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by Andy Killworth on 18th December 2012
I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of us in the digital industry would agree that the commercial use of social media is more important now than it’s ever been. Here at Koozai we always stress the importance of social to our clients. There are multiple benefits, including increased online brand presence, gaining captive audiences, links, more traffic, brand advocates spreading the word for you, and many more.
In my experience, companies either ‘get’ social totally, or not at all. There are several reasons for this (lack of resources, inexperience, fear of the unknown, negative perception and so on), but often the objection we hear is “it won’t work for our industry/brand/product”.
The assumption is often that, unless you have a huge brand or that your product is traditionally ‘interesting’, nice to look at, or fun, that no-one will be interested in or engage with your social presence. So, is this right or wrong?
It’ll Never Fly, Wilbur!
At first glance, you could be forgiven to think this way – after all, many products aren’t even visible, some have negative emotions associated with them, whilst some are, to be frank, just boring. It’s all too easy then, to give up before you’ve had a crack at social, saying “it won’t work.”
Apart from being a negative attitude to take, if you go down this road then you’re missing out on a trick – a trick that I bet at least one of your competitors is using, or will be using to their advantage, and your disadvantage.
Whilst I don’t think there’s a right or wrong to social, my personal opinion is that if you’re a business that has a website, by default you should also at least consider having a social presence – seen as a natural extension of your brand and website, rather than a separate entity.
Now you might say, “well, it’s not appropriate for all industries” – but ask yourself honestly – why not? If a company can have a website and content, why would it not be appropriate to be on social too? I’m genuinely curious about this, as I work with a huge variety of clients across different sectors.
So what I’d like to do in this article is look at two core areas – 1) the ‘boring’ product, and 2) the “you can’t have that on social!” industries.
Atishoo, Atishoo – We All Fall Down
I’m always impressed by how brands pushing seemingly ‘boring’ products are really able to deliver when it comes to social. A great example of this is Kleenex. Before we crack on and look at their approach, remember this – they sell things that people blow their noses on; that is how glamorous their product is! Couldn’t possibly work on social, right?
Wrong! Check out their Facebook page. This has a staggering 105,000 likes. Yes ladies and gents, over a hundred thousand people want to see offers and posts from a tissue company when they log into Facebook. If a TISSUE company can achieve this (and yes I know they have more staffing resources than most, but hey), then ask yourself honestly, why can’t your product or service work too?
So how are they achieving this success? Firstly, there are regular posts – they’re not over-doing it though, averaging one per day. There is a mixture of offers, seasonal tie-ins, and, importantly, engagement with their fans – i.e. asking questions and stimulating discussion. This makes the dialogue two-way, as well as making the customer feel involved.
Moving on to their photos, as you can imagine, tissues by themselves don’t make for eye-catching material, so how do they deal with this? Mainly by having some awesome, eye-catching packaging; also check out all the photos of customers posing in-store with their products! If you have a boring-looking product, have a think about how you can utilise images – how about people using it/wearing it/buying it?
So if you’re at all concerned that people won’t ‘like’ or engage with you on Facebook, take comfort in the fact that 105.000 people are fascinated by tissues! Not to be sniffed at (sorry, couldn’t resist).
Bring Out Yer Dead!
In the Western world, we’re not big on talking about dying – surely then, any service related to death couldn’t work on social media…could it? Well, even surprising myself, the answer is yes – when done right. Let’s take Gramer Funeral Homes, an American company:
Firstly, notice what there aren’t a lot of: posts about funerals. What they do post though, is regular updates which are appropriate and sensitive to their subject matter; quotes, related links, etc. Additionally, notice what there also aren’t a lot of: links/promotions to their website. In other words, they’re deliberately (and rightly) avoiding shoving the product on to their audience. They’re using their Facebook page to build up trust in their company, demonstrate sensitivity, and, in some cases, gently suggesting discussion about death and grief.
The key to their approach is subtlety and sensitivity. This seems to be working well: 915 ‘likes’ which is excellent given they appear to be a local business. The impression I took away from this was of a professional company which I could trust in.
A final thing to notice here is a secondary benefit they’re picking up by being social – you can see comments people have made thanking them for having done a good job on the funerals of a loved one. This provides good PR but also authenticity; this would be difficult to get without it being organic; i.e. you wouldn’t want to ring a customer up the day after their husband’s funeral and say “hey, would you mind giving us a testimonial?”
No Sex Please, We’re British
Sexual health – ugh! Horrible, nasty associations and certainly not something we talk about in polite conversation, right? After all, we’re British and one doesn’t talk about such things – least of all in social media. Perish the thought!
But, why shouldn’t it? After all, social isn’t just about promoting products, and not just for entertainment, it’s a great source for sharing and finding information.
Take the Grampian Sexual Health Services Facebook page. Now before we look at how they run the account, you’ll notice they have a fairly low number of ‘likes’; however given the subject matter, this can be forgiven!
OK, so let’s look at what they’re doing – well, the cover photo gives a nice easy way of seeing the contact information at a glance. Next, check out their status updates – there’s a good mix of news and information. Now obviously they’re not ‘selling’ something as such, so the aim of having the Facebook page is to use their own website to help educate local people about sexual health and inform as to where services can be found. The outcome, therefore, isn’t a commercial one as such, and more of a public service.
The main point to take away from this is that it’s also giving people additional ways to find them; many people use Facebook not just to interact with their friends, but to find information.
In the context of sexual health services, the dialogue is almost always going to be one-way. Not many people will want to publicly ‘like’, ‘share’ or comment on a post. This provides a challenge for the social campaign, in that it’s difficult to gauge whether people find the content useful and to get input from visitors. Not only that, but with niches such as sexual health, how do you measure the success of the campaign? How do you quantify the outcomes, if it’s at all possible?
Try It, You Might Like It
To sum up then, if you’re a business that hasn’t given social a crack, my advice is – at least try it. Get creative, steal ideas from your competitors, engage with your customers. Don’t just stonewall from the off and say “it doesn’t work”. Sure, it might not do – I can’t guarantee it works for everyone, but if it works for tissues, sexual health and funeral homes, why couldn’t it work for you?
Whatever sector you’re in, I guarantee one thing – there will be competition. Do you want to be ahead of or behind them?
The other thing to do is detach yourself from is your own personal attitudes to social. I’ve come across clients who don’t use Facebook on a personal level and therefore are negative about using it in the business world. What you need to think about is your customers/clients and how they might look at social – not you.
And when you start with social, go in with a positive approach; it’s not a chore, it’s not a waste of time – it’s giving you a free way of expanding your business. Work with it and work with your customer base. There is so much you can do with social if you just open your mind to it!
It’s Your Turn
I’d love to hear the opinion of others in the industry – have you ever had clients where you thought, this could never work on social? Or have you got success stories to share where you’ve had a ‘difficult’ service/product to promote but found it ended up being a social success? Or, indeed, any ‘epic fail’ stories?
Do you think every company needs a social presence?
Let us know by commenting below! Thanks for reading
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Andy has a wealth of experience including financial services, public sector and the online gaming niches. With a passion for excellent quality, ethical SEO and digital marketing, he brings a real enthusiasm for delivering consistent results.