I have been intrigued by sugru and how it achieved so much in a short period of time since seeing them in Time magazine and buying/testing some of its products over Christmas.
Company founder Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh from Kilkenny shared some insights into the company and how it has made great strides in getting and harnessing user generated content in its social media platforms and achieved worldwide word of mouth exposure.
Sugru (www.sugru.com) is a UK based company that has invented a silicone based modelling clay that helps people fix or improve everyday items. The product itself is a new development in this class and has some unique properties in that it cures at room temperature, is very self-adhesive, heat resistant, waterproof, flexible and dishwasher proof. The company has one core product with 5 colours and has shifted over 40,000 units in its first few months.
How did the idea come about?
The idea came from a process of material experimentation and an observation of the development of the open source community. Jane has an active interest in how additional life can be given to products and giving people an ability to ‘hack’ and personalise products.
She felt that traditional product design was very static in that once a product emerged from the factory, there was very little interaction where focus should be on discovering and finding out how people use it at home and other areas. This could lead to better products and also connects the company with its user base.
How did the idea come into fruition?
Jane’s story reflects many other SMEs as they build their brand but some initial kick starts have really helped. Jane’s product came from research she did when studying at the Royal College of Design in London, following previous study at NCAD in Dublin. One of the big lifts she received was when the British Airways inflight magazine featured the product in a column which sparked off lots queries from consumers and people in industry.
With help of the innovation department in the college she set up sugru with business partner Roger Ashby and after six years of development and initial grant and investment funding of £350,000, with a modest investment of £100,000 they converted their lab into a production facility. Their initial production of 1,000 packs sold out in 6 hours following their launch and they knew they had a viable business but needed to scale up production.
How do you go to market?
sugru is mainly sold from its website and also through some shops in Ireland/UK and is now in the process of setting up in the US.
- 25% of its orders come from UK,
- 45% from US with
- Ireland and Germany accounting for much of the remaining sales.
Initially they have focused on shipping small single orders and reacting to who wanted to buy it from the website but are now scaling to additional retail distribution.
What marketing do you deploy?
sugru defied much of the text book approach to marketing in that it spends very little on traditional marketing.
Most of sugru’s growth has come from word of mouth which has led to some high profile articles on the company also the inclusion in Time Magazine’s Top 50 Inventions and features in the Irish Times amongst others.
Its website, blog, email and social media platforms are still the key drivers of the business and Jane manages these directly. The company also organises and facilitates ‘Hack It Sessions’ such as a recent one in 091 labs in Galway.
Social Media Presence
According to Jane
“the Blog has been brilliant in terms of articulating our mission. This is not just a product. It was invented to reduce waste and give people an easy way to improve stuff”.
This is where sugru really excels. The company and product has plugged in to a growing movement of people fixing and repairing items and is an enabler of this movement. Rather than just looking at social media channels to push company news it sees the community as central. Most of the content on the channel tap into how people are using the product. Jane receives a lot of emails and correspondence from users who take the time to document what they have fixed/improved and even supply photos showing the degree of connection that the company has with users.
The company rewards and encourages this and as Jane puts it
“all of our marketing comes from customers in the form of hundreds of photo, stories and videos”.
The Hack of the Month profiles how innovative users have been in the use of the product which ranges from fixing medical devices to protecting school bags. sugru also asks for suggestions on who they should send sugru packs to and this recently resulted in packs being sent to scientists working on the largest bore holes in the world based in Antarctica. They featured stories on how they used it to repair diverse items from glasses to knives.
The outreach and investment in the online community now means they have a large gallery of photos and stories of customers documenting their use of the product.
User generated content is the nirvana for a lot of companies and getting customers to tell their stories can be notoriously difficult. Even if people really enjoyed the product getting them to invest the time and allowing you use their stories is rarely successful. Although there is no doubt that this is a very innovative and good product, the subtle difference having the ethos of the company – to reduce waste and allow people to personalise and improve stuff - central in all they do is key to their success. It’s not about sugru but rather what people do with it and how it helps their lives. This approach means people are happier to contribute as it plugs into their lives and the sugru community feels like a grouping of like-minded people rather than a community website. Even the website itself clearly positions it as being about the user and not the product itself. You get a clear impression that much as sugru benefits from user engagement people are learning, teaching and educating each other how it could be used.
