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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But in terms of the most growth within a specific social medium, Duplantis is quick to point to Facebook, where the brand just surpassed 2 million “likes.” He said it’s the “rich visual and interactive environment” the platform provides that allows such a positive consumer response and engaged fan base.

“Social media 1.0 was the Wild West, but no one wants 2.0 to turn into boring tract housing. The brands that embrace authenticity, innovation and strategy over safety and sameness will succeed during the next wave,” Duplantis said.

As they enter Web 2.0, Kate Spade and Coach had to overcome a learning curve with respect to the dissemination of content and information. The two brands found that what worked best for them was taking a step back and learning to converse with fans, rather than just dictating the dialogue — or what Mai refers to as becoming an “engagement brand.”

She divides the fashion industry’s digital initiatives into two categories: broadcast brands — where the communication message is based on broadcast, and companies produce the content they’re broadcasting through various channels — and engagement brands, where consumers are truly engaged in a two-way dialogue with the brand.

“Not all brands want that two-way dialogue, especially those that are higher end and more luxury. It’s not within their DNA and social structure,” said Mai, citing JewelMint as an engagement brand and Yves Saint Laurent as a broadcast brand. JewelMint is a social shopping e-commerce platform founded by MySpace founder Josh Berman, and it allows consumers to participate in the business. Users are encouraged to get involved in the creative process and vote on content, and the site also uses crowdsourcing to choose and name product.

Oscar de la Renta is another brand whose social media personality has had a strong year, even though it did not dive in as early as some other designers. Vice president of global communications Erika Bearman actively started tweeting under the handle @OscarPRGirl in 2010 (even though the brand launched the Twitter page in June 2009), and followers on the medium have grown by 133 percent since February 2011 to over 70,000 and almost 450 percent since September 2010, when the brand had just 12,800 followers.

Bearman cites a recent Facebook initiative that celebrated the launch of the fashion house’s new fragrance Esprit d’Oscar as being effective in attracting fans on the platform. The brand’s “likes” grew by 40 percent in a one-week period, and 5,000 users participated in a feedback survey on the scent, post-sampling (25,000 fans “liked” de la Renta’s Facebook page in order to receive a sample of the fragrance).

Bearman added, “Every day we look more like a publisher — creating stories for our fans, and tailoring them in a unique way for our different social platforms. This is social media 2.0, and brands are not just creators, but distributors of content. As the landscape quickly changes, we feel it is important to be somewhat fluid. We are constantly evolving the way that we communicate.”

With hardly any social media outreach in place just over a year ago — Alice + Olivia had just a few hundred Facebook “likes” in early 2010 and now boasts over 7,000, as well as 20,000 followers on Twitter — the brand plans to aggressively forge ahead in terms of engaging with its fan base.

“It took me so long to find someone that I thought could create a site and understand my aesthetic. I really refrained from all Internet until I felt I found someone that could bring to life what I wanted,” said Alice + Olivia founder Stacey Bendet, who announced a relaunch of the company’s blog today.

She is quick to acknowledge that she sees more of a response from fans when she personally tweets from the brand’s Twitter handle herself — versus another member of her team — and certain things, such as sending e-mail blasts twice a week, aren’t as effective as sending one a week. The same goes for Bendet’s “4AM Finds” column (where she highlights what she’s inspired by at the moment): She found that when she produced two a week it was “getting diluted.” When she tried penning one post per week, people were opening and viewing the link in much higher numbers. She adds that the new blog will be produced by herself, an in-house stylist and plenty of contributions from Bendet’s famous friends — including Gwyneth Paltrow, who edited this week’s edition of “4AM Finds.”

“The content is changing. It’ s becoming this sort of Alice + Olivia world magazine, a combination of my voice and all the images, ideas, people and places that inspire us here,” said Bendet. “I think it’s a true look inside our world. It’s like written reality TV and a glimpse inside what happens here in a very organic, everyday way.”

Rebecca Minkoff, one of the more active in fashion’s digital sphere, was another to join the party a little later than some of its contemporary counterparts (the brand currently has over 35,000 fans on Twitter and almost 26,500 “likes” on Facebook). But this has only affected the company positively, and according to ceo Uri Minkoff, in addition to learning the value and power of directly connecting with the consumer, the brand has only grown through this direct involvement, coordination and inter action.

But he admits he might have taken it a bit too far when colleagues tried to answer and please “everyone.”

“This can be tough when the numbers get overwhelming, so we created a better system,” Minkoff added. “It was a better business intelligence system to filter data and get weighted opinions. There is the sorting of key data from taste makers, bloggers and press, as well as general consumers, and how to best process this data for consumption internally to key resources who need to know, and then how best to go out to each segment with replies and responses.”

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