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Social Media and Online Community

In: Business and Management

Submitted By manmeetgill
Words 1331
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Can social media turn an online community to an online company?
Threadless is one of the best example of an online communities , none of the other communities will be this busy . “It was not started as a brand, but now the the online community turnover is more than $10 million per year”. Threadless is today a phenomenally successful t-shirt company with million of tees sold from the time it began in year 2000. Threadless pioneered the online business model of community driven designs. Threadless is a Chicago based t-shirt company, came up with a new concept that employee and customers don't have to be two distinct groups. This online community asks its customers to submit shirt designs online that they have self created. this online community gets as much as 300 submissions a day and asks there huge fan base to vote for best designs. “The design that gains maximum number of votes gets a gift card from Threadless and cash prize of $2,000”. The best voted designs are then printed on t-shirts and made available to sale to public on there community, website stores. They screen all their best designs for copyright violations and obscenities, they aim to release a minimum of seven new designs a week and each design is sold for $18.
The idea fragment for Threadless began when founder Jake Nickell began hosting t-shirt challenges on a design forum, he observed how much everyone who participated was enjoying the challenges and realized it could be a great model to start a community. “Threadless has 50 people working for the company, which brought in close to $30 million in revenue in year 2009”.Threadless fan following is huge in social media,with maximum followers on Twitter and Facebook.

Threadless social media followers: Social media helps this online community to engage huge number of fans in selection of designs and promote its designers. Threadless has maximum number of members following them on Twitter, and they have utilized twitter as their prime channel for members to vote for best design. They have launched “Twitter Tees”, in which Threadless members nominate “tweets” to be turned into t-shirts and other members vote for their favorites. “Threadless turns the most popular tweets Ironic self-aware narcissism is still narcissism or Note to Self: Actually read notes into good designed shirts”.
“The customer is the company”. “Threadless churns out dozens of new items each month without any advertisement, professional designers and no sales force” the magazine marveled. All the sale from Threadless takes place because of social media, members who follow them are the only customers. “Threadless sells more than 10,000 shirts per month, i.e. more than a million t-shirts a year, with just 50 employees”. Threadless has a product mix of hoodies, kids shirts, I phone covers etc. Threadless has a company growth guide which states four rules they follow: 1. Let the community create the context 2. Let community build itself by word of mouth and zero advertisement 3. Let the community help Threadless with business, make changes and add features based on community feedback 4. Rewards members of the community for their participation.
Threadless online community is baked into social media marketing. As the core of Threadless lies in a platform for connecting artists, hence a community centric social marketing approach is very natural. Threadless believes and stresses on “community” than “outsourcing”. “Crowdsourcing involves random set of people who suddenly have a say in how the business works, but at Threadless they formed a community with close-knit group of loyal members.” Social media helps Threadless generate revenue without advertisement costs. Threadless was launched before social media came in to existence, Threadless embraced Twitter and Facebook by injecting their personality in to it. When new designs are available for sale, Threadless sends across information and post to their member via these social media channels. Threadless interacts with its customer via social media by sharing the music being played in their store so that they can visit the warehouse for further interaction with community. Sales received from Twitter alone are six digits revenue.
Social Media Model for Threadless:
Convening: Threaldess organizes gatherings for their community members, go for a tour to visit their community members and updates their recent activities online for members to feel a part of Threadless community.
Sharing: Threadless believes in sharing ideas and connecting with people on their community and blogs. They let their community to talk to each other and discuss ideas without controlling the discussions.
Connecting: Threadless is connecting worldwide, its been in existence for a decade now and still growing. It has got its main presence in The United States, many artist worldwide are joining this community.
Listening: Key influencers at Threadless are the members themselves, as more they will upload designs more they will ask their social group to vote and join community.
Lessons learnt from “Threadless” online community:
Community before money: Threadless believes in focusing solely on creating an awesome committed community and monetization will follow automatically thereafter. they sells t-shirts amongst the other things to members as they are aware they will buy them. The strength of making a strong community is the confidence you have in your customers to buy your product.
Understand your customer demand and attract customers as per their interest: to interact with your community members it is very essential for the community to have a strong reason to get their attention. Threadless has a very strong reason to attract its customers attention, they constantly input the fresh designs for votes, they actively interact with their members on their ideas, they give further inputs to their members view points. Threadless provides many reasons for their members to contribute to the community.
Building the community around something members care about: No one will care about the t-shirts or the online selling site, its the concept evolved around members ideas of designing a t-shirt and making it available to world to wear.
Be completely awesome: You need to focus on attracting your members by doing awesome things for them, the ideas your post must reach all your members instantly throughout various channels. Threadless uses mainly social media channels to attract their members, thread less hired a van to go around the country to visit their members with constant activities posted on social media like face book, twitter etc.
Hosting members’ event: Hosting regular events for members to get together, meet each other and have more ideas. People who are passionate about the community, they fly from different places to be a part of the event.
Reaching out to potential partnerships: Threadless builds partnerships with different companies that is in interest of the community.
Provides members a platform to achieve what they wished for: Provides members with constant opportunities to become a designer and promote their work. 80 members from the community were asked to design the cover book for Threadless.
In conclusion, when forming an online community it is essential to think about a unique offering keeping in mind your audience, the emotional connection you can make with your members and how you can link this with social media. The segmentation of the audience is very important for a community to be lively and be self motivated. The content your audience will want to share with you and have further interactions about it. Connecting with people is more important than only focusing on sales and higher profits. Once you are able to make the connection with your audience the community will self be active, moivated, expressive, share ideas etc to make it bigger. I personally think one should be encouraged as much as playful with experimentation of as many different contents as possible and pay attention to social media metrics when experimenting with content. You never know when which idea would click with the audience and it can turn out to be a great online business model.…...

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