Social Media Rewrite the Rules for Brands

Gucci, Oscar de la Renta, Donna Karan, Target, Urban Outfitters, Louis Vuitton and Rachel Roy jump into social media sphere.

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Ronson said she updates her Twitter fans at least daily “letting them know if something new comes in or something sells well. It’s a good way to keep everyone connected.”

The designer maintains a Twitter page for her business — — with 2,084 followers since starting in the last three months. It includes examples of the Twitter-as-marketing technique, such as a recent tweet that said, “Just got in some great Rag & Bone items…hats, ties and belts…come check it out!!!”

Ronson’s attention to her Twitter page has yielded results in her retail site’s traffic. About 10 percent of Ronson’s total site traffic originates on Twitter, and 93 percent are new visitors. Ronson also posts daily updates on her personal Twitter page,, which has 11,946 followers, with musings about her day, such as, “I’m watching ‘Funny Face,’ the musical with Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire…Need I say more…”

Roy tweets several times daily on and has attracted 1,672 followers who frequently retweet — the Twitter term for forwarding a message — her posts. The designer mixes promotional tweets, such as, “The entire RR 2010 Resort Collection Lookbook has been posted on Rachel Roy’s official Facebook Page. Check it out,” with more personal tweets — “I found some cute wellies by Hunter for my daughter and I — green for me and purple for her. Here’s a link to more.”

The juxtaposition is engineered to nurture ties with customers. “I hope that my relationship with customers will become more intimate as they get to know me beyond my designs,” she said.

Facebook relaunched its company page platform in March with more options for organizations to elevate “the power of the brand,” said Tom Arrix, the site’s vice president of U.S. sales. The result is a company page that looks identical to a user’s page, with a “Wall” where the company and its fans can post messages, photos and video; a tab for information about the company, and additional tabs where a firm can add everything from sale promotions to trailers for new ad campaigns.

Facebook offers its users the ability to “fan” a firm or brand — a component that sets it apart from a standard company Web site. Once a user has “fanned” a brand, the business has direct access to them and is able to send messages and updates via a constant news feed on the user’s home page.

The result is a “powerful brand advantage….The company is now in the middle of two-way communication with their consumer,” Arrix said.

To join Twitter, a user creates a free user name and password and then sifts through a search function to find friends and companies the user would like to “follow.” Once a user is following a company, the user’s home page is refreshed with every update that company sends. For instance, if LouisVuitton_US tweets “Louis Vuitton’s new Core Values campaign profiled in today’s @nytimes,” all 10,492 of its followers will see this message on their home pages.

Some naysayers may find it hard to understand why a person would invite a company into their virtual personal life by fanning a company on Facebook or following them on Twitter, but millions have done just that.

It remains difficult to decipher what an online following means for companies in the long term. The more established Facebook and MySpace now have retention rates of almost 70 percent, according to Nielsen Media. However, Nielsen Media estimated more than 60 percent of first-time Twitter users neglected to return to the site after a month.

Vitrue created a Social Media Index to measure what people are talking about online. The index is generated from an algorithm that scours the Internet for a specific term on searches and social media networks and produces a score. The higher the score, the more frequently that term has been mentioned on the Web. Vitrue looked at 35 major fashion brands and retailers from May 26 to June 1. The five most-talked-about brands were Gucci, Target, Gap, American Apparel and Urban Outfitters.

These brands are, not coincidentally, active on social platforms. They “leverage their presence on social networks, have great content [updated frequently] and tools for engagement and conversation,” Bradford said.

“Fashion brands are emblematic of a person’s personality and how they want to be perceived; it’s woven into [her] identity,” he said. “Everybody loves brands — whether they’re generic or Gucci. It’s a statement.”

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