Falling Into Instagram: The National Retail Federation’s Gap Takeover

In a move designed to help draw attention to retail's career prospects, the industry's trade group handed its Instagram feed over to one of its best-known members. Here's why.

There was a celebrity in the house on the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Instagram feed last week.

That celebrity wasn’t a movie star, model, or rapper, though the celebrity has worked with plenty of each over the years. The celebrity was a clothing outlet with more than 3,500 locations worldwide. All last week, The Gap posted photo and video updates on @this_is_retail, showing off the stores, the people, and the latest styles on the shelves.

But something bigger was happening behind the scenes with this strategy. Margaret Case Little, NRF’s senior director of strategic initiatives, chatted with us about what inspired the collaboration:

We’re consistently sourcing these behind-the-scenes stories from our members to share with those targeted audiences.

Rollout morning! New women's product. Monogram looks amazing and flat screen TV's were just installed. @girlabttwn @gapinc #flagshipperks #GapTakeover #thisisretail

The goals: Little says the Instagram account is meant to play up the strategic elements of retail, as well as to push career-recruitment efforts toward the industry. “The retail employees that I meet on a daily basis love the strategic nature of their jobs and have found an outlet for their skill sets. This is the side of retail that doesn’t get enough time in the spotlight, and that’s what we’re doing with @this_is_retail,” she said, adding that this more creative side of things often takes a back seat to selling products, which she emphasizes is only part of the job. (Compare this approach to that of Discover Los Angeles, which collaborated with Instagram users in a completely different way.)

Getting members involved: What does a company like The Gap get out of doing something like this? Easy—it gets a spot to highlight the strategy behind its marketing, rather than simply trying to sell to consumers. In other words, NRF’s Instagram presence offers a look behind the curtain. “From a membership perspective, our members use most social platforms for consumer-focused efforts, where stories about careers, community, and innovation aren’t necessarily the goal of the channel,” Little said. “We’re consistently sourcing these behind-the-scenes stories from our members to share with those targeted audiences.” The federation’s Instagram strategy is only one part of this—NRF’s member spotlight videos (such as The Gap’s, above) also work toward this goal.

This kind gentleman took a break from throwing fish around @pikeplacefish to take a pic with our student blogger @skweber2. @PikePlacePublicMarket is amazing!! #thisisretail #flyingfish #duck

Early success: Traction is coming quickly for the new account, according to Little. “Instagram is the newest addition to NRF’s social media presence, but it has grown dramatically and organically at a more rapid pace than our other social platforms,” she said, adding that followers grew by 15 percent in June, while engagement ramped up by 135 percent. The association plans to expand its strategy in the coming months to leverage the growth, including posting coverage from its Retail Across America road trip (a sample’s shown above) and using its popular #thisisretail hashtag. “In a year, I hope we’ve become the account to follow for anyone in the industry who is looking for daily inspiration,” she said.

The Gap isn’t the first brand to do such a takeover—among others, the Instagram-famous duo behind Dannijo, Jodie and Danielle Snyder, have taken a turn running @this_is_retail—and Little says they definitely won’t be the last.

“[We’re] always on the lookout for other brands to partner with that align with our goals of showcasing all sides of retail and challenging what retail careers, community, and innovation really look like,” she said.

(photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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