Fashion for the social good: How brands are paying attention to social media marketing

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02: Designer Karl Lagerfeld and actress Blake Lively attend the "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty" Costume Institute Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Karl Lagerfeld;Blake Lively;
Larry Busacca
Designer Karl Lagerfeld and actress Blake Lively attend the "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty" Costume Institute Gala
Larry Busacca

This week, over 1000 participants from 20 countries join 75 fashion industry experts for the Fashion140 Conference at Lincoln Center in New York City.

The event is the first real attempt to gather the fashion market as a community. The market is known for it visual presentations and for its sell and buy marketplaces, but rarely does it act as a professional supportive community where people openly share their experience and discuss ideas.

There was one question on everyone's mind. How has social media permanently altered the ways retailers are building relationships and marketing products to their customers?

Fashion140 was co-curated by producer of 140 Characters Conference, which analyzes effects of real-time internet on businesses in varying industries Jeff Pulver and CEO of Fashion Snoops Lilly Berelovich, an innovative online forecasting service. Their partnership started at one of Pulver's events where the two decided it is time to narrow down the focus on the fashion market.

"Not many people know that clothing has the largest sales value of all eCommerce categories," said Jeff Pulver. "Surprisingly it still makes only seven percent of the total $370 billion spent overall on clothing, which demonstrates the unrealized potential. To effectively compete it is imperative for retailers and brands to establish clear digital and social media strategies."

To start the conference, TEDWomen's speaker Johanna Blakley shared insights on how women are shaping the social web. According to Blakley, women outnumber men on every social media platform, including Twitter and Facebook. Because of this, social retail behavior in the fashion sector has taken off. Fifty-five percent of women use mobile devices to shop, and 59 percent use social networks.

In order to remain profitable, let alone stay in business, brands and retailers have to show that they actually care about their customers. Psychologist Tom Guarriello shared that consumers are driven by six basic emotions: fear, anger, surprise, disgust, sadness and joy.

Joy is the only universally positive emotion. It creates a connection to the brand, as well as enables customers to rationalize their actions like buying that certain handbag or pair of shoes. In order to create this connection, brands need to ask themselves, "What would I say right now if I really cared about my customer?"

We all participate in the economy of fashion: If you wear clothes, you're in fashion. Companies know when they engage your friends and fans, they should do so care and with a full investment of time. They must be consistent with their social interactions and be emotionally available to their customers. If you don't empathize with your customers, you'll become irrelevant to their social lives, and you'll lose them.

That's where social media steps in: It has humanized even the most exclusive brands. By focusing on social engagement, brands have stirred the aspirations of consumers again. By being more approachable, they've driven consumers to start shopping via social channels.

Macala Wright is digital retail marketing consultant and founder of FashionablyMarketing.Me. You can follow her on twitter @FashMarketing.