Jane is the first to admit that although they do a lot with communities that there is more to do and she feel they are only scratching the surface on what could be done. Similar to most companies, measurement is evolving and difficult to quantify. Easy to measure items such as ‘likes’ are less a concern than the quality of interaction such as conversations and comments. Key is seeing if people are getting the message and spreading it. Twitter is also another active daily channel with most activity taken up by answering queries and interacting than pushing company messages. Jane herself still manages these channels directly herself showing the level of commitment to the users.
One of the other positive aspects of so much user generated content is that now the company can see recurring uses and this can be fed back in to product research, design and marketing. This translates as possible future iPhone cable and adapter products/packs as the company has seen lots of examples of sugru being utilised to fix or improve these.
Real World Interaction
As with much social media activity it’s important to have a real world footprint also. The ‘Hack It’ Sessions facilitate this and are almost a real world reflection of what goes on in the online world. sugru sometimes organises these itself or facilitates them by sending product to users who want to create a shared experience of using the product. People learning from each other and being creative opens up new views on the product that sugru could never do by itself.
Much could be learnt from the sugru experience online and according to Jane companies could really improve their online presence with some simple philosophies including:
- Have a clear mission that is people/users focused and not company centric
- Tweet and interact with people the same as if over a shop counter
- Don’t be frightened of people or interaction
- Don’t be overly promotion
- Remember people are not interested in you but rather what you can do for them
- Have conversations
- Facilitate, reward, and respect the input from people who contact you
sugru is now working on expanding its US presence directly through stores and setting up shipping locally. They are also talking to hardware chains in Ireland to extend its reach and easy of buying.
sugru has achieved a worldwide presence after only 9 months in operation and sold over 40,000 packs. Its marketing is mainly word of mouth and customer based. It has made huge progress into cracking the ‘user generated content’ nut and has built a very strong online brand by having a mission driven and customer centric approach.
This case study is part of the IIA Social Media Working Group‘s series of studies on how companies are using social media to achieve their business aims and objectives. This study was written by Eoin Kennedy of Slattery Communications, chair of IIA Social Media Working Group.
This week’s Social Media Case Study is written by Niall Devine of MyCharity.ie. He is also a member of the IIA Social Media Working Group. In his case study he writes about some of the social media they have used and the decisions they made about how they would implement and what they learned from those decisions. He writes also about how recent change to a popular platform (Facebook) made some aspects of their social media forays difficult but happily not impossible for MyCharity.ie.
Background – what do we do.
Mycharity.ie provides online fundraising services to charities. We will enable and process more than €2.5M euro worth of charity donations to our 250+ charity customers. It is key to our business that our customer base (the charities) know that we exist and what we do. It is also key that the charities “customers” i.e. fundraisers and donors know that that we exist and what we do.
Viral Marketing – it is essential for us – how do we make it work?
We are very lucky in the way that our business works. Through email, it virally markets itself. If someone creates a fundraising page (sponsorship card) on the mycharity.ie site for a charity, they then email all their friends with the link to the fundraising page looking for sponsorship. All their friends now know about the site and what it does. Multiply 5,000 fundraisers a year x say 50 friends per fundraiser and you can see the 250,000 people viral marketing affect.
Viral Marketing – using social media
While we count ourselves as very lucky in the way that our business works from a viral marketing point of view using email, we recognise the huge contribution that social media can make.
As we all know search engines and their ranking mechanisms like video. So mycharity.ie commissioned a video from Media Concepts Ltd (a video production company) and placed it front and centre on our home page www.mycharity.ie. The text about our video says “Click here to see a short promotional video about who we are and what we do, and what our customers say about us.” It does exactly what is says on the tin and saves us having to answer the phone all the time to explain what we do saving on office admin overhead. It works very well for us as an SEO ranking tool. It cost us approx €2,000 and was well worth the investment. We can’t quantify exactly in figures what is has done for the business, many of our current customers tell us they watched it and were impressed. It all helps with getting new customers on board.
Search engines also like blogs because they create new content all the time (if maintained) and if the information is interesting and relevant it will create lots of inbound links to your site. Let’s not forget that people also like new content that is interesting to them and relevant. The search engines are just set up to reflect what people like.
So mycharity.ie has implemented WordPress Multi User on the mycharity.ie site. We have yet to upgrade the live site with it but it is coming soon. We can’t speak of what has actually happened yet, but we can tell you what we anticipate will happen.
We are giving ourselves our own blog, and we are giving all our charities their own blog for free. We will put our latest daily news, musings, funny stories etc on the blog and if people like it they will tune in. We will also use it to garner our customers thoughts and opinions on various questions that we may have, such as what services would you like to see next on the site etc.
