Toys"R"Us is one of the biggest and most recognizable toy retailers in the world - even reading the name or seeing the logo inspires excitement in the hearts of kids and adults alike. Founded in 1948 in New Jersey, Toys"R"Us now has more than 1,800 outlets across 38 countries, and generated more than $12 billion in revenue in 2014.
But given the ever-evolving attentions of their target market, Toys"R"Us has to move quickly to keep with trends. As such, the company's made social media a key element of their marketing and outreach efforts to ensure they're meeting their audience where they interact, by providing fresh, engaging content. A quick look at Toys"R"Us' social profiles reveals a range of GIFs, emoji and, most interestingly, a big emphasis on the Toys"R"Us Snapchat 'snapcode'.
"Wait, Toys"R"Us are on Snapchat?"
Yes they are - I recently got a chance to speak with Cheryl O'Brien, the Manager of Toys"R"Us' Public Relations Department, to get some insights into how the company approaches social media, and how Snapchat plays a part.
As you might expect, Toys"R"Us has a solid social presence, with more than 970,000 followers on Twitter, 15,000 on Pinterest, and 42,000 on YouTube - as well as a massive 4.1 million Page likes on Facebook. They're also generating a heap of engagement with their social content - Toys"R"Us is averaging more than 1,700 Likes and 90 comments per Facebook post. I started out our talk by asking O'Brien how Toys"R"Us approaches social media and their online outreach efforts.
"Toys"R"Us primarily leverages social media as a communication platform to interact and connect with customers," O'Brien told me. "Social media also enables us to provide our community of fans and followers with current, relevant information quickly and easily - whether it's showcasing new products or raising awareness for one of our many charitable campaigns."
"We continually strive to build on our relationships with customers by responding to comments in real-time, addressing customer service inquiries and simply engaging one-on-one with individuals."
Given the sheer size of the Toys"R"Us Facebook community, that platform is clearly a focus - I asked O'Brien which platforms Toys"R"Us sees as their primary channels in social and where they're seeing the most engagement.
"We saw the value of Facebook early on and invested time amplifying our campaigns on the channel to connect our customers in a more personal way," O'Brien noted. "That said, we also saw the opportunity to explore additional social channels, and we continue to publish on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Periscope and Vine."
"Just recently, we launched branded geo-targeted Snapchat filters, which are available in Toys"R"Us stores nationwide now through December. With a swipe of a finger and a flick to the right, Snapchat users will find a holiday-themed filter ready to accompany their in-store snap, including letters to Santa, holiday mistletoe, Geoffrey in a sleigh - and more - all season long."
The addition of Snapchat into the Toys"R"Us mix certainly caught me by surprise - while Snapchat's audience skews young, I would have thought maybe not as young as Toys"R"Us' core audience. Intrigued, I asked O'Brien to explain more about the Snapchat campaign and how Toys"R"Us came to the decision to incorporate the ephemeral messaging app into their marketing mix.
"Snapchat's one of the latest emerging platforms attracting consumers from all ages," O'Brien said. "We know our fans like to engage with us across multiple channels and through different and original content, and we saw a unique opportunity to bring the notion of "AWWWESOME" in-store by providing fans with the ability to brand their snaps - what better way to capture the experience of fulfilling your holiday wish list then with a quick snap and festive filter?"
"We're also utilizing the platform to provide access to live events, as well as to deliver private and exclusive content to our followers - for example, before our official 2015 Toys"R"Us Holiday Hot Toy List reveal on social media, Snapchat users were able to see the "Fabulous 15" toys live in action first. Additionally, we plan on leveraging Snapchat during our Times Square Black Friday events just around the corner."
Snapchat has clearly resonated with the brands audience, and as O'Brien notes, Toys"R"Us are planning to use the platform more in future. While, immediately, it doesn't seem like an ideal audience/platform alignment, it actually makes perfect sense, and fits in with Toys"R"Us' ongoing actions in social, in which they look to deliver new, fresh approaches to their content in order to connect with their online audience.
Given the size of Toys"R"Us' social communities, I was keen to know how the company goes about managing their social presence - particularly how many people they have working on their social efforts.
"We have a dedicated, cross-functional team with multiple members, including team members within our Marketing, Public Relations and Customer Service departments, among others."
O'Brien's answer is somewhat playing it safe - I've noted in previous Big Brand Theory interviews that a lot of big brands are hesitant to outline the full detail of their social staffing. Given this, I moved on to the next point - how the company approaches fan/follower interactions, in particular customer service and engaging with comments?
"Social media is very much a priority for us because it's important to our customers," O'Brien said. "It's where they're spending an increasing amount of time, sharing exciting news about their families, learning about new products and providing recommendations to friends. And whether it's about a diapering solution, a birthday being celebrated and all the milestones in between, we strive to be a part of that conversation, connecting with them and offering guidance as THE toy and baby products authority."
This is a great approach, and a great response from O'Brien on this front. In taking this consumer-lead approach, as opposed to being marketing-driven and seeing social as a means to broadcast brand messages, Toys"R"Us is immediately setting themselves for greater success by providing what the customers want, the information the customers are seeking, where they're seeking it, as opposed to using the platform as simply another advertising channel. It's about being part of the conversation, as noted by O'Brien, rather than dictating it.
"We have a social media customer service team working around the clock to address inquiries, both on our Facebook wall and in Private Message, as well as a team dedicated to engaging with our fans on our various channels by retweeting content, liking it, replying and regramming, among other communication tactics."
Again, a solid approach from the toy giant - a key term to remember in "social media" is "social', something Toys"R"Us are reinforcing by making themselves available on the channels where they're consumers are interacting, responding to messages in a timely manner, and interacting with social content shared amongst their communities.
The True Value of Social
As we normally do with Big Brand Theory interviews, I ended out our conversation by asking O'Brien to finish this sentence - "The true value of social media is _________"
"Fostering meaningful relationships with our customers." O'Brien responded - a simple, concise summary of Toys"R"Us' social approach.
There's much to be learned from Toys"R"Us' social presence - there's a heap of different elements and aspects that they're getting right and doing well, it's almost impossible to cover all of them in one interview. If you have a chance, go look at Toys"R"Us' social profiles, how they reply to messages, how they interact and share fan content. Look at how they're incorporating new options and tools into their social marketing mix and take note of how they keep customer relationships at the core of all of what they do.
Toys"R"Us has built an engaging, interactive and fun social brand, reflective of their core values and mission - a great template for social media marketing success.