By  on October 20, 2011

Billy May, Abercrombie & Fitch Co.’s vice president, e-commerce and cross-channel marketing, and Kate Klemmer Terry, founder of Dash Group, began with a slide that had the phonetic spelling of a simple phrase — social media.

The two stressed the impact of digital and the various mediums that enable social sharing — including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and newest addition Google+ — and especially how to develop a social strategy for your business from a marketing perspective.

“It’s all the buzz. Top of mind what comes to peoples’ heads when they talk about social media is Facebook, but social media is more than just Facebook, and there’s more places where we interact with our customers,” said Terry.

The two shared the following statistics: Facebook currently has 200 million users in the U.S. — a staggering two-thirds of the countries population — and 600 million outside the U.S. Fifty percent of these log on every day, there are 600 million unique visitors per month, and each user has an average of 130 friends. At YouTube — which has almost 500 million unique users worldwide per month — the site gets 92 billion page views per month. Twitter has 175 million registered users — although only 100 million of these are active — and more than half access the medium from a mobile device. Google+, the youngest of the platforms, has garnered 50 million active users since its launch in July.

May said the average Abercrombie & Fitch customer spends the majority of their online time on Facebook.

“It’s where they’re interacting, socializing and discovering,” May said, noting that about a year ago the company’s brands — A+F and Hollister among them — had about 1.5 million fans. This number has now grown to nearly 12 million.

“Managing that type of growth and cultivating that audience is pretty heavy in terms of the demands it places on your organization. You have to figure out how to build and engage that audience. How do you build on this over time?” May asked.

He cited a recent back-to-school initiative where “social [media] had to play a critical role.” The brand ran a sweepstakes that required customers to go to the store to gain access to win something, but there were specific business objectives that guided the execution, according to May. These were: to drive traffic to the Web site, capture customer information and increase conversation around the brand at a peak period.

Facebook is dominant for the brand in terms of social media, and a “nascent” Twitter presence is growing, according to May, who contends that the brand is tied to a return on investment with respect to digital initiatives.

“Social in general is transparent. You put a post online and I can see how many people shared it — and I know how many people they’re connected to so I know how many people saw it in their news feeds. Then I can monitor the conversation, which is a key component,” May said.

For the brand, which has many key metrics to monitor while managing its social outreach, the most important one, according to May (after building an audience as sizable as it has), is engagement.

From monitoring engagement, May found that about a third of Hollister’s fans are engaged on a weekly basis in some capacity — whether this means viewing, commenting or sharing.

“We can gauge interaction, but most importantly, we can monitor and track traffic,” he said. “We have a budget, we manage the budget and we manage the ROI to make sure it’s providing value.”

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