businesses here come together, promoting what they do.
“Social media is an asset to us, though Petworth hour works more for traders than for customers. It is something nice to help one another out.”
See the full feature in this week’s Observer