ModCloth is one of my favorite places on the web, not only because they stock new items throughout the day (perfect for an online shopping grazer, like yours truly), but because they have sustained a healthy, thriving community and retail presence for over a decade, spurred in no doubt by a healthy appetite for trialing out the latest in digital and mobile tactics, social media included. It's also a wonderfully romantic success story - high school sweethearts bond over vintage and battle their way through the ranks to emerge, beautifully-clad and victorious, surpassing $15 million in annual revenue in 2009. Where are my smelling salts?
Although I was only able to stay for a short visit, I can say that it did involve hula hooping, a bit of harmless pug flirting with the ModCloth mascot Winston (he started it!), and enough goodies to develop a series of posts, which will be rolling out in the next few weeks.
This company started in a dorm room and now we have three locations and it’s crazy and big. Social media where we work to keep that girl in the thrift store voice, so no matter how big we get people know that we are still [at heart] those good old girls from Pittsburg who just have a really great website.
So if we do a twitter contest or if we are talking to people online it should never sound like a marketing or broadcast-type voice. The game should be something we would want to play with our friends, the conversation one we would like to have with our friends. - Natasha Kazi
Social media was never a decision at ModCloth, rather it was wrapped into the very fabric of the company (like that?!). Back in the early part of the decade, Co-Founder Susan and early ModCloth buyers were post-college kids working out of Susan's basement, using social media for personal use. Leveraging these tools to connect as a business was a natural progression. Around 2006, Susan joined a number of communities like Polyvore and Facebook, and launched the ModCloth blog. As the company received funding and grew to include a marketing department, ModCloth joined Twitter and began working with fashion and style bloggers. About a year and a half ago, Natasha Kazi, ModCloth's Social Media Coordinator, was hired to formalize the company's social media strategy. In August, she was joined by Social Media Specialist, Ashley LaFerriere. Based on the company's Social Media Philosophy, developed in early 2010, the duo has been hard at work to extend and innovate in the social media space. Below are a few of the highlights:
Active vs Passive Listening
We hear all the time that listening is a crucial step in the social media process. And that insights gained from listening should be used to inform strategy. Natasha makes an important distinction here between passive and active listening. At ModCloth active listening includes responding to indicate that someone at the brand is actually paying attention. In addition, the social media department at ModCloth collects the conversations and commentary happening about the brand online and brings it to the company at-large.
"We have an internal idea box where we talk about things we can do to improve the company. If we see a good suggestion from a customer [through social media] we will put that into the idea box and it carries equal weight to an employee suggestion. If something is produced or changed from that suggestion then we go back and tell that customer, this is what we did because of you."
Curation vs Marketing
A buzzword out of social media in the last year or so has centered around the concept of curation, particularly with regard to a brand's role in helping to organize and present a somewhat cohesive view into brand conversations, and brand advocates online. For ModCloth, this concept of curation means looking beyond the product into the full lived experience of the ModCloth customer, an understanding that comes from an ongoing feedback loop with customers that has existed from the beginning. Currently, the social media department does a lot of testing through quizzes and polls as well as keywords though Facebook advertising to figure out what resonates strongest with their customer.
We know that there are certain things about ModCloth women and one thing they typically have in common is this love for nostalgia. So for example, whether you are into indie, folk or pop music, if you like Jane Austen, then there's a high probability you're going to like ModCloth.
Don’t say it, get them to say it to each other.
The ModCloth website and social media channels provide multiple opportunities for customers to connect with one another and the brand. From customer reviews that can include customer measurements, to Be The Buyer, where customers vote on the items they want the site to carry next, dialogue abounds.
Social media is amplifying the oldest marketing tool in the book, word of mouth. We know the value of our customer's social graph and that what they say [to each other] is way more important than anything we could say. So we give [our community] the tools to share information, and we give them content that they want to share.