Last Updated Nov 4, 2010 2:07 PM EDT
Thanks to Twitter, Facebook and thousands of style blogs, designers no longer have an excuse to be "out of touch" with their market. Social media is transforming fashion at every stage: from design to marketing, sales to customer service.
And though Twitter has in excess of 160 million registered users producing more than 100 million tweets per day, the micro-blogging site's CEO Dick Costolo admits there are many dabblers who aren't committed enough to leverage the platform's potential.
Besides Costolo's promise to make the site easier for fashion execs to engage in, he offered examples of who's already tapping Twitter for all it's worth (think @OscarPRGirl, @dkny, even @ryanseacrest). The most successful are building brand awareness organically, that is: by simply joining the conversation in progress instead of pushing product. Taking Costolo's caveats, here's a list of style makers who are hitting their followers' sweet spot and those who are missing the mark.
Tory Burch -- Injecting personality into tweets can go a long way to building a dedicated following who can "get to know" the designer beyond their work. Designer Tory Burch peppers her Twitter stream with links to her blog Word of Mouth (also a portal to the e-commerce site), photos of herself at events (some out of focus which Costolo says gives followers that more human touch) re-tweets of fans' comments about her designs (We love these @toryburch Buckled leather Boots http://bit.ly/cZ0nxR #swoon) and book recommendations. Taken together, Burch's tweets read like a conversation with a friend you have plenty in common with, but who also introduces you to interesting, new things all the time.
Erin Fetherston -- Some of the tweeters are professional publicists who work for the brand, but still manage to toe the line between casual conversation and encouraging sales. Erin Fetherston's stream occasionally features tweets from the designer herself, but mostly you'll find RL signing them. That's Rebecca, Fetherston's digital brand coordinator, who blogs and tweets diligently about her love for all things designed by Erin, links to photos of events, and most recently, encourages Twitter hashtag conversations with the designer herself. Fetherston's following has grown to over 4,000 in a few months. No doubt some of it is converting to sales (can you say 25 percent off on "Dylan" blouses?)
Stella McCartney -â€" Sometimes it takes a village, err, a team approach to tweeting. McCartney's crew has found the right mix of promotion and personal stuff. Look for loads of links to celebs sporting Stella's stellar threads as well as @replies aplenty offering gratitude for complimentary comments. The latter goes a long way to building loyalty, not to mention it's a way for fanatic fashionistas to rub virtual elbows with the high priestess' court. The only way it could be better is if each tweet would carry the commenter's initials.
Kmart Design -- Retailers have a unique opportunity to not only connect with customers, but also to tackle complaints in 140 characters. Kudos to the tweeps behind Kmart Design who field fashionistas' questions about availability of coveted new items and, in some cases, help them find a store to buy them.
Forever 21 -- Accolades are also in order for Forever21's tweets. Seems like there's a new sale daily giving devotees reason to keep checking their stream. Not to mention styling and makeup tips galore.
Wondering who doesn't get it?
Louis Vuitton -â€" The luxury brand's digital media team is not so much talking as they are spouting info on all things brand related. Photos, links and pronouncements do not a conversation make. It's a wonder the fan base is still over 130,000.
Karl Lagerfeld â€"- Don't let the number of followers fool you (over 367K and counting), the Kaiser may be the design genius behind the esteemed house of Chanel, but his tweets leave much to be desired. Not only are they thrown out like sporadic crumbs (about 1 per month) but some read like fortune cookies, "Like poetry, fashion does not state anything. It merely suggests." Others, in an attempt to be personal, serve to further Lagerfeld's already imperious persona, "My greatest problem in life is my indifference to the outside world."
Image of Twitter "prevail whale" via Flickr user lemasney CC 2.0