Tag Archives: Rentokil

US Government Called to Declare War on Bed Bugs

‘Bed bugs are back!’ cries the US National Pest Management Association. They’re supporting a bill being put before the US Congress, intended to allow Americans to sleep more safely in their beds.

The proposed legislation aims to repel a growing invasion that threatens to literally suck the life blood out of the world’s remaining superpower.

The tiny beasts are also enjoying a boom on this side of the Atlantic. They’re becoming a ‘major public health issue’ north of the border, according to the Royal Environmental Health Institute for Scotland. The Bed Bug Foundation (yes, there is such a thing) reports that London’s population of the things increased by 26% every year from 2002 to 2007.

That trend seems to be continuing, with the UK’s largest pest control firm, Rentokil, reporting a 24% increase in Bed bug calls during the first half of 2010.

The last decade has seen the pests break out of the seedy hotels and shabby bedsits with which they’ve long been associated. They’re increasingly taking up residence in smart hotels and tidy homes.

Despite their name, bed bugs are happy to settle almost anywhere with lots of people. They find moving from place to place incredibly easy and are comfortably at home in shops, museums, galleries and theatres.

Changing attitudes to the use of chemical pesticides has probably caused the global explosion in the bed bug population, along with a more mobile lifestyle. It’s never been so easy for the creatures to hop between cities, countries or continents, tucked invisibly into the folds of clothes and luggage.

Pest control experts are becoming more concerned about the world wide bed bug problem. Hence the American ‘Bed Bug Management, Prevention and Research Act of 2011’ being presented to Congress.

If passed, it’ll create a task force focused on finding ways to stop the blood sucking insects from attacking their citizens. As any visitor to the US will know, the Americans take their homeland security very seriously indeed.

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Confessions of a social media newbie

So, here we are. Bypest has arrived in the digital era with a bang! In recent months we’ve been working on our search profile, setting up a Twitter account and, of course, adding this blog to our site.

We’ve had a website since we started trading, and achieved solid search rankings for our target terms such as ‘Pest Control London’. But now we’ve recognised that we need to take things to the next level – not just to stay in the search-engine race, but also to give our customers the chance to interact with us in new ways.

Brave new world

We have to admit to feeling a little bit daunted by the whole digital marketing landscape. It seems like there are so many different elements that go into the mix. And it’s obvious that they all have to work together, not just in isolation. That’s why we’re taking things relatively steadily, aiming to build up our blog and Twitter before we move on to other channels such as Facebook.

As a London business serving local consumers and businesses, one of our key concerns is our Google Maps listing. Now that Google has decided to make its ‘place pages’ much more prominent in local searches, we need to make sure we’re appearing when people look for us. Most of our business comes in via telephone calls, so getting a prominent Maps listing is a key part of generating new business via the search channel.

Right now, the problem is that it’s so difficult to get a handle on what different users in different areas of London are seeing in terms of their search results. On top of that, it seems that SEO experts haven’t quite worked out what websites really have to do in order to optimise for Google Maps! Watch this space as we grapple with this problem and share some of the things we discover.

Late to the party?

In terms of social-media content, it’s clear that we’re not the first to the party. But we’re not the last either – a large number of pest-control companies have yet to add any sort of dynamic, interactive or regularly updated content to their blogs. It seems that many sole traders in our industry have already taken the plunge, and we’ve already hooked up with quite a few pest control experts from around the world on Twitter. It’s great to hear what they’ve got to say about pest control – and we’re looking forward to seeing how they approach the challenge of building a loyal following too.

Why is it a challenge? Essentially because pest control is one of those things that you don’t really think about until you need it. But when you need it, you really do need it! Unlike ‘fun’ brands like McDonald’s or Pepsi, we’re not really selling a product that people fall in love with – sad but true! So our main aim is to make as many friends as we can through social media, while putting ourselves in prime position to be the pest-control company that Londoners call first when they have a problem with pests.

Lessons from the leader

One model for social-media success in our sector is industry leader Rentokil. When they first started using Twitter, they were accused of ‘follow spam’ – following loads of people on Twitter, who then became confused about why Rentokil was following them. This was largely because of the negative associations of pests – as we’ve said, pest control is something you don’t really want to think about until the time when you really need it.

Of course, people didn’t have to follow Rentokil back, so they wouldn’t have a load of stuff about rats and mice in their feed unless they wanted it. But the outcry forced Rentokil to write a blog post called ‘Why is @Rentokil following me?’ in which they explained the thinking behind their approach.

Unfortunately, the tone of that post didn’t really help matters. As the furore intensified, Rentokil became a case study in how NOT to do social media – as documented in this Econsultancy article.

Nearly one year on, Rentokil has sorted itself out and now has an enviable blog featuring interesting pest-control stories from around the world, as well as 915 followers for its Twitter account (at the time of writing). They’ve even been covered again in Econsultancy, this time in a much more positive light – see the article here.

For our money, Rentokil is a great example of how to offer interesting, engaging content while promoting a service that people aren’t necessarily thinking about day in, day out. We’re hoping we can learn a lot of valuable lessons from them.

Into the future

What does the future hold for Bypest in social media? At this stage, we really don’t know. We’ve got some things we’d like to achieve, but we’re open to seeing where digital channels take us too. Although we waited a while to get involved, we’re hoping that we’re in a good position to learn from what others have done. It’s an exciting time!

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