You’ve recently become Vice President, Social Media, for the Chico’s FAS brands. Why did the company decide to split PR and Social Media?
Like many companies, our foray into social media for our brands, which include Chico’s, White House Black Market, and Soma Intimates, began as a function of PR.
As the world has evolved, and we continue to accelerate our digital efforts, the company’s leadership team acknowledged that a well-rounded PR effort is critical to the growth of our great brands. We see social media as crucial to building strong customer communities, measuring customer sentiment, driving sales, and acquiring new customers.
Both jobs require strategic focus, so we fortified on both fronts by allowing me to center my time, energy and creativity to the advancement of our various social media efforts.
How did you become proficient in social media — by attending conferences, on your own?
I frequently attend technology, retail, and social media conferences and I subscribe to a number of online publications, newsletters, reports and research papers related to business, social media and digital marketing. In addition, much of my knowledge comes from being a user. I have my favorite style, news, design, and parenting blogs.
I personally use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and, more often than not, I read user ratings and reviews before making a purchase. I love that if I miss the evening news, I get all I need to know through my Twitter newsfeed.
You are the spokeswoman for the Soma line of intimate apparel, which is very personal to every woman. Did you feel you were taking a risk in presenting these product demos?
I feel that my responsibility is to bring online the customer service and expertise that you can find in our Soma Intimates boutiques. Shopping for intimate apparel can be really confusing, especially when it comes to bras and shapewear.
There is a plethora of styles, sizes and brands, and in today’s busy world, a lot of women don’t have the time to get properly fit to determine what works best for their body and wardrobe.
Plus, shopping for a bra is very personal and, oftentimes, an emotional experience — both good and bad. I get it. I’m a real customer. There are things I dislike about my body, and at the end of the day, I just want to look better. Because when I look good, I feel good. Women just want to look and feel better, and if I can help take some of the guesswork and anxiety out of buying a bra, then I’ve done my job.
How did you prepare for your new role on video? What kind of feedback have you gotten from customers and the public?
I work with a wonderful team of creative and merchandising people and together we decide which styles to focus on in the videos. We also work through the talking points to ensure product accuracy. I need to make sure I’m giving the customer 100% correct information.
We try to give the customers as much information as possible about the features, benefits and style of each item. We really think it through in the hopes that the product video gives women a better understanding of what might work for their individual needs. The feedback has been quite positive!
How does social media figure into your marketing mix? Will social media play a more dominant role in future?
We believe that social media is a very important component of our marketing efforts. We’re always looking at new platforms and opportunities. Most importantly, we need to remain focused. And the only way to do that is to stay connected with our customer and community and make sure that we are everywhere that she is. And, in this case, it’s on social networking sites where she’s connecting with her friends and favorite brands.
In what ways are you interacting with customers on social media?
We connect with our customers in a number of ways: on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and our Soma blog, The Undercover Post. There are many benefits to being a fan or follower of Chico’s, White House Black Market’s and Soma’s social sites including exclusive content, sneak peeks of new collections, Facebook-exclusive offers, style tips and advice, contests and sweepstakes, fan voting and polls, charitable giving exclusives, etc.
What I love most about social media is that it not only allows our customer loyalists to connect with us, but it also allows them to talk to each other and share stories and information.
What advice would you have for a company interested in learning more about integrating social media into their marketing program?
First, you have to figure out what works for your brand. What works for one of our brands isn’t necessarily what will work for yours. It’s also important that brands realize that social media touches almost every aspect within the organization, including sales, e-commerce, technology, customer service, legal, marketing, etc. Cross-functional support is imperative.
Being an early adapter of social marketing has been a win-win — a win for our customers and a win for our brands.
Jessica Wells, Vice President of Social Media at Chico’s, White House Black Market and Soma Intimates, joined Chico’s FAS, Inc. in 2003 after serving as Public Relations Director for The Estee Lauder Companies. A graduate of the University of Florida, Jessica began her career with Behrman Communications and LaForce + Stevens before joining Beautyscene.com as its Public Relations Director.