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How Rue La La, Urban Outfitters use social content to become lifestyle brands

Ecommerce boutique retailer Rue La La and clothing corporation Urban Outfitters are two brands that can transform an ordinary animal photo into a social trend to help achieve engagement with their most dedicated followers.

Rue La La’s holiday campaign in particular, using hashtag #RueRedBox, uses pet photos and social giveaways when users repost the images. Social users are led to participate in these social contests because they are easy and contain content they are already interested in.

“Mobile will play a big role in this kind of marketing campaign due to how social behavior is changing with device usage,” said Jay Hawkinson, senior vice president of emerging products at SIM Partners, Chicago. “People today are mostly checking their social networks on mobile devices, and so it’s important to make sure all images are mobile friendly.

“Also images work very well on mobile as users have such a limited attention span,” he said. “Leveraging this channel will be key to getting the most out of these creative photos.”

Mr. Hawkinson is not affiliated with Rue La La but agreed to comment as an industry expert.

Rue La La did not respond by press deadline.

Engaging in conversation
During the holiday season, Rue La La ships its merchandise to consumers in red boxes. To promote its efforts, the retailer is posting photos of the boxes on Instagram that include different items of merchandise with a unique pet.

Rue La La is asking users to repost these images for a chance to win the items pictured. To further spread the word, the retailer is using hashtag #RedRueBox.

Rue La La has posted five different images, and, so far, more than 300 posts have been shared of the various images. Rue La La has offered items such as Beats headphones, throw pillows and Ray-Ban sunglasses.

Urban Outfitters follows a similar strategy by occasionally posting photos on its Instagram account of dogs and cats. On National Cat Day on Oct. 29, Instagram was filled of cat photos, and Urban Outfitters joined the conversation by posting a photo and using the corresponding hashtag #NationalCatDay.

A similar trend called #CatPhotoFriday has Instagram and social users in general posting photos of their cats on Fridays. The Ellen Degeneres Show always participates by posting some comical or cute image of a cat each Friday and uses the hashtag #CatPhotoFriday.

More than 66,000 shares on Instagram have taken place on Instagram using the hashtag #CatPhotoFriday.

“These are good tactics to increase engagement since cute animal photos can generate up to four or five times the interaction with social posts,” Mr. Hawkinson said.

Social is enabling the use of a simple pet photo to create conversation and ongoing trends. Brands are able to engage in personal conversations with their followers and can tap into their interests by fitting into the conversation.

It is of brands’ best interests to figure out the interests of their audiences and provide content on social media that is engaging. Rue La La and Urban Outfitters’ audiences are very dedicated to their pets.

Why it works
These brands prioritize their marketing strategies with mobile-first outlooks. For example, Rue La La is prepping for a bigger-than-ever mobile surge this holiday season.

Rue La La is expecting big things from its mobile application during the 2014 holiday season after seeing more than 50 percent of its sales through a mobile device during the 2013 holiday season.

Following last year, the app has received several upgrades in attempt to respond to customer feedback that Rue La La has collected. As Rue members become more comfortable spending via their mobile devices, the brand is prepped and ready for a hopeful and profitable season (see story).

Urban Outfitters continues to master social by mimicking the behaviors of millennials.

The brand has experienced social success by catering content to millennials who are overwhelmed by technology, according to a marketing executive at the Social Commerce Summit at eTail East 2014.

By maintaining social presences that mirror the activity of its followers and sustaining a laid-back approach on its app, Urban Outfitters reels in foot traffic to its stores and loads of user-generated content that directly converts to transactions. Through social campaigns, such as #UOOnYou using Instagram and #NormCore that follows lifestyle trends, the brand inadvertently drives sales while still maintaining a close but casual relationship with its customer (see story).

These brands’ efforts offer something more than their items they are trying to sell, which entices consumers to respond and participate.

“The real trick is using these photos in concert with the brand message,” Mr. Hawkinson said. “It’s good for the brand to appeal to their customers with more than just products and deals.

“Implementing a playful promotion can both improve social shares and attract new followers, which can be critical for brands like Rue La La that is a members-only fashion website,” he said. “Using something such as puppies makes the campaign seem less promotional, increasing the likelihood of people appreciating and interacting with the campaign.”

Final Take
Caitlyn Bohannon is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York