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Real Simple

Real Simple is a magazine that I’ve recently become an avid fan of due to a focus group I helped to moderate. One of the girls in the group continuously raved about how this magazine made everything so nice and simple for her, so I had to check it out and was not disappointed. The magazine addresses all the aspects of a woman’s life, from smart fashion and shopping to interior design, health and beauty. I decided to check out how the magazine was doing for using a couple of social media research tools through Zeitgeist, among them Google Insights for Search (beta) and Google trends. On Google trends, a search for the company’s website showed the following graphical data:

The site has seen a relatively flat trend in the past two and a half years with a gradual growth and currently a downward slope, which is curious. I would’ve thought considering the current state of the economy that users would be more inclined to go on the site and find ways to save their hard-earned dollars. The United States comes far ahead of the rest of the regions that access the site, with nearby neighbor Canada coming in second and the United Kingdom following third. A hypothesis I have on why the Real Simple website has witnessed a decline in daily unique visitors is that there is a lack of social interaction on the site. There are no comment sections on any of the articles, probably to keep in line with the “real simple” philosophy. Lots of comments on articles would probably add clutter to the site. However, because of that, there is less traffic being driven to the site for users to interact with each other. Based on the Groundswell chapter’s social technographics ladder, this lack of social interaction automatically eliminates the creators and critics from participating on the site. However, while these two categories of online users cannot participate on the website, they can still drive traffic to Real Simple. For example, creators will probably have their own blogs where they can make references to Real Simple if the entry is related to something they are writing about. Critics could indirectly interact with Real Simple by commenting on these creators’ blogs. They may be persuaded to visit the Real Simple site if the blogger they follow has something interesting to say about the site as well.

The top search terms for those who visited the site include “real simple,” “martha stewart,” and “williams sonoma” which gives us an insight into the kinds of things visitors are interested in. Martha Stewart and Williams-Sonoma certainly carry kitchen-y, domestic connotations, and Williams-Sonoma most definitely has an upper-class association since its cooking ware is of high quality and price.  As I am new to Real Simple, I didn’t expect to see anything else I was interested in show up in the top ten search terms. However, top search term #9,  pinterest, was the most relevant to me. I go on pinterest pretty much every day, and it does make sense that those who are interested in the simple layouts, nice design, and organization that pinterest offers would also be interested in Real Simple. This connects those who go on Real Simple and pinterest to the collectors cateogory on the social technographics ladder.

It’s also interesting though that a lot of the top ten terms are attributed to high-quality, high-price brands such as Banana Republic, Anthropologie, and Missoni. Initially I assumed that those who used Real Simple would be concerned with design and low pricing (since many of its articles are at cost-effective ways to dress, design, etc.), but I realized I may be wrong about that initial assumption now. This data reinforces the idea that people who check out Real Simple are looking for simple, clean concepts, but not necessarily simple, low-price concepts. Also, a quick look through the sites that Real Simple recommends buying interior design items from also confirms that simple does not equate to low-price like I had initially assumed.

Lastly, in terms of the reasons for visiting this site, I would say that the creative impulse mentioned in the Groundswell chapters would be the definitive one. Although the Real Simple site does not allow for collaboration and social interaction on its site, it does have a Facebook fan page home to approximately 150,000 fans who regularly check the page for updates and can make comments on articles and even consumer-generated photos and links posted to Real Simple through that social medium. People love to see what everyone else has come up with and to comment on designs and ideas that they think are brilliant, after all. This also helps fans and Real Simple interact with each other directly. Now that I think about it, perhaps the reason why the frequency of daily unique visitors to the site is so declining is because the majority of these visitors would rather interact with one another on SNSes like Facebook. Once in a while, when an article is posted, they may click on it and go to the site that way, but otherwise, most of the impressions for Real Simple will be on its Facebook fan page.

Real Simple also maintains an active Twitter page with an even higher following fans (approximately 300,000), and the magazine company makes it a point to post articles from their website and to interact with its fans. However, the interaction on there is minimal, keeping consistent with its name, which brings up a point I want to make, and that is that the brand personality should match with the brand behavior. I feel like Real Simple has done a splendid job of keeping consistency across Facebook, Twitter, and its own website when it comes to keeping information nice and simple for its audience to consume.


About Mai

Undergraduate advertising and marketing major at UT Austin blogging for a Customer Insights and Experiences course. Follow me, it'll be fun. I can't promise candy, though.

One response to “Real Simple

  1. Swapna Sathyan ⋅

    Mai- I enjoyed reading your blog. You have effectively used the online research tools to unravel data about the Real Simple website, and tied to to your rationale that they have more interactive social media sites than their website. Good job.

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