Now that I’m back from a holiday and my house hasn’t been broken into, I can confess that a trip has been the reason for my silence. I had fully planned to blog while away (at least one article), but WordPress doesn’t work too well on the iPad. Besides, I was in Florida to enjoy the sunshine, not to sit in the hotel blogging! But now I’m back and it’s time to look at the #hashtag of the week.
Last week, #beattheflu was trending in Canada, and I thought it would be interesting to see what public health-related Twitter feeds were saying about it. It turned out not to be anything to do with public health, but a clever Twitter marketing cooperation between @naturallysavvy and @AVogel_ca. NaturallySavvy.com bills itself as a “guide to natural, organic and green living.” They have 8,615 followers on Twitter, and they use their website to promote organic and/or natural products and brands. A. Vogel is a producer of natural, plant-based remedies for stress, insomnia, flu, weight loss, etc. Judging from their relatively short Twitter feed, A. Vogel has been on Twitter only since the end of last year.
The #beattheflu conversation, hosted by Naturally Savvy, invited followers to ask questions about flu prevention or dealing with the flu. Naturopath and biochemist Josée Fortin, tweeting on behalf of A. Vogel, followed the conversation and would recommend A. Vogel products to help answer followers’ questions. Naturally Savvy would then retweet or quote A. Vogel’s suggestions. Two lucky tweeters were selected (I’m not sure how) to win an A. Vogel flu and cold buster kit, and the Twitter event was billed as informative and fun. Simples! All of Naturally Savvy’s followers were then made aware of A. Vogel’s wonderful new products.
I have to admit that I am skeptical about many products that are billed as “natural”. Having learned much about the practice of greenwashing in a corporate social responsibility class (thanks, Dr. Leonidou!), I know that words like “natural” and “organic” have very different meanings in different countries and to different companies. Brands liberally splash these words on their products, and in truth they actually mean very little. Be that as it may, this is a clever strategy on A. Vogel’s part to use a perceived expert as a brand advocate. These Twitter parties are a great form of word-of-mouth marketing, and A. Vogel is using Naturally Savvy’s power as an opinion leader quite cleverly.
Not only that, but they selected a hashtag that attracts attention. North America is experiencing a particularly nasty flu season, and tweeting parents who are concerned about keeping their families flu-free are a large and lucrative market. They are using a kind of fear appeal – that is, appealing to people’s anxiety about the flu and presenting their products as the “natural” solution. The hashtag was well conceived and I would be curious to know how much A. Vogel’s sales have increased as a result, if at all.