T-shirts and Social Media




They launched before Twitter and Facebook.

Mashable hailed them as one of 2007’s beautiful social networks.

Forbes profiled them as a successful model of how to build an online community.

In September of 2011, Social Media Examiner listed them as one of nine Facebook marketing success stories to model.

Their Twitter followers are fast approaching 1.7 million, and they have over 360,000 Likes, with nearly 9,500 people talking about them on Facebook.

Accolades aside, what is this entity? The product of a Fortune 500 company? Or is it a platform? Actually, it’s Chicago’s Threadless, in case you haven’t heard by now. And as Bonfire Social Media puts it:

For those who do not know who is, ask a business school student. Colleges are using them as an example of doing business in the world 2.0.

Threadless has developed and nurtured a community of designers and artists who submit Tshirt designs, and another community of customers who vote on the submissions. The artists/ designers have a chance to win $2,500 (including a $500 store credit) if their designs are chosen by Threadless customers. The most popular Tshirt designs are the ones that go into production, and are then bought by the customers. As a result, Threadless doesn’t have to worry about excess inventory or the imprecise science of predicting how supply and demand will match up; most of their designs eventually sell out.

Threadless has learned to embrace the groundswell, or as Forrester research would say, they have achieved the highest level of engagement with the groundswell.

An interview in January 2011 with founder Jake Nickell and Cam Balzer, vice-president of marketing on the 435 blog includes excellent advice about social media marketing. Nickell and Cam recommend trusting employees to engage in social media channels without trying to control the conversation, integrating customer service within all social media channels, and paying attention to negative feedback, because it reveals the most passion.

Do you have a favorite Threadless design? Every time I think I know which Tshirt I want to get, I find about 3 others designs that are just as compelling…

Photos: Threadless designs




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