In terms of follower and fan numbers, Topshop's social media strategy appears to be working well. It has the most followers on Twitter and Facebook fans of any UK retailer.
According to a new Social Media Benchmark study by eDigital Research (registration/survey required), retailers are continuing to grow their presence on social networks, though less than half are currently offering consumers the option of shopping from these accounts.
UK retailers' Facebook fans
Topshop has the largest presence on Facebook, with more than 1.3m foilowers, and fashion brands in general dominate the top ten.
The number of new followers column shows how many these retailers have added since January 2011:
While most retailers are continuing to grow follower numbers, ASOS and Amazon stand out on this list. In the case of ASOS, it has added 135,000 fans since January and, at the time of writing, a further 38,000, taking the grand total to 556,314.
This is impressive growth, and coincides with the launch of its f-commerce store in January this year.
Though this list is made up of UK retailers, the Amazon stats given here relate to its US based Facebook presence. While this page now has more than 700,000 fans, the UK version has just 45,000.
You can see why the US page is rapidly growing though. Aside from the popularity of the brand, it is running weekly sweepstakes giving away prizes like home theatre systems, and all people have to do is hit the like button.
For fashion retailers, their target demographic tend to be heavy social media users, so it makes perfect sense to target them via Facebook, and to a lesser extent, Twitter.
In the case of Topshop, content is regularly updated to keep 'fans' interested, while not so frequently that it becomes too much. The retailer uses exclusive deals and interactive content to keep people interested and drive traffic from Facebook to its e-commerce site.
The fashion retailers is this study have been creative with their Facebook landing pages, with most using custom pages with plenty of colour and interactive content.
The best examples of Facebook pages have a fun, engaging landing page which draws users in and encourages them to click the like button to expand their following, and therefore visibility, on Facebook.
The River Island landing page below is a great example of this. It has a competition to help drive more people to follow the brand, with a nice clear call to action pointing at the Like button. It also promotes its own collection with the competition to create an outfit from the page.
Of the 20 retailers that eDigital studied, just nine are offering users the chance to shop from their Facebook pages, which is a missed opportunity for the other 11. Some, such as Argos, are displaying their products on the site, but haven't added links for people to make a purchase.
Two of these retailers, ASOS and JD Sports, have already set up f-commerce stores so that customers can shop directly from the site.
The fact that people have bothered to come to the Facebook page, hit the Like button and spend time there indicates that they are more engaged with the brand, and therefore more likely to make a purchase.
Not adding links to product pages, or even setting up a store on the site represents a missed opportunity to drive sales from Facebook.
Topshop also has the most Twitter followers. Though Amazon is in third place here, as with the Facebook fans, the stats relate to its US based Twitter presence. The UK version has 19,000 followers.
Topshop's Twitter account combines details of new products with chat, all in a relaxed and friendly tone. As with the Facebook page, Topshop adds regular updates, but not too many.
A recent report found that UK retailers were unresponsive on social media channels, with the majority failing to respond to direct questions and comments from consumers, but ASOS sets a great example in this regard for other retailers on Twitter.
It has split its presence into various different accounts, from deals and special offers, to customer service. ASOS staff tweet regularly, and respond to customer questions and comments.
Mobile social media
According to new comScore data, 7.9m UK mobile users accessed social networks from their phones at least daily, while 14.7m people did so at least once during March 2011.
With so many potential customers accessing brands' social media profiles, how these pages look on mobile screens is another consideration for brands.
In the case of Twitter, the text-based nature of the site means that the user experience isn't too compromised on mobile, but lively and image-heavy Facebook pages can look relatively dull on mobile sites and apps.
Creating a better Facebook user experience on mobile, or adapting deals and promotions to the format will be a challenge for retailers, though it does offer opportunities for promotions around the user's current location.