In our former blog post we shared our views about social media and our own company’s experience with the media. Now, we’ll share some companies that inspire us with their understanding of how SM can be used with great success to enhance brands.
IKEA doesn’t just specialize in cool inexpensive furniture and surprisingly delicious meatballs. This worldwide corporation, based in Sweden, has also been able to unite its global customer base using the opportunities granted by robust social media. Ikeafans.com is a viral community for customers ranging from one hemisphere to the next, offering a place for forums, blog posts, an encyclopedia for the obscure IKEA items, a marketplace with deals shared from one customer to the next, and a gallery to show off the IKEA furniture at home. Now, you may be thinking that this doesn’t count because it’s just another website. But, we will counter this argument by saying that IKEA has tapped into the idea of existing social media platforms, such as blogger and Flickr, in order to create their own web-based community for their customers.
IKEA also has Twitter accounts that are unique to each country in which it has a presence. While a single corporate account couldn’t hurt, the individual Twitter accounts show customers that IKEA is attuned to their specific needs, no matter where they are. Twitter is not just used to offer basic info and special deals, but also to address customer concerns and to communicate through dialogue, photos and shared advice. With over 114,000 followers for the IKEA USA account alone, we think this furniture & accessories store is doing pretty well on the social media market.
Jeep has created a counterculture community that is reflective of the rugged appeal of the Jeep vehicle. Through their Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as their corporate website, Jeep has formed a viral community that emotes a sense of rebellion, adventure and disdain for the comfortable… easily illustrated by the minivan or compact car. Jeep uses social media as a baseboard for launching community events. This includes their nationwide scavenger hunt to win one of three new Jeep Wrangler Islanders. Through clues left on FB, Twitter and their corporate website, Jeep gave out the challenge for Jeep fans to find three hidden tiki dolls in order to win the prized vehicle.
The idea paid off, because the social media campaign was repeated with the release of the Arctic Yeti Dig. Combining the use of their Facebook and Twitter accounts, Jeep was able to engage and interact with their customers and fans in a way that could be realized both on and off their website.
Starbucks is #1 in social media. At least, that is what was determined in a study done by advertising research firm PhaseOne between July 2011 and January 2012. We don’t need to look up the details of the study to believe that Starbucks has come out on top in the social media race. Here’s why:
- Starbucks created one of the most successful online/offline campaigns by displaying posters in major cities, then challenging people to be the first to find and tweet pictures of the posters. Even Starbucks store employees were included in the campaign with the challenge to submit headlines for future ads.
- Starbucks sponsored a single 60-second television commercial on “Saturday Night Live” advertising a coffee giveaway on the previous Election Day. Starbucks then posted the video on YouTube. Within days, it was the fourth-most-viewed video on YouTube, and people were mentioning Starbucks on Twitter every eight seconds.
- With 33 million Likes, the Starbucks Facebook Page is a large forum for debates and dialogue. The company has created a community beyond coffee, for spirited discussion on hot button topics such as marriage equality and bans on firearms.
With 33M Facebook fans and over 3 M followers on Twitter, the numbers are proof that Starbuck’s social media presence has recreated the way it views connecting its brand with its customers. Chris Bruzzo, SVP Channel Brand Management, said that social media is the, “Difference between launching with many millions of dollars versus millions of fans.” Clearly, Starbucks is one of the businesses using social media the right way, having such a presence online that those “millions of fans” are probably resulting in those “millions of dollars.”
Now, a quick quiz:
Q: what do these three social media hot shots have in common?
A: They are all Business-to-Customer (B2C) businesses.
They are all aimed at the consumer, the everyday people who buy furniture, cars and coffee. But, what about the B2B businesses (like our company, Hile Design)? Is social media an uneven playing field, with the B2C guys getting the advantage?
Yes: We think it’s pretty clear that it is easier for a B2C company to set up a Facebook page and begin to appeal to the average user via interesting posts, special deals, campaigns, and coupons etc. B2B companies have a harder time appealing to the right people, i.e., other business execs and owners, with something as simple as a status update.
But, also, no: It is possible for a B2B business to have a successful presence on the social media scene. The key is not to forget what we’ve said from the beginning: that social media is not a place to sell things; it’s a place to enhance and build relationships.
Successful Social Media for a B2B Company
Who is using social media effectively within the B2B world? One of the first names that come to mind is Caterpillar, the Peoria, Illinois-based manufacturer of large earth hauling equipment. Uh, Caterpillar? Who’d want to follow them on Facebook? Well plenty of folks it seems, since they have over 105,000 FB Likers and 28,000 Twitter followers.
Why are they so successful? One word, “innovation,” comes to mind. Like Starbucks who continues to ask their customers what could make their coffee and service better, Caterpillar invited their followers to become involved in the design development of their CT 660, a multi-purpose truck body that can be customized as a cement mixer, refuse hauler, or dump truck. They incorporated feedback from the actual operators who would be driving the vehicle. That really communicates their genuine interest in serving their customers in a tangible way.
The company actually has quite a diverse product line, so they have created Twitter subpages to address the particular needs of these niche users. They eventually plan to create pages for almost all of their individual products.
Their FB followers feel so connected with the company via social media that they are now beginning to actually place orders and ask for technical help on Facebook. Of course Caterpillar follows up these requests with traditional emails or phone calls, but it speaks a lot about how successful their online engagement has become.
Get the full story on Caterpillar’s social media success.
Let’s Wrap This Up
Social media is an optional business tool, for those with the infrastructure to manage it. It’s something that is available for people that are seeking to connect with their customers on a more personal level and are committed to maintaining this relationship over the long haul.
Hile Design would not invest in social media if we didn’t have writers who love to blog, designers who are willing to provide graphics, industry peers willing to be interviewed or provide a guest post, or an owner (me), who devotes about an hour, each morning, to finding and posting interesting content to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If you don’t believe me, visit our FB page, and while you’re there, go ahead and share this post, and Like our page, and comment on a status or two. (Oh, come on, you knew that was coming, right?)