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Chuck Bowen

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PCT News

April 9, 2009

Making Friends
How one pest control company uses social media to connect with its customers.

There’s a yellow Volkswagen out there that wants to be your friend.
Truly Nolen Pest Control, based in Tucson, Ariz., but with franchises all over the world, has leveraged its singular brand and mousecar mascot — the aforementioned Volkswagen with ears, whiskers and a tail — into the world of social media.
“It’s kind of the new latest fad in the advertising area to delve into. Because we have such a unique image, we decided to introduce ourselves to it to see what we can get out of it,” said Barry Murray, president of the The Murray Group and a consultant for Truly Nolen. “We’re kind of playing with it a little bit, trying to position ourselves, trying to get ahead of the industry.”
Using the social network Facebook, the company gave the car its own profile page, where it posts videos, links and connects with friends, mostly franchisees and other members of the pest control industry. “The car is the key. If we just went on there as a corporate site, and said, ‘This is the Truly Nolen Facebook page,’ it’s not going to have that same gimmick or appeal. But the idea that they’re…a friend of the car and talking to the car” does, Murray said.
The company also utilizes Twitter, the microblogging service, which lets users post messages of 140 characters or less to a Web page. You can follow other people’s messages – called alternately tweets or toots – and they can follow you.
In addition, Truly Nolen has created a viral video of a technician’s first day where he encounters what looks like a giant cockroach. It’s had more than 600 views since September 2008. All the efforts play off one another: The Twitter feed links to the blog, which links to the video and back again.
“It’s a great goodwill builder. It’s cultivating the next generation of pest control buyers; kind of a younger generation. It gives us an opportunity to introduce ourselves,” Murray said.
And while the social media efforts might not have an immediate payoff, Murray said they are intended to both maintain a conversation with potential buyers and drive traffic to Truly Nolen’s Web site – its second-largest source of leads.
The main investment, at least initially, in Truly Nolen’s efforts was time, Murray said. He writes the blog posts and answers “ask the expert” questions sent in from the Web site. He and Toby Srebnik, who runs Tilson PR in Boca Raton, Fla., post to the Twitter feed and update the Facebook page; franchisees and other people add things to the page, too.
Murray said he spends about an hour and half each day working on things related to TrulyNolen.com. Srebnik said he spends about an hour total each day updating Twitter and 15 minutes on Facebook.
While the costs associated with the social media foray have been negligible (it’s free to sign up for an account on Facebook and Twitter; creating a video costs a “few thousand dollars,” Murray said, and is free to upload to YouTube), its returns are murky.
“It’s certainly not a huge, high priority for us or a big lead driver at this point in time,” he said. But, low costs of entry allow the company to play around with different ideas, and bounce things off potential customers. “It provides you in essence a research forum as well.
“In our game, it’s the number of views. If you can do things to increase the number of views you’re getting, it’s great. If I could put us out in the middle of the cow pasture to get somebody to look at us…I would,” he said. Especially in saturated markets like Florida, things like Facebook and Twitter set the company apart. The launch of each effort garners the company a little more press, and acts as an outpost in another area of the Internet.
“It just gives you a more well-rounded presence,” he said. “When you can get established in the media as the expert in a non-advertising manner…it lends a tremendous credibility to the company in terms of expertise that a 30-second commercial is never going to get you.”
Visit www.pctonline.tv to watch Truly Nolen’s viral video. 

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