On Being Useful

Three real world examples of usefulness

by Tracey Parsons |

A few weeks back, I asked for all marketers to give up the notion of bringing human characteristics to their marketing and instead to focus on being useful. I argue that useful is a much more realistic goal for a brand and a much more believable approach for customers. There was a great online dialog around this and one wise sole asked for me to provide examples of how being useful could manifest itself.

SO with that, I present three brands that have taken useful and made it an art. I looked high and low for brands that are global powerhouses as well as more local outfits and even found a B2B implementation of useful. So with that, I present some inspiration for those who seek real world application of my random pontification.

Sherwin Williams

SW TweetThe global paint powerhouse does a solid job of being useful to their audience. In fact, the paint people have applied useful into their age-old tagline: Ask Sherwin Williams. Their Facebook presence is focused on useful tips, tricks and inspiration. On Twitter, they even answer customer questions about painting using the #AskSW! Talk about useful! But wait, there’s more! On their website, they have a series of design blogs to inspire people and another section to help people Use their products and make the most of their projects. The Sherwin Williams brand inspires me to be more useful to my customers. They are true to their brand and useful to their customers.

River Pools

If there were ever a case study on usefulness in social media and lead generation, the poster child would have to be the team at River Pools in Virginia. They have elevated the blog as lead generator to an art. The premise with River Pools is this: If you’ve ever wondered what it is like to have a pool installed of any variety (and there are varieties) then the River Pools blog will give you the good, the bad and the ugly. They basically answer every question you could ever ask about building a pool or spa in your yard and answer it via video and content on their blog. They also have a ton of calls to action on their site, such as a calculator and a free ebook. They do lead generation from social like nobody’s business, because they are useful.


MaerskFBThe argument I most frequently hear about my opinions is that social is a tough B2B play and I always argue that usefulness negates this argument. The reasons: Businesses are dying for useful content from their partners and vendors, even more so than customers. Why, businesses decision-makers are more strapped for time and in need of quick solutions. And for this reason, I hold up Maersk. Seriously, these folks are crushing social media and they are doing it in the most useful way. Their blog is chock full of interesting insights from experts in the field. The posts are valuable to people in this market. Maesk probably has an amazing listening strategy! Their Facebook presence actually generates leads. How? Being useful! Sharing information that is visually interesting and drives to engagement and answers – poof! Useful.

By no stretch are these companies doing it perfectly, they are all spending more time talking about themselves than need be, but overall, they appear to be focused on being useful and adding value to their fans and readers. The thing is, being usful is more attainable and can drive significant results. We can all be more useful to our audiences and customers. It just needs to become more of a focus. When we are only focused on being human, we can lose sight of being useful. Useful is more attainable. Useful is the way forward.

Any other examples out there you’ve seen – send them! I love seeing great examples of brands adding value to their customer’s social interactions.

About the Author

Tracey Parsons

Since 1995, Tracey has been developing digital solutions. Currently SME Digital’s lead strategist, she continues to be dedicated to bringing cutting edge, thoughtful and measurable solutions to marketers. With more than 15 years in digital, Tracey not only brings vision, but the tools and strategies to execute against complex next generation concepts. She has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands to develop and devise cutting-edge social, mobile and digital marketing practices.