National retailers are marketing via social networking channels—particularly Facebook, but also Twitter—at increasing levels, integrating their online and physical properties via those channels and using their rapidly increasing fan and follower bases to build stronger brand experiences, according to a report by Media Logic.
Among 100 national US retailers studied, Facebook is the most popular social networking platform, measured by numbers of fans (or followers). Only one retailer studied, BCBGMAXAZRIA, has more Twitter followers than Facebook fans, as of mid-Sept. 2010.
Below, other findings from Media Logic's 2010 Online Retail Report, which tracked the growth of social media marketing among 100 US retailers from mid-July to mid-Sept. 2010.
Facebook fan bases have risen dramatically. In 2009, only Victoria's Secret and its PINK division could boast a Facebook fan base of more than 1 million "fans." By mid-Sept. 2010, 14 additional brands had surpassed the 1 million mark, with Victoria's Secret on top (6,825,254 fans, up 87% from two months earlier), followed by Victoria's Secret PINK (4,944,048), H&M (3,643,420), Kohl's (2,752,182), and Forever 21 (2,194,373, up 45%).
Among retailers with 1 million or more fans, fan-base growth was 40% on average from mid-July to mid-Sept.; among the top-10 specialty apparel retailers, growth was near 50%. Four brands, Michael's Crafts, Dress Barn, Kenneth Cole, and New York & Company, recorded fan-base growth of 100% or more.
Meanwhile, specialty apparel and department/discount brands dominate Facebook in absolute numbers: All brands in the top 10 for Facebook fans fall into one of those two categories.
To acquire Facebook fans, many retailers offer insider access, self-promotion opportunities, and dollars (discounts and/or prizes), and they mix and prioritize such offerings based on what they sell, according to Media Logic. Seven of the top 10 surveyed retail brands (and 14 of the top 25) land visitors by default on a promotions tab on their Facebook pages, at least during the active period of a promotion.
Hot fashion specialty apparel retailers such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister & Co, Gilly Hicks, Victoria's Secret, PINK, American Apparel, Aeropostale, and Forever 21 go even farther, promising insider access and the possibility of fame (and sex!) in their promotions. Based on the rankings of such retailers, both sell.
The Managed Wall
Though a few of the largest social retailers still default to an open Facebook wall—where brand, customers, and critics all post as equals—most now default to Facebook's "Just [Brand Name]" wall option.
Some 18 of the top 25 brands in this survey have implemented this option. One brand, American Eagle Outfitters, presents a brand-only wall, where fans can comment but cannot post status updates as peers. Such two-way interaction doesn't seem to suppress engagement significantly. American Eagle Outfitters' Facebook fan base grew 41% during the two-month study period, to nearly 1.7 million fans.
Target and Whole Foods now manage their walls, to no apparent ill effect. Best Buy's is still open (as of Oct. 14, 2010), and continues to draw negative comments.
Looking for real-world examples of businesses achieving their social media marketing goals? Our 47-page case-study collection, Facebook Success Stories, shows you how to increase brand awareness, target specific markets, promote new products, and create communities that engage users. Also check out The State of Social Media Marketing, a 240-page original research report from MarketingProfs.
Though Facebook dominates in absolute numbers—and generally demonstrated stronger growth during the survey period—Twitter follower-bases are growing among retailers, particularly in the department/discount category, including such brands as CVS, Staples, and BJ's Wholesale Club.
As of the end of Sept. 2010, BCBGMAXAZRIA had the most Twitter followers (122,817), followed by Sephora (88,754, up 26% from a month earlier), H&M (54,276), Staples (53,539, up 54%), and Toys "R" Us (43,653, up 88%).
Staples' Twitter effort (up 88% during the measured period with 61,870 followers as of Oct.14, 2010) is noteworthy, as the brand gains traction from its investments in professional and proactive customer service, reputation management, and promotion, via Twitter.
An interactive list of 100 US retailers studied is available here.
About the data: Media Logic surveyed social strategies deployed by 100 national retailers in the US in the specialty apparel, specialty hardlines, department/discount, and recreation (sports/hobby/crafts) sectors from mid-July 2010 to mid-Sept. 2010.