We are also giving all our customer charities their own blog to do exactly the same as described above. But the key for us is that ALL the blogs are hosted on our site. All the inbound links and all the new and updates information will be found on our site, and hence our search and ranking, and the traffic to our site increases. It’s important to point out that we are not “stealing” traffic from our customers sites. They are of course free to implement their own blogs on their own sites. But by us doing it for them (for free remember) we get the benefit of the traffic and increased search engine ranking.
Social Networking Sites
These are very powerful if you can make them work for you, and we are doing our best to make them work for us. Lets explain what we have already done and how we did it, and then explain what new stuff we are doing now and why.
Old Facebook – Facebook changed in terms of its look and feel in October of last year (2008). Unfortunately we started to build a facebook application for the mycharity.ie site in September 2008. We ended up chasing a moving target. The application was designed to allow users of the mycharity site to post a mini version of their fundraising page to their facebook profile. The idea being their friends could see it and donate to it. We chased the ever moving facebook and eventually got there. We used a designer for cost purposes based abroad. We got the application built for approx €1,200, and it did what we asked for. However the language barrier and time zone difference proved frustrating much of the time and we had to put in many more hours into the project than we wanted to. Also their knowledge of the abilities of Facebook as a site wasn’t brilliant so we had to tell them what we wanted rather than them telling us what we could, should or might do. We soft launched the application to the charities on the mycharity.ie. It’s free at the moment because it’s not viral enough as far as we are concerned (more on that in a bit). It’s actually the users (the public) that are asking for the FB functionality to be switched on for a given charity rather than the charity themselves. The requester recognises the benefit to them to their fundraising efforts.
New Facebook – This is where it’s at. Now that FB have more or less finished messing about with their site we have a non moving target to hit. Always helps! We have engaged an Irish company to develop further FB functionality for us. No language barrier, no time zone issues, and they know so much about what FB does and is capable of, that they are able to suggest to us what we should and can do. It’s in development at the moment. We hope the new application will be far more viral. At the end of each process on the mycharity.ie site (sponsor a friend, donate to a charity, create a fundraising page) the user will have the option to “share” what they have just done on the mycharity site with their friends on facebook (and Bebo, Twitter etc). “Sharing” might be a message on the users Wall saying “I have just donated €20 to Jane Smiths Women’s Mini Marathon Fundraising page in aid of the ABC Charity”. The message is posted to the users Wall on Facebook for all their friends to see, and hopefully follow suit and donate. Many FB users would have 200+ friends in FB. So once again the viral affect of promoting mycharity.ie, the charity and the fundraiser is huge.
The cost of getting the development done is Ireland is higher but the expertise, if you find the right company, is well worth the extra cost. They will also be able to tell you if your business / business model is likely to benefit from this kind of marketing…or not as the case may be.
So mycharity.ie uses email, video, blogs, and social networking sites to good effect to promote itself. We will in the future bring the ability for users to post pictures and or videos to their fundraising pages using www.flickr.com and www.youtube.com . There are other aspects of social media such as podcasting that we may yet use. Imagine you got an email or a message on FB from a friend with an audio file of their verbal request for your donation to their fundraising effort. Personal, fun and very different. Might just get you over the line to make a donation. Our strategy is to look at everything to see if we can make it work for us. You should too!
Continuing the Social Media Working Group’s series of case studies is Michelle Daly from Paddypower was the second of our two case studies at the launch of “Join the Conversation: A Guide to Blogging for Business” Please find her presentation below. Thanks to Brendan Hughes, FBD.ie and chair of the IIA Social Media Working Group for recording and preparing the slide show below.
This week’s case study is the slideshow presented by Aedan Ryan at the launch of “Join the Conversation: The Guide to Blogging for Business” in April.
A short aside – Making an audio recording is a handy tactic if you would like to reuse your presentations on your company blog. You can easily attach a good quality digital voice recorder to a sound desk to record your voice. (I have an Olympus DS 30 with a Sony ECM-MS907 Mic) You can go even simpler and just record straight to your recorder. I noticed Alan O’Rourke of Spoiltchild using iTalk on his iPhone at an event recently – this app is free. If you are doing the presentation at an external event make sure you have the permission of the organisation for whom you are presenting before posting the presentation on your blog.
This week’s case study has been written by Gordon Jenkinson of Jenerate.
Bacardi Ireland distributor, Edward Dillon & Co, traditionally used normal micro sites such as www.blive.ie to promote their sponsorship of music events on the Internet throughout the year including the hugely popular Oxegen and Electric Picnic festivals.
