Officeworks is the largest supplier of office products in Australia and perhaps surprisingly has a lively and varied social media presence.

But without models in fancy clothes or pictures of mouthwatering food how does it attract social followers and keep up with engaging content?

Well, let's have a look.

Website

The Officeworks website is a fairly standard ecommerce offering with all of the features you would expect from an office supply store.

The company has so many different business lines that the page is crammed with dozens of products, services, and offers competing for your attention.

This is probably fine as when you go to the site you probably know what you want and will search anyway. (NB: the mobile site is better and perhaps that is where it's been spending its design efforts.)

Tucked away at the bottom though is a quiet plea, "Connect with us" and six social icons. Typically that means that there will be some basic social media available, but it won't be updated or interesting. Not so with Officeworks - it is active in all of its social networks.

LinkedIn

Officeworks has an impressive 8,000 followers on its LinkedIn page and so it's a good place to start with reviewing the social media presence.

As you might expect, LinkedIn is a natural fit. The audience it's trying to attract - business people - are on LinkedIn (3.4m in Australia), they use it regularly while at work and are thinking about office products.

Now to connect with these people it's obvious that LinkedIn shouldn't have the same short, cute updates that you might see on Facebook or Twitter, but what exactly should an office product brand post on the platform?

Officeworks strategy is quite simple. Post links to their blog with posts that people who own or work at small businesses would find interesting.

Some of it is fairly typical business-oriented listicles, but it also has guest posts and interviews with other small business owners.

I think such content is perfect for LinkedIn as it offers people something that they care about when they are browsing on the platform. That is, LinkedIn is a place where you go when you're thinking about your career or business - and so relevant, unique advice fits in nicely. An office product catalogue may at some point fit in, but right now ecommerce is not very popular on LinkedIn.

One downside with publishing content via LinkedIn, though, is that the engagement numbers are typically very low. Clicks, likes and shares are usually far below other networks. It's not unusual for an article to be seen by 1,000 and have only 1 or 2 clicks or likes.

A way around this, of course, is to use Promoted Posts to reach a greater audience.  And with more views, you will get more clicks typically.

But be warned, the CPMs can be A$15-A$25 which is far out of range for most marketing campaigns - so start small if you're going to advertise content on the platform and measure results carefully.

LinkedIn lesson: The best content on LinkedIn is work-related and be prepared to spend if you want to grow your audience there.

YouTube

Officeworks takes a similar approach to YouTube. Though it only has 480 subscribers to the channel, it distributes high-quality, informative videos about the products there.

And the reach is good. Each video achieves hundreds of views with some getting many thousands. I particularly liked the 'Test the Tech' options where the Officeworks team come up with inventive ways of showing how new technology works.

So, the YouTube strategy appears effective for increasing brand awareness and communicating values - though I suspect those videos take a lot of work.

My only issue with their YouTube channel is that the content is not shared as much as it could be on their other digital properties. It's not featured on the website or posted frequently on the other social channels where it would surely find a wider audience.

YouTube lessons: The bar is high for content on YouTube, so you have to put a lot of effort into it. Because of this be sure to distribute frequently wherever you can.

Twitter

Officeworks' Twitter page is again all business.

You can see on their stream that it runs very popular seminars (#OfficeworksCoach) which gives it great content as well as good buzz among the participants.

It also runs an active customer service channel - and by looking at the Tweet payload you can see it uses Radian6 to manage the conversations.

I was a bit surprised though by the relatively low numbers of followers Officeworks had on Twitter. It does have almost 4,000 followers, but with the frequency of the Tweets, the content it has, and how active they are in providing customer service, I would expect more.

Twitter lessons: Twitter is great for live events and customer service, but you can also deliver pics and videos to help build up your follower base.

Facebook

Facebook is the social homebase for many brands in Australia and rightly so with over 55% penetration of the whole population and very heavy daily usage reported. 

And though the business-focused blog posts seem a bit out place here, Officeworks has made an effort to find some content which its relatively large audience (85,000) would find interesting.

One such post is a contest where it asked fans who should be immortalized as a 3D-printed figurine. Not only did it draw attention to their 3D printing service, but it was able to get much more engagement than the other posts. Very well done.

It's understandable that this is not the main social channel, but perhaps there is a missed opportunity here.  

The YouTube videos can be uploaded natively now and that great content would probably find a whole new audience among its tens of thousands of fans.

Facebook lessons: It's harder to reach business customers on Facebook, but because of its reach, it's worth making content suitable for the platform.

Instagram

Another social channel you'd expect an office supply store to struggle with is Instagram. The visual nature of the posts seem to be in stark opposition to the relative dullness of things we use for work.

But here again, Officeworks is challenging assumptions and it does a pretty good job of using the channel effectively. Surprisingly, it has more than 6,000 followers which may be because it regularly posts attractive photographs of the more photogenic items it offers.

From unrealisticly clean desks to neatly laid-out still-lives of pencils, pens and papers, the photos it produces are engaging and get on average around 100 likes.

It even manage to squeeze in a few shortss which offer snippets of longer YouTube videos.

Though I'm not sure of the business value now (Instagram still doesn't have clickable links in organic posts) Officeworks is well-poised to take advantage of the new advertising capability when it is launched very soon.

Instagram lessons: If an office supply store can nail it on Instagram, then why can't you?

Pinterest

And finally the network that most other brands seem to struggle with - Pinterest.

Unfortunately Officeworks Pinterest site is no exception. It has just over 1,000 followers and despite valiant attempts to place its products in IKEA-like situations, the boards end up looking like glorified product catalogues.

Engagement is low with only a few re-pins on more attractive arrangements.

One obvious problem is that many of the links are out-of-date and clicking through on the photo just leads to full page product listings or even the front page. Clearly not a great experience for someone ready to buy!

But after having reviewed a number of efforts on Pinterest, I'm starting to wonder if it can deliver ROI for brands. Knowing a bit more about how to get discovered (PSEO) might help.

Pinterest lessons: Proceed with caution as many other brands have put a lot of work into the channel and not had great returns.

In conclusion...

Officeworks puts a lot of effort into social media engagement despite the lowly status of the social icons on their website. And even though some efforts seem small, it is definitely succeeded in elevating relatively uninteresting products into things that people like and share.

The highlights of the vast amount of content over six active channels are the instructional videos. These are reposted on some channels, but could easily be distributed more frequently on Twitter and Facebook.

Brands can learn a lot by reviewing the content Officeworks produces in more detail. But should they want to so something similar, they should be prepared to allocate the vast amount of resources it takes to keep up high-quality, channel-specific content.

Jeff Rajeck

Published 17 September, 2015 by Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck is the APAC Research Analyst for Econsultancy . You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.  

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