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Posted on Fri 1st Jul, 2016 in: Advice, Marketing, Public Relations, Retail by Louise ODonoghue

It's no secret that a retailer's objectives when broadcasting on social media aren't the same as the consumer's objectives for following. So how do retailers justify the time spend creating content, tailoring social media posts and finding the perfect image to use? Here at Aberfield, we conducted research with UK retail consumers to see what people want to see from retailers' social media channels, and how brands can use that to meet their own objectives.
  1. Content over product
We asked people why they follow certain retailers on social media, and what would encourage them to follow a new account. They admitted that exclusive deals and chances to win competitions were more likely to get them to follow the brand initially, but style advice, inspiring photography and sharing other relatable content, such as lifestyle and travel articles, were the main reason people continue to follow and engage with retailers. Aspects such as actually viewing specific products and new product launches ranked much lower, and less than 10% of respondents said they would follow a brand on social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram to hear news about the company or its products (sorry - maybe save company news for LinkedIn). This doesn't mean that engaging social content means brands can't showcase their own products though. ASOS do a great job of promoting their products with blog content in the form of lifestyle, beauty and advice articles, which occasionally link to their products. Take a look at their 'Summer Grooming Essentials' post, aimed at their male, fashion-conscious following, which links to a couple of products in the body of the article, and includes a 'shop the story' at the bottom of the page. facebook reactions  
  1. Good photography
Good photography is always important when trying to sell or promote a product online, so this is obviously the case when it comes to social content too. As many of us already know, social media posts with an image attached perform better in terms of engagement than those without. When it came to preference over user-generated images or professional photography, there were conflicting opinions, but all respondents acknowledged the importance of good quality imagery. Those aged over 50, however, show a strong preference for professional photography over user-generated images. So brands catering to this age group should focus on getting fantastic professional images over repurposing customers' pictures of their products. Whereas a mix of both user-generated images and professional photography are probably best placed to target younger age groups. Both methods have their own benefits, with brands having more control over professional images and a more authentic feel coming from user-generated images, so in reality it's up to brands to make a judgement call and see what works for them.
  1. Instagram accounts
While the most popular social media platform used day-to-day by our respondents was Facebook, the most used social media site in the UK, Instagram came out on top for when it comes to following retail brands. Instagram is a great platform for sharing visual content, which makes sense considering customers have suggested that they want to see style inspiration and good quality photography. The recent changes to Instagram's algorithm mean big changes for how users see a brand's content. As of earlier this year, Instagram displays content to users based on accounts they engage with. This might be accounts they like and share posts from, or comment on frequently. These changes mean that brands with strong content shouldn't suffer, as those with an engaged audience will still appear in their followers' feeds. The best way for a brand to ensure they appear in a user's feed is to make sure the followers are gained organically (never pay for followers!) and that your content is good enough for people to react to, so not just a blatant advert or push on sales, or ultimately your audience won't actually see what you're posting. With this in mind, how do brands launching new social media accounts utilise the platform and its ever growing active users? Sharing your social media platforms with your customers is one good way to start, encouraging both following and engagement, which can be done with the previously mentioned acquisition tools, such as social media competitions - asking people to follow and share your content to get initial interest, then work on creating amazing, shareable content. More consumers follow retailers on Instagram than any other platform
  1. Different content on each channel
If brands are utilising more than one platform, then they need to tailor the message for each platform. Our respondents acknowledged just how important it is that they're not bombarded with the same image and content over and over again, proving brands should avoid posting the exact same post on each platform. If a customer is interested and loyal enough to follow the same brand on multiple channels, why should they be met with the same content each time they browse their feed?
  1. Promoted content, as long as it's targeted
70% of UK consumers actually don't mind promoted content as long as it's from a brand that they're genuinely interested in. This means you need to define your market segment before you even think about going out with promoted content - as always, it's about knowing your audience. As an example, on Instagram, brands can target customers who have visited their site within the last few days or weeks, as well as other demographics such as age and location. This is a great way to ensure brands target people that are genuinely interested in their products.

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