In 2008 they looked at the possibility of using social networking to get better targeting and some viral penetration to a wider audience. Given the target audience and the fact that Bebo and MySpace were not receptive to alcohol advertising, Facebook was chosen as the platform upon which to build an interest in the brand, to run competitions in association with the Blive events and generally to help spread the word on the Bacardi Blive sponsored events throughout the year.
A Facebook profile page was set up and maintained as well as a Facebook application to manage competitions and acquire information for the Bacardi eCRM database. The general idea of the competition was a chance to win VIP tickets for you and your friends through a custom built Facebook application.
To encourage the viral spread of this through Facebook in the run up to the events the winner was the Facebook user that had the most friends with the application added to their profile. This gave users control over winning the competition rather than it being a pure lottery.
User positions were updated hourly and notifications sent to entrants on a regular basis telling them how many more friends they needed to add to get to first place. This information had the desired effect and entrants realising they only needed 10 more friends to get to the winning position started sending it around to increase there position. As well as this, they could see the top 5 people and also there current position at any time throughout the competition.
Banner advertising on popular Irish sites and flyers handed out throughout the year were used to seed the initial entrants and get the competition going. Other spot prizes for fans of the page and users of the application were given out between the events to encourage participation and interaction with the Bacardi Ireland Facebook presence.
As part of the competition sign-up, entrants were asked some brand questions to gauge brand recognition and opinions. Details were collected and stored in the Bacardi eCRM database and used for future campaigns and event notifications.
The final result was an almost four fold increase in the number of competition entrants and an even bigger increase in term of brand interaction across the Bacardi Facebook profiles and the blive.ie website.
A large aid to this interaction was the use of Facebook photo galleries where people were photographed at Blive events and encouraged to tag themselves in the Facebook albums. These photos were not only available on Facebook but also pulled directly from Facebook into the blive.ie website. These photo galleries created significant post event traffic to the Blive.ie websites as well as interaction and sign-up to the Bacardi Facebook pages.
One of the main lessons learnt from this successful experiment with Facebook was to create an application that runs with or without Facebook. As part of the process visitors were asked if they had a Facebook account and were directed to the normal competition site or to the Facebook one. Almost as many entrants came through the normal site as through the Facebook application.
Also, the integration of the Facebook photo albums using the Facebook API allowed the viewing of tagged photos within Facebook or from the normal site. It’s also useful to copy or mirror interactions with Facebook pages onto your normal site this allows visitors to what would normally be a static site to see some comments, events and other banter focused around the brand.
With the introduction of Facebook Connect late last year the options for this type of website integration to Facebook is even greater, allowing completely Facebook-integrated websites.
The other more complex aspect is ensuring that the promotion of the Facebook pages and application are sufficient to seed it and the rewards for sign-up are clear and worthwhile.
Monitoring of visitors and the decisions they make is very important. This was monitored using analytics during the campaign and the sign-up pages and the navigation from the initial page through to competition sign-up were optimised for more competition entries.
The IIA supports responsible drinking and encourages readers of this post to visit www.drinkaware.ie.
This is written by Campbell Scott of IGOPeople.com. All comments, queries and case study suggestions welcomed via comments below. Thanks! – RS, IIA.
Our previous case study gave an excellent overview of some of the social media tools that are available to businesses, including blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Bebo, Youtube etc. This case study is based on observations about how O2 Ireland have embraced the use of social media, to get closer to their customers (and potential customers). This summary records some of the interactions with customers that have taken place, some of these on IGOpeople.
O2 were well aware that their brand, products and services, pricing etc. were all being talked about online by their customers. These discussions were taking place on blogs, discussion forums and social networks. Many people would have posted comments which were negative in tone, complaining about specific problems or the way they had been treated by O2 as a customer. For O2, the challenge was how to engage or join in the conversations taking place. Many of the comments in discussion forums are anonymous, or take place in a tone and context where O2’s response or involvement in the discussion may not be particularly welcome.
O2’s answer to this problem was to take the brave move of creating their own, open user discussion forum, where customers could ask questions and seek help, voice their opinion or complain. Registration was a requirement, to help O2 get in touch with members privately if required. This was a very positive move which was received well by O2 customers. As this was new territory for O2, they did demonstrate some early naivety, by correcting the content of some members posts, but their customer community was tolerant of this, as it was a new environment where everyone was learning.
Although the O2 Forum has developed from these early days and is now a popular and active community, O2 have extended the range of social media tools they use to reach customers, including Bebo, Twitter and now IGOpeople (links take you directly to the O2 profile page). We’re delighted to have O2 as part of IGOpeople, but everyone can learn from some of the specific conversations they have become involved in.
