Make the Most of Your Brand Merch on Social Media

By: Tim Wang / 25 March 2019

 

According to We Are Social, 3.4 billion users were active on social media in 2018. Each and every day in 2018, roughly one million people joined social media networks on their mobile devices for the first time.

At the same time, brand merch has established itself alongside social media as one of the major new additions to the modern marketing mix. Now businesses of all sizes utilize both brand merch and social media to attract new fans and convert followers into engaged customers.

The convergence of social media and brand merch, also known as social merchandising, can be seen across various platforms. And although methods may vary according to brand, campaign and platform, the goal is always the same: enhance customer loyalty and engagement.

Whether you are new to social merchandising or preparing to release your next collection of brand merch, it is best to check industry best practices. That said, here are some basic Do’s and Don’ts to ensure your marketing budget sees a good return.

 

Do: Run contests on social media to attract attention

Promote your brand without paying for ads. How? Run a contest! Keep the terms simple, fun and easy, but definitely make sure to include a viral mechanism. Ask participants to comment, share, tag or engage in some other platform-specific activity. Research what type of engagement is most likely to get your post displayed to other users, and then require this action for eligibility in the contest. Do it just right and you’ll go viral.

Example: Instagram contest featuring sports drink company Cellucor

  • By default, the entry rules grow followers, number of likes, and viewership
  • A recurring giveaway allows you to give away smaller prizes on a more frequent basis, keeping engagement high and costs relatively low.
  • 71% of consumers who have had a good social media service experience with a brand are likely to recommend it to others (Source: Ambassador)

 

Do: Highlight lifestyle and pair with unique hashtag

User-generated content and testimonials are a great source of content for social media, especially content that shows the merchandise in action. This type of content gives your audience a more genuine, informed decision through real users and their experiences. Pro Tip: an easy way to help sort and find user-generated posts is to create a unique hashtag that is only identifiable with the company brand or merchandise. We like to use #merchbypdi.

Example: GoPro on Facebook

  • GoPro features a user submitted photo per day
  • This attracts customers to send in their original content for a chance to be featured.
  • High-user engagement for a low maintenance cost that is all user-based imagery.

Do: Maximize social proofs

One of the key principles to social media marketing is social proof.  A very watered down definition is “monkey see, monkey do.”

Businesses can build confidence in their consumer base by incorporating different types of social proof with social media. The most commonly seen social proof is a product endorsement. The social media post can be paid or pro bono, sponsored or organic; The important part is that when consumers see a trustworthy figure or organization promote a product, it builds credibility in the brand, product, or service. 

For more examples of social proof and insight on how to leverage it to enhance your merch marketing, see Social Media and Social Proof: How Understanding Consumer Psychology Can Boost Results.

Example: CNN Business featuring Pizza Hut merchandise:

  • CNN is a globally recognized news outlet with approx. 95 million users per month (statista)
  • CNN publishes an article, likely sponsored by Pizza Hut, to showcase the new merch collection
  • Pizza Hut then shares this article with an @ tag to CNN on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

 

Do: Social media promotions

Customers are more likely to engage with promotions that are platform specific and time-sensitive. Offering a promotion that is unique to an individual social media platform gives your audience a sense of exclusivity, whereas flash-sales with a relatively short eligibility period provide a sense of urgency. Both of these factors increase conversion rates and post engagement.

As an added bonus, specialized codes allow for more in-depth data analysis. Understanding how your audience engages with your content is crucial for determining the effectiveness of your campaign. Gather enough data, analyze it properly and deduce logical conclusions, and your future promotions are pretty much guaranteed to be more successful.

Example: Twitter featuring McDonald’s new throwback apparel

  • This is a great example of promoting new merchandise, personalized links and hashtags, as well as cross promotion with a company adept with data processing like Uber.
  • “While supplies last” creates the illusion that the item is limited or might be sold out quickly so you must act NOW!

 

Don’t: Limit your focus

Cross-cutting themes allow for wider reach. A great way to accomplish this is creating a collection of merchandise with a main line of apparel and accessories, and then swapping in unique and special items on a campaign-by-campaign basis. These collection shots create are great for social media because they are compelling and multifaceted. Alternatively, consider collaborative posts with complementary brands, mixing in products from both brands to create a more interesting composition and gain exposure to new audiences.

Example: Taco Bell created a line of wedding themed merchandise

  • In addition to Taco Bell’s main line of t-shirts and sweaters, they broke into niche markets as well. The wedding industry is worth $72 billion a year so why not!

 

Don’t: Be Redundant

Customers do not like to be spammed. Repetitive posts can deter current and potential customers from engagement and possibly drive them away from the brand. With so many social media outlets, the best applications of brand merch on social media are generally subtle, alluring, and creatively done.

Even still, don’t simply spam your customers with the same campaign across multiple platforms. Users hate redundancy! Instead, utilize each channel according to the platform’s features. Target the unique characteristics of the audience who follows you on a given platform. Tailoring your campaigns in this manner ensures users remain engaged with your posts.

Final Thoughts

Quality brand merchandise is quickly becoming a core component of the modern marketing mix, but the manner in which these products are deployed is crucial to maximizing your return on investment. Fortunately, following the simple steps listed above will help ensure your brand merch pays for itself.

That said, this quick list is far from comprehensive. Let us know what I missed by posting in the comments section below.

Creative Director at Premium Direct Imports. Once featured in WIRED magazine, Tim is a photographer and gym enthusiast. A native Californian that loves animal meat, we aren't all vegans.