Chapter 3

The power of social is driving engagement

For the new wave of retail disruptors, the power of social media in driving consumer engagement and fostering loyalty cannot be underestimated.

“Some of our most important platforms for retention are social media and email, where we can have direct contact with our community,” says Estrid’s Westerbom. Not only are these important channels for driving sales, but they are also core to building the brand and creating loyalty.

“Our primary goal is to build long-term relationships with our customers and our community,” she says.

Westerbom describes Estrid’s social media followers as “collaborators” who are part of the brand’s journey. The brand often features user-generated content in its social-media feed and invites the community to contribute to decision-making in areas such as product development and naming.

“We keep the conversation alive and encourage action through reactions, mentions and conversation”

Amanda Westerbom Estrid

“Estrid opens up the door for people to talk to us – and then keeps the conversation going”

says Westerbom. “By looking at engagement, we keep the conversation alive and encourage action through reactions, mentions and conversation. We are active in our comment section and publish content that our community can easily interact and engage with.”

For now, Estrid is mainly focusing its attention on Instagram and TikTok. “Instagram is the most effective in engaging with our customer base as it’s the branded window to our soul that keeps our community entertained,” says Westerbom.

“Everyone knows that there is at least one real-life human behind an Instagram account, so removing the anonymity and sharing the faces of your brand is a no-brainer. It humanises our brand and helps create a deeper, more emotional connection between us and our community.”

Social media has also been key to the development of the Bower Collective proposition. Soon after the business formed, it decided to create a closed product community group on Facebook for its most engaged customers where it regularly published polls and questions to gauge what it should launch or how to improve its design.

In an August 2020 Founders Factory blog, co-founder Nick Torday explained: “It’s a great place to quickly gather feedback among a bigger group and, in the early days, it gave us the opportunity to sense-check some ideas before launching them.” He added that keeping the group closed was an important way to make these conversations feel exclusive.

Jones describes a similar approach taken by Skin + Me. “Before we launched back in early 2020, we set up the private Facebook group ‘The Skin + Me Collective’ solely for our customers, which now has thousands of members. We wanted to build a safe, private community space where our customers could speak directly to each other, bond and build relationships.”

“They discuss anything and everything skincare, not just their Skin + Me treatment"

"But, best of all, they are each other’s biggest supporters and cheerleaders. They offer advice, encourage each other to stick to their routines and genuinely celebrate each other’s progress. Our community is highly engaged and it’s such a positive and uplifting space with no judgement or negativity. It completely embodies everything we set out to create with Skin + Me.”

For Pasta Evangelists, Instagram has traditionally been the best platform to engage with customers.

“This is because our customers, based on our research, are more likely to be active on Instagram than, say, Facebook or TikTok,” Lagun explains. He believes Instagram is the natural platform for foodies since it is image-centric and has a slightly older demographic.

“To drive engagement, we first and foremost focus on sharing amazing content – content that makes users’ mouths water and entices them to share, comment and so on,” he continues. “Equally, we frequently run competitions with a ‘Tag a friend who...’ call to action: this creates a virtuous circle in engagement terms as one friend tags three more friends, and so on.”

In recent months, Lagun reports great engagement from TikTok, where he says posts have a greater likelihood of going viral. To promote virality, the brand observes trends closely and attempts to post corresponding content.

“We also focus on creating content that inherently promotes engagement, for example by asking users questions such as which team they’re on – e.g. white or red pasta sauces?” he says.

The importance of influencers

Seasalt sees social media as an essential way to drive engagement and build loyalty, with Facebook the most effective platform for reach and Instagram the best for customer engagement.

“Over the past year, we have increased our activity with influencers and opinion-formers whose lifestyle resonates with our customers, with a particular focus on working with more well-known names with large numbers of followers, along with local micro-influencers and opinion-formers in our customers’ hobby spaces,” Thom says.

The retailer says this mix of others interpreting Seasalt’s products in their own style, sharing visuals, sounds and stories has been very well received by its followers. Engagement on Instagram grew 161% year on year between 2020 and 2021, with customers enthusiastic about sharing their own photos and other creations through #WearingSeasalt and #SeasaltArtsClub hashtags.

There are many different ways brands can use social media to drive consumer engagement. Innocent has carved out a reputation as a brand that uses humour – and, in particular, references to popular culture – to create a unique voice on social channels. The brand adopts a friendly, conversational tone with customers, engaging in their jokes and gently poking fun at individuals, along with other brands.

Its satirical commentary on TV shows such as The Great British Bake Off generates lots of engagement from fans of the brand and helps to build a sense of connection and community that is hard for competitors to replicate.