When Fashion & Social Media Meet: Free People

It is an exciting time for the Fashion Industry, where designers and boutiques have tools to connect with more customers than ever through the use of social media. When a designer takes advantage of such opportunities, while maintaining a clearly defined and consistent brand image throughout these platforms, success is bound to occur. For example, Free People seems to have flawlessy entered the world of social media, leading the way for other fashion entrepreneurs to adapt to and follow their strategic efforts.

Dick Hayne opened the store, Free People, in the 1970’s with the purpose of providing clothes to youthful people who wanted freedom with their style. In 2001, with other fashion ventures in business, Hayne and his wife realized only Free People truly invoked their favorite image: the message of femininity, courage and spirit. They decided to focus solely on Free People, where the brand then developed into a more mature, contemporary label. Free People targets intelligent and confident ladies in their twenties who love adventure, creativity and romance.

The Free People site launched in October 2004 with the desire to give online shoppers across the country a virtual journey of the Free People Store and allow them to find something special within this experience. An additional Free People blog, “BLDG 25,” launched in October 2006 with the incentive to connect with the company’s target audience through interests other than, but not excluding, fashion. The blog discusses music, home decor, travel, beauty, food, literature and many other interests that the “Free People shopper” would enjoy. Free People also has a Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube account, as well as a Facebook Page.

I applaud Free People’s desire to participate in multiple social media communities and create such a strong social media presence within its brand community; however, there are issues that arise when a brand engages in too many platforms. Having nine different online platforms for one company is a lot for a community manager, or team, to successfully handle. Free People needs to make sure that it sends consistent messages throughout each platform while avoiding a forced sense of too much information to its target audience. Lastly, the company needs to take caution of the possibility of spamming its social media efforts by extensive cross-platforming.

The Free People blog continuously posts relevant information that appeals to the company’s target audience, which helps demonstrate areas of expertise. By having such an interactive site with commenting and sharing tools, the company also provides a forum for people to talk about the brand and its ideas. By having this strong blogging platform, Free People sends a message that it cares about its customers’ opinion and desires a one-on-one interaction.

With so many social media platforms, not only does Free People clearly acknowledge its awareness of communities already existing, but that its community managers actively brainstorm how they can continuously help and benefit Free People’s targeted community. The Free People community managers do a fabulous job handling the company’s social media efforts, especially their blog, which won “Best Blog by a Fashion Design Or Brand,” at the 20120 Fashion 2.0 Awards.

With so many platforms, it is impressive how well Free People strategically overlaps information and content. It is also clear that the majority of Free People’s platforms have a direct purpose

Free People’s most popular social media platforms are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr; the brand has 512,040 likes on Facebook, 96,300 followers on Twitter, 84,954 followers on Instagram, and a reblogging average of 100 on Tumblr. With Pinterest as an upcoming social media platform still in Beta, Free People has already created a strong base on the site with 4,293 followers. Free People’s weakest online platforms are Flickr and YouTube.

Although Free People’s YouTube account has a weak presence, it is convenient for the company to have the accessibility to easily embed videos for content to its more popular platforms. Since Free People has both a Tumblr, Instagram and a Pinterest, Flickr’s efforts seem to be pointless and unnecessary in the overall scheme of the social media campaign.

** This post was based on a Case Study class assignment from Kelli Matthews‘ J412: Strategic Social Media course.

*photos courtesy of Free People

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