July 15, 2013, 11:47 AM

In social media, size doesn’t necessarily matter

Some Second 500 retailers use social media more effectively than larger e-retail rivals.

Lead Photo

UGallery, a web-only retailer of original art, calls itself a startup. Founded in 2006, it’s still a relatively small company, as it brought in around $5.5 million in online sales last year, according to Internet Retailer estimates.

But size does not necessarily matter when it comes to Pinterest, as UGallery has more than 1.8 million followers on the social network, which drives nearly 20% of its total site traffic. That dwarfs its largest competitor, Art.com Inc., which has around 51,000 followers on Pinterest, despite the fact that it brought in around $180 million in online sales last year—36 times more than UGallery.

UGallery isn’t the only merchant in the new Internet Retailer Second 500 Guide that is successful with social media. Many others are spending money and time on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube to build brand loyalty and connect with shoppers. And many are often doing a better job that their larger competitors in the Top 500 Guide.

Take Vat19.com, for example, which uses YouTube to display its sense of humor and silly approach to product selection. It works, as the web-only merchant of giant gummy bears and other quirky gift items has more than 385,000 subscribers and 254 million video views on YouTube. Amazon, which also sells giant gummy bears, has around 4,000 subscribers and 1 million video views on YouTube.

On Twitter, it’s mostly the high-end Second 500 apparel and accessories brands that rule. Half of the top ten Second 500 merchants ranked by number of Twitter followers are consumer brand manufacturers, and half are also apparel retailers. Those include Calvin Klein Inc., ranked No. 680 in the Second 500 Guide, DVF.com—the e-commerce site for women’s fashion brand Diane von Furstenberg—(No. 878), and Lilly Pulitzer (No. 709).

When it comes to Facebook, however the Second 500 merchants that do well tend to be multichannel retailers. Half of the retailers with the largest following on Facebook are retail chains, including Spencer Gifts LLC (No. 724), Build-A-Bear Workshop Inc. (No. 575) and Dollar General Corp. (No. 796).

Online-only retailers dominate Google +, as seven of the top 10 among second 500 retailers   sell exclusively online. That list includes Vat19.com, makeup retailer Birchbox Inc. (No. 720), and home and beauty products merchant Joyus (No. 799).

As a whole, the niche merchants in the Second 500 Guide made strides this year in attracting followers on social networks, as well as keeping up with newer social networks that are gaining favor. For example, 489 merchants are now on Facebook, a 23% increase from 398 a year ago; 463 are on Twitter, up 31% from 353; and 372 are on YouTube, up 389% from 76.

Newer social networks are also becoming a popular outlet for Second 500 retailers aiming to connect with shoppers in new ways—321 Second 500 merchants now on Google+ have racked up more than 1.1 million +1s (the equivalent of Facebook’s Like on the Google+ social network, which launched in 2011), and the 232 e-retailers on Pinterest have 6.4 million followers.

The 2013 Second 500 Guide is available in three formats: print, digital and as part of the all-new and completely updated Top500Guide.com. Information on how to order the brand-new 2013 Second 500 Guide is available here.

To read previous Second 500 Insider stories click here.

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