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More than 350 years of dependable service has made the Post Office the UK's second most trusted brand, but a reputation built over centuries of tradition doesn’t always lend itself to innovation, and ingrained beliefs can be hard to overturn.

Social media analytics are helping the company challenge outdated stereotypes, improve customer relations and design promotional strategy. Last summer the Post Office launched an advertising campaign driven by social insights to promote one of its core products: Travel Money.

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"It’s a really competitive space,” said social media manager Darren Jones at Crimson Hexagon's Fall Tour 2016 in London this week. “What we needed to do was protect our share — which is over 50 percent — and grow it."

Social listening

Monitoring digital conversations provided a deep understanding about what people are saying about the Post Office brand, the products it provides and the industry it represents.

Social listening through the Crimson Hexagon software allowed the company to respond to not only the people talking to them, but also the people talking about them. The insights helped them become part of broader travel conversations.

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One of the key components for the Post Office was Crimson Hexagon's Affinities tool. This maps a company’s social 'engagers' against those of its competitors to compare audience interests and reveal the strong and weak customer sectors. The results could then be used to assess the potential success of a social strategy.

“We knew that if we wanted to make this a success on social we really needed to get these people on the relevant side to bring them closer to us," said Jones.

Tailoring social strategy

Jones wanted to “surprise and delight” Post Office customers. Affinities helped identify the individuals talking but also their interests behind what was being said. Evaluating distinct segments of consumers allowed Post Office to tailor its strategy towards them and measure what was resonating with them.

A visualisation of the Post Office audience next to that of Sainsbury’s showed that customers talking about kids and babies were largely beyond the Post Office’s grasp.

"We looked at what the kids and babies audiences were sharing and talking about and it became very clear that competitions were an easy way for us to engage that audience," said Jones. The competitions launched as part of the social campaign vastly increased their market share of that group. 

Broader social strategy

Visual content including video and GIFs produced further methods to communicate with customers. They generated a high quantity of responses, and the Post Office interacted with customers who responded to it.

"We engaged with everyone who talked about that piece of content," said Jones. They shared extra content with the respondents to show warmth and help create brand advocates. Responses became conversations, and conversations turned into sales.

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“For me, you get the best value out of Crimson if you interlink it with other things,” said Jones. "We also pulled in data from our community management technology called Lithium.”

The Twitter handles that interacted with the Post Office the previous summer were imported into Crimson, and the person who tweeted them was sent another message reminding them of the previous interaction. The individual might be asked if they were going anywhere this year, and if they said yes, a reminder would be dropped about Travel Money.

"People didn't expect to hear back from a brand they interacted with a year later, and the fact they replied as well showed an openness to engage with us,” said Jones. “The process was about making conversations work harder: engage to convert, not just stopping at engage.

The results

The British may love to queue, but the social media analysis showed that they love to complain about queuing even more. But the public perception of Post Office queues was an accurate reflection of the contemporary reality. The Post Office has more branches open on Sundays than any other UK retailer, and many are open late during the week.

A campaign was designed to to increase public awareness of the services available and challenge the perception that customers could only come to the branch during their lunch break.

They formulated an advertisement to emphasise the ease of currency conversion under the slogan “so easy it’s magic.”. Real magicians played the roles of cashiers, including Magic Circle Magician Of The Year Brendan Rodrigues. As unsuspecting customers looked on in shock, they turned one currency into another with a mere flick of the wrist.

The advertisement ran from June through to early September to coincide with the holiday season. As a result of the campaign, the proportion of social media mentions received by the Post Office against their competitors grew from 28 percent to 45 percent. This increase in share of voice converted into "amazing" sales, said Jones.