3 Ways Social Media is Like ‘Project Runway’
I admit it. I’ve been hooked on reality show "Project Runway" since its inception nearly seven years ago. I've had to work hard not to ask industry friends for a sneak-peek of the show results that recently took place during SS12 Fashion Week. The show is a bit of a guilty pleasure to be sure, but as someone who writes a blog for fashion PR professionals, I can also claim that it’s my job.
By day I’m the director of social media for Red Door Interactive, where I support a wide range of companies from Charlotte Russe to Quiksilver. My time is spent working with brands to develop strategies to help them listen to and engage with customers and prospects by listening to their comments, asking questions and getting feedback. Recently, a lightbulb went off in my head: my two worlds aren't very different from each other. The rules set for the designers on "Project Runway" aren’t far from the best practices followed by marketers on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other similar platforms.
Your customer is the fashion police
Renowned fashion expert Tim Gunn is quick to point out in a poignant but humorous manner the clear no-nos "Project Runway" contestants are committing in their efforts to become the next fashion superstar. Likewise, Facebook users have a way of outing a company when it crosses the line. They tell their friends to avoid a look such as the "Tennessee tuxedo" (denim on denim).
TweetDeck and HootSuite have similar features that allow those on Twitter to block and report spam. The platforms themselves are a hotbed of activity any time a brand is perceived to have done wrong — e.g., Urban Outfitters and one Etsy designer’s necklaces. While brands occasionally get away with taking a risk, it's best to not go against Facebook’s promotional guidelines. Those that are successful are technically skilled and have great presence and personality.
Watch your tone
"Project Runway's" Judge’s Take segment is a brutal portion of the show where garment industry experts tear up contestants’ offerings at their seams, particularly when they try to dazzle them with their level of knowledge by throwing out tired fashion clichés. Vicious as it may be, it's an opportunity for the contestants to hear from experts who aren’t typically enamored with hype.
You can’t speak to the judges in the same way you would a casual shopper. Yet when it comes to social media, many companies of all industries tend to use the same unidirectional, unoriginal communication style on their Facebook and Twitter feeds as they do for their email, direct marketing and conventional advertising.
A lack of research into customer preferences and lifestyle interests can lead to an inauthentic, dismissive tone where incentives and sales take the place of true customer service. The digital format demands content producers develop original material and work with nontraditional media sources. This includes moving beyond working with bloggers as glorified models, but as people who become true brand collaborators.
Pull a fast one and you’ll get pulled over
Gunn can spot a scam a mile away and will call a contestant out faster than a fashion mall store steals from the runway. It’s not pretty when it happens, but the biggest impact is most likely the stigma placed on the perpetrator, who's now labeled a fake or fraud.
By reading foursquare tips, Yelp and Facebook Reviews, it’s clear that a carefully constructed web presence means nothing in the face of honest customer experiences. Moreover, large brands and even PR firms have been known to attempt to control and seed messages on these sites, inviting interns or providing heavy incentives for positive reviews only.
Bilking the system, be it for a $100,000 cash prize and a chance to create your own clothing line or for an increased review ranking on a popular online platform, will always come back to haunt the originator.
The teaching point is this: Much like a budding designer fresh out of school or worse, a budding reality star, brands have a lot to learn when it comes to respecting social communities, providing unique opportunities and content, and allowing space for transparency and authenticity. After all, just because one knows how to sew a hem on a pair of pants doesn’t mean they’re ready to send couture down the runway.