A few weeks ago I was looking for social media examples from big companies and I came across the Best Buy Twelp Force campaign. I heard about the campaign originally last year when it was discussed at the Cincinnati Digital Hub Conference. I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the campaign. Overall I think that it was a great experiment and I’m sure that Best Buy and their agency both learned a lot.
Note that these are just my personal observations on the campaign – I haven’t talked to anyone at Best Buy or their agencies 😉
About the Twelp Force Campaign
Best Buy’s key point of difference vs. online competitors is the people in the Blue Shirts who are working in the stores. The Best Buy sales staff helps to educate consumers on electronics purchases and provides a valuable service. The consumer insight is that customers find the staff to be helpful which is one of the key reasons that they choose Best Buy.
The TwelpForce campaigned attempted to leverage this insight and provide the service offered by their in-store staff online via twitter. The “TwelpForce” is comprised of a number of Best Buy Employees (apparently there are over 2,500 employees participating) who answer questions related to technology. The twelpforce was promoted via traditional marketing and the twitter account was displayed at the bottom of a TV campaign.
According to Ad Age, Mr. Judge, CMO for Best Buy said the retailer would focus on the Twelpforce because it reinforces the retailer’s service focus and garners interest from media outlets. Since launching the Twitter group in July, it has answered 20,000 questions. “We’ve found it to be an incredibly powerful idea,” Mr. Judge said. “We don’t send any promotion out through Twelpforce. It’s all about reinforcing our helpfulness.” (as a side note, this isn’t entirely true – A current tweet on the page “Did you know select @bestbuys offer engraving, including @BestbuyMOA_1935 For as little as $19.99! http://ow.ly/i/1KGU via @jhart9″ sounds pretty promotional).
Almost a full year after the launch last July the Best Buy Twelpforce twitter account has about 26,000 followers – which may seem like a lot, but for a national brand running TV spots to promote the account it seems like a pretty poor showing. Many national brands on twitter have hundreds of thousands of followers without spending on media to promote the account.
A quick look at the Twelpforce account might show why – the content of the account seems to be a little all over the place. The replies appear to be very helpful, but some of the posts don’t really have much to do with the intended purpose of providing support.
Another issue with a twitter execution is that it can be difficult to ask and answer technology related questions in only 140 characters.
What About Facebook?
I went on to take a look at the twelpforce Facebook page and found it to be bustling with activity. First, the page has almost 1.2 million fans – that is more like what I would expect from a national company like Best Buy.
On the Facebook page fans are actively asking questions and Best Buy is providing helpful answers. This makes more sense vs. the twitter approach for a number of reasons. First, Facebook has a broader audience than twitter. The portion of the population regularly using twitter is still relatively small, however the % using Facebook is high. Due to the broader appeal of Facebook it seems like promoting the Q&A service on Facebook may have produced better results. In addition to broader adoption, Facebook allows for longer postings and isn’t limited to 140 char. This is probably a better fit for posting and answering technology related questions.
Finally, Facebookers are a more natural fit with Best Buy vs. Tweeters. Twitter is still in the early adoption phase vs. mass population. Twitter users are typically more tech savvy than average and more likely to shop and search for information online. The Best Buy work force is probably targeting a more average group of the population who wants a person to inform their decisions, after all, you could use google, review sites and discussion forums to answer most of these questions. Since Facebook has such mass adoption the user base is likely to be more in line with the average people asking questions to the Best Buy TwelpForce.
What do you Think?
This was obviously a good experiment…. what could they have done better? Would you classify this as a success or failure?