Posts Tagged ‘social marketing’

Social Media Measurement: Moving forward with the data and tools at hand

April 29th, 2011

Social media measurement is in its early phases, and marketers need to decide whether to parse the social media cacophony, much like a radio astronomer, gathering as much data as possible to discern the signs of life or selectively focus on a small, but sufficiently meaningful set of metrics.

The word “sufficient” can span a wide spectrum, and determining what is sufficient is perhaps the question that marketers must answer.

In some sense, you really don’t have a choice. How much data you can afford to collect and analyze is limited by your organization’s budgetary and human resources. If you are not already collecting enough data for “big” analytics (”Approach 1” that I described in my last blog post), it makes sense to get the most out of what you have now relatively quickly, and in the process learn what additional data you need.

I spend a significant amount of time in digital photography, and my friends often ask me for advice on what camera to buy as they are getting more “serious.” My answer is always the same—first, get the most out of the camera you have. Once you start appreciating what your camera lacks, then you can start thinking about investing into those specific features.

In the same sense, getting started is critical. Reading blog posts will not give you a concrete sense of social media (SoMe) measurement until you get your own hands on a monitoring tool—even if you start by  manually listening to conversations using RSS feeds, Twitter, Google Alerts, and the like.

Second, you need to clearly identify your objectives. In our own research project on SoMe measurement with Radian6, I am leaning toward focusing on best practices for specific scenarios—e.g., a Facebook company page—to deal with manageable amounts of data and produce results on a realistic timeline.

So for those not quite ready for “big” analytics, let’s take a look at a quick start approach…

Approach 2: A microscope, not a radio telescope

Commit to a set of metrics you’ll be accountable for, and stick with them. This is a far more pragmatic approach that does not require that every kind of data is available to be measured. If it appears that this approach is not scientific, that is not the case. While focusing on a smaller number of metrics does not paint the whole picture the way that the first approach does, trending data over time can be highly valuable and meaningful in reflecting the effectiveness of marketing efforts.

Taking into account the marginal time, effort, and talent required to process more data, it makes economic sense to focus on a smaller number of data points. With fewer numbers to crunch, marketers armed, for example, only with data available directly from their social media management tools, can calibrate their marketing efforts against this data to build actionable KPIs (key performance indicators).

During Social Media Week, NYC-based Social2b’s Alex Romanovich, CMO, and Ytzik Aranov, COO, presented a straightforward measurement strategy rooted in established, if not venerated, marketing heuristics, such as Michael Porter’s Value Chain Analysis. Their core message is to appreciate that different social media KPIs will be important not only to different companies and industry segments, but “these KPIs also have to align well with more traditional metrics for that business – something that the C-Level and the financial community of this company will clearly understand.

Alex stresses that “the entire ‘value chain’ of the enterprise can be affected by these metrics and KPIs – hence, if the organization has a sales culture and is highly client-centric, the entire organization may have to adapt the KPIs used by the sales organization, and translated back to the financial indicators and cause factors.

This approach should immediately make sense to marketers, even without any knowledge of statistical analysis.

Social2B focuses not only on the marketing, but also on the customer service component of SoMe ROI, and here is Ytzik’s short list of steps for getting there:

  1. Define the social media campaign for customer service resolution
  2. Solve for the KPI and projections
  3. Apply Enterprise Scorecard parameters, categories
  4. Solve for risk, enterprise cost, growth, etc.
  5. Map to social media campaign cost
  6. Solve for reduction in enterprise costs through social media
  7. Justify and allocate budget to social media

An important element here is the Enterprise Scorecard—another established (though loosely defined) management tool that is often overlooked even by large-scale marketing organizations. Given the novelty of SoMe, getting it into the company budget requires not only proving the ROI numerically, but also speaking the right language. Ytzik’s “C-level Suite Roadmap” might appear simple, but it requires that corporate marketers study up on their notes from business school:

  • Engage in Compass Management (managing and influencing your organization vertically and horizontally in all directions)
  • Define who owns the Web and social media within the company
  • Identify the enterprise’s value chain components
  • Understand the enterprise’s financial scorecard

Again, no statistics here—it is understood that analysis will be required, but these tools will put you in a good position when the time comes to present your figures.

