Social Media Habits of Established vs. Emerging Brands in Ecommerce

Social media is firmly entrenched in the sales and marketing landscape as an essential component of nearly every campaign and strategy. As social moves from ‘nice-to-have’ to a requirement, entrepreneurial retailers and brands are exploring ways to keep pace, drive engagement, and boost revenue as new platforms and networks crop up on an almost daily basis.

Established Brand Social Strategies

On the image messaging app Snapchat, brands like Lancome and Target have begun to experiment with shoppable advertisements, allowing users to purchase products featured without ever having to leave the social platform, putting ecommerce right where customers live and socialize. Luxury designer Michael Kors found another way to leverage Snapchat, creating a custom filter that superimposed a pair of Michael Kors sunglasses on the user’s face on National Sunglasses Day in June. The campaign not only allowed potential customers to virtually try on glasses without ever stepping into a store, it also allowed Michael Kors to reach a new set of buyers who may have never considered or shopped with the brand before.

Photo Lancome/Facebook

For popular clothing retailer J. Crew, testing out Instagram’s latest feature proved to be a success when the sunglasses they promoted through a series of photos on Instagram Stories sold out within a day. J. Crew was experimenting with the newly released feature to promote their September collection before it officially launched.

Some retailers are even beginning to design their physical storefronts with social media in mind. Bergdorf Goodman recently overhauled the ground floor of their flagship New York City location with Instagram-worthy windows overlooking Central Park, restored chandeliers and marble floors. By presenting in-store shoppers with photography opportunities, the luxury department store will connect with an extended social network that they wouldn't otherwise reach.

Emerging Brand Social Strategies

As well-recognized brands like Lancome and Michael Kors pioneer new social platforms and concepts to engage with advocates and fans, mid-market and emerging brands are following their lead by exploring and moving beyond the basics of social marketing. These companies recognize that their brand exposure and social followings are growing and their strategies include ways to remain top-of-mind for new and repeat purchasers.

For instance, producer and distributor of all-natural beef and pork Snake River Farms maintains an active presence on social channels like Facebook and Instagram to connect with customers. The brand uses Facebook to share videos and seasonal tips, and Instagram for special deals and photos of their meats prepared in appetizing dishes. It’s interesting to note that while SRF’s parent company Agri Beef maintains a strong B2B and wholesale business providing cuts to fine-dining restaurants, their social engagement is nearly all D2C, and comes primarily from email marketing and social media. This provides an avenue for their consumers to engage beyond in-restaurant experiences, and become at home consumers and gifters.

Another example of an emerging brand leveraging social is real-food protein bar company RXBAR. Founded in 2013, the brand has leveraged social media as the key driver to the health conscious consumer. RXBAR not only develops original content with an in-house social team, but also works with social media influencers and brand enthusiasts to provide fresh information and act as ambassadors.

Beyond promoting contests and offering traditional incentives like freebies and and ‘refer a friend’ discounts, RXBAR also reposts photos from bloggers, influencers and brand enthusiasts to add variety to their Instagram channel, and leverages brand ambassadors to promote contests and giveaways to their networks.

“If any of you follow me on Snapchat or Instagram, then you must know by now that RxBars are one of my absolute favorite brands and snacks.”

“I thought I'd never find a natural protein bar with just a few simple ingredients and no added sugar. Imagine, my perfect bar was under my nose all along, right here in my home in Chicagoland, where they are distributed.”

“The first thing that caught my attention about the RXBAR was the packaging. I love that it flat out lists the ingredients right there. They clearly aren't hiding anything in these bars, and that is amazing given all of the processed, well, everything out there right now.”

[Excerpts from fitness and nutrition blogs, providing unsolicited brand affirmation to readers]

Brands and retailers at every stage on the maturity spectrum are using social media to target and interact with customers. Although platform choice, investment level and risk/reward balance may vary widely, all share the common goal of reaching and resonating with current and would-be buyers in a manner that feels natural, noninvasive and relevant.