Vodafone versus Volcom: the charmer and the cool kid.

Brands on Facebook. Will this just be a new way of boring advertising, as if all the paperwork we get in the mail and adds we see on TV aren’t enough? Will we have to put a “JA / NEE” label on our Facebook? Or will brands actually have to say something we really wanna hear on social network sites. Let’s find out.


Vodafone’s Facebook help desk speaking, how can I help you?

The first brand I will discuss in this little research is Vodafone. Not because I like this brand, on the contrary: I think they are way to expensive, but because I think their use of social medium Facebook is the perfect example of the Web 2.0 usage possibilities for brand.

So, why did I, a girl who does not even like Vodafone, became a fan of Vodafone on Facebook in the first place? Because they are clever. Very clever. We all know the banners that Facebook has on the right side when you are on your own profile. Even though I thought my privacy settings were all good, I still get a suspicious amount of ‘personal information related’ advertisement banners to see on Facebook. Also one of Vodafone. Now I don’t like Vodafone, but (according to my Facebook profile) I do like traveling. Who doesn’t? Vodafone came up with the clever idea to raffle a 3000 euro world travel ticket under their fans. You not only had to be a fan, but you also had to get as many stamps in your virtual passport. You could get the virtual stamps by going to their Facebook page and click ‘like’ whenever you saw a new available stamp. However, they only handed out one stamp a week and it would only last one day. So you would have to come back to their page every day to check for stamps. So here you go… a girl who does not look Vodafone at all, visiting Vodafone’s Facebook page every single day for four weeks. Smart move guys!

While spending many days on Vodafone’s Facebook page, it becomes really clear how active Vodafone is on social media. Just like every phone company, Vodafone is often under attack by unsatisfied customers. On a social medium like Facebook you have several options. You could disable other people from posting on your wall so it’s not all public, you could enable people to post on your wall but never reply, or you enable people to post on your wall and try to solve their problem immediately. And this is where Vodafone makes a really smarts move.

It can of course be seen as a risk to let people complain on your public page, especially since people can instigate each others anger. It has to be said that this also happens on the Vodafone site, but the way Vodafone deals with customer complains is very smart. By replying to the people who complain by offering them immediate help to solve their problems (whether network, bills or phone problems), it is not only Vodafone being attacked that is public, but also Vodafone’s fast solution. Vodafone responds to every single customer that posts on their wall in a professional way, whatever their problem is. That Vodafone actually really solves the problems fast can be concluded from all the responses they get:

Ashubiyi *****

Waarom kan niemand mij bellen op mijn mobiel ?wat moet ik zeggen vodafone ?goed ,slecht ,zeer slecht…

Vodafone Nederland Hi Ashubiyi, vervelend zeg dat je niet bereikbaar was! Is het inmiddels opgelost of kan ik je helpen? In welke postcode heb je deze problemen en sinds wanneer? Heb je de batterij al eens van je telefoon afgehaald of een reboot gedaan om te verversen op het netwerk? Groetjes, Christianne
Ashubiyi ***** Mijn mobiel doet weer normaal ,bedankt hoor .

This is just the top of the iceberg. Everyday between five to then people ask the same, get the same response and thank Vodafone afterwards. This is a very good public and free charm offensive for Vodafone.

Other than this Vodafone’s Facebook page is not very enticing. There are a few YouTube movies about The Voice of Holland, of which Vodafone is the main sponsor and there are some promotions of new products like new phone’s or apps. Unlike Vodafone’s personal and fast replies, their Facebook page is not very charming or exciting.

After following Vodafone on Facebook, I actually have to admit that this ‘dull brand’ made me visit their page everyday for weeks to win that world ticket and while I was on their page I was overwhelmed by how accurate they use their Facebook page as some sort of ‘online help desk’, where people come in a bit angry but leave with a “Thank you Vodafone!”. I am impressed by Vodafone’s Facebook skills and since I always have trouble with my phone provider, I would consider taking Vodafone next time as I now know that if there is a problem I can just post it on their Facebook and it will be solved the next day. Never thought I would say something positive about Vodafone (though I am a bit still pissed off I did not win that world ticket!).

Spreading the vibe

The second brand Facebook page I became a fan of was Volcom. I already had a positive attitude towards this brand that sells skate, snowboard and surf clothes and attributes, so I thought it would be a good contrast for my Vodafone adventure. Volcom is a brand for active people between 18 and 30 years and is unlike Vodafone, more focussed on being ‘cool’ this can be seen by the lay out of the page, with lots of extreme sports pictures, but also by their profile description:

“Volcom is a modern lifestyle brand that embodies the creative spirit of youth culture. The company was founded on liberation, innovation and experimentation while remaining dedicated to the breakdown of established traditions.”

Volcom uses a more sneaky was to make people feel like they are interacting with their fans, yet they never reply to any of the posts from fans on their wall or replies to the video’s and own wall posts. They purely use their Facebook page in a promotional way and though it may seem very personal at first, by giving the reader the feeling that they are personally trying to involve them or respond, there is no further interaction from Volcom’s side. Relating this given to Jackson & Lilleker, one could say they use Web 1.5 version where a social network is merely used to promote themselves but not totally according to the ‘rules’ of social networking Web 2.0.

Like Vodafone, Volcom also uses prizes you can win to attract fans to keep on reading and following their page. Almost every week there is an item, for example a snowboard, on the page that people can win when they either like the picture or post why they would want that item so bad. I reckon this makes a lot of people come back to their page, since every time an item can be won, at there is an average of 250-500 like in the item. Between the prizes there are also lots of Volcom promotion posts. It seems a very clever and cheap way of advertising, as people who will go to the page and scroll down to see if there are more prices to be won, will also pass all the advertisements.

Another way Volcom is trying to connect to their fans is via lots Youtube videos. Since Volcom is a surf and snowboard brand, they sponsor lots of surfers and snowboarders. Most of these athletes are between 18 and 30, which is also the target group for Volcom. This is where Volcom gets really smart: they let their athletes make personal movies, about their lives on tour in which they talk to the viewer as if they talk to him personally, but in the mean time the brand Volcom is shown, or being talked about, at least ten times without the viewer even realizing it. Since the athletes are about the same age as the target group, and probably have the same passions (Volcom is mostly common under people who love surfing or snowboarding), it is likely that the viewer can relate to the athlete and will be more keen to trust them and hence want to be part of their world (by buying Volcom cloths). This is especially interesting when you see that Volcom’s website is called Volcommunity. They’re trying to create a feeling of a ‘brand community’. The videos also give the viewer a feel good vibe. A vibe of coolness and adrenaline when it is about snowboarding and surfboarding, or a chilled more summary vibe when it is about girls clothes. I think they are trying to attach a vibe to the brand, to which a viewer can relate.

My attitude towards this brand has not really changed as I was a big fan of Volcom clothes, as I used to wear and sell it in the surf shop when I travelled in Australia. Hence I relate it to ‘the good vibe’ of beaches, sunshine, handsome surfer boys and clear blue ocean with waves. I think this is exactly what Volcom is trying to achieve through their Facebook page and the uploaded YouTube videos on Facebook: branding a vibe more than a brand, but relating the vibe to the brand. A very clever way to promote their products in a non-aggressive way. However I am a bit disappointed that a company that puts so much effort in updating their Facebook page, making and uploading YouTube movies and has so many active followers who reply to so many of their posts, does not hire a trainee to answer to the fans and give it this last extra personal touch.


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