Posts Tagged ‘socialmedia’

Getting social with ASOS

I’m currently out in Austin for SXSWi, the tech conference that looks at what’s new in the digital world.  As always there are the naysayers who snipe that it’s too big, too mainstream and that the truly cutting edge stuff happens elsewhere but the fact remains it’s a completely unique event that attracts some really interesting people, has a fantastic range of workshops and panels and is, well, fun.  You don’t like it? don’t come, stay at home and moan (tellingly my sister-in-law, who has lived in Austin for 20 years, reckons they’ve been saying that stuff about it since the 2nd sxsw).

This year’s SXSW conference kicked off yesterday and among panels and lunch, I met up with James Hart, the eCommerce director for online fashion retailer ASOS.  James is widely credited with being responsible for ASOS’s phenomenally successful use of social media, an approach that has paid concrete dividends. attracts over 6.9 million unique visitors a month, has 2.9 million registered users and is rapidly becoming the leading online fashion retailer.  It has multiple twitter accounts which it uses for promotional activity, community outreach and customer relations, a huge Facebook following and its own community on  Last year they launched ASOS reviews, a site that pulls in quotes from Twitter, classifies them as positive or negative and displays the results; a real-time barometer of customer opinion.  And their most recent initiative is ASOS follows fashion, essentially a site that displays the tweets of other ‘fashion forward’ twitter users.

James was kind enough to answer my questions about how they approach social media, what the benefits have been and what they have planned for the future.

Who is responsible for social media at ASOS?

We don’t consider that social media to ‘sits’ within any one department, it’s about treating the customer in the best way possible and that’s everyone’s responsibility within the business.  Essentially we want to make it easier for customers to communicate with us, to buy from us, to ask us questions and social media provides us with a great way of doing that.

Do you measure ROI of your social media activity?

Not specifically no.  We do track our activity but we don’t impose KPIs onto it because we understand that it has intrinsic value.  So if we see that for example, someone mentions us on facebook, perhaps they’ve had a less than great experience, then we pick up on it, deal with it and that has value but we don’t measure it by number of tweets responded to or whatever, because that’s not what it’s about.

What advice would you have for a company that had never used social media before but wanted to get started?

Always start by thinking about the customer and their experience rather than the department within the business, put yourself in the place of the customer, and map out the processes; how they find you, decide whether or not to buy from you, what do they want out of the buying experience itself? then work out which team is best placed to deliver it.

Of course you need to know whereabouts online your customers are, work this out before you do anything.  And be aware that customers want different things and behave differently depending on the social network.  So for us, Facebook people sound off a fair bit and they’re always looking for discount codes, whereas our Twitter customers tend to interact with the brand more. Having said that, although you need to do some research, you can also get so bogged in strategy that it paralyses you from ever actually doing anything.   To an extend you do need to just get on and do it, it’s a bit like the wild west out there, there aren’t any rules and you need to get on and try it out, if it doesn’t work, you can always just change it and try something new.

Talking to James, it sounds like they have some exciting projects in the pipeline and there’s certainly no doubt that they are set to continue their incredible growth.  Our conversation got me thinking about last year’s SXSW where Tony Heish from Zappos took to the stage to talk about how they always start by putting the customer at the heart of everything they do and their social media activity naturally flows from that.   ASOS sound like they take a very similar ‘customer first’ approach and let’s face it, if they can emulate the success Zappos have had they won’t be in bad shape!

What do your lists say about you?

Ever since they were launched, I’ve liked Twitter lists. When I joined Twitter in 2007 it was actually pretty tricky to find people you might want to follow, it was, at times, like looking for a needle in a haystack. Lists can really help newbies to start getting value from Twitter fairly quickly. Services like Listorious allow you to search for lists by topic. And it’s only taken Twitter nearly four years to sort out their own lists, moving from a much hated ‘suggested users lists‘ to a set of suggestions based on interests. But what I find most interesting about lists is what it says about how people categorise you. Jay Baer came up with a neat little tool that allows you to look at the lists you’re on in one easy to browse list. If you then import this into Wordle, hey presto, you have an instant visual representation of how you are perceived.

In honour of my new site, for anyone who has arrived here without knowing me, I thought I’d do my own. It’s pretty accurate and if nothing else, Wordle always make a lovely picture….

Where does PR sit with social media?


Often I find debates curated on twitter fairly dull. Lots of posts all about the same thing flooding your twitter stream and adding nothing but the other day there was a really interesting one set up by hashtagsocialmediaTodd Defren moderated a conversation about the role of PRs within social media.  He covered topics such as where does social media belong within a corporate environment,what should a PR plan integrated with social media look like plus the relationship between PR, social media and SEO.

Many people suggest that the PR team within an organisation are not the right people to look after social  media because PR = spin whereas social media = transparency.  I'd completely disagree with that.  Having worked with digital agencies, SEO agencies and PR agencies, I'd say that PR people are the most natural to look after social media because they are familiar with building relationships, generating that 'talkability' factor and starting conversations.  The irony is however that at the moment PR agencies are the least well equipped to be able to handle social media effectively since, with a few notable exceptions, they're lagging behind in their understanding of the online environment.  They need to change that…and quickly.

You can see some of the twitter responses to Todd Defren's questions on the righthand side of the page here (although this page may well change in the future).