As many of you Twitterites will recognise, most company Twitter feeds are fairly soulless places. At the very bad end they are nothing more than a list of self-promoting sales messages; better, but still fairly uninspiring are the ones with a list if links to their own articles and very little engagement. Usually, it’s on the personal feeds that the magic happens.
Imagine my delight when I stumbled upon Novatech’s company Twitter feed this month. Novatech is a Hampshire-based technology company with a whole heap of personality. This comes across by the bucket load in their wholly irreverent Twitter and Facebook feeds and makes them a pile of friends. It also brings them good business. We think this deserves recognition and have great pleasure in presenting them with this month’s Valuable Content Award.
Novatech’s Marketing Director Tim LeRoy gives the low down on their very distinctive approach.
Can you explain your approach to social media?
“We were very lucky in that we had a member of the IT team with a super-dry wit, who had done his thesis on Twitter for business. He posts anonymously on both Facebook & Twitter as our social media Stig and he just ‘gets it’. I rarely have to give him specific instructions but we do talk a lot about our approach generally and that, in a nutshell is to run against the grain and be different to other companies.
“Avoid overt promotion in favour of wit and comment.”
We are adamant that it’s not a marketing tool, but a customer contact channel so we try and avoid overt promotion in favour of wit and comment. Honestly, there’s a large amount of making it up as we go along, which means reacting to customer’s questions and posts – either to deal with an issue or to prolong witty banter. Generally if we like it and find it funny there’s going to be a good chance others will too and all of that reflects our brand motto that it’s about the people who make technology work.
“The personal touch trumps soulless product-led marketing.”
As a UK tech company we need to remind our customers that there are smart people behind the hardware. The personal touch trumps soulless brands’ product-led marketing. On Facebook you can let your followers drive the story, but on Twitter it’s more important that you maintain a semblance of control and assert your personality. Our Stig uses our followers like a comedian uses the front row – for banter, and to get a real-time connection with the audience. In Stig’s words:
“I’d rather someone un-follow us for not being their cup of tea than un-following us because we’re boring.”
We looked at the demographics on Facebook (80% male and under 35) and decided that we’d just treat everyone as smart and as the probable IT managers of the future.”
What content do you share?
“Not so much external content really unless it’s part of a story of tweets or sometimes some sort of promotion we’re running on the site (doesn’t happen very often). It’s all about coming across as another human, because that’s what we are. On Facebook it’s mainly self-generated: behind the scenes photos and then a series of prolonged memes – our own awesomeness is a strong and popular theme.”
“It’s all about coming across as another human, because that’s what we are.”
What benefits has it brought to the business?
“Engagement and brand perception are wonderfully hard to measure, but we have hatfuls of anecdotes about customers who have progressed from occasional shoppers to devoted advocates, purely from irreverent banter on Facebook and Twitter. We also sit back and watch as members of our community answer technical questions before we do, and even suggest upgrades and improvements. They are also quick to defend us if anyone criticises us unjustly. Members of the community have often passed along mistakes on the website which can usually be immediately rectified which is handy. Many of the in-house staff enjoy what we do too.
I see social media as more of a brand builder than a direct sales tool, but there have also been times where we’ve created business account customers who have gone on to make large purchases. We often act as a signpost, directing customers to the right products they’re looking for – who then usually buy.”
Give us an example of some content that’s worked well
“The Novatech Games was particularly good during the Olympics. It created a different style of social competition that built on the Olympic hype, but was so obviously tongue-in-cheek that it was very endearing. The Facebook engagement stats went off the scale.
Our Christmas advent calendar was great too, featuring staff in the nastiest Christmas jumpers we could find. Behind every door was a festive deal. As Stig says:
“I’d rather do something with a little/ a lot of effort than just RT this to win this product that we don’t want or a supplier has given us. Where’s the interaction with the customer? Nowhere. You’ll increase your followers with bots or with people creating new accounts to try and win it, but that ain’t marketing baby.”
Who runs your Twitter feed?
“It is a joint effort from the whole marketing team, but it’s Stig’s playground really.”
What’s next for Novatech?
Any tips for other businesses when it comes to social media?
- “Do it differently. Look at your competitors and do something for your customers that they are not.”
- “Don’t get hung up on having 20,000 followers when only 5 of them actually want to talk to you.”
- “Try and be clever and original with your content; most of the people will often know more about what they’re asking than you do, so just make them laugh and push them in the right direction.”
- “Don’t fob them off to your customer service team all the time, try and answer any queries with a different style.”
- “When the conversation turns to customer service issues and complaints take it off line straight away, react fast and make sure there is a clear, friendly response – don’t leave the post/tweet publicly unanswered.”
Congratulations Tim and the Novatech Stig. We can all learn a lot from you. Please continue – you lighten up my Twitter feed!