One of the companies we track that has been using Facebook and Twitter to great effect is Vibram, makers of the quirky-looking FiveFingers shoes. Vibram takes advantage of the kind of connections you can forge through social media in order to maintain a conversation with their customers. Their Facebook page is filled with customer comments about their experiences with the shoes as well as conversations among customers about the how they’ve used the shoes for different sports or adventures or adjusted to wearing them for running. The best advice I found for dealing with the sore calves associated with barefoot running came from a link a customer posted on Vibram’s FiveFinger Facebook page.
That’s one of the benefits of posting information on Facebook or allowing your customers to post useful links or comments on your Facebook wall. As long as that information is consistent with your own beliefs in your product, services or brand, you can leave it on your wall for your Facebook community to find easily.
With Twitter things are a little bit different, and Vibram responds to that difference nicely as well. On the Vibram5Fingers Twitter page, you’ll find direct responses to customer questions and concerns and even complaints about these barefoot-type shoes. Here are a couple examples of Vibram’s attention to their customers (and potential customers):
By responding to their customers’ questions, Vibram participates in the community that’s gotten into their shoes. They know that fans of their shoes are most likely early adopters, barefoot runners, people interested in fitness, and proactive types willing to slip on a shoe that might get them some giggles behind their backs. Vibram is also aware of the time it takes to get used to using their shoes and are especially proactive in making sure their customers get the right information on how to run barefoot, with a forefoot or midfoot strike rather than a heel strike. They help make sure customers get that advice by uploading informative videos to their Youtube channel.
One look at that video, and you’ll see that switching to these barefoot-type shoes is no easy task. Which is another way that Twitter can be useful. Through Twitter, customers can share their enthusiasm for a product with one another (thus expanding your market reach):
Vibram uses their social media outlets not only to announce new products, converse with their market, and applaud their customers’ achievements, they also use Facebook and Twitter to protect their customers from counterfeits (which are popping up on eBay and even in Facebook ads) while also protecting the integrity of their product. When Vibram posted about counterfeits on their Facebook page, along with information on what to look for in a real shoe and where to buy from a licensed distributor, some of their followers wrote about how they themselves had already been taken advantage of, and offered their own feedback on good places to buy the shoes, and which sites to avoid. That’s a great example of how social media can go beyond traditional marketing efforts.
Take a look at what Vibram is doing on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, and you’ll see a prime example of how a company can not only become a part of the community it serves, but also participate in and even be a leader in that community. That’s powerful.