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Urban Outfitters exec: Instagram inspires, shows brand personality

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March 5, 2013

PALM DESERT, CA – An Urban Outfitters executive at eTail West last week said that mobile-only platforms such as Instagram and Vine play a big role in the company’s social media strategies by letting the brand highlight its personality and inspire consumers.

During the “Best Practices And Latest Trends Around Incorporation of Social Media Into the Web Experience” session, executives from Under Armour, JetBlue, Urban Outfitters and Reevo spoke about the role that social is playing in their organizations. The session was moderated by David Wachs, senior vice president of mobile at ePrize, Chicago.

“Instagram for us is huge — the engagement on Instagram is through the roof,” said Steve Hartman, managing director of direct and marketing at Urban Outfitters, Philadelphia.

“Just looking earlier today, we posted a picture of shoes in the office, and it got 40,000 likes on Instagram immediately,” he said. “So that one is really about us inspiring the customer and also showing that it goes back to the personality of the brand.”

Social emphasis
Urban Outfitters also uses photo sharing to connect with consumers in-store.

For example, the brand runs in-store photo contests to interact with shoppers.

Urban Outfitters also has a program called #UOonyou, where consumers post pictures either on Instagram or Twitter with the campaign’s hashtag. All of the photos are then integrated into the retailer’s Web site, which helps to marry the in-store and digital experiences and lets consumers play an active role in the brand, per Mr. Hartman.

In addition to Instagram, Urban Outfitters has also incorporated the mobile video application Vine into its social media strategy. Similar to Instagram, the company’s use of Vine is to show off the brand’s personality and gives fans a peek at the company’s culture.

Besides Instagram and Vine, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest also play key roles for the company.

For Urban Outfitters, Twitter is about support. The company leverages its Twitter account to respond to complaints and questions about orders.

To compare, Facebook is more of a scientific marketing channel. Urban Outfitters is participating in Facebook’s retargeting platform — Facebook Exchange — and also sees traffic coming back to the company’s site via Facebook.

Moreover, Urban Outfitters uses Pinterest to create collections and show off product.

Although conversions are low on social media, context is crucial in understanding that consumers may not be looking to shop while browsing through Facebook and Twitter.

Therefore, looking at what a user is doing — including if they are coming back — can be used by brands to understand social ROI.

“I think over the last year, we’ve learned a ton as far as what works, what doesn’t, what voice we really want to have and our position with social media,” Mr. Hartman said.


The panelists at eTail West

Social travels
According to Maryssa Miller, head of digital commerce at JetBlue, Forest Hills, NY, Twitter lets the airline create a one-on-one dialogue with travelers.

JetBlue also has a Twitter handle that is used to push out deals – @JetBlueCheeps. The handle is used to send out aggressive deals that are not offered elsewhere, and leads to high lifts in sales that are then used to measure social’s impact on ROI.

Facebook, on the other hand, is a better platform for photo sharing.

Additionally, other platforms integrate into JetBlue’s strategy.

Take Trip Advisor, for example. JetBlue leverages data from TripAdvisor into its getaway site and plans to do more to integrate content directly to create one place where consumers can see all of the social content from the airline brand.

Increasingly, marketers are using social media in real-time to spur consumer engagement.

“I do think that we are still experimenting, and things will always change,” Ms. Miller said.

“There’s always something new happening every day that keeps you on your toes in the social space, but it’s about being nimble and being able to react to it,” she said.

Consumer at the core
Richard Anson, founder of Reevoo, London, said that a smart social strategy has to put consumers at the core.

For example, Reevoo powers the social side of Kia Motor’s business. The brand ran an integrated marketing campaign in January with TV, YouTube and print components with a message that encouraged consumers to listen to what Kia’s customers had to say about the brand, whether it was positive or negative.

The goal behind the campaign was to drive leads. As a result of the campaign, Mr. Anson said that Kia had a record amount of Web site visits, and a record number of consumers who requested brochures and test drives.

When it comes to social ROI, every engagement and interaction needs to be measured to find the uplift on sales.

“There are some real ROIs there, you just have to work to measure it, and I think if you’re working with third parties, you should hold their feet to the fire really hard,” Mr. Anson said.

“If they can’t demonstrate ROI, then you shouldn’t be working with them,” he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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