The latest version of eDigitalResearch’s Social Media Benchmark looks at over 100 top UK retail organisations, how they are using Facebook, Twitter and Google+, and ranks them in terms of their success. Given the nature of social media, it is perhaps little surprise that the top 10 brands are all fashion retailers.
Fits like a glove …
Fashion and social media are – or should be – hand-in-glove (sorry, couldn’t resist that one), as we pointed out in our recent (free) white paper, How Fashion Retailers use Social Media, which takes a more detailed look at top fashion brands in social media. The medium and the audience are supremely well suited to each other: we take photos of clothes we love and share them with our friends on Facebook and Twitter; we pin clothes we lust after onto Pinterest boards; we watch Fashion Week unfold on video streams. In River Island, we can tweet straight from the fitting room mirror and in John Lewis we can try on clothes in a virtual fitting room.
The advent of visually-focused Tumblr and Pinterest has further cemented the relationship, and the news last week that Pinterest has now thrown open its doors to all comers widens the potential audience of style oglers, cravers and coveters. Check out Mashable’s guide to top fashion Pinterest accounts, and – if you’re that way inclined – salivate away.
… or is that a gauntlet?
eDigital’s research looked at engagement as well as likes and follows, and discovered that retailers are failing to update their social media accounts over the weekend periods. As we’ve said many times before, social networks aren’t just for 9-5. There are great tools out there now which can help you (for example) pinpoint which times your brand’s fans are most likely to engage with your content over Facebook and Twitter, and now even Facebook’s native tools allow you to to time your posts accordingly. But the ability to schedule posts doesn’t mean you can leave your social spaces floating abandoned like the Marie Celeste …if you’ve got no-one covering the watches, your social ship is likely to be boarded.
First amongst the pirates (OK, I’ll drop the metaphor now) may be protesters. Amongst fashion retailers, it’s likely to be about either:
Ethical issues: websites such as Ethical Consumer uncover, publicise and campaign against brands with unethical practices. Social media has given lobby groups a powerful voice, and one which is being used in increasingly imaginative ways, such as the DKNY “Bunny Butcher”Facebook page hijack by PETA, a co-ordinated (and visually clever) attack that was covered far and wide. Campaigns have had noticeable impact: both H&M and Primark say that they are cleaning up their ethical acts.
Intellectual property theft: accusations have been made against a range of well-known fashion retailers, and issues like these represent perfect causes for social media users to rally behind. When independent jewellery designer Tatty Devine accused high street chain Claire’s Accessories of ripping off designs, fashion blogs, national press and social media lit up with the controversy, which just ran and ran. Urban Outfitters, also accused of making cheaper copies of an independent designers product, faced a barrage of social media criticism. But, faced with the same issue, TopShop (perhaps not coincidentally, top of eResearch’s ranking for its well-handled Facebook page) acted very quickly and withdrew the offending garment from sale within a couple of hours of being alerted to a copycat design. Topshop demonstrated the importance of keeping a good relationship with your advocates – it was famous fashion blogger Susie Lau, aka Susie Bubble, who called them out on their error.
Customer complaints. Your customers really, honestly, do expect you to be listening and responding to them right around the clock – especially on Twitter. Again, not by coincidence, five of the retailers in eResearch’s top 20 – ASOS, River Island, Jack Wills, Cath Kidston and Tesco – have created separate Twitter accounts for their marketing and customer service channels.
As we have pointed out in our white paper on the subject, the objective for a dedicated customer service page is very different to the main social pages for a fashion brand, so splitting them out makes a lot of sense. Where a brand might target volume, reach and sharing on its main pages, it’s likely to focus on speed and rates of resolution on its customer service page (and no doubt in some cases actively trying to avoid social sharing). It’s much harder to split this strategy on a single page. Also, it takes the fairly mundane posts (“hey, we shipped your order on Tuesday,” or “that top you asked about is 76 cm long”) out of circulation of the main pages, and avoids boring those people who want less specific engagement with the brand. Separating the two means that marketing messages don’t end up getting lost among responses to consumer complaints, and – very importantly – customer issues don’t get lost amongst conversations.
Fashion brands will get the very most from social media if they can embrace the down-, as well as the up-side of the conversations it will allow them to have. It’s wonderful to engage with individual fans and get detailed feedback on new products, great that they can get en masse design suggestions through tool like Burberry’s design your own trench coat. But what comes back is not always controllable or welcome. Close monitoring, speedy and well-trained responses are essential.