Caitlin Fitzsimmons Online editor

Caitlin covers social media, marketing and technology and is BRW's social media editor. She has worked as a journalist in Sydney, London and San Francisco, writing for titles including The Guardian and The Australian Financial Review.

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This is how to use social media to engage with customers

Published 22 October 2012 05:19, Updated 21 November 2012 08:44

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This is how to use social media to engage with customers

Feminine hygiene products maker Bodyform responded to a tongue in cheek Facebook post accusing it of misleading people with a humorous video that’s been watched more than 2.7 million times.

Many businesses are afraid of the public piss-take that goes viral on social media, but UK brand Bodyform has shown exactly how you can embrace it and win.

Bodyform sells sanitary pads and, as with most feminine hygiene products, the advertising over the years has tended to paint a somewhat rosy picture of a woman’s monthly period. If you believe the hype, that time of the month is all about skydiving out of planes and galloping on horseback along a beach.

Enter Richard Neill, who on October 9 left a tongue-in-cheek rant on Bodyform’s Facebook page, accusing the company of lying.

“As a child I watched your advertisements with interest as to how at this wonderful time of the month that the female gets to enjoy so many things, I felt a little jealous,” he wrote. “I mean bike riding, rollercoasters, dancing, parachuting, why couldn’t I get to enjoy this time of joy and ‘blue water’ and wings!”

Then he got a girlfriend and witnessed her changing from the “loving, gentle, normal skin coloured lady to the little girl from The Exorcist with added venom and extra 360-degree head spin”.

More than 96,000 people had ‘liked’ Neill’s post by the time of publication. A more timid company might have deleted the post or ignored it in the hope that it would go away, but not Bodyform.

Kudos to the company’s media agency, Carat, for seeing this as an opportunity, not a threat. In what Adweek reports as being Carat’s idea with execution by Rubber Republic, Bodyform made a response video.

It’s a rather brilliant spoof, where Bodyform apologises to Neill and “comes clean” about the truth behind periods. “I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this but there is no such thing as a happy period,” says Bodyform’s fictional chief executive Caroline Williams in a deadpan piece to camera, as she sips blue water. “We lied to you, Richard and I want to say sorry. Sorry.”<iframe width=”646” height=”397” src=”” frameborder=”0” allowfullscreen></iframe>

The video, which went up on YouTube mid last week, is taking off and had over 2.7 million views.

It was certainly working for brand awareness – the Bodyform video was covered on the evening news in the UK and it is getting a lot of traction on social media. At one point, the Bodyform Facebook page had more than 84,000 people talking about it and on Monday morning, it was still more than 29,000. The number of people actually ‘liking’ the company’s Facebook page is more modest – it increased by a couple of hundred over the weekend to 6,646 this morning – probably because people appreciate the campaign but don’t necessarily want to start receiving Bodyform updates in their news feed.

This is what Bodyform did right when it comes to social media:

  1. Instead of freezing up in the face of perceived criticism, they relaxed and didn’t take themselves too seriously.
  2. They understood that social media is not about controlling the message, it’s about taking part in the conversation.
  3. They recognised that Richard Neill’s post was an opportunity and they didn’t waste it by simply making a witty reply on Facebook, but instead took it to a new medium and produced something that would get noticed.
  4. They used social media and public relations to maximise the effect. The video is relatively low budget – just a woman talking to camera with very few props – but it is clever enough to get picked up on social and mainstream media alike.
  5. They realised what business they are in. It’s an essential product that women buy every month. But it’s also a commodity and the point of differentiation is not really about ‘wings’ and absorbency, it’s about how the brand makes you feel. By taking a new approach and not being scared to take a risk, they’ve successfully differentiated themselves. I know I’d be more likely to buy Bodyform now.