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The Urban Outfitters guide to winning social media

Urban Outfitters has mastered the art of maximizing social media engagement.

In an analysis of digital engagement across popular lifestyle brands on Facebook and Instagram, Urban Outfitters has the highest engagement rate among competitors thus far in 2018, according to a report by Share IQ. Since the beginning of 2018, Urban Outfitters has received more than 26.4 million likes, 47 times the amount of Diesel and beating out Ralph Lauren, ModCloth, Abercrombie and Fitch and its sister brand Free People. The brand also reigned supreme on Facebook, despite high-profile social campaigns from peers like Diesel, which recently teamed up with the soccer team A.C. Milan and launched a buzzy fake “Deisel” label. 

Jonathan Gardner, vp of marketing at Share IQ, said the success of Urban Outfitters can be attributed to three key factors: smart content distribution, working with brand partners and influencers that resonate most with consumers, and establishing a consistent aesthetic tone. Here’s a look at how the brand approached each of these tactics.

Crosspost the best content 
Urban Outfitters has been able to maximize engagement and increase the lifespan of its most popular content by appropriating it on other platforms. One of its key tactics is to take a high performing Instagram post and repost it later on Pinterest or Tumblr to increase its longevity and visibility, Gardner said. One of Urban Outfitters’ most highly engaged images in 2017 — a holiday campaign post of a dog laying across a woman’s legs as she watches “Home Alone” — was largely circulated through Tumblr, according to Share IQ’s findings.

“When you post something to Instagram, it has a short half-life. It goes viral, and it’s at the top of everyone’s feed for a couple days, at most,” Gardner said. “When things get posted to and from Pinterest, however, it has a much longer life span. We’ve seen with other fashion brands that they can continue to get value for years.”

Urban Outfitters on Pinterest

Feature the right partners and influencers
In recent years, Urban Outfitters has experienced strong engagement on posts that feature retail partners that are particularly popular with its millennial customer base. Take Vans, for example: A recent post of Vans shoes available at Urban Outfitters received the retailer’s highest rate of engagement in 2018 thus far, with 318,000 likes and comments. With other popular brand partners like Calvin Klein, Urban Outfitters has worked to tie promotions to social content, driving conversions around exclusive, limited-edition products.

This has ultimately translated to results: Total net sales for parent company Urban Outfitters, Inc. during the fourth quarter of 2017 rose by 5.8 percent from the same period in 2016, to $1.09 billion. (For the Urban Outfitters brand, comparable sales increased by 2 percent.) In its earnings call to investors earlier this month, executives cited that growth across brands could be attributed to “double-digit growth in the digital channel partially offset by negative retail store sales,” following ongoing investment in digital efforts.

“Urban Outfitters’ high engagement rates on social media can be attributed to its ability to source content that resonates with its target audience,” said Kyle Wong, CEO of visual marketing platform Pixlee. “As a company, it does a phenomenal job of curating relevant content that is both aspirational and authentic, and that has already been proven to engage its target audience from partners, regional locations and customers.”

The cadence Urban Outfitters uses for social media promotions also mirrors the way it uses influencers, which is sparingly but thoughtfully. Recent posts feature wellness blogger Sophia Roe and lifestyle influencer Nuria Val, interspersed with curated imagery other consumers shared along with the hashtag #UOonYou. Additionally, Urban Outfitters has the benefit of having a wide inventory base that spans across lifestyle categories beyond just apparel, including beauty and home decor. Gardner said the brand has seen success in consistently using hashtags around these product sectors, particularly for home goods by using #UOHome.

“They judiciously feature influencers; they’re not all over the place,” Gardner said. “Some brands are constantly using influencers, but Urban Outfitters is using them in smart ways that also showcase brands that really map to the Urban Outfitters philosophy and aesthetic.”

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