Abel and Cole

How is social media changing word of mouth marketing?

In this current series of Building Your Brand articles we are taking a look at companies from many different industries to gain an insight into some best business practices. Click here for the full list of articles.


A few weeks ago we discussed the importance of how passion drives small businesses such as the Mast Brothers Chocolate Factory. This week we’ll be focussing on how word of mouth has exploded thanks to social media and how your brand can benefit from it. Under the spotlight today is Abel & Cole, an organic food retailer in the UK.

To give you a brief insight into what they do here is a quote from their website: “For over 20 years we’ve been delivering super fresh boxes of organic fruit and veg to happy, healthy households.”

In terms of business principles, Abel & Cole share many similarities with the Mast Brothers. Their passion for their brand oozes out of them in everything they do, from the website, videos, product, packaging and every other aspect of their company.

They build strong relationships with the local people, particularly the farmers that supply them and have dipped a toe into cause marketing which we’ll discuss further in a future article.


Why did you choose Abel & Cole?

When talking about brands that are good at social media the obvious choice would be to focus on a brand like Coca-Cola or Skittles. Those are two brands that are extremely good at social media marketing and have over 35,000,000 and 19,000,000 followers each. But I wanted to talk about a brand that you can relate to more and who have a far higher engagement rate than both those companies.

It doesn’t matter how many followers you have, what matters is how many are talking to you, interacting and listening to your messages. At the time of writing this article Coca-Cola has 35,909,533 followers with 297,049 of those talking about the brand. 0.82% of their followers is taking about the fizzy drinks brand. Skittles have a similar figure with their engagement level at 0.64%

Abel & Cole have 8,076 followers and 354 are talking about the brand at this moment. This means 4.38% of their followers are talking about them. This is why I’ve chosen to use them as my best practise case study.

So let’s get back to the question at the top of this article. How is social media changing word of mouth marketing?

Over the past few years and certainly over the next 5 years we will start to see brands place much more importance on social media because of the reach each user has and the influence of their opinion. 5-10 years ago if someone didn’t like your product or service then they would perhaps tell a dozen people at most. If someone did like your product then they may tell 1-2 people when it was brought up in a conversation.

10 years ago did you ever ring up you friends to tell them:

Been meaning to give a shoutout to @fasthostssales, esp Andy who helped sort out new #server. Prob the best quality #hosting money can buy.

Of course not, it just didn’t happen. Unless you knew a friend was looking for hosting then it’s likely you would never have shared that opinion with anyone. Thanks to social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook you can now share that opinion with all your friends and followers which in some cases are millions of people.


How can my business benefit positively from social media?

So we’ve explained how one introvert can now reach thousands of people, that’s probably nothing new to you. The important question is: How can my business benefit positively from social media and word of mouth marketing?

There are a few things we can learn from Abel & Cole to help answer this question:

“Talk To” your customers don’t “Talk At” them

In the past marketing was all about talking at customers in many cases shouting at them. Marketers would advertise through TV, Radio, Print and Billboards which are all channels that were used to throw products down the viewer’s throats. Buy this! Buy this! Buy this!

The culture has changed; people now have much more control over the way they choose to consume media. 92% of people that record a TV programme and watch it back later will skip the advert breaks. That is a phenomenal statistic and it is because for the past 10 years TV advertisers have predominantly been “shouting at” us.

Abel & Cole understand this and so they “talk to” their customers. If you look at their Facebook and Twitter pages you will see them answering questions and getting involved in discussions, using their knowledge to help others.

I am not saying cancel all your billboard and TV ads for next year but what I am saying is understand the value of these channels has decreased and they are better used to build brand awareness. One topic we discussed in the Mast Brothers article is the importance of clearly defining brand values. Use these outbound advertising channels to define your brand values and this will help build an emotional connection with your audience and draw people to your brand that share the same values.

Show that you care

As we mentioned above, anyone can now share their opinion with thousands of people. Show that you care about your customers. Caring about your customers is the single most important part of any company’s values. You care about you customers, they are the reason you have a job and can pay your bills. So why not show them you care.

Abel & Cole are excellent at this and their customers love them for it. If you check out their Facebook wall you will see people thanking them for their free mince pies, recipe tips and responding to their problems. Here is a Facebook thread that shows the customer unhappy with their delivery that week. Within an hour Abel & Cole were resolving the issue. And what about things they don’t supply that a customer requests? Well they deal with that quickly and effectively.

Give you customer’s real value

Giving value to your customers can come in many different guises. Typically it has been giving bulk discounts, special offers and 2 for 1’s. Those have become a commodity and are expected by the consumer. However, as businesses are becoming more and more focussed on building a relationship with a customer they are offering advice, tips, loyalty rewards and more to give value back to the customer.

Abel & Cole do this in many different ways, such as free cooking videos, delicious recipes on their blog, industry news, organising food festivals and more. When you talk to your customers you will find the ones that share your passion will love engaging with you and caring about that relationship is vital to a building customer loyalty.

Abel & Cole’s Make your own last minute Christmas Pudding…

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I hope some of the core business principles we’ve discussed today will help you improve and build your brand. Engage with your customers, recognise how important they are and give them value for choosing your product over your competitors.

Written by James Hay, Social Media Coordinator at Fasthosts Internet Ltd.

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