Giving cement sex appeal

Florence Sayers examines a social media approach to put the passion into building materials

Giving cement sex appeal

Cement is not usually a product that gets people talking but when building materials company Lafarge Tarmac approached PR agency Bell Pottinger, that was precisely what they wanted to achieve.

As the UK's biggest construction materials company, Lafarge Tarmac had been successful in building relations with merchants, such as B&Q, but interacting with the end consumer, such as small builders, was proving to be more difficult.

'The Lafarge brand was seen as very corporate, and too distant from the end user,' explains Emily Luscombe, partner at Bell Pottinger Business & Brand. 'For the 'bricky' audience who would be buying the product, we wanted to produce something fun, with a conversational tongue-in-cheek tone. We wanted to talk to this audience in their colloquial language.'

After research indicated that a large proportion of the target market of self-employed, small builders use smartphones and frequently used Twitter, it became clear that social media could be part of the solution.

Luscombe says: 'We found that social media provided a direct contact, a touch point with which to reach the end users. We wanted the campaign to be as user friendly as possible.' Bell Pottinger also surveyed Lafarge's customer service team and learned that they were often contacted with DIY queries.

A solution emerged in the form of a Twitter feed @LoveCement, which brings together a community of DIYers, merchants and builders to talk to each other as well as to Lafarge. The account quickly gained momentum, and now has more than 1,000 followers. And Kred has calculated that its influence score puts @LoveCement into the top 20 per cent of all accounts on Twitter.

Tweets from @LoveCement take an informal but informative tone. They range from DIY advice, such as Let us show you how to repair external render in time before winter properly sets in: http:// diycement.com/how_to.aspx?htid=14, to customer service, such as Looking for a specific product but unsure where to get it from? Our online stockist locator can help! http:// diycement.com/stockist_locator.aspx...

The account also makes regular use of hashtags, such as #DIY, #safetyfirst and #didyouknow, when it will tweet cement-related facts, such as that the Chinese used cementitious materials to build the Great Wall of China in the seventh century BC.

The Twitter account was accompanied by a microsite, DIYcement, which provides DIY hints and tips. LoveCement also started a blog for the Builders' Merchant Journal, where they talk in more depth about their products, while 'how to' videos are posted on YouTube, explaining techniques and products.

Luscombe claims that the tweets linking to these various platforms tend to be the most popular, and the ones which the target audience find the most useful.

She adds: '@LoveCement tends to be very popular in the run up to a Bank Holiday, when people at home have a bit more time to do their own DIY. Lafarge also use it to cover external events that they're attending. Integrating online and offline is a really good way to engage an audience.'

Is @LoveCement proof that Twitter can bring any product to life? Yes, says Luscombe, but you first need to integrate channels, understand your audience, and produce creative content. 'We loved the challenge of taking what is seen as a dry, dull product and making people excited about it,' she says. 'We've been absolutely thrilled by the results so far. It's been a really exciting couple of years. But we've got more ideas coming up. We still want to be seen as the innovators in this market, so we need to stay on the front foot.'