The battle is on.
Business is tough. And in more recent years, it’s been especially challenging for those operating comfortably under the status quo. Renowned companies are constantly under threat of being dethroned by new digitally-savvy players. Disruptive startups are popping up ad hoc and overthrowing the establishment. The tale that follows is a paradigm of our times — yes, we are talking about the bookstore wars.
Barnes & Noble has been around for over a century. The mega giant has been everyone’s go-to for reading material and other paper-related goods for as long as anyone who is still alive can remember. They have 640 brick-and-mortar stores to their name. It’s one of those larger-than-life entities that appears untouchable. And in many ways, it’s very true.
When we entered the digital age, classic businesses that had monopolized their respective markets in corporate America suddenly found themselves in a vulnerable position. This thing known as the Internet was picking up steam and being introduced into regular households across the country. It was going be threatening to institutions, even though they didn’t know it yet.
Being slow to digitize was these types of companies’ first gaffe. Consumers were becoming increasingly connected and beginning to conduct more online activities, including shopping. Without skipping a beat, Amazon was born to fill in that space. As it turns out, old school corporations weren’t invincible after all. To their big surprise.
Departmental politics paired with bureaucracy and old school executive teams that lacked vision laid the groundwork for companies like Amazon to swoop in, flourish, thrive, and ultimately take over. While the new e-com biz was riding high, the other side must have held many distress and anguish-filled board meetings to try and scramble some sort of competing strategy.
When Amazon was founded in the 90s, it was difficult to imagine just how digital our lives would become. Big traditional retailers eventually caught up and were able to reclaim some of their territory, but things would never be as they once were. Lo and behold, the new untouchable giant is now the young chap known as Amazon.
But through all of this, social media was born, adding yet another layer to the retailer wars. As visionary businesses began flocking to instate a presence on these new channels, it proved to be yet another obstacle for conventional marketers at corporate behemoths. With the playing field now leveled for Amazon and Barnes & Noble, the social media trophy is up for grabs.
Just like we did with Pepsi and Coca Cola, our curious minds led us to digging into the Instagram accounts of these book retailers turned e-tailers to find out who’s truly leading the charge.
Let’s get to it!
Average posts per week: 10
Average likes per post: 3,122
Average engagement rate in the past 4 weeks: 1.44%
Average engagement rate in the past 12 weeks: 1.53%
Barnes & Noble’s top 3 most engaged-around posts of all time:
Average posts per week: 10
Average likes per post: 2,798
Average engagement rate in the past 4 weeks: 0.32%
Average engagement rate in the past 12 weeks: 0.35%
Amazon’s top 3 most engaged-around posts of all time:
Well, there is no denying that while Amazon clearly possesses triple the audience, Barnes & Noble has triple the engagement. Some experts would say that the latter is what counts. In fact, when observing each account’s top performing posts, the elder of the pair is the obvious leader.
Most brands hover around a 1% engagement rate. Anything below that, with the exception of the luxury industry, is indicative of poorly resonating content and disengaged followers. Amazon’s average is a fraction of that, whereas Barnes & Noble surpasses it. It’s common knowledge that the bigger the follower count, the lower the engagement, but even though Amazon’s number is greater, B&N’s isn’t exactly small.
Let’s now dig deeper into content performance and check out other social marketing KPIs to see what else is a brewin’ on the competitive landscape.
The graph below showcases the percentage of average engagements per post, broken down by the ratio of likes and comments received. Unsurprisingly, Barnes and Noble leads the category. They both post 10 times a week, making this an apples to apples KPI match-up.
This graph represents each account’s weekly reach, both owned and earned. It’s completely normal that Amazon’s owned reach crushes that of B&N, given their different audience size. But what’s interesting to note here is that while they both earn a lot of reach, Amazon leaves B&N in the dust on this KPI.
This graphic indicates each account’s average weekly growth rate. We can see here that Barnes & Noble is acquiring a higher percentage ratio of followers per week than Amazon.
Here’s Barnes & Noble’s growth chart from the last week. It indicates that they grew their account by over 1.6k over the last 7 days, with an average of 297 per day.
As for Amazon, they managed to get over 5k new followers at an average of 813 per day. Clearly that’s a ton more than Barnes & Noble numerically speaking, but it makes for a smaller growth percentage.
It goes to show that account size isn’t the apex of social success and that it’s in fact quite insignificant as it relates to actual performance. But the numbers are concrete public-facing metrics that Amazon can claim as an unequivocal win.
We should also note that Amazon has gone on to do business way beyond books (as we all know), and boasts an Instagram account for each one of their integrated verticals. Perhaps next time we should compare them to Target?
Regardless of anything, it’s pretty crazy to think that Amazon was just a startup 15 years ago. It now sits at #4 on the stock market list of the most valued companies in the world. Chew on that.
In the meantime, trying to think of our next book to read and where to buy it…
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