How to get started

Finally, I wanted to get as pragmatic as possible to help marketers get started and not get stuck in a data deluge. Here are Social2B’s top 10 questions to ask yourself before you scale your SoMe programs:

  1. Is my organization and my executive management team ready for social media marketing and branding?
  2. Does everyone treat social media as a strategic effort or as an offshoot of marketing or PR/communications?
  3. Where in the organization will social media reside?
  4. Will I be able to allocate sufficient budget to social media efforts in our company?
  5. How will social media discipline be aligned with HR, Technology, Customer Service, Sales, etc.?
  6. What tools and technologies will I need to implement social media campaigns?
  7. Will ‘social’ also include ‘mobile’?
  8. How will we integrated SoMe marketing campaigns with existing, more ‘traditional’ marketing efforts?
  9. How much organizational training will we need to implement in integrating ‘social’ within our enterprise?
  10. Are we going to use ‘social’ for advertising and PR/Communications? What about ‘disaster recovery’ and ‘reputation management’?

Related Resources

Social Media Measurement: Big data is within reach

2011 Social Marketing Benchmark Report – Save $100 with presale offer (ends tomorrow, April 30)

Always Integrate Social Marketing?

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Social Media Measurement: Big data is within reach

April 28th, 2011

Should marketers wait for a grand unified theory of social media ROI measurement, or confidently move forward with what they have available to them now?

This question has been at the forefront of my thinking, as we proceed with MarketingSherpa’s joint research project with Radian6 to discover a set of transferable principles, if not a uniform formula to measure social media (SoMe, pronounced “so me!”) marketing effectiveness.

As I have written previously, some of the popular measurement guidelines provide a degree of comfort that comes from having numbers (as opposed to just words and PowerPoint® slides), but fail to connect the marketing activity to bottom-line outcomes.

To help think through this, I spoke with several practitioners to get some feedback “from the trenches” during SoMe Week here in NYC. With their help, I broadly defined two approaches.

Approach 1: Brave the big data

Take large volumes of diverse data, from both digital and traditional media, and look for correlations using “real” big-data analysis. This analysis is performed on a case-by-case basis, and the overarching principles are the well-established general statistical methods, not necessarily specifically designed for marketers.


  • The methodologies are well established
  • There are already tools to help (Radian 6, Alterian, Vocus, etc)


  • Most marketers are not also statisticians or have the requisite tools (e.g., SAS is an excellent software, but it comes with a premium price)
  • Comprehensive data must be available across all relevant channels, otherwise the validity of any conclusions from the data rapidly evaporates (Radian6 announcement of integrating third-party data streams like Klout, OpenAmplify and OpenCalais in addition to existing integration with customer relationship management (CRM), Web analytics, and other enterprise systems certainly helps)
  • In the end, it’s still conversation and not conversion without attribution of transactional data

If the volume of data becomes overwhelming, analytical consulting companies can help. NYC-based Converseon does precisely that, and I asked Mark Kovscek, their SVP of enterprise analytics, about the biggest challenges to getting large projects like this completed efficiently. Mark provided several concrete considerations to help marketers think through this, based on Converseon’s objectives-based approach that creates meaningful marketing action, measures performance, and optimizes results:

  • Marketers must start with a clear articulation of measurable and action-oriented business objectives (at multiple levels, e.g., brand, initiative, campaign), which can be quantified using 3-5 KPIs (e.g., Awareness, Intent, Loyalty)
  • Large volumes of data need to be expressed in the form of simple attributes (e.g., metrics, scores, indices), which reflect important dimensions such as delivery and response and can be analyzed through many dimensions such as consumer segments, ad content and time
  • The key to delivering actionable insights out of large volumes of data is to connect and reconcile the data with the metrics, with the KPIs, and with the business

How much data is enough? The answer depends on the level of confidence required.  Mark offered several concrete rules of thumb for “best-case scenario” when dealing with large volumes of data:

