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Social Media: The Second Generation

Forget those who “like” you. Go after the ones who don’t. Going forward, it’s converting new fans that will be paramount.

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NEW YORK — Forget those who “like” you. Go after the ones who don’t.

That’s the new strategy emerging in the ever-evolving world of social media. As fashion firms scramble to add even more content to their Web sites, they’re battling a shifting tide. Now the future of digital marketing isn’t about bulking up a firm’s own branded dot.com to inform followers of the company – it’s about getting their content onto someone else’s to reach more consumers.

The advent of social media and Web 1.0 allowed brands and retailers to build robust and loyal followings, but it’s converting new fans that will be paramount going forward. The single most important thing fashion companies can do in the digital space is seek alternative, off-site ways to spread their message to attract new visitors to their own sites, said Quynh Mai, founder and chief executive officer of Moving Image & Content, a digital agency focused on content and marketing.

Mai urges companies to shift their digital marketing approach away from branded Web portals to outside, third-party sites — although she maintains that editorial content is still a vital part of a brand’s social media persona. A Web site can house a brand’s messaging, Mai said, but the place to put it is on blogs, online publications, Facebook and aggressively encouraging fans and advocates to post and share on those outlets rather than simply on a company’s own site.

“I believe editorial content is necessary — it’s the crux of your company — but in 2.0, that content best lives off-site, outside of a brand’s site and drawing the consumer back to your digital flagship store. The whole purpose of branded content is to engage the consumer where they live, which is on Facebook, blogs and more, and to put that content primarily on the branded Web site is speaking to the already converted,” said Mai, who counts Yves Saint Laurent, Mugler, BeachMint, Shiseido, Natori, Acne, The Row and Olsenboye — Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s junior line for J.C. Penney — as clients.

Users visiting branded sites already are engaged fans — and while company-produced editorial content is paramount in maintaining a faithful customer that keeps returning, brands also need to concentrate on attracting those who are not yet part of their loyal audience.

Fashion brands continue to navigate the digital waters, taking what they’ve learned from the first social media wave and using it to secure a firmer hold on the medium going forward. A digital boom gave way to an influx of editorial content, blogs, livestreams and more — and designers and brands leading the industry digitally, such as Coach, Kate Spade, Tory Burch, H&M, DKNY, Juicy Couture, Ralph Lauren and Diane von Furstenberg, are now strategizing their next moves accordingly. The same goes for more recent adopters of social-based platforms — including Oscar de la Renta, Rebecca Minkoff and Alice + Olivia — who have all been aggressive over the past year about ramping up their digital outreach.

Brands that want to remain on the digital forefront must fine-tune existing strategies — whether this is cultivating a voice or establishing if the manner in which they engage is through broadcasting messaging or a two-way conversation (both equally effective, yet entirely different approaches). By carefully studying strategies past and present, companies can alter, update or get rid of initiatives altogether that failed to garner consumer response or drive traffic and sales.

Karen Robinovitz, co-founder and chief creative officer of Digital Brand Architects — a digital agency that works with Juicy Couture, Olsenboye, B Brian Atwood and Nine West — agrees with Mai that brands need to reallocate their energies online and put their focus off-site.

“I think that you have to be where your consumers are —which is everywhere — and you need to have meaningful and authentic dialogue on those channels,” Rabinovitz said. She believes that brands need to organize around people, and people live in such a distributed manner online that in order to connect with users, brands must operate in a similar fashion.

“You have to start communicating with the consumers who have a propensity to shop your brand, versus doing your marketing on your site, which speaks to the already converted. I’m seeing this as a major shift,” said Mai. “When you look at brands’ unique monthly visitors, they are actually very low, so as brands are robustly building this content, the best thing to do is use their marketing prowess to find multiple and diverse distribution points for that content to draw the consumer back to their digital flagship.”

Diverse distribution points: Check. Elaborate editorial content both on- and off-site: Check. Satiating current consumers while continuing to raise brand awareness: Check.

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