It's arguably one of the great entrepreneurial stories of the computer age: In 2000, co-founders Jake Nickell and Jacob DeHart pooled a thousand dollars and started Threadless. The basic idea of the company was, and is still, that designers and artists can post design ideas for t-shirts. Members of the web site's community, now made up of over 2 million people, vote for their favorite designs. The winners' designs are then printed onto tee shirts and other apparel and sold, with some payments going to the artists. The company is estimated to be earning a 30% profit on revenue of over 30 million dollars per year.
Social media is at the heart and core of the business model, not simply in the use of major social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, but in being a social platform.
Kyle Geib, the marketing coordinator for Threadless, recently shared some of the organization's social media thinking. The social media team is made up of Geib and co-worker Jess Hanebury, with the company's Instagram account managed by Threadless Creative Director, Craig Shimala.
If, while on the Threadless website, you click the link for "blog," you'll find yourself on Threadless's Tumblr blog.
The decision to use Tumblr as the brand's blog makes a lot of sense, particularly as the majority of the content is visual. Geib says, "There's increased chances and ease for others to re-blog. We've launched a design this week called All the Bacon and Eggs; loosely based of the television show."
That post has received quite a bit of posts on Tumblr, which Geib takes as an indicator that maybe the design should be printed.
[“All the Bacon and Eggs" by Lindsey Pyne]
A very different approach is taken to Instagram. Geib shares, "We have a very specific content strategy for every social media channel we're using. The one thing I love about our Instagram is that it's 95% behind-the-scenes photos. It's fun stuff we're doing around the office or maybe a sneak peak at some of the tees."
Greib explains why Threadless is using Instagram differently. "We were thinking about the ways in which other people were using Instagram; we wanted it to feel very genuine; and be very genuine."
Greib continues, "We thought to ourselves; Instagram is the place where individuals are posting photographs of things in their day-to-day life. Whether they’re going to the beach with their friends or whether they're at an amusement park, concert, or have a new pair of shoes to show off. We saw the way individuals are using it and we wanted to take that approach because we didn't want it to be product-heavy."
When you have wonderful images and a large network on social media, wonderful things can happen. In one such case for Threadless, the company had launched a pair of socks [https://www.threadless.com/designs/spocks-2] based off the character Spock from Star Trek.
When the design was up for voting, celebrity George Takei shared the post on his own social media, which was also shared by Leonard Nimoy.
Geib admits, "It's really exciting to see a design parody-based design be so lovingly embraced by the actors who played the characters on that television show. That was one of those moments where social media really took us by surprise."
Geib concludes, "You never really know what you're going to expect when you walk into the office and you're operating a social media channel. It could be relatively straight forward day where you're receiving an average amount of retweets and favorites that you normally do; or you can come in and something will just blow up like crazy."