Everyone's Doing It: Brands Take on Social Media

For fashion companies, 2009 is turning out to be the year of social media.

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When Moxsie introduces a new brand, Kung targets a small number of fashion bloggers who retweet her comments. To test the reach of the strategy, Kung tracked one URL (a brand page on Moxsie) and discovered it could have been viewed by 25,000 people (if they were checking Twitter at the time). It received 2,000 click-throughs — at no charge to Moxsie.

“You can’t just put up a billboard and expect there to be a reaction,” said Farhner. “The interaction is directed by the community. You can’t disrupt the flow — you have to contribute to the interaction, rather than telling people to do things, or they reject you.”

About 30 percent of Moxsie’s traffic is direct, meaning someone types in its URL. Kung said they suspect much of that comes from social media such as blogs, but it can’t be traced. About 40 percent is search the company pays for, and organic search is 10 percent. E-mail is 15 percent.

The company updates its Facebook feed three to four times a week and is popular on Polyvore. Moxsie reshot its clothes without models so the images would be easy to use on the site.

“Polyvore stands out as being the most successful for us,” said Farhner. “Our stuff has been picked up thousands of times,” and people do actually click through and buy, he said.

Moxsie has partnered with Chictopia and also has its own blog, as well as widgets that show new arrivals in the sneaker and jewelry shops. The company would consider banner ads on sites with the right demographic, such as Polyvore and Facebook, but they are not as targeted as other methods, said Kung.

Designers also are exploring more unexpected initiatives. Ralph Lauren earlier this month introduced a second iPhone application with social features. Shoppers can customize Rugby clothes with patches, share and vote on designs and order them over the iPhone. Looks can be e-mailed, posted on Facebook or sent to the Rugby gallery, which will appear on the Rugby site, in the iPhone app and also in store windows in San Francisco and New York.

During New York Fashion Week, Norma Kamali and Jillian Lewis unveiled their collections virtually as well as on the runway, with avatars and virtual clothing on Roiworld and Cellufun.

Another Internet start-up, Enveme, is using a virtual world as well as other forms of social media and music to foster community and drive traffic to its online clothing store as well as provide a revenue stream. Its virtual world, EnveZones, is an area in the already established virtual world of VZones, which members can also access. Enveme is charging $11 a month for avatars clad in virtual versions of actual Enveme clothes. Whether the retailer flops and vanishes into obscurity or succeeds on the scale of a Hot Topic or Forever 21, it is, along with Threadless, one of the first fashion retailers whose business model is based on social media.

Whereas virtual worlds have yet to prove profitable for fashion companies, firms have had great success with outfit-building games.

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