Social Media: Get it or Don’t Get In
Part 3-Sweet Success

I want to wrap up this series of posts on social media with a word about successes found in the social media space…and there are many. It’s important to note that though success might imply completion, in social media there is no completion. Like any relationship, this process is ongoing and while it may have struck a chord with part of the intended audience, there is plenty of audience still getting settled in…still waiting to let these marketers into their confidence. I guess it would be better to say I want to highlight some that are successfully on their way.

I made mention of Zappos and what they are doing with Twitter in my first post. There has been much written about the success they are having with social media. I’m guessing if you were to ask CEO Tony Hsieh if he felt that he was happy with the progress, especially internally with his employees, he’d give you a resounding yes! He is successfully mobilizing his employees as Zappos own army of fans and probably gleaning plenty of ideas and insight that will help him grow his company in the future.

I’d also like to point to Threadless. Highlighted in Inc magazine, this company was doing social before anybody really knew what it was. In short, artists and designers become members of the Threadless network and submit designs to be voted on by fellow members. The winners receive a cash award, now around $2500 plus reprint fees, and the top picks are printed on a limited number of t-shirts and then sold, usually selling out rather quickly.

Launched in 2000, t-shirt sales surpassed $100,000 by 2002. The user base has grown from around 70,000 in 2004 to well over 700,000 today. In 2006 sales clocked in at $18 million with profits of $6 million. 2007 show growth of 200 percent with similar margins. Only one word describes that kind of success, niiiiiiiice!

What makes Threadless such a great success story in the social web
world is that it is pure social. The users design, judge, market and
buy. To oversimplify it, and I mean way oversimplify, the one thing that Threadless does all by its
lonesome is print the shirts and ship them out. Again, niiiiiiiice!

When was the last time you let your customers really control the
inventory Think about it…I mean really control it. Not responded to
research or filled out a comment card and gave their input for possible
It needs to be pointed out again. Just as Jim Cuene of General Mills
pointed out in part 2 of this series, there has to be solid commitment
and understanding before you really try to engage in marketing on a
social level. True social marketing means that you will follow through
with what the customer. You can’t make an impact if you aren’t going to
commit the money and resources to the job.

I would be remiss if I
didn’t note here that there is a lot being made of social media
and the web. Much of it untested, much of it new and experimental. Will
they all have an impact? No. Is it just cool to talk about social media
and marketing now? To some extent, I suppose. But the fact is that our social
lives help define who we are. To think this thing called social media
won’t be a part of them, when other types of media are, is sticking
your head in the sand.

It’s also important to note here, it’s just fine if you don’t want
to dive into the pool because of money or people or even doubt. Really,
it’s okay. There are plenty of marketing activities that you can be
involved in that will increase sales, visits, listenership or what ever
you goals are. Wait and see. There are plenty of companies doing just
that. It’s better to be late to the party than show up with the no
clothes on (Depending on the party of course.)

With that party attitude, I can think of no better way to wrap up
this series than with a quote from Gary Koelling of Best Buy from the
MIMA event I mentioned in Part 2: “Brands are going to have to figure
out how to behave like people.  You can’t show up at the party in a
leisure suit anymore and expect to get laid.  It’s not going to
happen.  You’re going to have to show up and behave like a decent human

How could I do better than that?


  1. Great series Phil. I wasn’t aware of Threadless before, what a concept! I couldn’t agree more with Gary Koelling’s point too. I think there’s a huge opportunity for corporate hand-holding in the near future. They can’t learn how to behave differently without help.