How retailers can adapt to turn social media into a sales advantage

Social media remains a dark art to many in the bike business, yet most of us will be able to pinpoint a brand that rises above the noise time and again. Having undertaken an unprecedented analysis of the bike, run and triathlon market’s brands, CI.N has trawled the Endurance Sport Social Analytics (ESSA) study data from MultiSport Research and quizzed authors Gary Roethenbaugh and Kate Morefield on where marketers have won big…

Depending on your age and how plugged in to the modern world you choose to be, your tolerance for social media could be anywhere between, “put the damned phone down for once” to, “have you seen what the Atherton’s just Tweeted?”. Except you might not have seen what any given rider, celebrity or brand has just Tweeted, even if you follow them.

Consider this from the immensely data rich Endurance Sport Social Analytics (ESSA) study, which reviews data from 720+ international endurance sport companies across gear, media, races, retail and coaches; Instagram has only a post interaction of 3.33% on average.

That’s tiny, why would anyone get excited by that, you might ask? Well, that’s actually a high engagement rate; an average of only 0.43% interact with posts on Facebook and just 0.09% for Twitter.

Correlating with these figures and the notion that the youth ‘know about this stuff’, a new study by the Pew Research Center paints a picture of Facebook in freefall and Twitter as a platform hanging on by a thread with the youth. Only 32% of American teens report having, but not necessarily using, a Twitter account. Facebook, meanwhile, is used by just 51% of American teens aged 13 to 17, down from 71% in 2015. So where are the next generation of customers going?

Again correlating with the ESSA research, YouTube and Instagram are stealing the show; Facebook is no longer the number one with teens and it’s not much better with millennials. In the endurance sports world one savvy media group in particular has cottoned on to the trend. The ESSA study suggests that the Global Cycling Network (GCN) – which has the endurance world’s highest subscriber rate on YouTube at 1.3 million – may be well placed to capture yet more eyes in the coming years.

Pew’s research further indicates that there’s a significant shift toward visual content. Snapchat is utilised by 69% of teens and is among the most heavily used social apps, marginally ahead of YouTube, while Instagram tallies 72%. Like Facebook did previously, both platforms are aware of the opportunity and are tapping in to new ways to access potentially engaged shoppers.

You’ll likely not need the proof that we as a society are online more than ever, but Pew’s research confirms it; the number of teens who reported being online “almost constantly” leapt to 45% from just 24% in 2015.

Your guide to social trends

Still hosting the largest fan base, Facebook’s engagement has remained reasonably strong for many despite noises from the media giant to prioritise people over marketing messages. It is certainly worth being aware of declining interest among the youth, however.

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Engagement on Twitter can vary wildly and, in many cases, the larger you get the worse your percentage of engagement gets. That is unless you’re able to be social; Twitter is by nature a conversational place. If you’ve time on your side it can be a great way to interact with people. Typically, Twitter is most heavily nursed by brands who post on average 2.2 times per day in a bid to keep consumers informed with short snippets of information. The platform, while most frequently posted to, is the slowest growing of the main platforms.

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Touted as a missed opportunity in the social media landscape, the ESSA study says “the power of video is real” and very few leverage its full potential. Unlike text heavy platforms, YouTube has a low frequency of uploads averaging just 0.14 posts a day. Those that have exploited this gap have won big; of 1,866 videos uploaded by endurance brands 82 million views were generated. The platform is growing fast too, adding 0.53% in subscriber numbers in the four weeks to April 2nd, 2018.

A leader in engagement terms, the Facebook owned photo and video sharing platform has high interaction and growth rates, averaging +0.64% user growth in the four weeks to April 2nd, 2018. At present media channels are utilising the platform at a lower rate than brands who have more to gain in the way of marketing in the present format.

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What turns people on?

According to the ESSA, it is important to leverage all key social media platforms with quality content that is relevant to athletes. Gear brands and media have the largest following and tend to spread efforts across multiple platforms to broaden reach of athlete base; although many brands are not utilising video as much as they perhaps should be. Professionals such as coaches tend to have high levels of engagement as they are looked to for credible advice. Meanwhile, retail outlets tend to earn the highest level of attention on visual platforms such as Instagram.

The ESSA Media Report and Gear Studies are available now via Alternatively, contact Gary by email, or follow the feed on Twitter here.

Further reading: Helping retailers monetise the finer points of social media.