March 12, 2013, 1:32 PM

How Men’s Wearhouse attracted 300,000 social media followers in 18 months

Viralheat’s analytics help the apparel retailer understand what works.

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The Men’s Wearhouse Inc. was late to grasp the potential of social media, says Joe Nolan, the retailer’s director of social media. It didn’t even launch on Facebook until a little over two years ago.

Despite being a multichannel retailer with 1,239 bricks-and-mortar stores across its various brands and Internet Retailer-estimated 2011 online sales of $42.59 million, the Men’s Wearhouse had only about 4,000 social media followers 18 months ago on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+. Given the company’s target customer—shoppers who are between 21 to 40 and likely active on social media—that posed a problem, he says.

Recognizing that it needed to do a better job reaching consumers on social media, Men’s Wearhouse, No. 289 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, turned to social media marketing firm Viralheat Inc.’s software. The technology enables the Men’s Wearhouse to understand what its fans engage with on various platforms, what the retailer’s competitors are posting on social media and what consumers are saying on social networks and blogs.

Viralheat is a crucial element as Men’s Wearhouse develops its social media efforts and promotional campaigns, Nolan says. “The success of every campaign starts and ends with technology,” he says. He says the software tracks the retailer’s posts and promotions, and how consumers across the web respond. For example, it might track how many mentions its $19.99 tie sale on Twitter received and how that percentage changed week over week. That data then will likely help shape its next Twitter discount offer.

Broadly speaking, the retailer has found that Facebook users respond to—as measured by sharing and interactions—branding and public relations-related posts more than consumers on other social networks. For instance, a recent post highlighting the chain’s new mobile app—“The modern man is mobile. Now you can shop our designer brands anywhere in the world from the palm of your hand. Men's Wearhouse is now mobile. http://mensw.com/h” —garnered 262 Likes. On Twitter shoppers can engage with daily deals and contests.

Viralheat also enables Men’s Wearhouse to see how many consumers view posts related to its brand. For instance, when a consumer uses the retailer’s Twitter handle @menswearhouse in a tweet, his Twitter followers see the post, and the software tracks those impressions. The vendor also lets the retailer track what consumers and competitors are posting on social media and blogs across the web. For example, the retailer can run an analysis of posts on tuxedos in the past six months. And it can dive into that report to see what percentage of those tuxedo-related posts mention Men’s Wearhouse or specific competitors.

Seeing what consumers and its competitors are talking about has helped Men’s Wearhouse fine-tune the content and timing of its posts. In turn, that’s helped boost its number of followers across its platforms to more than 300,000.

Men's Wearhouse is No. 247 in the Social Media 300. 2.11% of traffic to MensWearhouse.com comes from social networks, according to Compete Inc.

Both Viralheat and Men’s Wearhouse declined to share how much the retailer pays for its technology. However, the vendor says custom social media marketing packages start at $499 a month.

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