Best Buy TwelpForce – Success or Failure?

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.

Twitter Effectiveness?

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?

  • http://wesley83.posterous.com/ Wesley Faulkner

    I have actually tried to use TwelpForce a few months ago. They are very limited in the “support” they can give. They had no insight into the policies for the stores in my region. For that reason I couldn’t work out a solutions online and was told that I would need to talk to a store manager for a resolution. This was with an Insignia MP3 player, which is the Best Buy brand!

  • http://bcroke.wordpress.com Brandon Croke

    I think this is a success for Best Buy. I agree with your analysis Krista that Twelpforce may not have turned out to be the most practical customer service tool, I think its the sign of a company who “gets it”.

    Here’s my short blog like response 🙂

    2 Reasons Why Twelpforce isn’t a failure

    1. Taking risks is what social media is all about. If a big brand like Best Buy is willing to try something like Twelpforce (which on the surface level sounds like a good idea), that means they will be willing to try other innovative things as the web and people’s behavior on it change. Although you did spot a blatant promotion I’d say they are doing a much better job than other companies by using social in the “proper way”.

    2. It also shows they are willing to empower employees and that they care about customer service. What’s the value add for the customer when they buy something from Best Buy vs. ordering it online? In store service and support. Trying to expand this with new tools (like Twitter) shows they know what they are in business for, and are willing to “think outside the box” to meet their core goals.

    Overall I think if you are learning and moving forward you’re never failing. Companies need to keep experimenting with social, some initiatives will stick some won’t, but a company that isn’t willing to go to bat will never hit a home run.

  • http://www.scribd.com/doc/64051103/staubsaugerroboterroboterstaubsauger Irvin Loan

    Good info over again!! I am looking forward for your next post.