What does it take to win on social media? In a report we just released, brands that come out on top are getting higher engagement for each piece of content published and shared: a measure of performance reflected in their market position.
The web is now more visual, and brands that don't have a handle on what's happening with their product imagery and visual content are doomed. Companies like Macy's tell us that they believe their images drive interest, engagement, and purchase, but to date, they haven't really been able to take advantage of the analytics or benefits.
At the same time, retail is undergoing a major sea change, thanks to ecommerce and fast-fashion companies like Forever 21, Zara and Topshop creating collections on a monthly basis that must gain awareness and sales quickly. For our report, it made sense to look closely at the content strategies of this disruptive sector as their approach to social media, branding, and visual content can have a disproportionate effect on financial health.
What we found was concrete proof to validate our hypothesis: companies taking their broader social engagement strategies more seriously are doing a lot better than those that are not. The upheaval in retail and the disruption of Amazon and ecommerce, has made buying and returning products easier. As the path to purchase gets compressed and channels get commoditized, brand value will play a large role in future success.
Our study shows that brands like American Apparel, Gap, Old Navy and Uniqlo don't have a discernible or definable social media strategy. This is in conjunction with the bets they’ve placed on pursuing flagship physical retail strategies, presenting challenges in an online commerce universe. Meanwhile, H&M, Topshop and Forever 21 are doing really well embracing newer media channels -- including Pinterest and Instagram -- and the young shoppers who use them as they navigate on- and offline purchasing.
This new research helps marketers understand how to get return on their investments in earned media and social content. We’re answering questions like, how much engagement can you reasonably expect to get per image, do things like follower count really matter for engagement, and does the number of images you put out have any impact on engagement? We found that success is about aligning your brand with the right types of influencers, having the right visual content strategy, and probably most importantly, understanding the social media aesthetic that the best images embrace.
What type of content that really performs well? ‘Lifestyle’-type images showing people in natural settings, doing something active. Those that don’t do well are the type you used to see in print magazines, ‘catalog’-type shots that are flat and boring.
Our data show when brands nail their seeding and distribution strategy they really succeed. They have the right kind of influencers -- who are often not celebrities but those with a natural affinity for the brand, the true fans. These drive higher levels of engagement on a per-image basis. Some use celebrity influencers in the hope that follower count equals influence but the facts don’t support that. With all of the concerns raised about influencer marketing recently, we’re often asked about solutions to help identify who drives engagement and how to value it.
It’s critical that retail marketers get on top of their visual content game. Get started by dedicating the time, resources, and budget to understanding what your brand represents, and who is going to influence your new customers and fans.