It’s always great to hear about social media being used effectively to acquire, engage and convert fans into customers, as well as being utilised internally to engage and train employees and create organisational change as companies make the transition to social business.
In fact, recently I was lucky enough to touch upon all of these topics and more when I caught up with Kristi Knight, Vice President of Corporate Communications at home security company firm, Vivint.
Vivint rebranded last year from APX Alarm and with backing to the tune of $565 million from Goldman Sachs they have become the fast-growing home security company in North America. You can find out more about Vivint from its website, YouTube Channel, Facebook Page and Twitter stream.
1. In your view what are the main advantages of online PR and social media versus traditional PR?
We strongly believe in running traditional PR in tandem with social media. While traditional PR carries the much need third-party credibility factor, it’s a one-way communication vehicle. Social media allows us to interact with our customers and have a two-way conversation. When traditional PR is coupled with social media, our communications strategy is much more powerful.
2. Just how important is social media to Vivint?
Social media is extremely important to us as it enables interactions with our customer and key constituents. We are passionate about providing great products and services to our customers and we take their comments and feedback very seriously. Social media is a great way for us to interact with them, understand what they need and how we can improve our service. The social media we typically utilize are our corporate and charitable blog, Facebook, Twitter YouTube and proactive outreach to the blogosphere.
3. Beyond advertising, what does Vivint’s use social media for?
In addition to creating awareness, we use social media, specifically YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, to boost our customer service and recruit outside sales teams and internal staff. Social media is a great vehicle to address customer concerns and incorporate customer feedback, allowing us to constantly improve our product and services. We’ve received numerous JD Powers & Associates customer service awards, and social media played a big role in that recognition.
We also use social media for our internal communications. For example, Vivint’s CEO, Todd Pedersen, hosts a weekly podcast for the company’s outside sales teams.
4. How would you describe Vivint’s approach to YouTube and social media in general?
We used YouTube quite heavily as we rebranded from APX Alarm to Vivint. We posted entertaining videos about what went into our rebrand, and even a rap that was created and performed by a Vivint employee. We also utilize YouTube for product introductory videos and company/executive background profiles.
5. Tell me about the rap you’ve used for the rebrand – what was the thought behind that?
One of our employees, Prince Early, approached our CEO, Todd Pedersen, and asked if he could create a rap for the company’s rebrand. He wanted to express how much he enjoyed working for the company and how much respect he had for Pedersen. The rap turned out to be extremely catchy and well written. During our employee launch event, we had him perform the rap live on stage. The performance was then posted on YouTube for all to enjoy. It has become a theme song for our new brand and message.
6. What impact has social media had on Vivint’s reputation and its bottom line?
Social media has played a key role in managing the company’s reputation. Because of the transparency of the online world, people can post complaints as well as compliments. When a complaint does arise, we’re now able to immediately address that concern and turn someone who may have been less than impressed into loyal customers. Customers want to be heard and social media allows us to listen and interact. Online conversations will happen about your brand whether you participate or not. We’ve chosen to participate.
In addition, as anyone in marketing will attest, it costs a lot more to replace a customer than to keep your current ones happy. We thus dedicate an enormous amount of time listening and communicating with our customer base.
7. How would you suggest that other brands look at social media?
As a business owner or executive, ask yourself, “Do I value what my customers think? Do I want to interact with them? Do I want to gain their loyalty?” If the answer is yes, then a social media strategy is the best way to accomplish this. Different business models require different strategies: For example, a B-to-C company may find Facebook more effective than Twitter, while a B-to-B company may use Twitter or a corporate blog more effectively. The tools and social media vehicles are many and are changing constantly so companies shouldn’t wed themselves to just one. Stay flexible, experiment, and decide which vehicle and strategy will best influence your target customer.
8. As a client, what more can agencies do to demonstrate the value of social media?
Agencies need to demonstrate how to incorporate social media into a larger strategy. They need to align social media with their clients’ traditional PR or marketing activities, use case studies to demonstrate their effectiveness, and show their know-how by involving themselves in the world of social media. Essentially, agencies need to guide and teach, but they should also “walk the walk.”
9. In your opinion, what is the biggest misconception about social media?
The biggest misconception about social media is that it’s easy and quick. An effective strategy takes a significant amount of time. Companies should dedicate whole teams to the task. Half-way participation won’t cut it—putting out a Tweet here and there, posting a Facebook status now-and-then. Companies need to communicate a message AND listen, monitor, and interact.
It’s also vital to couple your social media strategies into a much larger, traditional PR strategy. This two-pronged approached allows you to generate traditional press coverage which carries with it a third-party credibility, and to interact directly with your customers.
10. How do you measure and evaluate the value of your social media activity?
We measure social media through Facebook’s “Likes,” comments, messages and Facebook’s built in metrics. We measure Twitter through our followers, mentions and re-tweets. We measure YouTube through our subscribers, posted comments, and online virality of our video links. Our corporate and charitable blog are measured through RSS subscriptions, and comments and interactions with the various postings. Once these metrics are gathered, they can then be incorporated into a much larger search engine marketing strategy that will assess the company’s overall online activity.
I would like to put on record my thanks to Kristi for taking the time to talk to us about Vivint and providing us with such an interesting Q&A. I wish her and the rest of the team all the very best for the future.