Social media has become a given for any brand or store. It’s no longer a question of if a brand uses social media, but how. At the very least, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles are necessary for customers to easily find information and updates from a store. But there’s loads of potential beyond that. According to a report from Instagram last year, 45% of surveyed Instagram users follow a fashion brand, business, or influencer for inspiration on clothing to buy. And as for the food-service industry, walk around Manhattan on a Sunday morning; you’ll know which restaurants are doing social media right from the block-long lines of customers waiting to get a table.
Regardless of the stunts or strategies, the most important thing about social media is that you stay true to your brand. And that’s what can make it so challenging. No one size fits all.
If you don’t know where to start, here are five New York stores that are going above and beyond on social media. Each is using the platforms in entirely different ways, but there are some clear learnings that you can take away and apply to your own use.
Tictail Market - For facilitating discovery
Tictail, an online commerce platform with a pop-up-turned-permanent store on the Lower East Side, coins itself a “marketplace for discovering the best independent brands from around the world.” It’s no surprise then that global discovery is the theme of its social media channels. The multi-brand store works with emerging artists and designers from 140 countries, helping them sell anything from textiles and home decor to purses and apparel.
Tictail’s ultimate goal is to be a resource for customers to discover these young brands. Similar to the experience of visiting the Tictail Market, the social media feeds showcase the diversity of Tictail brands and emphasize the artists behind them. Scrolling through just a few posts on Instagram and Facebook, you’ll come across graphic designers from Barcelona, fashion designers from France, and textile makers from LA. The store also shares Facebook posts with articles profiling each designer, and its Instagram bio links back to a page where followers can shop the collections of each highlighted artist.
Tip: If you’re a store selling items from multiple brands, consider showcasing each brand and the story behind it your social accounts. Become a resource for your customers, by proving your expertise on the best players in your industry—be it apparel, skincare, art, food, or fitness.
SoulCycle - For celebrating and empowering community
SoulCycle has become a national name, much thanks to its social media strategy. Back in 2006, SoulCycle, the NYCity-born fitness company with a cult following, had one studio in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The founders wanted to make fitness less of a chore and more of a social activity, and to spread their message, they turned to social media. If you go on any of SoulCycle’s feeds, you’ll feel in an instant the communal, energetic vibes the brand is built on.
SoulCycle’s social media encourages enthusiastic riders and instructors to show off their commitment to the SoulCycle community. SoulCycle creates many branded, photographable moments for customers to post to their own channels. The studios have a colorful wall set up as a backdrop for selfies, and regularly take Polaroid photos for riders to then digitally share. They have also enabled Snapchat geotags, digital stickers that display one’s location on a photo. Branded photos may not feel authentic for some brands, but SoulCycle riders are excited to share their workouts with the world.
They tap into this community on their own feeds as well. They keep it local on Facebook, with individual pages for each studio to promote monthly challenges and celebrate birthdays or milestones like a 100th ride. And most recently, they’ve turned to Snapchat, where one studio runs the account each day, sharing behind the scenes videos with the employees, motivational moments with instructors, and selfies with sweaty riders.
Tip: Don’t rely on your own social media channels alone—give your customers a reason to show you off! Create photo opportunities with things like photo walls, branded murals, and “selfie” mirrors.
Adaptations Furniture - For being a perfect extension of its physical store
While SoulCycle’s brand lends well to spontaneous, carefree social channels, other brands aim to be much more curated and refined. Take Adaptations, a Brooklyn store selling unconventional vintage furniture. They’ve carefully curated a beautiful social media presence, that is a digital extension of their Brooklyn store. There’s an undeniable theme among the photos: every one must have a hint of the store’s signature color, a hue somewhere in between blush and salmon. Thumbing through the feed, you get the feeling you’re walking into the physical space and can almost smell the burning blackberry and pine soy candle.
Adaptations’ social media channels toe the line between a practical catalog and an aspirational look book. On the practical side, they list prices in brackets in each photo caption and use comments to update customers when items have sold out. Yet the feeds are not sterile or dry. The images are eclectic but simple, aspirational but approachable, and meticulously mismatched. The photos capture the varied textures of Adaptations’ wares like braided rugs and wicker baskets, set against the backdrop of the store’s exposed brick walls and rustic wood floors.
The store has a clear, effective social media playbook, but they’re not afraid to experiment with new channels. Recently, they’ve shared videos that give sneak peeks at inventory fresh off the trucks, and shared photos of customers’ new furniture in their homes.
Tip: Think about how you can achieve a balance of both practical and aspirational content, listing prices and inventory updates but also maintaining an overarching, inspirational aesthetic.
Black Tap - For doing one thing, and doing it right
In the age of rainbow bagels, fish-shaped ice cream cones, and “unicorn” lattes, social media can be a huge traffic driver for eateries and coffee shops. Black Tap, a SoHo restaurant with a modern take on the traditional American diner, rose to fame thanks to its Instagram photos of incredible milkshakes.
Black Tap creates giant “gravity-defying” milkshakes piled with toppings like full-sized pieces of cake, ice cream cookie sandwiches, and cotton candy tufts. Since the restaurant’s opening, these shakes have been the focal point of its social media, luring in the millennial audience who embraces a “Do it for the Insta” mentality.
Black Tap was not the first to find fame from a sensational food stunt (remember Dominique Ansel’s “cronut"?) but unlike most, the founders of Black Tap made social media a critical piece of the restaurant’s marketing and business plan from day one. In fact, the team has had a professional photographer on staff from the very early days. Social media was never an after thought for the team, rather it was relied on as the main driver of traffic to the restaurant. The social media success has led to infamous wait lines and allowed them to open two additional spaces in Manhattan, with plans for two more in the Lower East Side and Brooklyn this year.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to focus your social media on just one thing—whatever it is that is unique and true to you. And for any pre-launch stores, remember to implement social media from day one. If you put in the time, it can be the number one sales and traffic driver for your business.
Everlane - For shaking things up
To be honest, Everlane’s not a New York City-based brand, but it does have an NYC showroom and it is nailing it on social media.
Everlane is known for shaking things up in the retail space, with its unprecedented transparency about how its products are made. Fittingly, it’s also one of the most experimental retailers on social media.
Everlane has been particularly creative with Snapchat, using the short videos to give followers tours of their manufacturing facilities in China, and draw attention to the conditions of its workers. They’re also known for weekly question and answer sessions on Snapchat, where followers send in questions for company employees to answer. Neither of these strategies are meant to directly drive sales, but to remind followers of the character and values behind Everlane.
Tip: Even if you don’t have full-scale factories manufacturing your products, you can use Snapchat and other social media videos to peel back the curtain for customers. Take a video of your chefs in the kitchen or of the retail staff setting up a window display.
By Christine Freschi