Social Media Tips For High-End Retailers: Inside the Strategy of Herman Miller

Herman Miller Office

You’re working for a 100-year-old company that sells some of the most iconic high-end furniture designs of all time. How do you reach out to your fans and clients on Twitter and Facebook?

Well, for one, you might not abbreviate: No LOLs, BRBs, or ttyls.

At least that’s a rule Ron Reeves follows on the job. Ron is the public relations and social strategist at Herman Miller—a HootSuite customer and one of the world’s most prestigious and well-known furniture companies. And since 2011 he’s been leading Herman Miller’s social media strategy and managing all of their five social channels, including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

But interestingly, Herman Miller’s overall strategy is less about restrictions and more about being widely accessible. The focus is on creating and sharing fun, light-hearted content that reflects the passion and knowledge of its fans and clients. We asked Ron to elaborate on this a bit more, and also share with us some of his key tips for a ‘sophisticated’ social media strategy:

Ulara Nakagawa: What are the benefits of social media for a brand like Herman Miller?

Ron Reeves: Social media makes us more accessible. Anyone can get in on social media, whether you have a living room full of Herman Miller or you’re on a strict budget and looking to get your first piece. What’s great for us is, more than any other outlet, social media offers us a chance to really connect in a one-on-one way with so many people. That opens up a lot of doors. So social media is a great tool for reaching new people and for engaging with already-existing fans and customers in more meaningful ways.

UN: Can you give us some examples of how you create these engaging and meaningful moments using social media?

RR: Sure. One way is through monitoring social media and engaging people based on what they’re saying about your brand. So for example, let’s say somebody out there wants a great work chair but is looking for a something less expensive than an Aeron. They’re on Twitter asking for suggestions. I can spot that Tweet and jump right in and recommend a lower-priced chair that still has all of the ergonomic performance and even the same 12-year warranty that you would expect from Herman Miller, but for only $400. So offering people solutions they didn’t realize were there is something that social media allows. Also, a lot of times people don’t realize certain products they are talking about are Herman Miller, so for brand awareness there’s a lot value in these sort of one-on-one encounters.

Another kind of engagement social allows is to help us find and then jump into negative conversations that we weren’t necessarily supposed to be a part of. Taking an unhappy or lost customer and flipping their problem into a really positive experience is a great, and meaningful engagement.

Herman Miller Tweet - cropped

UN: What kinds of people do you target through your social media messaging?

RR: What’s unique about that for Herman Miller is we have such a legacy in mid-century modern design. You might say we have higher-end clients, but we actually have customers from a massive range of demographics. So I think that’s an interesting question for us. In general, our audience consists of a lot of creative people like architects, designers, and often just passionate fans of mid-century modern. It’s a very impressive group from a knowledge standpoint, they really know the designs and the history. So to put it simply, we speak to a wide audience that is passionate and educated. It’s a great place to be.

Ron Reeves’ 4 Tips for a Sophisticated Social Media Strategy:

1. Come up with a styleguide of simple rules. Make sure it’s in line with your brand. At Herman Miller, we want to have a consistent voice across all of our digital channels. We speak in first person, use complete sentences, proper grammar, and only abbreviate numbers or the word “and” if absolutely necessary. We do not use w/, b/c, JK, LOL, or TTYL—that’s just not our style. The idea behind these rules is to avoid the implicit messages that we are too casual. Immature language could send the wrong messages about our brand. There’s not a right or wrong way, but you want to be very thoughtful about it. Also, when we post content on social networks we want to make sure that it’s consistent with our brand whether that’s high-quality photos, furniture, or graphics, or something that’s just unique or cool.

Herman Miller's Ron Reeves
Herman Miller’s Ron Reeves

2. Don’t be blinded by social media trends. This is similar to the above rule, but it’s more about going deeper into considering how your social media presence reflects your brand’s culture and values. How are we saying what we’re saying? What’s the tone? How is the tweet or Facebook post written? These are the sorts of questions we are constantly asking ourselves at Herman Miller. So for example, (although it’s tempting at times), we’ve come to avoid pop culture references. Another example might be Oreo’s Super Bowl tweet. That was genius, but would never be Herman Miller. What works for Oreo is not going to work for us. Sure we want to be creative and push the envelope but we need to be thoughtful and make sure it works for our audience.

3. Offer value to your followers. With the market we’re in it’s extremely important to offer value to our fans. Giant consumer brands like Coca-Cola, Starbucks, and Ford have massive followings on social media (in the millions). Obviously they have outstanding social strategies that have been very effective, but their social messaging can also be more about them and their products because so many people can relate. Think about how many people have had a Coke at least once in their life.

We have a large fan base but not quite that big. Of course, we talk about our designs, history, and promotions, but we also emphasize common interests that we share with our fans. Things like architecture, sustainability, non-furniture design, photography, etc. We don’t want to just talk about ourselves, and that’s a strategic decision that reflects our company values. Sharing valuable content around common passions not only allows us to connect with our current followers, but it also humanizes our brand and makes us more accessible to new fans.

4. Listen to what people are saying about your brand. Then embrace opportunities to engage. By regularly and efficiently monitoring keywords using a social media management dashboard like HootSuite, you can ‘listen’ to online conversations happening about your products or your brands in real time. These can be great opportunities for quality engagement. Set up streams with keywords so you are constantly ready when these doors open. Also, don’t miss out because you’re away from your desk or out of the office. Do it all on the go, by having your social media dashboard synced up to your mobile device.

Want to know more about monitoring keywords using HootSuite? See our HootTips on Quick Search and setting up Streams within HootSuite.

Looking for more on social for the retail industry? See HootSuite’s Social Retail Kit.