Customers of Seattle-based bag manufacturer Tom Bihn are as passionate about the product as the company’s 22-person staff.
The company’s namesake has been designing and making bags for more than 20 years. He always has a sketchbook, regularly works on up to 10 designs at once and always sews the prototype of the new product himself, according to the company’s Web site.
Tom Bihn has a Seattle factory showroom/retail store that is open to the public one day per month. Otherwise, the bags are available exclusively through its Web site. The company’s social media presence is rich with customer experience about their products and photos of bag-toting fanatics all over the world.
What makes Tom Bihn’s social media efforts successful? Among the keys are product passion and that the social media networks are updated regularly. Engagement is going on among members on these platforms, not simply the company broadcasting promotional messages. Each social media platform has unique Tom Bihn content that doesn’t overlap with the other platforms the company is on, yet at the same time, they’re integrated and linked to each other.
“All of us at Tom Bihn are fortunate to work for a company that makes truly innovative and high quality bags -- bags that we are proud to stand behind, bags that we use ourselves,” said Darcy Gray, vice president at Tom Bihn, in an email interview. “While Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, our blog and the Tom Bihn Forums give us an endless variety of ways to communicate who we are to our customers, we don't think those efforts would resonate if we weren't so excited about our company and what we do.”
Gray manages the Tom Bihn Facebook fan page, forums, blogs, Flickr and Twitter. She said updating them is a lot of fun and works on them whenever she checks her iPhone. Yash Khemani, a longtime customer and friend, is the master behind the Tom Bihn channel partner videos on YouTube.
She said engaging directly with customers began with the TomBihn.com forums.
“In 2006, it occurred to us that our customers and potential customers could get significant value from talking with each other as opposed to just with us. They could share their experiences of their Tom Bihn bags, offer advice for selecting the right bag to new customers, and post reviews/pictures of their experiences with their bags,” she said.
She said the company’s success on social media starts with their bags and that social media tools have given them more powerful ways to connect.
“Anytime a company is given more ways to directly communicate with customers, it's an opportunity for growth. Tom Bihn designs all of our bags himself. Interest in a particular type of bag might encourage him in a certain direction,” Gray said.
For example, Bihn is in the process of designing, among other things, a personal carry-on travel bag and a camera insert. If we see a lot of interest in the Tom Bihn forums and on Facebook in the camera insert, it might influence the company to release that product first.
“We're still who we've always been, doing what we've always done, we're just able to be closer to the pulse of our customer base,” she said.
Engagement Began With Forums
TomBihn.com’s user forums have been active since 2006 and have 1,823 members. Threads range from 30 to more than 700. Topics include company news, reviews, pictures and video and travel news. The company curates forum posts such as those of photos on its blog.
Blog Is Central Hub
The company’s lively blog is a mainstream hub of the latest company information. It features everything from e-mail reviews from customers with photos to timeline rundowns on new product launches to hints on new products that are top secret, but coming soon.
A-Ha Moments On Flickr
The Tom Bihn Flickr group has 278 items posted and more than 115 members. The stream isn’t just photos of people wearing their bags while traveling or at the airport. Informative photos show how much can fit inside a bag (and weight) and how items look once they’re in the bag. What’s also interesting are the user comments. Someone commented on a photo in the Flickr group that they had been looking everywhere for a photo of that exact bag and wanted to know if the bag was still available. Another person chimed in that they were also looking for that same bag.
Two-Way Enagement On Facebook
Tom Bihn’s Facebook fan page has more than 500 members. There are posts to the wall a few times a week by both fans and the company. Gray posts status updates such as photos and links to new products, reviews as well as shipping deals. One post even calls for fans to submit questions they would like to ask Tom Bihn himself for an upcoming e-mail newsletter. The company also incorporates its blog posts and YouTube Channel videos into the fan page.
Demo Videos On YouTube
Tom Bihn has had its own Channel partner page since 2006. The page has received nearly 20,000 total upload views. Videos are uploaded about every two weeks and most clips have several hundred views. The videos are thorough demonstrations of a bag's features -- often by Tom Bihn himself. They cover topics including what he uses a particular bag for, items he fits in which compartments, accessories he uses with it and what the bag is made of.
Tweets Are Content Mix
Tom Bihn’s Twitter account @tombihn is a well-branded Twitter profile page with the company logo, photos of products and contact information. There’s a good mix of retweets, company mentions on Twitter, thank you messages for customers who visited its factory showroom, announcements of new product updates, and even travel regulation notices from the Transportation Safety Administration. Tweets also incorporate links and photos from the company’s blog.
Gray said that seeing Tweets (like these below) makes them realize that this feedback might have never made their way to them if email or phone was the only way of communication with their customers.
“You can't go wrong with a @tombihn," a Twitter user said.
Another tweet: “Rains like today in Chicago make me happy I have a good @tombihn bag, I'm soaked, but the computer is nice and dry."