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How Under Armour and Warby Parker win with social media

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With consumers all over the world spending anywhere from four to ten hours a day on social networks, there are plenty of opportunities for retailers to reach a captive audience. And that audience is ready to engage. Last year's Social Commerce Study showed that nearly one-third of consumers followed a retailer to share information with other customers or friends. This is a uniquely social phenomenon that we only expect to grow in the coming months - on Facebook, Twitter and niche social sites including Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and more.

Retail companies around the world have utilized social media as a major piece of their marketing communications strategies, including word-of-mouth marketing, brand management and engagement, and advertising. Retailers such as One Kings Lane, Ticketmaster, American Eagle, and ModCloth have shared with us right here on the blog how they use social media to integrate their customer service and marketing communication platforms in their own unique ways. And at Retail’s BIG Show in New York City earlier this year, retail executives from Warby Parker and Under Armour spoke to hundreds of their retail colleagues about some of their most successful campaigns utilizing social media for 2011.

Warby Parker: This trendy, NYC-based eye-wear company focused on a key challenge for their company (and the eye-wear industry as a whole) to make shopping for their products a social experience. Co-founder Dave Gilboa shared with attendees that over 99% of customers have never bought glasses online. But that does not mean you will find their Facebook page filled with discounts and promotions. Instead, you will see customers posting pictures of themselves posing in different types of eyeglasses. In 2011, they had an average of 33 photos per day posted on their Facebook wall from customers; 56 mentions on Twitter every hour; and saw nearly 700 tagged photos with the hashtag #warbyparker posted in four months on Instagram.

Their win? Warby Parker succeeded at creating high-touch customer service and engagement on extremely noisy platforms in a fiercely competitive market. They created a new kind of retail vertical for their industry that is typically driven by the in-store experience, enabling consumers to turn eye-wear shopping into a social sharing occasion from the comfort of their computers and digital devices. And it's worth noting that they are revolutionizing the eye-wear industry beyond the social space - Warby Parker also gives away a pair of glasses to a person in need for every pair they sell.

Under Armour: Under Armour was represented on stage by their Director of Digital Media, Dan Mecchi. Dan explained that the company used their core marketing principles to guide a new campaign strategy to get people involved.

Under Armour embraced the power of their brand among a core target audience of 13 to 24 year-olds and enlisted companies to participate (and talk about) the UA brand. They utilized social media to drive an "Ultimate Intern Program" where two finalists - out of more than 10,000 inquiries and over 5,000 applicants on Facebook and Twitter combined - were selected to join their marketing team to help communicate brand messages and values with an emphasis on digital engagement. While the campaign was created to find to college interns, it also generated positive buzz about the brand. The Ultimate Intern Program brought more than 120,000 new Facebook fans and over 4,000 new Twitter followers, eclipsing the one million follower-mark for Under Armour on Twitter.

Their win? The numbers speak for themselves. In fact, the campaign was such a great success that Under Armour is now expanding the Ultimate Intern program in 2012. Not only will they continue to build on their fun, powerful brand, but they will get five new and motivated interns that will earn the opportunity to share the Under Armour experience with people all over the world.

You'll notice in both of these examples we didn't mention the direct impact on sales. Both of these culture-rich, innovative brands focused on engagement - either directly with the products or with the brand itself. Warby Parker and Under Armour built the core strategy of these extremely different campaigns around encouraging, listening and embracing consumer interaction with their products and brand. Both companies were successful because they utilized the social platforms where their consumers are spending a large amount of time. Both brands are receiving thousands of hours of user-generated content and word-of-mouth marketing that you can't buy with traditional advertising. Bravo to the Warby Parker and Under Armour teams for winning with social.