  • Assessing the relationship of data over time (e.g., time series analysis) requires two years of data (three preferred) to accurately understand seasonality and trend

–   You can certainly use much less to understand basic correlations and relationships.  Converseon has created value with 3-6 months of data in assessing basic relationships and making actionable (and valuable) decisions

  • Reporting the relationship at a point in time requires 100-300 records within the designated time period (e.g., for monthly listening reporting, Converseon looks for 300 records per month to report on mentions and sentiment)

–   This is reasonably easy when dealing with Facebook data and reporting on Likes or Impressions

–   However, when dealing with data in the open social graph to assess a brand, topic or consumer group, you can literally process and score millions of records (e.g., tweets, blogs, or comments) to identify the analytic sample to match your target customer profile

  • Assessing the relationship at a point in time (e.g., predictive models) requires 500-1000 records within the designated time period

Understanding the theoretical aspects of measurement and analysis, of course, is not enough. A culture of measurement-based decision making must exist in the organization, which means designing operations to support this culture. How long does it take to produce a meaningful insight? Several more ideas from Converseon:

  • 80% of the work is usually found in data preparation (compiling, aggregating, cleaning, and managing)
  • Reports that assess relationships at a single point in time can be developed in 2-3 weeks
  • Most predictive models can be developed in 4-6 weeks
  • Assessing in-market results and improving solution performance is a function of campaign timing

Finally, I wanted to know what marketers can do to make this more feasible and affordable. Mark recommends:

  • Clearly articulate business objectives and KPIs and only measure what matters
  • Prioritize data
  • Rationalize tools (eliminate redundancy, look for the 80% solution)
  • Get buy-in from stakeholders early and often

In my next blog post on this topic, I’ll discuss an approach to SoMe measurement that trades some of the precision and depth for realistic attainability—something that most marketers that can’t afford the expense or the time (both to learn and to do) required to take on “big data.”

Related Resources

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Inbound Marketing newsletter – Free Case Studies and How To Articles from MarketingSherpa’s reporters

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Social Media Marketing: Tactics ranked by effectiveness, difficulty and usage

April 26th, 2011

I’ve been browsing the new MarketingSherpa 2011 Social Marketing Benchmark Report this week and soaking up the rich data. One of the first charts that struck me is a bubble chart on social marketing tactics.Social Marketing Tactics Chart 2011

First, I want to say, I love these bubble charts. They provide a three-dimensional view of the data on a given topic. Our researchers do a great job of packing them full of information without making them confusing.

This chart graphs the effectiveness, difficulty and popularity of each social media marketing tactic. You’ll notice a clear positive correlation between a tactics’ level of difficulty and its level of effectiveness.

Hard work pays off

For those of you who have not brushed up on your statistics lately (as I just brushed up a moment ago) I will note that a positive correlation between two factors means that as one factor increases, the second factor increases. For example, there is a positive correlation between my consumption of ice cream and the temperature outside.

Looking at this chart, it’s clear that the most effective social marketing tactics are also the most difficult, and vice-versa. Blogger relations — the most effective tactic reported — is also the only tactic to break into the 70%-range in terms of marketers reporting it as “very” or “somewhat” difficult.

You’ll also see that the three most-effective tactics — blogging, SEO for social sites, and blogger relations — are known to require significant amounts of time and effort before results are shown.

Every tactic is somewhat effective

Take a look at the scale on this chart’s Y-axis (level of effectiveness). Those listed percentages correspond to the number of marketers who reported a tactic as “very” effective. What they do not include are the marketers who reported a tactic as “somewhat effective.”

Looking at the chart, you might guess that adding social sharing buttons to emails is a waste of time — but don’t be too quick to write this tactic off completely. Only 10% of social marketers reported it as “very effective,” but 55% rated it as “somewhat effective” (found deeper in the report). With a total of 65% of social marketers reporting at least some effectiveness, these buttons might be worth the small investment they require.

