By Brecken Branstrator
New York--Department stores’ strategies on social media are shifting from a focus on community growth to leveraging the networks for more traditional marketing methods, a recent report from think tank L2 shows.

In its 2014 “Department Stores: Social Media” study, L2 took a look at the social performance, best practices, and case studies of 56 global retailers across multiple social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

The study found that most of the stores are leveraging the scale of their social networks to “amplify their content and directly target consumers.” It also found that retailers increasingly are using social and user-generated content to encourage shopping on their sites.

According to L2, while nearly every department store has a presence on Facebook, growth and engagement on that platform is beginning to plateau. 

Since 2013, 55 percent of department stores have experienced a decline in the number of users liking, commenting on or sharing their posts, and 73 percent have seen a decrease in engagement rate, or the percentage of the community liking, sharing, or commenting. 

Acknowledging this change in the Facebook landscape, the department stores are responding by using advertising as their Facebook posts to ensure engagement and visibility. Posts featuring the brands they carry tend to resonate with the community, as well as celebrity content, L2 found.

Department stores not only have decreased the average amount of posts on Facebook due to the decreased engagement, but are doing so on Twitter as well. 

According to the study, 63 percent of department stores now are using Twitter more for customer service. L2 said that one-third of luxury consumers use social media to express opinions about their purchases and experiences; 83 percent of customers expect a response to a complaint or question the same day and 30 percent expect it within 30 minutes.

This compares with a 6 percent response rate from department stores to Tweets directed at them, and an average response time of 8.3 hours.

When it comes to engagement on social media, Instagram’s rates are 19 times those of Facebook, drawing retailers into the network. Eighty-six percent of department stores have an Instagram account this year, compared with 60 percent a year ago. 

Macy’s was one of the first brands to pilot Instagram advertising in December 2013, attracting 42,000 new followers and engagement 70 times that of its regular posts.

RELATED CONTENT: Nordstrom launches Instagram shopping experience

Despite Instagram’s limited e-commerce features, Nordstrom is pushing the bounds of the photo sharing network to drive its followers to purchase. 

In August, it launched the Like2Buy Instagram store. A link on Nordstrom’s Instagram profile page takes users to a gallery of images that then will redirect them to the product page on the company’s mobile site for direct purchase.

Among the three major social media platforms, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram, Pinterest is considered the most commerce-oriented. 

Yet, only 18 percent of department stores have implemented “Rich Pins,” which were designed to encourage purchasing by providing real-time pricing, product availability and sales notifications. 

Nearly 80 percent of brand engagements on Pinterest, however, happen outside official brand accounts. In response to this activity, nearly 63 percent of department stores have embedded the “Pin It” button on their websites. Pin It adoption was up 20 percent year-over-year, according to the L2 study.  

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