Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Social media in the apparel industry

If you’re anything like me, you spend a lot of time on Facebook. By now you have probably seen or have heard of the Kony 2012 movie that has gone viral. The movement is striving to create awareness about Ugandan warlord joseph Kony, mainly by using social media. Although there was a lot of negative backlash toward the campaign, they did do a very good job of getting the message out there. The YouTube video was viewed over 74 million times in it first week, and my Facebook news feed was littered with people sharing the video and other Kony 2012 related content.

The Kony 2012 movement got me thinking. Social media is such an effective way of spreading a message, so is it being used to its fullest potential by the apparel industry? The apparel industry is a stubborn one in the sense that it likes to do things the way they’ve always been done. It certainly wasn’t the first industry to take advantage of the use of internet advertising and E-shopping, which has proven to be hugely profitable. Are they approaching social media any differently? Yes and no. apparel companies definitely weren’t the first ones to take advantage of Facebook, Twitter, and blogging, but these days you are hearing more and more about company’s and designers throughout the industry who have launched very successful social media campaigns.

It seems to be the designers and retailers who are having the most success with social media, probably because their side of the business is so creativity oriented and they are also the ones who communicate with end consumers the most.

Charlotte Russe has had success using Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube in her social media campaign. The campaign is described as being centered on “user generated content and social engagement”. She uses a weekly trivia contest to draw people to the twitter page, and according to wright lee, she is running a t shirt design contest called ‘Be the next charlotte Russe design star’ where the winner will have their shirt produced and sold online.

Diane von Furstenberg has attracted over 368 thousand followers on her Twitter page with the help of the re-tweeting capability. According to retail industry expert Hitha Prabhakar, “within the last year of having a major online and social media presence, von Furstenberg’s online traffic has increased by 13%”. 13% is a significant increase when you consider the relatively low cost of establishing and maintaining a social media presence.

Louis Vuitton was a little late to the social media party, but they have still managed to establish an advantageous campaign. According to communications marketing specialist Dana Gears, “Louis Vuitton broadcasts its spring 2010 ready-to-wear show live exclusively to Facebook followers, offering a big incentive for recruiting new fans and a reward to its most passionate customers”.

Norma Kamali took an outside the box approach to social media by unveiling last year’s spring collection using an 8 minute 3D film. The film needed to be viewed with special glasses to get the full 3d effect. To get the special 3d glasses, fans had to join Norma Kamalis Facebook page. There were also multiple games to be played for prizes.

Banana Flames website really pushed the boundaries of social media with their ‘Social Shopper’. The goal of the ‘Social Shopper’ is to allow you to try clothes on at home. You simply position yourself in front of your webcam and then adjust the clothes on the screen to fit your body. The really cool part is that you can share the images of what the clothes look like with your friends online and instantly receive feedback.

The aforementioned individuals have put a lot of thought and creativity into their social media campaigns, which begs the question; what are social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook doing to facilitate their use as media outlets for the apparel industry?

Facebook has developed engagement ads that allow for more communication between advertisers and Facebook users. Things such as Facebook’s the fan page have already proved to be very advantageous for apparel companies. Now Facebook users can comment on, like, and share content that they see on a certain page which causes the content to spread faster than it ever could if only being delivered through traditional media outlets such as TV ads. Companies can also be confident that their message will be reaching their target market because users will only be sharing content with people who they are connected to on Facebook, their peers.

As page administrators, apparel companies can track and measure the viral effect of their content. They can see how often content is being shared, the total number of likes and wall posts, page views, and click through rate, among other things. This makes it easier for companies to see their return on investment, which is very important. The same sort of measuring tools are offered on YouTube.

Blogs provide smaller designers or companies with very low budgets the freedom to express themselves in the manner that they feel will attract the most attention from their niche target market.

Online retailers are benefitting from the many apps being developed by social media developers, specifically for the apparel industry. A perfect example is luxury discount E-retailer, Gilt group. Gilt group now has an app designed specifically for android powered devices. So now people can shop Gilt group from the comfort of their Android powered cellphone, and can see the current days sales even if the app is not open, which is important since Gilt groups buying window is only open for 15 minutes every day at noon.

Campaigns like the Kony 2012 movement are inspiring more and more apparel companies to jump on the social media band wagon every year, and as the technology and services available improve, so will the benefits for the apparel industry as a whole and the consumers like you and I.

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