Although the term “Social Media” seems due for its trip down the hype curve into the dustbin of once-powerful historic buzz words such as ”Information Superhighway” and “Web 2.0,” the concept continues to gain traction because it really does represent a change in how people live their lives. When people can take private or small-group moments and share them with the world with a push of a mouse button or swipe of an iPhone, things can get more and more interesting. Small things that happen every day suddenly can turn into legitimate media movements. Such is the case of “haul videos,” which are turning shopping and sharing among girlfriends into the latest must-have for beauty and fashion marketers.
Haul videos have become the new trend for sharing among trendsetters and watchers. They represent the act of shopping at a store, then videotaping yourself showing off your purchases on camera, and then uploading it to YouTube for sharing. As seen in the ABC News video above, there are more than 100,000 individual haul videos on YouTube already, which have received millions of views. Some individual videos have been viewed as many as 700,000 times, while others are starting out with just two viewers (great quote: “…my mom begged me to do one!”).
The act of sharing your fashion purchases with other people is not new. Girls have been doing this for years—inviting friends over to their homes and showing off their latest buys from the mall. The difference now is that technology is allowing people to share with the world. Just as blogging turned diaries from private to public and Flickr allowed people to share their photos with the world, now cheap video cameras and YouTube are turning this once private activity into public, “social media.” Let’s also skip the concern that Gen Y is over-sharing or becoming too materialistic. These kids grew up regulating their privacy (with parents’ help) and are just doing what they’ve always done.
Once this private act goes public, some pretty interesting changes can happen. Some girls are able gather a large audience and can quickly impact product sales. Viewers see them as honest and “real,” and thus trust what they are sharing and saying much more than any advertisement. Advertisers become interested whenever they see a large, trusted audience and will continually look to earn a positive review. In fashion specifically, word of mouth has a very large impact on product popularity and sales, and these videos are a major catalyst for word of mouth. And not only do thousands of girls closely follow specific video producers, but search engines such as Google and Bing send additional traffic when the videos are posted.
This is an important point that signals a deeper change in how social media is impacting the marketing world. Instead of buying ad placements that are trusted less and less, advertisers are increasingly providing free samples to top bloggers and video creators. Advertisers must trust that their products will be liked by the reviewers, who in turn will talk about these products in their own words. If reviewers accept money or are perceived to be biased, then they risk losing the trust of their audience. This is much more meaningful than the typical model of buying glossy print ads or paying celebrities millions of dollars to promote your products.
This is also part of a larger trend toward social-media shopping. People are increasingly using technology such as Facebook and mobile phones to virtually take their friends along with them when shopping—both for assistance and fun. For example, they are using a location-based app called foursquare to tell their friends where they are browsing, and they are scanning UPCs to find product reviews on their mobile phones. At Bridge Worldwide, we created a tool for Pearle Vision that allows people to upload photos of themselves in various pairs of glasses so that they can get quick feedback from their friends before making a purchase.
So the question for you is: What can you do to make shopping for your products or services a more social experience? Social shopping isn’t going away anytime soon.