O2 have jumped straight into IGOpeople, posting regularly about items of interest to their customers – promoting shiny new phones and new product releases. This week, they offered customers the opportunity to direct any questions they may have to the Head of Customer Care – not something that is available to a consumer every day of the week!
However, the thing that is impressed me about O2, is the willingness to reach out to customers. There are a number of conversations where they acknowledge their shortcomings and state how they will fix things up, or recognise the need to make changes in the future. Their answers don’t always give you the answer you might demand, but they are there to listen and consistently discuss the issue, in a really honest and believable way – even if the answer isn’t quite what you want.
Here are some nice examples of the conversations they get involved in
This is the first in a series of Social Media Case Studies that the Irish Internet Association Social Media Working Group will be producing over the next few months. This is written by Eoin Kennedy, Slattery Communications. All comments, queries and case study suggestions welcomed via comments below. – RS, IIA.
Using Social Media to Drive the Recycling Message
Repak is a packaging compliance scheme that funds packaging recycling activities in Ireland. It collects levies from organizations that produce packaging and then uses these funds to pay subsidies to waste contractors and local authorities for collecting used packaging from recycling supporting Household Recycling Bins, Bring Banks and Recycling Centres.
This has helped Ireland achieve its EU Packaging Recycling targets. Its license also has an educational remit to drive awareness of recycling and improve actual recycling behavior.
The organisation runs a series of traditional campaigns but these were generally one way so in 2007 the organization looked to embrace the online community and social networks in particular to help further engage younger audiences in a more interactive and media rich way.
- To educate, motivate and engage people in recycling of used packaging
- To create online platforms to engage with a different demographic groups
- To develop compelling online content
- To position Repak as expert on packaging recycling issues
- A profile page was established in Sept 2007.
- Full editorial calendar covering relevant Repak content reformatted for Bebo style and covering key initiatives such as Bring Banks on the Street, Repak Christmas Campaigns and Easter Campaigns, Award Winner, Green Schools Calendar.
- Videos developed and uploaded including Building of ‘blinged’ Bring Banks and Interview with UK artist at launch of Repak Recycling Week in BT2.
- Photos from key launches.
- Answering of recycling queries.
- Series of competitions on the whiteboard.
- Per material a day updates/ updates recycling facts.
- Frequent blog posts.
- Posting and visiting of other profiles.
- Friends network expanded to 1076 and views over 19,700.
- Multiple entries to competitions. Some of the entries were pretty elaborate and allowed us to play back how they drew them.
- 200 Comments after 2 months– some of which were one liners, others were queries while others were supportive.
- 307 Quizzes taken.
- Over 500 Polls.
- Over 1000 view of videos.
- Expanded network and community of people interested in recycling.
Other social media channels
Repaks also deployed a number of other online platforms to spread the message to a wider group and target older age groups including:
Video coverage from different Repak initiatives and launches. Over 1,000 views of different videos.
Community creation through uploading photos to photo sharing sites (generic for reuse by others) and specific launches. Generic photos of recycling activities made available for the community to use. Others give a snap shot of colourful recycling launches and campaigns.
A blog was created and populated focusing on recycling issues in Ireland. Written, video, audio and photo material utilized from different initiatives. The blog aims to create a repository and debating point for recycling issues, topics and updates from Repak.
A group within Facebook has been established to interact with an older audience and create a platform for sharing on recycling issues from seeding discussion and sharing material from video to photography.
The wide range of online properties means that Repak can communicate with a broader range of online communities in a media rich format not possible previously.
- Wider online footprint.
- Positioning of Repak as expert in packaging recycling issues.
- 24/7 Availability of Repak and recycling issues.
- Engagement and community development with other recyclers.
- Regular and easy to update content from video to photography.
- Better search engine visibility.
- Driving higher recycling rates and acceptance of recycling message.
- Direct contact with harder to reach demographics.
- More positive public face of the organisation
Repak has now established a number of communications channels and communities through which it can interact and with which it can communicate. The organisation produces a wealth of content and through customising the messages for the different platforms and utilising video, audio and photography it can portray the recycling message in a variety of different and engaging ways. Further engagement with these new communities needs to be undertaken to create a truly interactive relationship, in conjunction with the ongoing development of content and other tools such as applications. Social media now forms part of the planning process for all Repak initaitives.
Repak are a client of Slattery Communications who helped develop and maintain their online presence.