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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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Coach’s guest blogger initiative.

Photo By Courtesy Photo

In addition to its content on the recently revamped toryburch.com, Tory Burch maintains active Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as a Tumblr page and a recent blogger collaboration with The Man Repeller — whose founder Leandra Medine cross-promoted a Mother’s Day post on her own site at manrepeller.com that also appeared on Burch’s site.

But the brand is now going beyond that. It recently tapped Demandware for its new e-commerce and mobile commerce sites built upon the Demandware Commerce platform — the fastest-growing channel of revenue for the company, according to Miki Berardelli, Tory Burch’s chief marketing officer. Berardelli told WWD that while e-commerce transactions that occur through mobile commerce may not be the largest channel of revenue for the company, she believes m-commerce will soon become the most important, usurping desktop and laptop access.

The brand also unveiled “Torypedia,” its Tumblr blog, following a total Web site redesign in January, completed by Wednesday London, a digital creative agency based in London that specializes in the fashion and luxury category.

“Our viewpoint is from that of brand and content creation and brands becoming content owners so they could have that dialogue with consumers one-on-one,” said Oliver Walsh, founder and managing director of Wednesday London, whose clients also include J. Crew, Net-a-Porter, Mr Porter, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga and Bobbi Brown.

Walsh contends that consumers get the best engagement when there’s a tailored strategy, which takes into consideration not only the specific nature of the platform, but how users interact with that platform and the mind-set that they’re in when interacting. He advises clients to ask themselves if they are engaging with a consumer in a way that resonates, which has to take platform specifics into consideration, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Polyvore or Lookbook.

“Content comes in many guises, and obviously if a consumer is in a frame of mind where they want to be engaging with a brand such as Tory Burch or Mr Porter — they are visiting the site cognizant that any information is coming from the brand, and of course has a motive,” said Walsh.

He stressed that in addition to authentic, relevant content, the main issue moving forward is that brands are now media owners and generators — and they need to live by the same rules as other media content creators in order to maximize investment. This means that fashion brands must have criteria in place about the nature of the information they cover and don’t cover, set guidelines as to how they interact with users on the various platforms and very clear messaging, which includes what the message is about and how they respond to questions.

“The market has changed a great deal over the past few years, and at first, brands were just diving head first into what they saw as a new phenomenon,” Walsh said.

Some of them learned the hard way, he added. “Many brands weren’t getting the traction they anticipated, or even worse, some started commenting on how inadequate their approach was. That’s when brands also started to realize the power of this platform and investing in the strategy and resources and infrastructure required.”

Those with a firm grasp on the medium know that figuring out their brand’s voice online should be a priority. According to Kate Spade’s senior vice president of global brand marketing Kyle Andrew, social media 2.0 is less about particular functions and more about the tone.

“The tone we are learning has to be much more human. It’s about creating a relationship and giving value to them [the consumer] rather than just trying to push out promotions and what we think we want them to hear. It’s about a conversation,” Andrew said. “When we first started it was very one-sided, and it was us telling them what we wanted them to know, such as the latest bag or promotion. And we realized that we just can’t do that. You have to treat them more like a group of friends, just like you would update your Facebook page with what you’re doing with friends.”

Andrew said that it’s the more mundane posts that get the most reactions, such as images of root beer floats and cupcakes from an office party that were uploaded to the brand’s Facebook page, which differs from what the brand initially used the platform for. Content has to be adjusted per channel, and Kate Spade learned that Facebook is turning into a place where consumers can voice their dislikes, concerns and questions about the brand and product. Twitter, on the other hand, is fun, inspirational, quicker and very much in the moment, while Tumblr is the most visual of the mediums.

She cites a limited edition tote bag the brand designed to help with relief efforts in Japan — and how posting a preview about the new product on Facebook unleashed a strong response and ignited a conversation among fans without the brand even interjecting. While the bag sold out within 20 minutes on Kate Spade’s Web site, Andrew learned from the reactions that consumers who love the brand want product right away and don’t want to be teased about it.

“It’s more about constantly refining and loosening up about how we handle the whole thing and not being so uptight about it. It’s about experimenting and trying different things and realizing that this world changes so quickly,” Andrew said. “You can’t wait to see what everyone else is doing because it moves too fast. You have to have confidence to try things and pull out if it’s not working.”

Next up for Kate Spade: figuring out how to monetize the Facebook experience, currently approaching 272,500 fans, and taking mobile commerce to the next level.

David Duplantis, Coach’s senior vice president of global Web and digital media, agrees with Andrew when it comes to starting and maintaining a dialogue with fans. Although he said he firmly believes in engaging with consumers, he also learned that brands — as much as they originally wanted to speak at people and be the originator of the conversation — need to sit back and let the fans spark their own dialogue.

He cites blogs as being especially instrumental in this — and boasts strong relationships in the blogosphere as the reason why last year’s design collaboration with personal style bloggers was so successful. The founders of Cupcakes and Cashmere, The Glamourai, Karla’s Closet and What is Reality Anyway? worked with the brand on the design of their ideal handbag, which was sold online and at several flagship locations — and all four styles sold out.

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