It is clear that social media is changing the communications landscape. Therefore, forward-thinking companies across the globe are embracing social networking websites and blogs to build brands, cultivate customers, research products, and improve global business management. However, few have truly considered some of the important social media implications that are relevant to the fashion and retail industries. Because social media is inexpensive, instantaneous and prolific, it presents new and different concepts for the fashion industry, particularly in light of the fact that these concepts are new to these industries which had previously thrived on a perceived air of exclusivity.
Social media in the business context is content created by people – individuals both inside and outside a company – on web-based platforms intended to facilitate interaction with peers and public audiences. Well-known examples of social media include Facebook, Groupon and Twitter. But numerous niche fashion-centric communities are also emerging on websites like gotryiton.com and stylemob.com. Thus, while independent designers and large retail chains alike can benefit from a social media presence, these emerging opportunities also pose new problems and challenges. Therefore, the way to leverage social media and mitigate possible liabilities is to proactively establish clear rules and standards for its use.
So how does a company manage its social media presence and ensure that employees are clear with respect to goals and limitations? First, it is paramount that the company develop a policy on employee use of social media. At a minimum, this policy should include:
- A prohibition on the sharing of confidential or proprietary information;
- Standards for whether employees will be allowed to make public comments about the company and which employees may make such comments;
- Consequences for employees who do not adhere to the policy.
A company should also plan to create a meaningful social media presence for its brand. Such a communications strategy should be updated to include:
- A social media “voice” and presence that is personal and genuine – a tone that exists outside of your advertising campaigns and corporate talking points;
- Engagement with customers and followers – today, these individuals are the newest fashion insiders with influence on the Internet.
Please note that this article is the first in an on-going series that will consider various social media platforms, explore legal challenges and ultimately provide guidelines and best practices for the various entities in retail, design and fashion. We look forward to delving further into these exciting new issues with you.