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Last week I managed to catch myself watching Digby Jones: The New Troubleshooter on BBC2 for the second time in the series.
One thing that really caught my attention with this show was the focus on an 'old-school' industry struggling to come to terms with modern technology.
This modern technology being the internet, something that I first used 20 years ago.
The last episode was based in County Durham at an electronics manufacturer called Ebac, and its struggles with the Norfrost freezer range. By the by, the sticking point for me was a segment where they started discussing online presence and the importance of social.
So it got me thinking, how really important can social be when it refers to a freezer company based in County Durham? Can it really be worthwhile expending any effort into such a vanilla product?
I have a particular empathy with this scenario because I myself am working in the Electrical industry, namely the ecommerce side. After a year I can safely say that it is an industry that has found itself struggling to come to terms with the adoption of online.
Also being quite frank, the majority of products we sell are pretty vanilla too.
Yes they interest me, I’d be wasting my time if I couldn’t muster up some passion for them, and yes they interest people who are in the midsts of renovating their houses or are involved in the industry. But are they interesting enough for the world of social?
I’m not going to give an outright answer to that. Purely because I am a true believer that only statistics can dictate what you should be doing on the internet, not opinions.
In our recent rebuild of the site, due very soon, we will be adding social buttons to the product page. Something I personally oppose, I feel that there is one button I want to be pressed on the product page.
And that one isn’t Joe Bloggs saying to his mate "I’ve found this fantastic single gang 13A Light Switch in Brushed Chrome".
But. I’d be going against my mantra of letting the stats do the talking. If they’re used then I’d be happy because we’re getting our name out there. But if they’re not used then I’d be justified in thinking that social media isn’t really the place for us at this juncture in our growth as a company.
Looking at the Norfrost website I have to say I am impressed with its tidy layout, it was easy to navigate and the product pages were really detailed and useful.
Something I’d like the companies in the Electrical industry to aspire to, as the majority of sites are impossible to navigate and end up leaving you with more questions than answers.
Know where your audience comes from
I digress. My main point is that after looking at Norfrost's social efforts, I feel I am justified in saying that small businesses should really focus their efforts into knowing where their existing audience is coming from and building upon that, not trying to build a new audience from somewhere they don’t really belong.
On the site Norfrost has this menacing red tab called "Family Organiser" which takes you through to its YouTube recipe videos as discussed on the Digby Jones show.
This is something that strikes fear in to me as being a potential trend setter for any aspiring small business owners watching the show.
And the justification/selling point for these recipe videos?
“Most people think of their chest freezer as nothing more than a necessity, something they have for convenience and simplicity and in a way that's exactly what it is. But if you're smart with your freezing habits it can become so much more.
With that in mind Norfrost have started on a journey to create the Norfrost Family Cook Book”
The thing that irks me about this is that not once in this video has a Norfrost freezer been used.
So where the company could have made a two minute video showing the benefits of the Norfrost 60L, it's wasted time and money making irrelevant content that will be ignored by most.
It is currently sitting with around 60 views. Most probably from friends and family of the people in the video.
My questions before making any content for a company would be
- Is the content relevant?
- What are the consumer benefits to the content?
- Will it help us sell more products?
This is something I am really trying to push with our website, and fortunately as somebody who has only worked in the industry for one year am finding that I can base our content strategy on topics that arise during my working hours looking through hundreds of products!
Recently I caught myself asking what an IP Rating represented, and why don’t we detail on each product with an IP Rating what that actually means. Previously we will have a simple bullet point stating that such and such outdoor bulb is IP65 rated. Which means what exactly?
So I ended up doing some research (I typed IP Rating Guide into Google...) and seeing that some companies had done some really useful diagrams.
Which for me meant that we needed to do that, and eventually on top of that provide it clearly on each product with an IP Rating.
We’re still in the early stages of this, we still have to go through and add it to the products, but it is relevant, will educate the consumer on whether what they are buying is suitable for their application which in turn will assist us in selling more products.
It will also give us the potential benefit that when somebody is searching for the meaning of IP Ratings, we have a relevant bit of content for them and may get stuck in their heads for future reference. Something sadly that we can’t quantify easily - and makes it a bit more presumptuous than I’d like.
So what about Facebook/Twitter/G+/YouTube?
I personally think we should all have a presence, but effort expended should be relative to the stats showing what we actually get back from social.
In the two years from April 2012 to April 2014, the website I work for has had 0.002% of its traffic referrals from social media as a whole.
Something we can put down partially to the fact that we don’t do that much socially, but something that can also be put down to the fact that we don’t have that much we can really gain by advertising a switch or socket via this medium.
Going on these stats we should be spending roughly 1.2 minutes per working day of our time on social.
That doesn't mean we should only spend that long on social a day - there are added benefits to each social network.
On Facebook we have the chance that somebody may contact us regarding an order (this has happened just the once), on Twitter we use it to communicate with our suppliers and to learn about their new product ranges, on Pinterest we get to show off the least vanilla of our products and on Google + we get to own more of the SERP when we are searched for.
But to hear the Norfrost 'web experts' say on television that social efforts will lead to them 'ranking' better shows that they are merely being caught in a series of buzzwords and acting upon those.
Whilst I can sound like I am preaching a bit too much about some throwaway comments I feel I can be fully vindicated when I take a quick look at Norfrost's social statistics and a frank assessment of our own.
To date, the most popular recipe on YouTube has a total of 128 views. Remembering that this company, and in particular this strategy, has just appeared on BBC2 in a prime-time feature.
Whereas (harking back to the earlier point regarding product videos) in the last year over 4,000 have watched a demonstration of how to fit a thermostat on a Norfrost chest freezer.
Statistics are logical indicators of how to take online strategies forward, it took me less than an hour to surmise where Norfrost's strategy should point.
This is in no way a piece intended to smear Norfrost, I am fully in favour of a British company making British goods trying to succeed and get with the times.
Its website is a fine looking specimen, it is just the thinking that is stone age and people need to be made aware that just doing things because everybody else is, is not the right way to behave.
If I can leave one bit of advice from my experience in a similar situation, it would be to spend more of your time learning about your existing audience and building from there rather than following a thought process that stems from "well everybody is doing it".
Don't be persuaded by opinion. Do use statistics to logically determine the best route ahead.