Jon Kubo, who oversees e-commerce at The Wet Seal Inc., where he is chief information officer, is a social sort. His efforts to engage customers are taking off as other companies are trying to figure out how to integrate their “friends” and their cash registers.

Kubo said any effort to marry social media with business starts with a simple question.

This story first appeared in the October 27, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“What am I going to do to really allow [consumers] to participate in my brand? If you can answer that question, then you can structure a completely great social media program,” Kubo said. “The second phase is then, ‘I have to figure out the engagement.’”

The good news is that big-time engagement doesn’t need to cost big bucks.

Witness Wet Seal’s model search, which this year generated 300,000 YouTube views, 10 million Facebook fan posts, 100,000 new Facebook fans and 100,000 store visits.

Kubo described the model search as “an ‘American Idol’ kind of campaign.” The company ran video teasers from last year’s winners on its Facebook page and asked applicants to fill out an online form and then bring a photo to a Wet Seal store. One-hundred applicants were sent Flip video cameras, which they used to take videos of themselves to post on YouTube.

The 100 were then winnowed down to 50 on the basis of YouTube views. Finally, people voted for their favorite on Facebook, with every vote generating a post.

“This was run by a very junior manager all by herself, and all the prizes, all the travel were sponsored,” Kubo said. “We spent a ridiculously small amount of money on this.”

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