This post is part of our series where we talk to real companies around the world to find out how they’re leveraging social media, how it has impacted their business, and what lessons they’ve learned. Today, we’re talking to Tim Turnbull, CEO of Aquapac. You can keep up with Aquapac on Facebook or follow then on Twitter here.
Tell me a little about your company, what you do, how long you’ve been in business, how many employees you have, etc.
We’ve been in business since 1983. We make a range of innovative waterproof cases that not only protect your iPhone, camera, eBook, etc but also allow you to actually use the gear normally while it’s in the case. We make other kinds of 100% waterproof cases too, such as backpacks and drybags. We currently employ 14 people in London, half of them doing the manufacturing, and we have a director in Oyster Bay, NY who runs our US sales.
How much of your business comes from the web, either via social media or via traditional web?
10% of our sales.
When did you start engaging in social media?
To me a website is social media too though ok, it’s not interactive. We’ve been selling online since 2001. Otherwise I guess we started in social media with our Flickr group where we encourage customers to upload photos, especially stuff taken through our camera and video cases. That’s been going since February 2008. Our Facebook site has been up and running since June 2008. We also have a YouTube site which started in August 2008. Finally, we sent our first Tweet just before Christmas 2008.
Who manages your social media efforts?
I do. But our resident Twit is Andy, who’s head of product development.
Which have been the biggest drivers of business for you?
Hmm. Well the website obviously generates some online sales but that’s not the real point of it. It’s much more about telling our customers more about us and our range than they could learn by looking at the product on a shelf in a store. And getting their feedback to find out what they like or don’t like about our products, so we know what we need to do next.
I suppose Twitter is a business driver to the extent that I myself keep an eye out for people asking about waterproof cases (they’re doing this all the time) and I drop them a quick line to make sure they know that we are around. Quite often they Tweet back to say that Aquapac was exactly what they were after and that they’ve subsequently bought one. So yes, that’s a sales driver!
Describe any customer interactions that stick out in your mind.
What springs to mind is a photographer who was thinking about buying one of our SLR camera cases but wanted reassurance that the product was everything we said it was. He posted his question on our Facebook wall. A professional watersports photographer who is a big fan of Aquapac saw his post and contacted him to put his mind at rest, singing our praises. It’s great to be able to sit back and keep your mouth shut and let someone else do the work for you!
What software tools or web apps do you use in your social media efforts?
None that I can think of.
For your business, what makes social media different from other channels?
Word of mouth is how we’ve always got the message out. But what’s changed with social media is that people get to hear from folks who have a shared interest but who they haven’t actually met. That’s a revolution.
What has been the most challenging part of dealing with social media?
You want to follow as many people as you can but soon you have no time left to do anything else. You want to reply to stuff in real time yet the pinging of new message alerts can be a terrible distraction from doing all the other good stuff you’re supposed to be doing. It can be very time-consuming, you need to be very disciplined to stop it from taking over your life!
What are your social media plans for 2010?
We sponsor a load of stuff to do with protecting the Great Outdoors (that’s where our customers take and use our products) and we’ll be continuing to use social media to keep people in touch with all that these great folks are doing. More of the same, but better!
I am extremely grateful to Tim for taking the time to chat with us. Please ask any questions that I missed in the comments, and don’t forget to check out Aquapac on Facebook and Twitter. As always, if you know of any companies that would like to be profiled, please contact us.