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Companies Engaging Customers Via Social Media. (The Importance Of Sock Etiquette)

Barkers Panel

It’s interesting to observe how some businesses are trying to engage their customers or potential customers via social media. Clearly, if your company name is being ‘talked’ about online, you’d like to know. And if not the details, then the general mood of the room. I know some celebrities (and some real people) run little robots to search their names to run reports so they can fret &/or respond to perceived trolls and so forth, or bask in the glow of perceived adoration. Some do it personally rather than run the robots but who has that kind of time? Oh yeah, celebrities.

I’m no social media expert or even much of an expert on business communication or marketing. I’m just a customer and low-rent user of social media myself. This is more of a story. It started with me buying some shirts online. Risky you might think but there are basically three providers of shirts I generally use for me and my son. Again, I’m no marketer but to my mind they seem to inhabit three different strata.

Hallensteins is where my mum bought my clothes decades ago. They’ve updated themselves and very successfully polished themselves up but they’re still proudly in every mall and very much an affordable and accessible chain of stores. If my teenage son and I walk into one of their stores, the staff will talk to him which is great as that gives me time to complain about the music to myself and wonder, given that the store also houses a hairdresser, why do all the staff need a haircut? They’re great, good value for money and a successful retailer in even tough times. That said, once you know what range they have and what size you are, clothes are a commodity that a mere male can purchase online.

The same can be said for Barkers and 3 Wise Men. Barkers is younger, classier and more expensive. It’s great quality and I have many a Barkers item. 3 Wise Men is younger still, upmarkety exclusive, only have a few very-non-mall locations and quite business-oriented or, at least grown-up oriented. “3 for a hundy” is their catchphrase. Their adverts are witty, provocative and subversive. They explain their shirt logic and technology. I dig them even if I don’t buy much.

Anyways, I saw some shirts I liked in-store at Hallensteins with my son and went back online to buy them. I believe what I did to that bricks n mortar retailer is called ‘showrooming.’ They did the legwork in real time and space but they didn’t get the sale. This happens a lot and will do so increasingly. I did the same with a camera tripod recently.

The woman in my life Mandy observed and complimented me on one of my new shirts. I took it as a compliment but it may have been phrased along the lines of, “Oh, that’s new. It’s nice. Did you get that by yourself?” That’s probably a side issue, the analysis of which would need a blog by a psychologist or counsellor so let’s park that for now. What it did do was prompt me to write a joke. I then posted a couple of different versions of it. The one on my comedian FaceBook page got a couple of dozen ‘likes.’ That’s pretty good for me. Here’s the other version from my personal FB page. My family liked it and they know Mandy.

FB extract

I then posted it on LinkedIn and it got a lot of ‘likes.’ So I thought I’d experiment and tweet a version for Hallensteins, a version for Barkers and just see what might happen. Could be some co-promotional love for a future show if I could schmooze a clothing retailer ahead of a comedy festival? (Nope BTW.)

Hallensteins never responded at all. I don’t know if they scan social media for references to themselves. They might do. Maybe they only respond to glaring complaints. I’ve seen good and bad examples of that. Some companies strip out negative remarks, failing to address them, leaving only seemingly overwhelmng positives. Some like Air NZ fall on their sword and do something about them as much as they can, and, more importantly, get seen to be doing so which often gets them likes and retweets etc. The reality is that businesses are going to get justified and unjustified noise about them from customers online. They need a plan. Doing nothing might be a good plan – why pour fuel on a fire, right? But doing nothing out of ignorance, laziness or disinterest will bite back eventually.

Barkers however did respond:

Barkers Tweets

Did they fail to get the joke. Are they over earnest? Or, is this quiet and clever marketing? I suspect that they got the joke. They did ‘favourite’ it. But they used it to everyone’s advantage in a non-pushy, non-manipulative way. And they did so to promote a feature of their site that would benefit anyone who has ever wondered what the hell “smart casual” or semi-formal” means on an invitation!

Barkers online have a panel function – an online forum where your burning questions about tie-knotting or hat-matching can be dealt with professionally by experts. Or smart casual or semi-formal. Neat. Really neat. I always did wonder about short-sleeves for work and the woman in my life at the time was of little help either. Barkers’ panel is definitive on the subject. I’m not sure if Barkers’ experts are anonymous or female but it’s a great idea. Certainly I would’ve liked that function for my camera tripod purchase online. I’m sorted tie-knot-wise (Windsor) and hat-match-wise (no hats unless sunny then a Breakers 3-peat championship cap.) But on photography, less so.

Retailers could learn from @Barkers. Maybe they got the joke and chose to ignore it? Either way, they intrigued me and via social media got me to discover one of their functions that is a point of difference for them and got me to blog etc about it. Short of them sending me some FREE SHIRTS, or SPONSORING MY NEXT FESTIVAL SHOW, everyone wins out of the whole experience. Except maybe Mandy but she’s used to that.

I’ve subsequently tried the joke out on stage and it kills. It’s not got me any free shirts but it has got me free drinks.

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