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Inside the Social Super Brain at Men's Wearhouse

  |  March 13, 2013   |  Comments

An interview with Joe Nolan, social media junkie and director of new media at Men's Wearhouse.

men-s-wearhouseYou may not yet know Mr. Joe Nolan, but after reading this interview, you will want to knock down the doors of Men's Wearhouse to get inside his super social media brain. Mr. Nolan is what I term a "social media junkie." He has been immersed in the social media craze from the beginning; Mr. Nolan is a proven mover and shaker and authority on social business. He has facilitated transformations at industry-leading companies and spearheaded the establishment of social operations at Lexus, General Motors, Symantec, and currently at Men's Wearhouse.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Mr. Nolan virtually to find out how he has taken Men's Wearhouse, a somewhat staple men's clothing brand, serving men in their forties with fine suits, ties, and jackets, to a social media craze for everything from formal wear to business and casual menswear. In our conversation, it was obvious to me that Mr. Nolan has been through the social media ringer and truly knows how to reach and engage multiple audiences for large brands using various social channels. In that role, he has put to the test the various social media analytical packages and programs that support these efforts and has a streamlined program that completely works for Men's Wearhouse. Hear what Joe had to share:

Jasmine Sandler: How and when did you get your start in social media marketing?

Joe Nolan: I have been involved with social media since its inception. My first stint in the game was at Lexus, the car company. My team and I at Toyota in 2007/2008 really set the standards for best practices in social media marketing at a multi-national brand. The leaders and our team understood clearly back then that a brand could use social media to speak to a consumer in many situations. At the time, I worked on a team with Scott DeYager at Toyota. We developed social media best practices now taught in the top MBA programs. From there, I moved on to Symantec where I helped the team drive from 9,000 Facebook fans to 300,000 and consolidate international social accounts. I knew from there that my passion lay around helping large organizations eradicate their fears around social media marketing and use it in the right way to drive and measure business.

JS: What was your approach to social when coming upon Men's Wearhouse?

JN: When I came in I first needed to help the executive team understand the need to get involved in social - where and how to allocate, but most importantly, why. The first thing I did was to conduct 35 interviews with key stakeholders. In this way, I could learn the business, build personal relationships, and understand team's priorities across the organization.

I find that most large companies need to first see how they can possibly benefit from proper social media marketing before they jump in with both feet. At Men's Wearhouse, we started with a plan to target and reach the multiple demographics in ways that were different than traditional media buys.

We knew that Men's Wearhouse was among the top retail players in menswear, in men's fashion, and in formal wear for weddings and prom by the sales numbers, but this was not being reflected in social. Our approach was to learn as much about audiences' behavior in social. With this, we are now able to support both of our strong audiences with engaging content for both teen males, as well as our core audience of men in their thirties and forties. In fact, with new branding and great product selection, we've evolved to include 20- to 30-year-olds now too.

In less than two years, the digital team at Men's Wearhouse has rolled out a new site, engaging mobile apps supporting our formal wear business, such as our Tuxedo App, and grown our social footprint 5,800 percent in 18 months. Just last week we were mentioned in Huffington Post Weddings as a top Pinterest profile for grooms. Also, Forrester cited us for exceptional customer experience in social. We continue to listen and engage our audiences on social. When I started, there was virtually a clean slate and so I said to the team, "We are the leader in menswear, let's act like it in social and become a social business."

JS: How do you attribute daily social media marketing success at Men's Wearhouse?

JN: At Men's Wearhouse, we manage social in an agile process, similar to Kaizen, where we focus on continuous improvement of processes as we manage the programs. We do this in four steps:

  • Discovery
  • Planning
  • Engagement
  • Continuous monitoring

We also continuously monitor how our business and our competitors are being reviewed and engaged with in social. I find that this is where most social management teams fail because social moves faster than any other form of marketing, so you have to be on your toes and know what's going on at all times.

JS: How is your team structured?

JN: At Men's Wearhouse, our new media team is comprised of five, plus direct support from customer service. Each manages a particular business unit: retail, formal wear, and K&G stores. Each team manages both social media marketing as well as online reputation management. Our new media team works closely with the other teams in our marketing and tech vertical like brand leaders, e-commerce, and creatives. We're also fully integrated with other business units like PR, HR, store operations, merchandising, and customer support.

JS: What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of your job?

JN: One of the biggest challenges of any new media director is certainly in continuous tracking and reporting. Because so much of the power of social and key insights is qualitative data, there is a lot of inference that happens in unstructured data. At Men's Wearhouse, we are excellent in social intelligence. We have developed and deployed what we term a "social insights program," where we report on seven to eight categories that the business would want to track and custom report to each business unit. Our goal is to deliver actionable intelligence to decision-makers quickly and efficiently. The areas we track include:

  • Industry
  • Own brands
  • Competitors
  • Products
  • Campaigns
  • Issues (+ or -)
  • Celebrities
  • Best practices (beyond fashion)

JS: What analytical tools do you use to manage and monitor your social media programs?

JN: In the last two years, I have spent considerable time reviewing over 90 technologies that support social media management. We currently deploy a suite of technologies to measure our own performance and the greater social landscape. In my review, I came across one social media monitoring and management tool, in particular, that I found to be a real asset amongst Men's Wearhouse's toolbox. The tool is ViralHeat with Smart Stream. It combines different social networks into a single stream and to make engagement much more efficient, it also features an effective sentiment engine plus lead identification, which is great for retailers. The most compelling aspect is that it allows direct engagement or action to be taken within the tool on specific data in real time. Accurate and real-time social sentiment is key to measuring the effectiveness of our social media marketing programs.

JS: Are there any specific pieces of advice you could give to our readers, related to effective social media marketing?

JN: Yes, first you should create a business map around social media. This includes the technologies, talent, budget, programs, and strategies to support both annual and short-term needs. A review must be made to assess what the business needs and what the current environment in social is to determine opportunities for brand awareness. Remember to listen first and take action after.

As a social media or new media director, you will also need to earn executive buy-in to your social plan. To do so, you will need to identify any business issues and illustrate how social can help to be a part of the solution.

Once you determine your social media value proposition, stick to it through the ongoing messaging you deliver in your content and campaigns. Remember, it is not about selling via social, it is about staying top of mind, relevant, and delivering world-class customer service.

JS: What large companies besides Men's Wearhouse do you see doing it right in social?

JN: Many of the large auto manufacturers and airlines are truly engaged in social to support the brand and customer experience. In my opinion, companies like Virgin America, JetBlue, and Ford really have it right. In the B2B space, I would point to Intel.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jasmine Sandler

Jasmine Sandler is a veteran in online marketing and CEO and founder of Agent-cy Online Marketing, an online branding agency. She has more than 15 years' experience in helping companies use the Web to develop and grow business. Sandler has provided interactive solutions for such clients as Citibank, ISO, Diamonds International, Doublerock Corporation, Loews Hotels, and CityLights Cruises.

Sandler has expertise in the areas of using LinkedIn to grow business, B2B social media marketing strategy, search marketing strategies for sustainable online visibility, website effectiveness for user engagement, and digital strategies for small businesses. She is a published author of Branding & Sales: The LinkedIn Way.

She is a frequent speaker for The Association of Strategic Marketing, The Association of Ghostwriters, ClickZ Live, Small Business Technology, and New York Business Expo and is a contributing writer for ClickZ.com, The New York Enterprise Report, and LinkedIn Original Content.

Sandler holds a dual MBA in Marketing and Technology from the University of Miami and is a very active supporter of LinkedIn and runs several business owner groups on the site. She was previously director of managed data networking sales at IBM Global Services for seven years.

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