Alright, who here has ever heard of Warby Parker?

Now, obviously I can’t see you, but chances are good that a decent number of you have got a paw up in the air.  You may even own a pair or two of Warby Parker eyeglasses yourself.

And if you’re working on building your own brand, you can learn a thing or two by studying their methods.

The one-of-a-kind eyewear retailer started in 2010 by students at the University of Pennsylvania.  Since then, Warby Parker has quickly made a name for itself across the internet.  In fact, as stated by Carly Stec, they’ve “taken the marketing world by storm.”

But what did they do and how can you use that information to your advantage?

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Challenging the Status Quo

Humans are creatures of habit and those habits can be hard to change.

When you develop your own social media marketing strategies, you’re going to have to figure out how to influence established human behavior.   That’s why understanding how social media can be used to shape those behaviors is important.

Warby Parker understood this quite well.

As a company that is 100% online, they’ve certainly had to deal with a good amount of resistance to their rather unique business model.  After all, Warby Parker can be credited as one of the first creators of vertically integrated ecommerce, in which a company doesn’t outsource its supply.  Instead, Warby Parker designs and produces its own glasses—frames and all.  This in and of itself is a challenge because many potential buyers might think what they produce is just not as good as a name brand.

Then there’s the “how’s it going to look on me” dilemma.

Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort we feel when confronted with things that challenge our beliefs and behaviors.

When most folks think of buying glasses, they imagine standing in the middle of their optometrist’s showroom, trying on frames to see which one they like best.  This “try-before-you-buy” mentality was hard to overcome.   In fact, people tend to experience something called cognitive dissonance.  Cognitive dissonance can be can be explained as the discomfort we feel when confronted with something that challenges our usual beliefs and behaviors.

So in order to reduce this dissonance, Warby Parker implemented a Home Try-On Campaign that lets potential customers order up to 5 pairs of glasses free of charge.  Buyers can then try these on at home, keep the ones they like and send back the ones they don’t.

It’s About a Lifestyle, Not a Product

As early as 1971, marketers were beginning to realize that people don’t necessarily like to be treated as the next potential sale.  They like to feel included and valued. As someone trying to grow your own brand, you need to make them feel like they belong as part of a community.

Like I stated above, the decisions Warby Parker made to influence buy choices were in and of themselves very well planned.  Their means of creating that feeling of inclusion was no less brilliant.

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You see, Warby Parker realized that the traditional linear media model used by most companies wasn’t going to help them change how customers perceived the eyeglass buying process.

The linear method relies on the principle of cause-and-effect.  In the past, marketers sent out their message to as many people as possible, hoping a few of them would grab hold.  Television and magazine ads are examples of this type of marketing.

In contrast, Warby Parker recognized the power that social media has when it comes to effecting changes in human behavior.  In other words, they understood that communication is transactional in nature and applied this idea to their business model.

In pursuing this model of communication, Warby Parker has greatly enhanced their chances of success.

46% of online users rely on social media to make purchase decisions.

First, social media is, by its very nature, social.  You see, it’s all about “building a lifestyle, not just a product.”

Unlike previous communication or marketing models, social media allowed Warby Parker to personalize interactions with its customer base.  This was done by engaging with them directly on social media through posts and comments.

Next, they also encouraged the creation of “user-generated content.”

Now, a lot of things fall within this particular category, such as blogs, wikis, images, even Facebook posts.  Warby Parker capitalized on people’s love to share by inviting customers to post pictures of themselves wearing their glasses on their own social media networks.  This in turn brought in more customers who felt that since their friend or relative had a good experience, they would, too!

It also didn’t hurt that this also created a sense of belonging to a larger community of Warby Parker wearers.

Embrace the Power of Social Media

There’s no denying it, folks.

Understanding social media and its role in influencing human behavior is imperative in today’s marketing world.  According to one 2014 study, 46% of online users rely on social media to determine whether or not to make purchase.

Social media presents so many ways to engage with your audience and grow your brand.  What are some of your favorites?  Let me know in the comments!




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