Also, since adding social sharing buttons bottoms-out the Y-axis here, every other tactic listed has more than 65% of social marketers reporting at least some effectiveness. Here are some examples:

  • Social sharing buttons on websites: 69% say at least “somewhat” effective
  • Advertising on social sites: 73%
  • Microblogging: 75%

Related resources:

MarketingSherpa 2011 Social Marketing Benchmark Report

Free Webinar: Best Practices for Improving Search and Social Marketing Integration

Marketing Research Chart: Using social media as a list-growth tactic

Inbound Marketing newsletter – Free Case Studies and How To Articles from MarketingSherpa’s reporters

Inbound Marketing: Unlock the content from your emails and social marketing

April 19th, 2011

Think about how many emails you sent yesterday. Now think about how many your company sent yesterday — to customers and coworkers. Probably thousands of unique emails, right? That is a mountain of content, but little of it gets used for marketing.

I spoke last week with Chris Baggott, CEO and Co-Founder of Compendium (also co-founder of ExactTarget). During our discussion, Baggott pointed out two content-rich resources that marketers often overlook: their email marketing campaigns, and their social media profiles.

Marketing emails, for example, often tell a story or feature content that is not published elsewhere. The content is not indexed by search engines — but it could be if published online.

Also, the comments and conversations on your Facebook profile typically never escape the walled garden. But you can grab that content and incorporate it into your marketing.Content Funnel

“We’re working on breaking down content silos to be able to pull content from anywhere and distribute content anywhere,” Baggott says.

Here are some examples Baggott provided of how some companies are breaking down content silos and combining email marketing, social marketing, natural search and content marketing:

Publishing emails for long-tail search

One of Baggott’s first points was that a company’s emails are a huge untapped resource for content. Of course, there are your marketing emails, as mentioned above. But even your sales and customer service emails can be published.

Sales and service teams write thousands of emails to answer customers’ questions. Questions such as:

  • What is the best product for my situation?
  • When would I have to update my product?
  • Will this product work while I’m traveling?

The answers to these questions are extremely specific to each customer’s situation. If published, they’re potentially valuable for long-tail (low volume, highly qualified) search traffic. What is the best parka for sub-zero temperatures? That sounds like a Google search to me…

Of course, not every email you send will be valuable. They should be screened before publishing, but you could identify several emails to publish each day.

Collecting and leveraging user-generated content

Baggott also mentioned an email strategy to gather and use content in your program. Here’s the process he laid out:

  1. Send a triggered email asking customers for reviews, testimonials, or other types of user-generated content. These emails can be sent after customers use a product, such as after they’ve stayed in a hotel room.
  2. Publish that content online to help attract natural search traffic and encourage visitors to sign up for your emails.
  3. Send another triggered email asking customers to share their content with friends on social networks.
  4. Use the content in marketing emails or nurturing campaigns.

The content generated, again, will be very specific to each customer’s situation. If you have good information in your database, you can match the content to subscribers’ attributes and use it to send them targeted, highly relevant messages.

“One of the biggest problems we’ve always had with dynamic content [in email marketing] is the content,” Baggott says. “The problem isn’t that I don’t have enough data, or the tools to make it easy to send relevant emails. The problem is that I don’t have enough relevant content to send to the right person.”

Related resources

Social Media Marketing: Turning social media engagement into action at Threadless

Inbound Marketing: A pioneering YouTube video strategy

Marketing Research Chart: Top tactics for delivering relevant email content

Marketing Research Chart: Using social media as a list-growth tactic

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Inbound Marketing newsletter – Free Case Studies and How To Articles from MarketingSherpa’s reporters

Social Marketing: Will you monetize social media and measure ROI in 2011?

February 1st, 2011

Social media continues to have a profound effect on marketing, and the use of this channel for marketing purposes is rapidly evolving. This week marks the fielding of our third annual Social Marketing Benchmark Survey to determine exactly how this important new marketing channel has evolved and which strategies will work best going forward.

