Creating a Soap Making Community
Founded in 1856 - we're a soap making factory. So how have we started to build an online soap making community?
Founded in 1856, it’s fair to say we’ve been making soap a while. We’ve evolved with the times but not everything’s changed. We’re still a family business, now fifth generation and we’re still creating high quality products for the personal care industry. We supply global bluechip organisations right down to independent cosmetic brands, it is this diversity that has helped us stay successful all these years.
However a large proportion of our buisness is underpinned by our distribution networks that supply the craft and soap making sector. Soap Making is a global craft, think of it like candle making, or knitting – people all around the world make soap for fun, at home, with their kids, for craft fairs, gifts for family & friends.
Some of these ‘hobbyists’ take the craft to the next level, they develop a brand, create a business and in some instances go on to build highly successful international brands. The joy of supplying the ‘craft / hobbyist’ soap making market is that we as ‘Stephenson’ get to play a small part in their journey from the very beginning and our range is tailored to assist companies looking to fastrack that growth.
About 2 years ago we set off to develop the Stephenson Personal Care brand globally, to ensure that our high quality product was supported by a high quality brand. This involved a number of key steps - evaulate and refresh our packaging, design and apply new branded labels, improve all online content, re-develop our website, and ignite our Social Media to interact, engage, relate and inspire our customers to join an online soap making community.
Our ambition certainly with Facebook is to connect with our customers, understand their needs, understand what they do with our products, identifiy areas where we can improve and drive communication. We started by investing time into our Facebook platform to create this ‘community’. By activley developing Social we can enhance our sales strategies, both push and pull.
We have traditionally like most businesses that predominantly rely on a network of distribution used a push sales strategy to launch and introduce new products to the market. This can be slow, difficult to track and we rely heavily on re-sellers & partners to market the product, promote and inspire sales. By having a growing social community we use our traditional method, but also help to create a pull in the market by promoting new products online.
Here’s a serious looking illustration of how we try to use our Social to assist our traditional Distribution channels:
An area we review on a regular basis especially throughout our Facebook page are the posts to page and reviews. It’s interesting to see that we have a solid rating, often 5* especially when we consider often we don’t ‘serve’ these customers on a direct basis so have limited control over their buying experience, yet social has the power – they find our page, come online and leave a review of our products, the best endorsment we could hope for. Some examples can be seen below.
It makes us smile each time we see how customers all over the world use our soap base and create fantastic finished products, it’s a greater feelling to know that we might be supporting them in starting or expanding their business, which in turn inspires others. Here are some great examples of customers sharing thier creations with us on Social Media under our #soapandshare campaign:
Once we’d established some level (albeit small) of soap making ‘community’ we work hard to understand and engage on a regular basis with our customers. We talk through our ideas, new products, current product feedback, soap making tips, soap making recipes and much more. Here’s a little example of one of our simple blog soap making posts, and you can see more of these just here.
We’ve seen decent growth in our Facebook page over the past year, as we try to expand with Blog Outreach, a #soapandshare campaign, #MakeitMonday product giveaways and more video content. We’ve seen our Facebook community grow from 700 when we first started two years ago, to now over 18,600 today (a growth of 26X in our fan base) which for a soap making factory, isn’t too bad. However we’re only scratching the surface in terms of engaging with our customers worldwide, we still have a lot to learn and a lot more to achieve.
We’ve also worked on the Personality of our brand, the tone to develop trust, this can be challenging for a soap making factory! We work to answer each comment personally, promptly, and with a tone of voice that echos the way we work as a team, so that any member can reply and our message remains consistent. It’s not created, not staged, it’s who we are.
So….in summary Why do we care about building an online community? Why is a fifth generation family soap business on Facebook?
- Building our Reputation Online
- Developing a platform to Launch new products
- Creating a soap making community
- Supporting our Distribution Partners / become a visible supplier
- Develop Brand Loyalty
- Brand Tone / Consistency
- Added Value to both Business and Product
- Engage and Interact with our customers
- We’re still working hard on keeping things fresh, relating, inspiring and growing our community.
So why not join our journey, share what you create just here.