Businesses use social media for all kinds of reason, and even funeral directors have begun to adopt it, as Becky explains…
Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors was first established in Horsham, West Sussex in 1855. The company now has three further offices across the county – in Billingshurst, Crawley and Hurstpierpoint – and employs a team with a wealth of experience in funerals and associated industries. Today, Community Co-Ordinator Becky tells us how she’s developed the business’s presence on social media during the last few years, including some of the challenges she’s faced along the way!
One of my greatest challenges during my time at Freeman Brothers has been developing our social media presence. Prior to taking on my role, I didn’t realise that the majority of funeral directors hadn’t adopted social media whatsoever. In 2017, and as a Millennial, this felt strange to me, but when I considered things fully, it wasn’t so odd.
There are several things which hold funeral directors back from making a lot of noise online. Most are highly aware that their product and service lacks appeal, and that communicating about it is not something that most people wish to face. However, most of us also regard this to be important work, and you can’t change something that you’re not part of! The greater challenge for many organisations is lack of resources, in terms of staff with the time to devote to social media – you really do get out what you put in – and those who have a working knowledge or specific training in order to set up good content.
The development of social media as a concept has been a thread running through my adult life. When I started at university in 2006, we were warned on our first day about something called ‘Facebook’ and how it was important to keep our digital private lives just that, as employers had started checking what prospective employees got up to! At that point, I hadn’t even heard of the platform – you still needed a university email account in order to register an account – but along with my peers, I soon learned.
As most of us now know, in the wake of Facebook’s popularity, many other platforms were developed. Some have thrived – Instagram in particular of late – some continue to have slight identity crises, and others seem to perpetually be on the verge of breaking through to the mainstream but for one reason or another, not quite making it.
There was a period of time when many brands registered social media accounts because they thought they ought to have them, and this quickly came to be known as a poor strategy. The adage of ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’ absolutely applies here, and it’s now better-understood that an inactive or poorly-curated account is far worse than a non-existent one.
We’ve always regarded the purpose of our social media to be to inform the wider general public about what life is like in the funeral industry, rather than just speaking to our own customers. This is the main way we’ve approached our content, and found that it softens the subject in the right way, as well as allowing us to give out important information.
Twitter was our starting point, and immediately paid off, as it helped me to establish connections with local organisations – mainly charities – which I could support via my role. At the time, we agreed that other platforms weren’t right for a variety of reasons, plus that it was more sensible to focus on one platform and build a strong voice there, before trying to gain momentum elsewhere.
During the last three years, our connections have grown. In recognition of the fact that our offices are located in different communities, our Crawley and Hurstpierpoint branches now have their own accounts, allowing them to build networks online and support these in person. At the beginning, I was quite cautious about what I posted, and establishing content felt incredibly challenging – how do you get people to engage with you online when they’re reluctant to talk to you at any point?!
I aligned our account with a few key campaigns – Hospice UK support their Dying Matters content well via social media, and as time has continued, other relevant groups have been created, such as The Good Grief Trust’s National Grief Awareness Week. As I built our blog content up, I shared those posts too, plus photos of events I attended, and other information about what goes into organising funerals and what it’s like to work as a funeral director.
This year has been one like no other, even for a business which has seen two World Wars, the invention of the telephone, and even a previous pandemic. With the coronavirus pandemic unfolding within the digital era, having built a platform which established us as a voice of local expertise, our messaging has never been more important.
Since March, we’ve posted regular updates regarding how we’re working with government regulations and industry guidance. I’ve also shared how my colleagues and I coped in our personal lives through lockdown (unsurprisingly, there was a lot of baking), and how we’ve continued to support our customers and charity partners at a social distance. It’s been a great opportunity for us to share a bit more of our personalities – the world has been more prepared to hear it now, and it’s been nice to loosen up a little.
I’ve also been establishing our profile via LinkedIn. The audience is very different, but having attended some business-to-business networking prior to lockdown, the time felt right. It’s been another great place to share links to blog posts, plus regular service updates and photos of things such as floral tributes and varied coffin styles. The content there has gone down well – I’m connected to various colleagues from the wider industry thanks to meeting them at conferences, but it’s interesting for everyone in my network. After all, death is something which does impact us all.
We’ve recently decided it’s time to take another step. My initial concern with Instagram was the fact that I walked into a business which hadn’t previously curated the kind of image library I would deem necessary. This is something that’s grown organically thanks to my use of Twitter and our blog, plus any opportunity I’ve found to take a photo or three! My other concern back in 2017 was the narrative we’d build on Instagram – it’s a visual platform, so your pictures literally have to tell the story and, without knowing much about the business, I couldn’t think beyond endless pictures of hearses!
Instagram itself has changed rapidly too, as most social media platforms do. It’s developed to favour business content in 2020, thanks to the variety afforded beyond grid posts, with Stories, IGTV, and the newly-launched Reels. It’s a platform I’m familiar with in my personal life, and it’s also used by some of our other key contacts, such as charities, community groups, and suppliers.
So we’ve decided to take the plunge! Our Instagram account will be launching later this Autumn – there’s still a bit of library-curation required, and some forward planning in terms of deciding exactly what our content will focus on, but I’m excited to bring our message to another audience. I’ll share more details soon – we look forward to seeing you there!
Tel: 01403 254590
If you have an urgent query, please call 01403 254590. This number is answered by one our staff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is the quickest way to reach us.
Tel: 01403 785133
25 & 27 Brighton Road
Tel: 01293 540000
126 High Street
Tel: 01273 831497