Take Fab for example – An eCommerce site which has a young audience (60% of users are under 35) and a low price point of everyday design items managed to grow their sales by 300% in January 2013 compared to the year before. Their member base also grew from 1.5m to 11m significantly due to social networking sites and apps.
This kind of growth may well be down to the low price point and the target audience being mobile savvy but it would be unfair to overlook the social media efforts made by Fab. Even before Fab’s eCommerce site was created the brand were gaining recognition and followers from cleverly placed ads on Facebook which targeting people with similar online interests to that of Fab. This meant Fab were engaging with people who already had an interest in design- which led to them sharing the brand with their friends and families. “By the time Fab.com was up and running, it had signed up about 175,000 members. Of those, 30,000 came from ads” (NY times). Fab successfully managed to build a loyal customer base through a little advertising and a great deal of word of mouth. These personal recommendations are 1000 times more valuable than any marketing campaign.
Fab twitter account – Addressing that 80% of Twitter users on mobile devices – rewarding mobile users with a discount!
Fab Facebook account – Offering a free gift to users if they spend over a certain amount.
If Fab had gone after a wider audience rather than concentrating on their target market their brand would have become diluted and their tone of voice may have been compromised. Fab is a good example of a brand that understood their demographic and saw results because of this.
Another way to engage potential customers is if your brand has a unique selling point – this allows you to stand out from the rest of the crowd. TOMS unique selling point is its charitable connections – for every pair of shoes TOMS sells they also give a pair away to a ‘needy’ child, this contribution has reached across 59 countries. The company have strong brand values and passion in what they are doing which rubs off on their 2 million followers on social media. TOMS is more of a lifestyle than just a pair of shoes – this thinking has contributed to their revenue for 2013 being $250 million.
The power of social media and having loyal followers is sometimes underestimated but someone who understands it well is luxury accessory designer Sophia Webster. In spring 2013 Sophia Webster released a shoe called the ‘RiRi’ which was inspired by and named after Rihanna. Rihanna received a pair and on the 17th June 2013 wore them out in public – getting snapped by paparazzi. What’s more she Instagrammed her outfit and captioned it with “I spy something beginning with R- the “RiRi’s” by Sophia Webster!! Thank you lady, humbled, and loving these!!!
What this inevitably did is inform her 3m Instagram followers about the shoe designer Sophia Webster. As a result from the publicity and Rihanna’s recognition of the brand saw a huge rise in visitors on the online shop of which 82% were new visitors. The search terms people were using that day to find the website were much more specific to the brand such as ‘Sophia Webster shoes’ rather than something a little more generic like ‘Rihanna designer shoes’ this implies the publicity got the brand out there and seen by the correct demographic. Sophia Webster’s online shop had an increased conversion rate of 293% that day (compared to June 17th 2014) which is most definitely linked to the social media buzz made by her Riri shoes!
The key to turning followers into customers is to keep the story going on all mediums– if you are publicising a promotion on social media make sure you direct the user to the right page or landing page based around the promotion as that initial interest in the promotion is the only reason they are clicking the link! If you just send them to the homepage it becomes less personal and they may feel abandoned. A follower hasn’t committed to anything yet – just because you’ve managed to lead them to your site through a Facebook post doesn’t mean they will become a customer. The brand journey needs to carry on throughout the site with call to actions, if it’s a promotion that got them to your site you need to make sure it’s simple to join in– when a brand makes contributing feel like work (e.g. a 4 page sign up form!) rather than fun the user will lose interest and resent the brand for wasting their time! On the other hand if the campaign engaging and reasonably simple and the reward for participating is realistic then the results will speak for themselves.
An example of this is Net-A-Porter. With their first print magazine due to go on sale Net-A-Porter released a social media contest to their followers- the idea was to download their #IAMPORTER app which is where followers can create their own magazine covers using a selfie of themselves. They then had to share the cover through the app with their own followers using the contest’s hash tag. The winner would get a luxury £5,000 Net-A-Porter shopping spree.
Net-A-porter Facebook post
The hash tag was a reliable way to measure results but also to give the campaign a sense of community. The contest had almost 7,000 submissions (see them here) which indicated that there was indeed an impending market for their print magazine! There are no official sales figures for the magazine but it is £5 an issue and known to be stocked in 6,000 shops in Britain, 10,000 in the US and can be purchased from their website which sees 6 million international visitors every month!
So in answer to the question ‘Can followers equal customers?’ They can – if a brand manages to zone in on the right demographic and create a loyal following of people who have similar interests and engage them with relevant content with clear links to product then we are halfway there! If the website the social media follower is landing on is just as engaging and equally easy to transact on then new sales are generated an loyal, returning customers are created!