Last year’s study revealed how social marketing was maturing, resulting in a shift from tactical to strategic thinking. However, we found that most organizations, even those in the strategic phase of social marketing maturity, had not yet figured out how to measure the return on their social marketing investment.

Without the ability to prove ROI, social marketing budgets were, and in most cases still are, being driven by perception. What is the perception? As this chart shows, only 7% of the 2300 social media marketers responding to our last study thought social media was producing ROI and, as a result, were willing to budget liberally. While 49% thought it was a promising tactic that will eventually produce ROI, nearly the same numbers (44%) are much more skeptical and unwilling to invest more.

But social marketing has evolved significantly in the past year and many marketers are not only promising ROI, they are proving it.

So, in our new survey we examine how organizations are overcoming the challenge of social media monetization, and which tactics are most effective for achieving this important objective, in addition to the comprehensive coverage of social marketing topics in general.

To share your insights on social media marketing, please take our third annual Social Marketing Benchmark Survey. This survey is being fielded now and will only remain open through Sunday, February 6, 2011.

Related resources

Social Media Marketing: Turning social media engagement into action at Threadless

Measuring Social Media’s Contribution to the Bottom Line: 5 tactics (Members’ Library)

Inbound Marketing newsletter – Free Case Studies and How To Articles from MarketingSherpa’s reporters

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Email Plus Facebook Marketing: Fresh ideas from FreshPair

January 21st, 2011

There is a certain tribe of marketers out there that are Pied Pipers for a new way of thinking. Email is dead. Get social.

Well, there are many metrics I can give to refute that stance, but here’s my favorite – paid attendance to next week’s MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2011 is up 40% from last year.

Horn tooting done, my point is that the best strategy for most marketers is to engage in both email AND social media marketing, despite what the rhetoric-filled and biased bloggers out there may say. This may not be shocking news to you. Your bigger question is likely – but how?

Well, that’s why we have the Email Summit to begin with, to learn from all the high-performing marketers out there. So, I turned to Lindsay Massey, Marketing Director, Freshpair to share some techniques and tactics that might help your efforts.

Lindsay is a panelist for the how-to panel at Email Summit entitled, “Growing Email Lists and Engaging Customers with Social Media.” is a leading intimate apparel retailer. You can find them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. But first, read on…

So, the first thing that jumps out at me from your successful campaign is that Facebook is the “next big thing” in email, while email is supposedly “dead.” Yet, essentially, to me your campaign was really just a traditional email send where Facebook was the conversion goal. “Dead” delivers I guess? How did you approach this send similar to other promotional sends, and in what ways was it different?

Lindsay Massey: We look at email and social as great complements to each other, and we definitely don’t see email as “dead.” After all, how does Facebook notify you that you have new comments or messages? Email!

By engaging our email subscribers in another relevant channel, we are able to interact with them on a more personal level, share unique content to generate buzz and ultimately engage more people in our brand. We approached this send like other promotional sends that are part of a larger campaign in that we developed an offer, segmented our list to target customers with the highest propensity to participate and, where this message would be relevant, created supporting content on Facebook and tracked the results.

This email campaign was different from other promotional sends in that the main goal was to encourage people to follow us on Facebook rather than go straight to We measured the success differently than other campaigns – number of fans in addition to standard email KPIs.

Why email? Why not, say, Twitter?

LM: We definitely promote our Facebook presence on Twitter as well. The email was just one piece of our overall campaign. We chose to promote Facebook over Twitter for this particular campaign, mainly because Facebook allows you to customize the experience more than Twitter.

We were able to show more content tying back to the email. As soon as a customer fanned us, we were able to display new content that gave them the offer and let them click to to shop. A different approach could definitely be utilized on Twitter and would be a great follow-up campaign.

What is the importance of a Facebook fan-acquisition campaign? What is the value of a Facebook fan?

LM: For us, the goal of a Facebook presence is to strengthen our brand and reach new customers. By encouraging our existing customers and brand loyalists to join, we are able to build our relationship with them, as well as encourage them to share us with their friends.

