American Eagle Outfitters: How the launch of #AerieREAL built and connected the Aerie community — Live from Member Meeting 39

Coverage of this session by Courtney Graham of Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

3:50 —'s Kayal Rajendran introduces American Eagle Outfitters' Social Media Associate Manager, Stephanie Campbell.

3:51 — Stephanie: One of first tasks at Aerie was to engage with customers on Twitter. This begins the first chapter of the story.

Chapter 1: “Is there anybody out there?”

We found that a large number of people that discuss a brand online do not follow that brand’s profile. And this is a missed opportunity.

3:52 — Stephanie: We're relativity new, and we realized we didn't know who our girl was. We tried to figure how to listen to that customer. We asked what platform was she posting to and what time was she posting.

3:53 — Stephanie: Then we asked why is he/she on that platform and what are they searching for? We created examples of how our customer was interacting on platforms and posted to fit that. We found this was a brainstorm model that could fit any demographic.

3:55 — Stephanie: Not only are we saving time with this outline, but we're also building up a content calendar and hub.

3:56 — Now that we have the right content, the right platform, and the right time, the question becomes are we still listening? What does the customer want?

3:57 — Stephanie: Chapter 3: “What a girl wants”

  • She wants to see girls like her in our marketing and social media channels
  • She wants to see diversity and girls that reflect all shapes and body types
  • She wants to feel confident and live a healthy life

3:58 — Chapter 4: #AerieREAL

“The purpose of AerieREAL is to communicate there is no need to retouch beauty, and to give young women of all shapes and sizes the chance to discover amazing styles that work best for them.”

3:58 — Stephanie: It's hard to relate to a brand, so we began posting real quotes from our customer to show what #AerieREAL actually means to them.

3:59 — Stephanie: Storytelling is what served as the catalyst for how we brought #AerieREAL to social media. It became part of our brand DNA.

  • Kicked off the #AerieREAL contest with a blog feature and a one-hour Twitter chat
  • The result? 930 users of the hashtag between the hours of 2-3 PM
  • By 2:15, #AerieREAL was a trending topic nationwide
  • Generated 5M impressions

4:01 — Stephanie: We launched #LoveYourRealSelfie and set the record for the world's largest selfie in Miami during Spring Break. We partnered with bloggers and celebrities, earned 40M impressions, 530K engagements on Instagram and Twitter, and grew by 18K Instagram followers during the campaign.

4:04 — Stephanie: Let's talk about numbers —

  • 30,000 uses of #AerieREAL on Instagram
  • 500,000 Instagram followers (huge deal to us because our community is growing stronger and faster than ever)
  • Example of Iskra Lawrence — a model that was turned down due to body type. She used our platform to tell her story and our story. She's an #AerieREAL role model. When she started with us she had only 8K Instagram followers. Now she has 1.7M.

4:05 — Stephanie: What's next?

  • We’ll donate $1 for ever hashtag use
  • Partnering with 40 influencers reaching over 40M

4:06 — Our focus started as how we could tell our brand story, but now it's how can we listen.



Q: What's your plan to broaden the #AerieREAL hashtag? What do you do with it moving forward?

A: We decided that #AerieREAL will sort of be our forever hashtag. There is so much brand association with it. Plus, our customers associate positivity and community around the hashtag.

Q: How did Periscope work for you?

A: We've been on Periscope multiple times, especially around campaigns and live events. We'll also do live streams with Iskra. But, we're not sure we're going to do it more in the future because the engagement numbers just aren't there.

Q: How did you strategize your listening?

A: When we launched AerieREAL, we received hundreds of comments, and we began grouping the comments. From the beginning, our strategy was to group the information, and we use it to make decisions on how we move the strategy forward in the future. We do work with a listening tool, but we'll showcase individual tweets and stories from our customers. Those stories show a better picture of the campaign to our executives.

Q: How do you deal with educating your audience on what's ok to share?

A: We do get our share of images that are inappropriate, but when it comes to featuring any story we make sure the users are over 18 or there is a guardian. We follow all the guidelines to protect the brand.

Q: How did you leverage the UGC from the campaign? And how did you leverage influencers?

A: Different seasons and products produced different amounts of UGC, but we rebrand the photos. We really found that the engagement around the photos really keeps the content and community going. For influencers, we picked the influencers we wanted to work with. We looked at the accounts of influencers to make sure they fit the brand but also had their own positive story.