OPI Products Inc. has put social media at the heart of its communications strategy, and Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, executive vice president and cofounder of the nail lacquer company that was acquired by Coty Inc. in 2010, thinks all consumer goods companies have to do the same if they hope to survive.

This story first appeared in the June 19, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Clearly, customers expect more from brands today,” she declared. “They expect brands to understand, engage with them, listen to their needs, have a dialogue and create products that fit real needs.”

OPI has a presence on 11 social media platforms that cumulative reach roughly 1.7 million well-connected consumers. OPI has nearly 1.3 million fans on Facebook and more than 100,000 Twitter and 23,000 Pinterest followers. OPI has attracted around 33,000 followers on Instagram, its fastest-growing social network, in just three months.

“Our customers are on the move using smartphones, tablets, desktops, laptops. Our aim is to always offer something new, exciting and fresh everywhere our customers go,” said Weiss-Fischmann. “The most successful social media campaign surrounds customers with online experiences that allow them to select how they interact with your brands.”

In an example of OPI’s 360-degree digital approach, Weiss-Fischmann outlined the brand’s social media efforts for its Minnie Mouse collection. In July 2012, OPI launched a nail design contest on Facebook with a post that was seen 300,000 times and garnered more than 10,000 likes and almost 1,500 shares. That was followed by a contest called Memories With Minnie that generated in excess of 2,000 entries. In addition, OPI put a link to a vintage Minnie YouTube video on Facebook, and that video received some 48,000 views.

This year, OPI extended its Minnie social media campaign to raise awareness of its Couture de Minnie collection by providing daily Facebook content, including nail looks, giveaways and videos. The brand has also partnered with a blogger to supply nail design content. On a weekly basis, OPI shows Minnie emerging from her digital dressing room with a new outfit and invites its fans to participate in a contest by submitting nail designs that go with the outfits. On its Web site, OPI has a nail design gallery with looks, while on YouTube there are tutorials to demonstrate how customers can achieve the looks, and on Pinterest there are images to provide inspiration to them.

“All of this activity will culminate in a real face-to-face event that brings bloggers, winners and me together for a newsworthy party to generate video and photo ops for — what else? — more incredible digital content,” said Weiss-Fischmann.

OPI has learned many lessons from its participation in social media. Weiss-Fischmann noted that customers tend to reject overly promotional messages, and OPI sticks to the rule of thumb that no more than 20 percent of its social media content should be promotional. She emphasized as well that brands should invest in professional-quality videos, should seek a level of transparency in the digital arena that aligns with their brand values and voice, and should respond to negative comments that pop up on social media.

“Always say thank you, even for negative comments. Women in particular appreciate humility,” said Weiss-Fischmann. “Admitting mistakes or saying you can do something better in the future goes a long way towards building trust.”

Although companies can utilize analytics to figure out which social media networks work better for them, Weiss-Fischmann cautioned that pinpointing the return on investment from social media can be difficult. Instead, she advised that companies concentrate on a measure she dubbed “ROR,” the return on relationship. “What a company must put its faith in is that building relationships always builds loyalty and ultimately sales,” she said.

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