Case Study: Threadless

2:10 — Cale Johnson introduces Threadless‘ CMO, Cam Balzer.

2:11 — Will take us through the key drivers that have brought success — create products that people like to wear, products that become icebreakers.

2:12 — When you involve a community in creating your products, awesome things happen. A global community of designers submit designs every week. If they don’t meet quality standards, are encouraged to try again. For those who do meet the standards, those go on to the site and the community votes on those designs. This is the core engine. Half of products are sold internationally.

2:13 — Designers want people to see their work. Threadless gives them the chance to do that. The word of mouth piece comes in when designers will get everyone they know to come to Threadless and score that design. Usually they go on from that design to view many others.

2:15 — They have a ranking system and you can see people who have scored over 100,000 designs. (Viewable under Milestones.)

2:16 — Word of mouth drives not just designs but sales. Competitors have tried to do the same things but Threadless had momentum to keep them at the top.

2:18 — Shows examples of designs. Many of them will start conversations, and that, of course, drives word of mouth. A hoodie with 17,ooo Likes on Facebook — design of a hand that, when partially unzipped, becomes the Vulcan “live long and prosper” hand sign. (See it here.)

2:19 — Have no idea what the ROI is, but doesn’t care.

2:20 — The products take on a life of their own. Start as a T-shirt then get put on other products and spread. Cake design contest based on a T-shirt design of the Communist Party (Marx with a lampshade on his head).

2:22 — This word of mouth has created new opportunities for Threadless. Gap approached them about doing T-shirt designs for their product line. Tremendous opportunities for designers as well as the company. A platform for creativity and to tell the world about their products.

2:23 — What inspires the community? Visibility, feedback, peer appreciation, fun, creative challenges and open submission, opportunity, and lastly, money.

2:26 — For Threadless, word of mouth is about having products that people want to talk about. How could you take these ideas and use them for your business?

2:28 — Tagline: Make Great Together

Q In relation to controversy of merger with Facebook. How has that affected IP?

A Take a liberal view in terms of IP and letting designs stay on the site. Will pull them if they violate other peoples’ IP.

Q How do you keep designers who don’t get selected motivated to keep participating?

A It’s a challenge. They only print about 1% of designs that get submitted to Threadless. (Another reason opportunities like Gap are important, allow them to print more submissions.) Some people stay just because of community. They are thinking more about the artistic life cycle and how they can get more participation. They are doing artist showcases, to feature designs of a particular artist even if their designs have not been printed.

Q About how they got started as a community.

A They actually started from a community, a private artist forum the founder was involved with. He incubated the idea within that forum for several years. Then he built his own site and took a few years until they had 100,000 users and then it hit critical mass.

Q Have you calculated whether there is a correlation between Likes/Shares and Sales?

A They look at scoring within their own site (how many scores, not just how high), then how much traffic is coming from StumbleUpon, Likes, etc. But there is no formula.

 

 

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About Connie Reece

Now retired, Connie Reece has been a pioneer in the field of social media. In 2007, Connie created the Frozen Pea Fund, the first grassroots fundraising effort started solely on Twitter; her work was featured in best-selling author Shel Israel’s "Twitterville." Connie was a winner of the inaugural Texas Social Media Awards in 2009 and was profiled by AustinWoman magazine as one of the top five women in social media in Austin. In 2011, Connie won the Dewey Winburne Community Service Award at SXSW.

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