Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Social Media Lessons from

As we've discussed previously, our Facebook Page is performing really well for us and I've been doing quite a bit of reading on social media marketing to learn how we can improve on our efforts.

I was recently introduced to Greg Ellis (Co-Founder) and Johan Kriegbaum (Online Marketing) of Cash Doctors and boy do they have a social media challenge on their hands! Encouraging people to talk to their friends about PayDay loans is no easy task. But I think they're making a fantastic go of it, and there are some great lessons for those of us using social media marketing.

I should mention, payday loans might make you think of dodgy, scammy lenders, but after reading through their site and meeting with Greg and Johan, I'm very impressed with their ethics and responsible approach to their lending practices - eg. Cash Doctors only lend money to people with a job and a clear ability to repay the loan.

So onto the good stuff, here's the lessons I've taken from Cash Doctors social media approach:

1. Develop a clear strategy around what will best get people talking about your product.
People aren't going to talk about how they just got a payday loan because they were running short of cash, but they will talk about ways to save money and great deals, so Cash Doctors have developed 'Catie Cash's Deals' to discuss great deals, like this post about saving money with your Christmas shopping. They've also established the 'Tight Arts Appreciation Society' to discuss innovative ways to save money.

2. If you make a mistake, be honest with your customers.
Check out this post from co-founder Greg titled 'How we blew our launch'. Who are you going to forgive and develop an affinity for, a company that gives a short, undetailed 'oops, sorry' response, or one who takes responsibility and explains the error in detail?

3. Show your personality.
Cash Doctors do this brilliantly. Check out the video on their Facebook Page that shows co-founder Sean's face being painted like a dog! Or this post showing whales migrating past their office (which had 10 comments on their Facebook Page). Cash Doctors also regularly change their profile pic to show a different employee from their company.

4. Engage with your customers - social media is a 2 way communication.
Cash Doctors do a great job of responding to fan comments on their Facebook Page and messages on Twitter. Follow up comments from fans is testament to this being viewed positively by their customers.

All of that said, it's clearly still early days for Cash Doctors and their social media strategy. And speaking to Greg and Johan, it's still unclear whether this is going to work for them. Despite what I view as a brilliant effort, they've only got 122 Facebook fans and 94 twitter followers, so clearly they aren't getting a good ROI just yet, but if it's possible to have an effective social media strategy in their space, I think they're going the right way about finding it, so hats off to Greg, Johan and Catie Hughes (their social media whiz) for giving it a go and good luck!

What do you think of their approach? Any ideas on what they could be doing differently?


  1. Maybe they have so few fans and followers because it isn't effective? Who wants to be friends with the guy that gives them a pay day loan? I would want as formal and bland a relationship as possible with such a person, and seeing them with their face painted like a dog would be a huge turn off. Even if I did use Cash Doctors, I think that I'd be embarassed about it - I certainly wouldn't advertise it to my friends. This isn't like a shoe business that benefits from the perception of luxury.

    I know that I'm not as progressive regarding social media as you guys are, but this seems like the type of business that would need really plain old vanilla traditional marketing to let people know the service exists (including a facebook profile) without going through the whole social media lets-be-friends-and-chat-and-look-at-my-photos type of experience. Similarly, you can show too much personality - it's one thing to stuff something up, it's another to market it. Everyone makes mistakes, and it's understood that people try to learn from them, but it's a big jump to then want to do business with people who advertise errors.

    I guess that what I'm trying to say from the above is that social media marketing, in my view, is only useful for certain types of businesses, and for some it is ineffctive (perhaps even harmful). I assume that you disagree though??

  2. Anonymous - some very good thoughts in there and in part I agree with you. I think about the only business that might be tougher for social media would be a funeral parlour. It won't and isn't proving to be easy for Cash Doctors to run an effective social media strategy, but given it's such a new medium I think they are doing a good job to try it out - and there's lessons in their approach for the rest of us. Social media is unlikely to ever be as effective for their business as it is for something like Shoes of Prey, but that's not to say they can't make it work for them.

    And I agree with you that approaching social media in the way most businesses do won't work for Cash Doctors, people aren't going to want to discuss their pay day loans, but people do discuss ways to save money so I think encouraging those discussions is a good approach that they've taken.

    As for the face painting, whether that works or not completely depends on their target audience and how they want to brand their business. While I'm not their target market I like the fun, personal approach they've taken with their brand, it's certainly memorable and for me it doesn't detract from the seriousness of their business. Same with admitting the mistake around their launch, the honesty makes me trust them more.

