New Study: Back to School, Socially Speaking - MaryLee Sachs

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Cover image for  article: New Study: Back to School, Socially Speaking - MaryLee Sachs

It has certainly felt like back-to-school season this week – at least in New York with the weather change and increased traffic on email. And there's little chance of not having noticed all of the usual retailers courting back-to-school shoppers for the latest backpacks and school gear.

But while traditional advertising crammed the airwaves and peppered weekly magazines, back-to-school retailers also were engaging online socially in an attempt to woo seasonal shoppers. And they would do well to capitalize on the digital space given that the National Retail Federation reported a 27 percentincrease in online shopping above the overall shopper average for back-to-school purchases this year, making it more important than ever for retail brands to engage with their audiences via social given channel convergence and integration.

UK-basedSociagility took a look at US back-to-school retailers' social media performance with its PRINT methodologyand discovered that, perhaps not surprisingly, Walmart and Target led the pack which included Gap, Old Navy, Macy's, Kohl's, JCP and kmart.

While Walmart and Target were the strongest performers overall, which could be driven by their sheer size and scale, many of the other brands punched above their weight when it came to their potential in social media because they were better at engaging their audiences. Gap and Old Navy, which were tied overall for third place, as well as Kohl's and kmart all demonstrated better engagement, albeit with lesser awareness via social channels, thus demonstrating a greater potential than status.

Also interesting to note the channel scores between their web sites and usage of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Facebook and YouTube scores were particularly low for Gap, but the opposite for Old Navy which had lower scores for web and Twitter – perhaps a reflection of their audience segmentation. Facebook and YouTube do skew a bit younger. According to Nielsen NetView Audience Profile, YouTube's highest usageis between the age of 18-34, and earlier this year, Tweetsmarter published an infographicshowing the younger skew of Facebook as well.

PRINT also measures attributes such as popularity, receptiveness, interaction, network reach and trust. In fact, Sociagility uses over 50 different metrics in order to determine how each organization performs on different attributes versus its competitors; it's not just about measuring fans and followers.

In the case of the retailers reviewed in this study, Walmart ranked strongest in interaction, network reach and popularity – and therefore overall awareness. Target had high popularity, but low receptiveness, which could put the brand at the risk of being seen as arrogant. Gap, Kohl's and Old Navy ranked highest on receptiveness.

It will be interesting to see how these retailers did in their back-to-school pushes from a revenue and share perspective, especially given the shift to online shopping.

If you're interested in more details from the study, contact

p>MaryLee Sachs is the CEO/CMO of Changing MO LLC, her consultancy founded on the basis of the book she launched last year: The Changing MO of the CMO, How the Convergence of Brand and Reputation is Affecting Marketers. The book is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and she's currently writing her second book: The Next CMO - The First 90 Days and Beyond. Previously, she was US chair and worldwide director of consumer marketing at WPP firm Hill & Knowlton before its rebranding.


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