A glimpse into the social success of Michelle Bridges’ 12WBT

Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation
by Sahlia Painter
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Michelle Bridges has become a household name. Since it was launched in 2010, her 12 Week Body Transformation has helped Australians lose over 400,000kg.

12WBT owes a lot of its success to the integration of social into their marketing strategy. The program’s Facebook page currently has over 430,000 likes and there are close to 18,000 people following their Twitter account. Impressed by the way the 12WBT team use social media to connect with participants and build a community, I talked with the Sales and Marketing Director Jimmy Storrier to find out more about how they have gained such success.

SOCIAL DNA

The 12WBT team have wholeheartedly embraced social media as a marketing tool, incorporating it into the framework of the brand. As Jimmy says, “social is really about creating an environment where people can interact and share opinions, regardless of platform. Our strategy is to get involved in those interactions by encouraging participation and engagement with each other and our brand, wherever that might be. Facebook and Twitter are the spokes of the wheel – the hub or hive is 12WBT.com, where social forms part of the DNA of our customer experience.

“Once we’ve framed it up like that, social media is incredibly important to us. Modern marketing isn’t about shouting a one way message anymore: it’s really about establishing a brand’s values and message, providing tools for people to have conversations about and around that brand and then curating the conversation where possible. That scares a lot of marketers, because centralised control of the conversation is no longer possible, but that lack of control is something we constantly try to understand because it’s easy to see that the future of marketing is all about that two-way conversation between people that aren’t employees.”

ALL HANDS ON DECK

Almost everyone at 12WBT is involved in the management of their social media in some way. Jimmy explains: “we try really hard not to silo social media in the business. The risk of having someone who is responsible for social or even community in the business is that it’s not really a function: it’s a really important part of everything we do. From a traditional management perspective, it can help centralise a social media function, but for us, we look at those community and social type roles more as advisors to help keep the whole business sharp on the voice of the customer.

“In terms of day to day management, our PR team is heavily active on our Twitter account and blog as well as being responsible for our response framework. Those are critical brand outposts and touch points for us which PR is well equipped to manage. Our Acquisition team will develop and execute Facebook promotions. Our Community and Customer Care team moderate and encourage member to member interaction in forums and on Facebook. Our technology and product team will advise us on smarter and faster ways to integrate social tools into our product.”

Michelle herself is also very involved in monitoring distributed content, which Jimmy says is very important for the team: “In a way, it’s easy to clearly articulate our brand values because they’re Michelle’s values, so the piece of work around developing a brand identity which many businesses go through at about this stage of their growth is already done. The content we distribute and the conversations we curate are all done with Michelle’s values in mind, so you could say that she’s more than involved – she IS the social media aspect of our marketing.

“Michelle also manages her own personal social media presence with 50,000+ followers on Twitter (@MishBridges). She has greater reach than us on Twitter, so we have a great feedback loop from her on that platform in particular.”

FOR THE LOVE OF DATA

It’s always interesting to learn how different companies are tracking and monitoring their social activities. What is particularly interesting about 12WBT is they have been able to successfully keep an eye on everything manually, although as Jimmy says, this is becoming much harder as they continue to grow.

“We’ve spent a long time assessing tools and platforms to manage social media and nothing jumps off the page as being a “must have” solution,” he admits. “Nothing really appears to be all that much better than the individual platform tools or a content distribution aggregator like HootSuite. Some of the outrageous price points the enterprise solutions think they’re able to charge for their platforms still surprise me, and maybe more competition in the space will bring those price points back to reality and make those solutions more feasible in the future.

“In terms of insight generation, we love data at 12WBT, so say, with Facebook, dumping raw Facebook Insights data into a spreadsheet and manipulating it directly is preferable to a solution that oversimplifies insight generation. In saying that, we’re currently trialling PageLever which, after looking at a number of analytics solutions out there, ticked a lot of boxes for us.

“The key takeout having gone through social media platform assessment a few times now is that the market is still incredibly immature and unsophisticated. The bigger shops are constantly playing catchup as the world of social media evolves rapidly. For example, no one really has a great tool that manages Pinterest or Google+ yet and making a premature decision on a management tool based on its Facebook and Twitter capability could be dangerous if that platform doesn’t support other networks in future.

“We haven’t committed to a solution in the monitoring and sentiment analysis side of things yet either, but it makes sense to tie social media monitoring and sentiment tracking into broader media monitoring. I’ve worked with BuzzNumbers before, so their recent acquisition by Sentia is interesting and something I’ll be keeping an eye on.”

BREAKING THE RULES

From the experience that they have had, Jimmy said that the key thing they have learned at 12WBT is that there is no right or wrong way to do social media. It’s about understanding your audience and taking risks.

“Mimicking a brand that is considered successful with social media is a surefire way to have people tune out. Success with social media means first developing an intimate understanding of who you’re talking to, creating content they consider remarkable every single time and – probably most importantly – being prepared to be a little bit controversial. It’s not a bad thing to polarise people by breaking a few rules here and there.

“That’s a hard concept for a lot of brands to accept, but if you don’t stand for something, you’re just part of the noise.”

SO WHAT CAN WE LEARN?

In just two years, the 12WBT has received enormous growth and now has a significant following. By making social media a “part of the DNA”, they have managed to generate incredible engagement with customers and help build strong community networks.

Clearly, as Jimmy says, there is no magic recipe for social media. It is about trial and error, figuring out what works and what doesn’t and not being afraid to break the rules from time to time.

by Sahlia Painter
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