Back when I started my career, I was in an organization that owned a couple of IT education brands. Those were the heady days of IT education in India, with the likes of Apple and NIIT ruling the roost and peddling everything from teaching C, C++ to Java and other related stuff.
The brand I worked for was not in the top league but we had a new web-specific course (Gasp! In hindsight!) in the pipeline. And, we had big plans for its on-ground promotion.
I was a flunky back then and one of my tasks was to ensure that the cloth banners of the new course were in place, the night before the day we made the announcement. I went all around Delhi with our banner management vendor to make sure things were in place.
The other part entrusted to me was to make sure that the course’s franchisees had all the promotional literature and curriculum material with them when prospects walked in to know more about them.
Now, park this incomplete story in one part of your mind and take a look at this.
Yes, those are 2 packs of toilet rolls. And yes, they have, helpfully, listed the brand’s Facebook Page URL on its limited real estate. Your toilet roll wants to be your friend. On Facebook.
Let’s set that skepticism aside and cut them some slack. Why can’t a toilet roll brand be your friend? For context, a Turkish toilet paper brand called Selpak won big on Facebook last year. Their Facebook page is titled, ‘Hello Potty’, and not just ‘Selpak’! The page had a point and every post was within built context.
Another toilet paper brand, Charmin, won the top spot in a 2014 Time Magazine list, ‘The 13 Sassiest Brands on Twitter’. Reason? The brand’s incredibly humorous tweets! Sample this.
So, a toilet paper brand being active on social media is not a big deal at all. What really matters is how a brand (any brand, of anything) makes itself interesting and/or purposeful on social media, as much as it makes itself interesting and/or purposeful on advertising or on the store shelf.
Premier Tissues has all of 6 Facebook posts, on a Facebook Profile (not even a brand page), of which, the last 5 are profile picture updates or random product photo additions. The last (and only) actual post says, “To Know More write to :<email ID>”. This is a post from October 2012. I assume the festive season referral traffic went down the toilet that year.
Back to my flunky story. For a mere cloth banner, we were so keen on making sure that the backend was in place — that there is something of interest to prospects when they walk in. To retain their attention after we manage to hook them, on the road. And here’s Premier Tissues India Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Ballarpur Industries Limited (BILT), India’s largest paper company, adding a Facebook profile URL like it’s merely a check box in the overall marketing plan.At this point, you are completely justified in shouting at me with, ‘Who in their sane mind looks at the text on a toilet paper roll pack?’. Good question. Let me show you a few other things that go in product packages.
I have never bothered emailing or calling these brands through these details, but the point here was that the brand was opening a channel of communication with customers. Now, they add Facebook pages and Twitter handles. The big difference is that the phone numbers and email IDs are one-to-one communication channels. Facebook pages and Twitter handles are many-to-many communication channels (barring one-to-one options like direct messages). In other words, phone and email do not build a community, but Facebook and Twitter are precisely that — a community. So, they need to be treated like one.
But, in all cases, the brand needs to ensure that the back-end is covered, particularly toilet paper roll brands… pun unintended. This means, if people call the number listed, someone is on the other side to speak, and speak sense. If someone emails, there’s a response. If it leads to a Facebook page or Twitter handle, people see a purpose behind those social handles, in context to the brand.
While brands spend millions in advertising using other media, here’s a simple promotion in the brand’s own offline property to lead its users to an owned online property. A smart brand would treat this as an opportunity to impress its customers, existing and prospective, and not only keep the conversation alive, but also give enough reasons for users to share the message with their network. That’s the point of social media after all, isn’t it?
The bottomline is always, ‘What’s in it for me?’, thought through from the perspective of customers. Why should someone visit your Facebook Page? Why should they follow you on Twitter? If they do, do you have anything interesting, sensible, useful, functional, purposeful there to keep them interested? Remember — Facebook, Twitter or Instagram are not like websites, with static content. They are live social platforms where people assess the content based on a series of posts (last few posts). And such content is merely one part of the overall brand story that plays in the minds of consumers across many kinds of media — television, radio, billboards, shelf space, product packs, social media and so on!
Many brands still miss the back-end, of nurturing a social community with relevant and appropriate content and treat it merely like a website. Or put interns and juniors in charge of ongoing content because these are ‘free’ channels. If there’s no thinking behind a social media community, it is perhaps prudent to not be present (and not mention it in product packs either) at all, instead of having a figurative, meaningless presence. There is nothing wrong with treating toilet paper rolls as a functional product that doesn’t demand an emotional story around itself.