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What the Girl Scouts Can Teach Brands About Social Media

By , November 12, 2010

There are few organizations like the Girl Scouts. They are an American institution, one that has endured for decades while still remaining iconic. In many ways, brands strive to attain such awareness and adoration. Plus, people clamor for their products, which is what every brand wishes for. (Depending on where you are in the country, it’s Girl Scout cookie time.)

Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts in the 1960s, copyright Girl Scouts of the USA

The Girl Scouts are an inherently social group (not to mention they are active in social media). There are a few lessons to be learned from the Girl Scouts about how to successfully engage with people in social media, build up brands and promote products authentically. Just a few of the ways this “business” illustrates good social practices:

The Girl Scout Team: No matter how the internal structure of your team looks, having a teamwork mentality – like a tight-knit Girl Scout troop – is key. (Jeremiah Owyang offered interesting findings about how social teams are organized Tuesday.) It’s working collectively as a unit to tackle the mission of the broader organization (your brand) and for the public (your customers). A troop, like a social media or marketing team, works together to accomplish an outward goal. When things work in social, sometimes there’s a fun badge in it, too.

The Girl Scout Sales Strategy: A group of Girl Scouts, looking bright-eyed and official in their uniforms, arrives at your door. They ask politely if you’d like to buy a box or two of cookies. They might mention why they are selling them, what types of activities they get to do throughout the year, and talk enthusiastically about their troop. In other words, they put the sales in context. They make it relevant. Their excitement is infectious. They don’t automate the same tweet every hour or post long product page URLs as Facebook status updates. It’s a lesson for brands selling products on social media outposts. Companies should offer products in context, whether that’s a conversation starter question that gets discussion going or a tip related to the product. Or, like the Girl Scouts, a thoughtful, authentic explanation of how a product works, how to use it effectively, or why they are so excited about it.

The cookie pitch takes into account what people answering the door want to hear: that their money will go to a good cause. For social customers, they want to know their money will buy a product that does what it says it will, comes with good recommendations, and is presented by a company that authentically engages with them.

The Girl Scout Mission Statement:

And like many companies, the Girl Scouts even have a mission statement of sorts – the Girl Scout Law. Here’s what it can teach companies about engaging with customers in social media:

I will do my best to be
honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring,

This passage really sums it up for employees conversing with customers in social, especially if they’re using it for handling customer service inquiries. It may take time, but nothing but good things can come from following this mantra in social media.

courageous and strong, and

Social is scary. But it’s thrilling, too. Companies who push themselves push what’s possible in social media for everyone. When they muster up the courage to take a chance, they boost the chance to reap the rewards exponentially.

responsible for what I say and do,

See above about social being scary. Mistakes will be made. Owning up to them fast, apologizing, correcting them, etc. makes a huge difference in customers’ eyes.

and to
respect myself and others,
respect authority,

In social, it’s more evident than ever that the real authorities are customers. Respecting them – their comments, their views, and the experience they seek from your brand’s social presence –  is ultimately the goal.

use resources wisely,

Social media’s set to claim more of the marketing budget for companies in 2011. The 2010 CMO survey says it’ll jump from roughly 10% of total marketing budgets to 17.7% in 5 years. But many social media advocates are still fighting for these dollars. Using resources, such as time, wisely is essential, both for the bottom line and for one’s own sanity. (Social relationship platforms, like Shoutlet, can help.)

make the world a better place, and
be a sister to every Girl Scout.

Isn’t social media making the business world better? It’s opening up the lines of communication between buyers and sellers, making products better, encouraging internal collaboration, and forcing companies to listen.

We’ll be contemplating that over a couple of Thin Mints.