Need a recommendation for a plumber? A hotel in Rome? Or the scoop on where to buy tap shoes for your four-year old? For information on almost anything from healthy lunch alternatives for a peanut-butter addicted child, to a reliable chimney sweep, how to refurbish a stainless steel sink, or how to find the owner of a lost beagle puppy, Wilton CT 411, a Facebook page created for Wilton residents by Andrea Topalian, may just be the best place to start.
“I belonged to a mom’s club, and the idea grew out of our Google email group,” explains Topalian. “Initially we used it to coordinate meetings and make announcements, but then people started posting questions and looking for feedback, and it became a great resource for information. It still exists, but it’s just for the mom’s group.” Last December, seeing an opportunity to expand the concept beyond the group of moms in the club, she created a Facebook page she called Wilton CT 411. She invited her friends to join, and encouraged them, in turn, to ask other friends to become members. To publicize and promote the page, Topalian told everyone she knew about it, and created flyers that she posted around town. The number of members grew slowly, but as existing members invited their friends to join, the page took off.
When Topalian developed the page, she set up three guidelines. First, she asks that anyone joining the group be a Wilton resident or someone about to move to Wilton. She also reminds members to refrain from any negativity. “If someone has had a negative experience with a carpenter, a dry cleaners, or a product, they should not post their viewpoint on the public page, but they are free to voice their experience and opinion privately to the person who has asked for information.” And last, she does not allow advertising, unsolicited business posts or shout outs. “The page is about community and exchanging information in a helpful, positive way. It is not intended to be a forum for advertising or selling services or products,” she says.
In order to join, a resident must have a Facebook page, and then request to join Wilton CT 411. While the page relies on the honor system, Topalian and three other women handle the administrative duties, which include accepting new member requests and monitoring the posts to insure the guidelines are being followed. “If someone is not respecting the guidelines, one of us will remove their post or send them a gentle email reminder. In a year, we’ve only had to remove one member because of inappropriate use of the page.”
Wilton CT 411 now has over 1,200 members. Says one of them, Jen Albano, “Wilton 411 has been a great resource. We recently had an emergency plumbing problem; we woke up one morning to discover a leak in our kitchen ceiling. I posted a request for a reputable and responsive plumber on Wilton 411, got several recommendations immediately, and within an hour had a plumber at my door to fix the leak.” Adds another member, Ann Fastiggi, “I’ve found everything from a new dermatologist, to an architect, a hair salon and a summer camp for our daughter through Wilton 411.”
“The response has been great, even better than I expected. People stop me in town and ask me if I’m Andrea from Wilton CT 411,” she says. Despite that, she does not consider herself the owner of the page. As a professional photographer specializing in portrait photography, with a thriving business, Moments by Andrea, she views the time she spends on Wilton CT 411 as her way of giving back and helping the community. “My goal when I started it was to reach 1,000 members. It has exceeded that, and really taken on a life of its own. It has become a valuable tool for residents.”