In a recent post I wrote that the companies that get more business are those where people energize the contact, lean into the conversation, make the experience human, find new ways to communicate with customers where they are, and solve a challenge -- they have or take license to impress.Jennifer Hutcheson @Mami2Mommy wrote that she was impressed by GRACO/Newell Rubbermaid and particularly the company's transparency.
I promised that I would bring the companies that impress you to the conversation, and here we are with Kelly Voelker, Brand Manager, Public Relations and Social Media, Graco, a Newell Rubbermaid company.
The very cool thing is that I actually met Kelly in person at SxSWi this year. I participated in a breakfast meet up for members of the Social Media Business Council [disclosure: I represent a member company].
Kelly, first off, welcome to Conversation Agent. I was at your headquarters last November for BlogWell and loved the company store and hospitality.
Can you talk a little bit about your background? How you got involved with Graco.
Kelly: Thank you so much for having me, Valeria! I’m glad to hear you had a good experience when you came to visit us.
My professional background is in traditional public relations and social media. I’ve spent the majority of my career working for PR agencies, focused on consumer public relations and building relationships with people through influencer engagement and social media.
I actually ended up at Graco through social media! I was contacted by one of the company’s hiring managers on Linked In and the rest was history (it really does work!). I love my new position at Graco and have enjoyed getting to know what it’s like to work on the corporate side of things.
In a recent post I wrote that the companies that get more business are those where people energize the contact, lean into the conversation, make the experience human, find new ways to communicate with customers where they are, and solve a challenge -- they have or take license to impress.
Jennifer Hutcheson @Mami2Mommy wrote that she was impressed by GRACO/Newell Rubbermaid and particularly your transparency. She mentions an instance when you communicated promptly through Twitter about a stroller recall. How did that go from where you sit?
Kelly: I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to describe what we’re trying to do, and it’s encouraging to hear that type of feedback from people like Jennifer.
At Graco, we try to be as open with people as we can be, whether we’re sharing good news, or if we have something that’s less positive to announce, like a recall. We hope people can look to us to be honest with them and available to help even if we don’t have all the answers.
While many companies start getting involved in social networks with marketing and communications teams leading the way, they soon find reason to involve other groups. Customer service and support seems to be a natural fit for a business like Graco.
What changes have you been able to implement as a result of feedback and customer intelligence on your products (e.g., packaging, availability, offers, education) to impress customers?
Kelly: We are constantly looking for feedback, and social spaces are a great place to find it – whether people are talking to us, or if they are just talking about us. A lot of the changes we’ve been able to make have been related to how we share information.
If people tell us they can’t understand something, we’ll try to add more photos or create videos to help better demonstrate what we’re trying to say.
We also take feedback on our products seriously and make sure we route the comments to the people inside of our company who can take them into consideration when developing the next Graco product.
What strategies do you use to measure the effectiveness of social media on company results? What metrics make the most impact upstream (C-level) in your organization?
Kelly: We try to focus more on the engagement side and having meaningful interactions with people vs. trying to get 10 million followers. The numbers are important too, but we try to focus our efforts on giving people a positive experience with our brand, which ultimately ends up leading to more followers in the future.
This means that we end up with a lot of qualitative feedback that we can share, but we also get the numbers to bring back to our leadership team when people spread the word that they’ve had a great experience with us.
I’d say the most impactful metrics are the ones where we can show a turnaround in a consumer. For example, when we can show that our work in social media helped a consumer who was posting a lot of negative feedback change from the negative to then saying they had a good experience and will come back to us -- that really makes a difference.
How do you connect with mommy bloggers? Have you created a process to integrate their ideas and feedback?
Kelly: This is going to sound a little silly, but my goal for our team is to just get out there and “make friends.” We read blogs that are interesting to each of us and we comment because we find posts funny or moving.
Most of our team is going through the same things the author is going through, and we can honestly relate. We’re not trying to sell them something, we’re just there to follow along with them and share in their experience as people and parents.
Then when the time is right for them, we hope they will think of Graco and will come to us when they are looking for a product recommendation or something that we can help them with.
A word of advice for other companies who'd like to model themselves after your successes?
Kelly: I have three pieces of advice:
1. Activate people within your organization who truly enjoy and understand social media – even if it doesn’t seem to fit exactly with their job title. These are the people who will really get out there and make authentic connections with people based on their own personal experience.
2. Be willing to share things about yourself as a person. You’ll make far more connections with people over how embarrassed you were when you spent half an hour trying to get into your apartment only to find out you were on the wrong floor (yes, I’ve done that before) than you will trying to push your product. There’s a time and a place for that too, but know the difference.
3. I think most companies know this already, but it’s worth saying again. Make a long-term commitment to integrating social media as a part of everyday business. It takes a long time to become a part of the community and to build up a group of followers who trust and respect you. Dedicate at least one person at your company whose job it is to build your presence over time and be willing to give it time to grow and evolve.
From my experience, the advice Kelly shares is sound. Organizations that place more emphasis on titles and roles vs. finding the people who truly enjoy and understand social media tend to have a hard time with starting and sustaining blogs and other activities in social media.
The other important point she makes is that if your companies is currently getting little love from customers, building a community will be an exercise in patience and love. Is there any love in your business for the people who will help you do that?
[image by Jaime, Pizzeria Venti, Atlanta, I'm biased to all things Italian]