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In recent weeks I’ve begun looking at the different ways in which some of the world’s biggest brands use social media.

Having already run the rule over ASOS, Walmart and Tesco, the next retailer under the spotlight is John Lewis.

John Lewis has had an excellent start to the year, announcing a 44% increase in online sales over Christmas. You can read more about it in our Q&A with the company’s head of online delivery and customer experience Sean O'Connor.

Unlike Walmart and Tesco, John Lewis doesn’t publish its own social media guidelines online, however in a previous interview its social community manager said that content is key, “with a tailored approach for each social media channel.”

So here’s a quick look at how it uses four of the main social networks...

Facebook

John Lewis has 608,000 fans, which is a decent number but someway behind Walmart’s 26m and Tesco’s 1.1m.

Its timeline is fairly sparse as well, with only a handful of milestones included despite the fact that the company history dates back to 1905.

But obviously social media isn’t just about the number of ‘likes’ a brand has managed to attract, and John Lewis does a good job of interacting with its community of fans.

The social team post three or four updates each day, however it appears to take weekends off, which is a strange tactic as it’s easy to schedule posts to go live even if the social team isn’t in the office.

Nonetheless, the team do a decent job of answering questions from users, and when responding to comments the social team always identify themselves by name.

Since the beginning of February the content has almost been entirely focused on Valentine’s Day, including product suggestions and giveaways, but prior to that there was a mixture of seasonal posts including the New Year sales and promotions around fitness gear.

As always, the posts that attract the most ‘likes’ and comments tend to be competitions and pictures of food or pets. 

A good example of how John Lewis engages with its fans was a recent campaign that asked people to post pictures of their well-worn sports kit and then provided suggestions for new alternatives. Admittedly it attracted more jokey and sarcastic responses than it did genuine photos, but it was still a good way of encouraging users to comment.

Interestingly, John Lewis also used its Facebook timeline to solicit user feedback on its new website.

Like Walmart, John Lewis also has separate pages for a number of its local stores, most of which are updated several times a day.

But as they tend to have around 500 to 1,500 fans the posts get very few ‘likes’ or comments.

Twitter

For a major brand with some 47,798 followers, John Lewis’ feed isn’t particularly active.

As with its Facebook account, the Twitter feed shuts down over the weekend, and during the week it rarely tweets more than 20 times a day.

In general, the tactic seems to be to post two or three promotional tweets each day and a couple of questions. The social team then only answers four or five of the responses, meaning that most of the answers are ignored.

The social team also avoid getting involved with any customer complaints by simply ignoring any negative sentiment.

Instead all customer queries are dealt with by a separate customer service account, which is the same tactic employed by most major brands on Twitter.

However this account has only 1,850 followers and only responds to about 10 customers per day. 

The other brands I've looked at, including ASOS and Tesco, respond to hundreds of customer queries every day, so it’s surprising that John Lewis’ feeds appear to be so inactive in comparison.

It could be that John Lewis’ customers aren’t as active on Twitter, but then this seems unlikely as it does have a similar number of followers to Tesco.

Interestingly, John Lewis is currently displaying the hashtag #shareyourlove across all its social networks, but there is no other promotion or instruction or as to why customers should use it.

This could be because another website, MedPlus Beauty, is also currently using the same hashtag to run a competition, so any tweets relating to John Lewis would be drowned out by competition entries.

Pinterest

John Lewis has come up with some really creative pinboards and attracted 1,764 followers, but has then refused to include anyone else’s content.

All the boards promote a particular product range or theme, and include some excellent images, but it’s essentially just an extension of its product catalogue.

John Lewis has also steered clear of using the social network to run any promotions or competitions, which are a common feature of its Facebook page.

It’s strange that a brand with so much experience of community management on Facebook could totally miss the social aspect of Pinterest, but it could be that it doesn’t want to dilute the brand or that the social team have been ordered to avoid the murky waters of copyright infringement.

Creating an island within Pinterest that doesn’t link to anyone else completely misses the social aspect of the site, but that said, John Lewis does have many more followers than Tesco (655) even though the latter brand does post third-party content..

Google+

Unlike Tesco and Walmart, John Lewis maintains an active Google+ and post daily updates. Some of the content is repurposed from Facebook, but it’s mostly unique to G+.

As is common with this network, the amount of user interaction is limited, with no more than a couple of comments and around 10-20 +1s per post.

When responding to comments, the social team identify themselves by name, which is the same tactic used on Facebook and adds a personal touch to the conversations.

As a result of the effort put into the platform, John Lewis has clocked up 105,479 followers, which is a healthy number but way off ASOS’s 1.4m.

David Moth

Published 13 February, 2013 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1679 more posts from this author

Comments (8)

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Alison Wren

Hmmmm. Sounds like a brand which doesn't really "get" social media but thinks it ought to be doing it. I really dislike brands (big or small) who only promote their own products on Pinterest.

over 3 years ago

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Jonny Rosemont, Managing Director at Rosemont Communications Limited

Great run through David. It's evident to me that John Lewis is making great in roads into social media but that it is on a journey like everybody else - so your feedback will be highly valuable. Disclaimer, I used to work at John Lewis and was heavily involved in the creation and management of its social media activities. My first hand experience is that the business is trying to fully understand the value that it can bring to customers through social media, and improve its business as a result. This is part of the retailer's commitment to be "Never Knowingly Undersold".

over 3 years ago

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Alexander Buck

Great post on a subject that everyone is trying to get a grip on and mostly missing the mark. I'm surprised that it should be mystery as to why John Lewis or any big brand is missing the point of social media. There is no secret sauce to a successful social media profile. Its a little like understanding the fundamentals of being social in a real situation. To be social, you need to be in the right place, listen to the conversation of people in your group, talk like them, and give them what they need.

over 3 years ago

Ab Kuijer

Ab Kuijer, ceo at Content Business Boost

Thanks for this article; nothing is still perfect;-) My guess is that most people are still on a learning curve and that you can simply not embedd and understand everything at once. A Social Media staff has to understand the different channels and maybe one day, a company like John Lewis will have dedicated Pinterest teams, Google+ teams and Instagram teams. Could be a fun internal competition to get an Interaction Award.

over 3 years ago

Lucy Conlan

Lucy Conlan, Marketing Consultant at Conlan Consulting

Interesting run through of John Lewis. It sounds as if they are following their brand identity of being solid and sensible without taking unecessary risks. One big plus for John Lewis is their customer service and if they let the personality and helpfulness of their staff shine through their social media, their impact could be greater I feel. You've got to be REALLY in it to win it on social, so be braver John Lewis - the public loves you!

over 3 years ago

Mark Higginson

Mark Higginson, Director of Social Media at iCrossing

We need to get beyond counting fans. If you look at 'People Talking About' on Facebook then John Lewis currently has 0.92% interaction, ASOS 0.89% (suprisingly low?), Walmart 2.62% and Tesco 3.11%. This is a much more interesting way of evaluating who is doing what well in my opinion.

Also - customer care Twitter feeds are a poor way of doing things. Better to use one account if you can get it verified. By default most of your followers will not see people's @ messages and you focus your followers in one place.

over 3 years ago

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Neale Gilhooley

Does JLP link well and leverage it's strengths and audience with Waitrose in a social media sense?

People in the UK may be talking more about Tesco on Facebook for all of the wrong topical reasons.

f: www.facebook.com/Evolution.Design.Edinburgh

over 3 years ago

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chipivil8496

Big companies are using all types of social media in order to be close to their clients. I think this is a good way for spreading the news.

over 3 years ago

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