We all know what employer branding is, right?
The concept was born back in the ’90s: it’s the idea of promoting a company or a brand as a ‘great place to work’, by using current employees as a medium to communicate to the outside world the positive and efficient environment they are working in.
If there’s one company that was able to turn this idea into a great marketing success, that company is Best Buy. And there’s more: the American electronic retail chain – that opened in 2008 its #1,000 store and now counts more than 3,000 points of sale – has been able to demonstrate how social media can enhance the power of employer branding, thus improving the quality of the relationship with customers.
The entire communication strategy is aimed to show how their staff is what actually makes Best Buy a special company. People working at their stores – the so called “blue shirts” – are the real brand.
Best Buy online presence is very strong: the USA Facebook page counts more than 5 million fans, the Canadian page 100K and the one targeting the Mexican market 30 thousand.
But their “social media masterpiece” is definitely Twelpforce: a real-time and Twitter-based customer care service, managing every day the requests of anybody who needs tech support or advice. The channel is collectively managed by more than 3,000 Best Buy employees, through an help desk account – and pretty tight policies.
This video shows how it works: every question will reach all the members of the team, that “will be racing to give the fastest and best answer” (at least according to Best Buy).
Twelpforce started in 2009, and they’ve very clear in the recruiting phase: all the candidates had to have at least 250 followers on Twitter. And to be real geeks, of course.
This project definitely made the history of social media marketing: it has been mentioned in a video that Coca-Cola released last year, where they explain their new brand vision and show successful cases of customer satisfaction through open innovation.
Another interesting thing: Twelpforce has been launched with a series of TV commercials – a perfect example of digital-driven integrated communication:
The company – whose actual CEO is highly active on Twitter @BBYCEO – has always been one step ahead in the utilization of Internet as a tool to improve its customer service and structure a dialog between employees and clients, even in the Web 1.0 era.
The Best Buy forum has been around for years, and they opened one of the first professional communities on MySpace. It was called Blue Shirt Nation, and it was aimed to make working at BB look like the coolest thing on earth: all the employees could exchange opinions and suggestions between each other, and become friends. Once again: employer branding at its best.
And back in the ’90s they created the special tech-support team GeekSquad, operating in store, on-site and online (since we’re talking about it, check out this sweet print ad campaign to promote it). The perfect job for whoever is proud to be a geek.
Unfortunately, even good ideas such as Twelpforce or Blue Shirt Nation are not enough to fully protect companies from the crisis we are experiencing nowadays, that is endangering even the big fish: in 2009 Best Buy’s biggest competitor Circuit City had to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy, closing all the points of sale in the US.
Recently, a series of Forbes articles underlined how Best Buy stores are beginning to show quite relevant weaknesses: shortage of products in holiday periods, complaints from customers, poor customer service. And a bad attitude of the “blue shirt”, pushing clients too much and almost forcing them “to buy something”.
Which clearly goes against the idea of the employers “racing to help”… You know, unfortunately “employees are your brand” even when things dont’ go that well.
Nothing new under the sun, though: an unprecedented economical situation, an always stronger global competition, the power of e-commerce against the concept of massive brick-and-mortar stores with dozens of employees.
Even another big player in the electronics distribution in America had to quickly realize that things are changing, and brands must be open to innovative forms of communication and involve their communities in the digital space. Radio Shack started a project called the Great Create: users can upload clips to show objects and accessories they invented and built using only products sold at Radio Shack stores.
The project is in partnership with several tech magazines such as Popular Science and Wired, and well integrated with all Radio Shack digital channels – they are present on Facebook with half a million fans… and a very funny Timeline cover!
Back to Best Buy, we want to show you one last thing: they gave birth to a cool initiative called Innovators, a series of video-interviews with the creators of some of the most important social and mobile innovations, form digital cameras to Instagram. Absolutely worth to check out:
Next week we’ll analyze another American retail company that found a way to successfully turn its employees into brand ambassadors on social networks: Home Depot.