Since 2010, Louis Fong, a co-founder of an online apparel site with his wife and daughter, has learned the ins and outs of social media marketing.
"We have a presence on all the major social networks, and we know how effective they can be," he said. "There's a lot of experimentation working with all the social networks and their constant algorithm changes. Managing social media campaigns has really put us intimately in touch with our followers and helped us gain an understanding of what shoppers are looking for in a network."
As part of his research and work for his family's faith-based clothing brand, JCLU Forever, Fong follows many fashion and beauty blogs, and utilizes Instagram and Pinterest. This makes both fashion and business sense. L2ThinkTank.com reports that 79 percent of beauty brands are present on Instagram. In a study by eBay Deals, the apparel and fashion industry has an average number of 1,262 Pinterest page followers. Also, 5.4 percent of all pins in January 2014 were related to women's fashion, and 7.7 percent of all Pinterest boards were used to curate women's apparel.
These observations and experiences got Fong thinking about and realizing a better tool. Unlike Instagram, Pinterest, or Wanelo, every fashion and beauty product on Stylby.me, the Fong family's latest social startup, is tagged with all the necessary product and locaton information. Say a user comments that they're looking for a size 7 shoe, the seller receives a push notification and can reply promptly.
"The days of picking up the phone, describing the shoe, and then holding while the store associate goes to the back of the stock room to look for it can be a thing of the past," said Fong, who started building the San Jose-based site in March 2013, privately launching in early August to a small group of users. "Think about how you personally window shop at your local mall. You see a mannequin with a really cool outfit at J. Crew. Most of us will lift and view the tag for each item on that mannequin for pricing and information. That's what we're doing. Think about how people share products on most social networks. You'll usually see an image with some non-link tags or in an image that will link to one page or product."
On Stylby.me, you'll see an image with several tags and links with the embedded tags. If you have an image that represents five different products and stores, it efficiently connects you to all of them. Stylby.me also accepts unique URLs of rewardStyle and ShopStyle affiliate programs from fashion and beauty bloggers.
While the platform is still in the early stages, Fong said the mobile app will be available mid-October, taking it SoLoMo. "We're testing the mobile app, which is working well," he said. "I was able to add five tags on one image with full descriptions, including links in 3 minutes. When using the app, I'm constantly finding new possibilities and unintended benefits. For example, the app uses an image very efficiently. One image can contain as many tags as you like. You can tag 20 different items from 20 different stores using one image. When we started this project, we thought it would be another niche network. However, we're coming to realize it is more of a marketing and communication tool among users, service providers, and between brands and their customers."
Fong suggested some best practices for using the niche social network. For images, use the highest quality possible. Make sure what you want to showcase dominates the screen. Crop images to eliminate unnecessary background and so the image displays the items or work you want people to see. Also, take the size of the tags into consideration when cropping your image.
Just like any social network account, it's important to complete your profile as thoroughly as possible. Treat it like your website, seeing your profile as your portfolio. Of course, since it's a location-based app, make sure to include where you're located in the tags. A user can search for a makeup artist or hairstylist in San Francisco, for instance, and see posts made by any San Francisco-based beauty professionals.
"We hope, as the user base grows, to be known as the social, local, mobile site for fashion and beauty," Fong said. "It should strictly be for fashion/beauty professionals and brands. I think the biggest benefit is the location feature. Smaller brands, boutiques, and fashion pros are able to reach out to local customers and shoppers."
As the focus of Stylby.me is to create an easy-to-use platform and release the mobile app this month, Fong said he might consider ads that are relevant to the site down the runway...er...road. "If you're on Stylby.me, you're already window shopping in a sense. Fashion and beauty ads aren't intrusive if you're browsing for those products. We may even offer a pro level account to distinguish a vetted professional in a certain category or city."