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Because consumers can see another shopper's pins on Pinterest and can repin them on their own boards, Pinterest contests produce a viral effect, says Tim McMullen, head coach at RedPepper, the marketing agency Kirkland's worked with on the contest. As of mid-May, the contest did just that, he says, as more than 232,000 Kirkland's images had been repinned, which helped the retailer attract more than 3,900 new followers. Moreover, more than 11,500 consumers clicked from shoppers' Pinterest boards to Kirklands.com, which is exactly what the retailer is ultimately after, says Mark Krebs, Kirkland's chief marketing officer.
Both Pinterest and Instagram are visual platforms. However, while Pinterest lets shoppers curate images and content they like from across the web, Instagram is more personal because consumers use it to share their own photos, Fudge says. The platform allows a user to take a digital photo, add a filter that, for instance, adds a sepia tone to the photo, then share the image with friends—on Instagram or via other social networks, including Facebook and Twitter.
Retailers should take advantage of Instagram's intimate nature, Fudge says. "Instagram wasn't built for people to sell you things, it was built to share beautiful images," he says. "So that's what you do."
That's why Bonobos this spring co-hosted a "#BonobosNation Photo Contest" with canvas photo e-retailer CanvasPop in which shoppers took photos of themselves wearing Bonobos apparel and shared them on Instagram with the hashtag #BonobosNation, for the chance to win a pair of chinos and a free canvas print from CanvasPop. Any word that starts with a pound sign (#) is a hashtag, which becomes a clickable link to all other mentions of that word. The contest helped increase Bonobos' followers on Instagram nearly 67%, from 900 to more than 1,500.
The retailer also uses the platform to highlight its aesthetic by showing the people behind its designs who, not surprisingly, are usually adorned in Bonobos apparel. One recent image shows two staff members in Bonobos' light purple khaki pants brainstorming on a dry-erase board with the caption "Neil: So how are we going to start this purple pants club ... Officially." Another seeks to capture the brand's personality by showing a slew of empty cubicles in Bonobos' offices with the caption, "Morning after #bonoboskaraoke. #desolate." "Instagram allows us to show our customers who we are," Fudge says.
Follow your muse
Marketing on these up-and-coming social networks only works if retailers understand the cadence and culture of each platform, says Forrester's Parrish. That's why, the roughly eight Threadless staff members pinning content on Pinterest, reblogging others' posts on Tumblr, sharing content on StumbleUpon and posting pictures on Instagram are staff members who use these social networks themselves.
Because the Threadless employees have other roles at the company, they devote time here and there on the social networks, which adds up to a few hours a day. "The time we spend on these platforms is driven by the people at the company who are passionate about them," says Cam Balzer, the retailer's chief marketing officer. "That way we can unleash our passions in the ways that work best for the channels."
For instance, one of the staff members assigned to the Tumblr channel has a good-sized following of his own on Tumblr. Letting him guide Threadless' presence there puts an expert in charge. On Tumblr the retailer primarily shares designs—some of which the e-retailer has already made into T-shirts, others that haven't yet been produced—and content that's amusing.
The retailer takes the same approach to StumbleUpon, the personalized search engine formerly owned by eBay Inc. The retailer has more than 7,500 followers on the platform, which works particularly well for distributing information about its brand, such as when it's running a sale or promotion, Balzer says. "Everything we do is about word-of-mouth advertising, which is what social networks offer," he says. "The more social networks we're on, the more opportunity we have to offer our point of view and hopefully stoke that word-of-mouth buzz."
The more time consumers spend on emerging social networks the more opportunities retailers have to interact with them. Consumers who visited Pinterest spent an average of 80 minutes on the site in December, according to web measurement firm comScore Inc. Retailers are taking note of that activity. For example, HSN recently launched a "Pin to Win: Build Your Dream Room" contest on the social network that urges shoppers from HSN.com, and from the broader web, to create boards on the social network. "We realize that this is where our customers are," Braff says.
And it's not just her customers participating on these less well known social networks. With more online consumers attracted to newer social networks, social media marketers have little choice but to widen their focus beyond Facebook and Twitter.