Social Media in Action: Rentokil

By Chris Lee

While there is a great deal of chat online about how services companies should embrace social media to help build brand advocacy and drive new business, how many are actually doing it in practice?

One company seeing the benefits of its social media outreach is pest control specialist Rentokil. The company formed a dedicated social media team charged with listening and connecting with customers online.


The online conversations Rentokil is looking out for are picked up, managed and responded to using multi-language listening and tracking services from, with the aim of driving customer engagement and satisfaction as well as increasing the amount of enquiries for pest control services.

Alicia Holbrook, social media manager at Rentokil, is part of the firm’s global marketing and strategy team and is responsible for social media campaigns and interactions. She told NMK that Rentokil generates much more traffic from Monday to Friday, which indicates to her that it is mostly business users commenting about the firm in the social media space or seeking an answer to a particular problem.

“Most traffic happens on a Tuesday,” she said. “This could be because on a Monday, the facilities manager may think ‘right, we really need to sort out the bird problem in the car park.’ By Tuesday, they may actually have the time to research it and find out how they can get rid of the problem in the car park.

According to Holbrook, business users tend to tweet more from their personal accounts, rather than their business accounts, saying things like; ‘We’ve got rats – what do I do?’ or ‘Something has eaten my carpets, what do I do?’

Learning curve

Holbrook explained that Rentokil had turned to following criticism the company had received in its early days on Twitter, which was picked up by the press. Holbrook said that Rentokil needed to know what people were saying about the company so it could respond quickly.

“On reflection, the whole experience was a learning curve,” she said. “With a platform like Twitter, in order to attract followers you need to put in the groundwork. The longer you put out content and the more interesting the things you tweet are, the more successfully you naturally build up a follower base. Now, we don’t actively attract people to follow us, we just pick them up as the months progress. In turn, this has led to a more loyal follower base.”

Holbrook added: “We react to all kinds of feedback, whether positive or negative. While we are very aware that if you respond on Twitter it is a very visible platform, when people have problems we need to be able to hear them so that we can act to correct it. Similarly, if a customer tweets us to say ‘thanks for doing a great job’ we need to acknowledge that in order to build relationships.”

Return on investment

While Rentokil has noted a direct correlation between a wasp-related campaign it rain in 2010 and a 146 per cent rise in enquiries to deal with problem nests, Holbrook believes that focusing attention on one social media strategy outcome – be it sales or otherwise – is a mistake.

“Should brands use social media as a brand awareness tool or a customer service tool?” Holbrook asked. “I believe that it should be both because social media crosses so many areas of business and marketing. You have to weigh up how well social media is driving traffic to the website and converting to sales and, also, how well it is driving brand awareness. Social media isn’t just about ROI – it’s also undoubtedly about amplifying your brand.”

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