This is a follow up piece from Head of Strategy Matthew Jackson’s previous post – Comet & what to do with digital assets during administration.
Since the high-street fashion brand Republic’s HQ is neighbouring to our own, I thought I would take the time to revisit the digital asset issue, but this time focusing on social media.
After reading Econsultancy’s post on Friday (5th Feb) in which a disappointed stance was realised in reference to how the issue had been dealt with in terms of e-commerce, I was all ready to jump on the brand and give an equally scathing report in terms of social, but this was not to be the case.
In Econsultancy author Mike Essex’s original post, he quite rightly claims that:
“Every day that passes by they (Republic) are losing money and brand equity, as well as wasting one of their strongest assets. For a business in need of recovery, the best thing they could do right now may be to switch the website back on.”
It turns out that Republic had not just done that, they seem to have changed their whole online presence into a massively sales driven environment.
Yesterday (Feb 18 2013), www.republic.co.uk looked like this:
In lieu of the original ‘site unavailable’ message followed by a rundown of the administration, there was a fairly decent makeshift clearance site.
The page featured a rudimentary sign-up sheet with data-capture for those who were interested in keeping up-to-date with the latest bargains and a ‘Nearest Store’ page that, while lacking in any aesthetic brilliance, carried out its requirements with Google Maps appearing in light boxes pinpointing all of the stores around the UK. The original comments from the administrators were also still available on a third page.
One of the more interesting facets to the improvised site was the use of blatant social media icons at the bottom of the page and even the encouraged use of the hashtag #republicsale.
In contrast to the case study carried out on the administration of Comet, who simply shut their whole site down with no second thought to digital assets, it would seem that Republic, or at least those who were in charge of the administration process, was doing a pretty good job of safeguarding not only their rankings but their social presence too.
But digging a little deeper, the same old mistakes have been made with the Republic site. For example, this time last week the site was ranking eighth for search terms such as ‘dresses’, second for ‘men’s clothing’, first for ‘clothes sale’ and ‘clothes shops’ and fourth for ‘women’s clothes’. All of these rankings have now vanished from the SERPs and it seems all they are really left with is rankings on their brand name.
To stop all of this, all they had to do is make all the deeper pages, such as those mentioning women’s clothes, for example, into 503 error pages which indicate to search engines crawling the page that the site is temporarily down. Instead, all of these pages were given a 404 which meant any trust for the pages is now lost.
Although the site is still up, we have noticed some strange happenings today, where all that was showing for hours at a time was this:
This spells an even more melancholy outlook for the site, as this four page splash site holds the only hope for holding on to the rankings they have left, including for their brand name.
Things seem a little different over on the social side of things, however:
Republic’s Facebook page seems to be business as usual. Their last interaction from the posting of this piece was at 9AM GMT, so we know they someone is still captaining the social ship somewhere. The page has been branded with the same clearance sale image as the site was brandishing yesterday and continues to produce content, mostly related to their sale:
More than that, there seems to be some real effort put into cross platform marketing, a strategy usually carried out by brands on their way up, not their way out.
Followers of the Republic Twitter page are still enjoying the same 15 – 20 a day tweet rate they were pre-administration and judging by the tone and subject, it would seem Twitter is the best place to visit if you have any problems with missing deliveries, using gift cards in store and where to find the best bargains.
So what can we learn?
Whoever is in charge of the online situation, whether it be the administrators or HQ staff, they seem to be taking more consideration when it comes to digital assets on the whole, which may be a slight indication that the business world in general is holding the value of the digital sphere in much higher regard, especially in terms of social media.
This does not mean, however, that everything that can be done to save the countless man hours and budget poured into a digital marketing strategy, in terms of SEO for example, is being done. It seems there is a lot of work to be done to convince everyone of the worth of digital assets.
In the same vein, not every brand will be taking their social profiles as seriously as Republic and, to be fair, not all of them should. The reason, I would assume, for such an effort in the on-going social strategy in this instance is based on where Republic felt the most value was placed pre-administration.
It would seem that for Republic, it can achieve higher standards and frequency of customer communication through their social channels than it could with a fully-fledged website and the apparent value it places on its social channels, in the eyes of a social media strategist, is encouraging.