Guest Post by: Monica Esposito

High street fashion brands New Look and River Island both have a young fresh style that appeals to Facebook savvy fashionistas. We explore why New Look is winning the Facebook race, leaving River Island in the dust.

As any young fashionista will tell you, fashion magazines are so last season. The rise of fashion blogs in the past few years has been enormous, with more and more women discussing the latest trends online.

This movement has advantages for both customers and for brands. Customers get to stay up to date with fashion trends at zero cost to them, both by reading updates from the brand and by sharing tips and advice with other fashionistas. Meanwhile, brands experience an increase in traffic to their commercials sites – for example, The Fashion Police and GG Fashion are full of links to fashion brands were readers can purchase products.

The explosion of fashion blogs has subsequently extended to social media, particularly Facebook, were almost every clothing brand has a Facebook presence. With over 500 million users on Facebook, all of whom (we assume) wear clothes, there is huge opportunity for clothing brands to extend their reach. But to take advantage of the “Groundswell”, fashion brands must not only interact with their customers; they must also connect with them on their terms, using words they want to hear. It’s interesting how subtle differences in language and communication can have dramatic effects in building brand loyalty.

New Look versus River Island

We decided to use Skyttle Facebook Analytics to explore how language impacts customer engagement for two major UK high street fashion chains: New Look and River Island.

Both New Look and River Island have a quirky, fresh style which appeals to a young public who is active on social media. But the way they approach that public is slightly different.

New Look, no doubt influenced by the recent appointment of Dare as its social media agency, writes as if they’re trying to be one of your best girl mates, rather than a company trying to sell you clothes:

River Island’s style appears much more dry and sales-driven:

New Look is also more active than River Island – between 17 June 2009 and 27 October 2010, River Island posted 33 times on their page, whilst New Look posted 456 times.

New Look’s winning combination of great tone and ample participation has helped this brand see significantly more audience engagement than River Island. During that same date period, New Look saw 726 replies to its posts while River Island saw only a meagre 30.

Sentiment is also higher for New Look, with several noticeably peaks in the last two months that may be attributed to the appointment of a specialised social media agency to help boost their Facebook presence.

Although River Island has slightly more fans than New Look (680,635 vs. 532,824), their social strategy doesn’t drive nearly the same level of engagement. Does this make a difference to offline sales? That’s hard to say. But it’s interesting to note that New Look recorded a 17.7% rise in underlying annual profit to £163m for the year 2009-2010, while River Island reported a decline in full-year profit.

While there are surely other factors at play here, New Look’s stellar social strategy on Facebook deserves at least some of the credit. The strategy reflect’s New Look’s ability to ride the social wave and evolve a “voice” that speaks to their customers in a language they want to hear. New Look is making their customers their friend, and as any woman can attest to, there are few bonds harder to break than those that exist between best girlfriends.

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