Buying intimate apparel online can be challenging, so we try to educate fans with photos and take on a friendly tone by sharing funny statistics, like what percentage of people own a lucky pair of underwear. By keeping followers engaged and giving them unique content, we leave a favorable impression, so they remember us when it’s time for a fresh pair!

When it comes to measuring social media, the focus must go beyond traditional e-commerce analytics. We use Omniture to gauge the impact of our Facebook presence, specifically the conversion rates of visitors coming from Facebook. However, we consider Facebook to be more of a branding tool, so the exact value of a Facebook fan goes beyond the data in Omniture.

We also look at fan count and interactions. The customer insight you gather through social media will help you develop strategies across all marketing channels to get new customers in the door and keep them in the door. For example, we test different types of content within posts to see what people are most interested in interacting with. We then use this to inform marketing campaigns to further shape our other social initiatives.

Why aren’t social media sharing buttons enough?

LM: The social media sharing buttons are also important, and we include those in our campaigns as well. However, we see the main content receive the majority of clicks, while the share buttons receive a very small fraction of the clicks in each email campaign. We felt it was important to dedicate an entire campaign to acquire fans, but we also continue to push social through emails and onsite messaging as well.

It’s important to note that one dedicated email is not enough. Acquiring Facebook fans or Twitter followers should be an ongoing effort across channels in order to see the best results. Social isn’t just about sharing content, it’s also about extending interaction to new spheres and providing additional value to your fans. Share buttons are limited in that they don’t allow you to proactively communicate with interested parties and build your brand.

What is the downside of a dedicated send to try to attract Facebook fans?

LM: We didn’t see a downside to this specific campaign. The unsubscribe rate was not higher than a regular promotional send, and the segment of customers we mailed was highly engaged. The subject line actually led to an open rate that was 40% higher than average.

For all the marketing VPs and directors out there, what are the biggest lessons they should take away from your success?

LM: Email can be a very effective driver for Social. Before you begin a Facebook acquisition campaign, be sure you have a clear goal and strategy in place, as well as a supporting content strategy for your Facebook page.

Also, you could start small with a test to your most engaged customers to gauge response before you roll it out to a larger list. Then continue to marry your email and social strategies, so customers can get the information they want in the form they like best.

One of the things that we struggle with is catering to multiple demographics – some people want to see pictures of men in underwear and some people want advice on which bras go with what. Before you push your social presence to your entire list, make sure that you have a defined content strategy (either focus on one demo or have something for everyone so no one feels left out).

As for Facebook specifically:

  • Be sure to develop a clear strategy for Facebook overall, so new and existing fans continue to be engaged. If you are just on Facebook to be on Facebook or because your competitors are there, take a step back and rethink your long-term strategy.
  • Be sure to devote resources once your strategy is in place, so your Facebook page stays current. Take time to engage with your fans and continue to provide them with unique and interesting content.
  • Promote your acquisition campaign across multiple marketing channels – not just email, and be sure to track your results.

Related Resources

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MarketingSherpa Email Essentials Workshop Training

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Photo by: Adihrespati

Social Media Marketing: Turning social media engagement into action at Threadless

January 13th, 2011

So, how’s this for a business model? An “ongoing T-shirt design competition.”

Well, that’s the way Threadless keeps hip people in hip T-shirts. And with a business model like that, you need A LOT of engagement and interaction with your customers…key marketing buzzwords for 2011.

To get a behind-the-scenes look at how the online T-shirt retailer works its mojo, you can attend the “Growing Email Lists and Engaging Customers with Social Media” how-to panel at Email Summit 2011 in Las Vegas (January 24-26). Liz Ryan, Email Marketing Manager, Threadless, will be one of the panelists.

To give us a quick glimpse into the Threadless marketing machine (or, perhaps, marketing loom), Liz was kind enough to answer the following  questions…

Threadless has more than 1.5 million followers on Twitter. What can you possibly be tweeting about that’s so interesting?

Liz Ryan: We wouldn’t have much to say if it weren’t for our awesome community. The majority of our tweets focus on our community-submitted tee shirt designs, voting, and community events. We also of course tweet about any specials on pricing, shipping and new products.