    To be honest, I think odds are that you're right - social media isn't going to be effective for Cash Doctors. They're aware of that and their marketing focus is very much on traditional media and search engine marketing, both of which work very well for them. But I think their efforts make an interesting case study, there's a chance they could make it work and I'd love to see them succeed at it.

  3. Hi there Michael and Anonymous,

    “Who wants to be friends with the guy that gives them a payday loan?”


    It’s Catie here from Cash Doctors. Thanks so much for your critique and comments. This feedback is invaluable and echoes our initial concerns when devising our social media strategy. Michael – I love your comparison with a funeral parlour. Ha! In fact, I think our challenge is even more complex than this. As bland as they are, everyone knows, trusts and understands funeral parlours and everyone is bound to use one at least once in their life. In Australia, payday loans are only just emerging as a viable, trusted alternative to traditional old school lending practices.

    Yep. We’ve our work cut out for us. We understand that.

    Although obviously not in our target market, Anonymous, your comments quoted again below are certainly ones we’ve had flying around in the office here when determining our social media aims i.e. “who wants to be a friend of a payday loans company” and “I think that I'd be embarassed about it - I certainly wouldn't advertise it to my friends.”

    Uphill battle? Like pushing something uphill? Yep.

    Your perception is exactly what we’re keen to change.

    Why should people be ‘embarrassed’ by their use of our service? Cash Doctors is unlike any other lender in Australia. It offers instant cash relief through responsible lending. There’s no long-term debt. People can jump over small financial hurdles without having to rack up a credit card bill or head to one of the big banks to get a loan for an amount far beyond what they need.

    Small personal loans without long-term debt - sounds like a no-brainer doesn’t it? But still, you are right to question whether people are going to become our fans in a social media setting.

    There will always be the dodgy lenders out there. That’s why we’re determined to show we’re real people – friendly, trustworthy and transparent - helping people with small short-term payday loans. Our Cash Doctors story (viewed here ) is what we’re about. Social media and our online blog offer new ways of communicating our story.

    With our style of business, judging whether social media is or “isn’t effective” cannot simply be gauged by the number of fans we have. Yes, wouldn’t it be lovely to have a fan base of thousands? But choosing to “become a fan” of any business or person is a big ask (unless you’re Britney Spears) and we clearly recognise this. What we’re interested in is generating traffic back to our site by simply having a presence on Facebook and Twitter. I’m glad to say it’s working and we’re getting an increase in pageviews and traffic via our social media sources.

    Yes, there is the exponential reach value created from people becoming our fan and it also makes us look popular. But we’re not JUST interested in generating a huge fan base. We want people to see us as we are…like us…trust us. If we happen to get a fan along the way…woo hoo!

    So, is social media for Cash Doctors? To do, or not to do?

    In today’s market, do we really have a choice?

    I liken social media to a bunch of big online parties. You may not be the most popular person in the room, but if you want people to get to know and trust you (your brand), you at least have to be there to show your face, respond to people’s comments in an open forum and tell your story.

    With a small fan base (so far), maybe we’re looking like the not so sexy geek sitting in the corner, but at least people will remember us as being transparent, helpful and trustworthy. They’ll know where to come when they need our type of service.

    Again, thanks for taking the time to discuss our strategy. It’s given us more to dissect and chew on.


    Catie Hughes - Cash Doctors

    P.S. And yep – ME – I’m that friend. The guys, Sean and Greg, who give you that payday loan are principled, ethical people. I wouldn’t work for them if they weren’t.

  4. Hi Catie,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, some great points in there. I love your lofty goal to change the perception people have of being embarrassed about using Payday loans. That's great and you've certainly got some fans and followers who don't feel embarrassed which is excellent.

    And great point that your success isn't judged by the number of fans/followers you have, rather that it's about the traffic it drives to your website and ultimately the sales it generates. While ideally you would get fans and followers, it's ok if you don't. As long as people read what you have to say, realise you're a friendly, ethical company then visit your site and ideally use your products then your social media campaign is working for your business.

    Anonymous does make a good point that for the time and effort you're putting into your social media campaign, you might get better results from traditional advertising. However as you've outlined, there's enormous potential in what you're doing. If your campaign achieves your goal of changing people's perceptions around payday loans then it will be an enormous win for you, and I think of all your media options social media provides the best chance for you to be able to do that.

    Thanks Catie.