Becoming a YOUtility

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power linesI went to one of those membership clubs yesterday to buy enough product in bulk to last through the apocalypse.

While shopping I stopped at a product sample stand and took more than one sample.  Before I moved on I asked the sample-providing employee, “Where are the pastries?”, because you can never have too many pastries for the apocalypse. I was surprised when her response was, “Oh, I don’t know.  You will have to ask a store employee.  I’m an employee of the promotions company, not the actual store.”

What?! There stood this sample-providing person behind a store-branded kiosk, wearing a store-embroidered apron but she was not an employee of the store?

Now I don’t think there’s anything wrong with branding the promotions company with the store logo. It actually makes sense that a major retailer who specializes in selling bulk product at low prices would outsource the sampling of their products to a third-party promotions company.

What struck me as wrong was the fact that the promotions company had not empowered their sample-providing employees to be product guides for wandering shoppers.  That’s like a pizza delivery guy saying, “I can’t give you directions because I don’t live in this neighborhood. I only deliver here.”

This same mistake is often made by organizations with their social media.

Many companies use social media solely to promote their products and services, such as, a sale, an event, or a special buy.  Churches, with which I mostly work, often only promote service times, message series, and giving opportunities. In doing so, companies and churches miss the chance to be a broader resource for their followers.

Just like the sample-provider could be a broader resource to shoppers by knowing the product placement in a store, so an organization can be a resource to their followers by pointing them to useful content beyond the company’s services.

Paul Pruneau calls this becoming a YOUtility.  He says, “If you want to succeed with online marketing today, you need to become a YOUtility to your prospects and customers. As a continuous provider of education, insights and entertaining content…a YOUtility can become the trusted online destination that attracts visitors and keeps them coming back.”

In other words, 

Here are a few YOUtility examples:

A branding consultant recently tweeted this educational link to a teacher (my wife):

A church retweeted a follower’s marriage resource:

A therapist shared a bloggers tips for getting out of bed:

Each of these examples show social media being used to point followers to valuable content beyond the organization or person’s expertise. That’s YOUtility.

The more an organization is seen as a YOUtility to guide people to USEful content the more people will come to trust that organization and its services.

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