Sometimes we tweet on things going on at HQ, live stream of a band playing in the warehouse, DJ or holiday party. Other times it’s an interview with our founder, Jake Nickell, an event we’re participating in, or a Threadspotting – celebrities in Threadless shirts.

Our marketing team has autonomy over the channels we manage. So there is a flexibility and authenticity to the way we manage social media. We tweet about what we want to tweet about without approvals, executive sign offs and strict calendars.

It’s collaborative in that email, social, public relations and advertising work together to make sure messaging is cohesive, but other than that we have complete control over our channels.

Part of your panel is about “…and Engaging Customers with Social Media.” When we hear about social media, we hear a lot about engagement. But how can marketers move customers beyond just engagement to action?

LR: Give them something to take action on.

As marketers, we’re used to pushing information at consumers. We have to change that dynamic and give them something worth pulling and something worth doing:

  • Open dialog – At Threadless, we provide an opportunity to have an open dialog with the Threadless team and other community members and an opportunity to take action. That might mean buying a tee shirt, but we also place a high priority on inspiring our community to submit a design, or to vote on designs, or comment on designs, or blog, or come out to a stop on our tour, or post a photo.
  • Incentives – We not only provide information about what’s going on with Threadless, but we give our community incentives to take action on promotions – whether it’s a giveaway on Twitter, trivia on Facebook, or responding to a blog post.
  • Don’t micro-manage – We don’t micro-manage our community involvement on comments to each other regarding their work. We give our community the power and voice to be Threadless and they take it from there.

Threadless is a “community-centered online apparel store.” I got that information, by the way, from Wikipedia, which, of course, is also collaborative. Marketers are increasingly looking to leverage community-based models – from creating Super Bowls ads to creating, as you do, T-shirts. And, when you think community, most people naturally think of social media. But is an email list a community as well?

LR: Absolutely, email is the original social media. As email marketers, we struggle with making email a two-way interaction. There have been groups and listserv since email was invented, but how do you scale that to one million plus email subscribers?

It’s important we don’t silo email as a solitary channel. At Threadless, we use email to help guide subscribers to our site with newsletters that highlight our latest designs.

We encourage discussion about the designs, the company and our community through blogs and social media channels. It doesn’t make sense to ask one million subscribers to respond to an email, so it alone is not always a two-way channel, but absolutely we respond to emails if someone does reply to our email.

We also respond to our community’s preferences to not receive all our emails or to get info on new designs through social channels only, or maybe you only want to hear about sales. Great! Email is a channel by which we can serve our community, and through that sell some tee shirts.

Your community of 1.3 million regularly votes on their favorite T-shirts. Why? In other words, in possibly a combination to my two previous questions, what motivates them to act?

LR: We give them the platform by which to act, and they are motivated by each other, the community itself. They’re generally supportive of one another’s efforts and feel the need to give feedback to fellow artists. They also feel emboldened to choose new tees to be printed. Their participation can directly affect which shirts are available to buy.

Since you are essentially crowdsourcing your main products, your T-shirt creators aren’t punching a clock at Threadless HQ, I would imagine you would want to keep a pretty close eye on the competition. After all, they could steal not just some of your best product ideas, but also the very people who created the T-shirt designs. What kind of competitive analysis do you perform?

LR: We keep an eye out on other graphic tee companies, but because our business model is ever evolving, we don’t worry so much about what other companies are doing as much as our focus on giving our community what they want – multiple platforms to display their art while providing outlets to give and receive feedback to each other.

I do however receive emails from other tee-shirt lines. In general I am constantly monitoring retailers’ email programs to see what others in the space are doing in terms of messaging, cadence and any deliverability issues they may have.

My favorite T-shirt on Threadless is…

Haikus are easy

But sometimes they don’t make sense


What’s yours?

LR: As a zombie culture fan, I love The Horde. As a mom, I’m really into the Threadless Kids! line, especially the new longsleeves. Running Rhino is one of my all time favorite designs.

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Photo by dan taylor