Best Buy is one of the brands most known for its use of social media for customer service. The company now employs hundreds of employees that respond to customer questions and concerns via Best Buy's Twitter feed @twelpforce.

But the company continues to struggle with its approach to social media, just like everyone else. And unlike many social media strategists who complain that upper management doesn't support their efforts, Best Buy's John Bernier says that a bigger hurdle at his company is convincing everyone else in the company that social matters.

At the 140 Character Conference in New York, Best Buy had four representatives talk about their Twitter strategy, which has gotten plenty of attention. The company lets any Best Buy employee respond to questions from users on Twitter. That seems like an opportunity for many missteps in company branding, a concern that Best buy is well aware of.

Bernier, Best Buy's social + emerging media manager, says that the company works hard to get its employees to answer questions the right way.

"We all represent a voice of Best Buy that collectively makes up our company voice."

A main benefit of moving customer service to Twitter has been cost savings. All of the Best Buy employees addressing issues on Twitter do so on company time, but that still beats the expense of call centers and answering questions over the phone. Says Bernier:

"That's a lot of phone calls we don't have to answer."

Obviously, at a company that encourages so many employees to reach out via Twitter, Best Buy's upper management is a fan of social media. A harder sell is convincing managers and employees at various branches that social media should be part of their daily business. Says Bernier:

"One of our biggest challenges is getting everyone in the middle on board."

That's because many Best Buy employees are focused on fulfilling the requisites of their job description.

"They've been laser focused on making sure they haven't had to lay off anyone, optimizing their traffic and selling... We need people to open up and say, 'There's a different customer out there.' We're trying to get people to introduce social in their vernacular."

For some it was an easy sell. It helps that many of the company's employees are young and interested in new tech developments. 

"Most of our employees have a social media presence already. The number one thing you hear from people is 'I get to do what I do every day but on Twitter and get paid?'"

David Overton is one of those employees, who works at a Best Buy store in Danvers, Massachusettes.

"The store asked us to do a Twitter page, helping people locally, and I decided it was cool to help people on a national basis."

Perhaps sometimes he takes his role too far. Overton was on stage filming the Best Buy presentation with a handheld video camera, while also nominally speaking. And having so many different voices speak for a brand could result in a host of misstatements online. But Best Buy is wagering that the gain outweighs any of those risks. Says Meister:

"We may make mistakes in public, but we're also going to share some pretty useful info in that place and time you need us."

Meister says that what he does "doesn't feel like marketing, it feels like relationship building stuff." Opinions will differ on whether an entire company needs to be active on Twitter, but getting an entire company attuned to listen to customers more closely is something every company can do.

Image: jaysbryant

Meghan Keane

Published 21 April, 2010 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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Comments (3)

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John Bernier

My name is John Bernier (@bernierjohn), and I lead the Twelpforce initiative here at Best Buy. I wanted to clarify some quotes that were loosely attributed to various team members on stage at #140.

I actually made many of the comments above, and also made (albeit less directly) the point that leads this article. In talking about how our leadership team has been quick to embrace social media as a new and exciting way to connect with our customers, I may have inadvertently given the impression that the "rest" of our employees were a hard sell.

In fact, all of our 150,000 employees are on a journey here, and some are further along than others. Twelpforce members may represent the "leading edge", but remember that the last 18 months have been hard for every business. Quite frankly, many of the people charged with keeping feet coming through the doors, and employees in their roles have had many other things to keep them busy with. Every level of the organization is learning about how a social customer is a more informed and connected customer. Is it an evolution of the way we'll be doing business in the future? Of course, and evolution takes time. That's the point I was making. It wasn't that we had employees resisting the sea change happening around us, it's that some are further along than others. Quite expected in a medium that requires a large amount of self-directed learning.

I just wanted to be clear that as an organization, the adoption is widespread, and supported. Learning and investing ourselves in it takes time, and we're doing it as fast as any organization can hope to.

I hope this helps.

John

over 7 years ago

Meghan Keane

Meghan Keane, US Editor at Econsultancy

Hi John, Thanks for commenting. I updated the post with fixed quote attribution. Keeping track of everyone onstage during the 140 Character Conference was a challenge. Best, Meghan

over 7 years ago

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john bernier

Thank you. And I hope your readers get a sense that it's not really a "hard sell" to the troops, rather, you're watching an evolution happen in real time. We're big but trying to be nimble! Thanks, John

over 7 years ago

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