At this point, it shouldn’t be surprising to hear that Twitter has very quickly become an important focus for companies across many industries. Why? For the benefit of those who are less familiar, Twitter is a “micro-blogging platform” that allows 140 character updates and is used to directly interact with people and entities across the world.
Companies generally use Twitter to share news and updates, connect with fans and clients, and aid in customer service. However, it’s in the luxury and fashion sector that Twitter has become a way for several brands to turn a chatty, conversational approach into a major traffic and PR generator for their brands.
The Fashion Twitterati, as the stars on Twitter are known, are at a level of interaction so high above the rest that it’s almost impossible to compare them to anyone else. The most well known members of the Twitter elite include newly “outed” Aliza Licht of DKNY, Canon Hodge of Bergdorf Goodman, Erika Bearman of Oscar de la Renta, and John Jannuzzi, newly of Lucky Magazine. Just looking at the Twitter statistics for these brands compared to others gives one an immediate indication of the impact they’ve had (note the difference in number of tweets).
At FashionForward Digital, a first-time event that took place in New York on October 27th, fashion industry leaders came out to learn and share about all things digital. In a panel discussion entitled Tweeting Your Way to Brand Evangelism, I was lucky enough to moderate a discussion with three of the four Twitter superstars listed above. A very dynamic conversation ensued, covering everything from preferred Twitter application to celebrity connections.
After five minutes on stage with Aliza Licht, Canon Hodge, and John Jannuzzi, it became obvious that each has an incredible personality. These are people that you want to talk to. They’re each smart, funny, and personable, yet in completely different ways. Twitter is often compared to a cocktail party, where there is a mix of people you know and people you don’t. If you want to be successful, it’s a matter of being interesting, thought provoking, and friendly, just like at a real party. If we were to take the cocktail party analogy further, it would be obvious that these three individuals would be the centers of attention.
Aliza Licht, SVP of Global Communications and long-time employee of DKNY, could easily have her own reality show. For a long time, the identity of DKNY PR Girl was unknown. It was just a few weeks ago that Aliza stepped out as the star behind the scenes. Her coming out video was quite the event, and has since garnered over 23,000 views.
Canon Hodge, Bergdorf Goodman’s social media manager, has managed to turn around the image of the retailer from a snooty luxury department store catering to the city’s elite, into a younger, hipper, more approachable place to shop. Her down-to-earth New York-centric tweets bring out the uniqueness of this one-location-only Manhattan establishment.
John Jannuzzi, newly appointed editor at Lucky Magazine, could have been a comedian in another life. One scroll through his personal Twitter account and you’ll be laughing out loud. Shopping blog Racked even awarded him Best Twitter Personality. For his tweeting on behalf of Lucky, he naturally takes a more refined approach, but his witty humor continues to shine through.
Personality and entertainment value have taken these three a long way, but some of the important questions asked during the panel were regarding impact on sales, ROI, and management approvals. Neither of the three is directly responsible for turning Twitter interactions into sales, but it does seem clear that their efforts have resulted in improved customer relations and long-term brand loyalty. When asked about reporting on the ROI of tweeting, Licht said, “ROI is in the people that speak about your brand.”
Tweeting, whether for business or personal use, does require a careful attention to detail. Slip-ups have been known to happen (cough-Anthony Weiner-cough) and quality assurance is a key attribute. Jannuzzi tweets not only for Lucky Magazine, but also for himself and for the blog he runs, Textbook. I asked him how he balances managing several Twitter personalities; does he ever mix up what’s getting posted where? What’s his strategy? He focuses on maintaining a different Twitter application or client for each of his distinct accounts. By always using Tweetdeck for one account, or Twitter for Blackberry for another, he’s able to ensure that he doesn’t make any mistakes.
The panel went on to cover additional topics like customer service and advice for Twitter newbies, but the key takeaway for me is that the reason these brands have been so successful is not just in their entertainment value, but in the inherent trust that the company’s management has bequeathed upon their community managers. Licht, Hodge, and Jannuzzi represent a newly empowered generation of marketing communications specialists.
Photo Credits: FashionForward Twitter Panel, photographed by Amy Seder